Well we are in the pub Thursday night discussing arrangements for the following days journey to Skeg Vegas and Phil says "we need to leave at 14:00, we have to be at Grantham train station for 15:18", "OK" say I and toddle off to bed dreaming of sun, sea & sand. Friday morning the phone rings, it's Phil "the trains getting in a bit earlier so we'll leave at 13:30", "OK" say I and continue with the morning chores. 13:50 I'm standing looking out the window with my coat on, £100 in one pocket and a clean pair of pants and socks in the other, the phone rings, it's Phil "I'm just off to the cob shop as the train has been delayed, I'll see you shortly". We depart sometime later and after 2 3/4 hrs a pickup at Grantham and a tour of the historic market town of Sleaford where someone remarks "hey - there’s a mod!" we arrive at Butlins Skegness.
Let’s eat! Now I can only comment from my own experience but I reckon the grub is top notch here and probably worth the money (go for the premium upgrade) and much preferable to either self catering or burger king. So the four of us sit down to roast dinner (2), chilli and rice and a Sichuan chicken, fish cake, olives and salad (she's German you know, more later) all very nice, tea to wash it down? Don't, unless you take your own tea bags and use the machine for water, or have coffee.
First venue Friday 20:00 prompt, JAKS, arguably the smallest capacity of the four venues but my favourite with the blues matters stage. It has a long bar at the back with a standing/seating area surrounding, steps down to the dance floor (glitter balls and chandeliers above!) with a few more tables facing the stage. If you do want to sit down, you gotta be in early (there is queuing before the doors open) and don't sit on the dance floor level as when acts start the floor quickly fills up and you won't see anything.
TC & The Moneymakers are first up for me and I like ‘em - nice harp with a rocka-blues-abilly style, my mate says they’re a Jazz band trying to be a blues band...you know who you are.
A couple walk/dance in time across stage front and a few songs later the joint’s really getting going, a couple salsa and a big bald guy on his own all in black makes fitting moves stage right, songs get more jumpy towards the end...nice...
Next venue is REDS, this is a big place, published capacity 1500, I think that sounds a bit low but there’s plenty of seating and from what I saw looks wheelchair friendly (check with Butlins), easy viewing and screens towards the back and a bar either side.
British rock band FM are on, I'm sorry to say I've never heard of them but they've been going since the 80's with a break from '95-'07 (ref - wiki) and the only way I can describe them is standard rock, bit loud for me (old git shout from kitchen).
Centre Stage next, a tad smaller than REDS, but it’s got a balcony though I never got round to finding out how to get up there, Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges is on stage already a few songs in, from Texas - I would love to have heard his thoughts on Skegness but none were forthcoming - a big man with a big hat and guitar who sounds good. Enjoyment slightly spoiled by being too far back and hearing chin-wagging during the slower ballady style tracks, but no problem when it gets jumping. He takes his hat off to great whoops and applause.
During the change-over after Eugene, I notice two girls are dancing properly to an unknown blues track in front of the DJ booth then on stage comes Giles Robson And The Dirty Aces -WOW- I really like these classic blues tracks with everything in there that should be - harp and guitar and that diddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddid bass line played by an Uncle Albert lookalike who did a knockout solo. If you like blues you will like Giles Robson And The Dirty Aces and I’m not on a commission. After the set ends in the only way it can diddiddiddiddid di diiiii the crowd thins promptly and a tipsy couple jive to Mississippi Queen - not too well, compared to the girls ealier but with very happy faces and that’s what matters.
Saturday dawns to the sound of cleaners trolleys being wheeled up and down the pathways between the chalets and we head for breakfast at the yacht club, it’s all there…
As a form of exercise/torture/head clearance a stroll to Skegness town is suggested along the coast path and beach where the path runs out, there is a gate out of Butlins open from 9.00-16.00 daily and it will take you about an hour to walk from here to the pier then up the Lumley Road to the Red Lion pub where we meet up with some pals also up for the weekend. We decide to have lunch, 3 courses, Ruddles best, Abbot and a Doombar for pudding then head back on the Butlins bus which leaves about 3 times every hour from near the clock tower for £2.20.
4pm on a Saturday afternoon and my earplugs are going in at the REDS stage for Crazy World of Arthur Brown, I lend my second set to the Germans……Before I say more I must inform you, if you don’t know, Arthur Brown, born June 24th 1942 in Whitby - yes he is 73yrs old, he changes outfits several times including a fibre optic coat, occasionally joined by a female performer (in an arty way!), can do high kicks and take the keyboard off its stand and move about the stage with the guy still playing it and he hardly missed a note. Descriptives are not coming easily to me here but I salute the theatrical, psychedelia, face-painted brilliance that is Arthur Brown, ending his set in the only possible way he could (Fire!) he still lives in that crazy world and I’m glad I’ve seen it.
We mosey into the Yacht Club for dinner and are greeted by a kindly lady who shows us to a table (must be feeling sorry for us) when seated I ask if we can have a couple of beers “course you can luv, Carling?” Oh no, I mean beer, Hobgoblin, so she does no more than get a guy to go to a bar outside to fetch these beers and bring them to our table, we pay and offer a tip which gets rebuffed with a “it’s me job luv” - very pleasant staff. So we have a world buffet at our disposal and what does my mate have? A plate of chips and 3 rolls, you can take the bloke out of Leicester...
The Otis Grand Big Band are up next, if you like your blues from BB King style boogie-woogie street, we are cookinsville Beirut, and this could be your band with horns, keys, and a big sound from smooth and slow to rockabilly foot-stompers - it’s all there. Otis, playing continuously, walks among the crowd stage-front laying some deep and soulful blues on us, showing every note in his face then around the greater audience before returning to the stage. All good.
I attempt Hawkwind but am beaten back by the kilowatts of power, informed later by others that I’m a girl and they were really good. I take a pint while there and see at the bar a smartly dressed man in wax jacket and cap look on as a woman in leopard-print wellies and black dress does the kick nearby...
Just time to catch the end of George Shovlin And The Radars, smoke stack lightning 4-piece covers blues band, slightly lacking vocals, probably just needed mike turning up a bit.
A guy in a bandana and a woman in leather and long black hair make meaningful well timed moves stage front while a drunk man without a shirt desperately tries to get two women dancing with him, succeeding after some minutes of begging...
Aynsley Lister Band, Gibson Les Paul-tastic rock blues in a selection of paces with strong keys, the perfect cherry on top of the biggest rock and blues Saturday cake you’ve ever seen. Has touring dates in the UK soon, I’m not on commission honest.
Sunday morning for a lot of folks means sport and we are no different so I head to the snooker room and have some success at snooker and ping-pong (darts also available and of course there’s a bar), swimming is also available and included in the cost.
After a lie down (I may be a girl) it’s 2.15pm at Butlins at the Rock and Blues which must mean…Courtney Pine…Eh?? Introduced by the rather good compere as 30yrs at the top of the Jazz/Blues scene - I never knew there was one! I’m all ears (no plugs for this) and he bangs in with some soca beats, fast and furious on the woodwind and steel drums. Quite the comedian, hw managed to engage the audience and get us all soca and bangra dancing - really great. As a finale he moves among the whole crowd, front to back, playing continuously for what seemed like 10 mins and probably was.
Tygers of Pan Tang, sounds oriental, naaahhh, Whitley bay!! Made of solid British rock and I must confess I think I have a copy of Wildcat in my collection (see Dave, I’m not a girl). Only catch 3 or 4 numbers, good British rock fare, loud and proud.
Now I’m persuaded to go and see Colin Blunstone, has done solo stuff ex of the Zombies and Alan Parsons project if you didn’t know and when he’s doing Time Of The Season or I Don’t Believe In Miracles I’m thinking I’ve made a mistake, but I stick with it and in the end the man who may have had a few facelifts wins me over snatching the Zombies first (best) hit to finish. At this finale a man is dancing manically as if on acid or something, god bless him, it all fits, and I’m into it after a slow start.
Now, I should’ve mentioned earlier about the Introducing Stage, as it suggests, lesser known bands play and get voted for by the audience - no clapometers here (showing age), if you like them you collect a token and post it in the relevant box and the most popular wins a slot at next year's Rock and Blues (more later).
I checked out the The Voodoo Sheiks, and Brian Rawson Band, as these were the only two bands I saw I had to vote for one and it was the Voodoo Sheiks, no commission I’m just saying if you come to these things I think you have a duty to support the up and coming artists if you can and I like guitar, drums, base and harp and the sheiks used all four to great effect.
The Della Grants, last year's Introducing Stage winners (told you) from Leicester (woohoo!) with a sound of rock Americana-ish. Singer takes hat that a man offers from audience after some promise had been made earlier about wearing it on stage. Moving on to more rockin’ blues and I whoop at a false ending but I don’t think anyone notices. Have all the right ingredients and close with a guest appearance by Steve(o) Walwyn of Dr Feelgood (and of course the mighty DT’s) to huge applause - well deserved.
Dr Feelgood's compere winds us up with “the No.1 R&B band in the country” - well I’m not arguing. The room is rammed and expectation high, no problem, they mean business and start delivering in bucket loads, Robert Kane on vocals never seems to stand for a second, he’s here, he’s there, front, back, adding to the energy. All the favourites are here, Roxette, Back in the Night, Down at the Doctors, and Milk and Alcohol (I bet you’re singing one of them right now) with smoking guitar from Walwyn now in his 25th year with the band, and I thought it was only last year I saw him at Croft Club with the DT’s...
It’s been a fun-filled weekend and I decide the feelgood factor is a fitting end and I skip the remaining bands in favour of an early night. SNAFU and Dave Knopfler are confirmed for 2017 and early bird tickets already available. What else you gonna be doing in the middle of January?
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Great British Rock & Blues Weekender 2020 review