Rockin’ the Park. Clumber Park. 16.8.2013

Less than an hour’s drive, well signposted, friendly park staff, so a good start. And Family have turned up! (Have been to see them many years ago when they didn’t.) If it isn’t them, a tribute act are soundchecking with ‘My Friend the Sun’ and ‘Sweet Desiree’.

‘No food or drink to be taken into the arena’. There seems to be a choice of pizza, sandwiches or burgers. So if you are diabetic, have an allergy or veggie it could be a pretty miserable affair. And no stoves/glass  allowed onto camp-site. So you can’t cook any breakfast in the morning , and there aren’t any bacon etc outlets.  The promoters seem to be professional people, so why this glaring lack of thought?

Searched 3 times before actually getting onto the field, where it is seemingly ok to buy a glass bottle of beer?!  We got a free Family programme which seemed extremely generous of Family, but they could well have been left over from the February gigs. Either way, cheers to them!

Michael Chapman is first. Her Ladyship worked at the Penthouse in Scarborough in the 70s, and got a big limited edition poster when it closed down. Every gig recorded, and I reckon if you remove Colin Scot, Mike Absalom, and Mr C (‘Mike’) it could be reduced to A4 size.  He has a great guitar style, as demonstrated by the opening’ Trains’. We also got ‘Just another story’ and ‘In the Valley’ and it seemed to end before it had barely started, sadly.                                    Next are fest regulars, Snakecharmer. Again, a shorter-than-usual set, with no room for Mr Moody’s solo spot. They continue to grow away from the mainly Whitesnake  setlist, and ‘Guilty as Charged’, ‘Sweet Satisfaction’ and ‘My Angel’ are early numbers. Inevitably, ‘Here I go again’ and ‘Fool for your lovin” are featured, but even after an hour and a half, the crowd was very, very thin.  First visit to the toilets and there are lots of urinals, which some other festivals would do well to note, rather than a huge queue at the end of the night for portaloos when most men just want a gypsy’s kiss.                                Caravan next. Have seen them 3 times in 8 months, which is the same as in the previous 60 years, so I need a rest after this. Same start (from ‘Girls who…), ‘Land of…’, ‘Smoking Gun’, ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Golf Girl’ with spoons and washboard duel. Some violin plucking from Geoffrey reminded Her Ladyship of hearing a woman say to her husband ‘See , I told you he had a ukelele’ at Cambridge!   ‘9 feet underground’ to finish and the evening seems to be flying by.                              Asia have a new, young guitarist and start out with ‘Only time will tell’. The set is heavily-dominated by the first 2 LPs but ‘Go’ from ‘Astra’ has been resurrected. Was  Mr Howe maybe not keen on playing songs he didn’t originally play on?  If so, room for more from that underrated LP maybe?  ‘Face on the Bridge’ is the only recent song and after ‘Heat of the Moment’ it is over, not even an hour.                                    Headliners Family all troop on, with Roger Chapman bringing up the rear. We have Mssrs Chapman, Palmer, Cregan and Townsend, augmented by 5 hired hands including Geoff Whitehorn (Charlie Whitney declined the reunion offer) and (unusually) a second drummer. We soon get ‘Drowned in Wine’ which reminds me of their gig at Leeds University in 1971. Mr Chapman on that occasion demonstrated to an audience of about a thousand how to terminate the life cycle of a tambourine, closely followed by a similar demonstration with a mic stand.  ‘Part of the Load’, ‘Holding the compass’ are featured along with one of my favourites ‘Hung up down’. This one maybe highlights a drawback with the extended line-up. The original had a great guitar rhythm which doesn’t get a look in tonight, and Chappo has a rest during a Poli Palmer instrumental.   ‘Between Blue and me’ and ‘Burlesque’ keep things going, although maybe a few are disappointed that John Wetton didn’t put in a guest spot to play THAT distinctive bassline on the latter.    The night is completed with ‘In my own time’, ‘Weaver’s Answer’, ‘My friend the sun’ and their penultimate single ‘Sweet Desiree’.  A great set list, and a thoroughly slick and professional display. Back in the day, Family just had that hint of danger about them , and maybe the current line-up just lacks that ‘edge’. Maybe they have just grown up!!

A really good line-up of music this evening , in a beautiful setting  (I’ve liked more music in 6 hours here than in complete weekends at some festivals.). But the attendance was astonishingly pitiful, especially given the Family reunion aspect. Great for us, we were sitting only a few yards away, but the crowd was in the hundreds, I reckon. Only about 30 tents on the campsite, the organisers must have lost a skipload of money. BUT Saturday’s 80s-themed event looks to be heavily-sold, so you win some, you lose some. The whole event was all over in just over 6 hours, apparently a curfew was in force.

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