Monthly Archives: June 2018

Acoustic Festival of Britain. Addendum

Interesting link to the Burton Mail via AFOB Facebook site. Reporter (Richard Castle?). Seemingly ‘Folk fans were catered for by…Celtic act The Outcast Band’. Really? The Outcast Band had cried off.  I wonder how many press passes are sold or given to mates? Not that I am implying for a second that this is what happened of course!

If you want to read a report by (unpaid) people who were actually there, please check it out on this site.

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Sonic Rock Solstice. Stoke Prior. 15-17.6.2018

It is that time in the space/time continuum when we transport ourselves to the the outer reaches of the cosmos (well, the outer reaches of Bromsgrove) for the Sonic Rock Solstice. Tent up pretty sharply (I have discovered the less I do, the easier it gets erected!). Into the very good nearby Boat and Railway pub for our starters for ten, and at £2.80 a pint it is an easy choice.

Friday. Tom Ashurst. From the venerable Hawklords,  Tom gives us a brief but decent start to the weekend. Just him plus acoustic guitar plus loops. And people pay £100.00 to see Ed Sheeran do basically the same?!  Occasional dodgy lead break, but anyone who gives the early Floyd’s ‘Matilda Mother’ an airing can be forgiven.               Shackled  Four young men who have probably slept with their dads’  Metallica cds under their pillows. T-shirts a-plenty for sale. But original material, so deserve an audience, Guitarist changed his Flying V at one point…for another! (Guitarists may agree that he must be a masochist! They can be buggers to keep in tune!). A couple of festival-friendly covers to finish via Black Sabbath and Motorhead , sorry, no prizes for guessing. They went down well.                         ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’. The food-based frolics of Sister Sandwich. Merciless rewriting of the likes of the Ramones, Clash, Billy Idol, White Stripes…even Britney Spears and Ricky Martin aren’t spared.  When I say they do ‘I love sausage rolls’ by Joan Jett and ‘Meat Meat Meat’ by the Damned you will get the idea. A lot of the lyrics were a bit indiscernible but gloriously bonkers.                          Capt Roswell and the Lost Alien Tribe.  The Hawkwindy stuff that most of the audience have come for. It is not easy to do a twenty minute number using one chord, usually E.  Song titles? Not a bloody clue. Use the words ‘Space’ ‘Cosmic’ ‘Sonic’ ‘Interstellar’ ‘Voyage’ and ‘Traveller’, throw them up in the air and select three at random.   But it is great!                Dr Hasbeen’s NASA Conspiracy Project. Quick second appearance for Martyn Hasbeen (does he only pay himself one lot of travelling expenses?!).   A few more chords this time, ‘Little Green Men’ is never far away. I bought a couple of Dr Hasbeen’s cds , £2.00 each, for the car…sorry, the shuttle craft.                  Senser. Plenty in for the headliners, the back of a t-shirt told me they have been here before. Big musical intro before male and female made dramatic entrance.  They launched into a tuneless tirade that I believe is classed as ‘Rap’ (?). I would suggest there is a letter missing from the start. Awful. Goodnight.

Saturday. Greenfire. Five piece outfit with female singer. Loud!              Happy Graveyard Orchestra. Unusual line-up and unusual songs. Not as loud! Did I hear a drum and xylophone solo?’ Idiosyncratic’ is probably a good description , nice version of ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ too.                 Sloth Metropolis. Have seen them here before,very theatrical but not for me musically. Rhythmic Raymond admitted he had bought a cd last year but has not played it.                        Orange Clocks. Complicated explanation to start with , regarding (I think) a 1973 record about a monkey that never made it onto German tv. Hence, Orange Clocks have revived it as ‘Tope’s Sphere 2’. And they were about to unleash the full lp on an unsuspecting room.    It seemed like a sort of cosmic version of ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ and not only was it visually great, but the music was pretty good too.  Completely crackers but really enjoyable. Seemingly they added a bit more at the end too. Best so far.                          Babel. Stoke Prior regulars, they put a lot into the visual elements of the show.                           Pre Med. Seemingly been going since 2004, this is a relatively recent incarnation (I overheard). Boasting a 5-piece standard prog line-up, the female vocalist had a good voice. They rocked more than the Mostly Autumn extended family genre.  Both Ray and Her Ladyship discerned a hint of Lene Lovich on one track. ‘Ace of Spades’ got another outing at the weekend.                                   Fierce and the Dead. Very popular but I just don’t get them. Totally instrumental 4 piece with decent tunes that seem to be crying out for someone like Robert Plant to come hurtling out of the speakers. But it never happens, and to be fair to the members, they say they don’t want a singer. So it is up to them.                                 Lacertilia. Welsh 5-piece, 2 with no hair , 3 with lots. And a few beards.  Ironically, my first impression was what the previous lot may sound like with a singer!  Imagine Black Sabbath on speed (instead of cocaine) and a singer with a better voice.    Her Ladyship was impressed (but her father was Welsh ).                                    Quantum Fantay. Anyone who has come from Belgium deserves at least a decent look. Their footballers do!  Plenty of merchandise. Tangerine Dream-ish keyboards with loud almost funky bass.. And on came a very strange frontline!  Ultimately a totally instrumental musical show but with a unique mime (?), puppet(?), circus(?)…I don’t have an adequate description. Four musicians grooving along, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem in front of them! If they are on Youtube, give them a look…now! ‘Chopsticks and Gongs’ had a very oriental feel. ‘Skytopia’ was about 20 impressive minutes. And then some stilts.   Very good, good capture for the weekend Martyn!                      Evil Blizzard. Much anticipation, before 6 beings from a 70s Hammer Horror film came on stage.    Metal with lashings of ham. Sorry lads, we were just too tired , had to head off .

Sunday.          Crossroads 531. Starting with ‘Bullfrog Blues’. we got a set of blues-rock stuff from the late 60s/early 70s. Songs from Cream, Groundhogs,Gallagher, Free, CCR and Hendrix. Though not all of them the usual ones you expect from a pub covers outfit. Plus ‘Matchbox’ and a Racing Cars song.   They also had an unexpected goth girl stage dancer. She is, actually, a pleasant and highly-educated woman but a comment ‘Doesn’t she look a dick?’ had some validity.  The trio did well, especially being almost strangers to themselves!  A sensible easing in to a Sunday afternoon onboard the craft.                      Vulcan Death Grip  My intuition told me this was not going to be bluegrass!  Two 6-strings plus keyboards and FX.   Couldn’t make out any lyrics, they played 2 numbers, each about 20 minutes long.  If it was both sides of a single, I have this vision of putting them on a pub jukebox in Newcastle and walking out!                                      Witchtripper. Thankfully not on at midday!  Fresh-faced, short-haired drummer sitting behind a couple of tattooed serial killers. Legs akimbo up front of course. Drummer was a real extrovert, in fact. He looked even younger when he put his specs on afterwards! Plenty of stick twiddling and standing up. Reminded me of Simon in the Hot Rods.  They have made a couple of lps to date, I gather. I reckon each will have deafened half of Mansfield. ‘Attitude Adjustment’ finished a confident performance.                           Captain Horizon.   4-piece rock group, quite a few notches down from the previous occupants. Closer to the 80s NWOBHM groups.  Original material but, sadly, not all that memorable.  Members sloped off at the end to leave drumming finale.                           Dirty Flowers. Oh bugger! Saxophone alert! 5-piece, I lasted about as long as it took me to write the words ‘jazz’ and ‘funk’. Went to sit outside.  Ray and I both thought we were hearing some Blockheads played backwards at one stage.    Definitely not for me.                                    Deepshade. 3 piece plus more smoke. They had that doom-laden vocal delivery that made me dash outside to look for an asteroid that had been knocked off course and was heading straight towards the Earth…with no Bruce Willis on hand to tw*t it with a baseball bat.     But those in attendance enjoyed it.                       Sonic Black Holes  Young men from Germany, I was intrigued to see them.  Very 69 Pink Floyd sound to start, but without Rick Wright, without any vocals and much swinging of hair. So hardly like Pink Floyd then!    Very interesting, but not quite enough to threaten world domination. Her Ladyship started to play with her phone at half-time.                         Music of the Andys. I will omit the apostrophe from the poster! Two Andys from Here and Now gave us a bit of noodling before the others came on.                           Here and Now. Many loyal fans here, including Channel 5’s Matthew Wright, plenty of t-shirts too.   I remember seeing them at Blind Cat Festival and realised that I had never heard a thing by them before. Still not got round to it.                             Astralasia. A truly cosmic finale in store, there seemed to be an early snatch from Dark Side of the Moon.  Thought the drummer seeemed to be working overtime, I stood up and discovered his name was Mr Commodore (come on, I am a pensioner!).  A couple of females came on to wiggle and warble , it got to sound like someone had put on their ‘White Light White Heat’ lp and had played ‘Sister Ray’ at 45 rpm by mistake. A quite absorbing take on Alex Harvey’s ‘Faith Healer’, then Mr Commodore broke down! Everything stopped. Frightening that an electrical fault can completely flummox a headliner.  So, after much sweating from sound man Snake, it seemed that some more traditional assistance from a Mr Mapex and a Mr Zildjian solved the problem (with help from their operator of course). A hint of ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ before what Her Ladyship briefly thought was Dr Feelgood but it was Donna Summer!  And then…off goes the bloody fire alarm. Absolutely bloody farcical end to bloody good weekend.  Kozmic Ken gave out his customary thanks to a couple of dozen in the audience, the rest had given up and gone .

All in all though a good weekend. It always is. Capacity for the venue is 499, the event seems to attract the right sort of numbers and the right sort of people.

1. Music. Not a complete weekend of stellarphononics. Everything from the lunacy of Sister Sandwich at one end to the full-on metal attack of Witchtripper at the other. Plenty of Hasbeeny stuff in between. Thankfully no Plastic Paddies and only the tiniest hint of reggae.

2.Camping/Security. We managed to get 3 full nights sleep, a definite first. One git had a music system blasting out at a level that would have dwarfed the Who…and he wasn’t even in his tent! Security were informed , one of whom said ‘It is a music festival’. Searingly incisive observation.  Two went to investigate, and seemingly did nothing. Thankfully, it seemed that someone summoned the Lone Ranger and Tonto and the noise mysteriously ceased.

3. Bar. Her Ladyship got shortchanged by a fiver once, she was refunded without question. Very naughty to charge 10p for a plastic pot, but without telling you! Staff and prices in general have always been ok here.

4. Food. Much vaunted veggie shed shut at 9.00pm on Friday, ran out of food! OK rest of weekend. Prices far better than other fests we have been to.

5. Field layout. Maybe think about using a spray can to mark out ‘roadways’?

6.Tents. The afore-mentioned goth girl left a couple of tent pegs when dismantling her tent. I know because I heard her say that she had left one! Obvious she didn’t have a car and had never driven over a peg a similarly-thoughtless person had left. Her Ladyship and I are mere Bachelors, not Ph.D’s like she apparently is, but always make sure we don’t leave any pegs.

7. Toilets. I didn’t venture into portaloos. The sound of their being emptied at 6.00 am at the Acoustic Fest may be loud but is reassuring! We never got woken up here. Otherwise ok.

Photos to follow hopefully

Acoustic Festival of Britain. Uttoxeter Racecourse. 1-3 June 2018.

Friday.  The proceedings start at noon here. Managed to get tent pitched quickly, just caught the end of Sicknote Steve doing Seasick Steve’s ‘Doghouse’ with a dash of ‘Deliverance’ thrown in.                                    Sons of Clogger . Plastic Paddy-ish with a bit of an edge. Usual formula…12 slow bars intro then bash, bash, bash, bash 100mph .There was a number jigging about at the end to ‘Last of the Highwaymen’. Thankfully no ‘Irish Rover’ or ‘Whiskey in the Jar’.                  Juzzie SmithBig hype from organiser Mike Stephens in the programme. One man Oz band.  Good voice, impressive versatility on a range of instruments. ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was hardly a surprise!  Extremely accomplished but for some unknown reason I was just a bit unmoved.                          Merry Hell . North West folkies with a female lead vocalist. More traditional folk than Captain Pugwash stuff, ‘Bury me Naked’ was a popular waltz, not unlike Victoria Wood lyrically.   ‘Ghost in our House’ was well received , as was the whole set.        Her Ladyship went off with the Whitwell Mafia (Neil and Val)  to check out Stevie  One Mandolin, a regular at many festivals.  She reckoned his idiosyncratic ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was great and ‘Ernie ‘ was genius!                              Think Floyd. Before they came on, I wrote down that I would bare my bum if they didn’t start with ‘SOYCD’. Needless to say, my dignity was in safe hands.  No point giving set details, there were no real surprises. The female vocalist on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ was good though. (Neil said it was Cherry Lee Mewis ). But why buy a cd by them?  I have been a Floyd fan since being on a school trip in London when ‘Arnold Layne’ came out and have seen a lot of tribute acts over the years under various derivative names. Still waiting for the arrival of The Dark Wall Piper !  In fact, I have come up with a name for my own Floyd tribute act…Milk Floyd. That’s what they all do , don’t they?  To be fair to this lot, they were probably the best I have seen, and with only half as many on stage as some others. *              A good day weather-wise, which always helps, and the musical fare seemed to go down well.

Saturday. We were heading to the Real Ale tent when a bunch of Morris dancers had a similar idea. Her Ladyship did a 180 degree turn and headed for the  Lounge Tent, it was a bit too cold to sit outside.  We stopped in there for a while , in the esteemed company of Mr J.L. Hooker, Mr R. Johnson and their peers.                     Boy on a Dolphin  Here last year, another outfit that the organiser holds in high regard. Very good musicians, I was thinking that the singer may be a Paul Carrack fan when he said that the guitarist was from Mr C’s group.  Bit of name-dropping (‘recorded this in Bryan Adams’ house’) and a couple of covers courtesy of Bill Withers and The Who. A bit too smooth for me.                    Chris Difford  .Knowing what a cantankerous git he can be, I was almost inclined not to watch him. Glad I ignored the inclination. He was great!  With help from Boo Hewerdine , he treated us to classic Squeeze songs , along with a couple of more recent compositions with Boo .   Some great anecdotes, and a younger Difford would probably have stormed off when some unscheduled trumpeting from outside interrupted proceedings. Today’s CD laughed it off.  Brilliant slot!                                  Steve Harley .His fourth time here but   another artiste who has been known to throw tantrums, problems with his sound threatened to produce another.  I always wonder how the Beatles  seemed to manage!  But he just about contained himself and gave the crowd pretty much what they wanted. ‘Judy Teen’, ‘Mr Soft’ and ‘Sebastian’ were all greeted with a cheer, as was the inevitable ‘Make me Smile’. Maybe there could have been room for another ‘hit’ ?  Always a great show, always a great pro and probably always a great fee! But , NB, there have been others who have commanded similar sums and haven’t been asked back.  And Mr H came on with a crutch and a broken hip!                              Roy Mette. Not the first (or last) to suffer from programme misspellings, he had Mandie from Roadhouse on vocals too.    Occasional cover (‘Behind Blue Eyes) but mainly original songs. Her Ladyship liked ‘What would John Lennon say’.  ‘Catch you later blues’ was good.                 John Illsley. The AFOB programmes have more than their share of spelling mistakes. Mike Stephens admits his spelling is crap, but I would always prefer a well-run event by a crap speller than a weekend shambles by  Jeremy F**kin Paxman.  But describing Dire Straits’s Mr Illsley as ‘the songwriting powerhouse behind many of the songs’ is a master stroke. ‘Many’ of the songs? I can’t find ANY of the songs!!  Apologies to all concerned if I am wrong, of course. But how did he and his chums fare on stage with the Dire Straits catalogue. I have to say they were absolutely f**kin’ SH*TE!  I spent time thinking of an appropriate ‘take’ on Dire Straits…Dire Traits? Dire Sh*tes? Dire Tw*ts?.  In the end , Her Ladyship had the answer. ‘Just put ‘Dire’.’  Exactly. Including an embarrassing attempt to copy Mark K’s vocal style, it was, sadly, naff.    I went off to the Lounge Tent to be as far away as possible without being at the five furlong post on the race course. Even if it meant listening to some swing music over the PA. And to cap it all, the duo that are the terminally tedious Big Fibbers came in!         Good weather, some good performances and some (well certainly one) not so good.

Sunday. Her Ladyship was keen to see Fake Thackray. Not for me, I decided to go down to the Lounge Tent where who are on? An expanded line-up of the afore-mentioned Big Fibbers?!   I decided it would be more interesting to go and look at the price list on the ice cream van for an hour. Yes , £3.00 for a bloody Magnum! I memorised all the flavours.                        Harry and the Howlers. Self-confessed fans of fifties rock and roll, with a spot of blooze maybe. ‘The Wild Wild West’ was a slower self-penned number, with Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ being more familiar. Mainly original songs, with crowd-pleasing covers such as ‘That’s alright mama’ and ‘Folsom Prison’ thrown in . Some Wanda Jackson to finish, coming back for ‘Jolene’. Pretty decent.                          Brook Williams. A familiar face on the festival circuit, but first time here.  A decent crowd were treated to ‘Statesboro Blues’ and Rosetta Tharpe’s ‘Rock me’. His ode to the Isle of Man TT Races ‘My turn now’ was good.  Surprisingly short set though.                      Ferocious Dog. It has been very much ‘Have Festival Will Travel’ for these lads in recent years, and they have built up a big following (a lot were here).  Big intro music/poetry/smoke (didgeridoo too?) pre-empted some high octane Plastic Paddy stuff. But most of the songs started off at 100 mph rather than the usual slow intro section. The genre does nothing for me still, but there were plenty there having a great time, which is more important. Excellent violinist, Her Ladyship liked them.  Decent lads from Derbyshire.                        Troy Redfern. Mr R replaced Trevor Steger in Babajack last year, and Babajack were down to play. However, singer Becky had to cry off, so Troy (and bassist Adam) took the spot as part of a trio. Part-time cellist joined them for some Son House.   The ever-knowledgeable MC on the Main Stage announced that Babajack were on! Troy and Co are a good turn in their own right, worth investigation.    ‘Mad Man Blues’ to finish, Her Ladyship went skipping into the tent a la Peter Kay.( She promised she would inflict eye-watering punishment to parts of my body which would ensure their future 100% incapacitation if I mentioned it!).                          Urban Folk Quartet. Starting with banjo and violin to the fore, they were a multi-instrumentalist foursome that almost resisted categorisation. A dual violin number brought an idea for a name…Stradbone Ash anybody!?   If they haven’t played Cropredy yet it is a glaring oversight. At one stage they had a banjo with three percussionists…Santana plays bluegrass!  Her Ladyship went down to listen to a song about coalmining, a subject close to her heart.  A penalty point though, for the cheesy audience participation section. Too ‘clubby’, get rid of it!   Very good show though.                          Whiskey Rebellion .  Line-up threatened more Plastic Paddy stuff but it was more…Bakelite Balkan!?  Much more Russian folk music style.                          Elvis Fontenot   . Regular festival fillers ‘All the way from Stoke’. Cajun/zydeco stuff, I remember their being pretty enjoyable last time . Otis Gibb’s ‘Caroline’, Canned Heat’s ‘ Going up the Country’ elicited some jiving.  ‘I knew the bride’ was followed by another from the peerless Rockpile, ‘Fine, fine, fine’.                                                       I left early to get a good seat for Trevor Babajack  Steger .    Another casualty of misspelling in the programme, we have been keen to see him solo after his split from Becky in Babajack .  Not going to go into the details (none of my business anyway) but straight away it was plain to see that Becky may have kept the name but Trevor has got the soul.  (And the name!) . Starting with the only non-original song ‘Brownstone’ he gives us most of his solo lp ‘Sawdust Man’.  A one man blitz of pulsating rhythmic blues par excellence. All these young blues gunslingers (you know who you are) should be made to come and see him (and go home and bawl their f**kin eyes out!).  Get yourself up to God’s own county please Trev.                  Greg Murray and the Seven Wonders. Seven? Bloody thirteen of them on stage! Nearly more than were standing in front of the stage. Headliner status?! Wasn’t impressed last year, but well-received by those who hadn’t gone home.                 Acoustica For some reason decided to start soundchecking when GM and co had finished on Main Stage. Cue much disbelief by the tent’s occupants!  Basic pub outfit doing Tom Petty, America, Steve Harley, REM (x2), we only stopped for half a song.

Verdict?

  1. Music. Mike made a thinly-veiled comment in the programme about how difficult it is today, as the number of festivals has rocketed. Sadly, the line-up doesn’t really compare with those of yesteryear. Just check out the historical posters. But Chris Difford and Trevor Steger were great.
  2. Bar. Only (almost!) overcharged once. £4.00 a pint, sadly par for the course.
  3. Food. Again £4.00 for chips, as above. Her Ladyship thought general variety and standard good. The noodles shed that sold her a veggie dish with chicken in last year was there again.
  4. Security. Low key, fine by us.
  5. Sound. Usually ok!
  6. Programmes. Needs a proof-reader!  The blurb on Sicknote Steve never mentioned him! All about Seasick Steve…strangely economical with the facts!
  7. Crowd. Well-behaved, never saw any problems. And I noticed an interesting aspect that may influence the next point. Fests like Cropredy, Glasto and even Cambridge Rock always have lots of people in previous festival t-shirts. I probably spotted only a couple here. Yes, there are a few explanations, but if one of them is that people have been before, bought a t-shirt but haven’t returned, then that is a big concern.
  8. The future. Mike Stephens always has time for the punters, I managed a few minutes with him. There could be a VERY interesting development! (Or two!)

All in all though, we always enjoy the weekend. We met some good friends (Check out the excellent WHITWELL FESTIVAL OF MUSIC. ) and it is a bonus to be near a town.  The weather was great, but sadly for the ‘walk-up’ contingency, it could have been better if the sun had come out earlier in the morning.

*Have a look at previous article re Tribute Acts and Plastics Pollution

Tribute acts and plastics pollution

At first, you may think the above two topics have nothing in common. But with the prospect of festivals in the distance featuring probably both, I had time to consider.

Back in the mid-seventies, The Bootleg Beatles were formed. An unusual concept, the next major such group were probably Voulez Vous, a tribute to the defunct Abba. Now, of course, the live music scene is awash with tribute acts. In Leeds we used to have two very good venues, The Irish Centre and the New Roscoe (a smaller version of the former). In the eighties, nineties and noughties the likes of Wishbone Ash, Dr Feelgood, Jefferson Starship, Jack Bruce and many more graced the stage of the former. Now it is almost exclusively tribute acts, Similarly, the New Roscoe hosted Eddie and the Hot Rods, Man , Wilko Johnson and others with not quite the pulling power of the Irish Centre. The venue similarly went down Tribute Boulevard and has since closed.

Sadly punters nowadays would rather see a tribute act than a group producing new music. Accordingly, venues have had to make a business decision which has penalised new music. A short term decision without considering the long term effect. Without new music there would not be these tribute acts playing the songs created by the big names! It was new music at one time! The Who and the Stones started out playing Motown and Chess stuff respectively, then started dropping in original songs.  There is no encouragement for musicians to create their own stuff when they can get a quick dollar down the tribute route. The tribute industry is now an infestation.

Think about plastic packaging. It was a great short term concept for eg bottling plants to make their own plastic bottles. Good for profits and good for the consumer,  but not realising the long term implications which now confront the globe. I take biodegradeable pint pots to festivals now.

Am I being hypocritical by regularly going to watch the Petty Heartbreakers though!? Maybe a little bit but a) the lads are TP fans and b) it is free!