Shiiine On WeekenderShiiine On Weekender – Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.

Festivals can be a dicey and exhausting proposition. A gamble. You can give up precious vacation days, sleep and significant funds to end up muddy and rained out, surrounded by wilted flower crowns and bands who are too sincere or not sincere enough.  Your heart aches as YOUR heroes have been housed at the Siberia Stage while mediocre artists with baffling connections and nothing to say hog the main stage, revealing the dire state of modern music and its shadowy industries. Fans who’ve waited for hours at the barrier end up getting their well-earned view blotted out by distracting photographers. There always seem to be too many media types, spreading their entitled and jaded vibes over the highest and driest ground, openly indifferent and tweeting their ingratitude.

And then there was Shiiine.

For months we looked at that black on yellow poster. We discussed it often, eyes glowing, with the other biggest Happy Mondays fan in town, a man who’s kept the music and the love alive for many thousands of punters in these parts as a DJ, Chef & True Blue British-Canadian as much as anybody can claim to have done in the cities in the U.K. and U.S. and Canada that remember AND more importantly, keep it alive. What was for sure just another pipe dream to attend this insanely good weekend became a solid plan through memoir-worthy hustle and twists of fate and fortune that have become so regular that we can’t tell anyone, for it might break the spell.

Minehead is impossibly quaint and enjoyable, even in November. People play crazy golf and arcade amusements through a light drizzle, and pubs are packed with solid Footie fans representing on a Saturday midday and memorable lunches that go til 4:00. Just up the way is Butlin’s, which affords travellers a year round resort experience under a massive tent that defies any weather concerns like several fingers extended (maybe 3?) they’ve got this down to an art form, and it proves to be the perfect site for this festival.

The three day event was extended into Thursday, so overstuffed was it with goodness. This night (like Sunday 2:00 a.m.) would be only for the hardcore and it was there, at what would become the venue’s cozy “local”- Jumpin’ Jaks- or as someone called it “a really great house party” that we met them all. Lifelong friends or just for the moment? It matters not- it was very special indeed. We made fast friends with the quite reasonable hands down winner and unfortunate recipient of the only shoving match we saw all weekend, because you always back the one in the Johnny Fucking Marr T-Shirt. Always.

We were greeted warmly as “The Canadians” by the organizers/wizards behind this weekender, James and Steve, during one of the only moments they had to breathe, and then settled in for a long and lager drenched night of great live music and DJ sets leading to the kind of singalongs Canadians can only dream of. Keep it Social DJs gave us all a chance to be Jarvis Cocker yelling “Do You Remember the First Time?!” and let us revisit so many 80’s and 90’s musical highs that would define the weekend in between gigs and set the tone perfectly. Sulk did the first of two sets of the weekend and were just great, bringing necessary swagger and fire to their set. The Sunshine Underground is not to be missed, look for them if you can see them. And The Twang was much anticipated by many and closed out the live portion of the night. In all cases these bands played sets that were both long and lively, and the posted rule of no drinks on the packed dance floor was routinely ignored. In case that wasn’t enough of a starter, Mike Joyce (ex of The Smiths) brought us all home with a two hour DJ set in between friendly chatter and photos with fans. We were carried to bed on a wave of euphoria that would last all weekend. And that was before we tasted our first local pasty.

Daily Festival reports with full gig reviews and live photo galleries of over 20 bands to follow in the next couple of days.

Including: Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Peter Hook and The Light, Stereo MC’s, 808 State, The Wedding Present, The Farm, Lo Fidelity Allstars plus many more.

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender, North Country Boys, and Butlin’s Live Music Weekends.

Words by Jacqueline Howell Photos by Dave MacIntyre.