The festival has been going for a few years now, and this year is the first time we’ve really been in a position to go. Near on a 500 mile round trip, during school time, has made it not viable before. But what a fantastic setting! The Rural Life Centre has a range of fascinating museum pieces and there is also a Dr Who exhibition here.
Friday. We’d been advised that tonight is very much a ‘warm-up for the main two days, and we sat down with some Rhythm Festgoers to put the world to rights. Caught bits of Joe Johnston and The Chocolatiers (I think) in the distance, but The Wildcards sounded interesting so we investigated. Very energetic swing/blues stuff, with unusual guitar sound and style. Got ‘St James Infirmary Blues’, and I would recommend anyone to give them a shot (if you live in Plymouth though!).
Saturday…and 10cc! First up , KFC. Their blurb sounded like something that Neil from The Young Ones might have spouted forth. The sort of jumpyupanddowny stuff I can do without at 11.30am. Next was Tommy Justice. Name like an early 60s pop star, but he looked like he’d just tried out for Thor in the next Avengers film. Twiddydiddly guitarist who looked like Bill Bailey’s younger brother. Not long before we got Thin Bleedin’ Lizzy…Exit Stage Left! Flying Tigers looked promising. They started with ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ (latter-day Dr Feelgood version, followed by ‘One More Shot’ from same Feelgoods cd. In fact, apart from ‘Call me the Breeze’ (a la Lynyrd Skynrd), every song was from the Dr Feelgood catalogue, so 10 out of 10 for the set list. Unfortunately, not 10 out of 10 for the execution thereof, but that’s why the Feelgoods are who they are. Ok for an early festival spot though. Over to see Freeway Jam. ‘Described by Q Magazine as a cross between Little Feat and The Band’. I can only assume it was one of the cleaners at said magazine. However, they were a thoroughly reasonable set of veterans, who gave us reggae versions of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Summer in the City’ as well as some originals, including a Neil Young-ish ’30 Years too late’. Had to quickly move as we caught sight of some Morris dancers. People are sensitive to culling badgers or seals, why not cull bloody Morris dancers?! They are pests, crop up at every festival! And cull ‘tribute acts’!! They are vermin, definitely not good for my health and are parasites! Caught a bit of Brass Knuckle Band‘s 7-piece blues stuff, they are fest regulars. So then it was Paul King and Skeleton Crew. Mr King (and Mr Earl) left Mungo Jerry at their peak to form their own outfit. (When we saw MJ in the late 70s, Mr Earl had returned.). He’s still in jugband mode, and we got ‘Lady Rose’, ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and a mangled ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’. An appalling version of ‘Gimme Some Lovin’, we left. The much-lauded Leatherat were on the main stage. More Leatherat T-shirts than you can point a stick at, but I just don’t rate them. Bazouki/fiddle-based jumpabout stuff, but to me they are just plastic paddies. Next up was the grizzled Jackie Lynton, featuring what looked like the guitarist and bassist from Skeleton Crew. ‘Old time rock and roll’ set the tone for the set. Mr L had to apply some censorship to his normally ‘interesting’ banter, but he failed! Good rock n roll/blues stuff, that’ll do for me. Martin Barre’s New Day were eagerly anticipated, with the promise of some Tull classics (although Mr Barre professes to be more of a jazz fan). There seems to be a difference of opinion regarding Mr Barre’s non-appearance on the recent Thick as a Brick 2 disc and tour. Some say MB chose not to participate, others reckon Ian Anderson chose that he didn’t participate! So we get ‘Minstrel in the Gallery’, ‘Song for Jeffrey’, ‘New Day Yesterday’, ‘Teacher’, excerpt from TAAB,’To cry you a song’, but strangely no ‘Aqualung’. Ex-Tull Jon Noyce is on bass, and there is a sax (wisely) instead of a flute. But, and a big but, the vocalist is really very, very ordinary and some Norwegian Tull fans agreed with me. Mr Barre, if this a career move, it is on a par with Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ unless you do something to the vocals position. So onto Karnataka. Our prog expert chum MacTaff rates them, but I lasted about a minute. No different to the Mostly Autumn genre (and please Mr Organiser, don’t let Mostly Abysmal infiltrate the event. Once they are in, it’s curtains.) Roy Wood sadly had to pull out so, apparently, we were lucky enough to get The Hoosiers. I wondered why I don’t have any Hoosiers records. Then I realised it is because they are crap. Last saw Curved Air 40 years ago, so I was intrigued as to how they would be now. Sonja Kristina’s dancing looked very sexy then , but nowadays…? ( I think she must live just a bit too close to a Kebab shop. However, I must stress only a BIT too close. She looks and sounds bloody good for 63 years old.)). We got ‘It happened today’ early, but it all sounds just a bit dated now, although her voice is still okay. Had to leave early to go to 10cc, and we got there just as they were starting (early). ‘Wall Street Shuffle’, ‘Things we do for love’ and ‘Good Morning Judge’ were their usual openers, and it was a total 70s hits package. The only exception being the sublime ‘Feel the Benefit’. They would normally have a Graham Gouldman 60s hits section, maybe the more recent ‘Ready to go home’ and a Beatles song, but the shortened slot meant wall to wall hits. Extended jam on Rubber Bullets meant they only got 9.5 instead of 10 out of 10, but a brilliant show. Her Ladyship had a ‘word’ with some youngsters, who obviously thought they were still at the Leeds Festival, to at least calm down for ‘I’m not in love’…they did.
So to Sunday…and Asia! Vibracore. Opening chords dislodged some earwax! This spot, the Graveyard Slot, is usually filled by 4 teenagers who haven’t yet grown hairs they can sit on, gazing at their shoes, watched by their parents and school friends. So although ‘Superstitious’ wasn’t going to challenge Beck, Bogert and Appice’s version, our friend Ray from the Rhythm Forum told us to check them out (good call, Ray). Sadly, didn’t hear much of the football team that were the Great Malarkey, but when the young female drummer complains that she couldn’t hear us, well, she certainly wouldn’t hear me . Goodbye! Steve Simpson. Very good voice (have a word with Martin Barre mate!) plus mandolin. I suspect he may have the odd Steve Earle cd lying about at home. Next up are Solid Juice Band. Not sure who describes them in terms of Steely Dan and Pink Floyd, I’m sure it won’t be Donald Fagen or Roger Waters! Pleasant enough pub rock, (‘Make me Smile’, Gerry Rafferty). We stayed around for Bill Posters Will Be Banned. From the opening ‘Jollity Farm’, we knew we’d be in for some Bonzos style mayhem! Terrible props, equally terrible jokes and absolutely wonderful. They should have swopped places (and fees) with The Hoosiers! Went off to see Snakecharmer. Similar set to their Cambridge appearance, with the Micky Moody solo spot. It’s like when Mick says ‘Keef’s gonna s…’, he doesn’t get the word ‘sing’ out before the stampede to the toilets. (And when Dr Feelgood’s Robert Kane asks us if we like the blues, before the tiresome ‘Down by the jetty blues’). Sorry , Mr Moody, your spot is my cue to go. Still the accent on Whitesnake, but new song ‘Accident Prone’ sounded good. Didn’t hear a lot of Steve Hackett, chatting to some Norwegian press people. Looking at Mr H, he must have bought some industrial strength Grecian 2000 though. He went down well, had a female singer in tow. Then Asia. And again (as we were at Cambridge the other year) we get short-changed. This year, even shorter, we only get 45 minutes. Seemingly, not Asia’s fault, but it makes you wonder (was it their bringing their own sound crew again?)*. So, we get a set solely from the first 2 lps. And, to be fair, it was good policy. No doubt the missing 25 minutes would have included a few newer songs, Buggles, drum solo, ‘The Clap’ so it was short but extremely sweet. John Wetton was absolutely stunning on ‘Smile has left your eyes’, and even though Jurgen from Germany didn’t get ‘Holy War’, he got ‘Sole Survivor’. A great close to a great event.
This was always going to be good, with 2 of my favourite groups headlining, and it was the best fest we have been to this year. The setting was amazing, the headliners too. Beer prices par for the course. Stages well positioned with little ‘overlap’ of sound. Toilets clean, staff friendly. I would totally recommend it to any fest goer. Martin Turner was in the crowd, as he was at Cambridge.
* Seemingly the sound was fine but nothing coming out of their monitors and they wouldn’t play until it was sorted. As pros, can’t blame them I suppose but how the hell did The Beatles manage? Could they EVER hear what they were doing?!