Rhythm Festival 2006

published: Thu 7th Sep 2006

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th August 2006
Twinwood Arena, Clapham, nr Bedford, Bedfordshire, England MAP
£75; aged 12-18 £59; One child of 11 or under is admitted free with each adult ticket-holder
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 31st Jul 2006

It is always exciting to go to a new festival, expectations were high judging by the quality line up and the amount of work that was clearly going into this one from the Rhythm festival team and this little gem of a festival did not disappoint at all.

Getting onto the Twinwood Arena site, near Bedford, was a doddle – no queues and friendly helpful stewards. The Arena – sited on the airfield that Glen Miller took off from – was an ideal festival site with a purpose built mainstage with an overlooking terrace bar at the back of the arena, a large, flat campsite and even some proper loos. The size of the camping area also meant that cars could be parked right next to our tents and so we were all able to enjoy a level of luxury and festival opulence that we often only dream of.

After setting up base camp we set off in the summer sunshine on the short walk to the arena. The Alternative Stage - a strange affair that appears to have been stuck in a WW2 time loop - set amongst camouflaged army vehicles, the restored control tower and the “gentlemen’s mess” bar had already seen a storming set from John Otway. The man is bonkers but I guess all who have seen him over the years know this and it is why he endears himself to so many loyal fans.

Donovan headlined the mainstage on Friday playing a set with all of his greatest hits but he was somewhat overshadowed by the act of the day – and for some, the weekend – in the shape of US legend Arlo Guthrie. With his lazy, genial style he covered his classics such as “Alice’s restaurant” and “Coming into Los Angeles”, interlacing songs with amusing tales which built a real rapport with the audience. What a great start to the weekend. So it was back to the campsite for late night singing and drinking, good company and smiling faces to be found wherever you happened to be pitched.

Saturday the weather was still hot – very hot – so hot that it had many of us running for shade even at breakfast to eat our cornflakes under the shade of the trees before heading off back to the arena for another musical feast. The Dylan Project (with Steve Gibbons) played a fantastic set of Bob Dylan covers, Hugh Cornwall played a lot of early Stranglers classics – although without the keyboards something important seems to be missing, Roger Chapman (ex of Family) growled his way through a great set.All of this was compared by the hilarious “bard of Salford” John Cooper Clarke who entertained the crowd with his “punk poetry” and jokes about Burnley.

As the sun was going down Roy Harper was joined on stage by this son, Nick Harper – fresh from an afternoon set – and a string quartet, and performed the whole of his Stormcock album. In the summer sunshine it was pure magic to be with a fantastic bunch of people watching such great musicians performing wonderful music. We were thinking that that would be a tough act to beat but both headliners turned in magnificent sets – Jah Wobble with his dub beats got the crowd dancing at the alternative stage – and the “man” Geno Washington soon created a smooth rapport with his audience & within moments had the whole crowd dancing to his foot stomping soul at the mainstage. That put us all in the mood for yet more late night singing and drinking back at the campsite and looking forward to another day.

Whilst the music was superb there was more to the Rhythm festival than just the music – there was a good variety of reasonably priced places to eat from Mexican, Indian, noodle bars to leons fabulous vegetarian food as well as the usual burger bars. A standard £2.50 price for drinks from the bar made beer excellent value but perhaps shorts a bit steep although slush puppies with added vodka cooled us down in the heat. There were enough stalls for a little shopping for jewellery, clothes, souvenirs and the usual festival treasure and there was a funfair for the kids all spread out along the woodland walk between the two stages. Maybe some thought next year could be put to some – or all - of the stalls around the edge of the main arena as it was a little trek to get food back to the mainstage and the traders may have done a bit more business.

Sunday was another scorcher and in the wilting heat good solid sets were turned in by The Blues Band (fronted by ex-Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones), Nine Below Zero - their infectious enthusiasm getting the crowd to their feet, singing and dancing, even in the sweltering humidity that engulfed the arena – and a good old cockney knees up with Chas and Dave... and who would have thought that Hired Gun – following a tremendous introduction by ex-Radio One DJ Mike Read - would play a reunion concert after thirty years, shame about the lead singer collapsing but you will hear all about it if you watch the next season of “Midsomer Murders” – we might all get on the telly!

Over on the Alternative Stage The Men They Couldn’t Hang showed that they were still as angry as ever and played a raucous set which included all their best known songs such as “Scarlet Ribbons”, “The Green Fields of France” and “Iron masters”. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from them but we had a date back at the mainstage with rock ‘n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis who could still turn out the hits and get the whole field moving. A great act to close the festival and everyone left the field with a huge smile.

Well, the party was all over far too soon. A fantastic weekend in the sun (the rain clouds that threatened soon turned turtle when we all growled at them), a fantastic line up of some of music’s real legends, a lovely relaxed and chilled vibe, great friends, good value food and drink, clean loos, happy smiley stewards and security – what more could any festival go-er want.

Good luck to Rhythm in 2007 – make this one a date in your diary and you will not be disappointed.
review by: Keith Manuel

Friday 4th to Sunday 6th August 2006
Twinwood Arena, Clapham, nr Bedford, Bedfordshire, England MAP
£75; aged 12-18 £59; One child of 11 or under is admitted free with each adult ticket-holder
daily capacity: 5000
last updated: Mon 31st Jul 2006

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