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

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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!

Hope Festival. Warlingham. 25-27 May 2018

An early outdoor festival in the calendar, we have been for the last few years and always enjoyed it. Check out past reviews. Advance apologies for any errors re names. Also apologies for any acts being missed while we were chatting.

Friday. First on is Tom McQ. A familiar face to Hope regulars, via his mid 60s Donovan/Dylan appearance.  Good original songs, Her Ladyship commented that it was a good start to proceedings.             Unorfadox. Festy favourites of ours, the name has been going for more than 4 decades. Brian is a great front man, check out some great vintage photos on Youtube!  Good songs , including ‘Generation B’, ‘ Silent Hurricane’ and their excellent ditty about being at the Roxy. Still Bromley’s best-kept secret.                 Flakey Jake.   Drums/sax/accordian.  Ska to the fore, unusual enough to be popular.                         Carnaby Army  .   ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘The Seeker’ were the openers, I didn’t bother after that. basic pub covers outfit which we could see in our local pub. And selling t-shirts?!  But the pitiful reflection on today’s live music is that there were more in to watch this lot churn out covers than there were to watch Unorfadox play their own stuff.                         Port ErinThree young men with beards playing original songs. I seem to remember thinking they were decent last time. ‘Chaos in the Streets ‘ got some feet tapping .              Sasha and the Shades.  Another face that I seem to remember from previous events, with a young man on vocals with a much older set of tonsils.   The female on vocals gave it a sound not unlike the 1968 Jefferson Airplane.  They were very good.                        Mick O’Toole . Described as ‘folk punk’, my description is ‘Plastic Paddies’.  ‘Irish Rover’ is featured early and the set is an extension of that. Being told to put my hands in the air as a beginning doesn’t exactly get me on their side either. Tedious, but popular so ‘de gustibus non est disputandum’. (Apologies if my O level Latin isn’t quite accurate).          And that was Friday.  Some very good stuff…and some not so good. Still ok though.

Saturday.  The DJ in the Bar Stage decided, at 11.30 am, to unleash some AC/DC on us. I can only assume that a) his girlfriend is called Rosie  , b) he told her to listen out for the song   c) she lives in f**kin Dover because the dB level was ridiculous.  Especially annoying for those sitting outside when young Leon Tilbrook came on the other stage and they hoped to listen to him. A seasoned performer by now, he didn’t have his well-known father to help out today. Plenty of his peers there to give him a good reception.                                Gavin Martin. Irish punk poet with recorded music back-up. Had to include the word ‘f**kin’ though.                      James and Jonty. Due on the other stage at 1.00pm , it was about 1.15pm when a bloke with a leg in a pot hobbled up. More poetry, Her Ladyship liked him.                          The Random People.  Four teenage girls who seemed to be about forty years too late, as opposed to fifteen minutes as was the bloke in a pot.   But, bless’em, original songs. It made us chuckle when she included lots of obligatory ‘f’ words in one song. Sounded so polite! Plenty of peers and parents there to applaaud them.                 Small Victories. Two young men with shades on drums and guitar/vocals. Seemingly the bass player had to cry off on the Pat and Mick.    But they managed extraordinarily well as a duo.   Own stuff with festival favourite ‘Gloria’ thrown in . We got briefly more excited when we thought he announced a Spirit cover, but it was , I think, Spiritualized.                       Jimmy Regal and the Royals. Their appearance hinted at the onset of ska/Two Tone, but, no, they were a decent blues-based outfit. ‘Look Out’ had an ‘On the Road Again’ feel and some Bo Diddley is always welcome.  They finished with ‘Just Because’, which was much longer than my Flying Burrito Brothers version. Enjoyed them.                 Mee and the Band. Wacky duo, surely influenced by Bjork, Kate Bush and even Peter Gabriel?  They must have put a lot of work into the performance and went down well.      (Did I see Steve Boltz Bolton from Atomic Rooster walking around?)             Databass. Another occasion when the other stage was still going when this one started up.  Dave Ripp on bass, so it was always going to be what I understand to be ‘dub’ based. Plenty in to watch. We sat outside.                             Weird Cousins. B/D/G group with female vocals. Drowned out by Main Stage dj who thought it more important to play a load of ska.   They weren’t all that remarkable really. Harsh?  Maybe, but realistic.                             Hannah Scott. Young singer/songwriter with a decent songs and voice. But just basic chord strumming is just too…basic?                  Dead’s Man Corner. Well that’s what it said on the board! It is the afore-mentioned Steve Boltz’s side group.  Very much based  on sixties rock and roll. Some Billy Fury, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and ‘Is Vic there?’.  Also Memphis Minnie’s ‘When the levee breaks’. Enjoyable set, you can send Mr B a seventieth birthday card next year!                       Twangers. More Hope regulars. ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ set the scene.                         Dishy Tangent. Starting on time, with ‘twanging’ still happening across the way.  Now getting an annoying feature!  Drummer looked and sounded like he should have been in a much heavier outfit. But, again, full marks for playing original stuff.                    Hobo and the Hippies.  More Plastic Paddies, from a few miles down the road.                    Aunt Nelly. Five piece soul combo with female vocalist.                       Professor No Hair and the Wig Lifters. Sub-Ronnie Scott’s jazz stuff but a) warmer in the tent than outside and b) away from a couple of intrusive wimmin who decided that it was perfectly ok to invade our company.   Got some boogie woogie piano and a Booker T-sounding number. Bass solo! Drum solo!  ‘Mojo Working’ got some feet tapping.   Not our sort of stuff really.  Afore -mentioned couple came back to pester us again.  We were so fed up we went . Of course, if I had told them to ‘F**k off’ I would have been homophobic, they would have claimed. In fact, totally not. Is probably xenophobic , if xenophobic means not liking total strangers boring us with details of their tedious f**kin existence.        Went to bed, been awake for a long time. Just beat the rain.

Sunday. Tunehead.  Opening three numbers sounded very much like one of those Steely Dan b-sides which featured an instrumental mix.  In fact, one was a Jaco Pastorius number.  Freddy Husband, Grover Washington and a couple of Miles Davis tunes  came along. Not our genre but much better on a Sunday lunchtime than having some youngster telling us to wake up and put our hands in the air.                            Pelican Assembly. Low-key tapalong stuff with female trumpeter. again, ok for the time and day.                      Interrupted by Memphis  across the way doing their pub covers . ‘Roxette’ got Her Ladyship to her feet, it does no matter who is playing it.    Rolling Stones stuff well in evidence, but , after being marginally overserved the night before, a barrage of King Crimson would have been a bit misplaced.  Strangely, we were talking about Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’ when they started up ‘Walk on the Wild Side’!  I decided to say my Lottery numbers out loud! *             Ukedelix   Women with ukeleles . Struggled with Roy Orbison, but who wouldn’t ?                              Stone Cold Fiction   Youthful power trio with original songs. Keep it up lads.               Dave Bassey. We got talking to a couple of women whose musical knowledge far exceeded ‘Bat out of Hell’, ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits Vol 1-3’ and Robbie Williams so missed watching Mr B and friend. Which was unfortunate, because anyone who starts with the Flying Burrito Brothers and includes Steve Earle, Little Feat and even Manassas in their repertoire will definitely get our attention next year.                                    Similarly missed the excellent Nigel Clark across the field.   Her Ladyship went across and and said he was great, as he had been before. She was especially moved by his rendition of Tom Waits’ ‘I hope I don’t fall in love with you’.                           Alex and the Wonderland.    Early showing of reggae and funky stuff.   All for people doing their own stuff but this lot didn’t interest me.  They seemed to have plenty of friends there to listen to a quasi-Jamiroquai number and Johnny Nash’s ‘Cupid’ sped up my exit.  Went across to await the arival of the excellent Mazaika.                                Like some before them , they came onstage on time but said there was no point trying to play over the other lot who thought they were wonderful enough to overrun. The woman was quite rightly annoyed . Frustrating that a couple of world class musicians whose presence would not go astray in the Royal Albert Hall were kept waiting by a load of bog standard, going-nowhere tw*ts who wouldn’t fill the Royal Albert pub in Grimsby.    Eventually they got going with their blend of hot swing, classic, Russian folk song music and Django Reinhardt.  Absolutely imperious musicians, Brian Unorfadox was in total agreement. He rightly also commented about the eclectic nature of the weekend’s music. I spotted an old biddy in a purple tie-dyed dress having a good jig to ‘Hava Nagila’ and then thought ‘ Sh*t, it’s Her Ladyship in her latest purchase!’. Worth every penny of their fee, which hopefully was in the tens of thousands of pennies Dave!         To end the event, Hope All Stars  mega ska jam session.  Definitely zed-time!

So, overall? An enjoyable weekend, met our festifriends and basked in the sunshine.  Predicted Sunday storm didn’t quite get to us thankfully but there was a spectacular lightning display witnessed from inside our tent in the early hours of Sunday morning. We never got down to the Piano Bar, so apologies for not covering the events there.

1. Music. Eclectic as usual, with the emphasis probably on ska. Missed the usual bonus of unannounced presence of Squeeze or members thereof though.

2. Food. More choice this year but £4.00 for ‘real’, ‘large’ chips!?

3. Bar. Price £4.00 a pint. OK, not Wetherspoons but not JFK Airport prices either!  But staff? Got to be said…hopeless. The number of times we were quoted wrong prices and (almost) given wrong change was far too many. Her Ladyship actually once gave some change back!  The gesture of giving eg £10.20 to make giving change easier on a round of £8.20 should have made things simpler but caused multiple aneurysms, And the fact that appeals were going out at the last minute for help behind the bar just doesn’t wash. The person getting the contract should surely have to provide a well-prepared, quality service. What if all the musicians had turned up without instruments and asked if anyone had a guitar?

4.Security. Seemed fine but certainly not intrusive.

5. Dogs. Once again ‘No Dogs Allowed’ was the order. So why let these tw*ts in with dogs who are just laughing at the stated conditions?

6. Scheduling of stages. The boards seemed to indicate one stage finish/other one starts. Too many instances of acts not sticking to an important schedule.

But a good, friendly event. Getting slightly more popular though.

Anyone wanting to use any of the photos is welcome to do so, it would be nice to credit Her Ladyship though!

Blind Cat Gives You Wingies. S. Wingfield. 4-5 May 2018

Just to explain the complicated title, for the uninitiated. The South Wingfield Social Club is host to the ‘sister’ festival of the Blind Cat Festival. Sadly, the organisers of BC had to cancel early due to poor advance ticket sales. But to their credit (and financial loss) they did it early enough to give full refunds. So to ‘Wingies’

Friday. Entertainment started just before 6,00pm with the hardy annual BB Blackdog. Featuring the full trio, the opening number sounded a bit like Morrisey backed by the Velvet Underground. The next song ‘Groupie’ wasn’t the Delaney and Bonnie song though. Third one up had a Stranglers-ish bass sound plus obligatory female cosmic gyrations and there was a Bo Diddley feel to the encore. They always go down well, although the adjective ‘jolly’ doesn’t spring to mind.            Red Electra 69. 5-piece outfit with an insistent throb and distorted guitar. Two keyboards but suffer a bit from lack of vocals. They did however get some vocal assistance on the final ‘Little Green Men’.                   Not ON.   I seem to remember them at Blind Cat starting out with seven on stage and finishing with even more. Loads of big block chords and there were two bassists. ‘Dirge’ was written by one of them.  Was it the one who stood up and played something we could hear or the other who was seated and seemed to spend the whole set looking down at his box of tricks and occasionally moving his hands on his instrument. I wasn’t the only one in the audience who couldn’t perceive any aural contribution from the latter. The song sounded as though it could have come from San Francisco about fifty years ago, no bad thing!                    Monkey Trial.  Keyboards/percussion/guitar/FX.  Again, lengthy instrumentals . Vocals FX-laden.  Audience very appreciative.                   Deviant Amps. Psychedelic power trio, thirty seconds in we reckoned they were best so far.   OK, not exactly Paul Rodgers on vocals but fine for this. The guitar sound was very Fender and they were the only people to generate some audience movement other than closed-eyed nodding. Might the original Pink Fairies trio sound like this nowadays?   So first night’s music was over, but 1.30am bar closing meant the night was still young for some…but not us!  There had been plenty of Kozfest t-shirts, men with long grey beards and that sad tw*t who tells all in earshot that he is/was a teacher, Thankfully the two a*seholes from Blind Cat who plonk two of King Canute’s bloody thrones in the venue and bugger off for six hours weren’t there.

Saturday. Pretty much 12 hours of music in store so we slipped into FDM (Festival Drinking Mode, one pint per hour, starting at 12.00pm sharp then strictly hourly).     Line-up reshuffle meant Automatone opened up proceedings.  Some improvised instrumental stuff allowed a stand-in drummer to help out while the regular man was en route. It actually sounded not unlike the wonderful 1975 reformed Spirit trio, but with a chunkier Gibson (R.I.P.) sound.  Guitarist’s ‘Do Not Panic’ t-shirt was a warning for some Hawkwind . I probably preferred the earlier instrumental numbers though.               Sonic Trip Project.   Some familiar faces and not unfamiliar instrumental sounds.  Bassist got two yellow cards for not turning down , but avoided being sent off.  Interesting that an abbreviation STP reminded me of the Hendrix B-side  ‘Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice’. It was generally assumed that ‘STP LSD’ had drug references.                       3rd Quadrant. We went to sit outside in the sun, sorry lads!             SpacedOgs.   One of many groups here featuring members doubling/trebling/….up in other outfits. Another 100% instrumental set but it seems the norm for these type of events. Surely there are some bedroom poets out there who would add to some of these combos?   There was some very dodgy slide guitar on occasion.   Wasn’t too bothered about SHOM or Dubbel so went back to the tent.  Came back for Electric Cake Salad. I find the need for some people to categorise groups irritating. Where do they put these lads?  ElectroMetalDisco would be my suggestion if pushed but who cares? We love ’em! We absolutely love ’em!! We absolutely f**kin’ love ’em!!!  Non-believers should check them out via YouTube and if you live within twenty miles of Birmingham there is no excuse for not seeing them live. Set list at the end, cheers Steve!                     Capt. Starfighter and the Lockheeds. Name derived from Hawkwind’s Robert Calvert’s first solo LP, we are treated to ‘Spirit of the Age’, ‘Master of the Universe’, ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ plus more. There was an ‘interesting ‘ second appearance for ‘Little Green Men’ with vocalist Mr Smith changing the title words for a less-than-complimentary phrase aimed at a certain someone whose ensembles he used to feature in.  I can’t comment any further, I don’t know any details.

And Wingies was at an end. Is there any group who has spawned so many festivals based on their music other than Hawkwind? I can’t think of any.

Any festival has pros and cons, so here goes…

  1. Venue. Very like the Stoke Prior set-up (Sonic Rock Solstice and Onboard the Craft).  Her Ladyship was close to wilting on occasions as it wasn’t possible to leave big outside doors open.
  2. Camping. As above, although one of the conditions was that we moved our cars after pitching tent, We did so and had to be towed out of a foot of concealed bog! I hope the many who ignored the moving of their cars haven’t spoiled it for the ones who did.
  3. Beer. It seems like the club kept the prices as normal, ie less than £3.00 a pint. Well done
  4. Staff. All very polite. The lady steward seemed pleased with the general decorum of the punters.
  5. Food. Only one outlet, but capacity of the venue only 199 so too small a crowd to warrant loads of vendors. £1.00 for coffee, £2.00 for egg sandwich puts some of these burgersheds to shame. Small but adequate veggie option.
  6. Toilets. None on campsite, One of each on adjacent bowling green premises, similar in the club. Maybe more luck than judgement, but could have been a big problem if any had become ‘out of order’.
  7. Sound. Very good as is anything under the jurisdiction of Dave Lowe.
  8. Security. There seemed to be lots without wristbands!  Probably a few ‘locals’ in attendance but no problems apparent.
  9. Noise. Dave L had indicated there were going to be warnings from the stage about noise on the campsite, one reason why the bar stayed open until 1.30. There was only one barely-audible comment at the very end, but nothing before. (To keep those wanting to carry on drinking INSIDE!) . There were plenty of ‘notices’ around the venue though, to be fair. The lads camped next to us were still ‘socialising’ in the early hours though on Friday.
  10. Value for money. £30.00. Excellent value.

A good , if short, weekend . Hopefully the Committee here will give the OK for next year. And, re a future Blind Cat Fest, remember the importance of giving the organisers some advance ticket funds. It is vital for this scale of event.

Footnote. I inadvertently accused Automatone’s bassist of not turning down. It was. in fact, Sonic Trip Project who were guilty. I have updated the above review. Thanks for pointing it out, sorry .

Footnote 2. I also mentioned ‘Black Cat’ in the final paragraph instead of ‘Blind Cat’!  Duly amended, thanks for alerting me!

 

 

Festival of the 60s. Butlin’s Skegness. 9-11 March 2018

Not been to the 60s weekend at Skeggy for a while, but were tempted by the prospect of The Pretty Things, especially as rumours were flying that they may be retiring.  By all means have a look at one of the first entries on the Bunternet from December 2011 for a somewhat less-than-gushing review!

Friday. The New Mindbenders. To avoid too much repetition , please have a look at my review of The Mindbenders from August 2012 at Upton Music Festival. This lot have added the word ‘New’, which is shorter than ‘F**k all to do with the real’.  Starting out with the Hollies’ ‘Just one look’, the next 50 minutes or so consists of awful versions of 60s standards eg ‘For your love’, ‘Poison Ivy’, ‘Sealed with a kiss’ and renditions of songs which originally had the word ‘Mindbenders’ on the label of the disc. The performers were nowhere near the studios when they were made , of course. And, yes. they still refer to ‘our old mates’ Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, whom I am sure would be spitting feathers at the misuse of their names. Even a couple of old biddies behind us were shouting abuse at them.  It does hint of masochism by watching them from the point of a  previous encounter , but I thought I would start at the bottom and work up.            Unbelievably, the DJ played ‘All Right Now’?! 60s?!    The Pretty Things.  Starting with ‘Honey I need’, they were firmly planted in the 60s part of their career, via ‘Keep your big mouth shut’ and ‘Big boss man’ following in quick succession. There was a brief swerve into their recent ‘Sweet Pretty Things…’ lp before a couple of eagerly-anticipated tracks from ‘S.F.Sorrow’ had the people at the front singing along. Dick Taylor switched to acoustic for a couple of nods to Mssrs Johnson, Dixon and Diddley before giving us ‘Mona’. They finished with a couple of their 60s hits, and left the genuine fans well pleased. Sadly, we were surrounded by F**kwits Incorporated who were only happy when May, Taylor and Co had left and they could sing along to ‘I’m into something good’. Why come at all?! Stay at home, buy some cans, put on a 60s compilation cassette and save yourself a few hundred quid.  Would the booking agents please put The Pretty Things on for Blues and Rock next year rather than this one, if they haven’t retired.          Kenney Jones and the Jones Gang.  Robert Hart back on vocals? Is he moonlighting from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.  Anyway, we start out with ‘Rollin’ over’ from the seminal ‘Ogden’s’ lp, followed by ‘Substitute’. Kenney, of course, played drums in the Small Faces and was briefly in The Who post-Moon.  And then ‘Maggie May’. At a 60s festival? Mr Hart told us that it was written in 69 and that Kenney played on the record. I have reservations about both these ‘facts’!  Plenty more Small Faces stuff to follow plus Faces and more from The Who.  Strayed a bit from the 60s and Mr H was very keen to invite singalongs (coinciding with his struggling to hit the notes?).  They went down well though, and the Centre Stage audience seemed to go to bed happy and hoarse.

Saturday. Clearwater Creedence Revival.  Yes, read it carefully!  The latest ploy from the copy act industry, just rearrange the words in the original?!  Especially clever when most of the audience have dodgy eyesight. Who can have thought of that?  Step forward Mister…Pete Barton!?  Well known to Bunternet as booking supremo at Butlins, surely he was in Creedence Clearwater Revived?!  Has he left one copy act to form another?  Anyway, they give us an hour of CCR which , to be honest, is pretty good!  Mr Barton has a very good voice, and it is ironic that today’s Telegraph is advertising a John Fogerty gig in London.  Her Ladyship and I are going to form a tribute to The Ramones called Ramones The . And why not?             Ray Ennis and the Original Blue Jeans. If you look at the December 2011 review , I categorised the 60s groups into 7 types. Here is another, namely when an original  has left a group but returns only to find the group name is owned by someone else (cf Martin Turner and Wishbone Ash, also the Sugarbabes).  They come on, but surely that isn’t Mr E? ( Am I mistaken or is it Mike Sweeney, DJ/Swinging Blue Jean/Salford Jet/Mindbender?) No it is not Mr Ennis,  he got the big intro after his buddies had done ‘Please Please Me’.  We get the Swinging Blue Jeans hits, plus predictable rock n roll and other 60s staples. A club act basically. The Nashville Teens were up next, but having seen their club set at A New Day Festival we decided we couldn’t face any more of the same . The evening session in Reds started with The Springfields .  (I think someone from the Rock and Blues weekend was still there, we had landed again on Planet Flatulenta!  And you always know who has let rip, it’s the person who is looking round in disgust in a vain attempt to deflect blame! ).    So Mike Hurst from the Springfields comes on. Neither he nor the DJ mention that he isn’t an original member though, strangely.  Mr H tells us the Springfields are second only to the Beatles regarding the number of hits as a group plus individual members. Interesting stat. Yes, but Dusty Springfield’s 26 chart entries were after she left. I seems he includes songwriting aand production credits by Tom Springfield and himself. Where do you draw the line?  Does the bloke who drove the red bus to the studio get a credit too?  Yes, the Springfields had 5 hits, very creditable. But the bag o’ sh*te that is the Wurzels had 6!  The Stones and Status Quo are but two who have had many many chart entries and what does Mary Wilson of The Supremes say (including Diana Ross stuff?). So, they play a couple of the Springfield hits, plus Everly Brothers stuff. He gives us lots of stories about his very successful career as a producer, with accompanying tunes by the likes of Cat Stevens, Showaddywaddy and Manfred Mann. We get the inevitable Dusty tracks.  He told us that ‘Island of dreams’ took 45 takes, I’m not surprised if he sang like this on the previous 44. His vocals  were sadly iffy at times, the encore was probably their best song.        Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich. Yes, a great name originally but a nightmare if someone leaves! Dave Dee departed from the great 60s line-up and there have been 3 Beakys, I think, but the original is now back.  Big taped intro, first song is Crispian St Peter’s ‘You were on my mind’.  I feared we were about to get a real 60s club act. But it was…OKAY!  Beaky tells a good tale re the history of DDDBM&T and we get half a dozen of ‘their’ hits, interspersed with familiar pop/rock n roll songs.        Crystals featuring La La Brooks. Ms Brooks wasn’t ‘quite’ an original Crystal, but sang lead on ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ and ‘Then he kissed me’. (They start out with the latter and finish with the former). The set is a mixture of old and new, featuring the Stones ‘Beast of Burden’ and a bit of U2.  She encores with the Tina Turner version of ‘Proud Mary’ and is amazingly enegetic for someone who won’t see 70 again. Sadly , she is right when she says that the USA isn’t interested in ‘old’ when it comes to women. Martha Reeves has been on the 60s ‘tours’ for years, but conversely Diana Ross tickets would be just a touch pricier!  Fellow Crystal Barbara Alston died last week.

Sunday. Didn’t bother queueing up for a Beatles copy group, but , of course, hundreds did.  Went in later to see Vanity Fare and Steve Ellis. I remember Vanity Fare exceeded my expectations last time. The bar hadn’t been set particularly high though, I think it was as high as a corgi’s cock. We got the Vanity Fare singles straight off, plus ‘Spirit in the sky’. Steve Ellis came on and gave us 4 of the Love Affair singles plus a singalong ‘All or nothing’. Did what it says on the tin.          Stan Boardman Don’t think a comedy spot has featured before but well done to whoever made the decision. Had the place in stitches, a welcome addition to the weekend.        Evening starts with The Searchers. Have seen them a few times, I especially liked their period c. 1979 when they made a couple of great lps, including ‘Hearts in her eyes’ and ‘September Gurls’. They started with ‘Sweets for my sweet’, ‘Don’t throw your love away’ and ‘Sugar and spice’ and all seemed well. But then it was ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ ?!. Still got some of their many hits but also loads of other people’s hits. Won’t bore you with the titles, but I wondered if it was because they were playing over in the other venue later and they were spreading the load? Bloody Gerry and the Pacemakers singalong?!  In fact, I went across later to check them out and the set seemed the same.  Very, very disappointing. After decades, they seem to have descended into the morass of all the other club groups. And Frank Allen was a bit economical with the truth. Praise for the first Searchers lp, but it slipped his mind to tell us that he wasn’t on it?         The Fortunes. Another outfit who last time seemed a tad confused with the facts. Bob Jackson is a member who is also in a version of Badfinger. (There is a rival version in the USA with an original member). He sang a couple of their songs, giving the impression that maybe he was on the original singles?  He certainly didn’t introduce them by saying that he wasn’t in Badfinger at the time.  Drummer informed us he had been in Love Affair and Marmalade and bass player had been in the Dakotas. Again, the words ‘original member’ didn’t feature.  It is to some extent being a bit picky, as they are a very polished outfit, but to be fair most of the audience don’t know or care about their lineage. They just want to dance and sing to familiar songs. Plenty of standard 60s songs to do it to.            Herman’s Hermits. Featuring their original drummer, they are always sure to refer to the hits as being by ‘Herman’s Hermits’ and not by ‘us’.  They did play many of the many hits, but spoilt it a bit with a medley of other people’s stuff. Got a drum solo too!  Her Ladyship was annoyed that they sang the wrong words to one HH song though (Sunshine girl) A woman behind us was fully expecting to see Peter Noone, she is obviously not a regular attender on the 60s circuit. Something I never knew is that there is Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone playing in the USA. They were always huge over there and it brings back to mind my many entries on the Andy Powell v Martin Turner case regarding the name Wishbone Ash.

And that was that. Anything to add?

  • Queues.  Mindnumbing. It seems that there are people who start one if there isn’t one there.
  • Venues. The carpet in Reds was like walking into the manager’s office in a glue factory.
  • Toilets. Mayhem in Reds. The Gents was closed (about time they were fumigated!!). ‘Ladies’ had to double up.
  • Drinks. Prices par for the course. Staff always polite
  • Food. Has been very decent for ages.
  • ‘Best of fest’. The Pretty Things.
  • ‘Star Quality’. La La Brooks.
  • ‘Do Not Resuscitate’. The New Mindbenders
  • DJs. Out of the 1000s of 60s songs, they only seemed to play about 10! Must have heard ‘Penny Arcade’ in every session
  • Merchandise. Hardly any. Stan Boardman had some  and  Herman’s Hermits were the only ones we saw come down to sign and sell stuff. 3 cds/dvds for an Ayrton Senna.
  • Candour. No, not a little-known 60s group, just a plea for a bit more ‘truth’. I know that people leave and join these groups, and (sadly) members die. There aren’t many people who have the same job for more than 50 years and there are examples above of some such people. But would it hurt too much just to say ‘We are The ***** and , yes, we are all too young to have been on these records but we will give it our best shot’?

All in all, better than our last 60s  visit.

HMS Prog. P and O Ferries Minicruise. 2-3 March 2018

P&O have been doing themed weekend minicruises for quite a while, including different genres of music and (no kidding) darts!  On a ferry?!  The prog rock version is the first attempt at this type of music so it is a first review.

We were lucky with the weather. Leeds to Hull seemed to have a clear corridor, if we had been 20 miles north, south or west we would have been snowbound.

Friday. An annoying delay setting off meant the opening act, Cairo, had to remove their gear but would play tomorrow night instead.          So Martin Turner ex-Wishbone Ash was first up. Tonight’s performance was the classic Argus LP in full, with the running order changed slightly.  Martin’s vocals were a bit wobbly to start with, but quickly got sorted. Danny and Tim are both strong back-up vocalists and there were plenty of Wishbone Ash fans there to witness a good rendition. No encore, unfortunately, but maybe the delay in departure was to blame. The overall vocal sound was maybe a touch ‘clubby’ but the playing was spot on.              Caravan.  No Geoff Richardson tonight, his place was taken by the highly-experienced jazz guitarist John Ethridge. Probably best known from Soft Machine, I seem to remember Her Ladyship saw him playing with Darryl Way’s Wolf in Scarborough (when Mr Way fell off the stage,)  Any Caravan fans who have seen recent gigs will have not been surprised by the set list. ‘All this could be yours’ , ‘Head Loss’, ‘If I could …’, ‘…Grey and Pink’, ‘Golf Girl’ and ‘Love to love you’.  Newer tunes such as ‘Farewell my old friend’, ‘Dead man walking’, ‘Fingers in the till’ all have that recognisable Caravan touch and they finish off with ‘I’ll be there for you’ and the crowd favourite ‘9 feet underground’.  Very enjoyable, we went upstairs to watch Geoff Downes on his keyboard. Missed the first half, but ‘Heat of the moment’ and ‘Video killed the radio star’ ended a good first night for us.

Saturday. Weather conditions meant we didn’t get into Amsterdam until 12.30pm, about 2 hours later than normal. So we didn’t go to the ‘secret’ gig, due to start at 1.00pm and featuring a couple from Pendragon on acoustic instruments.  Decided to look round the flea market and go bar-hopping (our usual schedule in Amsterdam). Crap exchange rate makes it an expensive way to spend 4 hours there.  Suitably refreshed we boarded the coach back and waited for Round 2.      Cairo. Having set up again, they started up with some FX. Strange that a 5-piece standard prog line-up should need so much electronic assistance.  I thought their first song was about President Trump ( ‘White House’) but it seems it was ‘Wiped Out’.  A couple of blokes in front of us were in major ‘whoop ‘ mode but I couldn’t see why. Possibly it was the gallon of over-priced Grolsch in the afternoon that had affected my ears? No, I decided, they were just crap.        Martin Turner and his chums came on for their second spot, this time playing the ‘There’s the Rub’ lp. The first studio outing for Laurie Wisefield, I aways thought it had Martin’s stamp all over it.  Today’s rendition was really good, all the vocals were excellent. They even managed a couple of encores with ‘Doctor’ and ‘Jail bait’. The bass sound was better than Friday and it had my thinking that if Mr Powell should try the same project he would come a real cropper.       PFM.  Veteran Italian proggers, filling in for original act Focus.  Not heard a note by them before, but I was very quickly impressed. Will check them out when I get home.    The weekend came to an end with another Geoff Downes spot. More from his extensive career, plus a Q&A session.  Two of Mart’s lot got up to do some Beatles songs, which seemed a bit bizarre, but Her Ladyship pointed out that maybe the Q&A section was flagging a bit  (and most of the audience were marginally overserved by this time).

And that was it.  An enjoyable weekend. Not cheap but hopefully it was successful enough to warrant another one. Negatives? There were people there who wouldn’t have known Martin Turner from Tina Turner but the audience in general were well-behaved prog fans. The sound system seemed to have one prog cd on repeat play.  Saturday’s pre-gig music had some sub-jazz  bollox on. When Her Ladyship politely requested some more ‘appropriate’ stuff she got a smartarse reply . It’s a good job there was some reinforced glass there, or he would have been eating his crisps through a  f**king straw. TW*T! ( N.B this wasn’t the prog DJ). The crossing was a bit rocky but nothing that P and O can can do about that.

photos…forgot camera so not great quality, taken on phone.

Ramones. LIVE…MONTEVIDEO…NOVEMBER…’94. ECHOCD2052.

The festival season is not too far away and we will be inundated by lots of Led Zeppelin t-shirts (did they ever have any official ones back in the day?) and lots AND LOTS of Ramones t-shirts. One of our festival chums holds the opinion that only people who actually saw the Ramones can wear a t-shirt.  Of course, many of the wearers were not yet born when the Ramones finished, never mind started.  And have probably no idea who they were. So this review is mainly for them.

Over their 22 year career, there were quite a few official live lps. For me, they all give a better idea of what the fuss was all about than even their first studio lps.  However, in recent years there has been a glut of ‘semi-official’ cds ( from a range of artists) on the market, sourced from radio broadcasts. This one from da brudders came out in 2016 and features the Joey/Johnny/Marky/CJ line-up in a 1994 gig in Uruguay.

In the latter half of their career their set list had become pretty standard. The shows were about 60 minutes, with about 30 songs including a few from their most recent lp. Dee Dee/CJ got to exercise their tonsils briefly in the second half of the set. ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ recorded intro preceded the instrumental ‘Durango 95’ and the first 20 minutes-ish of the set was a high-speed aural blastathon. It includes the wonderful segue of ‘Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’ which alone is worth the price. This tour was on the back of their covers disc ‘Acid Eaters’ (about which Johnny had mixed feelings) and there are songs from the likes of Love, Dylan and CCR here amongst their tried and tested favourites. ( ‘The KKK took my baby away’ seems to have been rested.)

The set is maybe slightly longer than usual and there is about 10 minutes of DJ chat before the gig , plus the odd comment during the show which isn’t too distracting.

The sound on these types of releases can sometimes be poor but this is pretty good. As is the performance. Purists tend to stick to the official ‘It’s Alive’ as the ultimate example, but this is about 20  minutes longer if nothing else. Yes, they were pretty much on automatic pilot in their second decade but if you are curious about what a phenomenon they were, you could do worse than this. These discs appear regularly on Ebay and at record fairs for a few quid, so put your hand in your pocket, part with some cash, and put it on.  But go for a pee first, turn it up to 11, crack a tinny or two, maybe skip the DJ stuff at the start and give it some welly.

And if anyone asks you which gig you bought the t-shirt at, tell them that yours truly wears Beatles t-shirts but he never saw them. So b*gger off!