Tag Archives: Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican

Whitwell Festival of Music. 7-9 Sept 2018

Our second visit to this tiny festival, we came for the first time last year. It is the 10th event…but not the 10th anniversary or birthday!! They are not the first to fall into the trap though. Remember, the first birthday or anniversary of an event is actually the second event, so the tenth event falls on its ninth birthday. Sorry to nitpick. Only a handful on the campsite, again with friendly volunteers as oppposed to minimum wage ‘stewards’ at all-for-profit festivals.

Friday. Went into, for our starters for ten , the Social Club and caught a bit of  Morris and Watson. The club has an open mic session, and Her Ladyship reckoned she could remember their ‘Northern Mining Town’ song from last year.                      Pete Drake. I remember he was really good on the small third stage last year, just doing spoken word. Her Ladyship was sure he had a guitar then , but our friend Mike from SAGA (Salford Anti-Greenchair Association) sided with yours truly.  And, I have to say, the numbers came across much better as a poetry medium last year rather than accompanied by basic guitar strumming . IMHO is , I believe, the social media addendum nowadays.                                              Time to go into the festival proper, first up were Sheffield’s The Rosadocs. In fact, three-quarters of them as the drummer couldn’t make it.  Wouldn’t class them as a ‘rock and roll band’, but maybe they would have been with a drum kit.  Quite reminiscent of nineties Britpop and full marks to them for not taking the easy way out and cry off.                          Bleeding Hearts. 4-piece,  they started out in a quite heavy way, with ‘Devil’s Mosh’ and ‘Caravan Song’. Her Ladyship’s attention was definitely got. One of the guitarists was sporting a bijou Telecaster which Her Ladyship must have washed for him at the same time as she did my white woollen cricket jumper many years ago…namely at 90 degrees C.  They tended to revert to pirate-punk mode after that, which the crowd seemed to like.                                TV Smith. Former lead singer with The Adverts, he is still treading the boards at 61 years of age.   ‘Expensive Being Poor’ and ‘Immortal Rich’ pretty much sum up his ethos.   He almost could be classed as a protest singer for today, a title which Bob Dylan has long discarded.   He was joined by local lads W.O.R.M. for a blast of old Adverts stuff  and the audience duly joined in with ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’.  The lads did a good job at such short notice, and I  have to mention bassist Don. The reason is that I am expecting a large bulky brown envelope in the post, very similar in size to the ones that (allegedly) used to regularly go to a high-ranking FIFA official, stuffed with Swiss Francs and initialled appropriately. No, not to Sevvy Ballasteros, not to Steve Buscemi and definitely not Sandra Bullock. Don’t be silly!   Great to see TV still showing some passion. Pitiful that one of his peers, a certain Mr Lydon, is now wallowing in filthy lucre and advertising butter.                   Didn’t stop for Karl Phillips and the Rejects. We are not ska fans. but plenty are and they went down well again, according to the lad in the tent next to us. A good start to the weekend.

Saturday. The Storm Trees. They started with a hybrid of the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’ and The White Stripes ‘7 Nation Army’.  Most of the songs were originals but there were songs by Fleetwood Mac, Iggy and Wild Cherry to get the occasional audience participation. BUT…and it, sadly, is an important ‘BUT’, the lady was not too adjacent with her ‘pitch’ for a lot of the time. Yes, that may seem harsh, hopefully it was a one-off .                                    Kid Conventional. Singer-songwriter from Sheffield. Mainly original songs. eg ‘Samantha’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ (obviously not THAT ONE).   He is a self-confessed Conor Oberst nut and covered his ‘First Day of my Life’ released by Bright Eyes in 2005.   He also threw in ‘That’s Alright Mama’ towards the end. Good voice , decent songs.                                   Broken Flowers. Seemingly based in String o’ Beads but we hadn’t heard of them. Classed as ‘Alt Rock Country’. Not sure what that means, but if it actually means two of the members wear baseball hats then all is clear.  And…they were absolutely great! Self-penned songs such as ‘Nobody knows it but me’, ‘These are the things’ and ‘I saw the light’ would have been well- received in Layla’s and all the other bars in Downtown Nashville . They finished with Petty and Nicks’ ‘Stop dragging my heart around’.  Anna has a great voice and great songs and we will be checking out their gig list as soon as we get back home. An absolute must for any country-rock fans, Full marks to the committee for a 100% thumbs up for this lot when deciding on the weekend’s line-up.                         Chris Reardon.  With a bass and drummer, and the occasional computerised ‘help’.  Bluesy rock stuff, which had a fairly tepid response to start with, but the Clapometer increased as the set progressed. Did he really need the ‘extra’ instrumentation? Jack, Ginger and Eric seemed to managed ok half a century ago.                        Foreign Accent. Nottingham based folkies of Hungarian descent , playing the music of their heritage. A definite first for us, but only saw a few minutes as we needed to go outside to prepare for                          The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. Their profile has taken a sharp climb since their festival-stealing show at Cropredy, and all the favourites (old and new) are on show today. ‘Devil’, ‘Paint’, BISTO’, ‘Glove’, ‘Greggs’, ‘Dodworth’, ‘Cockwomble’ and a mass ‘Jump’.    It does what it says on the tank-top, basically.                                Department S. Like most of the audience, we only know one of their songs. But that is sadly remiss of Her Ladyship and me. They were really good, and have plenty of songs such as ‘Sonic Reducer’, ‘Age Concern’ and ‘Wonderful Day’ as well as ‘Is Vic There?’  Original frontman Vaughan Toulouse died in 1991, but this line-up seemed pretty good to our relatively ‘green’ ears.                        Went inside for Addictive Philosophy. No, we don’t like ska-punk stuff but the weather was not great outside so went in for a seat.  This lot from Derby were the Indoor Stage headliners. A three piece with ‘virtual’ drums and bass. Don’t they sell drum kits or bass guitars in Derby? Maybe the music shops refused to sell either to this lot, using the reason that  they are complete dross.  Two women and a bloke, who after a while started to swear to maybe get some attention. It is a shame they didn’t just say ‘We are (insert name) and are f**kin sh*te’ at the beginning.  And gone home.   To use a well-worn epithet ‘From the sublime (Broken Hearts) to the ridiculous (I have already forgotten their name).  IMHO, of course!                        Having missed 3 Daft Monkeys outside , we went out for Doctor and the Medics. Big, bad and as camp as a field of tents, the good doctor comes bouncing on and into Blondie’s ‘Call Me’.  Now maybe it’s me, but the sight of hundreds of hairy-arsed blokes from Derbyshire dancing about and singing along to ”Tainted Love’ was more than a little unnerving!  I concluded that our friend Neil must have slipped some of the Brown Acid left over from Woodstock into our pint pots (and, yes. still technically £2.99 a pint folks)…or everybody else’s but ours!   So we ‘decamped’ across to the Boot and Shoe for  a night cap ( or three).  A good day though, all in all.

Sunday. We missed Sunday last year, having had alternative appointments with both Roger Waters and Poco in New York City.                       Crag Rats. Local rockabilly outfit with a mixture of own songs and covers such as ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ and ‘Say Mama’. Their rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ was good and they cunningly followed it with a number that LZ used to open their early shows with, namely ‘Train kept a -r0llin’ which was a number from their ‘New Yardbirds’ days.                                              Sneakin’ Stupidity. Billed as a tribute to Wilko Johnson and Dr Feelgood. Set list follows to give you an idea. Lookin Back/No Mo Do Yakamo/She does it right/Cell Block no 9/Hog for you baby/Barbed wire blues/The more I give/Down at the Doctors/Roxette/Milk and Alcohol/Going back home.  (I think they did Back in the Night too).  So what were they like! If you think that a tribute act is good if they sing all the right words then ok.  But this lot sounded nothing like Dr Feelgood or Wilko. Seemingly the guitarist saw them in 75, which is when my first of about 50 of Feelgoods gigs was .  So couldn’t he have tried to play like Wilko rather than strum along!? All of Wilko’s successors have at least tried to play the likes of Roxette and She Does it Right in his style and usually done a decent job. This bloke said ‘I hope we have done justice to Dr Feelgood’. If he had said ‘Sorry, we can’t sound like Dr Feelgood but here are some songs’ it would have been better. I can’t remember Lee Brilleaux bashing a tambourine or singing like a Club singer.  They might just have well given the Dr Feelgood songbook to the Wurzels and let them play it. Oh, he had a Telecaster, so all ok then. And pointed it at the audience and occasionally looked wide-eyed.                                Ar Faroued. Folkies from Nottingham. Mixture of covers from likes of Coldplay, Elbow, Jethro Tull  and original songs. Main singer had a good voice and U2’s ‘Still haven’t found…’ got a good treatment at the end.  Their name means ‘Beechwood’ we gather.  Enjoyed their laid-back set.                                   Silver Darlings. Not quite sure about the Leonard Cohen comparison.  Not easy to pigeon-hole (not a bad thing!), they had some good original songs. One song had a ‘Matty Groves’ -ish snatch.  Anybody hoping for ‘All Right Now’ or ‘Highway to Hell’ would have been disappointed.                                     And then it is John Otway. Not sure if he has officially been designated a national treasure yet but it can’t be too far away.  Like all Otway fans know, the set pretty well remains the same. ‘Her eyes were the lasers of love’ and ‘Poetry and Jazz’ provided a rest from the absolute carnage before and after.  Impossible to do justice to the phenomenon that is Otway by writing about him, you need to go and see him.

An early finish, so we went with the two SAGA directors, plus a couple of their mates, to the Royal Oak for Quiz Night. Theoretically a good idea but the afore-mentioned SAGA people had been drinking all day and their reading on the M.O.S. (Marginally Overserved Scale) was 87.5%. There was also, of course, a proportionate effect on their combined larynxes. They were seriously challenging The Who’s 126dB level from Charlton Athletic’s football ground show in 1976, with considerable assistance from Her Ladyship.  The team managed to win some beer vouchers and the meat raffle! (Yes, the meat raffle is not extinct!). We also had a woman nearby who said that Otway had been ‘rabbish’. I was tempted to tell her that if Otway had been here he would have given her the thumbs up and grinned, saying ‘Thanks, job done then!’ But it would have been wasted.   A good end to very good weekend.

Value for money? Excellent. A great advert for the village and its residents, although I gather there are a few NIMBYs to placate. No individual pockets to line, most of the artists doing it for basic expenses.

Music. Not all of the music was to our taste, but I don’t expect it to be. But I can’t not say that something is …er…’not good on my ears’. The Doonicans, Department S, Broken Flowers, TV Smith, Otway, Ar Faroued …I would gladly watch them all again. But if someone is singing flat or a tribute act sounds nothing like the original or some socio-political-anarcho outfit is just plain rubbish I have to say so.

Beer. Not rip-off festival prices. Indoor bar did get really ‘busy’ on Saturday though.

Sound. Foreign Accent had some problems but overall it was fine all round.

Food. Seemed ok to me but I don’t eat much. Her Ladyship managed to eat all of her noodles without leaving the customary 10% down the front of a white top so must have been decent.

Camp site. Fine. A bit surprised to find the portaloos had gone on Monday morning, but it makes sense financially. I know how much they cost in 2007 and given the few people on the campsite, the price per plop is plenty!

Thanks to Neil, Val and all the committee and volunteers for a great weekend. Long may it continue.



Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. 9-11.08.2018

Our fourth visit to Cropredy.  We only go when there are people on the bill who we really want to see. I suspect the vast majority of customers go every single year, meet the same people in the same spot in the arena every year. They then set up a village and talk all weekend.  They wouldn’t know if they had paid £150 plus to watch Peter Sutcliffe and the Hammer Wielders. Nice situation for the organisers though! Diversion getting there, set our tent up only to be flanked by someone with Blenheim Palace perched on a couple of wheels.

Thursday.  Fairport Convention . Fairport now start proceedings with a twenty minute acoustic spot. ‘Festival Bell’ kicks off the weekend, with former member Maart Alcock making the first of quite a few guest appearances.               Smith and Brewer. Couple of blokes with acoustics.  ‘Another Shade of Blue’ was among the songs they played from their upcoming record. Pleasant enough, they got a good hand.                               Police Dog Hogan. Mix of Irish, Americana and West Country . They managed to overcome a false start when the bass player’s Poundworld guitar lead seemed to have melted. Suspect he may struggle to get a refund. Unusual line-up, but Her Ladyship got a bit fidgetty and went back to the tent for umbrellas and ponchos. Strange that Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’ seems to be the ‘go to’ song for anyone venturing into Plastic Paddy mode. Bit of humour too, but not sure if either of us would queue up at the signing tent.                     Oysterband.  One of the reasons we plumped for a visit . We have been big fans since first seeing them in 1999 and find it unbelievable that they haven’t featured here since 2004.  Lots of favourites today (‘River runs’, ‘Here’s to you’, ‘All that way for this’, ‘Walking down the road with you’ and more). A reworking of their very old ‘Oxford Girl’ got some singalonging, but they lose a point for no ‘Bells of Rhymney’. A great performance , please don’t let it be another fourteen years wait!                      Brian Wilson presents Pet Sounds. I was very, very nervous about this. I have been a Beach Boys fan since the sixties and rate ‘Pet Sounds’ only beaten to the top spot in’ best lp ever’ by Love’s ‘Forever Changes’. ( Back in the early noughties I saw Arthur Lee and Love do a great job live with that.)  Tonight we get an awful, cheesy ‘Greatest Hits’ orchestral interlude before we are greeted  with the sight of a very frail BW being helped on stage with a nurse and walking frame. The opening notes of ‘California Girls’ strike up and Brian’s vocals are very ‘strained’. A couple of other hits follow before he (wisely) hands over the vocals to Al Jardine whose tonsils  have weathered the years better.  More hits follow, plus Al’s excellent ‘California Saga’ along with some more obscure songs.   We then get the entrance of Blondie Chaplain , who fleshed out the group in the seventies. He took over the vocals on ‘Feel Flows’, ‘Wild Honey’ and ‘Sail on Sailor’.  But he seems to have thought the show was ‘The Brian Wilson Show starring Blondie Chaplain’!  Much heavy metal guitar ( ‘basic’ is the kindest adjective I can muster’), maybe someone had sprinkled some Colombian Marching Powder into his £8.00 fish and chips?   Then it was ‘Pet Sounds’. Not going to give a blow-by-blow account but Mr W at one point during ‘God only knows’ looked genuinely upset that he couldn’t ‘make’ the notes. But then again, he knew back in 66 that brother Carl would nail it and gave it to him. (Mike Love wisely incorporated live footage with Carl in Beach Boys shows a few years ago.)  A few more hits to finish off the show, but not his solo ‘Love and Mercy’ which has featured on the tour.  It was at times a bit tearful, both watching the poignancy of a fragile genius and just watching him on stage after being a fan for fifty plus years.    Great night.

Friday. Had a walk into the village. Her Ladyship is a very smiley individual and was disappointed and suprised that this snotty, folky crowd are just plain ignorant. At every other fest we go to , we are greeted with ‘Good Morning’ from passers-by. Here? Not so much as a nod. And the arena last night was a sea of litter. Anyway, sod ’em, back to the tent to start ex- Fairport producer Joe Boyd’s book . (Cheers Les, will give you it back in October). By now, lashing it down so headed for our first ever visit to Brasenose Arms. Managed to find a seat and decided to stay. Decided to go to the arena after a few sherbets, where it was             Cregan and Co. A few years ago Jim recruited a talent show Rodalike and hit the boards playing some songs he co-wrote , and lots he didn’t.  He also features in the new-look Family line-up. (The Rodalike wasn’t there tonight though.)   Last few songs featured ‘Sweet little rock n roller’, ‘Twisting the night away’ and ‘Maggie May’. (He neglected to say he didn’t co-write any of those.) Much singing along to a club group, basically.   Hoping next year that Tetsu and Co are here, playing Free and Faces songs. After all, he co-wrote the ‘B’ side of ‘Wishing Well’.    Her Ladyship went off to watch the Doonicans doing a brief spot at the Radio Oxford tent. I predicted before we set off that that they would take Cropredy by storm.                   Le Vent du Nord. Electric Francophiles from Quebec. Very talented and unusual but with limited appeal. Strangely enough, they didn’t play ‘You wear it well’. One of them ran over a dog in 1972 that belonged to a woman who lived next door to a milkman who delivered Rod Stewart’s yoghurts.                          Fish .  Her Ladyship is a fan, but she is not sure why! She can’t even remember seeing him at the Acoustic Festival some years ago. Then again , she did go wandering off to the toilet that night about 2.00 am , fell into a water-filled ditch and was stuck in mud and nettles until somebody heard her cries. To me, he is still very much sub-Genesis Gabriel era.  A Marillion song to finish, he still has a loyal following.                                  Kate Rusby. Amazingly, she has never appeared here before. Last year’s t-shirt boasts The Divine Comedy and Petula Clark. Am I missing something?  Great to see Ms R doing a ‘regular’ set, our recent viewings have been her Christmas songs. Plenty of well-known numbers , incl ‘Hunter Moon’, Nick Jones’s ‘The Blind Harper’, ‘Big Brave Bill’ and ‘The Ardent Shepherdess’. Her Ladyship had gone down to the front to watch, and like me on the hill, found herself surrounded by loads of people talking and not giving a ‘f**k about who was on…or anyone who actually wanted to listen. Ms R should adopt Neil Young’s response (‘Why have you people actually paid f**kin money to come to see me?!) . Kate ended with ‘Underneath the stars’, coinciding with a plug for her own fest of the same name.  She has been a class act for years. Not interested in yet another appearance by the Levellers. Early night to bed for us.

Saturday. We inadvertently arrived a few minutes before the gates opened, and the sight of middle-aged men and women scurrying across the field to get their ‘spot’ was laughable.                                Richard Digance. A Croppers institution , although he missed last year. An occasion to air some new songs, but the likes of ‘Sod’s Law’, are never far away. His ‘Salisbury’ song is a modern day protest song almost and , of course, there is ‘We are searching’ complete with hanky waving.  He has the rare ability to get the audience crying and laughing simultaneously and is a great guitarist.  Try to catch him on tour if you don’t fancy sitting in a wet field.                       Eric Sedge. Singer-songwriter. His opening ‘Pleased to meet you’ had a bit of Quo tagged on. Thoughtful songs.                  Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. Fellow Barnslegians to Kate Rusby. How would they go down with the Cropredy faithful? Would my prediction come true? There were a few sniggers to start with from an unsure crowd, but an hour later it was mayhem! Thousands ‘Jumpin Arraand’ and clapping.  I think it helped that a big majority were Doonicans virgins. For the uninitiated, they rewrite the lyrics to well-known songs by such as Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Marc Cohn, Police , The Wombles and …Abba. Sometimes the lyrics are lost in a noisy crowd but the punchline is the title which always gets a huge laugh. I won’t spoil the jokes but Her Ladyship couldn’t breathe for laughing at the newer ‘How Deep is your Glove’. Doonicans won by a cricket score.  I should have had a bet.                         Will Varley. Had the unenviable task of following the Doonicans. In an electric four-piece, he has one of those voices that seems to be about to burst into tears. He gave us the first (and second) ‘F’ word of the weekend.  He did nowt for me, and the rest of the audience seemed only to give him polite applause. But his short overrun generated some more interest. Plenty of people queueing up for cd signing.                      Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys. Nothing to do with the deceased ‘Porridge’ and’ Allo, Allo’ actor or the Keifer Sutherland comedy vampire film.  A sort of East Anglian Seth Lakeman. Mainly originals, they did an interesting ‘Sultans of Swing’, featuring some great banjo playing. They finished with mass jumping too.                              Afro Celt Sound System. By now it was lashing down and after the next twenty minutes of screaming women and endless percussion solos I knew what the term ‘water torture’ meant.  The rain and the ‘music’ went on for an hour.  What a gay day!                          Al Stewart. It was about now that I found it impossible to hold a book, pen and umbrella at the same time and keep the ink from running too. So apologies to Mr Stewart and his cohort for not logging details of their very good spot. Ralph McTell joined him on a Jackson C. Frank song.  ‘On the Border’, ‘Time Passages’ and his ‘hit’ ‘Year of the Cat’ were all well-received as were his anecdotes about Robert Fripp etc.  He deserved better weather.                         Fairport Convention and Friends. I was again rendered unable to write, courtesy of the relentless precipitation. But I remember ‘Crazy Man Michael’ making an early entrance. As usual plenty of instrumentals to show off their prowess, such as ‘Bankruptured’ and ‘Surfeit of Lampreys’.In fact , the opening half was very much in recognition of the forty years since the hugely untimely death of Sandy Denny. Plenty of guests came on to sing her songs including Iain Matthews and Fish, after a Denny slideshow. ‘Solo’ and ‘Who knows…’ went down well. Dave Pegg introduced ‘Walk awhile’ from the Full House lp as his first Fairport performance, it’s still great.  Maart came on again, fresh from his bass-playing with the Doonicans. But no Ralph McTell?  As usual, Fairport finish the set with ‘Matty Groves’ before coming back on to lead 20,000 piss-wet people through ‘Meet on the Ledge’.   A great end to a great weekend.

Music. Some great performances, some ok. In my opinion, of course.

Prices. Beer started with a 4, but this is Oxfordshire. The Welsh Oggies seem to have shrunk in size.

Security. Quite why we have to show our wristbands to go to the toilet, when we cannot have got there without having one anyway I don’t know. But never heavyhanded.

Campsite. Fine…and quiet!

Litter. As mentioned before. It’s as if the folky elements expect some lower class minimum wage people to pick up their crap.

Bar staff. Fine, unusual not to be shortchanged at a festival!

Village. It embraces the festival, which it makes financial sense to do. I found a cassette of Bob and the Band’s ‘Before the Flood’ for 50p. Plus a Howling Wolf double cd and my third copy of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s fantastic debut lp for a quid each.

We will return! Hoping for Pure Prairie League, New Riders of the Purple Sage or Little Feat next year. ( I made a similar request after 2013 but not successful! Check out the 2013 review.) If it is UB40 or The Buzzcocks again though we will be somewhere else. In fact , ANYwhere else.

And if Alison Krauss and Union Station are coming I will pick the litter up myself…with my teeth.

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Acoustic Festival of Britain. Uttoxeter. 2-4. 6.2017

We gave last year a miss, having been a touch disappointed with the previous year. Some of the announcements looked promising, so we gave it another shot. So, review time… (And, OK, it’s not strictly ‘acoustic’, but most of the guitars are acoustic , with pick-ups).

Friday. Bit drizzly putting the tent up, but managed to get in to catch some of Lost Tuesday Society.  Not sure I could match up what I could see and hear with the programme notes, but they were pleasant enough. Never easy to have the opening slot (OK Status Quo did well at Live Aid!). Her Ladyship liked them but she had to go for a walk as some Morris dancers were sitting too near (New Zealand would have been too near).        Gaz Brookfield Regular festival goers all over will be familiar with him. Opening song about diabetes set the tone and the tempo.  For me, the latter is a problem. He has pithy lyrics, but every song is a fast strum. Could you maybe think about having a go at some slow finger picking occasionally?  He had a new record to plug. Her Ladyship liked his ‘observational’ words. Back to the tent for my insulin, ironically!          Wee Bag Band.  Came back as they were Irish roving. Plenty of Irish themes but I couldn’t detect any Irish accents.  Sea shanties too.  An instrumental ‘Hey Jude’ started slowly and prettily but speeded up to jigglydiggly pace and ended up at thrash metal level.  Her Ladyship liked the sound of Cartoon Food in the nearby tent and went to check them out.                             Just as The Men They Couldn’t Hang  were due on, it started to rain. We went inside to get a good spot for Martin Turner. The front of the programme said’ Martin Turners Wishbone Ash’, the schedule inside it said’ Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash’ and the notes said ‘Wishbone Ash by Martin Turner’.  I believe he is now, officially, Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash. So we went in to see all four groups!  Anyway, the acoustic-ish line-up launched into ‘Time Was’, the opening song from what was to be an unusual rendition of the complete’ Argus’.   It was rearranged slightly to feature ‘Blowin’ Free’ at the end, as was the re-recorded ‘Argus Through the Looking Glass’ by Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash…bugger that’s now five  groups! ‘Jailbait’ from ‘Pilgrimage’ finished the set, it would have been great to have ‘No Easy Road’ too. Did it work? Definitely. A great performance, Her Ladyship led the obligatory jumping up and down to the outro of ‘Blowin’ Free’. And that was it for us. I wondered is it a coincidence that ‘being old’ rhymes with ‘being  cold’? Can’t be.

Saturday. Thankfully, the toilets had been cleaned and soap/toilet paper replenished. How many times have your eyes watered when confronted by the contents after the first night!?               Rumblestrutters. One of organiser Mike Stephens’ favourites,  they are a jug band…with an actual jug.  Originals mixed with the likes of Skip James, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and Tampa Red. A decent start to the day.        Acoustic Beatles. Oh dear.  Programme mentioned a duo with two voices and two acoustic guitars. (Incorrect on all three). And, Mike, are they your words about a version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ that surpasses the original?! I know we are entitled to an opinion but …) We waited with bated breath for the song.  What we got was a Working Man’s Club/ wedding reception copy group. Of course, everyone knows the words and everyone sings along ( not everyone). Her Ladyship was not impressed that they missed out part of ‘A Little Help from my Friends’.  In case you are thinking I have also missed out part of the title, the word’ With’ was not in the original title on the lp. Find an original  copy and check it out.  Her Ladyship, of course, went ‘Aah, I love this one’ to every song.   I went for a walk but couldn’t escape. Sadly, I predict there will be more people wanting them back than anyone else (see also Counterfeit Stones and T. Rexstacy. That’s why live music venues put on bloody tribute sh*te rather than new music..) And we didn’t get ‘Eleanor Rigby’!  End of rant.   Went back to the tent, had to endure what sounded like the terminally tedious  Big Fibbers from afar. Not going to give them the honour of italics or bold letters.           Her Ladyship went off to see brilliantly inept Ed Tudor Pole, I chose to stay to give Nick Harper another go. I saw him many years ago at the much-lamented Rhythm Festival but it wasn’t to my taste.  I have to say he is nothing if not consistent. Much flashy harmonics, and his  machine head jiggling only served to put his guitar out of tune. His falsetto-ridden second song seemed to impress all around me, as did his OTT version of  ‘Shine on you Crazy Diamond’.  Much whoopin’ ‘n’ hollerin’ greeted the end of his set. I can’t bring myself to give an adjective (I have plenty in mind).    Her Ladyship returned to say that Ed had been great in a packed Big Top.          Chantel McGregor was playing in an acoustic trio on the Main Stage, observed by her army of middle-aged male admirers.    We chose to stay and grab a front row spot for the legend that is…John Otway.  Only an hour set , so impossible to fit everything in.  Starting, of course with the  (what WAS the only) hit, closely followed by the ‘B’ side.  There were some Otway virgins there, and there are still some out there in the big wide world, so I won’t go into the details of ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Cheryl…’, ‘Louisa…’,  and the rest. A few newies thrown in, but he really is a must-see. Her Ladyship was still laughing at what she has heard dozens of times. Roadie Deadly has more of a part as his ‘stoodge’ now.              Charge outside for Fairport Convention. It seems like everyone here has a new record to plug, but we still get classics such as ‘Genesis Hall’, ‘Who knows where the time goes’, ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, ‘Fotheringay’, ‘Hiring Fair’ and of course, ‘Matty Groves’ and ‘Meet on the Ledge’. But a bloody percussion solo!? Come on lads, just tell the crowd to count to 300 while you have a cup of tea.                 Charge back into the tent for the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican.    As with Otway, it would spoil the show if gave away too many details, you really need to see them. And as with Otway, there were a lot of Doonican First-timers too.  Basically, they mercilessly lampoon the like of the Police, Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Marc Cohn with some brilliant versions of their hits, with deceptively good instrumental ability.  Sometimes the lyrics can get lost in the general festival (and rude) ‘chat’, and the accents and the distance to the back can be a problem, but they are very, very funny.   Amazing crowd surf as a finale. By this time, Her Ladyship was marginally ‘Old’ but hugely ‘Peculiered’, so the trip back to the tent was an expedition  which wore out two pairs of shoes.   A great day.

Sunday.   Once again, toilet-cleaning company had been up at the crack of dawn, excellent.    Looked at the programme and had a ‘Clash’ moment…’Should I stay or should I go?’  Not a lot that appealed to us, if the forecast had been crap we would have decamped , but decided to stop.      Two lots of ukulele groups were followed by Boy on a Dolphin. Another of organiser Mike’s favourites, they are indeed all top musicians.  Not a particularly recognisable style, but a pleasing , and sensible, start to the day. I don’t want some silly young man telling me to put my hands in the air and clap at noon on a bloody Sunday!  But by the end there were a dozen or so Dad Dancers up front.             Elvis Fontenot.   Cajun jollity from Stoke.   Squeezebox man and washboard man looked like they had just walked off the set of ‘Breaking Bad’. But they showed good musical versatility. Female guitarist had a sing  on Canned Heat’s  ‘Going up the Country’. We got their version of the Who’s ‘Squeeze Box’.  Tongues firmly in cheeks but deceptively decent.              Gave Nell Bryden a miss on the Main Stage, and waited for Tir Na Nog.  I will own up to seeing them back in 1972 supporting Jethro Tull doing ‘Thick as a Brick’ at Leeds University, but not remembering a bloody thing about them. But by the time an hour had lapsed, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t given them more attention then . They were really good, with the majority of their set still coming from their first lp.  The recent ‘Ricochet’ had a bit of electronic help but was very impressive.  (The Nick Drake cover was good too. )  An excellent show.     Not bothered about Jenny Belle Star, went back for some warmer clothes.  Mike had recommended we check out the Comedy bar , so we did. Tony Cowards did a good spot, his delivery much based on cringeworthy puns,  choosing to basically ignore the obligatory f*ckwit in the audience.   I think the knob chose to keep somewhat quiter when Scott Bennett came on.  More of a tale-teller, very much based on his observations of his stereotypical Yorkshire father. For some reason Her Ladyship kept looking at me and howling with laughter.  Sorry Tony, she didn’t get a photo.  Maybe next time we will spend more time in here.  Great to see one of the greats of British Blues-Rock, Tony McPhee smiling in there too.                         THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH from The Beautiful Sound. That is what it said on the poster, with the first part in huge capitals and the second part in minute font. So it was a tribute act, which given that most of the audience were retired and wore spectacles might have come as a surprise. I have to say it, just a bit naughty .  I remember last time they sounded and looked nothing like the original group (or the Housemartins). But, as with the Acoustic  Beatles, I am in a minority. Front of stage packed.                Bluesman Mike Francis.  Seemingly’ Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson would sound like this guy’.  After two numbers we tended to not to concur and went off to see the Adverts TV Smith.  Post 60, still energetically treading the boards.  Stirring versions of ‘Bored Teenagers’, ‘The Great British Mistake’ and (the hit) ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ were mixed with newer songs such as the emotive ‘Good Times are Back’.   He got a well-deserved rousing reception.                       Greg Murray and the 7 Wonders.     8-piece, reminiscent of those 70s show bands that were popular in Ireland.    Didn’t seem to be a Main Stage closing act, from where they were switched.   They had seemingly performed also on the pre-festival Thursday. They went down very well, with an obviously lubricated audience, but I couldn’t see the attraction. But plenty could.     Sons of Clogger. The usual jumpy up and downy end to the weekend, by now we had to cadge four matchsticks to keep our eyes open so headed off to lower our crania.  Mike Stephens had made a few comments before they came on. Thanking all for coming, and continuing to come.  He stated that the days of spending lots on eg Joan Armatrading had gone, it doesn’t appreciatively add to the gate.  (He let slip a couple of names to me, who are returning. Her Ladyship got her chequebook out immediately.    BUT, Mike, no room for complacency!)  As a salesman, I was told 1. Keep your customers 2. Get new customers.3. Get back old customers. ( NB. The hardest of the three, is actually no.3.)

A very good weekend, glad we came back on board. OK, not all to our taste, even Mike is realistic and appreciates we can’t like everything. But he tries to give something for everybody.

Negatives? Not many.

The Curse of Cropredy. Loads of people there put bloody tents up in the arena! I had to move my bloody seat four times one year.  And it is quite a steep hill. I noticed one small tent erected here  on Sunday. Don’t care if it is for kids, nip it in the bud Mike before it becomes the norm. Seriously, put it in the T&C’s.

Her Ladyship, who is a veggie, ordered a vegetable Thai noodles takeaway. She had eaten half of it when she looked and found pieces of chicken! She binned it. No good saying ‘inform us of any allergies’ when such unacceptable practice is happening. And it wasn’t only once, the sound girl overheard us and said it had happened to her last night and took hers back.  Therefore they knew about it but chose to ,seemingly, ‘carry on regardless’.Not the organiser’s fault, but I won’t be disappointed if they are not there next year.

Not really a ‘negative’, depending on if you like the particular acts concerned, but there are an awful lot of acts who make more than one appearance. I suppose it is part of the festival finances, namely only one lot of travelling expenses to pay?

We know people who can’t believe we do so many festivals. It’s not difficult to sort!  I reckon every fest-goer knows people who have  ‘Go to a Music Festival’ on their Bucket List.   I can definitely recommend the AFOB as the one to test the water with.   Crowd only a few thousand. Beer/food prices reasonable for a festival. Good mix of music. No w*nkered idiots lurching into you. Space to sit down. Never any huge queues. Good sound systems. Park next to your tent. Camp site next to the arena.  Organiser always approachable (but maybe give him a wide berth if some acts don’t turn up , as seemingly happened with some children’s entertainers! ). No thefts from tents. Toilets very clean. Showers (free!). Security not heavy-handed. Three really good nights’ sleep ( a real +).

If some acts are already pencilled in, this year must have been a financial success, so the earlier the announcements the better. We know a couple of former regulars who found another festival this weekend

No official T-shirts this year?



Farmer Phil’s Festival, Near Gatten Farm, Shropshire. 14-16.08.2015


A new festival to us, highly recommended by SAGA (Salford Anti Greenchair Association). Weather forecast was atrocious for Thursday and Friday, but decided to get there a day early on Thursday.  Managed to get the tent up ok, but it lashed it down Thursday night/ Friday morning.  Mud galore, but the team were working tirelessly to keep things moving. (Tez was surprised at the lack of straw?).

The setting is amazing, the staff are friendly, security is ok, Farmer Phil is as genial a host as you could wish for and the beer and lager is £3.00 a pint.  Good foundations already. So, let’s review the music…

Friday. First people we caught were Thin Vision. Played original songs, I think, but nothing that would create an earthquake.     Next, Savannah. Singer made big entrance with a Gallagher-like swagger, and their main influence was obvious. (Sorry lads, about twenty years out of date).  ‘All or nothing’ got an airing.  Went back to the tent.            Soul Preachers. Reggae. I have never understood why black people playing reggae have to have some sort of cod-Jamaican accent, especially when they are from the Midlands.   I don’t try and sound like Chuck Berry talking when I am slaughtering ‘Sweet little rock ‘n’ roller’!   Got a ‘7 Nation Army’ riff in one of the songs, but reggae leaves me totally nonplussed (which by the end of the fest was completely totally nonplussed…can I say that?)  Amusing to see people walking past and springing into a ‘Dad at a wedding’ dance. A You’ve Been Framed slot would be really embarrassing.  Went off to put my wellies on, noticed Dr Feelfood already here backstage. Savannah’s tourbus is bigger than theirs!                   Imperial Leisure.   Ska / 2-Tone stuff, not for me . Gratuitous swearing from the singer, very clever mate.                  Are you experienced. We all failed in predictions for first song, it was ‘Stone Free’.  Not much point in going through all the songs. The man has done his homework, even the banter on the Monterey Pop ‘Like a rolling stone’.  But the call and response section of the song was totally naff!  I also think the bass sound is far too loud, neither Billy Cox nor Noel Redding would have been so dominant.  To be fair, he is a good guitarist who has spotted a niche and cashed in on his genes too.   Went down well.               Next up, Troy Redfern.   Had checked him out on Youtube. Straight away, Tez said’ Proper music!’.  Originals mixed in with stuff from Albert King, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker , with ‘Voodoo Chile’ to finish. (Not good programming to follow A.Y.E. and play that!).  Speaking of John Lee Hooker, Tony McPhee was there all weekend, we all hope he is still on the road to recovery.   Very good, Mr Redfern.                    Dr Feelgood.  They regularly come in for criticism for lack of original members, but I always remember Robert Fripp’s comment when the big turnover in King Crimson was brought up, namely ‘King Crimson is a way of doing things’ . The same goes for Dr Feelgood, I reckon.  Her Ladyship was spot on , calling the arrival of ‘Down by the jetty blues’ at halftime.  There have been times over the last 15 years when Robert Kane has asked’ Who likes the blues?’ and I have gone for a pee, gone for a pint, filled in a passport application,  phoned the tax office and still got back before the end. Mercifully it is slightly shorter nowadays but still the sign for me to go to the toilet.

Set list. All through the city/ I can tell/ Who do you love/ Baby Jane/ If my baby quits me/ Milk and alcohol/ She’s a wind-up/ Rolling and tumbling/ Back in the night/ Roxette/ DBTJ Blues/ She does it right/ Going back home/ See you later alligator/ Down at the doctors/ One more shot/  Riot in cell block no. 9/ Great balls of fire/ Tequila-Bony Moronie.

A nice touch from the Feelgoods to dedicate the show to a fan who had died travelling back from the previous night’s show. They rarely disappoint.

Saturday. By now, very obvious that dogs and kids were free entry, so was mud.  Funke and the 2 Tone baby.  Interesting one – man band, he had some fans there. Lots of multi-layered instrumentation, definitely a step up from Don Partridge.  Good early festival fare.      Hot Rod 55.   Quiffabilly music, (but no quiffs).  Stray Cats, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Kidd, Del Shannon, Elvis, Animals and even Motorhead to finish. Good strong vocals, entertaining stuff.    At this point two animals that looked like they should have had saddles on and were going to be in the 4.30 at Ludlow parked in front of us.          Talisman.    More reggae, from Bristol with some more cod-Jamaican patter.  Thankfully I had a fantastic Scotch egg to block out the noise, and it made me realise how apt is the surname of one of reggae’s leading lights…TOSH.      Dubvocaliza. Yes, you have guessed, some more. Went back to the tent, put Planet Rock on…Thin Bloody Lizzy!  Have I upset somebody ‘up there?’.  Thankfully, batteries died. Went back to catch end of  Envy of the state who , seemingly, had ‘rocked our socks off’  Not much evidence of that.     BC/DC.  Another outfit from nearby Bishop’s Castle.   Announcer said ‘The best AC/DC tribute act ….’.  Couldn’t catch the rest, but it must have been ‘on this field’.  I am not even sure about that.  They neither looked like, nor sounded like AC/DC.  They played some Acka Dacka songs , plus the standard pub covers by Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and others.   Can’t they find, or play, something from AC/DC’s 40 years?!   Spectacularly underwhelming, and driving four hours to see a crap pub group was not my idea of a good weekend.             Buster Shuffle. The name gave me a Ska premonition and I wasn’t wrong.      Mad Dog McCrea.    Festivals nowadays are either padded out with ska/reggae stuff or this…jiggleypiggley pretend Irish combos.  ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ et al. Drew stumps and left . Had already checked out Ferocious Dog on Youtube, they looked like more of this, only more …ferocious.        Having moaned like hell though, we didn’t expect anything to our tastes on Saturday, and we weren’t wrong.

Sunday. Have to mention the brilliant paramedics. Her Ladyship had an infection to an operation and they couldn’t have been more helpful. Top, top marks. Many thanks.  Back to the music.          Scientific Simpletons. Singer informs us it is ‘folk-punk’ .  Keeps asking me to join in( when he’s not swearing),  His banter was about as witty as his songs, Her Ladyship thought they were good (she also thinks Meatloaf is wonderful).            Dan Owen. Young Dan is very good but, and it is a big but, I cannot watch him!  To expand a bit, I can happily sit behind some one who is blocking my view so I can only LISTEN.  His flailing legs are just the most ‘uncool’ sight. Similarly, his gruff vocals seem too ‘affected’  after listening to him speak.  Does that make sense? Robert Johnson to start with, Robert Zimmerman to finish with Willie Dixon in the middle.             Cartoon Violence.  Classic ska instrumental line-up, singer with pork pie hat. Her Ladyship shouted for ‘Atom Heart Mother’, for some reason it fell on deaf ears.  Encore did feature Kraftwerk’s ‘Model’ and they departed to thunderous applause from three friends, two illegal immigrants and a dog without a lead.             Abdoujaparov.    Not reggae, ska, 2-tone, jiggleypiggley cod-Celtic stuff!   So crowd somewhat bemused.  I had a vision of Jilted John playing at Woodstock having taken the bad brown acid.  Their slot was a much shorter than some ska crap yesterday that got twice as long.  I like them.          The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican.    Been looking forward to these lads from Barnsley.  Merciless attacks on likes of Chris de Burgh, Rainbow, Monkees/Justin Bieber, Kraftwerk, Thin Lizzy and especially Abba. Thought woman behind me was going to have a prolapse. Crowdsurfing an optional extra, they had the whole arena applauding and deservedly so.         John Otway.  Could he follow the ‘Doonicans’?  Sadly, he had to and he had a decent go. Usual start,  with the first hit and ‘B’ side, we now get the second hit and ‘B’ side (House of the Rising Sun).  ‘Louisa on a horse’ and a couple of ‘proper’ songs.  Plenty of familiar stuff for Otway fans, who were  mainly at the front.  Now it is just he and roadie ‘Deadly’ , his manic persona didn’t quite carry up the hill.  Still a genius.      Leatherat. Very popular, they play lots of festivals. We have seen them at festivals. We went to the beer tent.            3 Daft Monkeys.   Very popular, they play lots of festivals. We have seen them at festivals. We stayed in the beer tent.             A lot of food outlets had shut by 10.00 pm.  We overheard someone say ‘What this needs is a good rock group’.     I was hoping that Wayne Martin would be just that.  Keyboard, bass, drums instrumental heralded the big intro for Mr Martin. The sort of thing BB King or Willie Dixon used to do, is he that legendary?   Not really. Some Joe Walsh followed by Doobie Bros,  he appears to be a journeyman Midlands bluesrocker.  Perfectly capable, and probably quite acceptable at a small festival, we chose to await the rest of the standard pubrock setlist from our camp beds.    And that was Farmer Phil’s Festival.

Verdict?  (Apologies for any repetition from earlier). A cracking small festival for those music fans who are happy to jump up and down to Bob Marley/ Specials/ Levellers-inspired stuff.

Beer is good and reasonably priced. Setting great, staff fine, organiser a top man who has created a 2000 capacity event and honed it to be a regular meeting place for those afore-mentioned music fans. But yet another place where people start to form a queue for no apparent reason!  Just lean on the bloody bar and wait!!

Toilets were a bit ‘hit and miss’, lots and lots of dogs and lots and lots of kids.  Bloody cold at times and very muddy at times.  Unusually,  music went on until after midnight, presumably because there isn’t anybody living nearby to complain? Good in one way, but it also means noise from inconsiderate campers goes on longer.  Some factors are under Farmer Phil’s control , others are not.

If we could have had something to look forward on Saturday, it would have been perfect. But it was still a good weekend. And the 2nd stage isn’t really an option. Room for about a dozen seats, and the rest have to stand on the main thoroughfare.  We hope to be there next year.

Quick postscript.  Copies of ‘Best of Farmer Phil’s 2008’ were made available for a charity contribution.  A very good gesture.  A slightly double-edged sword, as there are quite a few ‘f-words’ on it.  I was a bit surprised, given that it must have been not too difficult to edit them out or have different tracks?  The language doesn’t particularly bother me, sadly there are some people who don’t have a sufficiently large vocabulary to use other words. However, if I were to give it to friends who have young children as a way of saying what a suitable family festival it is, I don’t think they would be all that impressed.