Tag Archives: Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican

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.