Tickets for this summer’s Manton-Fest are up for grabs, a one-day festival I’ve heard only good things about.
The date is Saturday 27th June. A £20 Early-bird ticket will guarantee you’re in for this previously sold-out mini-fest, this year you can book a plot for your gazebo for £5, parking has been moved to a separate field allowing more space, but let’s see what your money will get you this year shall we?
The headliner is Edinburgh’s Blondie tribute, Dirty Harry. While there’s Blondie tributes aplenty, the band say, “the essence of Dirty Harry is to put on a show Blondie would give the nod to and in true punk style.” Call me, I’m convinced, and slightly hot under the collar; with the advantage of YouTube you can judge for yourself, modern technology eh?
The Ex-Men are next on the hierarchy, as the name suggests, it’s an amalgamation group made up of Alan Sagar ex Big Country, Graham Pollock ex The Hollies, Peter Barton ex the Animals, Phil Bates ex ELO and Geoff Hammond ex Denny Laine; you get the idea. A stimulating sounding assembly with a wealth of experience between them couldn’t possibly go wrong.
Vintage blues with a hard edge groove is the ethos of Barrelhouse, who promise up-beat original tracks and classic covers. You be forgiven for assuming the Swinging Blue Jeans would headline, but this classic-sixties rock n roll group have no members of the original skiffle sextet. Yet the band went through constant changes throughout its expansive history, with replacements dating back as far as 1963, when they had their memorable hit, “Hippy Hippy Shake,” and frontman Alan Lovell has led the band for over twenty years.
London-based Bob Marley tribute, the One Love Orchestra could well be my arm twister. Formed in 2010, by musical director and lead guitarist Marcin Bobkowski, One Love Orchestra comprises of reggae musicians who’ve worked with legends like The Wailers, Max Romeo, Johnny Osbourne, Lee Scratch Perry, and UB40, and bring a moving tribute to the legend.
Lancashire singer-songwriter Joe Martin returns after being a hit last year, Manton’s own mellow blues-based Ed Witcomb will also appear, along with local rock covers band @59, and Skedaddle open the show with their mix of soul, blues and jazz. More are promised, if this isn’t enough to be getting on with, and I dunno, it just sounds like a splendid day. For what begun as an event to aid much-needed restoration funds for Manton Village Hall, its grown into an important occasion on our local circuit and aids other local charities.
Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?
From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.
If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.
As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!
Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!
My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.
However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.
It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.
Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.
This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!
If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.
Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.
Perhaps the most interesting part of our chat with DOCA coordinator, Loz, and definitely, the most controversial was the carnival’s date change. Still social media comments groan that Confetti Battle was traditionally on a Wednesday. Yet, bringing it to a Saturday makes it feasible for higher attendance, particularly tourists and day trippers.
Loz expressed it could be as renowned as the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, and intends to diversify and extend the concept to interest a wider audience. In Devizes we take it for granted people annually gather in the Market Place to fling confetti at each other, without contemplating how bizarre this notion is to outsiders. Bizarre attracts adventurous visitors, hunting for something different; they’d come, they’d spend money, but less likely on a Wednesday evening.
This morning I read a blog about The Rainforest World Music Festival, three days partying in the rainforest near Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. Okay, the English was poorly translated, but the photos wowed. Given I’ve jested the word “festival” these-days seems to be a new-fangled soundbite whereby anyone can pop up a gazebo, hire a man with a guitar, sell some tinnies and allow gatherers to piss on his rhododendrons, and dub it a festival, it got me thinking exactly what constitutes a festival, internationally, how bizarre do some get, and how does our Confetti Battle compare?
Investigation exposed some pretty outlandish and curious events, and some complete bonkers. Many you’d need to pack a suitcase for a lengthy flight for, others it seems are not so far away. The Coopers Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire cropped up more times than injuries undoubtedly caused there, but nowhere have I discovered mention of Pewsey’s locally eminent Wheelbeerow Race, or Devizes and the weird custom of lobbing confetti at each other. Think outside the box, or Brittox, it is a tad weird, guys; but both on weeknights.
Do they compare in weirdness to a moose dropping festival? Talkeetna, Alaska, it’s not snow falling from the sky, but moose poo, painted white and dropped from a helicopter! Or the International Hair-Freezing Contest in Yukon, Canada, where, as the name hints, using only water and the frosty air, contestants freeze their Barnett Fair into the most peculiar and eccentric shapes?
While some are just ascetically bizarre, like the Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, or Florida’s Underwater Music Festival, it’s the theme of many which alarms or amuses; Roswell obviously has a UFO Festival. Devon’s Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming, is a thing. The World Bog-Snorkelling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells and Ashbourne’s toedium smack down, the World Toe Wrestling Championships are too.
Wife Carrying Championship, anyone? The wedding vow of husbands metaphorically carrying spouses in times of sickness is taken a smidgen too literally in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Awards for the swiftest, toughest and amusingly costumed pairs are handed to contestants who carry their wives across a 254-metre obstacle course. But at the Festa del Cornuto, outside Rome, the Festival of the Horns, the men of cheating wives’ parade, crying and smashing possessions they gifted them to honour and console their woe.
Confetti Battle is a tad more family-orientated, like Krampusnacht in Germany, where every December an anti-Santa hands every naughty kid a lump of coal. Why not dress as devils and jump over our babies, because it has constituted a festival for over four-hundred-years in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain? If you think Don Quixote in a Lycra Satan suit leaping over your darling isn’t quite psychologically traumatic enough for them, how about Tokyo’s Naki Sumo, where oversized sumo-wrestlers square-up in a ring, each holding a baby, the contest being the first to make the other’s baby cry? Supposed to ward off evil spirits, so if your kid sees no fear in the wrester, the referee jumps in donning a scary mask to ensure a change of nappy is needed.
Some are pleasant, like the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong, where competitors’ climb sixty-foot towers of sweet buns which line the streets. Or the Floating Lantern Festival in Hawaii, and Beer Floating in Finland; steady, floating down a river in an improvised raft gulping Carlsberg. Others equal this pleasantness but add humorous elements, like the village of Brawby, where the Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race takes place over Bob’s Pond.
Food leftover fights are commonplace, La Tomatina in Spain, The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy. I mean, sure, Rayne in Louisiana has a Frog Festival, and turkey testicle eating contests are widespread across the USA. Alongside the sinister Day of the Dead Festival, Mexico has Noche de Rábanos at Oaxaca, or “The Night of the Radishes.”
Korea has the Boryeong Mud Festival, where if you thought Pilton can get pretty filthy on a rainy July, you should see these lot engaging in mud photography workshops or having mud massages. But mud is great for the skin, ambiguously, especially the Boryeong mud used in their cosmetics. Or the valued tradition of Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, where 9,000 naked Japanese men wrestle for sticks thrown by a Shinto priest. If the winner puts the sticks into a wooden box with rice, he will be contented the whole year.
Equally as cringeworthy to me, but hey, you might fancy the Japanese Kanamara Matsuri, or festival of the penis. They have penis artworks (unsure if they’re pictures of dicks or drawn with one, like drawing using a fat, wax crayon in your left-hand,) penis-shaped sweeties and carved vegetables, decorations, and a phallic mikoshi parade. Yet again the logic centres around a shrine once popular for prostitutes to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. But legend has it, a Vagina Dentata demon lurks inside vaginas to castrate young men on their wedding night. If told that, you’d be celebrating the prosperity of your manhood.
Finland’s Air Guitar World Championships claims the ideology would end wars, stop climate change and eradicate all bad things. So, all of them have a history, or logic behind them, no matter how bizarre they may seem. Peru’s Cat Food Festival, for example, you may think this annual gathering in Cañete, where they munch on cats is to cull an overpopulated stray cat problem, but no, they breed the animals especially for human consumption at the gig. Apparently, cat meat has aphrodisiac properties and also prevents ailments in the bronchi; I’ll skip it and just try the veg, thanks all the same.
At least Thailand’s annual Monkey Buffet Festival isn’t as bad, despite the alarming name, it’s the monkeys who get a feast, not us nibbling on monkey meatloaf. They honour the descendants of a monkey warrior in Lopburi, and it’s a crowd-puller. Seems disease-spreading blood-sucking pests get honoured, The Great Texas Mosquito Festival brings three days of carnival to Clute; food, drink, games and rides, craft or cooking workshops.
Confetti Battle roots to Carnival in 1913, where confetti and rose petals were thrown by the crowd at people in the procession. The tradition evolved into a fully-fledged battle around 1955, started by Jim Jennings, but the reason is unknown. Maybe we need to make one up; a nobleman’s wedding that went horribly wrong?
Even bulls rampaging around the streets, averagely injuring three hundred people and killing fifteen at the Fiesta San Fermin, doesn’t stop people gathering and making a festival out of. Why then, should changing our relatively harmless confetti battle from Wednesday to a Saturday bother you?! I’m not suggesting we have a penis fest, or eat cat, but what Devizes has is unique, and could be on this list!
Some years back I was told a ska band played the previous night in the village across the dual carriageway. Being an aficionado of the genre, I was disappointed to hear I’d missed it; good enough reason we now have Devizine so you need not be like me and can hear of events before they happen!
Informed the band was called Train to Skaville worsened matters; such a great name, taken from the 1967 single of Jamaica’s harmony group, The Ethiopians. The launchpad for a UK tour when it hit our charts, the song’s riff has been applied to many later songs, including Toots & The Maytal’s 54-46 and heralded the concept of the chugging train sound used in a plethora of later ska and reggae songs.
Despite ensuring I’d added all their local gigs to the event guide here since day dot, and befriended singer Jules Morton as part of the all-female fundraising supergroup, The Female of the Species, the must-see box on my perpetually cumulative to-do-list remained unticked, until last night. Unfortunate weather clouded sanguinity early on when I ventured over to Melksham for the opening of Party in the Park. An evening dubbed “Parkfest,” separated from the main event happening today, as what once may have been a welcoming gig, has spawned its own identity; the main event builds on universal pop appeal, Parkfest has a more matured feel.
It was in chatting with Bruce Burry, event coordinator at the Assembly Rooms, which revealed this forthcoming grand line-up of ska. I was taken aback, Party in the Park is Bruce’s baby, and boy, does he take care of it. Impressive and vast is the setup at King George V park, professional is the stage, sound and effects. I’d heard of it before, but when Bruce uttered the name Neville Staple, my heart whacked into hyperdrive. Some months on, I was kindly invited backstage, as the support, none other than my burning-box-to-be-ticked band, Train to Skaville, prepared and tuned. Attempting optimism, my mutterings that once they took the stage the drizzle would cease met with sullenness, but guys, I was right, wasn’t I?! Call me Michael Fish.
Naturally, headline act, the original rude-boy, formerly of The Specials and who later formed Fun Boy Three with Terry Hall and Lynval Golding, Neville Staple excelled with sleekness and anticipated competence. His combo group, The Neville Staple band has become the stuff of legend amidst the ska scene since 2004. Again, akin to our review of Trevor Evan’s Bardbwire at Devizes Arts Festival last month, Neville’s outfit merges two-tone and punky reggae back into its precursor ska, for this explosive melting pot, prevalently fermented the anniversary of Two-Tone Records, the Coventry record label which spurred a scene and both aforementioned artists played a pivotal role in.
However, this was not before Neville and friends ran through some Specials classics, and if classics are the given thing in this retrospective amalgamation, Train to Skaville knocked it out of King George Park, prior to this fabled performance. For the headline act was grand, this should be taken as red, and despite my pedestal I popped Train to Skaville onto, they surely flew above all expectations.
For blending 007 (Shanty Town) into The Tide is High, as a teaser, the burgeoning crowd began to yearn for their start time, as gratis was handed to DJ setup, Fun Boy Two, Train to Skaville stepped up to an audience clearly familiar with the panache of this local band.
Train to Skaville have been on the circuit for eight years, albeit it a number of roster variations through their time, partly the reason, Jules told me, for not putting down any original material. This if-it-ain’t-broke attitude fitting, for the majority of ska followers just want to hear the anthems. While this is done timelessly by many-a-cover-band, Train to Skaville sit atop this standard, their unique style, singer’s Tim Cross’s witty repartee and entire band’s expertise reeks of good-time ska and explodes with party atmosphere.
For what seems to be a rare thing, a ska band from the Trowbridge/Melksham area, they set the bar high, and through Israelites, Too Much Pressure, and Rancid’s Timebomb to name but a few, they launched back on stage, slowing for reggae and rock steady classics, Hurt so Good and Is This Love, and detonating the finale by slipping back into ska with Prince Buster’s Madness, followed by Madness, Selector and Bad Manners hits and a sublime versions of Tears of a Clown.
Yet this train doesn’t seem to call at Devizes, and if word of the group of friends from Devizes I was delighted to meet there, Vince Bell, Tamsin Quin and significant other halves, isn’t enough to convince you I don’t know what is! The last train pulled out of our town in 1966 and I can’t wait for the Devizes Parkway project to become a reality, the angle of this piece is simply that someone needs to book this lively band in our town, we can’t let the Sham take all the spotlight! They’ve rammed pubs, gigged The Cheese & Grain, supported Neville a couple of times previous, and become hot favourites westward, we just need to stop them buffering at Seend!
As for Party in the Park, the main event kicks off this afternoon, a more pop-feel, they’ve some awesome local legends, including Indecision, Kirsty Clinch, Burbank, Forklift Truck, along with a fire-show, unicorns, fairground and food and drink stalls, topped off with a Take That Tribute. You can get a ticket on the gate, this an affordable event and the pride of the Sham.
If family-friendly festivals these days are two-to-a-penny, and you pop with the kids, like you are a kid, one thing is certain, and cool, you don’t gotta trek miles to catch one. Swindon has two upcoming I’d like to mention, if I may?
Firstly, a massive congratulations to Talk in Code, Swindon’s own indie-pop outfit rising to fame through excellence and dedication, we will be hearing a lot more from them methinks. They open the main stage at M is for Festival in Lydiard Park on 27th July. Alongside a plethora of contemporary pop acts such as Years and Years, Ella Eyre, HRVY, Becky Hill, Phats & Small, Jahmene Douglas and another BBC Music Introducing in the West upcoming band, She Makes War. Oh, not forgetting Top Loader will be dancing in the moonlight.
Tickets start at thirty quid, under fives go free, which isn’t half bad for such a grand line up, in such a nice setting too.
But if you’re all like Phats and who now, or years and years too far back, you could rustle up some hairspray and don your old leg warmers for Red Sky Promotions may just have the family festival for you, like as early as next week; I don’t think I’ll find my diddy-boppers in time, they’re in the loft somewhere.
Throughout the day until 6pm all kids can have festive fun with everything from hair braiding, 80’s neon face paints and glitter designs, hair sparkles and hair chalk colouring, temporary transfer and glitter tattoos to neon nails and more, free of charge. Relax, you’ll even get to create your own T-shirt memento of the day.
There will be stalls, food, drink and a host of other activities to accompany the musical time machine that the festival promises to be.
The day offers a range of 80’s music delivered in unique ways; opening with Sonore String Quartet rendering classic songs into lush classical sounds, 80:Three deliver two sets of pop gems, Emily-Jane Sheppard will bring her solo singer-guitarist set of classic covers and the headline act is the awesome Ghetto Blasters, a lively brass ensemble popping and rocking their way through the decade. DJ’s will be spinning all the tunes you love from the era; big chart favourites to half-forgotten gems will play between the main acts.
Your ZX Spectrum may not load this page, but tickets are here; £25 for adults, £15 for the nippers, and a price range for groups of four or more. Wham!
Yeah, it’s a toasty secret I’ve been busting to spill the beans on for eons; and we’re gathered here today to announce the line-up!
Sometime ago I suggested a local affair for DOCA’s amazing street festival on 26th August, just a small marquee-fashioned area, I imagined, set aside to highlight our local acoustic musicians. Like most of my ideas though, I throw away all practicalities and left it up to a fellow worker to causally whisper it’s a Monday and I’d be working in the morning!
Similarly, though, Pete of Vinyl Realm wanted to do something along these lines, and I’m delighted to announce he has taken the project under his wing and only gone done it, with bells on. The idea has expanded to a full-sized stage, with a great line-up that I’m here today to tell you about.
So, well done to Pete, Loz, et all, who’ve worked tirelessly to sort this out. Next week I’ll be chatting with Loz of DOCA about carnival and the street festival in general, but for now, all eyes on this, set to be the loudest alternative corner of the street festival, ever!
At this point, times of the bands performing are unconfirmed, as it needs to coincide with acts on the main stage. While DOCA’s booking of some fantastic international acts each year, it leaves us eager to know what they’ve in store for August; it’s secret left for you to buy a programme. But do save some room in your wandering for the Vinyl Realm Presents stage at the corner St Johns and Long Street, bang outside the shop.
Ah, the new four-piece indie-rock band I’ve been harking on about recently, Daydream Runaways will be playing. Wiltshire-based Ben Heathcote on vocals, Cam Bianchi on Guitar, Nath Heathcote on Bass and drummer, Brad Kinsey. Citing influences from the likes of The Killers, The Strokes and Sam Fender, Airborne, they also praise Fleetwood Mac, The Stones and Talking Heads. We reviewed their excellent single Light the Spark a few months ago, and have high hopes for this youthful bunch.
Whisked away on one awesome, blissful journey through sound after just one listen of their debut album, I, Cosmonaut, Cracked Machine have been mentioned and rightfully praised on Devizine over the last year. Formed in Wiltshire also, in 2015, local space-rock hypnotists, weaving “mesmerising grooves, infectious riffs and layers of sonic texture to create compelling and original soundscapes which take fellow cosmic explorers on an exhilarating trip through the cosmos.” This is Pink Floyd likened space-rock, meeting ambient trance for a new generation, yet their second album, The Call Of The Void, reflects a harder, rock edge, we’re talking Hawkwind here, and it’s reverie style will hold you spellbound.
Deemed the headline act, Cracked Machine is a quartet of experienced musicians, brought together in a quest for aural mayhem; Bill Denton on guitar, Clive Noyes on keys samples and vocals, Chris Sutton on bass and Blazej Gradziel on drums. They play the Southgate today, and are a welcome blessing to our local scene.
Vibrant retro-rock fusion with folk and neo-gothic, Somerset/Hampshire’s Strange Folk UK is one I’ve not heard of, and look forward to. The band’s roots are in folk, and distinct rock aspirations are tempered by a recognisable folk vein running through their songs to varying degrees. Dark impressive vocals ride the crest of a truly great sound that transports the listener to another time.
Quoting their influences may divulge that time; sixties psychedelic legends such as Dylan, Janis Joplin, T-Rex, The Doors, Free, Hendrix, and Jethro Tull, there’s mod influences too like The Who, and Genesis, and harder rock like Zeppelin and Judas Priest.
Between bands, we announce acoustic artists, Devizes singer-songwriters, Marland favourite Tom Littlefair and the brilliant Ben Borrill, topped off with a local funky soul DJ set from Usaf. I’m truly delighted to bring you this news, reckoning this is addition is going to really add a whole new musical dimension to this already fantastic gem on Devizes event calendar. As well as all of DOCA’s exciting circus, street theatre side stalls, rides and games, it now stands at two stages large, double the fun!
Oh, and I do believe Devizine has the exclusive on this one; expect a plagiarising Gazelle or Herod along any moment. Please feel free to share our posts, but if republishing them observe copyright and quote Devizine as the source; basic etiquette, thanks!
Tipsy suggestions to those Saddlebackers at their gurt lush day festival at Devizes Sports Ground were poo-pooed from the off! With this year’s line up rolling out across social media, it’s easy to see they took my expansive notions as nonsensical dribble. A dance tent; yeah, right, circus and performing arts acts; get outta town, even a reggae stage is not to be. Feasibly, they know what they like!
With seemingly no plans to overinflate or cater for revellers outside their chosen target audience, this year’s Saddleback Festival drives surely on quality not quantity, and if good ol’ rock and blues music is what you want, and face it, it’s the most desirable around these backwaters, then it looks like Saddleback return to deliver.
Deliver they intend to, on 20th July, at a busy time with The Full Tone Orchestra promising a free event on the Green and Melksham’s Party in the Park on the same date, Devizes Carnival, Trowbridge’s Once Upon a Time in West Fest and the Swindon Shuffle the weekend prior, the Beer Festival and Devizes’ first scooter rally at the beginning of the month, perhaps it’s a reasonable move for Saddleback to stick with the working formula of previous years.
No extra acoustic stage for local acts has been announced, like the “bolt-on” last year. While being just that, it was at least a presence for them. It’s all focus on who’s performing main stage then, and tribute acts seem to feature predominantly. The longest running, full-time professional tribute to Led Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Led headline; and we all like a lotta Led.
Significant changes to their original line-up from 1996, six years ago, has seen considerable progress with the Whole Lotta Led’s customary two- and half-hour shows, receiving international acclamation from Zeppelin fans. With over 1,300 shows under the belts, they’ve performed Stairway to Heaven more than any other band in the world, interestingly, including Led Zeppelin!
To truly dedicated fans who witnessed the real McCoy at their prime, Whole Lotta Led avoid wigs, costumes, and look-alike paraphernalia to focus on recreating the music to an astonishing level of accuracy. They’ve recreated some of Led Zeppelin’s legendary live shows; 2001 they performed the ‘Bath Festival’ set, in 2003 staged the ‘Earl’s Court’ tour, in 2005 they recreated Zep’s last shows in England with the ‘Knebworth’ set, performed the live CD ‘How The West Was Won’ in 2006 and in 2008 they completed the ‘2007 O2 Reunion Show’ tour.
In a similar fashion, Creedence Clearwater Review are the UK’s premier tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival, capturing the feel, sound and atmosphere of the short-lived late sixties American band. With audience involvement, singalongs and plenty of rousing choruses the Review promise an authentic and power packed tribute to the Creedence legacy, sticking as closely to the album tracks as possible. There’s also a nod to John Fogerty’s solo career in the show.
To concentrate on original acts, most are Bristol-based, like Elles Bailey is that wonderful hard-blues chick we’ve covered on Devizine before. With a prolific and authentic blend of country and blues, Elles is the UK dynamite on the scene.
The second name to continually popup locally is Ruzz Evans, who since 2014, with drummer Mike Hoddinott and Joe Allen on upright bass make up Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue. The trio house a powerful, soul-injected mesh of Blues, R’n’B and Rock’n’Roll of retrospective energy. The opportunities to open for some class acts, from Rockabilly’s the Delta Bombers and the Rhythm Shakers from Vegas to Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads. Plus, the newly released studio album, Burn Out, which features Pete Gage from Dr Feelgood’s band, certainly shows enthusiasm, skill and passion; this one is going to get lively.
Also booked is four-piece blues/funk outfit, The Will Edmunds Band, who perform interpretations of classics from the likes of Robert Johnson, BB King, Albert King and The Meters. Their sound promises to be tight and fresh, yet retaining old-school mojo!
And that’s what we’ve been told so far. No mention of Jon Amor; surely, he’ll drop in, would’ve thought? Ah, one step ahead of you. The Friday before , 19th July, he’s at the pre-festival event at the Sports Club, where for a tenner you’ll get Saddleback favourites Innes Sibun and Jon, with Mike Hoddinott of Ruzz’s Guitar Blues Revue and what’s worth the entire weekend price-tag in my humble opinion, for all it’s worth, the awesome UK-USA blues conglomerate, Beaux Gris Gris who we’ve reviewed a night of before.
A further tenner means you can camp for the weekend, from 5.00pm Friday 19th July, with campers asked to leave the site by 10.30am on Sunday 21st July. It may be whacking the total from £25, for a main ticket, to £45 for the whole shebang, and in all honesty the mods may have it cheaper than the rockers this year, the Scooter Rally tallying to £25 for the whole weekend with free camping, but a considerable donation of Saddleback is off to chosen charities Julia’s House and Care If, and going on the sturdy and reliable security, strategic setup and organisation that went into last year’s event, together with an awesome line-up, Saddleback will not go unnoticed, even if promotion of it seems somewhat lessened this year.
Here’s last year’s snaps to get you in the mood; all images by Nick Padmore