Despite more than a hint of disapproval on social media surrounding the choice of the main headline act (Hawkwind)… An odd choice for a blues-based weekend (don’t you think?) the 20th Great British Rock & Blues Festival held 22-24 Jan 2016 at the Butlin’s resort in Skegness, Lincolnshire (part of their fab Live Music Weekend programme) went off extremely well. In fact, so well that many happy campers were seen lining up in orderly queues to secure their 2017 weekend!
For many of us, this was a chance to catch up with some of the icons of British rock ‘n’ blues — for example, the great talent of Colin Blunstone whose Zombie’s song (Rod Argent’s She’s Not There ) completely changed his life in 1964. His show was a joy. Smooth, rather than hurried. Elegant rather than energetic.
How do these guys keep doing this night-after-night? Most polished of all the “old boys” was Manfred Mann (aged 75, can you believe it?) — with his Earth Band. Their sensational Bad Company singer (main picture) made some of the youngsters seem like lame-pussies in comparison!
The Earth Band played their most captivating covers – like Springsteen’s Blinded by the Light. Mighty Quinn might linger long-time in our minds, but our hearts missed Pretty Flamingo which was, sadly, not on the set-list.
Sunday afternoon we saw the famous contemporary jazz clarinettist Courtney Pine walking past us in Burger King. He was completely unharassed and not recognized. His show ( on the Centre Stage ) was refined and and extraordinary. The Whitley Bay heavy-metal outfit Tygers Of Pan Tang entertained us with a super-sophisticated and ultra-slick stageshow too. They were on at the ‘rock stage’ at the REDS. Robb Weir was still slicing the air with those acidic whiplash-licks and ‘Jackie’ Meille roared-out some terrific vocals.
Later, the Martin Turner version of Wishbone Ash played a set that was fresh and melodic, but it was too jazzy for our taste. We could have done with less Vas Dis tosh and more Jail Bait riff-rock.
Likewise, Hawkwind played a set that was filled with over-long jazzaludes and bulked-out with trademark cosmic airiness. We wanted their numbers to feel tighter and be filled with more substance…
Everyone was saying how good the New Acts at the Skyline introducing stage were. And we would have to heartily agree…
Those fully-energised young-bunnies (maybe some were less young… ho hum) were crazy-exciting and all-of-them incredibly talented…
Stand out acts on the Skyline Stage were: The Texas Flood soon to hit the road with The Quireboys , the South Wales cowboys the Luke Doherty Band , the Sussex based blues-machine Catfish , those cracking Shrewsbury talents The Rainbreakers and the Derby super-heavy blues-rockers These Wicked Rivers
Talking about super new talent, Leicester’s excellent band, The Della Grants played a triumphant show on the Centre Stage, after being one of the winners on the Intro Stage last year. It just goes to show that there is still a lot of precocious talent around. It makes us proud to be British.
But our favourite show of the whole weekend, (maybe it was just the way we felt… it’s true that we were slightly dizzy/drowsy and it was whiskey-a-clock at the REDS…) was Babajack.
They played their notoriously earthy and biologically essential rhythms desperately and earnestly on cigar box guitar and well-slapped cajon. And with Becky’s flame hair swishing through the thin air and the carefree indifference of Trevor it kinda made us feel as if the whole world was actually OK… [If only for a moment] And that we could still have a good time…
Yep, there was some hollerin ‘good music to be enjoyed at Butlin’s. Good times spent with very good friends. And in a totally cool, suitably relaxed and hassle-free environment.
Thanks again to the Butlin’s team for another great festival. We cannot wait for 2017!