Upton Music Festival. Upton upon Severn. 24-26.8.12

The third Upton Fest and our second. We ended up here last year after a change in the Rhythm Fest details, and decided to give it another go. It is in a lovely little village,and  seeing Ted Turner appear with Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash last year prompted us to return. The Blues Band were advertised, encouraging our buying early tickets.

Friday. Pitched tent, with help from our festival virgin friends, and went into site. Almost immediately became a candidate for intensive care when I spotted beer price. £4.00 a pint!! Disgraceful! And, of course, own drinks not allowed in! Food prices also extortionate, and (surprisingly?) , own food not allowed in either. BUT (unlike other fests), this one is only yards from the village…and a load of (open) pubs. First pub had bitter at £2.40! So we were set. Started lashing down around 8.00pm, so it was either go to watch a load of chancers billed on the flyer as ‘Union Gap’ (see review of 60s  Skeggy Fest as to their legitimacy), drinking overpriced piss out of a plastic glass, or go to the Star to watch a 4 piece doing 12 bar stuff eg Hoochie Coochie Man, Hi Heel Sneakers, drinking stuff that started with a 2 not a 4. No contest. Went back for final act, Fabulous Boogie Boys (who sounded not unlike the opening act , Jive Aces, whom we heard on arrival.) Decent, swing-type stuff eg Caledonia…am I the only person who bought the Van Morrison single? So Friday not exactly in our Top Ten Festival Nights of the Decade.

Saturday. First up, Baraka. African rhythms, and only about 10 minutes before a drum/bongo solo. (No thank you). No idea what they were singing about, got some Caribbean and reggae stuff too. Then came another black mark for the event. Sitting outside, we got assaulted in our left lug hole by Angel Up Front, with some woman doing a Vic Reeves Club Singer attack on Alannah Miles, on Stage 2, while Main Stage was still playing in our right lughole. Why do organisers do this?! Well done to eg Acoustic Fest who stagger the performances. Angel U.F. then slaughtered one of my all time fave singles. ‘Go your own way’, followed by ’99 Red Balloons’. I’ve heard nicer noises coming from an abattoir. Pub ‘not very good’ rock, summed up by her Ladyship as ‘These are crap’. So, readers, it’s not just me! We had a temporary overlap with the Main Stage from The Strange Doors. I was never a big Doors fan, but anything rather than our chums in Stage 2 disembowelling ‘ Sweet Child of Mine’. And when Stage 2 finished, we got some juvenile DJ on?! Why? Let us listen to the Main Stage! Stage 2 resumed with Foreign Quarter, who started with ‘Boys are back in town’. Great! Driven 170 miles to hear crap I could have heard in Castleford for nowt. Next up on Main Stage were The Move. A real 60s favourite of mine, but very disappointing at Acoustic Festival (see earlier review). Glad to report they were heaps better today (which doesn’t say much!). Started out , again, with 3 hit singles then 3 from their ‘Marquee’ EP. But this time we didn’t go into ‘clubland’ as much. Got, after a couple of false starts, ‘Tonight’, then the brilliant ‘I can hear the grass grow’. OK, nothing like the single, but a great song. ‘California Man’, ‘Blackberry Way’ too, and although we still got a bit of Beatles and Spencer Davis, it was The Move playing The Move.  They just finished, Bev had gotten back in his helicopter and it totally bucketed down. Went back to tent and, again, only heard Tygers of Pang Tang from a distance…they sounded okay. So, back for ‘The Mindbenders’. In inverted commas, as they fall into the Union Gap, Easybeats category of seeming identity fraud. Some time ago I discovered on the web that The Salford Jets and The Mindbenders were at one time the exact same group!! And 2 of these alleged Mindbenders were simultaneously 2 Swinging Blue Jeans too!! Absolutely no conscience whatsoever!  So here they are churning out 60s pop stuff, plus stuff the original Mindbenders played on. And we get this, ‘Our old friends Wayne Fontana,  The Hollies,The Kinks…’ The Kinks played their last gig in 1995 and given your drummer is about bloody 17, how are the Kinks his ‘old mates’? Mr Mindbender, I reckon I was about as close to The Kinks as you were, for me it was about 50 yards away in 1972 at the back of the Leeds University Refectory Hall.  Coincidentally, I had Ray Davies’ cd ‘See My Friends’ on in the car, featuring eg Metallica  singing Kinks classics. I assume Mr Davies must have been really cheesed off when he rang his mates, The Mindbenders, to join him and they weren’t in, so he had to settle for Bruce Springsteen instead.  (About 15 years ago, we went to a charity do in Pudsey, £7.00, supposedly featuring the original line-up of The Mindbenders. We got another load of fraudsters, with Eric Stewart nowhere in sight, so it’s not a new scam by any means!). These type of people are as guilty as someone who clones your credit card. Right, need to calm down. We next get Mr Zip, seemingly from a reality show who raps about losing his phone and keys. Total nonsense, of course, but the genuine article! Enjoy your 10 minute slot mate (does same number twice), take the money while you can.  Next we get some more 80s metal from Oliver/Dawson Saxon, who like the Wishbone Ashes, Barclay James Harvests, Foghats, Drifters, Searchers of this world have to compete with similarly-named groups. Straight away , you can tell they have all been swotting up on their copies of The Heavy Metal Handbook, and have had to come on stage halfway during the letter ‘P’, so we are straight into Pointing, Posing and Posturing. Basic blue collar metal.but good luck to Mssrs Oliver and Dawson for keeping their flag flying (even though they have succumbed to a bit of Mindbendery by, I think, simultaneously playing in T.Rex!). And ‘Wheels of Steel’ is a classic of the genre. It got cold, went for some cheap(er) beer in the Plough. Things were running late, missed The Selecter, got back when The Beat were on. Now led by one-time bit player Ranking Roger (and his son), They have been here every year and are very popular. Not for me, but not objectionable. Too late for Beatles copy act, which was billed, but show had overrun . The loss of a ‘copy’ group , to me, is like the loss of a dose of venereal disease. By this time it was VERY muddy. Abandoned cars, we splodged back to the tent, few cans, lowering of crania (heads down).

Sunday. Bravo Boys on in the distance. Rockabilly equivalent of Hayseed Dixie’s bluegrass , with versions of ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Rock and Roll’, ‘Whole lotta Rosie’ . ‘Tainted Love’. Sounded entertaining. Got chairs down and waited for Mungo Jerry. A few 12 bar boogie numbers to start with, with Mr Dorset plugging their DVD. We then got ‘Alright, Alright, Alright’, ‘Long-legged woman…’ and ‘Lady Rose’. They got a bit bogged down then (thankfully only metaphorically), before closing with ‘In the Summertime’ and (without THAT riff), ‘Baby Jump’. Even her Ladyship, a lifelong fan, thought the ‘call and response’ stuff was a bit excessive, but Mr D showed how Mungo Jerry took the festival scene by storm in 1970, and he’s wearing well! So, back to tent while Dr and the Medics were on. Basically, an average pub rock outfit, with a bloke in a silly costume who has had a fluke N0. 1 hit . He’s got a girl singer to deflect from his own deficiencies but he camps it up accordingly. Next it is , says the website, ‘Ray Lewis’s Drifters’. In his favour, he actually never does the ‘ this is a song WE recorded’, as did (yes you’ve guessed), The Mindbenders, but does a mixture of soul standards and Drifters stuff, backed by3 blokes and a karaoke cd. Basically someone making a living off the name of a group he has been in for about 6 minutes. There have probably been as many blokes in a thing called The Drifters as there have been blokes in a thing called Katie Price. I think the name ‘The Drifters’ is actually legally in the possession of the family of a one-time manager, not even a member? And all this about his being a legend by being on the same label as Michael Jackson?! The Buggles were on the same label as Free! In the absence of The Blues Band, I was looking forward to Los Pacaminos, with Paul Young, doing some Tex-Mex stuff. Give Mr Young his due, he was quite willing to share the vocal duties, (is it the same Robbie Mackintosh from The Pretenders?), but in all honesty it wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. By the time a Jim Reeves number was announced, I was off back for some grub. Went into town for a drink, put ‘Nantucket Sleighride’ and Neil and Crazy’s ‘ Going Home’ on the jukebox in preference to festival perennial Hazel O’Connor on Stage 1.  Went back for Alvin Stardust, and it shows what the rest of the fare was like when I say he was probably the best of the weekend. Covers of Queen, Tom Robinson mixed in with all of his hits (except Mike Batts’ ‘Feel like Buddy Holly’, sadly). Good voice, his own hair, and probably the oldest person there! Final act was Racey. Couple of middle-aged bald blokes playing what may have been ‘their’ hits with a couple of young ‘uns , plus a load of clubland covers. A pretty dismal end on what should be the stage for the main festival act.

So, to sum up. The total lack of people at the food stalls, plus the disgraceful beer price tells me the organiser is charging too much, for the vendors to be levying these prices, or the vendors are plain greedy. And is totally crass when sensible prices are a stone’s throw away. Poor positioning of the stages meant too much overlap of sound. The communication has been poor on the website re changes in acts and even on the flyers in town. What would have happened if I had booked a weekend ticket on the basis of seeing The Blues Band, China Crisis, Doz(e)y Beaky Mick and Tich, Kings ov Leon, Eban Brown(Stylistics) , as per the flyers in town, and got in to find none of them were on the bill now ?! ‘Sorry, mate, you’ve paid for the EVENT, not a particular act’.  The music was VERY ordinary, in general. OK, it is pushed as a family festival, and to be fair has a mixture of 60s, 70s and 80s stuff but sadly I don’t think it is ‘for us’ anymore.  But they do let in dogs…bloody loads of ’em.


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