by Phil Brady
All Photographs Used
with kind permission of:
As hundreds of colourful misfit-filled, self-built campervans ascended into the sleepy hollow of Pewsey on Saturday night, the unsuspecting locals relived a return to the halcyon days of the peace convoy, only decades later. From the little village where the epic West End production of Jerusalem was set, this pilgrimage of party people were heading, not to Stonehenge, but the Bouverie Hall in Pewsey, where, for one night only, an international crowd of diverse personalities congregated to show their support to #savethebarge.
For those who don’t know The Barge Inn, Honeystreet. It was an iconic venue in the heart of the Pewsey Vale. Made famous by the global crop circle following, it’s campsite, the bands who have played there and the magical atmosphere created by the people who frequented the pub and it’s ideal location nestled within the Vale of White Horse hill beside the Kennet and Avon canal.
Sadly the pub is now closed, so a bunch of good people have formed a steering group, namely ‘The Barge Inn Co-Operative’ with the aim of buying The Barge Inn and returning it to its former glory.
Powered by Pure Groove Soundsystem with help from Earth’s Radicals, the evening fired up with Lionheart Records playing a strictly vinyl reggae, classic dancehall and dub set as the 350 capacity hall started to fill with the love of the Barge community.
The live bands followed soon after; on stage Tripolar played a beautiful passion-filled set of West Country folk as Lenny strummed acoustic guitar and sang ‘Within The Rose,’ with bearded angst and angelic dulcet tones. The astoundingly talented and face-painted Jake accompanied him on the fiddle. Their set took the listeners on a journey from placid poetry to mercurial melody into volatile violin shrieks with ‘Water edge’, ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, ‘God Dam Shame’, ‘Mr Charisma’, ‘Volcano’ and ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’.
The Barge massive were now buzzing and ready for a night of solidarity and celebration.
The atmosphere was electric as The Boot Hill All Stars burst on and got the crowd jigging with their West Country cider fuelled, bootlegged hoedown music. ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Smoke On The Water’ and ‘Monkey In The Hold’ got the dance pumping and ale flowing as ‘Smugglers Hole’, ‘Night Bus’ and ‘Devil’s Doorbell’ kept the dance floor jumping. With a run up of ‘Rasputin’, ‘Crusty Girl’, ‘Step Inside’ and ‘Monkey Man’ into a Boot Hill’s take on Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, the All Stars left their audience singing and dancing and gagging for more.
The Boot Hill All Stars are another favourite from the Barge Inn with hillbilly banjo and swirling horns played by scantily clad ladies with feather dusters and fishnets escorting naughty piratesque country boys. The crowd were left jolly rogered and ready for the final band of the night; Urban Lions.
Urban Lions are a touring band and sound system based in the southwest of England, currently rising up through the underground UK roots and dub scene and out onto the world stage.
Urban Lions opened their set as a four piece horn section walked through the crowd sending those filthy, heavenly brass sounds high into the rafters of the hall. Joining the band on stage they kicked their hour-long headline set off with their new single ‘See Me Rise’, which is out on vinyl on the Lionheart Records label this month.
With a feisty fusion of roots, dub, steppers, bashment, ska, rocksteady beats, filthy horns, skanking rhythms and conscious rhymes, Urban Lions fired up the night as the bass pumped through the huge sound system and had hundreds of boots stomping until they could stomp no more.
Followed by roots reggae based ‘Forward To The Sound’, to a funked up ‘I Am A Lion’ and into the ska-heavy eastern scales of ‘In The Sahara’, the band dubbed out the vibe and sent 8k of heavy bass and drums, skanking guitars and keys, those filthy horns and shrilling vocal lines deep into the hearts of the Barge community. Keeping with the ska vibe, ‘Buster Man’ kept them jumping into the final song ‘Together Mighty’, a heavy stepper that epitomises the struggle against oppression in society, proving a favourite as the words ‘Alone we are small but Together Mighty’ resonated with the cause of the night.
That love filled room cheered for more as the band came back on to play carnivalesque ‘We Say I’ and the gypsy beat ‘The Bard Of Old Belgrade’ as an encore.
The event was a benefit gig to raise funds for a survey and legal fees to kick off preceding to buy the Barge Inn. There was a raffle afterwards with loads of amazing prizes donated by local businesses in support of the cause.
Thousands of pounds were raised from the door, bar, food and raffle for this to go ahead so an overwhelming success all round.
The police were happy, the venue people were over the moon with the duty of care taken by the organisers and the hundreds of people who came and donated to the cause were left with memories of a night that will go down in history.
For more info check out the Barge Co-Operative Facebook page and website.