Key elements collide to make magic by the sea
What makes a great music festival? It's a question that's been challenging, surprising and flummoxing promoters and punters for years.
The bottom line is that sometimes everything just slots beautifully into place – the line-up, the sound quality, the staging, the timing, the policing, the food, the market stalls, the general vibe and, that most unpredictable factor of all... the weather.
As the closing bars of a triumphant headline set by The Darkness roared across the beach on Sunday, fireworks showered the night sky high above Looe's Banjo Pier, celebrating the finale of an ambitious, exciting and most excellent weekend of musical merriment.
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Yes, it rained on and off, but that was no problem if you came armed with wellies and waterproofs.
The organisers of the third annual Looe Music Festival had taken meticulous care to put all the essential elements in place and from somewhere came the magic fairy dust to make it all shine. Bigger than ever this year, it boasted a three-day bill that showcased the very best of homegrown talent alongside more established music-makers who may not be chart-toppers, but can be relied upon to put on a brilliant live show.
It's the kind of formula that works brilliantly at more established festivals like Beautiful Days and smaller local events like Chagstock. But in a small town that's divided by a river and squeezed into quaint narrow streets leading down to the beach, to co-ordinate four main stages presents special challenges as well as a unique charm with shops, pubs, restaurants and residents embracing the spirit of a weekend invasion that offers a great end-of-season boost.
Friends told me that Friday evening's violent winds blew away some of the best bits of the set by poetic folky hiphoppers Dizraeli and the Small Gods. I joined the party on Saturday when the breeze had dropped and the pervading air of bonhomie was well established. I spent that afternoon in the Blue Banana marquee at the top of the town, where twin stages at either end of the tent kept the music rolling with impressive precision, mohitos were served in a camper van, while ale and cider flowed at the bar.
A solid run of Westcountry artists kicked off my musical pleasure, starting with the pleasant acoustic vibes of hotly-tipped new country duo Winter Mountain, featuring Newquay's Joe Francis. Husband and wife duo Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman serenaded us with songs from their brilliant album, Hidden People. Punked-up Cornish quartet Crowns arrived fresh from a UK headline tour to deliver a blistering set that got the whole place jumping. Funk-upped party starters Freshly Squeezed kept the pace up, paving the way for the remarkable indie vibes of the PJP Band. Sean had sprinted down to the beach to join his brother, Dartmoor hero Seth Lakeman, on the main stage for a set that topped headliners Reef in energy and substance – and they weren't lacking in either.
Former Two Spot Gobi singer and frontman James Robinson was on terrific form with his new band in the beer tent on the beach on Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon, stepping in for the Congo Faith Healers.
My other local heroes that day were Joe Biddle, Kola, Becca Langsford, Vince Lee and Land of the Giants and the amazing songsmith Ruarri Joseph, joined for the first time ever on backing vocals by his young daughter Matilda.
Sham 69 were a huge surprise, punching out a stream of hits I'd forgotten I knew the words to and prompting a lot of crowd pogoing, and the spirit of The Damned shone as ever. Call me a glam rock groupie, but I just adored the camp posturing and big rock noise made by The Darkness. And I hurried up to the harbour marquee to catch the last strains of dear old Chas and Dave rabbiting their way through the canvas. Bravo to all and here's to next year.