The summer of 2017 and our second full festival season kicked off in the same way that the last finished. Back in Bristol from our various travels around the globe, we headed to the famous Malcolm X Centre in St Paul’s to provide decor and support for Vitality. The last event which took place in the Chi Wholefoods courtyard and warehouse space was absolutely killer so our friends who organise this one day event had a lot to live up to! Despite the change of venue though, the great vibe remained and it was fantastic to see reggae legend Earl Sixteen perform in an area with such a rich musical heritage. Vitality is all for charity and promotes an alcohol/drugs free, conscious and environmentally friendly vibe. Vegan food stalls, great music, a party crowd that remained family friendly and the extremely bassy Roots Inspiration Soundsystem all came together to make a great day….along with a little help from our custom made Once In A Blue Moon benches, tables, cushions and wall-hangings of course ?
The Subsonic Weekender really kick-started things off as our first camping festival of the season. We’ve worked with these guys since day one, so the event formerly known as Gearfest is viewed as something of a spiritual home for Once In A Blue Moon Cafe. We’ve built up a great following from the totally awesome crew that attend year on year, and it was amazing to see so many friendly faces again. This year Subsonic was conveniently located in the grounds of an Equestrian centre just outside of Bristol, and the aquatic theme was stepped to a whole new level. There were two barns FULL of fish and underwater sea-life themed decor, as well as the usual heavy DJ stage and high quality live performances.
We were the final piece of the puzzle: chill-out cafe by day and after-hours party venue by night. To spice things up this year we had a whole schedule of Live acts, DJs and Workshops over the weekend. To start things off on our good friend Pye not only hosted our informal open mic (big up the endless jam with Johnny!) but also held his first beat-box workshop of the summer in our space.
Local creative Dan Dala also made his OIABM workshop debut by holding the Mandala session we’ve been keen to get him do for so long! Using an ancient technique of sand-painting, it went on for hours and was a beautiful and meditative experience. On top of the workshops we had some great music, spoken word/poetry and DJ performances over the weekend from the likes of Benny B & Krantz, The Cabarats, Pete Kidd, Divers and Nick Perry. We partied late into the night every night, with the Saturday being perhaps the busiest the cafe has ever been! Luckily our resident vinyl enthusiast PXM and friend DJ Hiphoppapotamus were on hand to drop some fitting tunes and keep the vibes going.
Bigger, badder, madder and better than ever before, our next stop was the now infamous Balter Festival for the third year in a row! It’s quickly developing a reputation on the underground small/medium sized festival circuit as one of the craziest weekenders around, with a distinctly up for it crowd who really bring the energy along with the tight organisation and an abundance of heavy sound-systems and weird entertainment.
We had our usual popular and busy spot between the main festival area and the campsite, though this year found ourselves situated next door to ‘Larry’s Lounge’ – the guys who ran this place were an interesting bunch! Out to the dude with a rabbit constantly on his shoulder and the boiling hot afternoon naked session that seemed to be going on out the back…Apart from the water cutting out one morning (which was a bit of a nightmare for us, let alone those with parched mouths and banging headaches just waking up!) the cafe was full of great people and we enjoyed providing a space open for chilling late into the evenings, where our now perfected Choco Coconut Chai recipe and cakes from new suppliers went down a treat.
What could have been a disappointing downside to the weekend was the discovery that someone on-site had stolen our lovingly hand-made mushroom stool! Luckily our ‘security team’ were on hand to track it down in the campsite and leave a little surprise message for the thief ?
With only one night’s sleep in between festivals, we were up bright and early in the morning of the next day to embark on the long road trip up to our second ever event outside of England…OK only just over the border to Scotland (the first was in Wales)…for Eden Festival! This was the biggest festival we’ve been involved in so far, and we could feel the buzz and excitement for the weekend ahead present within the build operation when we arrived. We were located in a beautiful spot in the festival’s healing area, and after a smooth cafe set-up and collecting some stock from local Scottish suppliers – the floodgates opened and the crowds arrived.
During the course of the weekend we unexpectedly saw some of the best live performances the cafe has ever seen! Musicians and bands were coming in left, right and centre to take advantage of our ‘Free Meals for Performers’ policy – and as a result we became the go-to secret open mic/jam venue. We hosted folk group The Black Guards, tropical ska rockers Mango Rescue Team and perhaps most memorably the Interdimensional Cosmic Explosion Experience! These guys played twice over the weekend, provided the first ever use of a Sitar in the cafe and captivated the crowds with the droning soundscapes they created through meditative instrumentation and ethereal vocals. A huge shout out to all the other people who played in our tent that we never learnt the names of, not to mention the Hare Krsnas who also made their way in for a good old singsong.
The weather at Eden was absolutely awful for the entirety of our time on-site, and the place turned into a real mud-bath, but even that couldn’t dull our, or the festival goer’s, spirits! We’d love to be invited back next year – with more Chai next time too – we promise ?
To complete a trilogy of back to back festivals we loaded up the vans and jet-setted off from Bristol again – this time into the heart of Devon for Elements Festival. One of our cafe vehicles had sadly broken down on the long journey home from Scotland so we had to do a couple of trips for this one to get all our stuff to the site. However, we were blessed with baking hot weather for the entire event – it was like being on holiday! Elements is the coming together of several South-West soundsystem crews where all the stages are themed on ‘the four elements’: wind, water , fire and earth. In true festival fashion there was also a ‘hidden’ fifth element stage of course.
We met some great people over the weekend along with catching some cool live music, swimming in the nearby river and appreciating the artistic talent that had gone into designing the various stages and installations from recycled scrap materials. The cafe was very popular, especially in the mornings for breakfast (was there anyone else even selling food???), and we also hosted the guys from Protestival both days who got people involved in ‘activist’ workshops.
After a much needed week off, we felt refreshed and recuperated and made our way to the next festie – Curious Yellow. This secretive party takes place in a mysterious woodland sculpture park – what an incredible venue! With intriguing imagery and clues scattered around, and very little information revealed to attendees of the event beforehand, it certainly had something of a ‘secret garden party’ vibe. It was a pleasure to wander around the sculptures, peaceful streams and trees in the days before the event started.
Once it all kicked off it was basically just two stages and us! So, as happens so often, we became the go to place once all the other music had ended. We had a new and improved stage area, mixing desk and PA for this one, with a proper drum-kit kindly donated by volunteer Max! Over the course of the weekend we pulled in some awesome live acts, DJs and even a talk on Urban Farming. A big thanks to all the musicians who came in and jammed in the cafe to help keep the vibes going – we were all smiling as The Midnights performed a killer rendition of one of our favourites, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. We also had our own PXM back on the decks both nights and, for the first time, playing a back to back with our long-term volunteer and techno enthusiast Chemical Problem aka Joe to close the festival on the Sunday night 🙂
We didn’t feel the need to go back to Bristol after CY so drove direct to our next stop, circumnavigating London via the ever tedious M25 to arrive nice and early on-site to set up for Live Expressions. This was the first year for the festival, the logical next step for what is a regular acoustic/singer-songwriter night in Brixton of the same name. Live Expressions provides a platform for up and coming artists, and like at many of the festivals over the summer so far, we were again incredibly blessed to have impromptu performances every few hours in the cafe on our new and improved stage area from a whole array of talented musicians.
Tommo, the guitarist from our Bristol buddies Mr Tea & The Minions who played the main stage on the Friday night, paired up with another frequent collaborator, Pye, for a entertaining live set that paved the way for some truly great vocalists to follow and sing to a captive audience in the cafe. The Correspondents headlined the Saturday, whilst we held down a chilled candle-lit vibe for some further moving solo vocal and guitar performances.
In the daytimes the weather was great – and luckily, guess what? We’d also arranged yoga, beatbox and drumming workshops to be happening both days, which proved very popular! A surprise highlight over the weekend was the Sunday night headliners They Say Jump – a super high energy London ska outfit that absolutely rocked the main-stage and was a great blast of non-cafe musical action we all enjoyed 🙂
Next up was a slightly different affair as we made our way over to a beautiful and remote location on the border between Wales and England for Wild Pitch – a private party organised by and featuring many of Bristol’s most established promoters, DJs and electronic music heads. On set-up day we experienced some horrendously extreme weather, possibly the worst our poor tent has ever had to deal with! That was one rough day and night…thankfully though it pulled through and ended being a pleasant weekend just in time for when the punters arrived 🙂
As the only food/drink trader and chill-out space, we literally stayed open start to finish for this one, opening for business Friday afternoon and closing Sunday afternoon after everyone had left! Out to our awesome volunteers Max and Phil for holding the fort on the night shifts. We had a killer schedule of DJs on the lineup, with sets starting from the 7am breakfast shift and going right through the day and night! It was an eclectic and engaging mix of stuff, and welcome musical accompaniment for our staff. The party goers also definitely appreciated the space to chill! The music included a Noods Radio Takeover, Worm Disco Club Takeover, Curly Waters, Dean Evans, George Oscar, E-Roy and of course our own resident PXM (who dropped his debut breakfast AMBIENT set) and Elements aka another alias of our regular volunteer Joe. After it was all over, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise the following morning and found time to climb the nearby mountain – the perks of the job eh 🙂
We had a nice week off after Wild Pitch to get on with some other things before bouncing back for ValleyFest, where we found ourselves included on the official lineup/program for the first time at a festival! As well as a cafe, we were a small stage and official venue, with a programmed schedule of live music focusing mainly on the singer-songwriter/acoustic variety with a splash of blues and jazz. We also had Yoga and Beatbox workshops on the bill. It wasn’t too far from home for us at all to get out to festival site, where we discovered some real Somerset natural beauty with the picturesque Chew Valley Lake situated right behind us 🙂
ValleyFest is a family friendly knees up with an ethos of organic and local at all times. As a challenge, all traders were asked to use 100% organic ingredients in all of their food and drink on-sale during the event, and to provide proof of this! Luckily this wasn’t too hard for us, and we were also asked to donate a percentage of profits to FareShare – the fantastic food re-distribution charity – which we were more than happy to do. The constant schedule of music in our tent drew a lot of people in and we enjoyed meeting and listening to a lot of great up and coming artists. To close the weekend in the cafe, it turned out that our old friends Circe’s Diner were playing – shout out to Waste Life who joined them on stage ? We’d also like to say thanks to Ali and the sound engineer who helped the music side of things run so smoothly – legends!
Moving into September, our penultimate festival took us back around the London area, none other than One Love! It’s the UK’s biggest reggae/dub weekender and we were back for our second year in a row. We were not only feeding the entire crew but also acting as the only campsite cafe and chill-out space once the main arena closed. Some familiar faces came back and we had some top quality acoustic jams going down at times. The festival lineup was a serious affair as always, with some heavyweight names and true legends on the bill. Highlights for us included Dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the gracefully aged U-Roy (who must be in his 80s!) with a crystal clear vocal delivery identical to the recordings from his youth.
To end the festival season, we finished on the same event we did as last year: Illusive Festival. Born from the free party underground of the UK, the production values, visual mapping and set design on all the stages was again mind-blowing, and you can see why the same revellers come year on year. We were situated with the circus stage on one side and scotch egg specialists on the other, so that kept things interesting! Whilst being popular in the mornings and throughout the daytimes, it was the late evenings where it really got going in the cafe, and we were jam packed well into the early hours.
Sadly the affiliated No Man’s Land festival, which we had been due to attend earlier in the summer, was cancelled in July – however we were happy to run into our old friends we’d met there and now infamous regulars ‘the kush-tea’ lads. Lucky we had a lot of Turkish Apple tea in stock!
With all the festivals finished, we still had one date left on the calendar…Continuing on our series of day/night events around Bristol, to finish the season and celebrate our core team member Fran’s 30th we put on an Autumn Equinox Party. We gave free entry to all the amazing volunteers who had worked with us over the summer, thanks guys we couldn’t have done it without you lot! This also meant it was one hell of a reunion 🙂 For the party, continuing our theme of using normally disused or unknown venues, we took over the latest Invisible Circus arts-space project ‘The Loco Klub’ – the wonderful cavernous former coal chambers beneath Bristol Temple Meads train station steeped in history.
We feel like it was our most ambitious event yet. Continuing with the ethos of bringing a festival vibe and taste of the cafe to an inner-city venue, we had stalls, workshops, organic food & drink, an interactive visualiser, bands/DJs and to top it all off even booked one of our old faves TANTZ to headline!
Check out the little video we made of Autumn Equinox Party here:
That season really flew by too fast! We’re looking forward to Summer 2018 already!