Fence Collective Homegame Festival, April 17th-19th 2009

I love Homegame.  Have I mentioned that before?

For the uninitiated, the Fence Collective‘s Homegame Festival is held once a year in the small fishing village of Anstruther in Fife (well, it used to be a fishing village but it seems to be largely touristy now – neighbour Pittenweem seems to be more of a working harbour).  A huge pile of Fence Records acts, bolstered by friends and neighbours, get together and play lots of gigs in the town halls, school halls and beer halls of the town, and about six hundred or so lucky punters get to go along.

There are a few things I love about this festival, so here are a couple, put as briefly as possible:
– Anstruther is small, so the festival itself has to be small, or the town wouldn’t be able to cope.
– Fence Collective music is fucking brilliant.  There will be no sets by the View, not even acoustic ones.
– It’s actually in a town, so if it pisses down you can just stay in the pub and not get wet.
– The bands themselves are all relaxed, friendly and as interested in seeing good music and getting plastered as the rest of us, which makes for a really nice, communal atmosphere.
– It’s in a seaside town so if you ever get all musicked out, you can pick up a paper, sit on the promenade and read for a bit.
– Did I mention the relaxed atmosphere?  It’s the nicest festival in the world to be at.

This year Mrs. Toad and I rented a couple of cottages in Pittenweem – we were too slow to get Anstruther – which ended up being absolutely full of bodies at the end of every gin-sodden night of debauchery.  And when I say full I mean full; every inch of floor and ever sofa or cushion covered with some passed out drunkard or other.  Fuck me it was fun.

Friday and Saturday were good.  The weather was nice, if a little blustery and overcast, but on Sunday the sky was crystal clear and the sun beamed down on everyone.  Honestly, it was gorgeous.  People paddled in the sea, broke out the shorts and generally basked in the sparkle of the sea and the brightness of the blue sky.  It was one of those days when absolutely every living soul finds the world to be a good place to be for a bit.  Bloody wonderful.

It was also one of those days where I largely sacked music as a source of entertainment.  I sat out in the sun and enjoyed the good weather, only attending a couple of gigs all day.  Friday and Saturday were a bit more well-behaved though, and I saw some really good things.  I saw Animal Magic Tricks, with Pete on cello, sounding fucking amazing in the Huw Scott Hall.  I saw Meursault, Slow Club, Emma Pollock and Jonny Pictish driven to disctraction by the dismally appaling sound system in the Anstruther Town Hall, and some dancing muppets ruin Winter Home Disco by attention-seeking all the way through the fucking song.  David Thomas Broughton was confrontational, and superb.  Emily Scott‘s new, more music hall sound was absolutely lovely in the Huw Scott.

I also saw the Three Craws brilliant set at Huw Scott, where two lassies rather hilariously moved to sit in my spot when I went to get beer, then when I stood in front of them on my return, had the cheek to ask me to sit down, which I politely declined.  The hall was so full that no-one could sit down really, so the point was largely moot anyway.  The Three Craws were superb, too.  Johnny, Kenny and James have been playing together for so long that they were able to clown around and have fun, whilst still keeping the music really good.  The set itself was superb, but the obvious understanding and enjoyment from the three guys on stage made it really special.  Standing eyeball to eyeball with the band, less than a metre away, was amusingly awkward, but who cares, it was a really superb show.

Ultimately, I think my favourite venue was the Huw Scott Hall.  The sound was the best in there, and it was a relaxed and cosy place to watch music.  For me, the most precious thing about Homegame is that unique combination of being entirely off the beaten track whilst also including some amazing music.  The BBC were there with a van this year, ‘industry’ sent some A&R scouts along, and the Guardian had a reporter there too, but for the most part this glorious festival is off the radar entirely.  And yet it boasts such amazing bands as the Fence guys themselves – King Creosote, James Yorkston, The Picitsh Trail – as well as such other relatively high profile acts like the Phantom Band, Malcolm Middleton and even, this year, a certain KT Tunstall.  I may not like her music, but there can’t be many festivals where her fans can see her perform an acoustic set at a gingham-strewn coffee morning.

The drinking was heavy going, and it may have taken my right arm a week to stop reflexively pouring beer down my gullet, and my liver another fortnight after that to recover, but if I had to pick just one festival a year to attend it would probably be this one.  Brilliant.

Animal Magic Tricks – Soil (Cello Version)

Emily Scott – Pageant Queen

The Pictish Trail – Winter Home Disco (Toad Session)

For OLO Worms’ take on Homegame, see here.

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