Everything's been planned, as usual, we've even fitted a new (second hand) engine in the Mondeo, but that's a whole other story! So we're away in good time and actually arrive in daylight for the first time I think. Enquiring after the tickets and programs at the gate house, they don't have them, so we're directed to guest services or something similarly named, again, they don't have them .Finally we do get them, find the room and, alas, the access cards don't work (If I knew how to insert an unhappy face, it would be here). A team member goes back to the reception and a kind Butlins lady turns up with a complimentary box of goodies so I suppose that's alright then (If I knew how to insert a happy face, it would be here).
I head off to the JAKS stage for the first offering - yes that's right it's still there, regular readers may remember I reported it was due for demolition after last years show so, good news - Gerry Jablonski and the electric band, the best little band you've never heard of and you may have trouble pronouncing their names too. Towards the rocky end of the blues with great harmonica (after the levels get sorted), mostly original material from what I could tell, apart from Nessun Dorma that is, slightly weak vocally but the drummer sings a number and is well up for the job.
Centre stage for Giles Robson next, POW! This is what I think the blues is, harmonica and vocals from the big guy, all good, moody, slow, fast, heavy, just great and then, a guest vocalist, Kyla Brox, she's got some great pipes and blows out some old Koko Taylor songs like "You Can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man" and "Voodoo Woman", she even plays that great blues instrument, the flute, eh? How did that happen, I like it anyway.
Short beer break before Rick Estrin And The Nightcats smooch onto the stage, Chicago outfit sharp suits and sounds from these guys who could easily have been in the Blues Brothers movie (were they?), some story-telling during delivery of some great Chicago fayre by this guy who listened to his sisters record collection as a kid in San Francisco which began his musical journey, thoroughly entertaining.
Teed Up end the night at JAKS in style, some great slow moody songs with Hammond organ, always a bonus!
"Make sure you wake me up in time for breakfast!"
"Are we having another sherbet?"
"Go on then…."
Saturday already! 12:00 No breakfast later I'm checking out the Della Grants who are kicking off the day on the centre stage, not a slot they would have chosen I'm sure but there you go, now a 5 piece with keys and trumpet the Leicester lads have all kinds of styles and more than their fair share of vocal talent and have gained much following since debuting on the intro stage not that long ago.
While you're here you may as well take a stroll into Skegness town for a pint, there's a coast path accessible directly from the Butlins camp and it'll take you about an hour to get to the Red Lion at the top of the Lumley Rd. If you don't fancy walking there are cabs at £7.90 (assume for 4) and Butlins own bus (stops about 4pm this time of year) as well as service buses pass the site regularly for your return journey (£2.40).
Dave Speight, a man, some guitars, folk/blues and stories from more than 50 years of doing this stuff, looks to be unscripted, a real treat to be in the room, thanks Dave!
The Achievers, a 5 piece from Stroud (almost the Cotswolds they say), simple arrangements erring towards country at times, really well delivered and a great version of "Lovin Machine", Steve the front man is a comic between songs and the crowd are proper getting into them just at the last track, always leave 'em wanting more.
Sugaray Rayford, a big American man with a big band making a big sound……if only he would have let them! Flashes of brilliance perforated with lengthy talks about hard times, women, love…….The trumpet player blew for about 3 minutes in total during the 1 hour set, sax about the same, it just needed to get going and keep going, highlight was a woman standing just near me who kept heckling him with "I'm hot for you" during one of his narratives or maybe she was talking to me...
The Milk Men, smartly dressed in suits and ties punchy 4 piece featuring Adam Norsworthy from The Mustangs Dave tells me, the Who's pinball wizard, summertime blues versions covered well but mainly original stuff likely penned by Adam, guest harmonica for a couple of tracks all combined to make some good R+B.
All the normal facilities at Butlins are available to festival goers FOC so Sunday morning is a good time to swim (pool not sea, are you mad?), play snooker, darts, pool, table tennis etc. Darts was curtailed before a result due to a snooker table coming free which ended 1-1 and table tennis well I was trounced, all good fun though.
The introducing stage, watch bands, like them, vote for them and they could get a main stage gig next year, 20% of the rock stage was filled this year from last years winners so take 30 minutes out of your stay to watch someone and maybe help them on their way?
George Shovelin and George Lamb open at 3pm in JAKS, previous attendees GS says he was on the introducing stage when he was 67! So we got a man with a guitar and another slightly younger man similarly equipped should be a nice low key start. GS must have been gargling gravel, nails and old ash trays to finely hone a voice like that which he puts to full use throughout the set causing me to break that local by-law about whooping before 6pm. Great musicians this pair, 2 ladies take to the dance floor for what will be the last number and are totally into it. GS thanks GL and gives a final encore speech "I'd like lastly to thank me mam and dad, cos wi' out them YOU wouldn't have me". He's probably the best blues guitarist on his street in Sunderland so I dig deep and buy a CD, nice one George!
I'm hanging around the intro stage sometime later hoping to catch Robert J Hunter but before him is Cheri Lyn a rather alluring German lady who belts out some rocky numbers, very nice...
Robert comes on and I have an expectation having seen him perform a couple of times elsewhere, but he has changed tack somewhat towards the rock side of town and I couldn't hear his wonderful tones above his guitar and that of the bassist which I believe is James Le Huray but he's let his beard grow a bit maybe to fit the rock image, anyway he's an incredibly versatile bloke who plays loads of instruments, engineers and produces too, checkout digital platforms for more.
Sunday roast! If you upgrade to the luxury dining you shouldn't be disappointed, there are 2 choices of restaurant both with salad bars, soup, veggie options, daily main course selections including roasts, curries, chicken chasseur etc, the breakfast is also similarly wide ranging and a great hangover cure should you be unlucky to catch one.
Zoe Shwarz And Blue Commotion open the final evening session, no bass! Rocking blues and ballads with lady pipes sounding not at all unpleasant, bordering on prog rock, during a couple of instrumental breaks Dave says "the singers even gone off for a fag and a coffee". During a quicker number a couple of old boys dance across stage front as if on hobby horses and a hot lady in sequin dress and thigh high leather boots dances with her man more or less in time but both laughing like drains.
Animals and friends, well we've got a good idea how it's gonna finish but what about before? Mickey Gallagher on Hammond organ and John "steely" Steel on drums are the original 50% with Danny leading and Roberto on his left, bash out some foot-stomping good stuff from when I was merely an egg. All the favourites are there (despite numerous disputes over the years about rights of ownership and even the band name) delivered faithfully and indeed finishing as expected, announced by Steely as "that song" ... Keep doing it folks.
Main stage closers this year Dr Feelgood, they're regulars here of course, the curtains barely open and Walwyns guitar is already being tortured delivering one familiar foot stomper after another, Cain swaps skin with an audience members outstretched palm and that's about the only time he stood still. "Back In The Night" the hardcore middle pit are jumping a bit, "Roxette" now moving to full depth! "Down At The Doctors" and most of the other favourites are there, a great set viewed from the safety of the balcony!
Dana Gillespie. Where to start? Well I'm glad she changed her name for the stage, Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie, with songs like "Funk Me It's Hot" just to get it on the radio and "Sweet Meat", "Big Boy" she's a bit of a minx. Great blues from the four piece especially Mr Baptiste, Sir you are awesome on the keyboards. An old man wearing an almost as old Iron Maiden T shirt moves his head quite gently to the music at the front and who can blame him with this sort of great blues, fast, slow she's got the lot and could tell you a few eyebrow lifters about the journey after 40+yrs doing it. Keep it up Dana.
MC-Last orders at the bar...
"Make sure you wake me up in time for breakfast!"
"Are we having another sherbet?"
"Go on then."
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Great British Rock & Blues Weekender 2020 review