another fine year of rock and blues at the seaside

Great British Rock & Blues Weekender 2020 review

By Tim Gale | Published: Thu 23rd Jan 2020

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Friday 17th to Monday 20th January 2020
Butlins Resort, Skegness, Lincolnshire, PE25 1NJ, England MAP
from £65 per person
Last updated: Tue 17th Dec 2019


I'm laughing as I type this opener due to a flashback about the journey to Skegness Butlins this year, needing a gentleman stop en route in a lay-by, I'm just enjoying some relief when, inexplicably, Phil's (driver) partner decided to open and close her door, Phil thought this was me getting back in and sped off down the A158 in an Easterly direction leaving me flicking my willy in the bushes and wishing I'd put my coat on..................

We get booked in fairly painlessly and go for dinner at “The Deck”, carvery followed by apple crumble, top notch. After dinner I just catch the last act on the intro stage “Hollowstar”, hailing from Cambridgeshire their genre is R-O-C-K, no question! Joe Bonson fronts with vocals and guitar achieving and sustaining some pretty high notes in this full energy presentation. The hair, the boot teetering on the monitor leaning out towards the appreciative crowd who join in when prompted, Rock looks to be alive and well with this young band. 


REDS stage next, “Burnt Out Wreck”, no not me! Well maybe Monday..... Last years intro stage winners but appearing a well seasoned team of rockers, could be a marginally younger Brian Johnson...discuss, with titles like “pulling it out, sticking it in” I don't think I need say anymore. 

Hotshots stage, a new venue for this year. Catfish, the first lyric I hear is “Gotta step back to look at the big picture”, quite apt for this new (hopefully temporary) venue as it's quite poor, stage stuck in the corner and too low, more later, Catfish are previous attendees and I'm glad they're back with a broad appeal, rock, blues and moody slowies all delivered in high quality and the big man, Matt Long, can really play guitar. They close with “Let it rain” and really deserved more respect from the audience during this incredibly atmospheric number but, alas, they didn't get it. Speaking to a lady nearby she tells me she saw them before Christmas and during that same number performing for 30 people, you could have heard a pin drop, must have been something special. A really great hard working band.

REDS stage for “Savoy Brown”, not at all what I was expecting, much better in fact, formed in the 60's mainly found success in the US of A so not too well known here, anyway many incarnations later (and 55yrs) we have a 3 piece - think Dire Straits - Paul Jones a funky bass and maybe Jim Morrison vocally? Great harmonica, guitar, bass and yes even a good drum solo. Kim Simmonds (founder), Pat DeSalvo and Garnet Grimm will attend to your needs.

Billy Branch next on centre stage. ‘kin awesome - billed as Harmonica focussed Chicago blues, can't argue with that but SO much more, great band all round (the sons of blues), brilliant bluesed up version of Sympathy For The Devil, I'm in the pit moving about (I think) in time, my mate Robby is there and Phil's taking the snaps, all round exactly what I like, good job Billy.

Billy Branch

Closing up Friday on Hotshots is Gerry Quigley, now then, been off these shores for many years doing time in Oz, now he's back (in Dublin) and entertains us with some moving, emotive Celtic blues rock. Totally at home almost prog rocking it up on guitar with “weeping willow” but also has a twin neck Mandolin/Bouzouki combo for the Celtic edge (and Greek??). After the show I end up talking to Patricia Moore who was watching. Moore? Moore?? It's only Gary’s little sister and Jimmy Howlett’s (drums) partner, well I try and change into top interview gear but fail miserably only managing to find out that Gary practised guitar in the early 70's at the Quigley household and that the first time she met Phil Lynott she thought he had an aura (she was only 13) and to this day considers him to be her guardian angel.

So could Quigley be the evolution of Gary Moore? Discuss amongst yourselves. Quigley calls his twin neck Sean and Sheila by the way....

JAKS; As promised earlier, it's no more - JAKS is closed and been stripped out with no plans to rebuild or refit at the moment according to a helpful blue coat. She continues, a more pressing issue may be that the iconic canvas big top pavilion is a year over it's 20yr lifespan and may need replacing, that's not going to be cheap! I digress, Blues Matters who sponsor Hotshots (and JAKS) stage were offered an alternative stage, Crazy Horse, which I'm told would have been a much more suitable venue however it's the other side of the coast road linked by a pedestrian underpass I guess the BM folks thought it would have seemed too far and people wouldn't bother going, who knows.

Saturday 13:30 REDS stage, Starlight Campbell band. Tough early slot for these blues rockers of a fine vintage, hints of funk at times (thanks Jonny Hammond) and Mr Simon Campbell could easily be mistaken for David Jason’s slightly younger brother who can sing and play the blues (no offence meant). Got a single out soon “Stone cold crazy” they tell us and start to really rock it up and jump about on stage in the middle of the set, I notice a photographer pointing a rather large lens at Jonny on the Hammond who immediately used his none playing hand at the time to run fingers through his impressive mane, poseur.....


Suzy on bass guitar (and song writing and loads of other stuff) and Steve on the backbone combine in a general pschyco instrument frenzy which was a bit much for me at 14:30 on a Saturday but a great band all the same.

Fresh air: No trip to the area is complete without a visit down town so I catch the stagecoach bus just outside the main gate and part with £4.20 for a return (no Butlins bus any more), they run every 20mins or so and you can get off on the Lumley road (Skegness main street) where at the top you will find the Red Lion wetherspoons pub, a welcome break for the wallet!

After dinner I check out Miguel Montalban on the centre stage, was already underway and after online research I'm expecting a lot but ended up a bit disappointed, mainly a succession of drawn out instrumental (rock) numbers and when the vocalist chirped in it was poor, just not my thing, sorry folks. 

Hotshots stage, Jo Carley And The Old Dry Skulls, first person I notice on the stage is James LeHuray on double bass (with skeleton paintwork), banjo, mandolin and backing vocals, he supported Robert J Hunter last year on the intro stage if you regulars recall, anyway all songs contain the words bones, zombie or dead in the title and with the aid of a washboard Carly delivers in a vaudeville cabaret style with more than a hint of voodoo, think she put a spell on me, could have been misbooked for this gig but I don't think so as the growing crowd seem to love them, entertaining to the end with Tim and his foot tambourine and guitar.

Staying in Hotshots, its not growing on me I just want to see the acts that are playing here, she needs no introduction but I'm gonna give her one, damn it, I only have to start writing about Dana Gillespie and the innuendo starts, 70 albums in, that's 2 for every year she's been alive right?? She's still going strong surrounded by a band sharper than a carpet tack including Mr Baptiste on the keys boogying it up and then slowing it down for moody stuff, mainly with a dollop of innuendo or political incorrectness in the vocals with titles such as FCK The Only Thing Missing Is U, and she was pointing straight at me............stop it now!

Dana Gillespie

Sticking at the hotshots stage Dawson Smith And The Dissenters are finishing off Saturday night with their good time party blues style with some dancy grooves, a mix of original material (Dawson has been about for years) and well chosen covers like ZZ Top-La Grange, love it. Dawson in dark glasses is backed up by Martin on Lead/slide guitar, Steve on bass and vocals and lastly Dave Rowe on drums and vocals holding it all together, a great end to Sat night from the Leicester band. 

Sunday is sport day so after being battered at snooker I'll say no more about it....

REDS stage 13:30 Zoe Schwartz Blue Commotion, again a tricky slot to fill but at least she wasn't first up! A tasty set up with Zoe on the words and making some blokes drool, a left hooker Les Paul, engine room at the back and of course the keys given just the right amount of prominence, from what I heard was almost all original stuff, solid blues material and finished with the often covered Screamin Jay Hawkins penned “I put a spell on you” , Zoe, I think you did.........

Still in Hotshots, maybe it is growing on me, When Rivers Meet, WOW, what a pair of talents, one of the simplest set ups I've seen this weekend, a lady who can really sing and a man likewise, 3 guitars, a violin, a metal mandolin and a miniature base drum with a foot pedal. With their two voices combined I found them exceptional, a really moving and rootsy set, a shame it wasn't better attended but they were up against Muddy Waters Son but then again in the quiet bits the couple were respected by the audience which I found refreshing. Top marks Grace and Aaron! They're touring hard so check em out.

After a dinner break, or drink break, depends how you look at it we kick off the evening session with Climax Blues Band. A funky sound mainly giving us every track from their latest album but did include their best known hit “Couldn't get it right”, more funk and soul I thought than blues but I liked it, the crowd didn't seem to share my view and only got going with the last number which was a rocker. Great delivery and presence from the tall man on the words Graham Dee.

Moving over to REDS for Chris Slade Timeline, now I generally wear earplugs at these things and am doing now but man this seems loud! Chris is a Welshman with a CV like a toilet roll, in length not mostly gone down the pan, kicking off with the Welsh national anthem Delilah, rocked up of course then some AC/DC numbers faithfully done followed by that Bruce Springsteen penned song that has enjoyed a recent cinema backed resurgence “Blinded by the light”, it's all a bit much for me so I make like the lyric..."Blinded by the light, cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night".

Back in Hotshots for Chris Bevington Organisation, the last bit of the name is paramount with 5 on the front row and 4 on the back, lady singers, trombone, sax, Hammond and super vocals from those who gave them, everything had it's moment before the end and was great, the Hammond sublime, best band of the weekend (so far) and a must see if blues is ya thang. A few tour dates in the diary mainly staffs and Cheshire but in July they are at the 20th Linton festival which looks good, tickets from the website but early birds have gone......

Chris Bevington Organisation

After a short drinkalude The Achievers are ready for the off, seen them here before and would again, simple presentation, sharp and clean with a bit of comedy from the Stroud crew, fitting closers to the weekend, hardly anyone standing still and I even get to try some of my northern soul moves as they do a (slightly) bluesed up version of the great Al Wilson classic “The snake”. I slope off into the night wondering what a curvature of silk is and if I'll meet a tender hearted woman to wrap me in one...

A few sour notes about the sad demise of the Jaks venue apart (we knew it was coming), another fine year of rock and blues at the seaside – we’ll be back for sure.

Nightcap? Not for me thanks - did someone mention burnt out wreck earlier?

review by: Tim Gale

photos by: Phil Bull

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