Hope Festival. Biggin Hill. 27-29.5.2016

Our second Hope Festival, anyone who read last year’s review will know we really enjoyed that one.

Friday. Got lost on the way, again. First up , Scene Red. Quite funky, 80s feel. They appear to have made at least 2 LPs, original stuff.                  Leon Tilbrook. Son of Glenn, who came on to join him later. Confident young man. Over the years, there have been many people who have tried to cash in on a more talented (and very often dead) relative. We have seen a quite a few of them. They range from the cynically dismal Leon Hendrix to the excellent George Jones, who has done justice to his father’s legacy (Micky from Man). We both think that young Master T.  won’t have to rely on dad’s name in the future.       RenattaJane.  Indie Londoners, they came across as a Franz Ferdinand-type of act. Not our cup of tea, but they went down well.          Karma Como. 4 young men who didn’t look old enough to have grown hairs that they could sit on. We are a bit to old for them, but good that fest organisers can give youngsters a slot.                Bruise. Female guitar/vocals with male drummer. Lots of help from backing tracks. Rhythmic Ray is a big fan.     Decided to go down to the Piano Bar. Got a can of Carlsberg that was actually frozen!  Caught a bit of the Twangers doing some Byrds and Hank Williams.         Back to the Bar stage for Darwin’s Quilt. Grown up music by grown ups for grown ups.  Best of the day.

Saturday. Craig Miller and Eoin.  Guitar/vocal plus piano acoustic duo. Inoffensive start to the day.                 Splink.    Classic 5-piece prog line-up (incl female violinist), but all instrumental. Very accomplished but desperately need a vocalist/lyricist (IMHO).     Longwave Club.  More mainstream 4-piece, an early song reminded me of Steve Wynn (who is on the car stereo).  Her Ladyship liked them.       Dave Sutherland.  Acoustic guitar/vocals with a buddy on Telecaster.  Bit of country and blues too.         Ceri James.   Another Steve Wynn soundalike, he did a decent ‘You can’t always get what you want’.                 Movie Star   .  Quirky trio from Norway. Difficult to categorise, and probably difficult to search for on the Internet but have a go!  Sort of engagingly wacky outfit that will go down well in any festival mid-afternoon slot.             Chocobo.    I can either say it was an out of tune 4-piece row, or say I missed them having gone to play croquet. You decide.                Unsocial Network  .  A sort of mid-90s pop feel?  Couldn’t really get into it.            Reverend Schnider and the Band of Angels. A bit of rockabilly always goes down well, with a wah wah pedal thrown in too. Could have done without the gratuitous swearing though.          Twangers. (again).  Started out with ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’, with washboard in the line-up too. Pleasant country stuff.         Electric Cake Salad.  They were excellent last year and we were looking forward to another slab of pounding space rock.  We got it.  Great wall of sound, even if helped out by some backing tracks.  Best so far.          Bay of Pigs. Opening number was ‘The Seeker’. Not the Steve Earle song but The Who’s classic. They managed to get the words wrong. More covers followed, including both sides of ‘Stay with me’ and what we got was a basic pub covers group. Just what we can see a couple of miles away from home for free rather than pay money and have to do a 450 mile round trip.  But the tent was packed. Especially sad when Electric Cake Salad were playing their own stuff to a couple of dozen. The ironic thing is, that If The Who had carried on doing soul and R&B covers, they wouldn’t have made ‘The Seeker’ !          Dry Seamen. Multi-media marine-based fun.         Some bloke does David Bowie. Didn’t catch his name, not interested in tribute acts. Even less interested if ‘tribute’ neither looks like or sounds like the people they are making a living off. But, again, the place was packed so ‘a success’.                 Squeeze. Another ‘secret ‘ gig , as was last year. Very long time to set up but, to be fair. they are professionals and have every right to expect the stage to be spot on.  Unfamiliar song to kick off with, followed by ‘Up the Junction’, ‘Hourglass’ , another unfamiliar song and the recent-ish ‘Cradle to the grave’. Glenn strapped on a uke and they went into a great ‘Harper Valley PTA’ cover…and the power went!  Mr T, tried to carry on unplugged but the crowd didn’t have the sense to shut up. Luckily, power was restored and they finished Jeannie C Riley and went into The Ramones’  ‘I don’t wanna grow up’. He kept the uke for the beginning of the fabulous ‘Tempted’. Plenty of classics were to follow, (‘Mussels’, ‘Labelled’, ‘Cool’, ‘Slap’, ‘Coffee’, ‘Goodbye’, Take’) . The last-named featured a f**kwit who had remembered how to whistle.  ( A shame he didn’t know when to…ie not now).  A great show, a sensible blend of old and new,  with  an extra guitar/pedal steel player. I wish we could have captured Mr T. on camera having a ‘wow’ moment at one of the steel solos.           The night having well overrun, Solomento were moved to the Piano Bar. We were informed by the DJ that they were the best band in the world. The same DJ had played us about 90 minutes of non-stop reggae before Squeeze’s arrival, so no prizes for guessing what to expect. We left after the first couple of notes.

Sunday      Memphis. Covers outfit without the ‘aren’t we wonderful’ attitude. Bit of Lou Reed and Bowie.            Blues Engine.  4-piece, girl singer, pleasant enough.             Paul Cook Band. Not the Sex Pistols drummer, but the opening ‘Rock me Baby’ started off a generic blues set. Good musicians.             Dan Swag and Toby.      Her Ladyship said there was some familar faces with the afore-mentioned Bay of Pigs.   ‘Call me the breeze’  started off, and it was much better to hear some regulation blues rather than a regulation pub covers set list.          Dennis Greaves Band.    Moonlighting from Nine Below Zero and The Truth, Tottenham Hotspurs’ biggest fan came on with his BB KIng Gibson and went into ‘Heat Wave’. The Kinks ‘Where have all the good times gone’ followed , and Dennis told us we were basically in for some ‘standards’ . It took a while for his co-guitarist to realise he was out of tune, but ‘Lay down Sally’, ‘Moondance’ and ‘Gimme little sign’ were just fine. They finished with 9BZ’s ‘Albatross’ gag, and a good time was had by all.              King Elvises.    Three daft blokes messing about on stage…and why not!              Unorfadox.   From nearby Bromley, we were camped next to vocalist Brian (and a thoroughly decent bloke he is too).   A touch of an updated punk sound, with a couple of members definitely looking like they were there the first time round 40 years ago!  But original ‘Butterfly’ was almost U2-ish, and the next number had at least one minor chord!   We got a 200 mph ‘She does it right’, as opposed to the original Feelgood’s 150 mph.  Much more than just a punk outfit, but ‘No sun in the sky’ did have a Buzzcocks feel to it.  Not many in, maybe they should call themselves Maltloaf, a Meatloaf tribute , and the place would have been packed.  I try to resist pigeon-holing groups, but will just class these as ‘Go and See ’em’.   And they gave away an ep at the end, cheers.               Mazaika. Female violinist, male with a cosmic sort of accordian. From many miles east of Biggin Hill.  Fantastically -gifted duo, they gave an astonishing display of Russian-type stuff which had the crowd baying for more.  Every so often I see some musicians who make we want to go home and trash my entire collection of guitars, thankfully it was a bloody long way home. No sound effects either.  SPACEBA!  A great end to a great festival (for us, that is. Others carried on until the small hours.)

Good staff, no aggro, beer prices par for the course. Good music, some great music.  Long may it continue.  Any negatives!? Not many.  ‘Absolutely no dogs’ was made obvious. But some a***holes seem to think they can ignore it.  It annoys me when we have friends who love festivals but stick by the rules and don’t come if dogs not allowed.     Also, the food vendors.  Her Ladyship remarked that she had never been to a fest that didn’t sell chips!  She asked main man Dave about it. He said it was by choice, he didn’t want deep fat friers. Which is fine. There were only 2 food outlets, and to be fair a crowd of a few hundred can’t make lots of takeaways viable. But that can lead to those vendors present basically pleasing themselves. I had a jacket potato with chilli, which at a fiver is acceptable. But Her Ladyship had some sort of  veggie barbecued mushroom  which was poor value. Late on Sunday night , one of the stalls had closed*  and the other had run out of breadbuns. The woman offered to do me a burger for ‘only’ six pounds!  Without a bread bun! It would have been eight pounds with one!  She thought she was doing me a favour!   Not a good situation, especially in a field miles from anywhere.  Also, there was a lot of occasions with sound bleeding between stages. The main stage would start while the bar stage were still playing, for up to 15 minutes. I am sure the slots are planned to have one stage start when the other finishes. It only takes one act to overrun or be late and the system goes to pot.

No, I am not just moaning at some aspects for the sake of it. I am sure there are loads who who would be overjoyed if the bill was packed with pub covers outfits and tribute acts. Were you happy to have to listen to 2 groups playing at the same time? If you were, wonderful. Do you think 8 quid is good value for a burger?

All in all though, a cracking little event.   Photos to follow via Her Ladyship. You may observe that someone at the Piano Bar somewhat naively handed her a bit of chalk and a blackboard to write Sunday’s entertainment…twice.

*Some people have pointed out that the food outlet near the small Folly stage was good. Her Ladyship’s ‘veggie’ comment was aimed at the other place. However, it is no good being ‘good’ if it shuts up early on Sunday night. Surely it must be part of the contract that (as only one of two) they should be open throughout?

And just for you, Ray, same Bruise photo on twice!

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