Cambridge Rock Festival. 1-4 August 2013

So, the 10th CRF  (Rockinbeerfest as was) has finally arrived, and well done to Dave Roberts for making it through thick and thin. I did feel a bit awful by pointing out at the desk that the wristbands (donations please) stated 10th Anniversary whereas it was actually the 9th Anniversary. (The 2nd Festival was the 1st Anniversary, so the 10th Fest…)  First new bit, excellent outside covered seating area. Good call, Dave.

Thursday night is tribute act night. I do not like the tribute ‘industry’, but tonight is effectively a free one for weekend ticket holders so I try to be ‘understanding’ because a lot of people enjoy them .                    A Foreigner’s Journey are on first. Starting with Foreigner’s ‘Double Vision’ we then get a Journey song, then a couple more Foreigner numbers. I started to lose interest. More F than J, but it basically sums up the industry by being a ‘buy one, get one free’ act.  And prize for the naffest merchandise, a hoody with Foreigner on one arm and Journey on the other.                        Next is Are You Experienced. ‘Jimi’ is dressed in latterday white fringed affair , with tongue-in-cheek(?)  left-handed Strat upside-down. All the well-known songs, but didn’t really sound like Hendrix. It was too heavy! Especially the bass, and especially on ‘Machine Gun’.                  Pure Floyd, for me, are dot-to-dot Pink Floyd.  Soulless, basically. I don’t know what Mssrs Barrett and Wright get for dinner up there, but they must have choked at ‘Astronomy Dominee’.   But the group are very popular, and I am obviously in a minority.                   Cregan and Co have come to give us a show based on his time playing with Rod Stewart. He has roped in a Rod-alike from the X Factor, and in fairness, he has some claim to make a living from that part of his career. Very slick unit, it had started to get a bit corny by the time Crazy Horse’s ‘I don’t wanna talk about it’ was given the treatment, and doing pre-76 stuff like The Faces ‘Stay with Me’ and ‘Sweet Little Rock n Roller’ was pushing it a bit. But all the groups went down well in front of a decent-sized crowd.

Friday. Colvex. Not sure about ‘epic rock to swingin’ jazz’! They seemed a bit mid 90s Oasisy type stuff. Big sound for a 3 piece, but they did have some ‘assistance’ at times.  Mostly original stuff, decent start to the day.              Loveless Luck next. Much riffing and hairswinging, with the usual ‘I wanna see your hands in the air Cambridge’ which these youngsters in the graveyard slots seem to think appropriate. Again, okay early pm stuff and good to give the younger element a go.                 Walkway. Regulation ZZ Top opener, followed by some originals and more instructions for hand-raising and singalong. Covers include ‘Black Betty’, ‘Spirit of Radio’ and ‘ Since you been gone’, plus more originals. Well hyped and well supported but, for me, nothing to distinguish them from a group doing a similar mixture in a music pub. Got some Deep Purple too.                         Decided to miss Split Whiskers and went off for Primitive Instinct. Been going for 25 years, plenty of original stuff, reminiscent of early Genesis.                         Back to Stage 1 for Eddie and the Hot Rods. I happened to hear the Radio Caroline radio broadcast , and the DJ said that they still had the original frontman, therefore the original Eddie…and it wasn’t a joke! He had to be told that there wasn’t really an Eddie!!                 Opening with ‘Better without you’, ‘Teenage Depression’ follows, and we quickly get ‘I might be lying’, ‘Quit this town’ and ‘Telephone Girl’ with drumstick twiddling from Simon. He had a Led Zeppelin t-shirt on earlier, and should Page, Plant and Jones need someone who seems to have a baseball bat in his left hand they need look no further!  ‘Life on the Line’ is next, and the more recent ‘Once bitten, twice shy’,  ‘Why should I care’, ‘Alive’, ‘Bad time again’ and ‘Love, love love’ show us they are not just a nostalgia act. Old faves ‘You better run’, ‘Ignore them’, ‘Gloria’ and of course ‘Do anything you wanna do’ finish things off, with ‘Born to be Wild’ as the encore. At one point, I thought Barrie Masters was going to cough his lungs up but he carried on as always. Far and away the best so far, even without ‘Beginning of the End’ and ‘Get out of Denver’.                      Bonafide went down well last year and they had plenty of support this year. Maybe I am too old, but they don’t sound too different to what the likes of Iron Maiden and Saxon were doing 3 decades ago.                     Headliners are The Quireboys, and tonight they are all electric ( I really do think their acoustic sets sound like Smokie!).  Given that last night was a tribute-ish Rod Stewart closer, tonight we get an outfit that are unashamedly in The Faces zone. So Cregan and Co vs Spike and Co?. I’d plump for the latter although I am not a particular fan. Plenty of stuff from their new cd, they gave it their all.

Saturday. 11.00 am, Scotland’s  Afterlife. Starting with a Nirvana-like riff, their own stuff seems well-suited to their support slots with Bonafide and Thin Lizzy.                 Cornerstone. Female singer, we watched a few minutes, not really ‘us’. Went to try Undertow. We were presented with a mangled ‘Wishing bloody Well’, and it wasn’t long before ‘The Boys were back in bloody Town’. We left before the likes of ‘All Right Bloody Now’. I used to be annoyed at the choice of these 10 a penny pub covers groups being on at festivals, but there are probably women who never go to a ‘music’ venue, drink more here than they do the rest of the year, and enjoy this sort of stuff. Sadly, we don’t! Even back at Cornerstone, we are warned of the impending arrival of Metallica’s Sandman.   Oh Well!!  (No, not the song!)                    We only caught the last bit of The Temperance Movement, who I had highlighted to see, but they sounded good and will not miss them next time. Very good vocals., seemed very influenced by Southern US Rock.                       It doesn’t seem like 2 minutes ago that Pearl Handled Revolver were playing in the Acoustic Tent, and Dave Roberts told them to keep playing, such was the reception they were getting. Pretty raucous opening number, with the organ sound dominating the next one. The vocals were at times just a bit too affected (a la Spike and Roderick) but Her Ladyship was well-impressed. They went down a storm.                           Pat McManus. I wonder if I was one of the few there with a Mama’s Boys single?   They promised much many years ago, but couldn’t quite break through to bigger things as had Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore. At times a bit too ‘busy’, better when he slowed down. I thought I heard some of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’ and I definitely heard ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’.                Went to watch Malcolm Bruce, who didn’t show. A choice of CRF regular Deborah Bonham or Laurence Jones. Not really keen on either!  Anyway, Ms B was bemoaning the fact that she’s struggling for a record deal and I am sure she is not alone. Back in the 90s the wonderful Randy California and Spirit were in a similar position and he had to set up his own label. ( And this was a true genius, unlike the alleged ‘genius’ who was playing on Stage 2).  I am sure Ms B  knows nearly all of her cds will have been bought at her gigs and not in shops, and it’s a shame because she does seem a genuinely nice person. And , yes, we get ‘Rock and Roll’ to finish.                  Del Bromham’s Blues Devils are on in Stage 2. Stray is, of course, Del’s day job and the other 2 members are with him, along with the guitar and keyboard from Pearl Handled Revolver.  Some of the weekend’s younger element could do worse than watch this, as this is how it’s done.  Old-fashioned blues rock, with a riff borrowed from ‘Born under a Bad Sign’.  Harmonica player from PHR joined in and a ZZ Top riff appeared. We then got Cherry Lee Mewis on stage, and it just got a bit, well, funky so we left, sadly.                  Another CRF regular, Hazel O’Connor, was on the main stage. I wasn’t keen first time round, so the chance of any audience participation from yours truly this time around was somewhat slim.                       Finishing things off were Caravan. Similar set as last time, with emphasis on the ‘…Grey and Pink’ and ‘ Girls who grow…’ lps.  As usual, Geoff  gets his spoons out and were are urged to help them out in their making a new record via http://www.pledgemusic.com.  Crowd got strangely rowdy at times, maybe they were warming up to go and see Buster James churn out their ‘Wishing Well’/’Sunshine of your Love’ predictabilia. Pye and Co left the stage, no doubt to come back in the not-too-distant future.

Sunday, and the main thing I have noticed is that it has not been top-heavy with the Mostly Autumn genre. A couple of years ago we couldn’t turn round without being confronted  with 5 piece, female-fronted groups, which almost did for us.  This year the emphasis seems to have been towards the heavier music, which will have pleased some but not others.              First up are Attica Rage, another heavy outfit brought down from Scotland for the graveyard slot. Intro music, sound of motor bikes and plenty of chugging guitar. A woman in front of me had ‘Anvil’ on her t-shirt, which made me realise who  the singer reminded me of. Decent originals, plus ‘Crazy Horses’ and ‘Rebel Yell’.                 Followed by local youngsters Hekz. Again, absolutely spot-on to give these a go, rather than predictable pub covers groups. Some Wishbone Ash twin guitar stuff, and it ‘s mainly originals plus ‘Burn’.                 Ben Poole has a good early pm crowd and he has expanded his line-up with some female backing vocals. Good versions of The Temps ‘Losing You’,  Otis Redding’s  ‘Mr Pitiful’ and a slow burning ‘Hey Joe’.                  Next are Persian Risk who (to me) have a sound of early Rainbow B-sides and Iron Maiden out-takes. Well-performed but all been done before? And we finish with a Dio song.              Some chums recommend that we give Praying Mantis a listen so we did. A new singer and drummer didn’t seem out of place, apart from they had all the hair! The rest made up for it in the metal posturing department and Praying Mantis are in the club which includes Iron Maiden, Bad Company and Black Sabbath, i.e. they have eponymous tunes.  All very anthemic stuff, plenty of twiddly guitars but I have to admit that if I heard one of their songs on the  (long) drive home I wouldn’t recognise which of the weekend’s metallers’ property it was.  But that is my fault!   Not a massive reception at the end, but they weren’t bad.        Next on Stage 1, Mostly Autumn. I just don’t get them, a lot do. We left to try to get Roadhouse.  I bet our companions that if they didn’t mention some tune being played a lot on the radio in L.A, my bum was going in Lewis’s window. With 15 minutes to go, my anal sphincter was getting twitchy, but the ‘radio hit in the States’ came out and that was good enough for me.  Is a ‘radio hit’ something that gets played but nobody likes it enough to buy it?   They are good musicians , although I’ve not really been carried away by the various female vocalists over the many years.                    I have always preferred Magnum the ice lolly to the group, and their popularity peaked in the 80s. Bob Catley is probably like many of that era who never really thought about a pension fund and nowadays has seen record sales dry up so is treading the boards rather than sitting at home watching the Jeremy Kyle Show.   Went off for a blast of R n B (‘PROPER’ R N B, not the Mariah Carey stuff) via Blues Shift. ‘Shame, shame, shame’, ‘You upset me’, ‘Shaky ground’  and ‘The Shape I’m in’. Every festival needs a spot of this.   Caught Magnum’s encore , which sounded like the chords of ‘Water on the Smoke’.                     The Animals finished the night. The usual intro ‘Baby let me take you home’, and the standard Butlins ‘hits’ set got expanded into 90 minutes by adding period pieces such as ‘CC Rider’, ‘Roadrunner’ and some average song about the Club a GoGo. Interesting that the Animal-for-a-day position on keyboards formerly filled by (the late) Dave Rowberry, then Micky Gallagher, then Zoot Money (bit cheeky, he was a ‘New’ Animal’) now has Steve somebody who was in the Animals in the 80s but looks like he was in the Grumbleweeds.  Steve, I don’t know if you know about the drummers in Spinal Tap but I’d be a bit nervous!  Especially when Peter Barton next to you seems to be getting bigger every year!  I think there is a Stephen King short story there!

Anyway, a good finish to a good weekend of music. Some good, some very good, some that wasn’t to my taste but that is only my opinion. A lot of people I am sure liked it all and it is due to the all-round appeal that Dave Roberts has been able to keep it going next year. Well done to all concerned.

There are a few (non-musical) things I am going to mention over in Rant Corner though, which should not detract from the overall positive of the whole weekend

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