Friday. The proceedings start at noon here. Managed to get tent pitched quickly, just caught the end of Sicknote Steve doing Seasick Steve’s ‘Doghouse’ with a dash of ‘Deliverance’ thrown in. Sons of Clogger . Plastic Paddy-ish with a bit of an edge. Usual formula…12 slow bars intro then bash, bash, bash, bash 100mph .There was a number jigging about at the end to ‘Last of the Highwaymen’. Thankfully no ‘Irish Rover’ or ‘Whiskey in the Jar’. Juzzie Smith . Big hype from organiser Mike Stephens in the programme. One man Oz band. Good voice, impressive versatility on a range of instruments. ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was hardly a surprise! Extremely accomplished but for some unknown reason I was just a bit unmoved. Merry Hell . North West folkies with a female lead vocalist. More traditional folk than Captain Pugwash stuff, ‘Bury me Naked’ was a popular waltz, not unlike Victoria Wood lyrically. ‘Ghost in our House’ was well received , as was the whole set. Her Ladyship went off with the Whitwell Mafia (Neil and Val) to check out Stevie One Mandolin, a regular at many festivals. She reckoned his idiosyncratic ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was great and ‘Ernie ‘ was genius! Think Floyd. Before they came on, I wrote down that I would bare my bum if they didn’t start with ‘SOYCD’. Needless to say, my dignity was in safe hands. No point giving set details, there were no real surprises. The female vocalist on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ was good though. (Neil said it was Cherry Lee Mewis ). But why buy a cd by them? I have been a Floyd fan since being on a school trip in London when ‘Arnold Layne’ came out and have seen a lot of tribute acts over the years under various derivative names. Still waiting for the arrival of The Dark Wall Piper ! In fact, I have come up with a name for my own Floyd tribute act…Milk Floyd. That’s what they all do , don’t they? To be fair to this lot, they were probably the best I have seen, and with only half as many on stage as some others. * A good day weather-wise, which always helps, and the musical fare seemed to go down well.
Saturday. We were heading to the Real Ale tent when a bunch of Morris dancers had a similar idea. Her Ladyship did a 180 degree turn and headed for the Lounge Tent, it was a bit too cold to sit outside. We stopped in there for a while , in the esteemed company of Mr J.L. Hooker, Mr R. Johnson and their peers. Boy on a Dolphin Here last year, another outfit that the organiser holds in high regard. Very good musicians, I was thinking that the singer may be a Paul Carrack fan when he said that the guitarist was from Mr C’s group. Bit of name-dropping (‘recorded this in Bryan Adams’ house’) and a couple of covers courtesy of Bill Withers and The Who. A bit too smooth for me. Chris Difford .Knowing what a cantankerous git he can be, I was almost inclined not to watch him. Glad I ignored the inclination. He was great! With help from Boo Hewerdine , he treated us to classic Squeeze songs , along with a couple of more recent compositions with Boo . Some great anecdotes, and a younger Difford would probably have stormed off when some unscheduled trumpeting from outside interrupted proceedings. Today’s CD laughed it off. Brilliant slot! Steve Harley .His fourth time here but another artiste who has been known to throw tantrums, problems with his sound threatened to produce another. I always wonder how the Beatles seemed to manage! But he just about contained himself and gave the crowd pretty much what they wanted. ‘Judy Teen’, ‘Mr Soft’ and ‘Sebastian’ were all greeted with a cheer, as was the inevitable ‘Make me Smile’. Maybe there could have been room for another ‘hit’ ? Always a great show, always a great pro and probably always a great fee! But , NB, there have been others who have commanded similar sums and haven’t been asked back. And Mr H came on with a crutch and a broken hip! Roy Mette. Not the first (or last) to suffer from programme misspellings, he had Mandie from Roadhouse on vocals too. Occasional cover (‘Behind Blue Eyes) but mainly original songs. Her Ladyship liked ‘What would John Lennon say’. ‘Catch you later blues’ was good. John Illsley. The AFOB programmes have more than their share of spelling mistakes. Mike Stephens admits his spelling is crap, but I would always prefer a well-run event by a crap speller than a weekend shambles by Jeremy F**kin Paxman. But describing Dire Straits’s Mr Illsley as ‘the songwriting powerhouse behind many of the songs’ is a master stroke. ‘Many’ of the songs? I can’t find ANY of the songs!! Apologies to all concerned if I am wrong, of course. But how did he and his chums fare on stage with the Dire Straits catalogue. I have to say they were absolutely f**kin’ SH*TE! I spent time thinking of an appropriate ‘take’ on Dire Straits…Dire Traits? Dire Sh*tes? Dire Tw*ts?. In the end , Her Ladyship had the answer. ‘Just put ‘Dire’.’ Exactly. Including an embarrassing attempt to copy Mark K’s vocal style, it was, sadly, naff. I went off to the Lounge Tent to be as far away as possible without being at the five furlong post on the race course. Even if it meant listening to some swing music over the PA. And to cap it all, the duo that are the terminally tedious Big Fibbers came in! Good weather, some good performances and some (well certainly one) not so good.
Sunday. Her Ladyship was keen to see Fake Thackray. Not for me, I decided to go down to the Lounge Tent where who are on? An expanded line-up of the afore-mentioned Big Fibbers?! I decided it would be more interesting to go and look at the price list on the ice cream van for an hour. Yes , £3.00 for a bloody Magnum! I memorised all the flavours. Harry and the Howlers. Self-confessed fans of fifties rock and roll, with a spot of blooze maybe. ‘The Wild Wild West’ was a slower self-penned number, with Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ being more familiar. Mainly original songs, with crowd-pleasing covers such as ‘That’s alright mama’ and ‘Folsom Prison’ thrown in . Some Wanda Jackson to finish, coming back for ‘Jolene’. Pretty decent. Brook Williams. A familiar face on the festival circuit, but first time here. A decent crowd were treated to ‘Statesboro Blues’ and Rosetta Tharpe’s ‘Rock me’. His ode to the Isle of Man TT Races ‘My turn now’ was good. Surprisingly short set though. Ferocious Dog. It has been very much ‘Have Festival Will Travel’ for these lads in recent years, and they have built up a big following (a lot were here). Big intro music/poetry/smoke (didgeridoo too?) pre-empted some high octane Plastic Paddy stuff. But most of the songs started off at 100 mph rather than the usual slow intro section. The genre does nothing for me still, but there were plenty there having a great time, which is more important. Excellent violinist, Her Ladyship liked them. Decent lads from Derbyshire. Troy Redfern. Mr R replaced Trevor Steger in Babajack last year, and Babajack were down to play. However, singer Becky had to cry off, so Troy (and bassist Adam) took the spot as part of a trio. Part-time cellist joined them for some Son House. The ever-knowledgeable MC on the Main Stage announced that Babajack were on! Troy and Co are a good turn in their own right, worth investigation. ‘Mad Man Blues’ to finish, Her Ladyship went skipping into the tent a la Peter Kay.( She promised she would inflict eye-watering punishment to parts of my body which would ensure their future 100% incapacitation if I mentioned it!). Urban Folk Quartet. Starting with banjo and violin to the fore, they were a multi-instrumentalist foursome that almost resisted categorisation. A dual violin number brought an idea for a name…Stradbone Ash anybody!? If they haven’t played Cropredy yet it is a glaring oversight. At one stage they had a banjo with three percussionists…Santana plays bluegrass! Her Ladyship went down to listen to a song about coalmining, a subject close to her heart. A penalty point though, for the cheesy audience participation section. Too ‘clubby’, get rid of it! Very good show though. Whiskey Rebellion . Line-up threatened more Plastic Paddy stuff but it was more…Bakelite Balkan!? Much more Russian folk music style. Elvis Fontenot . Regular festival fillers ‘All the way from Stoke’. Cajun/zydeco stuff, I remember their being pretty enjoyable last time . Otis Gibb’s ‘Caroline’, Canned Heat’s ‘ Going up the Country’ elicited some jiving. ‘I knew the bride’ was followed by another from the peerless Rockpile, ‘Fine, fine, fine’. I left early to get a good seat for Trevor Babajack Steger . Another casualty of misspelling in the programme, we have been keen to see him solo after his split from Becky in Babajack . Not going to go into the details (none of my business anyway) but straight away it was plain to see that Becky may have kept the name but Trevor has got the soul. (And the name!) . Starting with the only non-original song ‘Brownstone’ he gives us most of his solo lp ‘Sawdust Man’. A one man blitz of pulsating rhythmic blues par excellence. All these young blues gunslingers (you know who you are) should be made to come and see him (and go home and bawl their f**kin eyes out!). Get yourself up to God’s own county please Trev. Greg Murray and the Seven Wonders. Seven? Bloody thirteen of them on stage! Nearly more than were standing in front of the stage. Headliner status?! Wasn’t impressed last year, but well-received by those who hadn’t gone home. Acoustica For some reason decided to start soundchecking when GM and co had finished on Main Stage. Cue much disbelief by the tent’s occupants! Basic pub outfit doing Tom Petty, America, Steve Harley, REM (x2), we only stopped for half a song.
- Music. Mike made a thinly-veiled comment in the programme about how difficult it is today, as the number of festivals has rocketed. Sadly, the line-up doesn’t really compare with those of yesteryear. Just check out the historical posters. But Chris Difford and Trevor Steger were great.
- Bar. Only (almost!) overcharged once. £4.00 a pint, sadly par for the course.
- Food. Again £4.00 for chips, as above. Her Ladyship thought general variety and standard good. The noodles shed that sold her a veggie dish with chicken in last year was there again.
- Security. Low key, fine by us.
- Sound. Usually ok!
- Programmes. Needs a proof-reader! The blurb on Sicknote Steve never mentioned him! All about Seasick Steve…strangely economical with the facts!
- Crowd. Well-behaved, never saw any problems. And I noticed an interesting aspect that may influence the next point. Fests like Cropredy, Glasto and even Cambridge Rock always have lots of people in previous festival t-shirts. I probably spotted only a couple here. Yes, there are a few explanations, but if one of them is that people have been before, bought a t-shirt but haven’t returned, then that is a big concern.
- The future. Mike Stephens always has time for the punters, I managed a few minutes with him. There could be a VERY interesting development! (Or two!)
All in all though, we always enjoy the weekend. We met some good friends (Check out the excellent WHITWELL FESTIVAL OF MUSIC. ) and it is a bonus to be near a town. The weather was great, but sadly for the ‘walk-up’ contingency, it could have been better if the sun had come out earlier in the morning.
*Have a look at previous article re Tribute Acts and Plastics Pollution