Almost 40 years since the band Madness first began and their popularity hardly looks like waning. Loyal fans travel hundreds of miles to see the band perform and of recent years Madness have also held their own festival that seem almost like a big family gathering. Having met and often partied with many of their fans for several years it doesn't seem unusual to see Suggs walking through the venue or guitarist Chris Foreman in the festival inn sharing some beer time with the revellers.
The Butlin's Minehead venue is, for most of the year, a holiday resort, with chalet accommodation and a huge undercover area with bars, music venues and shops. With the weather in November somewhat chilly for the traditional outdoors festival Butlins, with it's purpose built indoor venues is the perfect site for music lovers to keep the festival vibe going.
The Friday night agenda consisted of the Madness ensemble pretending to be another band. In previous guises they recorded an album of cover versions which they would be playing rather than the usual Madness material. Fans eagerly fill the venue early to get prime viewing spots and the area which must hold several thousand is near capacity. The band rattle through a series of classic songs, many of which can be found on their album The Dangermen sessions vol 1 which were actually songs they played in their early years under the band name The Invaders. Classic songs which are perhaps even more well known now thanks to bands like Madness and others who have lovingly reworked them, 'Wonderful World Beautiful People' and 'Papa's Got A Brand New Pig Bag' and many many more.
As always Madness seem to enjoy themselves doing something different and play well whilst taking it somewhat easy, obviously saving themselves for their Saturday night show of Madness greatest hits. The area quickly empties and the band are no doubt getting changed before coming out to mingle with their fans. The merchandise stall is fully loaded with fans buying every bit of Madness branded attire and fans take selfies with a life size picture of the band. Judging from the festive spirit I can see fans will be partying hard tonight.
As the main arena empties (the stage is exclusively used for Madness) it's time to see what else the event has to offer. Scanning the line up it's unsurprisingly a list of whose who (or who has been who) on the London Ska scene with classic DJs and bands that Madness love, all of whom have been influenced by the band in some way.
In a darkened room the Dub Pistols are the next band on my to see list, having been around for almost 20 years I've always managed to miss them at other events. Taking to the stage, it's evident that a few beers have been drunk but it doesn't dampen their energy. Bass vibrates my ribcage as it hits me like a slap in the face and the drummer unleashes on hit kit and the music immediately take off. The Dub Pistols navigate their way through the more contemporary styles of dub and ska before taking the pace as far as drum and bass all with expert execution. The energy and quality of their delivery show why they have been such as long serving band on the touring circuit and I'm sure they will continue to be firm favourites for many more years.
Immediately after I'm a bit surprised to see a stripper on the stage. Giselle who performs between each band which I thought was more than random but maybe that's just me. Unsurprisingly The Cuban Brothers are on the line up, perfect for such an event. For anyone who has never seen them they cross the boundaries of music, comedy and dance in a way that few can. With their over the top Mexican accents and ridiculous 1970's disco attire they sing, rap and break dance whilst telling jokes aimed very much at an adult audience.
My final act of the night I choose to see is Reeps1 the British beat box champion who is undoubtedly brilliant at what he does, creating entire songs, drums, bass and vocals etc with just his own mouth. Though brilliant it feels more like a showcase than a set as each song has moments where he stops and talks and he patronises the audience by talking to everyone as if we've never seen a beatboxer and I find it hard to believe that anyone hasn't seen a beatboxer. He may be champion and great at showcasing but he didn't display the composition competence of greats like MC Xander or Dub FX which admittedly is impossible to do without a loop pedal but then why not use a loop pedal?
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