Tag Archives: John Otway

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?

 

 

A New Day Festival, Mt Ephraim Gardens, 5-8.8.2016

Inaugural A New Day Festival. Dave Rees, the man behind the founding of the Weyfest Festival, decided to do his own festival, having seen his ethos for Weyfest being transformed into a hard-nosed profit-is-all variation featuring tired 80s has-beens rather than the festival for fans of Tull, Trower and others from a decade earlier. And the setting is just as good as Weyfest.

Friday. Arrived there late, having been held up for an hour near the Dartford Crossing.  We were ordered to our camping spot by a blonde woman in a Weyfest t-shirt, who constantly told us to move our car to the car park asap. Which is fair enough, but the blindingly obvious problem with this system means that anyone who wants to leave on Sunday night has no chance of getting their car back anywhere near their tent. (Get some yellow lines down to make ‘roads’.) Or even early Monday morning! And as it turned out, with no lights on the camp site!  But as Family once said…Anyway.

Unorfadox. Only managed to catch the last few minutes, which was a shame. We thought they were pretty good at the Hope Festival (see earlier review).    The Undivided. There is ‘Nothing like roots reggae music’ according to them.  Well, I certainly agree with that.  Although having an investigative procedure to check for bladder irregularities  probably comes pretty close, believe me.        Nashville Teens.    Remember seeing them back in the 70s at Hull University with the Troggs, and Ray Phillips is still on lead vocals. Missed their opening song, got to the other stage for ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’. We then got 3 Spencer Davis Group hits, a couple  from the Stones and 3  from the Who.  Their ‘biggie’ Tobacco Road’ brought their set to a close.  Apart from the name, nothing really to distinguish them from a bunch of decent musos doing 60s stuff. To be fair, Mr P was born before World War 2 so he’s not doing so bad.        Heavy Metal Kids. Gary Holton has long since left us, of course, but they still have some hard-core fans. Mr and Mrs Rhythmic Raymond being amongst them. ‘Rock Candy’ got some feet tapping and ‘She’s no Angel’ always goes down well.  Her Ladyship likes them.         Ignored the loathsome concept that is Limehouse Lizzy coming from the other stage.  I would have ignored the original too, but there were plenty watching.          Blockheads.  Sadly we never saw Ian Dury and Co live, so were interested to see the Blockheads.  Plenty of familiar tunes, guaranteed to keep the crowd singing and dancing. Still featuring Mssrs Watt-Roy, Jankel, Turnbull and Gallagher which gives them more than enough credibilty. Enjoyed them.            Jackie Lynton.  A Weyfest perennial, always entertaining, and rude!  Classics like ‘I’m Ready’. ‘Mess of Blues’, ‘Tulsa Time’ (a brilliant TWO chord song) and ‘You can’t always get what you want’ hit the spot, as does the closing ‘My babe’ medley.  Ideal festival fare.          Wilko Johnson.   A quick return to the stage for bass wizard Blockhead Norman . A change to the start of the set from the last time we saw Mr Wilkinson, but we were soon into ‘Dr Dupree’, ‘Going back Home’, ‘Roxette’, ‘Sneakin Suspicion’ and ‘Paradise’ .  ‘Gun’ still gets the drawn out treatment, but ‘Back in the night’, ‘She does it right’ and ‘Johnny B Goode’ send everybody back to their beds with a smile.  A very good opening day.

Saturday. Gate didn’t open at 11.30 am, put back 30 mins. Hope it was only a coincidence that Mr Anderson demanded the tent be cleared at Acoustic Fest some years back while Jethro Tull sound checked. (2000 people duly left, we and a dozen others refused).  So, eventually, Krankschaft.   Hawkwind fans were at the front, the first sound was keyboards which must have been courtesy of Mr Sony? The 3-piece of guitar/vocals, bass and drums proceeded to firmly dislodge any cobwebs from yesterday. Criminally short set, but a great start.       Flutatious.  Fronted by two females on flute and violin, by the fourth completely instrumental number things were just washing over us. We did get some brief vocals, but these totally instrumental performances don’t work for me. (I am sure their fans , and followers of eg Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield, would beg to differ). Still very good musicians.       Karnataka.    Standard female-fronted 5-piece prog line-up.  Lots of middle-aged lonely men at the front. Their eyes were obviously rivetted on the four male musicians and not the provocatively-clad female singer.  A bit heavier musically than any of the Mostly Autumn extended family, they had a particularly energetic (and hairy) drummer.       Leatherat. Her Ladyship likes them. Weyfest (and other festival) regulars. I suspect they will be A.N.D. regulars too.                Focus.   Like the Enid, who were on the other stage, and Curved Air (also to be on the other stage), Focus very much live in the progressive era of the 70s, but that is very much the audience that A.N.D. are aiming at …and there are plenty of people out there still. It was that time when it was almost obligatory to put out a double LP (Yes, Focus, ELP, Capt Beefheart, Rolling Stones etc. Wings went for a triple LP, as did Yes and ELP !)  They start out with ‘Focus 1’ (?) and soon give us the Tull-like ‘House of the King’. ‘Eruption’ started and I went to change into warmer clothes. It was still going when I got back.  We got a good version of ‘Sylvia’, a track from their last LP , ‘Focus 10’, and ‘Hocus Pocus’.  (‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus!! ). They went down well.                Caravan.     Local lads done good,  the set had a familiar ring to it. Early numbers from ‘For girls…’ and the title track from ‘In the Land of Grey and Pink’.  Geoffrey Richardson is back as MC and introduces ‘The dog, the dog…’. We got talking, so I stopped taking notes, and left before the end to get a spot for Ian Anderson  on Stage 1. (It was either the Fork Handles Stage or the Four Candles Stage. Cunningly difficult to SAY to somebody which stage you will be at! . Good one Dave!).  Mr A had a young man helping his struggling vocal cords when we last saw him, it worked well.  This time Mini-Me (good analogy Ray!) wasn’t there , so we were a bit concerned. Energetic as ever, Mr A was straight into ‘Living in the Past’, followed by ‘Nothing is easy’ and the shortened ‘Thick as a Brick’. OK, his voice was shot 20 years ago, but he made a pretty good go at it. There were a few newer numbers but the crowd were still treated to older classics such as ”Sweet Dream’, ‘Songs from the Wood’, ‘My God’, ‘Bouree’ and ‘Dharma for One’. A not-unexpected finale with ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ confirmed the billing as ‘Ian Anderson plays the music of Jethro Tull’ , or words to that effect.     And he did it pretty well. For me, the current line-up sounds like another version of the constantly changing group that was Jethro Tull.                     By the time Stray came on I am sure Mr Anderson will have been tucked up in bed with a cup of Horlicks and some industrial strength Strepsils to calm his aching throat.     Stray launch into ‘Come on over to my place’ from ‘Mudanzas’ and follow it with songs from the first LP and ‘Suicide’.   Always a steady outfit, we left as another shortened set was closing with ‘All in your Mind’.      Another very good day’s music.

Sunday.  Yet again, delays in starting on Stage 1, although it appeared that there were some unfortunate circumstances behind True Deceivers non-appearance.  Good new was that John Otway would be on sooner and longer to entertain his trusty disciples.  For those who are not familiar with the phenomenon, he basically has to be seen AND heard, as opposed to the old cliche ‘seen and not heard’. Her Ladyship had been to buy some flowers in readiness. Again, fans will understand. Starting out with the now first hit and the ‘B’ side, it is classic Otway. ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Middle of winter’, the Mobile phone song, ‘Louisa on a Horse’, ‘Body talk’, ‘I will survive’, ‘Bunsen Burner’, ‘House of the Rising Sun’, ‘Josephine’, ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘You  ain’t seen nothing yet’ and his lament for his beloved Cheryl gives way to tumultuous applause. There were quite a few Otway virgins there, made obvious by the urine stains on the fronts of their trousers.  He has cleverly incorporated roadie Deadly into the act as his stooge. One-time guitarist Richard Holgarth is now seemingly a permanent resident in the Hot Rod Hotel. Should be on every human being’s  bucket list to see (and hear)  the man.            Spank the Monkey.   A good, solid blues/R&B outfit, they give us a sensible blend of original material and covers of such as ‘Watch your step’, ‘Ain’t got no money’, ‘Come on in my kitchen’ and’ Ain’t that loving you baby’ . Worth checking out.                 The corpse of Bill Posters Will Be Band was still warm when the entity that is Bonzo Bills rose arthritically from it . Mssrs Spear and Spoons from the original Bonzos are still there. Miraculously so, as their two combined ages must surely be approaching the boiling point of water in degrees Fahrenheit!? And the former’s props would probably challenge any carbon dating.  Megs still steering the ship too.  Fans of Bill Posters knew we were in for some serious  Billfoolery.  (Can I claim that as a new word for the OED as a close relative of Tomfoolery?).  ‘Jollity farm’ and ‘Hunting tigers out in India’ were on the bill (sorry, couldn’t resist)  and like Otway it is very much an audio-visual multimedia experience.  Again, a must see and chuckle event.     Nine Below Zero. Have been a fan since seeing them support the Who in Birmingham, and I was a bit surprised to see Dennis Greaves had decided to add a sax, trumpet, female vocalist and keyboards to the tried and trusted line-up.   Did it work? It was CR*P!!  A horrible jazzy, funky soul soundcheck gave way to expanded versions of all the 9BZ classics.  I stopped writing down the song titles. They were all there but played in some awful cruise liner mode. We saw Rhythmic Raymond exit stage left after about 4 minutes, we stuck it out until the end. Ray reckoned it was a watered down version of Jools Holland (and his ‘bland band  for the coffee table set’).   Dennis, get a bloody grip! It was so mindnumbingly bloody dull.  But the people in the tent next to us thought it was great, so there you are!             Martin Barre Band.  Tull guitarist for some 43 years, we have seen him since he ‘left’ Mr Anderson’s company three times, I think.   ‘Teacher’ was very muddy, and two female assistants came to the mics to give us a bluesy number very similar to the stuff on one of his cassettes I have (was it his ‘Summer Band’? Something like that, can’t find the tape).   Interesting variations on ‘Sweet Dream’, ‘Fat Man’, Skating away..’ and  ‘Love Story’ to keep his long-time fans in the loop.    By now it had been blindingly obvious that the stage had been beset by ‘problems’ all day…and all of the night.  Which is an excruciating link to the venerable                  Stranglers Was it going to be a festival-friendly ‘Greatest Hits’ show or a ‘Here is another one off our new record’ show. Well, they haven’t got a new record so option numero uno was straight into gear with ‘Tank’.  It was a real power display. ‘Straighten out’, ‘Grip’, my all-time favourite ‘5 Minutes’, ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Always the Sun’, ‘Skin Deep’, ‘Hanging around’, ‘Something better change’ , ‘Peaches’, ‘Duchess’, ‘All day and all of the night’ and ‘No more heroes’. Another couple I didn’t recognise, they could have played as long again with another set of ‘classics’.     A great show to finish off a cracking weekend of music.

There were some great and some not so great aspects. The scheduling did go astray, but when the MC tells us about problems we ‘Don’t want to know about’ it is a touch condescending.   Biggest complaint was the toilets.  Personally, I didn’t see any of the interiors of the cubicles…I had been warned!  But the number of toilets seemed woefully inadequate , especially on the camp site. Is there a legal requirement per capita, is there a ‘recommended’ number or is there a ‘see how few we can get away with’ number. Needs a serious rethink. By far the biggest reason why people will not come again, which would be a shame. The music was of a high standard, the beer was good and reasonably priced. BUT, charging £2.00 for a half when a pint is £3.50 is just unacceptable sharp practice. And, Dave, when someone mentions to you that it is not on (his girlfriend drinks halves) , to give a smarta*se reply that no-one drinks halves is unnecessary and doesn’t put you in a good light.  Stewards were fine and friendly.  Good food variation. People commenting about the fact that the organisers should have not had any problems as they have had years of experience at eg Weyfest, should realise that each site has its own logistical challenges though. But as it says in the programme, ‘comments’ are invited, so don’t just sit at home and moan, tell them!

Overall, despite some problems, we thought it was a great festival. The main stage arena was very similar to Cropredy (plus 2 big trees). Croppers has a good policy of dancers/standers at the front and sitters further back. So don’t bloody stand up halfway up the hill where people have been sitting for hours! Stand at the front (or side) ! Brilliant weather helped, of course, but I am sure after after some adjustments it will be back next year.