Another visit to this small festival.
Friday. Rumble Fat Band. Blues Brothers-type outfit, featuring the usual songs by Wilson Pickett, Arthur Conley, Sam and Dave, Jackie Wilson et al. Bits of Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Amy Winehouse extended their repertoire , plus ‘Johnny B Goode/Wipe out ‘ and ‘Tainted Love’. Ok to start the fest with. Blues Train. Grizzled bluesers, serving up ‘Walking the dog’, ‘Tobacco road’, ‘Little red rooster’, ‘Route 66’, ‘Help me’, ‘Gloria’, ‘Sweet home Chicago’ and a couple of others. Not too taxing for early evening. The Payroll Union. Will have to use that word Tom Russell hates…Americana. Group from Sheffield. Clean Telecaster sound, original songs, played by young men with beards and/or spectacles, but not really memorable. One song reminded us of Ocean Colour Scene. Wildwind. Veteran Leeds rockabilly combo, who all take a share of the lead vocals. ‘Jungle rock’, ‘Summertime blues’ , Johnny Burnette and lots of obscure quiffabilly** stuff. Entertaining . John Coghlan’s Quo. Specialising in the drummer’s era Quo stuff, Mr C doesn’t seem to want to slag off Mssrs Parfitt and Rossi any more, having kissed and made up enough for a reunion tour recently (as did The Beach Boys). No point with set list details, you can have a decent guess. Quite a lot of lesser-known tracks though.
Saturday. Tent problems meant we missed Sam Draisey (and also missed loads of little kids charging about). (Sorry Sam, but seemingly you were impressive). The Most Ugly Child. Pedal steel in evidence, so looked promising. Started well, unusual line-up with male/female vocals and stand-up bass. A country waltz, a quicker folky number and a rumba indicated they don’t want to be too typecast, but maybe they are just a bit too eclectic. Ended up with a number which evoked memories of Gram Parsons’ Fallen Angels and a gospelly encore. Slippery Hill Boys. Down to a 3-piece, with guitarist being otherwise engaged. Started with the ubiquitous bluegrass requirement ‘Roll in my sweet baby’s arms’, they gave us a mixed bag of bluegrass, with songs by Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle, John Prine and John Hiatt. Their version of The Beatles ‘I’ve just seen a face’ was definitely not unlike Pure Prairie League’s version circa 1974, maybe they just forgot to mention it. Enjoyable (for us, but we like bluegrass). Tanante. Five percussionists and a vocalist of sorts. It was as if half of Santana had turned up, while the other half (the ones with the guitars and keyboards) had booked with Buddy Holly Airlines. We left after about a minute, so did a lot more. The Seniors. 6-piece , including a cellist. Lively start, in that Levellers/ Leatherat mode, but vocals definitely iffy at times. After a while, they started to sound like a bunch of sixth-formers who trying to see who could write the naffest lyrics. Her Ladyship suggested that they ‘started promisingly but…’. (I was going to add ‘they went downhill faster than Jean-Claude Killy’). Maybe we are too old for this stuff. Still, a point for doing their own stuff. Not Completely Blonde. 3 young women, acousticish, starting with ‘Walking on sunshine’. Mixed originals (including ‘X’ which had that ‘Stray Cat Strut’ descending chord sequence’) with covers including a ‘Twist and Shout/Drive my car’ rendition. A Katy Perry song and a cover version of a ‘song you will all know’. Sorry , I didn’t. The last song I can recollect with ‘happy’ in it was by REM. More covers by Queen, Mumfords and The Bee Gees made for a sensible mix of covers and originals. Down Reno. From Bradford, with first pedal-laden Les Paul of the festival. Stand-up bass (left-handed!), beefed-up poppy sound was enough to make Her Ladyship put her book down. All originals, but I was getting that Travissy ‘It’s a beautiful day’ vibration. Initial promise started to wane, but like everyone else thus far, they went down well. The Ganda Boys. I suspected we weren’t in for any death metal stuff! Two Ugandans on vocals, a grey-haired bloke on a small keyboard. They gave us ‘Africa’ and it was as if Toto were hiding behind the curtain and playing along. Went next door, returned for their finale, featuring loads of drunk middle-aged women cavorting on the dance floor. The Vipers. Could we really be getting the 50s skiffle group. whose ‘No other baby’ Paul McCartney resurrected?! Er, no. Four young men, who started out with ‘Teenage Kicks’. When they followed it with ‘Substitute’, I realised they were just a standard pub covers group. And ‘Can’t Get Enough’ had Her Ladyship bolting for the door, screaming ‘We could have stopped in Castleford for this stuff!’. Again, dance floor packed so the till roll says it all at the end of the event. Chas Hodges Band. People sitting on the floor at the front! Like watching Pink Floyd at Leeds University in 1971! Chas and Dave’s hits featured strongly, of course, via ‘Gercha’, plus its B side, ‘Snooker loopy’, ”Rabbit’, ‘No pleasing you’ and ‘I don’t care’. Some rock and roll standards (‘Roll over Beethoven’ and ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ completed lively end to the day, although some of the crowd may have retired early.
Sunday. Said the wolf. Those Mumford people have some things to answer for! 1. They are ‘Dave’s’ Faves of course and 2. They seem to have prompted lots of 30 year old men into growing beards and buying banjos. A 4-piece with a female singer, they played mainly originals with some obscure (to us) covers. Their banter got a bit giddy though. She had a good voice. Farewell fairground. 3-piece acoustic with the obligatory young man sitting on a wooden box and bashing it. Only heard a few minutes before I nipped out for a Graham Nash, and spotted that our tent had been a victim of the winds again. We decamped to the campsite and took it down. Decided to call it a day and headed back home.
So, what of the festival then? Still promoted as ‘rock, blues , acoustic ,bluegrass’ and ‘family friendly festival’, the emphasis has definitely veered towards the latter. Main stage now almost like a Working Mans Club, lots of kids running around. ‘There will be clowns and other children’s entertainments’. Really? We must have blinked and missed all of them. There needs to be stuff for kids, otherwise they get bored and start to whine (and they did!). Upton Music Festival is ‘family’, they have a funfair! And the music? The organiser can’t be accused of not making the bill varied, but it isn’t really aimed at the serious music fan. We spoke to a couple from St Helens and a couple who do stewarding at CRF, they both had similar opinions to us re the music. However, most people seemed to be happy with what was served up , so the man has done his job. Talking of ‘served up’, the only veggie option was ‘stir fried egg noodles’. Oh, sorry, I missed out ‘chips’… two options? Last time here, the beer was cheaper and better than in town, this time it wasn’t…on either count!
All in all, I reckon most of the customers went home happy. Will we be back again? Let’s just say it was a bit underwhelming.
BUT, well done to a person on Facebook who commented that it wasn’t exactly brilliant. (I won’t use the adjective he used!) I have tried to not be too negative, but am still amazed when people think that e.g. a run-of-the-mill pub covers lot were fantastic. These people need to get out more!! Like the gentleman said, there were maybe a couple of acts that were acceptable, i.e Chas and John (?).*
* I looked on Rumourbook for the gentleman’s comment. He seems to have disappeared. I hope he hasn’t gone for a festival ice-cream! The favourite pastime for children, was there an ice-cream van there?
** quiffabilly. A new word I have just made up! You saw it here first!