Surplus Fest 30 June - 2 July2017
How lovely it was to be back at the best grass roots festival in Wales and most definitely in my top 3 festivals in the UK at the moment. It had been 3 years since our last Surplus Festival and I was worried it might have grown too big, be more corporate or still be at an unsuitable venue with unsuitable security.
My worries were quickly put to bed once we arrived at the beautiful site on an organic farm. It was a perfect spot and the layout of the festival was nice and roomy in most areas although the campervan area and back stage camping both got a little cramped. I would even go so far as to say they could have made the arena area slightly smaller and increased the size of back stage camping. We were in the campervan field which on Thursday when we arrived was pretty much empty but it soon filled up with the last arrivals having to park on the verges of the track around the arena. The tent area in comparison was pretty empty which I think reflects in part the sort of people attending Surplus. Mainly people with vans and trucks, many part-time and full-time travellers and not so many tent folk!
Security seemed non existent although I did spot one or two who kept a blissfully low profile throughout the weekend. There were many stewards working hard trying to keep everyone happy and there was no sign of any kind of corporate sponsoring! There was however lots of happy smiley people, kids playing and dogs (all on leads of course) having a great time.
On the Friday we mainly caught up with friends as well as walking around the site getting our bearings. We did go and see the last band of the night AOS3 though. As usual they were brilliant, they did songs from the new(ish) album as well as some old favourites. They had a great energy about them and it was a great musical start to Surplus 2017.
On Saturday we spent more time wandering in the lovely weather, just stopping to chat with friends old and new. The first band we went to see was KilnAboy who we really love. KilnAboy are a kind of Irishy influenced folky protest band, if you like that description go look them up! Next up was meant to be our friends The Defekters but unfortunately 3 members had been held up on the motorway and were unable to play which left it to lead singer Cara to put on a very brave last minute solo set. Cara has been doing lots of solo work this year under the guise of Cara Means Friend and so at least she had a decent army of songs to perform. She did really well especially considering she had to follow a full band set with an acoustic solo set. After Cara was P.A.I.N. a long time anarcho punk band full of power and a bit of anger as well as some dubby vibes! They were awesome and after the mad dancing that we did to their set we had to go and have a long cold drink and a long sit down afterwards!
After some rest and recuperation it was time for Dub the Earth, one of my all time favourite bands and beautiful people to boot. Drummer Lynn had been diagnosed with bowel cancer at the beginning of the year and this was their first gig since his treatment. After losing singer and bass player Steve Swann to cancer in 2011 the band must be counting their blessings that Lynn is returning to health, in fact singer Emma said as much on stage. As always they were brilliant and big love and health filled vibes to Lynn xxx There was no time to rest as last band of the night Sporadics were on next with their unique dubbed up punk tunes. They played a blinding set and were full of it and especially pleased they got their first ever crowd surfer! Although the music was over the night was young and we stayed up to the early hours chatting with friends.
Sunday brought a glorious sunny day and so mostly spent it lazing about in the sun in the arena moving from place to place depending on what music was on or who we spotted. I hadn't seen Cosmo for a long time and was glad to see him again and introduce friends to his music who had never heard of him. We also caught some of Paul Divers acoustic set which was pretty good.
There was lots of great bands on at Surplus, many I have seen plenty of times and so Sunday was a treat as 2 bands were on that I had heard on recordings but never seen live. First up was Autonomads, punky dubby type stuff from this 5 piece band. I wasn't disappointed and they sounded just as good as their recordings with that extra buzz of being live. Secondly was Black Star Dub Collective a 6 piece band with 2 of the same members from the previous band Autonomads. More of a dubby Ska feel to this outfit and as with the last band I was not at all disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed seeing them live at last.
Last but by no means least was the mighty RDF/Military Surplus. Chris Bowsher as always since the 80s the lead man and modern day poet creating pictures with his words only few can really master. Along with the heavy dubby sounds the experience of RDF is one not to be missed. I have found over the years that RDF are very much like Marmite (no not brown and soft) but people either love them or hate them. Chris Liberator was on another stage at the same time and some I knew went to see him. I am disappointed to miss him but despite seeing RDF hundreds of times I wouldn't have missed this performance. By the end many people were on stage to say farewell to yet another successful Surplus festival.
What can I say to sum up? Not much that hasn't already been said. A brilliant grass roots festival in a lovely location with amazing bands. Not a bad price at all for tickets although it does concern me how all these festivals (not just Surplus) are hiking up prices for campervans and dogs but I'll expand on my views on that on a separate blog post soon!
Thank you Surplus people for an amazing weekend :)
Below are a selection of photographs from the festival.