Full-Tone Orchestra Give It What’s For!

As the norm now is phones held high above the crowds, as us elders once did with lighters, they capture the moment on film. But I’m neglecting the trend to record wobbly, intoxicated videos, as they never do justice to the sound. There is no local event in which this is truer than yesterday’s Full-Tone Festival, because there’s simply no sound quite as immense and impacting as a full orchestra, despite my juvenile perceptions of it, of which I contemplate exactly how Full-Tone has turned this on its head…

If what Pete Tong did with his Heritage Orchestra was clever, it wasn’t entirely original. As a nipper I’d laugh at my dad, when he’d play his “Hooked on Classics” long player. Snickered because futurism had gone audio in the early eighties, rendering the mere word “orchestra” lame in our adolescent minds.

Though classical purists got their knickers in a twist that ELO arranger Louis Clark was conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra using a LinnDrum drum machine, it reintroduced classical music to a new generation. And when they released “Hooked on Rock Classics,” into the series, dad was well and truly off on one; thank heavens we hadn’t progressed to a cassette deck in the Ford Cortina yet!

But if I laughed at him, misunderstanding the richness of classical music in an era of synth, post-punk electronica, I had a dirty secret of my own. Upstairs us kids had a record deck of our own, on which I would slip on a 1978 Geoff Love album, “Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Other Disco Galactic Themes,” which, as the title suggests, Love’s orchestra breathed disco into John Williams movie scores. I was consciously side-stepping the datum, this was also created by an orchestra, for want of my own Star Wars-fevered fascination with all things sci-fi.

In reminiscing about the album, as I roughly fell out of bed this morning, it progressed to thinking of the obsession the characters had with the shape of Crook County’s Devil’s Tower in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of The Third Kind, enough to sculpt it out mashed potato. For I suspect folk of Devizes will awaken this morning with a similar subconscious obsession for an irregular arch shape, rather like the photo below!

Like the character Roy Neary, have you the discomforting desire to make a return to the site of this strange shape, like an unwarranted pilgrimage?! If so, you were an attendee of The Full-Tone Festival yesterday, and it’s perfectly natural and understanding to have been captivated by its shear magnificence. And in the history of events in Devizes, the magnitude of what The Full-Tone Orchestra achieved yesterday will forever be imprinted.

Yeah, I know, right, it came with a price-tag, one which objectors were not discouraged from doing as they threatened, and pitching chairs on the Little Green opposite to admire the happening from afar. Unfortunately, while you could hear it tingling as far away as Morrisons carpark, if you did this you did not get the full capacity or benefit of said magnificence. The acoustics up close to the funnelled stage was something extraordinary, with superior pyrotechnics the lasers and light show was professional standard and truly, locally unique. This competence alone, fairly showed where your money had been wisely spent.

It was a vast evolutionally step from the free event in the Market Place a couple of years ago. If the all-positive feedback from the crowds wasn’t enough to convince you, the delighted expression of artistic director, Jemma Brown said it all. I caught up with her for a brief word, where we discussed the logistics of the actual orchestra, explaining to me there were some sixty-five musicians onstage at any one time, ninety-five operating over the weekend, some of who played the entire shebang, while others swapped on a rota. A monumental operation, which as a punter appeared to function like clockwork.

I did, back in the spring, not include this event in a piece highlighting local festivals hopefully going ahead, and this bought an objection online which I justified under my definition of the word “festival” being an event with multiple happenings by a variety of artists and performers, ergo making this more concert than festival, and I stick by my justification. Although, while it was one “act” said act was manyfold, bringing in a wealth of musicians, plus side stalls were adequate to warrant this of festival proportions, and today, Sunday, the show will host some other acts, including Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, jazz singer Archie Combe and The Red Bandits. So, yeah, all that is debatable, but one thing for sure, whatever you want to pigeonhole this event as, there’s no denying, it was fantastic.

Beginning with classical, they marched through Gershwin, Holst et all with unrivalled passion, and swiftly moved onto iconic movie themes, which despite my aforementioned adoration for eighties sci-fi, I found the Jurassic Park theme the most poignant, its ambience hung in the air as the chitchat and everyday goings-on sustained, like a T-Rex invasion was looming on Devizes Green!

Eighties classic pop arrived around dinnertime, I returned to the scene to shudder at Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, though while this may not be my idea of eighties classic pop, given the diverse age demographic I digest many here didn’t live through it, and such a hit was defensible because of this! But tracks by Bowie, Blondie and Toto were welcomed, particularly Chris Underwood’s vocals on Ultravox’s Vienna.

If the eighties section bought about eagerness of post-lockdown dancers, the crowd flocked to the stage for the finale as dusk set in over a warm evening. Time for our Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra contrast, as the stage blew the sky high and hands were raised for this explosive climax of their hailed dance and club classics. And yes, if you picked me out of the darkness, I was giving it some like I was twenty again, with a bunch of twenty-somethings who were never there to witness the rave revolution first-hand, which was remarkable, if something of a tribulation these, what were considered at the time, throw-away tunes in the natural passage of progression, age has become me and these are now “classics” too!

Ah, well, you can’t stop the hands of time, just enjoy it while it lasts, and you can still get tickets on the door for today’s Fulltone Music Festival, on a first come, first served basis, just head on over to the entrance, by the traffic lights on Nursteed Road.

The Full-Tone orchestra really raised the bar of local events last night, if you missed it, there’s still time to catch up. And, I’d advise, if you did attend yesterday, have baked potatoes rather than mash today!


Please click here and buy our wonderful compilation album of local music, in aid of Julia’s House

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