Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. 9-11.08.2018

Our fourth visit to Cropredy.  We only go when there are people on the bill who we really want to see. I suspect the vast majority of customers go every single year, meet the same people in the same spot in the arena every year. They then set up a village and talk all weekend.  They wouldn’t know if they had paid £150 plus to watch Peter Sutcliffe and the Hammer Wielders. Nice situation for the organisers though! Diversion getting there, set our tent up only to be flanked by someone with Blenheim Palace perched on a couple of wheels.

Thursday.  Fairport Convention . Fairport now start proceedings with a twenty minute acoustic spot. ‘Festival Bell’ kicks off the weekend, with former member Maart Alcock making the first of quite a few guest appearances.               Smith and Brewer. Couple of blokes with acoustics.  ‘Another Shade of Blue’ was among the songs they played from their upcoming record. Pleasant enough, they got a good hand.                               Police Dog Hogan. Mix of Irish, Americana and West Country . They managed to overcome a false start when the bass player’s Poundworld guitar lead seemed to have melted. Suspect he may struggle to get a refund. Unusual line-up, but Her Ladyship got a bit fidgetty and went back to the tent for umbrellas and ponchos. Strange that Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’ seems to be the ‘go to’ song for anyone venturing into Plastic Paddy mode. Bit of humour too, but not sure if either of us would queue up at the signing tent.                     Oysterband.  One of the reasons we plumped for a visit . We have been big fans since first seeing them in 1999 and find it unbelievable that they haven’t featured here since 2004.  Lots of favourites today (‘River runs’, ‘Here’s to you’, ‘All that way for this’, ‘Walking down the road with you’ and more). A reworking of their very old ‘Oxford Girl’ got some singalonging, but they lose a point for no ‘Bells of Rhymney’. A great performance , please don’t let it be another fourteen years wait!                      Brian Wilson presents Pet Sounds. I was very, very nervous about this. I have been a Beach Boys fan since the sixties and rate ‘Pet Sounds’ only beaten to the top spot in’ best lp ever’ by Love’s ‘Forever Changes’. ( Back in the early noughties I saw Arthur Lee and Love do a great job live with that.)  Tonight we get an awful, cheesy ‘Greatest Hits’ orchestral interlude before we are greeted  with the sight of a very frail BW being helped on stage with a nurse and walking frame. The opening notes of ‘California Girls’ strike up and Brian’s vocals are very ‘strained’. A couple of other hits follow before he (wisely) hands over the vocals to Al Jardine whose tonsils  have weathered the years better.  More hits follow, plus Al’s excellent ‘California Saga’ along with some more obscure songs.   We then get the entrance of Blondie Chaplain , who fleshed out the group in the seventies. He took over the vocals on ‘Feel Flow’, ‘Wild Honey’ and ‘Sail on Sailor’.  But he seems to have thought the show was ‘The Brian Wilson Show starring Blondie Chaplain’!  Much heavy metal guitar ( ‘basic’ is the kindest adjective I can muster’), maybe someone had sprinkled some Columbian Marching Powder into his £8.00 fish and chips?   Then it was ‘Pet Sounds’. Not going to give a blow-by-blow account but Mr W at one point during ‘God only knows’ looked genuinely upset that he couldn’t ‘make’ the notes. But then again, he knew back in 66 that brother Carl would nail it and gave it to him. (Mike Love wisely incorporated live footage with Carl in Beach Boys shows a few years ago.)  A few more hits to finish off the show, but not his solo ‘Love and Mercy’ which has featured on the tour.  It was at times a bit tearful, both watching the poignancy of a fragile genius and just watching him on stage after being a fan for fifty plus years.    Great night.

Friday. Had a walk into the village. Her Ladyship is a very smiley individual and was disappointed and suprised that this snotty, folky crowd are just plain ignorant. At every other fest we go to , we are greeted with ‘Good Morning’ from passers-by. Here? Not so much as a nod. And the arena last night was a sea of litter. Anyway, sod ’em, back to the tent to start ex- Fairport producer Joe Boyd’s book . (Cheers Les, will give you it back in October). By now, lashing it down so headed for our first ever visit to Brasenose Arms. Managed to find a seat and decided to stay. Decided to go to the arena after a few sherbets, where it was             Cregan and Co. A few years ago Jim recruited a talent show Rodalike and hit the boards playing some songs he co-wrote , and lots he didn’t.  He also features in the new-look Family line-up. (The Rodalike wasn’t there tonight though.)   Last few songs featured ‘Sweet little rock n roller’, ‘Twisting the night away’ and ‘Maggie May’. (He neglected to say he didn’t co-write any of those.) Much singing along to a club group, basically.   Hoping next year that Tetsu and Co are here, playing Free and Faces songs. After all, he co-wrote the ‘B’ side of ‘Wishing Well’.    Her Ladyship went off to watch the Doonicans doing a brief spot at the Radio Oxford tent. I predicted before we set off that that they would take Cropredy by storm.                   Le Vent du Nord. Electric Francophiles from Quebec. Very talented and unusual but with limited appeal. Strangely enough, they didn’t play ‘You wear it well’. One of them ran over a dog in 1972 that belonged to a woman who lived next door to a milkman who delivered Rod Stewart’s yoghurts.                          Fish .  Her Ladyship is a fan, but she is not sure why! She can’t even remember seeing him at the Acoustic Festival some years ago. Then again , she did go wandering off to the toilet that night about 2.00 am , fell into a water-filled ditch and was stuck in mud and nettles until somebody heard her cries. To me, he is still very much sub-Genesis Gabriel era.  A Marillion song to finish, he still has a loyal following.                                  Kate Rusby. Amazingly, she has never appeared here before. Last year’s t-shirt boasts The Divine Comedy and Petula Clark. Am I missing something?  Great to see Ms R doing a ‘regular’ set, our recent viewings have been her Christmas songs. Plenty of well-known numbers , incl ‘Hunter Moon’, Nick Jones’s ‘The Blind Harper’, ‘Big Brave Bill’ and ‘The Ardent Shepherdess’. Her Ladyship had gone down to the front to watch, and like me on the hill, found herself surrounded by loads of people talking and not giving a ‘f**k about who was on…or anyone who actually wanted to listen. Ms R should adopt Neil Young’s response (‘Why have you people actually paid f**kin money to come to see me?!) . Kate ended with ‘Underneath the stars’, coinciding with a plug for her own fest of the same name.  She has been a class act for years. Not interested in yet another appearance by the Levellers. Early night to bed for us.

Saturday. We inadvertently arrived a few minutes before the gates opened, and the sight of middle-aged men and women scurrying across the field to get their ‘spot’ was laughable.                                Richard Digance. A Croppers institution , although he missed last year. An occasion to air some new songs, but the likes of ‘Sod’s Law’, are never far away. His ‘Salisbury’ song is a modern day protest song almost and , of course, there is ‘We are searching’ complete with hanky waving.  He has the rare ability to get the audience cry and laugh simultaneously and is a great guitarist.  Try to catch him on tour if you don’t fancy sitting in a wet field.                       Eric Sedge. Singer-songwriter. His opening ‘Pleased to meet you’ had a bit of Quo tagged on. Thoughtful songs.                  Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. Fellow Barnslegians to Kate Rusby. How would they go down with the Cropredy faithful? Would my prediction come true? There were a few sniggers to start with from an unsure crowd, but an hour later it was mayhem! Thousands ‘Jumpin Arraand’ and clapping.  I think it helped that a big majority were Doonicans virgins. For the uninitiated, they rewrite the lyrics to well-known songs by such as Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Marc Cohn, Police , The Wombles and …Abba. Sometimes the lyrics are lost in a noisy crowd but the punchline is the title which always gets a huge laugh. I won’t spoil the jokes but Her Ladyship couldn’t breathe for laughing at the newer ‘How Deep is your Glove’. Doonicans won by a cricket score.  I should have had a bet.                         Will Varley. Had the unenviable task of following the Doonicans. In an electric four-piece, he has one of those voices that seems to be about to burst into tears. He gave us the first (and second) ‘F’ word of the weekend.  He did nowt for me, and the rest of the audience seemed only to give him polite applause. But his short overrun generated some more interest. Plenty of people queueing up for cd signing.                      Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys. Nothing to do with the deceased ‘Porridge’ and’ Allo, Allo’ actor or the Keifer Sutherland comedy vampire film.  A sort of East Anglian Seth Lakeman. Mainly originals, they did an interesting ‘Sultans of Swing’, featuring some great banjo playing. They finished with mass jumping too.                              Afro Celt Sound System. By now it was lashing down and after the next twenty minutes of screaming women and endless percussion solos I knew what the term ‘water torture’ meant.  The rain and the ‘music’ went on for an hour.  What a gay day!                          Al Stewart. It was about now that I found it impossible to hold a book, pen and umbrella at the same time and keep the ink from running too. So apologies to Mr Stewart and his cohort for not logging details of their very good spot. Ralph McTell joined him on a Jackson C. Frank song.  ‘On the Border’, ‘Time Passages’ and his ‘hit’ ‘Year of the Cat’ were all well-received as were his anecdotes about Robert Fripp etc.  He deserved better weather.                         Fairport Convention and Friends. I was again rendered unable to write, courtesy of the relentless precipitation. But I remember ‘Crazy Man Michael’ making an early entrance. As usual plenty of instrumentals to show off their prowess, such as ‘Bankruptured’ and ‘Surfeit of Lampreys’.In fact , the opening half was very much in recognition of the forty years since the hugely untimely death of Sandy Denny. Plenty of guests came on to sing her songs including Iain Matthews and Fish, after a Denny slideshow. ‘Solo’ and ‘Who knows…’ went down well. Dave Pegg introduced ‘Walk awhile’ from the Full House lp as his first Fairport performance, it’s still great.  Maart came on again, fresh from his bass-playing with the Doonicans. But no Ralph McTell?  As usual, Fairport finish the set with ‘Matty Groves’ before coming back on to lead 20,000 piss-wet people through ‘Meet on the Ledge’.   A great end to a great weekend.

Music. Some great performances, some ok. In my opinion, of course.

Prices. Beer started with a 4, but this is Oxfordshire. The Welsh Oggies seem to have shrunk in size.

Security. Quite why we have to show our wristbands to go to the toilet, when we cannot have got there without having one anyway I don’t know. But never heavyhanded.

Campsite. Fine…and quiet!

Litter. As mentioned before. It’s as if the folky elements expect some lower class minimum wage people to pick up their crap.

Bar staff. Fine, unusual not to be shortchanged.

Village. It embraces the festival, which it makes financial sense to do. I found a cassette of Bob and the Band’s ‘Before the Flood’ for 50p. Plus a Howling Wolf double cd and my third copy of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s fantastic debut lp for a quid each.

We will return! Hoping for Pure Prairie League, New Riders of the Purple Sage or Little Feat next year. ( I made a similar request after 2013 but not successful! Check out the 2013 review.) If it is UB40 or The Buzzcocks again though we will be somewhere else. In fact , ANYwhere else.

And if Alison Krauss and Union Station are coming I will pick the litter up myself…with my teeth.

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Gram Parsons

Definitely not a live review! When I first heard the opening note of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ in 1965 I was a Byrds fan…and have been a fan of pretty much all things Byrdsian since. I latched onto the Flying Burrito Brothers in the early seventies.

Trying to find decent or unusual T-shirts though is not easy. I came across the site http://www.cypresscowboy.com while looking at http://www.gene-clark.com. They have some really interesting GP t-shirts as well as Clarence White and other Byrds-related stuff. I bought 3 GP ‘tribute’ shirts. Photos below but they are not very good resolution.

And , yes, I am not a fan of tribute acts! These are from GP tribute nights, featuring different artists. Obviously postage is expensive but Peggy has some ‘oddities’ available. Have a look at the site, her e-mail address is there, as are better photos! She will respond really quickly, but remember the time difference. Happy shopping.

Summertyne Americana Festival. The Sage, Gateshead. 21 July 2018

The festival has been going for a few years now. It is a three day event, mixing free stages with established (not free) artists in the two main halls. We chose the Saturday, as Steve Earle and the Dukes were on in Hall 1.

Outside, on a well-attended free stage, Tom Blackwell is first up.  Singer/guitarist from Liverpool with a touch of harmonica. An interesting version of ‘Little Red Rooster’ is the opener, followed by (I assume) original songs. Pretty good, we both thought. He got a good round of applause.                   The Rosellys and Rachel Haven. UK alt-country 5-piece outfit with a guest from Texas.  Two female lead vocalists, with pedal steel very much to the fore. In fact, he was a bit too loud, drowning out the fiddle playing sadly. But they have original songs, including a dash of cajun, and were pleasant and breezy.                         Arkansas Dave. Dave and his four buddies started out in a quite Skynyrdy mode ( three letter Ys in one word?!). At times, they had a touch of Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac too.  They covered Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’, and the description ‘Raw blend of rock, blues and punk’ must have had the audience puzzled if they were expecting a Sex Pistols cover. No hint of punk at all. The bass player got a chance to show his funk/reggae inclination and they finished with a later Tom Petty song. Again, a very good performance , similarly well-received.                    William the Conqueror. Three piece from Cornwall, but not really Americana. But they gave us some good self-penned numbers. Having said that, the opening half hour was a bit ‘samey’ and it took a while to move up a gear.   We left early to get into the main hall for the man we had paid to see.                           Curse of Lono. Opening act for the evening gig. The singer reckoned he had listened to Mr Earle eighteen years ago. I am sure he must have been listening to that well-known Geordie Mark Knopfler a hell of a lot though. (OK, he was actually born in Glasgow). Even the guitarist had a definite MK style. But they were pretty good, with own songs.                          The Mastersons. The duo have been multitasking with the Dukes for a while now, and usually do a slot on their own. Plugging their latest record ‘Transient Lullaby’ they are talented musicians and writers. A bit of occasional artificial percussion and Her Ladyship wasn’t the only one who reckoned they were good.                               Steve Earle and the Dukes. We have been watching Mr E since 1997 when he and the Dukes played at the Leeds Irish Centre. If ‘death’ and ‘taxes’ are the two certainties in life, then Steve Earle starting his gigs with a slab from his latest lp must be a third. Back then , he started with the epic ‘Christmas in Washington’ and tonight we get a very big slab of ‘So you wanna be an outlaw’ up front. (He has been occasionally putting in ‘CIW’ on this tour but, sadly, not tonight.)  When the oldies kick in , they do so big style with ‘My old friend the blues’, ‘Someday’, ‘Guitar Town’ and ‘I ain’t ever satisfied’ in quick succession. He and Eleanor resurrect ‘Still in love with you’ from his Del McCoury collaboration. ‘Jerusalem’ gets an extended workout. Two of my least favourite songs are ‘Taneytown’ and ‘Hard Core Troubadour’ and he gives me them both together!  ‘Johnny come lately’, ‘Galway girl’  and classic ‘Copperhead Road’ are always destined to get feet tapping and he has been often finishing with ‘Hey Joe’ lately (including a dig at Trump).  Encores are ‘Dixieland’, the very old ‘Ben McCulloch’ and an extended ‘Girl on the Mountain’.  A great two hour show from a great artist and friends.  We have never seen him be less than great. And never seen him so mobile!

An excellent day’s entertainment. The ‘free’ acts were a very good addition to the main stage. And hardly a cover song all day and night!  The MC outside was again brilliant. The event needs to continue to be well-attended , although not nesessarily by the bloke who had brought his spoons and was playing along to William the Conqueror!  If you thought that was bizarre, there was a young woman on the Metro back to Whitley Bay pushing a chihuaha that was sitting in a baby buggy.

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Rock and Bike Fest. South Normanton. 12-14 July 2018

Relatively short drive, about an hour. Got set up quickly and chatted with our camping neighbour Alan. A fellow Middlesbrough FC supporter, he too had come last year and reckoned it was well worth another shot.

Thursday. First up are Verbal Warning. No strangers to RABF, they are straight into the Ramones, Sham 69 and Motorhead. They have their own songs too, both older (‘State Control of Rock’) and newer (‘Smart Phone’). They are always well-received.                        Steve Naylor Band. We get the Metallicanthem early on and, of course, some AC/DC. It wasn’t long before the predictable double of ‘Wishing Well’ and ‘Can’t Get Enough’. Basically the same as any weekend pub covers outfit would be doing. Back drop said ‘Classic Rock Tribute’, I suppose ‘bog-standard pub covers’ didn’t seem so impressive.                         Van Halen UK. My knowledge of Van Halen is restricted to one song, like most people I suggest. Although I do have an unopened semi-bootleg cd from Poundland .  Not sure if singer was supposed to be Dave, Sammy or an amalgam, but plenty of people did ‘Jump’.                           Diary of a Madman. Her Ladyship is a long time Black Sabbath fan. Even she could have put on a long wig, dark glasses and sworn a lot like this ‘Ozzy’ did. ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘Bark at the Moon’  probably had all the correct words but sounded nothing like the original vocals. ‘Iron Man’ got a singalong and ‘Iron Man’ and ‘War Pigs’ had Her Ladyship up and grooving (forgetting she had gone a*se over tits a bit earlier).                      Floyd in the Flesh. Surprising opener…not ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’! A chunk from DSOTM kicked off, followed by a couple from ‘The Division Bell’. The newer songs didn’t sound too bad, but ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ was the start of a down hill slide. I don’t recollect Roger Waters announcing the rest of the group as they did a solo?!  ‘On the Turning Away’ made me think that they should be renamed from Floyd in the Flesh (FITF) to F**k All Like Floyd (FALF).  Someone needs to search ‘How to tune drums’ on Youtube, it was bloody awful tonight.  Not our best ever opening festival experience. but my mind kept saying ‘Don’t moan, it was only £35 for the whole weekend!)

Friday.      Evyltyde . Metal quartet with a young girl braying ten bells of sh*t out of her kit. Female vocalist with much hair-swinging plus blokes on bass/vocals and lead.  Mainly own stuff, so deserving of an ear. Fest-friendly covers from Judas Priest and ‘Thin Lizzy’ (Bob Seger to be pedantic!).                    Joan oV Arc. Blonde smiley drummer plus frontline trio looking very hard. Again, own stuff but snappier than the previous lot.  Bass/vocals was Kat off Eastenders.  Some fest-friendly covers thrown in again, ‘Addicted to Love’, ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ and ‘Freebird’.                              Gallus Cooper. Initial observation was similar to the Ozzy copy group. Do you just put some black pudding round your eyes, learn all the words and that’s it? In fact, they spent a fair bit on costumes and props, but sounded nothing like Alice Cooper. All the hits, plus some lesser known songs.  Plenty in.                            Zodiac Mindwarp  . I can remember one of their 80s songs, and I reckon that might be one more than quite a few in there. And it came first…’High Priest of Love’.  Thereafter, no idea of the songs but at least they seemed original, as opposed to a copy or pub covers group.  But bloody Thin Lizzy as an encore!                        Evil Scarecrow  .     Sadly, a clash here as Lindisfarne were next door. But we had seen Rod and chums recently so were up for Evil Scarecrow.  How to describe them? Phew, where do I start?! If you thought the concept of A Box Of Frogs was daft, as Bachman Turner Overdrive said… ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’.  Best idea is to search ‘Crabulon’ on Youtube. Think ‘Metallica meets Norman Wisdom’ , it would be a starting point . Great stuff.                             Circus of Horrors Ringmaster talking over backing music, plus bizarre circus acts. We were overtired and retired.

Saturday.                               Earlier start, with Paris Alexander getting a short slot on vocals and guitar                           Warren Ireland. Young man, guitar and loops. Mainly own stuff, opened with ‘Folsom Prison’. His ‘Brick’ was far more interesting than FALF’s earlier version.                              Kelliannie . Woman plus guitar, with some familiar numbers and some not so.  Nancy Sinatra was one of the former.                                 Darwin’s Rejects.  Played songs by Headsticks , Levellers and Ferocious Dog.  No, not a Glam Rock outfit!                                 Pirates Rock. Her Ladyship predicted maybe another of these tedious Captain Pugwash groups. They weren’t. Started out with Thin Lizzy followed by…Thin Lizzy.  The latter featured what was to be the worst guitar solo of the weekend. They seemed to be a basic pub group who had added a loaded of mates and girfriends to end up with 13 on stage. And, for no apparent reason, get dressed as pirates and say ‘AAAR’ occasionally. (Her Ladyship did comment that the singer did actually look as though he had eaten Johnny Depp though.)  I can definitely say after watching 50 years of live music, they are in the top ten of the worst I have ever seen. (Her Ladyship too). But Castleford’s Nitrous Oxide remain supreme. Fortunately, she had gone for a pee so missed ‘Comfortably Numb’ but was back in time for ‘Smoke on the Water’.  I won’t go into details but the tirade of abuse that emanated from her throat would have made Chubby Brown blush.  Speechlessly sh*te.                                            And next, Surreal Panther. I won’t waste as many words, will give them a 4C grading. Crude, Crass, Coarse and Crap.                                    Neck had to call off, which necessitated some hectic phone calls and reshuffling. So we got a set of blokes filling in superbly at short notice. OK, it was ‘All Right Now’ etc but well done lads!  ‘Vulva’.                                        Women in Rock. A couple of women shouting at the audience and occasionally themselves.  Doesn’t exactly look promising when Her Ladyship and others preferred a Sweet tribute act. Predictable tunes from the likes of Eurythmics, Joplin, Benatar, Quatro, Jett, Tyler. Not sure how many recognised Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ though. Thankfully they didn’t do ‘White Rabbit’!  Still plenty singing along though.                                  Fleetwood Bac. A ‘Rumours’ era tribute act.  ‘Christine’ is spot on as Christine vocally and ‘Stevie’ is pretty good too. ‘Lindsey’ takes a bit of time to get to grips with Lindsey. They started out really well but got a bit ‘clubby’. Very much a ‘hits’ set with a couple of Stevie’s solo songs.  Loads in, singing their hearts out. To be fair, if you like this Mac line-up and don’t mind tribute acts and don’t want to pay about £75 to see the real deal (-ish) then go and pay £20 to see this lot. Or you can just stay at home and put on one of their many Greatest Hits discs.     And it was all over, well it was for us old-timers!

1.Value. Top value. We paid £35 each for our tickets, including free camping and free programme. There were Cambridge Rock Fest flyers about. I worked out that CRF would be about £135 a ticket.

2. Bar. Decent prices . £3.40 for bitter.  Good service. Still loads of people bringing in their own beer, bottles included.

3. Security. Like last year here, there was the same kid pinching pint pots , at a quid a go (complicit were his adults too, the bloke with the huge disabled contraption). Despicable low lifes, they comfortably paid for their entries at the expense of their victims. TW*TS!  You all saw the kid in the Suarez Liverpool shirt. So had security when I told them. So what had they done about it? Similar to Northern Kin Fest, a worrying side effect of a ‘refundable pound a pot policy’

4. T-shirts. Fest shirts good value at a tenner. Acka Dacka won the most seen shirt, with Stones close behind. Ramones, Motorhead and Floyd a bit furthur behind. My Lindisfarne/Gene Clark shirt was definitely in Lepers’ Corner!

5. Traders. Plenty of stalls to look round.

6. Music. Like a lot of fests aimed at bike riders, tribute acts and pub covers groups are the norm. But it keeps the gate price down! They usually have maybe 3 ‘known’ names here, this year it was Lindisfarne, Sham 69 and Big Country. I would think each of them would maybe charge £20 a ticket so furthur emphasises the value for money here.

7. Toilets. All Portaloos but kept clean. Her Ladyship only encountered a pile of bangers and mash once. on Sunday morning.

Hope it continues to be a success.

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Northern Kin Festival. Stanhope. 22-23. June. 2018

Not too far for us, but tent took longer to erect ( Her Ladyship had to get needle and cotton out). Done, and off into the village where we found the Grey Bull. £2.80 a pint, £1.50 for a ham and pease pudding sandwich. That will do very nicely.

Friday. Big marquee was the setting for the stage. But weekend didn’t start as planned, as the van holding the wristbands had been half-inched the night before!   Interesting layout on stage, with a small segment assigned to ‘in between’ acts. Couldn’t see the first ones originally, but heard them doing ‘L and N’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’                    Driven Serious  Heavy, folkyish five piece. They wanted us to dance, not sure what to . (Nobody did dance). ‘Another Brick in the Wall’  wasn’t terrific.  Old Crow Medicone Show’s chestnut ‘Wagon Wheel’ got some bums wiggling though. The well-informed bloke next to us told someone that he played it on the guitar too, it was by Bob Dylan and the Black Crowes! You are never too old to learn! (Or talk bollox!).  They got a good reception.   Another filler outfit gave us ‘I feel the Earth move’ and ‘Knock on Wood’.  Perfectly ok, better idea than some of the dee jays most festivals inflict upon us.                                     Russ Tippins   From outside, we both thought it was a female singing. A three piece pub blues-rock combo, we soon got Howling Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ , given the treatment a la Zeppelin (who changed a couple of words and claimed it an original).  Not all that different from many of their ilk.      Meanwhile, Her Ladyship had discovered Double Maxim on hand-pull. That old song sprang to mind …’There could be trouble ahead…’.                       Nine Below Zero  We have been fans for decades , but were ‘disappointed’ with the expanded line-up. So looking at the scale of the event, we were hopeful of Dennis just bringing the foursome. Sadly , no such luck.  Starting out with ‘Tore Down’, ‘Homework’ and ‘Can’t help myself’, we just switched off. They are still heavily reliant on the ‘Live at the Marquee’ lp from their youth. I was lucky enough to get one of the first 100 of a limited edition vinyl lp, which had a bead of perspiration from the Marqee ceiling as a bonus gift.  OK, yes, that is a small fib!  But that was what that lp was all about, four young lads and the audience  in a sweaty club. Not this Jools Holland-Lite conglomeration.  I can remember our first born’s first words , after ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’, being ‘Don’t point your finger at the guitar man’!  (Yes, another fib but not too far away).    About half a dozen bought cds afterwards.                       So , next up is Wilko Johnson.  Hopeful that it would be ‘Wilks and Norm and Dylan Howe’, to paraphrase Ian Dury, it was a few songs in before the first Feelgood song ‘Going Back Home’. Followed by his own ‘Dr Dupree’, we still get an extended instrumental workout at halftime. And a Dylan drum solo towards the end. The Dr Feelgood favourite ‘Back in the Night’ sounded lethargic, but ‘ She does it Right’ and the encore ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ had plenty dancing. Couldn’t believe we hadn’t had ‘Roxette’ but he had a new cd to plug, so there were a few unfamiliar songs. But too many long instrumental sections. He could have easily fitted in ‘Roxette’ , ‘Sneakin’ Suspicion’ or ‘Paradise’.   Disappointed, but in a minority I suspect.

Saturday         Paul Rose Trio  ‘Every day I have the blues’, another ‘Killing Floor’, ‘Black magic Woman’. Pretty standard pub rock blues covers. A sensible start to the day though.                                   Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra  Not a typical pub covers outfit, an unusual five piece group. Very ‘swing’ orientated, which does Henry Hall’s Brother (Ffoulke Hall) for me but seems popular nowadays.                                The Young ‘Uns  Popular North Eastern folk trio, mainly unaccompanied songs. Being a Smog Monster, I picked up the words ‘Roseberry Topping’ and ‘A19’, as did the rest of the Smoggies in the marquee. Her Ladyship said it had been a very moving song. She was moved by quite a few of their songs, especially the ones about xenophobia and homophobia. She wan’t so bothered about singing along to sea shanties though , having grown up in Scarborough she is ‘shantied out’. But she thought they were great, brilliant mix of poignancy and humour.  The young lady whom she was ‘chalk-talking’ to afterwards was a big fan (by now, the Double Maxim  had gone to her larynx).                       Trad arr.  Seven piece group, with a Sandy Denny-era Fairport sound.  At times it was like Kate Rusby singing in harmony with herself, ‘say no more’. They sounded very good, and I have to offer both them and the previous lads apologies for being outside and not giving the attention I should have done.                                                   And also to The Unthanks . Dual female fronted, they have been on the North East folk circuit for a long time and have a staunch following .                                               Martin Barre.     Straight into Tull’s ‘Steel Monkey’, the first of many by his erstwhile employment. The vocalist is certainly not unlike Mr A. The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’ usually features, and ‘Sweet Dream’ gets a reworking too. ‘Hunting Girl ‘ sticks more to the original while ‘My Sunday Feeling’, ‘Fat Man’ and ‘A new day  yesterday’ undergo some cosmetic surgery. No’ Aqualung’ though , and I wasn’t happy with his taking the piss out of the word ‘prog’ while being quite happy to accept the cheque for playing it (or was the comment too subtle for me ?).                             Red Hot Chilli Pipers     Plenty went in for the start, but quite a few didn’t stop long. To me, they seemed like a ‘club’ group who hit upon a gimmick to have three blokes with bagpipes. A one-trick pony, and not a great trick really.                        By now, the running order was getting very tardy .                              Ferocious Dog   seemed to take ages to soundcheck, and they  eventually started 45 minutes later than scheduled. I am not a fan and won’t risk repeating myself as I saw them at the Aoustic Festival of Britain (check out my thoughts in that recent review) . Their set was shortened,  but still the next lads were nearly an hour late…                 Lindisfarne   Still with Rod Clements out front, he returned a couple of years or so ago. I won the opening song bet ‘No time to lose’.  They give the crowd what they want, namely ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘All fall down’, ‘Road to Kingdom Come’, ‘Run for Home’,  ‘Fog on the Tyne’…with ‘Clear White Light’ to finish. But , surprisingly, no ‘Meet me on the Corner’? (Or was I at the bar?).    And it was all over.


1.Music. Great value for money. (£40.00). For us, if it had been five years ago when we would have been more excited by Wilko and 9BZ it would have been stupendous.  But plenty were more than happy

2.Bar. I had one attempted ‘shortchanging ‘ episode. £4.00 a pint is not ‘fantastic value’ though (as stated on the website)

3. Food. £2.00 for a big pile of chips IS ‘fantastic value’ though. Especially having paid £4.00 for a handful at two recent festivals.

4. Campsite. Fine, although men’s and women’s toilets both ran out of paper. We were on the ‘quiet’ site …which it was.

5.Scheduling. Saturday’s timetable went hopelessly astray. Whether it was people starting late, finishing late, equipment problems, soundchecking, whatever. Needs sorting, people were getting very ‘restless’.

5. Security. There was one BIG problem. Charging a refundable £1 for a pint pot was a good idea on paper, but on Saturday night there were children blatantly stealing empty ones from the cup holders in chairs. And these were not just feral local kids. One pair of girls were there with a couple of adults. Yes, you two pieces of pondlife…man with pork pie hat  and woman with long blonde hair! You are basically a couple of Fagins and full weight pieces of sh*t. Don’t tell me you didn’t know what they were doing. And another young lad with a Ferocious Dog hoody!  (You could argue that you wouldn’t leave a pound coin on your seat though, would you? ). We told security but they should really have been on the ball without being told . WE could see it!!  . It will be happening at another festival soon, I know for sure. Sort it!

All in  all, a very good little festival. Low-key, good value, we both hope it was successful enough to warrant another year.  The last two issues didn’t spoil a very good event…but they could do if not attended to.

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Acoustic Festival of Britain. Addendum

Interesting link to the Burton Mail via AFOB Facebook site. Reporter (Richard Castle?). Seemingly ‘Folk fans were catered for by…Celtic act The Outcast Band’. Really? The Outcast Band had cried off.  I wonder how many press passes are sold or given to mates? Not that I am implying for a second that this is what happened of course!

If you want to read a report by (unpaid) people who were actually there, please check it out on this site.

Sonic Rock Solstice. Stoke Prior. 15-17.6.2018

It is that time in the space/time continuum when we transport ourselves to the the outer reaches of the cosmos (well, the outer reaches of Bromsgrove) for the Sonic Rock Solstice. Tent up pretty sharply (I have discovered the less I do, the easier it gets erected!). Into the very good nearby Boat and Railway pub for our starters for ten, and at £2.80 a pint it is an easy choice.

Friday. Tom Ashurst. From the venerable Hawklords,  Tom gives us a brief but decent start to the weekend. Just him plus acoustic guitar plus loops. And people pay £100.00 to see Ed Sheeran do basically the same?!  Occasional dodgy lead break, but anyone who gives the early Floyd’s ‘Matilda Mother’ an airing can be forgiven.               Shackled  Four young men who have probably slept with their dads’  Metallica cds under their pillows. T-shirts a-plenty for sale. But original material, so deserve an audience, Guitarist changed his Flying V at one point…for another! (Guitarists may agree that he must be a masochist! They can be buggers to keep in tune!). A couple of festival-friendly covers to finish via Black Sabbath and Motorhead , sorry, no prizes for guessing. They went down well.                         ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’. The food-based frolics of Sister Sandwich. Merciless rewriting of the likes of the Ramones, Clash, Billy Idol, White Stripes…even Britney Spears and Ricky Martin aren’t spared.  When I say they do ‘I love sausage rolls’ by Joan Jett and ‘Meat Meat Meat’ by the Damned you will get the idea. A lot of the lyrics were a bit indiscernible but gloriously bonkers.                          Capt Roswell and the Lost Alien Tribe.  The Hawkwindy stuff that most of the audience have come for. It is not easy to do a twenty minute number using one chord, usually E.  Song titles? Not a bloody clue. Use the words ‘Space’ ‘Cosmic’ ‘Sonic’ ‘Interstellar’ ‘Voyage’ and ‘Traveller’, throw them up in the air and select three at random.   But it is great!                Dr Hasbeen’s NASA Conspiracy Project. Quick second appearance for Martyn Hasbeen (does he only pay himself one lot of travelling expenses?!).   A few more chords this time, ‘Little Green Men’ is never far away. I bought a couple of Dr Hasbeen’s cds , £2.00 each, for the car…sorry, the shuttle craft.                  Senser. Plenty in for the headliners, the back of a t-shirt told me they have been here before. Big musical intro before male and female made dramatic entrance.  They launched into a tuneless tirade that I believe is classed as ‘Rap’ (?). I would suggest there is a letter missing from the start. Awful. Goodnight.

Saturday. Greenfire. Five piece outfit with female singer. Loud!              Happy Graveyard Orchestra. Unusual line-up and unusual songs. Not as loud! Did I hear a drum and xylophone solo?’ Idiosyncratic’ is probably a good description , nice version of ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ too.                 Sloth Metropolis. Have seen them here before,very theatrical but not for me musically. Rhythmic Raymond admitted he had bought a cd last year but has not played it.                        Orange Clocks. Complicated explanation to start with , regarding (I think) a 1973 record about a monkey that never made it onto German tv. Hence, Orange Clocks have revived it as ‘Tope’s Sphere 2’. And they were about to unleash the full lp on an unsuspecting room.    It seemed like a sort of cosmic version of ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and not only was it visually great, but the music was pretty good too.  Completely crackers but really enjoyable. Seemingly they added a bit more at the end too. Best so far.                          Babel. Stoke Prior regulars, they put a lot into the visual elements of the show.                           Pre Med. Seemingly been going since 2004, this is a relatively recent incarnation (I overheard). Boasting a 5-piece standard prog line-up, the female vocalist had a good voice. They rocked more than the Mostly Autumn extended family genre.  Both Ray and Her Ladyship discerned a hint of Lene Lovich on one track. ‘Ace of Spades’ got another outing at the weekend.                                   Fierce and the Dead. Very popular but I just don’t get them. Totally instrumental 4 piece with decent tunes that seem to be crying out for someone like Robert Plant to come hurtling out of the speakers. But it never happens, and to be fair to the members, they say they don’t want a singer. So it is up to them.                                 Lacertilia. Welsh 5-piece, 2 with no hair , 3 with lots. And a few beards.  Ironically, my first impression was what the previous lot may sound like with a singer!  Imagine Black Sabbath on speed (instead of cocaine) and a singer with a better voice.    Her Ladyship was impressed (but her father was Welsh ).                                    Quantum Fantay. Anyone who has come from Belgium deserves at least a decent look. Their footballers do!  Plenty of merchandise. Tangerine Dream-ish keyboards with loud almost funky bass.. And on came a very strange frontline!  Ultimately a totally instrumental musical show but with a unique mime (?), puppet(?), circus(?)…I don’t have an adequate description. Four musicians grooving along, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem in front of them! If they are on Youtube, give them a look…now! ‘Chopsticks and Gongs’ had a very oriental feel. ‘Skytopia’ was about 20 impressive minutes. And then some stilts.   Very good, good capture for the weekend Martyn!                      Evil Blizzard. Much anticipation, before 6 beings from a 70s Hammer Horror film came on stage.    Metal with lashings of ham. Sorry lads, we were just too tired , had to head off .

Sunday.          Crossroads 531. Starting with ‘Bullfrog Blues’. we got a set of blues-rock stuff from the late 60s/early 70s. Songs from Cream, Groundhogs,Gallagher, Free, CCR and Hendrix. Though not all of them the usual ones you expect from a pub covers outfit. Plus ‘Matchbox’ and a Racing Cars song.   They also had an unexpected goth girl stage dancer. She is, actually, a pleasant and highly-educated woman but a comment ‘Doesn’t she look a dick?’ had some validity.  The trio did well, especially being almost strangers to themselves!  A sensible easing in to a Sunday afternoon onboard the craft.                      Vulcan Death Grip  My intuition told me this was not going to be bluegrass!  Two 6-strings plus keyboards and FX.   Couldn’t make out any lyrics, they played 2 numbers, each about 20 minutes long.  If it was both sides of a single, I have this vision of putting them on a pub jukebox in Newcastle and walking out!                                      Witchtripper. Thankfully not on at midday!  Fresh-faced, short-haired drummer sitting behind a couple of tattooed serial killers. Legs akimbo up front of course. Drummer was a real extrovert, in fact. He looked even younger when he put his specs on afterwards! Plenty of stick twiddling and standing up. Reminded me of Simon in the Hot Rods.  They have made a couple of lps to date, I gather. I reckon each will have deafened half of Mansfield. ‘Attitude Adjustment’ finished a confident performance.                           Captain Horizon.   4-piece rock group, quite a few notches down from the previous occupants. Closer to the 80s NWOBHM groups.  Original material but, sadly, not all that memorable.  Members sloped off at the end to leave drumming finale.                           Dirty Flowers. Oh bugger! Saxophone alert! 5-piece, I lasted about as long as it took me to write the words ‘jazz’ and ‘funk’. Went to sit outside.  Ray and I both thought we were hearing some Blockheads played backwards at one stage.    Definitely not for me.                                    Deepshade. 3 piece plus more smoke. They had that doom-laden vocal delivery that made me dash outside to look for an asteroid that had been knocked off course and was heading straight towards the Earth…with no Bruce Willis on hand to tw*t it with a baseball bat.     But those in attendance enjoyed it.                       Sonic Black Holes  Young men from Germany, I was intrigued to see them.  Very 69 Pink Floyd sound to start, but without Rick Wright, without any vocals and much swinging of hair. So hardly like Pink Floyd then!    Very interesting, but not quite enough to threaten world domination. Her Ladyship started to play with her phone at half-time.                         Music of the Andys. I will omit the apostrophe from the poster! Two Andys from Here and Now gave us a bit of noodling before the others came on.                           Here and Now. Many loyal fans here, including Channel 5’s Matthew Wright, plenty of t-shirts too.   I remember seeing them at Blind Cat Festival and realised that I had never heard a thing by them before. Still not got round to it.                             Astralasia. A truly cosmic finale in store, there seemed to be an early snatch from Dark Side of the Moon.  Thought the drummer seeemed to be working overtime, I stood up and discovered his name was Mr Commodore (come on, I am a pensioner!).  A couple of females came on to wiggle and warble , it got to sound like someone had put on their ‘White Light White Heat’ lp and had played ‘Sister Ray’ at 45 rpm by mistake. A quite absorbing take on Alex Harvey’s ‘Faith Healer’, then Mr Commodore broke down! Everything stopped. Frightening that an electrical fault can completely flummox a headliner.  So, after much sweating from sound man Snake, it seemed that some more traditional assistance from a Mr Mapex and a Mr Zildjian solved the problem (with help from their operator of course). A hint of ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ before what Her Ladyship briefly thought was Dr Feelgood but it was Donna Summer!  And then…off goes the bloody fire alarm. Absolutely bloody farcical end to bloody good weekend.  Kozmic Ken gave out his customary thanks to a couple of dozen in the audience, the rest had given up and gone .

All in all though a good weekend. It always is. Capacity for the venue is 499, the event seems to attract the right sort of numbers and the right sort of people.

1. Music. Not a complete weekend of stellarphononics. Everything from the lunacy of Sister Sandwich at one end to the full-on metal attack of Witchtripper at the other. Plenty of Hasbeeny stuff in between. Thankfully no Plastic Paddies and only the tiniest hint of reggae.

2.Camping/Security. We managed to get 3 full nights sleep, a definite first. One git had a music system blasting out at a level that would have dwarfed the Who…and he wasn’t even in his tent! Security were informed , one of whom said ‘It is a music festival’. Searingly incisive observation.  Two went to investigate, and seemingly did nothing. Thankfully, it seemed that someone summoned the Lone Ranger and Tonto and the noise mysteriously ceased.

3. Bar. Her Ladyship got shortchanged by a fiver once, she was refunded without question. Very naughty to charge 10p for a plastic pot, but without telling you! Staff and prices in general have always been ok here.

4. Food. Much vaunted veggie shed shut at 9.00pm on Friday, ran out of food! OK rest of weekend. Prices far better than other fests we have been to.

5. Field layout. Maybe think about using a spray can to mark out ‘roadways’?

6.Tents. The afore-mentioned goth girl left a couple of tent pegs when dismantling her tent. I know because I heard her say that she had left one! Obvious she didn’t have a car and had never driven over a peg a similarly-thoughtless person had left. Her Ladyship and I are mere Bachelors, not Ph.D’s like she apparently is, but always make sure we don’t leave any pegs.

7. Toilets. I didn’t venture into portaloos. The sound of their being emptied at 6.00 am at the Acoustic Fest may be loud but is reassuring! We never got woken up here. Otherwise ok.