First live review of the year (discounting John Martyn from 1975). Our annual drive to Skeggy was extended by a tour of the nearby villages via a closed road with no diversion instructions. Never mind, finally arrived to experience new ‘drive through check in’ (good idea). Room fine, got changed and off.
Starvin’ Sid. Managed a few numbers by long-serving Lincolnshire man. 3-piece, acoustic bass, drums, acoustic guitar/vocals. ‘Walkin’ Blues’, ‘Vigilante Man’ then changed to all-electric trio for ‘Child with a tear in her eye’ and ‘Who do you Love’. Okay, maybe not quite as good at Bo Diddley as Quicksilver Messenger Service (now get THEM here!) but have seen a lot worse at Skeggy. Stampede for free cd ensued. Slim Chance. Obviously not the original line-up, I spotted Geraint Watkins on keyboards. I seem to remember seeing Ronnie Lane’s original lot at Leeds Poly, supporting Fairport Convention.(Was that Slim Chance or the Passing Show? ) . Good-time, folky blues, with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll thrown in. Lots of Ronnie Lane songs, including ‘The Poacher’ and ‘How Come’ plus some Faces songs that Ronnie penned. (‘Debris’ was a great ‘B’ side to ‘Stay with me’). A burst of twin-violinery was reminiscent of recent Fairport shows. Chuck Berry’s ‘You never can tell’ was another blast from their past. A purist pointed out to me that there is technically no one from the very first line-up (which included Gallagher and Lyle). I am not an expert on matters Ronnie, so I can’t say (but is the Passing Show a different matter?) . I am sure they may say the same about the Dr Feelgood line-up which has been treading the boards for 15 years. A decent start to the evening. Caravan. We were both a bit nervous about this. Caravan have seemed to have had pretty much the same set since the new millennium, and we got a bit ‘Caravanned out’. But tonight, a different opening number! ‘All this could be yours’. Back into ‘Headloss’ and ‘Golf Girl’ though, but some different songs were to feature. ‘Dead man walking’, ‘Trust me I’m a doctor’ and ‘I’ll be there for you’ were welcome additions, before the inevitable ‘Nine feet underground’. We were really impressed and wondered if they had had a bit of a kick up the backside? And Pye Hastings did all the on-stage talking! It has always been Geoff Richardson’s duty as long as I can remember. Is this the ‘new look’ approach. Next up Martin Barre Band. I feel guilty about putting a lot of people off, but when we saw Mr B and his group at Weyfest, they were definitely not overwhelming. (And I wasn’t alone thinking this). Tonight, totally different. New vocalist/guitarist, which was definitely a good idea. ‘Watch your step’ was up first, followed by ‘Steal your heart’. ‘Minstrel in the gallery’ was the first Tull number, followed by a rocky (I don’t mean ‘unstable’) ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Mr B introduced ‘Sweet Dream’ as a flop. How the hell is getting to No 7 a flop?! Good version though, as was ‘Song for Jeffrey’. Other Tull numbers were ‘Fat Man’, ‘New day yesterday’, and ‘Locomotive Breath’ which were all subject to extensive reworking. A Porcupine Tree song cover was unexpected and old blues classics such as ‘Crossroads’, Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘Rock me baby’ were a bit of a surprise, I had always thought Mr B was more of a jazz fan when he wasn’t doing his day job. No matter, a really good set, rounding off a very good opening night.
Saturday. Pete Brown with the Krissy Matthews Band. Mr Brown was originally due to be appearing with Phil Ryan (Man), but Phil (and Pete’s outfit) were all indisposed. Hence the alteration. Early songs were fairly sedate, before we got ‘Waiting for the call’ from Jack Bruce’s ‘How’s Tricks?’ lp. This was the prompt for Mr Brown’s numbers he co-wrote with Jack Bruce. I have this image of an incandescent Ginger Baker, playing merry hell to anyone who was in earshot (the number has got fewer and fewer, I suspect) about how Pete Brown gets more money out of Cream than him and Eric put together. Well, Mr Brown certainly hasn’t spent any of it on stagewear! ‘Politician’, the wonderful ‘Theme for an imaginary western’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of your love’ finished off things. (I have been listening to ‘Theme…’ for forty-odd years and have only just found out what it is about! What of Krissy Matthews? He looked like he was desperately in need of a pee at times, but the group were a good foil to Pete Brown. Laurence Jones Band. I didn’t fancy Trevor Burton’s usual blues/rock n roll stuff, so thought I would give one of the new kids on the block another listen. After a couple of numbers, it seemed to be that sort of generic 12 bar stuff that Free and Fleetwood Mac were doing (better) in 1968 (and ZZ Top still do a bit now). But I am in a small minority. The likes of young Lawrence, along with Danny Bryant, Ainsley Lister, Larry Miller , Oli Brown have a big following (who seem to like all of the afore-mentioned). ‘I’ve got that ol’ ‘Interchangeable blues’ ‘would be a good song for them. Tez and Jan went off to be swallowed up in a sea of Rory Gallagher t-shirts to watch Band of Friends, we decided to try… Federal Charm. Very loud, twin Les Pauls, ‘rawk’ . Not very memorable, lost interest. Not a spectacular afternoon, Pete Brown was good. Evening, Babajack. Have been telling A & E (anybody and everybody) not to miss them. Starting out as a 4-piece, they start out with ‘The money’s all gone’ and ‘Coming Home’ . ‘Death Letter’, ‘Hammer and Tongs’ and a breathtaking ‘Gallows Pole’ (an early contender for Song of the Weekend) leave the audience transfixed. Other highlights were ‘Black Betty’ and ‘Skin and Bone’ but the whole show was basically a highlight. Especially when they pare down to a duo. John Coghlan’s Quo. Mr Coghlan has dropped his tirade about Mr Rossi and Mr Parfitt ( his venom seemingly neutralised by an antidote in the form of a cheque from the reformed Frantic Four gigs). They play Status Quo songs and sound a bit like Status Quo. But having a fat Les Paul, not a Telecaster, will make it difficult to get THE sound. Plus the vocals are maybe not as light as Rossi and Parfitt. But the packed crowd loved them so well done to them. The big intro about how Coghlan’s drum kit was still the original one from TOTP, playing ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ , was a bit strange. They never mentioned the importance of the DJ who probably introduced the drum kit!! Skinny Molly. I will readily admit that when I first saw them at Skeggy, many moons ago, they just struck me as a bloke cashing in on being a Skynyrd-for-a-day and churning out Skynyrd songs. But, they have worked bloody hard for a long time now, and are a great group in their own right. As soon as they struck up, Her Ladyship’s first two words were ‘Proper music’ . Estes’s ‘Devil in the Bottle’, which he wrote in his stay with Skynyrd, is as good as (and probably better than) any things that his more famous previous employers are currently doing , and it was 50 minutes before ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was given an airing. (I have to say that, unfortunately, Jay Johnson’s earlier vocal spot doesn’t have the power of Mr Estes. Sorry, Mr J!) Encoring with Steve Earle’s ‘The other kind’ and their own ‘For y’all’, were the baying audience to be denied their request? Of course not, and a bloody good ‘Freebird’ it was too. Much as I like Lynyrd Skynyrd even now, Johnny van Zant’s stage talk gets on my nerves .This lot are one of the best of their genre now. I am not alone on thinking tonight was a good ‘un in Skeggy.
Sunday. Nine Below Zero. Regular visitors to Skeggy. Setlist…’Don’t point your finger’/’Three times and that’s enough’/ ‘Rockin’ Robin’/’Treat her right’/ ‘Johnny Weekend’/ ‘Sugar beet and rhythm sweet’/’Down in the dirt again’/’On the road again’/’Tore down’/’ Homework’/ ‘Got my mojo working’/Twenty yards behind’/ ‘I can’t help myself’/ ‘Eleven plus eleven’/’Why don’t you try me tonight’. Plus their OGWT excerpt and ‘Albatross’ tease. Very much back in their ‘Marquee’ period, but spot on. Zoomed over to other stage for Dave Kelly. Missed first songs but his catalogue of old bluesmen’s stuff is always great. Howling Wolf, Delbert McClinton , John Lee Hooker all feature. ‘Death Letter’ (somewhat calmer than Babajack’s version!), ‘Dock of the Bay’, ‘Dust my blues’, plenty of banter. I have watched DK do his midday Sunday spot before when it was 30 minutes, with about six in the audience. Not so now. Good stuff. Del Bromham’s Blues Devils. Not paying attention meant went back to the other venue too early and got a few minutes of Jim Diamond (excruciating). But never mind, Del comes on to give us ‘9 yards’ as an opener. Got some Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland in what I would deem a heavy blues set. We had some Pearl Handled Revolver blokes , plus Cherry Lee Mewis on additional vocals. I am sure Miss Lewis is a very nice young lady, but cavorting around the stage semi-naked is not the way to do it. Watch Babajack on stage, ‘that’s the way to do it’ as Mr Punch would say. No need to try and describe her as a new Brenda Lee/ Janis Joplin either (I couldn’t see either of the comparisons). And please don’t tell me that you can’t hear me. You may be quite glad you can’t. And I don’t want to put my 63 year old hands in the air either! Back to Del. The JD song was good, but Her Ladyship’s comment that there were too many people on stage (7) was valid. So a scoreline of Dave Kelly 1 Del Bromham 7 strangely meant a resounding victory for DK. Evening. Screamin’ Eagles. From the off, it was obvious who the singer’s hero is, and their music was definitely late 70s Bad Company style. Decent songs, well played but the sort of thing I listened to when I was their age, I suppose. (OK, I was listening to Dave Kelly then and still am!). ‘All the way’ could have come off ‘Straight Shooter’ and we definitely didn’t need a snatch of ‘All right bleeding now’ to know who he wants to be. Bit of AC/DC thrown in, they seemed to have quite a few fans. Next, first clash of the weekend. Dr Feelgood or The Blues Band. Initial plan was to watch half of Feelgoods up until ‘De Blooze’ was announced, then dash over for another dose of DK , plus chums. Venue too packed to move, so stopped for Dr Feelgood. Set list…’All through the city’/’Who do you love’/’I can tell’/ ‘Milk and Alcohol’/’Baby Jane’/ Rollin’ and tumblin’ ‘/ ‘Back in the night’ / ‘Roxette’/ ‘Down by the jetty blues’/ ‘She’s a wind up’/ ‘She does it right’/’One more shot’/ ‘Tequila-Bony Moronie’. The Blues now down to 10 or 11 minutes.. They never fail to please the audience and the place is always packed . So good on them. Our friends Mike and Sue watched the Blues Band, and said they were really good, played with a bit of ‘edge’ . Started out with 4 tracks from their Rockpalast DVD from many decades ago. Lez Zeppelin. Tribute act from NYC, four young ladies who seemingly ‘catch the bus on the other side of the road’ . Watched a few numbers. They were good at what they do, but the novelty wore off. Went off to see a bit of….The Blue Swamp Band. Their rendition of ‘Heard it through the grapevine’ has previously had Her Ladyship blowing her fusebox, because they say the wrong words and completely make the song pointless. Her now-repaired fusebox suffered the same fate again, thankfully without the interesting vocabulary. Not genuine headliners, but ok. Why is Johnnie ‘Guitar’ Williamson a legend? So why isn’t Ginger Baker called Ginger ‘Drumkit’ Baker then?
So what of the weekend? Entertainment pretty good. They have moved on from the days of padding the bill out with pub covers groups, as I have said before. Beer not Wetherspoons prices, but could be worse. Food decent nowadays, staff pleasant. Her Ladyship says a gold star for the mirrors in the toilets that must be from the fairground. A very good event which I would like to heartily recommend, but….
1.Queues. Why do these people generate queues at the bar? No need! Do these people realise that if they go and stand behind 10 people in an unnecessary queue, that each person will take at least 2 minutes to get served (maybe more), so you are going to wait at least 20 minutes. And 10 other people will be served before you! Think about it! If queueing becomes an Olympic sport, then Seb Coe needs only to come to Skeggy for the complete squad.
2. Coats on seats. A**eholes.
3. Queue at breakfast. Like in the bars, people make a queue when there are bemused staff standing idle.
4. Information updates. Butlins are poor. Nazareth website said they wouldn’t be there, on 12 Jan. (Seemingly throat problem with singer, although he had actually packed in?). Some parts of Butlins site still had Nazareth on the bill, others didn’t. Did anyone book on strength of Nazareth in last week or so?.
Update. Feb 1st, a week after the end of the festival. Page on the Butlins website still advertising the event!
5. Finally, and very troubling. Acts announced for next year . Otis Grand . (Big Band, Chicago blues. I am not a fan.) Courtney Pine! Courtney Pine? Posters now have the dreaded word JAZZ on them. PLEASE do not turn the event into a Jazz event. The Rock and Blues Festival has taken a while to get to the stage it is at now. Who has decided to change it?! The likes of Feelgoods, Skinny Molly and Coghlan’s lot had the place packed to the rafters. I have this hazy vision of about 2 dozen jazz ‘cats’ with berets on and dark glasses sitting at tables doing the Times crossword (which they can’t see) , listening to some git farting into a trumpet. Yes, that has pretty much summed up a century of one type of music in one sentence. And it will be a very hazy vision, because I won’t be there. Neither will many, many more. So please, Mr Butlinsman, think very carefully.