Acoustic Festival of Britain 2019. Pt3

A Facebook contributor, Robert Shaw, has made a pretty comprehensive comment on the event.

First, he has put the ‘positives’ first…always a good idea. He can justify his position in making a judgement, as he does 14 festivals a year. A good point. (We do maybe 10, so feel similarly ‘experienced’).

He is pretty fair in his assessment of advance ticket sales and the overall attendance. So it is pretty simple arithmetic to work out the possible reasons for stage and artistes cancellations.

The comments about ‘chairs’ is valid,  definitely not unique to AFOB though.

Changes to the programme? There will always be alterations , for various reasons. I have banged on about this for years. It’s all very well that a compere in one tent mentions it at one time, but if you aren’t there and then you are goosed!  Every bloody school probably has a blackboard and chalk in the attic…ask them! Or a cheap LED display?

Regarding the line-up, we enjoyed Jo Carley, Swampcandy and Trevor Steger on Saturday, BUT they should have been bonuses in addition to a top-notch headliner.

He is spot on by saying things have to change. There are other festivals who take the two dozen or so ‘wasn’t it wonderful’ posts as being representative of the whole crowd, and then can’t understand why only those two dozen or so are the whole crowd next year.

As Nick Lowe once sang, sometimes you have to be ‘Cruel to be Kind’.

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Acoustic Festival of Britain 2019. Update

So it is over, let’s have a look at comments on Facebook (Her Ladyship’s Facebook, that is).

Dozens of posts saying how wonderful it was, with only a few expressing disappointment along the lines of the earlier bunternet review,

This makes me nervous. If the organisers take all the glowing reactions as a firm endorsement of the event it will be the same next year. But how many people were not happy and just thought ‘Bugger it, that’s it for me’ and chose not to comment?

There are some who seem to adopt the ethos of ‘the truth. the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. There is a word ‘diplomacy’, without which we probably wouldn’t be here. Check ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ on Google! We all have to be ‘economical with the truth’ occasionally.

I agree with a post regarding a very ‘thin’ Sunday. I have no interest in tribute acts and definitely don’t want a generic ska outfit ‘headlining’. Why do some people think that festivals are all about dancing and singing along!? If I have paid to see someone sing and play, I don’t want  someone standing up in front of me jigging about! And I don’t need someone next to me bellowing along either!

I suspect low advance sales could well have resulted in the rearrangement of the event. I also suspect advance sales will be even lower next year.

Next year already confirmed! Interesting!

Acoustic Festival of Britain. Uttoxeter. 31.05.19-2.06.19

Our annual trip to AFOB, so this is not the first review. We have been to every one since its beginnings in Nantwich and it has had a few twists and turns in its history. Huge place to set up the tent, we politely ignore the steward’s directions, knowing it is not necessary. But first to the music, the other factors to follow.

Friday.                First task is to spot Mike Stephens’ annual spelling mistake in the programme! Sat on one of the chairs inside , which collapsed and I rolled a**ehole over breakfast! Thankfully I had put my pint (or ‘not a pint’, see later) down first. First out of the blocks are Wildfire Folk. A lot of enthusiastic people of a lot of ages playing a lot of instruments.                      Dan Webster  Bloke from York with his group, the first number was reminiscent of The Waterboys. Maybe it was because they just featured over the PA?  The song ‘Bo’ seemed to be a clone of the bluegrass standard ‘Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms’ …but there are lots out there! Much of his banter seemed to revolve around his headline spots, Her Ladyship switched off and turned to her 30p book purchase from Castleford Library ‘The Smiling Man’ by Joseph Knox.  But she was back on track on hearing the last number ‘Plastic Jesus’. One of her favourites from her days in The Penthouse, Scarborough.                      Josh Burnell  Another outfit with a violin, I always find it a bit naff when there is an instrumental number before the (female) vocalist makes an entrance. Music based around traditional folk songs but considerably beefed up. Steeleye Span get an early nod, but not sure if the later treatment of their ‘Blackleg Miner’ completely works with the big Jon Lord keyboard effect. ‘Port of Amsterdam’ is more restrained and Her Ladyship was among many who thought they were very good. It was interesting that a young lady put her chair down in front of us but politely asked if we could still see ok. We could. We happened to be there as we had moved from our previous spot when some noisy morons stood next to us, neglecting to ask if we could still hear. No, we f**kin couldn’t!                            Fleetwood Bac. Tribute act based on the ‘Rumours’ line-up both visually and musically. Even in their banter they are in character, so you get the full job! And there are many people who come to see them and close their eyes and listen. And say they save themselves a fortune by not buying a ticket for the current ‘real thing’. Yes, I hate the whole ‘tribute’ industry (see later comment) but this lot are bloody good. The two girls are frighteningly accurate in their roles as Christine and Stevie.  This is their acoustic ‘best of’ set.

Saturday. A good night’s sleep on our lonely pitch. But the walk into the town was disappointing as car boot sale wasn’t on and I  also forgot to buy a newpaper.                     Gaz Brookfield. Festival veteran from the West Country with pithy songs.  His opening number was about songs with two chords. (The ubiquitous ukulele tent can vouch for that, namely ‘Dance the Night Away’, ‘C’est la Vie’, ‘Copperhead Road’.)    I remember his song about diabetes from earlier events.  the one about bullying had Her Ladyship reaching for her industrial strength Scotties.                             Chris Difford. His 7.00pm slot was moved forward. Possibly so he could shoot off down to a little festival near Biggin Hill to join the rest of Squeeze for a ‘secret’ gig?  No matter, he was bloody good here last year. This year he has not got Boo Hewerdine with him but has Melvin on pedal steel.  His solo show is very much a ‘History of Squeeze’ with much humourous anecdotery and appropriate songs. ‘Take me I’m Yours’, ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Goodbye Girl’ all work ok, but ‘Tempted’ should be left to either Mssrs Tilbrook or Carrack, methinks. Bloody good again.                                  We had to leave early, to be sure of getting a good seat for the excellent Swampcandy. Two young men from Maryland. I am sure I am not the only one who pestered Mike Stephens to book them ages ago, he has finally succeeded. First song is Bukka White’s ‘Aberdeen’. Next up are Mississippi Fred McDowell and Robert Johnson in quick succession and the audience is full of smiling faces. It made me think of the famous line in ‘Butch Cassidy’…  were they all thinking ‘Who ARE those guys?!’ Their older songs like ‘Positive Drinking’ and ‘Drink Whiskey With Me’ are mixed with newer stuff like their murder ballad ‘Candy’. Trevor Babajack Steger was here giving approving looks and they should have been in one of the bigger tents.  I stayed behind to watch the bass fiddle being packed away like something from IKEA!  Spot Joey’s feet on one of the photos.                       3 Daft Monkeys They reckoned they hadn’t been here for ten years, I reckon it was nine at the first event in 2010 but not important.  Lots of middle-aged women jumping about at the front. I think one song was called ‘A slow start for maybe twelve bars then a brief pause then 1-2-3-4  Bash Bash Bash Bash Bash Bash Bash Bash’. Strangely enough the next song had the same title. Then there was a waltz which started out a slow waltz then…as the Steve Earle song says ‘You know the Rest’.                                Jo Carley and the Old Dry Skulls  I came across this lot on Youtube somehow and was keen to see them in the flesh.  Most of their songs seem to feature the words ‘Bones’, ‘Voodoo’ and/or ‘Zombie’ but it makes for a really good act. Only the occasional nod towards ska, which I can happily overlook. Check them out.                                   I saw Bernie Marsden at Linton the other year, mixing Whitesnake stuff with blues standards and promoting his book. Not bothered about another view.                     Trevor Babajack Steger  A highlight from last year’s AFOB we made sure we were in early and away from the  (inevitably) noisy bar area. Starting out with ‘Daddy’s Gone’, ‘Sawdust Man’ (the title track from his rightly-lauded lp) and ‘Runaway Train’, he tells us he is preparing a new record and gives us a new murder ballad. Sadly it is 10.30pm and there are clumps of wazzoed women talking about dress sizes (sorry, ‘lying about’), haircuts and reality tv shows rather than listen to this great troubadour but then, the Terms and Conditions don’t mention no taking. ‘Ramblin’ Man’ and ‘The Black Dog’ are given the Full Monty but ‘The River’ is one of his few numbers that isn’t delivered with a pint of gravel in his throat and reveals a very good softer vocal tone. Sleepy John Estes’ ‘Brownsville Blues’ gets a real seeing-to as the encore , he is another must-see.

Sunday        Caught the end of the Welsh giant that is Candy Mountain. A pretty full tent gave him a big round of applause.                          Hattie Hatstar. Jolly woman plus accordian (and occasional uke) giving us her witty songs. very reminiscent of Victoria Wood. Would I be wrong in suggesting that her songs were mainly aimed at the proportion of the audience who were born with a bum at the front as well as the back…or Morris Dancers?   Not for the first time in our festival frolics over the years did I have to charge back to the tent for a new pack of incontinence knickers for someone seated very close to me with firmly crossed legs and tears rolling down her cheeks. (‘You lying get!’).   A good addition to the line-up.                     After a while Bon Accord came on to give us their take on the Stephane G/Django R canon of work, and Her Ladyship made a perfectly acceptable comment ‘ Is there any point in stopping?’.  Sadly. there wasn’t. Beautiful South tribute ?  Run-of-the-mill ska jumpabout? Ironically, my final t-shirt of the weekend was an R.E.M. one and (after a gallon of beer) there was a chance of my throwing something at the R.E.M. tribute later (it wouldn’t have been ‘praise’) so we upped and left. Home and in bed by 9.00pm.  So, overall…?

1. The actual event. The brochure touched on how difficult a year it has been for Mike Stephens personally. I agree that lesser men may have pulled the plug and let punters apply for a refund from eg Visa cards. No good for us, we pay by cheque.

2.Line-up. Yes, it sounds harsh, but you can polish a turd as much as you like, it is till a turd. Look back to the earlier posters over the years and just compare them. It is not Fake News.

3. Beer. Not cheap at £4.40 for a pint of amber nectar.

4. Tankards. I said ‘pint’ above. The festival pots really do push the concept of pint. I measured out a pint at home and transferred it to the festy pot. Even right to the very top I still had a small mouthful left. That’s lots of mouthfuls over a weekend!

5. Food. Good chunky pasties@£4.50.

6.Toilets. Cleaned regularly.

7. Sound. Pretty good everywhere.

8. Security. Polite and not heavy-handed.

9. What next for AFOB?  Very sad to have to sum up by saying that this could well be the end for it as we know it. Organiser Mike Stephens is a good bloke and listens to the customers. He proposed last year of having a Sunday ‘stand alone’ day packed with tribute acts. Many years ago he succumbed to having one copy group per year. But the music industry has been swamped by tribute acts. He actually gets more ‘next year please’ requests for Stones, T Rex, Beatles tributes than any other. Thankfully though, I think the parallel resultant wave of negativity made its mark! He will be the first to tell you that nowadays is much different to 2006. Many, many more festivals mean artistes and agents can put up their fees far beyond the rate of inflation.  The decision to ‘not have’ the big stage and the likes of Big Country ‘not appearing’ has drawn much wrath.  Many think that poor advance ticket sales may have had a big influence on these ‘circumstances’.    AFOB has always had a loyal cohort of 500 or so, and we are amongst that number, but the bottom line is £sd. No matter how you try, you cannot justify this line-up as warranting a £115 ticket including camping. Yes, many of the rival festivals are almost ‘pop-up’ events with poor facilities and little regulation but ‘money talks’ in the end. I don’t know if Mike had any comments at the end of the night.

Admittedly the new setting with no big outdoor stage did work but the line-up would have been ordinary at best even with the ‘absentees’. By all means slim it down but the ticket prices will need some severe pruning.
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Wingy Thingy. South Wingfield. 24-25 May 2019

The second festival here, in effect replacing the Blind Cat event (see earlier review) . A tiny event, with only 100 tickets for sale (the other 99 are allocated to the artistes). Last year was good, so here we are again.  Tent up quickly, using the highly-recommended ‘hands-free’ method. (My hands, that is).

Friday. First thing we noticed was Dave ‘I have definitely retired’ Lowe twiddling knobs. Seemed he filled in at short notice.                                  First on is  Nick May. Solo guitarist plus box of tricks. After 30 seconds he had played more notes than Peter Green did in his entire career in Fleetwood Mac.  Unusually, after a while I was lost for words. Then I found one…’excruciating’.                   Spiral Navigators Violin/drums/bass/guitar.  Definitely somewhat less frantic than the previous bloke. Not really ‘space rock’ , the vocals at times got a bit too close to the Outcast Band for me. Guest sax player popped up.                        Sonic Trip Project I remember the guitarist once commenting on my Velvet Underground t-shirt and the opening number certainly had a VU feel.  Second song had a hint of ‘Gimme Shelter’ in the intro. No vocals in the line-up, it isn’t easy to play a 20 minute one chord instrumental and hold everyone’s attention.  But they were thoroughly decent.                 Nuklii   A trio, with a hint of Deep Purple in the opening number.  We sensed a snatch of Metallica in another number and then proceedings seemed to turn into 70s jazz-rock mode.  I got ear-wormed by one riff, which thankfully Her Ladyship recognised as the end bit from Fairport’s ‘Matty Groves’.                     Dubbel  Never sure how to spell their name. A lot of people like them, and a lot of people liked ‘Mr Blobby’ by Mr Blobby too. Singer made some smartass comment about chairs at festivals, we vacated ours and left.  Not a bad first night though, all in all.

Saturday             Dead Souls ironically have the ‘graveyard’ slot. Distorted 3-piece, they quickly had to turn down.  Certainly much closer to Nirvana than the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Not a bad start.                          Tanglemist  Male/female duo with Kozmic Ken doing his best Mickey Hart impression on bongo.  Hippy-dippy stuff delivered with much earnest. Song about Boudicca had really clunky rhyming. Song about goblins and fairies was followed by an animal rights number, I went outside for a break. Kept coming back in and out but they were still there.               Delphini   Seemingly they were here last year too.  A gyrating green woman accompanying what at times sounded like a 1967 Pink Floyd gig. All instrumental, but interesting. Seemed to be a much shorter set than the previous lot got.                       Silvertrees. I remember seeing them in afternoon spots at festivals before.  I was going to say ‘unmemorable’ but then realised I would be contradicting myself. Marks for it being original material but it seemed to drift over me rather than grab me.   But they went down well.                    Monkey Trial   Trio with monster drum kit centre stage. Can it be categorised as ‘Ambient’ maybe?  At one stage it threatened to turn into  ‘Soporific’ though.  An unusual combo, but it worked ok.                       Skraelings       A very old-school punk look before they had played a note…and, indeed, they were. But with a Hawkwind-like back beat. And it worked brilliantly. They got more mainstream punk towards the end maybe, with some punked-up covers, but they were really good. We had never heard them before, even though they have been going since 1990. But this is the farthest north they have ever been.  Next year please lads!                 Capt. Lockheed and the Starfighters     Back to ‘The Outer Limits’. Hawkwind fans will recognise their name, and it’s not long before ‘Spirit of the Age’ and ‘Master of the Universe’ get an airing. A blast of Iggy and the Stooges was a bit of a surprise though.                         Red Spektor Blues-rock trio with, again, a musical hint of the Hendrix Experience. Much harder vocals though.  But we were both so tired we had to retire early, sorry lads.

So, overall…

1. Music. Not completely space-rock. An interesting blend. And nearly all original material.

2. Sound. Very good.

3.Punctuality. Occasional ‘confusion’ and some rescheduling needed. But Dave Lowe runs a pretty tight ship!

4.Security. Still not perfect sadly. An announcement about any loudness after midnight would only get one warning, then ‘out’,  fell on deaf ears of the tw*ts near us. They stopped up shouting all Friday night and Saturday morning. And I really do mean ALL.  But wasn’t as bad the second night so maybe the security man advised them accordingly.

5. Locals. Basically not really practical to bar them, but there were definite instances of people (without wristbands) just talking all the way through the music.

6. Food. Big emphasis on veggie stuff this year. Reasonable value vs the bigger festivals.

7. Bar. Staff were all very friendly. Decent prices too. Such a change knowing you are not going to get short-changed like in Upton.

8.Value. Great, £40 incl camping.

9. Future?  Smithy announced that a) it will be on next year and b) it will be a 3 day event.  Which is double good news . And can we be first in recommending another blues-rock trio, Egypt, for next year?

A really good little event, many thanks to the organisers.

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Mark Hollis. 1955-2019.

Been listening to a Talk Talk cassette while in the bath. They were a much underrated outfit. Their later songs even had a feel of REM in the latter half of their life. I can imagine Michael Stipe c.2005 singing them.

The late Mark Hollis is said to have stated ‘Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note. And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.’ Says it all.

Twin Guitars.

Her Ladyship and I are looking forward to seeing the rejuvenated Wishbone Ash during their Autumn tour.

They are certainly justified in claiming to be ‘a’  (and very likely ‘the’) major instigator of the ‘Twin Guitars’ sound, which the likes of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and others went on to popularise. Music fans across the pond will probably cite the early Allman Bros as being crucial too.

Currently on the buntermobile car stereo is an amazing gig from Vancouver 1981 by an outfit rarely mentioned in the ‘Twin Guitars’ section, namely…Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. (The recording is easily found on the Internet). Two guitarists, one in each speaker, doing the most amazing things…and that is before the bass player puts his two penneth in! In mono it would just sound a mess but in good , old-fashioned stereo it is fantastic.

A perfect example of the oxymoron ‘ organised chaos’. Seek it out and sit back in wonder.

Andy Powell v Martin Turner . How big is the hatchet? Is there a big enough hole to bury it in?

Are there any Wishbone Ash fans anywhere who think that the two protagonists can ever have a kind word for each other?

Difficult situation at best! Both Andy and Martin have been drawing their Old Age Pension for some time and even the release of their golden goose thirty cd set didn’t result in the five core members sitting down in the local pub having a laugh and a drink together,

Sadly AP and MT have still been having the occasional dig at each other on stage. But wouldn’t it maybe defuse some tension if AP was to introduce eg ‘Come in from the Rain’ as an MT composition? It is good enough to feature in the current set. Or MT could acknowledge one of the many joint compositions as being mainly an AP number with additional contributions from whoever else?

Yes it may stick in both of their throats but fans may be actually interested in how the group compositions started off too. I would.