Miserable, damp, overcast, Friday morning in January, as I’m not at work that can mean only one thing….The Great British rock and blues festival at Butlins Skegness!
Half a dozen beers in a box, tea bags, milk with crisps and chocolate digestives, spare pants in one pocket and a £ton in the other, I’m ready…..
The stars align (midland mainline and the A46/52) and the party arrive in very good time for booking in.
We’ve opted for the better dining package and enjoy either fish and chip dinner or gammon roast and vegetables followed by rhubarb crumble and custard, mmm….
Head off to the JAKS stage for the first offering, Robin Bibi Band, 3 blokes who sound like they know their stuff, playing a southern style blues they’ve been at it 20 yrs and play some clean polished numbers moving towards rock as they get going but it takes a BB King cover (track name escapes me) to get some movers down the front. Showboats around a bit with guitar behind head and does a bit of George Benson style vocal/guitar work…..nice. After N, S, E and W of the blues finished up with an instrumental tribute to Hendrix…..not bad at all!
REDS stage next for Atomic Rooster, a band I know nothing about but my pencil sharpener for the weekend, Dave, says he doesn’t recognise any of the original members but hey 1970 was a long time ago in rock years…..
PVC trousered Prog ish rocker has some great tubes for an old boy and I notice there are a few on the front row getting lost in the whole occasion head nodding etc etc, one lady (must be 75, ahem, pardon me madam) has to take a break and shuffles off stage left with one heck of a smile on her face! My mistake, she’s back, must have needed a no.1. Encore of “fire” a nod to Arthur, not quite up to his standard but planets better than I could do,,.. Great stuff.
Alvin Youngblood Hart I hear you say? I’m saying Texas swamp blues, if there is such a genre, with heavy bass, no wait, good old boys swamp rock…….You should get the idea by now. Lots of whooping from a small crowd who appreciate this big old boy and his pals, gets a bit more rocky through the set but tables seem to be emptying and heads ceased bobbing, can’t say why but never really seemed to recover the audience and in the end appeared glad to get off and no encore, I enjoyed it though.
Moseying round to JAKS stage for Fridays final offering I was expecting the Rainbreakers according to the programme but got Ash Wilson, so worth mentioning about the large screens dotted around the venues which list the acts in a format which CAN be read without too much strain and should be accurate with there information. I’m 3 rows back and taking in some proper blues, really top drawer stuff, when some buffoon and his pal barge through the crowd and just stand there talking loudly while Ash bears the soul of his guitar in a wonderful atmospheric track. Great keys from Mick Hucknall lookylikey, Ash asks to the desk “have I got enough time?” an audience member shouts “it’s only half 8” it’s actually 00:45 but I applaud that persons effort to get a bit more from this great band. A lady brims about the performance, “he can show more emotion through his guitar than his voice”, she holds my beer while I scribble it down, thanks nice lady!
I’m ushered from JAKS with the rest of the stragglers and return to the room, put the telly on while the kettle boils for the nightcap and what do BBC4 give us? Paloma Faith in concert singing stone cold sober, madam, I assure you I most definitely am not, good night………!
Saturday already! Overcast but not to worry, it’s all indoors!
Breakfast served until 10:30 so no need to bust a gut with a sore head. It’s all there eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, hash browns, fried bread, beans, fresh fruit, yoghurts and cereals. After that lot you might consider a stroll along the front to Skegness, takes about an hour, continue to the clock tower and head inland up the Lumley road, at the top on the right you will see the Red Lion where we set up camp for a couple of hours of beers and chinwagging (Fugglededum ale goes down well). Good time to peruse the program and moan about the miniscule typeface used to enable the whole weekends itinery can be seen at a glance, it’s really hard to read in perfect light virtually impossible in a venue, it’s just too small! Butlins own bus as well as service buses pass the site regularly for your return journey (£2.40).
The introducing stage, watch bands, like them, vote for them and they could get a main stage gig next year…easy
I catch Storm Warning, a good time rock and roll band with nice harmonica, all these bands are good though and it’s your job to vote for the best so try and see a couple if you can. Next on this stage was Yoka And The Sugarbeats so I hang on after a beer break for set change and wow shes got more pipes than a church organ in a Janis Joplin style at the top end, soft and slow for a start building to rocky ends with plenty of instrumental, a bit prog rockish, great keys properly pronounced in the setup, saxophone, flute it’s got it all going on, hey where did my blue voting token go.....?
Next up was The Ryk Mead Band, 3 piece proper blues band singing about, Chicago, the crossroads and other bad stuff, they’re the real thing alright…….
Bernie Marsden, ex of whitesnake (and blinking loads of other 70/80s rockers) writing and playing guitar so I think logically I’m in for a bit of rocky something or other, but no, instead I am truly treated to some awesome acoustic versions of old numbers of all sorts interspersed with anecdotes, jokes and stories from history - very entertaining and played the audience wonderfully with false starts and singalongs, "Fool For Your Loving”, “Here I Go Again”, “Is This Love” in a 6 or 12 string presentation, encores with Beatles “From Me To You” ....a brilliant show.
Centre stage now for Roger Chapman Family And Friends, the clues are all in the name, Leicester lad Chappo done good, the tubes are just about holding up, industrial language from the off, a group of old boys who have seen it all, done it all, should know better but why the big fuck should they?? Just keep doing whatever the fuck you just fucking did cause it was good.
After a beer break and set change Earl Thomas shows up on The Centre Stage, now this is what I’m talking about!... All the ingredients are there, mixed in exact proportions, white shirt, blue tie, grey suit backed up with brass, keys, guitar, bake on a low light for an hour and you will have the best Earl Thomas pie, soulful, clean and wholesome with an Otis Redding garnish, these old boys really know how to blow them pipes, top shelf presentation tight as a drum and a bit of story telling about listening to country music stations as a kid and being a mummys boy! I liked him so much I bought the CD…..
Finishing off Saturday night in JAKS bar it’s Rainbreakers - the place is rammed as it’s the only one still open, some low down dirty/funky/rocky blues before bedtime, the former introducing stage champs end the night in fine style, well done boys……..
Sunday morning should be used for sports but due to renovation works snooker, darts and table tennis were not available so we try American pool. As with everything else in America, yes, even their pool tables are bigger than ours (but so are the pockets!). A convincing win for me, easily de-bagging my older opponent in the 30mins allowed time on the table.
I was planning on catching Edgar Broughton today but I made the fatal mistake of going along with someone else and ended up in the wrong room so Greg Coulson kicks off after sport with some super strong clean vocals, high energy rocking blues with some multi limbed keyboard action and a superb atmospheric version of the Peggy Lee song “Why Don’t You Do Right” and it wasn’t ruined by chinwaggers! Another nod to George Benson I think and a tribute to Walter Becker from last years intro stage winners.
Rob Tognoni, vintage rockers 3 piece, more R than B but dead polished, a succession of jams really from this real showman who blows a kiss to a lady on the front row enjoying herself while 2 gents nearby in old tour shirts nod in unison.
Back into JAKS now for Backwater Roll present mainly a selection of rambling blues jams with an interesting funk infusion at one point, seem well liked by the crowd who are mostly moving in time.
Billy Walton Band, loads going on here with brass and keys, easy listening rock style that gets going a bit, great keyboard sound in a prog style I felt like I was in for a 15 minute epic but then wasn’t, brass section seemed out of place here and I couldn’t really hear them….
Drop by the intro stage on way to JAKS and catch The Wilbur Project, a solid good time rock/blues band that can have my vote today.
Roadhouse. This band have been in existence for 26 years or so in one form or another, mere youngsters you may say compared to some this weekend. That said some of the members must have been late starters! A very pleasant lady sharing the vocals belts out some original and covered material sounding not unlike (and as good as) Lulu. It’s their 13th year at this festival but her 1st and they have previously played the bigger stages. A second lady joined in for a couple of songs and I’m afraid it just didn’t work, out of time and tune it sounded awful………..
Lucky Peterson. Had been looking forward to this one and waiting at stage front with the curtains closed and 20 mins behind schedule the DJ puts on another record and comments that there’s “100s of wires and cables” to connect. 30 mins late the curtain opens and it looks like we’re gonna get the good stuff but , alas, after 2 mins of the first number on his trademark instrument and (for me) the biggest draw, the mighty Hammond organ falls silent, Lucky jumps up and grabs the (hopefully) trusty Gibson SG and cruises through a couple of numbers while a techy tries to fix the Hammond (had to feel sorry for him (techy and Lucky)), a couple more numbers follow then, a miracle, it’s fixed and Lucky smashes out a stretched Knock On Wood holding his hands in the air at the end and says “shit happens”, a real shame but I’ll be looking out for any UK tour dates (could be a while, I think he’s just finished one)
The curtains draw and that is your lot.
Beer break to reclaim Dave the pencil sharpener from the room, we’re passing Centre Stage and can here the Canvey Island massive chanting Stevo, Stevo, Stevo and generally causing mayhem stage front so head straight for JAKS and James O’Hara, it’s practically empty everyone must be at Dr Feelgood, anyway a lady in a dress and 16 hole DMs is dancing on her own stage right and a couple the opposite side jive nicely to the band.
Elles Bailey closes out the weekend at JAKS and rumour has it that it will be the last ever band to play there as it’s being knocked down in a redevelopment scheme (unconfirmed). Like an M+S ready meal there’s everything to satisfy, 2 keyboards (both working), enough guitars, drums and super vocals that in a few years time should mature into something really special (it ain’t bad now let me tell you!), loads of original material, cool guitar slide work, delta style, crowd loves em of which I am a member.
Elles finishes to the disco and the longest version of "Freebird" I’ve ever heard, we’re ushered out by security and mosey to our beds singing Frankie Miller songs and calling each other wankers, ahh roll on next year……..
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Great British Rock & Blues Weekender 2020 review