Hope Festival has been going for more than two decades, but this was our first time. We drove for four hours, having got up at 6.00 am on Friday, in the pouring rain to get there. Reason for our first visit was via invite from our friend Ray, who was using the occasion to celebrate his having spent six decades on the planet. He was allowed to book some acts of his choice to appear on the Piano Bar stage (for whom he paid!). The line-up only had a couple of names familiar to us, but upon arrival a very familiar name was down to headline Friday night…Squeeze! Using it as a warm-up gig, the organisers did a great job at keeping their name a well-guarded secret. Festivities didn’t start until early evening , and apologies to the rest of the Friday night bill for catching up with people and not taking notice of the performances. But…
Friday. SQUEEZE. We were disappointed with their show at Weyfest last year (see report from September 2014), as we have been long-standing admirers. So would the intervening nine months have made a difference to the set? Actually, not much, although Mr T concentrated on guitar this time.The set was the same as at Weyfest up until ‘Slaughtered…’, which was replaced by ‘Cowboys are my weakness’. ‘From the cradle to the grave’ followed, and the set carried on as before. Except that I mentioned last September that songs such as ‘Hourglass’ and ‘Goodbye Girl’ wouldn’t have gone amiss, and they were included tonight. It seemed to tip the balance towards a better percentage of more recognisable songs* for a festival crowd, and we enjoyed it much more this time. ‘Tempted’ and ‘Labelled with love’ were worth the price of the wristbands alone.
Saturday. Had planned to go to find the nearest pub to watch the FA Cup Final, Having walked about half a mile down what seemed like a 1 in 2 hill, we thought it not a good idea. I think we passed Sherpa Tensing on the way back. (See Rant Corner re FA Cup Final). So we joined Ray’s Birthday Bash at the Piano Bar. Mickey Kemp Band. Three quarters of it, actually, and Ray was trembling like a shiting dog as MK’s start time was approaching, with no sign of Mr K!! But they got there in time. Starting with the poignant ‘The way we used to live’, we got songs about Valentine’s Day, Peter Green, his divorce, Internet dating, heaven and a cover of ‘Singing the blues’. Great songs from a really good entertainer. Steve One Bloke One Mandolin. A Weyfest regular, he is an obvious Steve Earle fan, and like Mr E mentions Old Nick in his songs (‘The Devil’s Deal’). His pal from Leatherat helped out on ‘Gallows song’ and he finished with a great take on Benny Hill’s ‘Ernie’. He is an ideal festival act. Missed Graham Firth and Charlie Bateman (sorry lads) and at that point I decided that I wasn’t going to scribble any more notes. I reckoned that the people who we were with and the whole character of the occasion were more important. But, worth mentioning in despatches are Krankschaft , where the lead singer confirmed my Hawkwind-ish impressions by mentioning his late friend Robert Calvert. Memphis, who gave a decent mix of originals and covers such as ‘Roxette’ and ‘Roadhouse blues’. Electric Cake Salad. From Birmingham, they adapted Black Sabbath’s ‘NIB’ into their excellent spacey sound. Devil’s Prefects. Wonderfully bonkers country pastiche, Her Ladyship had to be informed of the meaning of a poetic little number about Jesus. Abdoujaparov. An appropriately sonic blast to more or less end the weekend. Also, best quote of the weekend from the stage, ‘The weather hasn’t been perfect but the people have’. Spot on, mate.
So, any negatives? Hardly. The NO DOGS ALLOWED rule was blatantly ignored, so the fact that it was there because most people were pi**ed off with them at previous events didn’t matter to their owners. Or maybe there are bloody huge fieldmice in Biggin Hill?
The weather was not brilliant, but can’t dish out any blame for that. We were within a gnat’s knacker of packing up and going on Sunday morning, after a bad Saturday night, but glad we decided to stick it out.
One almost unnoticed event summed up the ethos of the weekend. Almost at the end of the weekend, I noticed a man behind the bar spot a tenner on the floor near the till. (Not really a till, just a drawer of money). He picked it up and put it in with the rest of the cash. I can think of quite a few festivals where that would not have happened!
A very good festival, and we will go again next time. I hope it doesn’t end up outgrowing itself, I have seen it happen at others where the organisers have got both lazy and greedy. But I get the impression they won’t here.
* I am not suggesting that anyone with a decent back catalogue should churn out only their ‘greatest hits’ every time for a festival audience. The Eagles have been playing pretty much the same set of ‘classics’ for years, having wisely dropped the very average stuff from their last double cd. Bob Dylan’s current set has very few from the 60s and 70s. The Moody Blues have been on autopilot for about a decade, so maybe some credit to Mssrs Tilbrook and Difford for not totally resting on their laurels. Striking a balance is a tough task.
A note from Her Ladyship:
There are usually some pictures here, I took at least 20 of Squeeze but as I was marginally over-served that evening, well that week-end really, they’re all shocking .
Post script. Ray has reminded me that in addition to the aforementioned Mickey Kemp Band, Krankschaft, Devil’s Prefects, Electric Cake Salad and Abdoujaparov, he also booked Roadhouse . Some played in the Piano Bar, some played the Bar Stage, some played the Main Stage and a few of them played more than one venue. And again apologies to the others that he booked for my lack of note-taking, brought on by chatting, propping up Her Ladyship and trying to sort out what to do about the charge for the Dartford Crossing. How do I pay online by midnight the following day when I am spending all weekend in a bloody field!?