Tag Archives: Whitwell Festival of Music

Acoustic Festival of Britain. Uttoxeter Racecourse. 1-3 June 2018.

Friday.  The proceedings start at noon here. Managed to get tent pitched quickly, just caught the end of Sicknote Steve doing Seasick Steve’s ‘Doghouse’ with a dash of ‘Deliverance’ thrown in.                                    Sons of Clogger . Plastic Paddy-ish with a bit of an edge. Usual formula…12 slow bars intro then bash, bash, bash, bash 100mph .There was a number jigging about at the end to ‘Last of the Highwaymen’. Thankfully no ‘Irish Rover’ or ‘Whiskey in the Jar’.                  Juzzie SmithBig hype from organiser Mike Stephens in the programme. One man Oz band.  Good voice, impressive versatility on a range of instruments. ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was hardly a surprise!  Extremely accomplished but for some unknown reason I was just a bit unmoved.                          Merry Hell . North West folkies with a female lead vocalist. More traditional folk than Captain Pugwash stuff, ‘Bury me Naked’ was a popular waltz, not unlike Victoria Wood lyrically.   ‘Ghost in our House’ was well received , as was the whole set.        Her Ladyship went off with the Whitwell Mafia (Neil and Val)  to check out Stevie  One Mandolin, a regular at many festivals.  She reckoned his idiosyncratic ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was great and ‘Ernie ‘ was genius!                              Think Floyd. Before they came on, I wrote down that I would bare my bum if they didn’t start with ‘SOYCD’. Needless to say, my dignity was in safe hands.  No point giving set details, there were no real surprises. The female vocalist on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ was good though. (Neil said it was Cherry Lee Mewis ). But why buy a cd by them?  I have been a Floyd fan since being on a school trip in London when ‘Arnold Layne’ came out and have seen a lot of tribute acts over the years under various derivative names. Still waiting for the arrival of The Dark Wall Piper !  In fact, I have come up with a name for my own Floyd tribute act…Milk Floyd. That’s what they all do , don’t they?  To be fair to this lot, they were probably the best I have seen, and with only half as many on stage as some others. *              A good day weather-wise, which always helps, and the musical fare seemed to go down well.

Saturday. We were heading to the Real Ale tent when a bunch of Morris dancers had a similar idea. Her Ladyship did a 180 degree turn and headed for the  Lounge Tent, it was a bit too cold to sit outside.  We stopped in there for a while , in the esteemed company of Mr J.L. Hooker, Mr R. Johnson and their peers.                     Boy on a Dolphin  Here last year, another outfit that the organiser holds in high regard. Very good musicians, I was thinking that the singer may be a Paul Carrack fan when he said that the guitarist was from Mr C’s group.  Bit of name-dropping (‘recorded this in Bryan Adams’ house’) and a couple of covers courtesy of Bill Withers and The Who. A bit too smooth for me.                    Chris Difford  .Knowing what a cantankerous git he can be, I was almost inclined not to watch him. Glad I ignored the inclination. He was great!  With help from Boo Hewerdine , he treated us to classic Squeeze songs , along with a couple of more recent compositions with Boo .   Some great anecdotes, and a younger Difford would probably have stormed off when some unscheduled trumpeting from outside interrupted proceedings. Today’s CD laughed it off.  Brilliant slot!                                  Steve Harley .His fourth time here but   another artiste who has been known to throw tantrums, problems with his sound threatened to produce another.  I always wonder how the Beatles  seemed to manage!  But he just about contained himself and gave the crowd pretty much what they wanted. ‘Judy Teen’, ‘Mr Soft’ and ‘Sebastian’ were all greeted with a cheer, as was the inevitable ‘Make me Smile’. Maybe there could have been room for another ‘hit’ ?  Always a great show, always a great pro and probably always a great fee! But , NB, there have been others who have commanded similar sums and haven’t been asked back.  And Mr H came on with a crutch and a broken hip!                              Roy Mette. Not the first (or last) to suffer from programme misspellings, he had Mandie from Roadhouse on vocals too.    Occasional cover (‘Behind Blue Eyes) but mainly original songs. Her Ladyship liked ‘What would John Lennon say’.  ‘Catch you later blues’ was good.                 John Illsley. The AFOB programmes have more than their share of spelling mistakes. Mike Stephens admits his spelling is crap, but I would always prefer a well-run event by a crap speller than a weekend shambles by  Jeremy F**kin Paxman.  But describing Dire Straits’s Mr Illsley as ‘the songwriting powerhouse behind many of the songs’ is a master stroke. ‘Many’ of the songs? I can’t find ANY of the songs!!  Apologies to all concerned if I am wrong, of course. But how did he and his chums fare on stage with the Dire Straits catalogue. I have to say they were absolutely f**kin’ SH*TE!  I spent time thinking of an appropriate ‘take’ on Dire Straits…Dire Traits? Dire Sh*tes? Dire Tw*ts?.  In the end , Her Ladyship had the answer. ‘Just put ‘Dire’.’  Exactly. Including an embarrassing attempt to copy Mark K’s vocal style, it was, sadly, naff.    I went off to the Lounge Tent to be as far away as possible without being at the five furlong post on the race course. Even if it meant listening to some swing music over the PA. And to cap it all, the duo that are the terminally tedious Big Fibbers came in!         Good weather, some good performances and some (well certainly one) not so good.

Sunday. Her Ladyship was keen to see Fake Thackray. Not for me, I decided to go down to the Lounge Tent where who are on? An expanded line-up of the afore-mentioned Big Fibbers?!   I decided it would be more interesting to go and look at the price list on the ice cream van for an hour. Yes , £3.00 for a bloody Magnum! I memorised all the flavours.                        Harry and the Howlers. Self-confessed fans of fifties rock and roll, with a spot of blooze maybe. ‘The Wild Wild West’ was a slower self-penned number, with Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound Dog’ being more familiar. Mainly original songs, with crowd-pleasing covers such as ‘That’s alright mama’ and ‘Folsom Prison’ thrown in . Some Wanda Jackson to finish, coming back for ‘Jolene’. Pretty decent.                          Brook Williams. A familiar face on the festival circuit, but first time here.  A decent crowd were treated to ‘Statesboro Blues’ and Rosetta Tharpe’s ‘Rock me’. His ode to the Isle of Man TT Races ‘My turn now’ was good.  Surprisingly short set though.                      Ferocious Dog. It has been very much ‘Have Festival Will Travel’ for these lads in recent years, and they have built up a big following (a lot were here).  Big intro music/poetry/smoke (didgeridoo too?) pre-empted some high octane Plastic Paddy stuff. But most of the songs started off at 100 mph rather than the usual slow intro section. The genre does nothing for me still, but there were plenty there having a great time, which is more important. Excellent violinist, Her Ladyship liked them.  Decent lads from Derbyshire.                        Troy Redfern. Mr R replaced Trevor Steger in Babajack last year, and Babajack were down to play. However, singer Becky had to cry off, so Troy (and bassist Adam) took the spot as part of a trio. Part-time cellist joined them for some Son House.   The ever-knowledgeable MC on the Main Stage announced that Babajack were on! Troy and Co are a good turn in their own right, worth investigation.    ‘Mad Man Blues’ to finish, Her Ladyship went skipping into the tent a la Peter Kay.( She promised she would inflict eye-watering punishment to parts of my body which would ensure their future 100% incapacitation if I mentioned it!).                          Urban Folk Quartet. Starting with banjo and violin to the fore, they were a multi-instrumentalist foursome that almost resisted categorisation. A dual violin number brought an idea for a name…Stradbone Ash anybody!?   If they haven’t played Cropredy yet it is a glaring oversight. At one stage they had a banjo with three percussionists…Santana plays bluegrass!  Her Ladyship went down to listen to a song about coalmining, a subject close to her heart.  A penalty point though, for the cheesy audience participation section. Too ‘clubby’, get rid of it!   Very good show though.                          Whiskey Rebellion .  Line-up threatened more Plastic Paddy stuff but it was more…Bakelite Balkan!?  Much more Russian folk music style.                          Elvis Fontenot   . Regular festival fillers ‘All the way from Stoke’. Cajun/zydeco stuff, I remember their being pretty enjoyable last time . Otis Gibb’s ‘Caroline’, Canned Heat’s ‘ Going up the Country’ elicited some jiving.  ‘I knew the bride’ was followed by another from the peerless Rockpile, ‘Fine, fine, fine’.                                                       I left early to get a good seat for Trevor Babajack  Steger .    Another casualty of misspelling in the programme, we have been keen to see him solo after his split from Becky in Babajack .  Not going to go into the details (none of my business anyway) but straight away it was plain to see that Becky may have kept the name but Trevor has got the soul.  (And the name!) . Starting with the only non-original song ‘Brownstone’ he gives us most of his solo lp ‘Sawdust Man’.  A one man blitz of pulsating rhythmic blues par excellence. All these young blues gunslingers (you know who you are) should be made to come and see him (and go home and bawl their f**kin eyes out!).  Get yourself up to God’s own county please Trev.                  Greg Murray and the Seven Wonders. Seven? Bloody thirteen of them on stage! Nearly more than were standing in front of the stage. Headliner status?! Wasn’t impressed last year, but well-received by those who hadn’t gone home.                 Acoustica For some reason decided to start soundchecking when GM and co had finished on Main Stage. Cue much disbelief by the tent’s occupants!  Basic pub outfit doing Tom Petty, America, Steve Harley, REM (x2), we only stopped for half a song.

Verdict?

  1. Music. Mike made a thinly-veiled comment in the programme about how difficult it is today, as the number of festivals has rocketed. Sadly, the line-up doesn’t really compare with those of yesteryear. Just check out the historical posters. But Chris Difford and Trevor Steger were great.
  2. Bar. Only (almost!) overcharged once. £4.00 a pint, sadly par for the course.
  3. Food. Again £4.00 for chips, as above. Her Ladyship thought general variety and standard good. The noodles shed that sold her a veggie dish with chicken in last year was there again.
  4. Security. Low key, fine by us.
  5. Sound. Usually ok!
  6. Programmes. Needs a proof-reader!  The blurb on Sicknote Steve never mentioned him! All about Seasick Steve…strangely economical with the facts!
  7. Crowd. Well-behaved, never saw any problems. And I noticed an interesting aspect that may influence the next point. Fests like Cropredy, Glasto and even Cambridge Rock always have lots of people in previous festival t-shirts. I probably spotted only a couple here. Yes, there are a few explanations, but if one of them is that people have been before, bought a t-shirt but haven’t returned, then that is a big concern.
  8. The future. Mike Stephens always has time for the punters, I managed a few minutes with him. There could be a VERY interesting development! (Or two!)

All in all though, we always enjoy the weekend. We met some good friends (Check out the excellent WHITWELL FESTIVAL OF MUSIC. ) and it is a bonus to be near a town.  The weather was great, but sadly for the ‘walk-up’ contingency, it could have been better if the sun had come out earlier in the morning.

*Have a look at previous article re Tribute Acts and Plastics Pollution

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Whitwell Festival of Music. Whitwell. 8-10. Sept. 2017

This was the ninth festival, but only our first.  Got there in good time and were greeted in a very friendly manner by a couple of volunteers (rather than being grunted at by some minimum wage youths).

The weekend had an eclectic feel, with a mixture of metal (Oliver/Dawson Saxon), folk (Morris and Watson, Will Whisson), reggae (Easydread), folk-punk-roots (Headsticks), rock ‘n’ roll-rockabilly (The Vegas Six), old school punk (Verbal Warning) , spoken word (Pete Drake, Attila the Stockbroker) and tribute acts (London Calling, Slade UK).  Best of Fest award went to the growling blues of the frighteningly young Tom McCartney. (This was only what we watched, of course. There was plenty more.) Unfortunately we couldn’t stay on Sunday as we were flying off to New York, check out Her Ladyship’s photos from the next review.

Decent choice of food on offer and Festival Ale @£2.50. If they can manage t-shirts @£8.00 it makes you wonder why other festivals charge £15.00.    The event is in the Community Centre (a converted school) with indoor and outdoor stages, the latter (on the old playground) only used on the Saturday. There was also a Spoken Word room.

It is a charity festival, the Arts Council funding seemingly has stopped this year? Of course, if it was in London and featured ballet and opera, it would have had millions of pounds thrown at it (and a high speed railway line to get there too).

It really is a great little festival, with profits going to charity and a small amount held over for the following year.

Looking forward to the tenth festival next year, many thanks to Neal, Val and all the unpaid volunteers that really do make it ‘Derbyshire’s Best-Kept Secret’

Late PS. Re the funding comment, the Whitwell Festival of Music Facebook page points out they have not had any for 4 years!  They also point out the critical role played by local sponsors so please check out their page for details.  Apologies for not highlighting the funding situation enough!

Upton Blues Festival. Upton upon Severn. 15-17. July 2016

Our second visit to the blues festival. We enjoyed last year and there were a couple of acts we are fans of this year.

Friday. Directed to our camping spot. Last year was ‘park where you want!’ so increased numbers have have brought more organisation. We found ourselves next to Mike and Gayle, co-managing directors of SAGA (Salford  Anti  Greenchair Association) . So off to the Sports Field in village.                    Chris Gibbons.   We were met by Gary Moore’s ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ and the standard ‘Early in the Morning’.   He asked us to sing along to something woefully out of tune, we declined . A ‘Stormy Monday’ clone to finish.               Dove and BoWeevil.    Much hyped and award-nominated outfit.  5-piece , female vocals. Not regulation 12-bar stuff, very slick.  But all the attention they seem to have attracted was lost on me.  They were…ok.  Applause was somewhat less than rapturous.    Her Ladyship went off and came back with some onion bajees plus a special ‘dip’.  It was Agent Orange meets Napalm Death! (Great!)   If Donald Trump gets the recipe, he will drop a load onto the entire Muslim world, and anybody else who has the nerve to suggest his head is full of Dinky Toys and tomato sauce.         Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.          Sort of like Captain Beefheart meets ‘Deliverance’.   Got a seat on the Grassy Knoll, Her Ladyship went on a Logan’s Run down to the front.    ‘I shall not be moved’ was a semi-soundcheck.  The tent was packed , with real applause emanating from it.  I discovered the good Reverend and his family a few years ago.    We got all the favourites,  ‘Front porch trained’, ‘ Clap your hands…’ et al.    Then came the dilemma. Babajack were a late addition to the acoustic stage , there would be a slight overlap. ‘Daddy or Chips?’.   Left before the Rev’s set ended and got a front row seat for Babajack.  Just the duo today, with Becky unable to use her percussion box as well.     Starting out with ‘Hammer and tongs’, it was a fairly short set. ‘Death Letter’ is always there though, so is the final ‘Gallows Pole.’ Her poignant song about her uncle hit home with Her Ladyship.   We love them and we also love the Rev’s mob. But we know some people who prefer the Jones/Bryant/Brown/Lister/Miller version of de blooze so we can’t all like the same. Our preference is the older, minimalist stuff.           Chris Antonik.     Riverside stage headliner, he is another much-lauded blueser.   First song was quite funky, so was the second, so was…   Very popular but I don’t go for the the funkier end of the blues. Back to the tent. A pretty good day though.

Saturday.    Della Grants.  Have seen these Leicester lads before, and thought they were pretty good. They have built up a good following on the blues and festival circuit.  Got a seat by side of stage but decided to move. We had discovered we were next to a group of 10 women from a very adjacent principality. They were obviously having a good time but it was like a day outing from Viz. There was a brief argument about who had the last bit of coke…and I don’t mean the stuff in a bottle! We are talking Bolivian Marching Powder. However, the jazz Woodbines calmed things down and while they didn’t quite have the A to Z of booze, they must have had the C to V (Cider to Vodka) plus all points in between. Bless ’em.  I think they were all suffering from  AAD  (Advanced Alcoholic Dishevelment).    Anyway, back to the Della Grants. A mention of Chicago and watching the Mississippi River had my doubting my dismal geography knowledge. I reckon you would need pretty good eyesight. But who was bothered?  Nearly all original stuff, with a festivally’ Stones disco attempt, ‘Miss You’.   Good applause, well justified.         Blind Pilgrim. Back to the Sports stage. The 3-piece started out with some Zeppelin ‘How many more times’ riffs, with some ‘oh-ohing added on.   Got a bit hungry so went off for some tea.  Neil from Whitwell reckoned they had been pretty good. (More of Neil later).              LaVendore Rogue.        A new group of seasoned musos with ‘form’.     Very difficult to categorise, Her Ladyship got an early hint vocally and visually, of Ian Anderson from the lead vocalist.   Like the Della Grants, nearly all original stuff apart from a Stones number. This one was ‘Get off my cloud’.  They must have been good, as Her Ladyship started grooving at the end…but only marginally.   Worth checking out.                   Aynsley Lister.  The square was full for the Saturday headliner.   Have seen him before some years ago, and have been listening to a very old gig from Abertillery in 2005. It seemed okay then, and he just came across as still just okay tonight.    It was almost MOR , even people near us were shouting ‘Liven it up’.  It was almost cruise liner stuff.  They did a bit of keyboard/guitar interplay that Lord and Blackmore were doing 40-odd years ago.  For us, he is one of that bunch of young bluesmen (okay, Larry Miller isn’t so young!) that I would struggle to differentiate between. But he has lots of fans.  Off to bed.   But no sleep just yet.    We could hear ‘Summer of 69’, ‘Sex on fire’ and, of course, ‘All Right Now’.    Want  a laugh? Do a Google search for “cover band bingo”. it’s great.

Sunday. Half Deaf Clatch.    From his opening words ‘ Mah fairst song’ there was no doubt where he was from…Hull.   He has a good voice and plays slide acoustic guitar with occasional banjo.  Mainly originals, with some Henry Thomas and Robert Johnson. Ended with the weekend’s second appearance for ‘Death Letter’. Enjoyed him, he was a bit like a less manic version of King Size Slim who was here last year.(See review).           Creole Brothers.  Soon discovered their gushing blurb must have been written by themselves ( ‘All delivered with OUR own wry humorous take…’ is a giveaway.).    Lots of songs in New Orleans Cajun French. Definitely not for devotees of King Crimson, I suspect.  A bit of Cajun stuff is always a good bit mid-afternoon, but this was pretty ordinary. A singalong attempt at ‘Don’t mess with my toot-toot’ died on its ar*e.                  Masai Blues.  5-piece female fronted outfit., doing jazzy, bluesy, soully stuff  that would be appropriate for a  support slot at Ronnie Scott’s or a Las Vegas night club.   The guitarist let rip a bit on ‘Born under a bad sign’  and did I hear Laughing Lenny’s ‘First we take Manhattan’ while I was queueing for drinks?   A regulation 12-bar gave the impression the musicians were happier  in that mode, and a female version of ‘I’m a Man’ didn’t really work. ‘Hound Dog’ wasn’t great either.  We got another ‘Stormy Monday’ clone and it made me think that with all these plagiarism cases in the news, T Bone Walker must be spinning in his grave.                The sun got really hot, so we went down to the Star . Bacchus were doing their Allmans’ influenced stuff, plus ‘Roadhouse blues’,  ‘Rock n Roll’, Route 66′, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’,’Carol’,  ‘Brown Sugar’.  (See Cover Band Bingo card).  Pretty good ‘Jessica’ though, and one of their own had a very Allmans-ish intro.   We should have got there earlier.                              Stayed there for the Worried Men recommended by trio of Welsh women Her Ladyship was talking to. Lead vocalist had balding long hair, Gibson Flying V and 3 black boxes with Marshall written on. I had a hunch we weren’t in for a load of 2-Tone ska stuff.   Much played ‘I just wanna make love to you’ was followed by ‘Same old story’ (was that a Blodwyn Pig song?).  Very good, very entertaining classic Power Trio stuff.  Originals plus covers (3 from Dr Feelgood’s repertoire, ‘Crazy about girls’, ‘Rollin’ and tumblin’ and ‘Back in the night’).   Interesting slants on Neil Young and Eddie Cochran too.          Went to get a place for Big Red and the Grinners.      Started with ‘Word up’ followed by ‘Walk this way’.   They have both been given the treatment before , by Hayseed Dixie and the excellent Boss Hoss from Germany. Steve Earle’s  ‘Galway Girl’ was next, but we were suffering from the Star stage in the right ear and this lot in our left.      I didn’t hear his intro to the Beatles’ ‘I’ve just seen a face’, and if he mentioned that the reconstituted Pure Prairie League did it in 1974 then credit to him. But let’s just assume it slipped his mind.  It has all been done before, and done better.   I just got the feeling of cashing in on Hayseed Dixie’s ‘rockgrass’ genre.   If you like ‘rockgrass’ you will know of Hayseed Dixie but maybe not The Boss Hoss.  Two others worth checking out are Luther Wright and the Wrongs version of ‘The Wall’ and the Hillbenders attempt at ‘Tommy’. The latter has been endorsed by Pete Townshend, and they are touring the UK with it.   As for Big Red and chums, I was disappointed.

But any disappointments were outweighed by the fact it is FREE!  Yes, the pubs are bloody packed. You could argue that the event has been a victim of its own excellence.  Suggestions?  Neil from Whitwell reckons, as we do, there should be a Hobson’s bar at the Sports stage. The camp site discipline seemed much better.   Some very good music, some not so good but that is down to personal taste. Sound was good at both main stages.   A really good, well-run event.

Plug for Whitwell Festival of Music. We met Neil and Val a few years ago, they have an involvement in this festival in North Derbyshire.  It has been going for 8 years, I think, but since we found out about it we have been otherwise engaged each time!   But it looks a brilliant (and CHEAP) little weekend. Plenty of festival favourites, check out this and previous years’ line-ups at http://www.whitwellfestivalofmusic.org.uk. It is a charity event too.   Price? You can get a ticket for the weekend for what it would cost to watch only the first half of an Oz Pink Floyd copy act.