Friday evening at House of Fun was all about the new Madness material

House of Fun Weekender review

published: Wed 30th Nov 2011

around the festival site

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th November 2011
Butlins Resort, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH, England MAP
from £149 per person (based on four people sharing)
daily capacity: 6500
last updated: Thu 10th Nov 2011

What do you do with a holiday resort in winter? Close down for a few months and make all your staff unemployed or do you reinvent yourself to a different market? Butlins has become increasingly more marketing savvy during recent years. Through carefully knowing their client demographic and their musical preferences they have managed to reinvent themselves as a venue for festivals when most organisers are more concerned with their Christmas shopping.

around the festival site
So it began on a sunny winters day, I approached the Butlins gates for The House of Fun Weekender with my usual festival optimism at the hope of a splendid variety of music and experiences. As place to go for weekend frivolities Butlins has a lot to offer in terms of facilities. There is a supermarket, cinema, lazer quest, paintball, a waterpark complete with wave machine and water slides and the accommodation is clean and modern with all mod-cons one would expect in their own home. All of this already in place and then some bright spark decided to add famous music artists – genius.

As I looked around at the various punters arriving I noticed that almost all of them were male, fat and bald. I knew Madness had a loyal, long standing following but it seemed I was entering a world of men that had dragged themselves away from the football for the weekend and had left their wives (whom I assume they refer to as 'the missus') watching X-Factor and were having a 'weekend away with the lads.' I checked the line up, there was plenty of innovative exciting music on the cards; Scroobius Pip, Mr Scruff, Jaguar Skills, Rob Da Bank, Maverick Sabre, etc. Surely these artists could attract a variety of people that come to make the rich melting pot of what we know as a festival. Sadly not, I realised with some dismay that the artists were tucked away at ridiculous hours of the morning by which time our sozzled clientèle would be passed out from beer. Yes this crowd were here for Madness and beer.

Friday eve was all about the new Madness material, a perfect taster for fans who are expectantly waiting the bands tenth album. The main arena was near capacity as expectant fans waited eagerly for their ageing idols. Performing in the most casual of attire the band eased into the new material with 'Death of the Rude Boy' like an an old man into a sofa. It was slick and catchy and will undoubtedly sound great in the studio but decidedly down tempo as were the following tracks suggesting that if the band are write another classic it more likely to be a reggae or soul song than ska song. Suggs suggests that 'La Luna' is a response to 'In My Life' by the Beatles or at least one aspect of the song and 'My Girl Number 2,' as Suggs put it, is a sequel by keyboard player Mike Barson to a song he wrote in early Madness days. They joke sarcastically amongst themselves about how 'prolific' he has been as a songwriter.

I cant be too critical of a band that are adored by thousands and have produced many classic anthems, after all the songs aren't bad, they will probably sound great on the album rather than as a live spectacle. Madness proved they can still pull a crowd and can still play well live, after all it would have been hard to pull the wool over everyone's eyes for more than 30 years, but Friday is very downbeat and it is Saturday night's greatest hits set is what the festival-goer wanted to hear.

So with an evening of entertainment spread over 3 stages, fans instead returned to their chalets leaving dance floors almost empty with DJs and bands surely wondering why they were actually being paid. Beardyman would normally expect to fill a tent a festival but here couldn't even fill the front of stage in what was a huge empty, soul-less venue so Rob da Bank or Toddla T who were scheduled even later were sure to struggle. Not willing to wait for hours to find the answer I instead went to sleep.

around the festival site
review by: Anthony Hetherington

photos by: Anthony Hetherington

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th November 2011
Butlins Resort, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH, England MAP
from £149 per person (based on four people sharing)
daily capacity: 6500
last updated: Thu 10th Nov 2011


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