WITH its ragtag line up, kooky clientele and defiant lack of commercialism, eccentric Endorse It is always a breath of fresh air during the busy festival season.
And it was back with a bang at the weekend, as the usually sleepy village of Sixpenny Handley played host to three days of cider-fuelled revelry.
The music kicked off on Friday afternoon as the patrons arrived; The Scratch, a five piece rock outfit from St. Albans proved an early highlight with a set that was good enough to earn them a slot supporting Noel Gallagher on a previous tour. Doubtless their lively performance and catchy tunes earned them a few more fans.
As the sun disappeared and the scrumpy started to flow, Pronghorn arrived; Endorse It without these guys would be like the Tower of London without the ravens.
The band were on stellar form as they fiddled and banjoed their way through a set of cow punk; Lamma’s gravely vocals sounded like Lemmy’s would if the Motorhead frontman had been born in Sturminster Newton.
As family and friends flooded the stage for the last few songs, you got the impression Christmas around Pronghorn’s gaff would be lots of fun.
The crowd thinned by the time veteran punkers, the UK Subs took to the Desmond Dekker stage. I joined the exodus and headed to the Strummerville to check out a brilliant young band called the New Broadcast Group.
On Saturday I awoke to the sound of bluegrass; the Doghouse Boat Boys were warming up next to my tent ahead of their set at La Boite a Musique. Their mixture of original material and a cover of the Stones’ It’s All Over Now convinced me to check them out later.
There was also a lot of appreciation for a fabulous tent near Strummerville, where you could lob snooker balls at bone china for a nominal fee – lots of fun had there unleashing the inner vandal.
Which got me in the mood for Saturday’s headliners, New Model Army; the Yorkshire rockers put on a pumping set in the Desmond Dekker, fusing poetry, politics and post punk together in a performance that took those who could remember back to the eighties.
Scrumpy Sunday took on an agricultural flavour with a set from The Wurzels, which pulled in the biggest (and hairiest) crowd I saw at the Bus Bar.
While cross dressing men guzzled heroic quantities of cider, even the scrumpy couldn’t make the comedy tent funny. Dubbed the Laugh Out Loud tent, it probably contravened the Trade Descriptions Act; aside from Wayne the weird, laughter was at a premium.
As a full moon climbed above Dorset, the festival took on a rocky flavour with a sublime, unplugged set from Alabama 3. Aurora Dawns beautiful vocals were mesmerising as they took us through their blues licked, rock material and a cover of The Beatles’ She Loves You, a tribute to Amy Winehouse.
Over in the Bus Bar, the Guns of Navarone had the crowd skanking to a punchy set of ska, which included a cover of The Specials’ Gangsters and left us wanting more from the Bournemouth band.
As night fell, the sleazy Zodiac Mindwarp arrived on the Desmond Dekker, and while the washed up rockers epitomised growing old ungracefully, their crunching chords and dirty rock riffs seemed relatively fresh.
The curtain fell on Endorse It 2011 to the sound of Dubmatrix, who played dub and reggae to the survivors of another magnificent festival.