Upton Blues Festival. Upton upon Severn. 15-17. July 2016

Our second visit to the blues festival. We enjoyed last year and there were a couple of acts we are fans of this year.

Friday. Directed to our camping spot. Last year was ‘park where you want!’ so increased numbers have have brought more organisation. We found ourselves next to Mike and Gayle, co-managing directors of SAGA (Salford  Anti  Greenchair Association) . So off to the Sports Field in village.                    Chris Gibbons.   We were met by Gary Moore’s ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ and the standard ‘Early in the Morning’.   He asked us to sing along to something woefully out of tune, we declined . A ‘Stormy Monday’ clone to finish.               Dove and BoWeevil.    Much hyped and award-nominated outfit.  5-piece , female vocals. Not regulation 12-bar stuff, very slick.  But all the attention they seem to have attracted was lost on me.  They were…ok.  Applause was somewhat less than rapturous.    Her Ladyship went off and came back with some onion bajees plus a special ‘dip’.  It was Agent Orange meets Napalm Death! (Great!)   If Donald Trump gets the recipe, he will drop a load onto the entire Muslim world, and anybody else who has the nerve to suggest his head is full of Dinky Toys and tomato sauce.         Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.          Sort of like Captain Beefheart meets ‘Deliverance’.   Got a seat on the Grassy Knoll, Her Ladyship went on a Logan’s Run down to the front.    ‘I shall not be moved’ was a semi-soundcheck.  The tent was packed , with real applause emanating from it.  I discovered the good Reverend and his family a few years ago.    We got all the favourites,  ‘Front porch trained’, ‘ Clap your hands…’ et al.    Then came the dilemma. Babajack were a late addition to the acoustic stage , there would be a slight overlap. ‘Daddy or Chips?’.   Left before the Rev’s set ended and got a front row seat for Babajack.  Just the duo today, with Becky unable to use her percussion box as well.     Starting out with ‘Hammer and tongs’, it was a fairly short set. ‘Death Letter’ is always there though, so is the final ‘Gallows Pole.’ Her poignant song about her uncle hit home with Her Ladyship.   We love them and we also love the Rev’s mob. But we know some people who prefer the Jones/Bryant/Brown/Lister/Miller version of de blooze so we can’t all like the same. Our preference is the older, minimalist stuff.           Chris Antonik.     Riverside stage headliner, he is another much-lauded blueser.   First song was quite funky, so was the second, so was…   Very popular but I don’t go for the the funkier end of the blues. Back to the tent. A pretty good day though.

Saturday.    Della Grants.  Have seen these Leicester lads before, and thought they were pretty good. They have built up a good following on the blues and festival circuit.  Got a seat by side of stage but decided to move. We had discovered we were next to a group of 10 women from a very adjacent principality. They were obviously having a good time but it was like a day outing from Viz. There was a brief argument about who had the last bit of coke…and I don’t mean the stuff in a bottle! We are talking Bolivian Marching Powder. However, the jazz Woodbines calmed things down and while they didn’t quite have the A to Z of booze, they must have had the C to V (Cider to Vodka) plus all points in between. Bless ’em.  I think they were all suffering from  AAD  (Advanced Alcoholic Dishevelment).    Anyway, back to the Della Grants. A mention of Chicago and watching the Mississippi River had my doubting my dismal geography knowledge. I reckon you would need pretty good eyesight. But who was bothered?  Nearly all original stuff, with a festivally’ Stones disco attempt, ‘Miss You’.   Good applause, well justified.         Blind Pilgrim. Back to the Sports stage. The 3-piece started out with some Zeppelin ‘How many more times’ riffs, with some ‘oh-ohing added on.   Got a bit hungry so went off for some tea.  Neil from Whitwell reckoned they had been pretty good. (More of Neil later).              LaVendore Rogue.        A new group of seasoned musos with ‘form’.     Very difficult to categorise, Her Ladyship got an early hint vocally and visually, of Ian Anderson from the lead vocalist.   Like the Della Grants, nearly all original stuff apart from a Stones number. This one was ‘Get off my cloud’.  They must have been good, as Her Ladyship started grooving at the end…but only marginally.   Worth checking out.                   Aynsley Lister.  The square was full for the Saturday headliner.   Have seen him before some years ago, and have been listening to a very old gig from Abertillery in 2005. It seemed okay then, and he just came across as still just okay tonight.    It was almost MOR , even people near us were shouting ‘Liven it up’.  It was almost cruise liner stuff.  They did a bit of keyboard/guitar interplay that Lord and Blackmore were doing 40-odd years ago.  For us, he is one of that bunch of young bluesmen (okay, Larry Miller isn’t so young!) that I would struggle to differentiate between. But he has lots of fans.  Off to bed.   But no sleep just yet.    We could hear ‘Summer of 69’, ‘Sex on fire’ and, of course, ‘All Right Now’.    Want  a laugh? Do a Google search for “cover band bingo”. it’s great.

Sunday. Half Deaf Clatch.    From his opening words ‘ Mah fairst song’ there was no doubt where he was from…Hull.   He has a good voice and plays slide acoustic guitar with occasional banjo.  Mainly originals, with some Henry Thomas and Robert Johnson. Ended with the weekend’s second appearance for ‘Death Letter’. Enjoyed him, he was a bit like a less manic version of King Size Slim who was here last year.(See review).           Creole Brothers.  Soon discovered their gushing blurb must have been written by themselves ( ‘All delivered with OUR own wry humorous take…’ is a giveaway.).    Lots of songs in New Orleans Cajun French. Definitely not for devotees of King Crimson, I suspect.  A bit of Cajun stuff is always a good bit mid-afternoon, but this was pretty ordinary. A singalong attempt at ‘Don’t mess with my toot-toot’ died on its ar*e.                  Masai Blues.  5-piece female fronted outfit., doing jazzy, bluesy, soully stuff  that would be appropriate for a  support slot at Ronnie Scott’s or a Las Vegas night club.   The guitarist let rip a bit on ‘Born under a bad sign’  and did I hear Laughing Lenny’s ‘First we take Manhattan’ while I was queueing for drinks?   A regulation 12-bar gave the impression the musicians were happier  in that mode, and a female version of ‘I’m a Man’ didn’t really work. ‘Hound Dog’ wasn’t great either.  We got another ‘Stormy Monday’ clone and it made me think that with all these plagiarism cases in the news, T Bone Walker must be spinning in his grave.                The sun got really hot, so we went down to the Star . Bacchus were doing their Allmans’ influenced stuff, plus ‘Roadhouse blues’,  ‘Rock n Roll’, Route 66′, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’,’Carol’,  ‘Brown Sugar’.  (See Cover Band Bingo card).  Pretty good ‘Jessica’ though, and one of their own had a very Allmans-ish intro.   We should have got there earlier.                              Stayed there for the Worried Men recommended by trio of Welsh women Her Ladyship was talking to. Lead vocalist had balding long hair, Gibson Flying V and 3 black boxes with Marshall written on. I had a hunch we weren’t in for a load of 2-Tone ska stuff.   Much played ‘I just wanna make love to you’ was followed by ‘Same old story’ (was that a Blodwyn Pig song?).  Very good, very entertaining classic Power Trio stuff.  Originals plus covers (3 from Dr Feelgood’s repertoire, ‘Crazy about girls’, ‘Rollin’ and tumblin’ and ‘Back in the night’).   Interesting slants on Neil Young and Eddie Cochran too.          Went to get a place for Big Red and the Grinners.      Started with ‘Word up’ followed by ‘Walk this way’.   They have both been given the treatment before , by Hayseed Dixie and the excellent Boss Hoss from Germany. Steve Earle’s  ‘Galway Girl’ was next, but we were suffering from the Star stage in the right ear and this lot in our left.      I didn’t hear his intro to the Beatles’ ‘I’ve just seen a face’, and if he mentioned that the reconstituted Pure Prairie League did it in 1974 then credit to him. But let’s just assume it slipped his mind.  It has all been done before, and done better.   I just got the feeling of cashing in on Hayseed Dixie’s ‘rockgrass’ genre.   If you like ‘rockgrass’ you will know of Hayseed Dixie but maybe not The Boss Hoss.  Two others worth checking out are Luther Wright and the Wrongs version of ‘The Wall’ and the Hillbenders attempt at ‘Tommy’. The latter has been endorsed by Pete Townshend, and they are touring the UK with it.   As for Big Red and chums, I was disappointed.

But any disappointments were outweighed by the fact it is FREE!  Yes, the pubs are bloody packed. You could argue that the event has been a victim of its own excellence.  Suggestions?  Neil from Whitwell reckons, as we do, there should be a Hobson’s bar at the Sports stage. The camp site discipline seemed much better.   Some very good music, some not so good but that is down to personal taste. Sound was good at both main stages.   A really good, well-run event.

Plug for Whitwell Festival of Music. We met Neil and Val a few years ago, they have an involvement in this festival in North Derbyshire.  It has been going for 8 years, I think, but since we found out about it we have been otherwise engaged each time!   But it looks a brilliant (and CHEAP) little weekend. Plenty of festival favourites, check out this and previous years’ line-ups at http://www.whitwellfestivalofmusic.org.uk. It is a charity event too.   Price? You can get a ticket for the weekend for what it would cost to watch only the first half of an Oz Pink Floyd copy act.


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