This year saw the tenth anniversary for, perhaps one of the most family friendly music festivals on the calender, as ever the organisers of Wychwood delivered an incredible weekends entertainment covering everything from comedy, children’s workshops and book reading to relaxing massages and spa’s and of course a diverse, intriguing musical program that brought together festival favourites to brand new buzz bands across a handful of stages and tents.
Like any festival it’s impossible to cover every performer and mention every event over the course of three days but I’ll try to break it down and give you a feel of the festival.
Day One. Friday
The rain had fallen and left the site with a boggy squelch underfoot, but despite the conditions the early entrants were ably warmed up by the likes of A Way With Words on the mainstage but our first port of call was over in the BBC Introducing Tent for a blistering set of guitar histrionics from Bromsgrove based blues rock heroes, Virgil And The Accelerators, creating an early storm with a dazzling flurry of riffs, solos and bombarding drums. A quick dash across to the mainstage to catch a bit of Newquay Times before heading into the Big Top for the first time for early highlight, skiffle blues band Railroad Bill who welded acoustic guitars, washboard, tea chest double bass and infectious tongue in check vocal harmonies to create a riotous take on the genre complete with a rock n roll attitude, gurning, hook-laden sing-a-longs and more foot tapping rhythms than most bands can muster in a life time. From there on in it was dash after dash across the site to catch further up and comers in the Big Tent and Worcestershire’s finest over in the BBC Tent, with the occasional pause at the mainstage. BBC Hereford And Worcester did a stunning job of showcasing the regions finest as many mainstays from the Introducing program graced the stage and gave their all, the likes of The Misers with their rootsy take on rock n roll, the ever dependable and uniquely contagious alternative pop rockers, Jasper In The Company Of Others and stage headliners, The Stiff Joints drew huge crowds in the cramped tent, whilst the brassy Collective 43 drummed up support outside drawing in further revellers to the sounds of Hereford And Worcester. Smashing Blouse were providing a party of their own over in the Big Top as they hosted a number of stunning, evocative sets from a host of newcomers. Whitechapel based trio Glitches made an immediate impression with a blend of dark electro-indie topped with a stunning almost falsetto vocal, cutting through the melancholic synth/guitar based backing to create a fragile, yet compelling sound. Lloyd Yates, provided a folkier, more organic sound incorporating acoustic and electric guitars alongside a deep baritone lead vocal, instantly bewitching the audience. back to the electronics (and a debate over whether using synths and computers makes the performers any lesser musicians, personally I love a bit of live electronica!!!) for the likes of the hip-hop/sax flavours of Benin City and the rather more moody but no less interesting No Ceremony. Inbetween bouts of electronic goodness, ventures into the sunshine provided wafts of the likes of Graham Gouldman and pals delivering acoustic renditions of Dreadlock Holiday and unwanted blasts (my personal opinion, though the masses love them!!) of The Real Thing. As the first day drew to a close we were treated to one of the sets of the festival. in the shape of Bipolar Sunrise, a chilled out soulful collective that effortlessly blended R&B, electronics and pop to create a stunning set that was rounded off brilliantly with aptly entitled mantra, Love More Worry Less. As we left the site on Day One The Stranglers were inciting mass sing-a-longs for the likes of the always punchy Peaches and No More Heroes, whilst Golden Brown had pretty much the whole site swaying along.
Day Two. Saturday
So I admit it, I’m a wimp, but I just don’t do camping, sure I’m up at the crack of dawn but I’ve still had a good nights kip ready for another packed day of festivities. As we hit Wychwood, Justin Fletcher was leading all the children on a merry song and dance on the mainstage, with the kids obviously lapping up the Mr Tumble/Gigglebiz performer we decided to hit the Big Top for first, a dance to Cuban big band Ran Kan Kan and then an introduction to something called Chap-Hop by the rather delightful Mr B The Gentleman Rhythmer, who took hip-hop, shook out all the posturing and profanity, added a banjolele and a heap of humour to create a gentleman’s take on the genre. Mr B’s history lesson of hip-hop took in snippets from the likes of Run DMC and The Beastie Boys along with Northern indie legends Primal Scream, Stone Roses along with Kraftwerk and the alike as he delivered a mirth filled set that left people proclaiming his genius (myself included!!), as his own song proclaims “All Hail The Chap”. Being an avid reader of R2 I already had great expectations for Wigan based folk rockers Merry Hell as they took to the mainstage and their set of high octane rockers and soulful laments captured the imagination from the outset. Their set had it all, male/female harmonies, biting social commentary (Love The Skin Your In), touching love songs (Lean On Me Love) and even a clanging slice of hammer and spade percussion (Bury me Naked) as Merry Hell showcased just why they’re so highly regarded in folk circles and beyond. By now the temperature down the front was rising and the multi cultural collective La Chiva Gantiva added to the sweaty humidity with a dazzling combination of Latin rhythms, Afrobeat percussion and funk-driven rock, driving the audience into all new frenzy as their undeniable groove took hold and their infatuating frontman revved up the intensity further. Bad Manners were welcomed to the stage as conquering heroes, Buster Bloodvessel and his energetic horn section delivered all the ska party favourites from My Girl Lollipop to Feel Like Jumping all the way to Special Brew And Lip Up Fatty inciting outbreaks of skanking and mass sing-a-longs along the way. Newton Faulkner took to the stage for an early evening slice of acoustic pop and after a couple of technical hiccups, seduced the audience with his deft finger picking and gentle croon delivering stunning takes on Teardrops by Massive Attack and his own effervescent Dream Catch Me along the way. With every festival you get the obligatory stage clashes, for me day two presented a couple to ponder upon do I see Reef or venture to the Big Top for Kyla la Grange? I originally went with the former, but after Place Your Hands and Come Back Brighter, my interest quickly began to wane and my feet to wander, in contrast Kyla was simply mesmeric, the blend of pop infused electronic/indie compels, whilst her vocals transcend you to another world completely, that voice is a bewitching thing of beauty that captivates anyone stood in earshot, whilst the songs themselves wrap their talons round both your head and heart….wow!!! Day two was completed with foppish indie dandy King Charles elegantly sashaying across the stage whilst The Levellers brought out a greatest hits set over on the mainstage featuring the likes of Hope Street and One Way Of Life among their supercharged setlist.
Day Three. Sunday
The final day of Wychwood’s birthday celebrations, the sun reveals it’s full potential, folk begin to look a little weary after two days of singing and dancing, yet still seem to be in high spirits as the first of the days band’s take to the stage. KSH & The Going Goods open the mainstage with a fine line of acoustic hip-hop (acoustic guitar. human beatbox, etc), the likes of Happiness with it’s hook-laden chorus and The Day After Friday soon entice the first sing-a-longs of the day as they end set to a great deal of acclaim. Polly And The Billets Doux continued to rouse a weary audience with an incredible, early afternoon set of harmony infused blues, soul and folk, complete with clever guitar work, throbbing double bass, harmonica blasts and powerful, passionate vocals that yank at the heartstrings, originals such as Money Tree and Black Crow instantly cast a spell over the audience, whilst their rendition of House Of The Rising Sun was not only a completely original take but also jaw dropping for the instrument swapping mid song. Baracka brought a delicious Caribbean stew to the proceedings with a combination of world grooves, reggae, soca and calypso vibes as the sun proceeded to shine brightly on, a now carnival like atmosphere. Whilst baracka were busy creating a sunshine state, Craig Charles dropped the funk bomb with a hot and sweaty DJ set to a jam packed tent for the second year in a row. Gabby Young And The Other Animals took to the stage and instantly demanded attention with a flash of red hair, circus swing, spaghetti western and off the wall rock n roll, the band’s flamboyant singer, Gabby proved to be a captivating focal point, not only did she had a rather unique style but also one of the most impressive set of vocal pipes over the festival, whilst the other animals ably backed her on the likes of I’ve Improved and the Morricone inspired Horatio (did I spot a Calexico influence?). Whilst Sadie And The Hotheads and the regular workshop showcase took up the main arena we retreated to the Big Top for a stunning set of glacial Sigur Ros meets Radiohead (with added trumpet) soundscapes from epic indie rockers Racing Glaciers, whilst over in the introducing tent up and comers Pretty Rascals delivered a Beatles/Oasis/Artic Monkeys inspired set topped off with a fantastic run through Come Together. Due The Champs have been picked for bigger and better things with their brand of acoustic harmonised indie folk and their set of Turin Brakes like originals did have a couple of stand out moments such as My Spirit Is Broken, but for me I would of like a little more variation, perhaps ones to look out for in the future. Back over on the main stage a one-two punch of ska with The Gentlemans Dub Club and Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra, with the former proving to be highlights with their dub fuelled rhythms and infectious ringleader commanding the audiences participation on the likes of If The Truth Be Told and the frantic Fire. All good things must come to an end and so be it with Wychwood’s birthday party but before we go there’s time for one more band, a legend perhaps….the crowd pushed forward for the arrival of Sir Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, from the off, Bob strutted, pouted and gesticulated wildly, with the crowd lapping up every swing of the fake snakeskin clad hips, whilst his band pounded out the hits and what better way to finish off a perfect weekend of entertainment than a holler along to She’s So Modern and the obligatory I Don’t Like Mondays.
I could go on and on about this year’s Wychwood, but I should sum up, if you weren’t there you missed out on perhaps the festival of the Summer, if you were there, you don’t need me to tell you how damn impressive this year’s shindig was, bring on the eleventh birthday!!!
Words Will Munn
Photos Graham Munn
Trying to capture the essence of Swingamajig Festival in words isn’t going to be the easiest write-up I’ve ever done, you see Swingamajig is rather unique, sure there’s live music but how many festivals do you know have dance performances, burlesque and circus performers among the off-kilter bands and DJ’s. Then there’s the audience, there’s none of this baggy shorts and T-shirts look for this lot, no at Swingamajig people dress to impress, taking their influences from the 1930′s swing era and then adding their own twist, which is also a way to describe some of the music on offer, updated versions of swing mixed with electro beats, gypsy folk, ska and funk are just some of the sounds on offer.
Collective 43, Worcester’s New Orleans influenced jazz combo serenaded the festival revellers as they entered the site with the likes of a holler-a-long version of When The Saint’s Coming Marching In and a megaphone assisted Fever. The collective transported the early birds to the second line of the Mardi Gras as they marched through the festival to take to the stage, encouraging an audience to join in and dance along.
Whilst Collective 43 welcomed the masses to the festival 3 Piece Playing Django opened the Hot Club De Swing Stage with an incredible display of nimble guitar picking and subtle double bass work invoking the spirit of Django Reinhardt himself with a dazzling rendition of Exactly Like You, among others.
As we enjoying our first musical treats of the day the Clik Clik Collective, were busy playing dress up as they helped the festival goers capture those moments with a photo booth.
Lunatrix took to the aforementioned Hot Club De Swing stage and immediately kick started the party, with lead singer Abi Good whipping up a frenzy out front, the six piece combined jazz, electro swing and a touch of hip-hop to create an infectious sound, full of hooks and genuine sing-a-long moments such as a jazzy take on Hakuna Matata (from the Lion King). The crowd took the band’s early set and by the time they performed their recent EP’s hip-hop infused title track, Mr Sunshine the band had captured the hearts and feet of the well dressed. Further highlights included the cockney knees up of East Ham and the tongue in cheek risque Lack Of Tact as the band proved an early highlight.
As I wondered off to capture the first performance on The Swingamajig Stage, the other half popped in to capture some burlesque courtesy of Doe Demure in the Ragtime Records Stage.
Temple Funk Collective were well into their set as I hit the stage but as soon as I heard the seven-piece brass band unleash a funk driven rendition of the theme to Stringray followed quickly by a medley of the likes of No Limits and Boom Boom Boom, my feet took over and I joined the thong towards the front for a touch of booty shaking, the band continued a thrilling set of funked up covers taking in the likes of Stevie Wonder and James Brown along the way.
As the festivities continued we took a look in of some dancing as well catching an incredible, fun and quite frankly bonkers “Headphone Dance” by Corey Baker (courtesy of Birmingham Dance Festival) a performance that had to be seen to be believed.
Holy Moly And The Crackers were the next live band up and they added something a little different to the proceedings, the band played a contagious and edgy mix of gypsy folk, combining sawing violin to guitar strums and occasional blasts of trumpet to form an evocative yet darker base of songs taking in murder ballads, drugs and wanton women into their stunning set of folk based laments. Despite the more sinister undertones of the Newcastle based 6-pieces set, the audience still lapped up the likes of Cocaine, Lily and Swamp Dog Stomp, as Holy Moly And The Crackers provided a stunning, mesmeric alternative to the dance friendly electro swing.
A pit stop for a delicious sourdough based pizza and another waltz around site to take in more dancers, performers and a couple of songs by the folky blues slide guitar genius of Sam Green And The Midnight Heist before the glittery Balkan electroswing/gypsy/ska/funk infused heroes Mr Tea And The Minions took to stage with an infectious rendition of Hit The Road Jack, then pump up the crowd further with originals such as Beware Of The Bear, Break The Barriers and No Sugar among others, fusing their myriad of influences to the delight of the assembled masses, inciting universal dancing and applause aplenty.
A quick dash past a human statue and we’re back at Swingamajig stage to take in a stunning set of electro swing courtesy of the glamorous and dashing Little Violet, a seven piece combo that added glitz, funky organ and even a flute to a stunning set of swing and electro grooves delivering covers such as the disney classic, Never Had A Friend Like Me and delicious originals such as the foot tapping Charleston Boogie and Don’t Stop.
Jenova Collective continued the electro swing vibe over on the Hot Club Da Swing Stage with an added bit of ghetto dance, providing wonderful bass heavy set that opened with a stirring rendition of Diamonds Are A Girl Best Friend (reminiscent of the thobbing electro version in Moulin Rouge!!!) followed by the aptly titled Get On Down (and there certainly were a great deal of folk doing just that!!) and a brilliant, instantly memorable original entitled Beginning of Something New.
Back across the site The Renegade Brass Band were dazzling one and all with a combination of funked up brass, jazzy breaks and free flowing hip-hop lyrics making the the gathered crowd strut and throw there best gangster shapes whilst the band laid down the likes of Take No Chances, Make No Changes and Just Business.
Following on from another quick break to take in the sights and sounds of the festival, along with another bite to eat we returned to the live arena to catch some of the massive gypsy folk ensemble The Destroyers, who merge swinging horns, violins, accordians, hollered vocals, infectious rhythms and big hooks. The Swingamajig stage like the rest of the festival was heaving at this point and everyone seemed to be embracing the upbeat gypsy sound of The Destroyers.
By now the DJ’s had kicked off their various sets and once again, much like the live music, the record mixers had the crowd throwing shapes and setting the dance floor ablaze with a variety of cool grooves, funked up floor fillers and throbbing electro classics.
We had time for one more band before heading home, Ragtime Records and Birmingham’s very own The Electric Swing Circus, that included Swingamajig organiser Tom Hyland among their number. Now as you’d expect for a local band, they seemed to draw in pretty much everyone to their performance and what a performance, the six piece welded throbbing electro beats and synths to a glorious retro swing sound to create the ultimate party atmosphere. Dual lead singers Bridget and Laura pumped the atmosphere further, whilst Tom Hyland and the rest of the band looked on proud as punch as the crowd whooped and hollered for more (yes they even played an encore). Highlights came thick and fast with the likes of Bella Belle, Valentine and Swingamajig (that’s where the festival name comes from fact fans!!) had the crowd pulsating (even inciting crowd surfing, a first for a swing gig surely), whilst a glorious jazzy yet unusually arranged Minnie The Moocher instantly hit a chord with this writer.
And so as The Electric Swing Circus brought the Swingamajig stage to a close the weary yet exhilarated Rhythm & Booze team decided to rest those aching feet and took our leave as the festivities raged on with the likes of Molotov Jukebox and Bobby Friction, Madame Electrifie and The Fresh Dixie Project brought in a new day.
Swingamajig is a blast from start to finish, like I said at the opening of this write-up, words don’t really do justice how much fun we had during the duration of the event, the music was intoxicating, the atmosphere electric and the audience, well let’s just say that the sharp dressed guys and gals helped create the most memorable festival that I’ve attented. So here’s to the organisers and to the next one!!!
Words Will Munn
Photos Graham Munn
Cheltenham jazz Festival; Jools Holland and His R&B Orchestra Guests: Marc Almond, Gregory Porter and Ruby Turner
The closing show of this years festival, and the big top is bursting, as jools R&B orchestra take to the stage, 15 strong and Jools who goes straight to the piano and a bit of boogie woogie. Plenty more of that throughout the show, but only after we have a bit of Fats Waller, ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’. Jools extravaganza is much as you would expect, an exemplary performance by both magician, Jools, and the members of his band, all fine musicians in their own right.
Conjuring up his first major guest vocalist, Marc Almond took to the stage to rapturous applause, and delivered what was wanted. ‘Say Hello And Wave Goodbye’, and naturally, ‘Tainted Love’, jazz no, blues no, but nobody is complaining.
Back to some marvellous piano wizardry, then on to the gigantic presence of Gregory Porter, a fabulous performance that brought us soul, blues and gospel. A seemingly giant of a man, with personality to match. The stage emptied leaving Jools and his drummer Gilson Lavis, for an exceptionally fine boogie. First with the help of Hammond playing, brother, Chris, both attacking the piano, changing ends seamlessly.
What next, well it could only be the powerful voice of Ruby Turner, to a standing audience, she filled the air with the sounds of blues and gospel, to tremendous applause. Jools had brought the full circus, appropriately to the big top, along with the finest vocalists who performed wonderfully with his iconic Rhythm And Blues Orchestra, a grand closing to a great week at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
Words By Graham Munn
Photo By Phil Stevens www.mcphersonstevens.com
Fabulous Boogie Boys, with Sarah Warren @ The Hop Pole 22/03
The red rash of the Fabulous Boogie Boys, squeezed into the tight corner stage of the Hop pole, promised us a colourful evening of jump jive, rock & roll and a good splash of blues. The Hop Pole was filled out with music fans who like to let their hair down and have a bit of fun, which is the hallmark of this hard ‘rockin’ band. Discretely melding into the crowd, 2 giants of the stage, Steve Steinhaus and Mark English were present to see fellow Dr Teeth member, Jay (Moody) Riley, perform on the keyboards.
Swinging straight into ‘Lovin Machine’, the band kicked off, with Cliff Dawe, lips glued, to his ‘Elvis’ birdcage mike, warming to the task. Old favourites like ‘This Old House’ and ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ are blasted out, Hugh Thomas is given plenty of work on his tenor sax, he does not disappoint. Tightly hemmed in behind, Nick Lynden is wrestling with his double bass. Time for a change in tempo and delivery, as Sarah takes the lead for the Etta James classic, ‘Tough Lover’, with all the passion and grit she could summon. The baton is passed from Cliff to Sarah and back, for ‘Since I Met You Baby’, and again, as they duet through an old 50′s classic, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. Up the pace again for a bit of ‘Jump Jive and Wail’, before things cool down for the beautiful, yet powerful voice of Sarah Warren, ‘At Last’, there can be few that can match this. The atmosphere in the Hop Pole is electric, not much room for dancing, but that did not seem to stop a few staking a claim to more floor space in the crowded bar, as ‘Rip It Up’, and ‘Chickens’, were rolled out, with a short breather in between as Sarah ‘Just Wanted To Make Love To You’, hot stuff. The floor show from this red army of rockers is frenetic and almost non stop as we head towards the closing session. ‘This Little Light O Mine’, ‘Little Egypt’, ‘Wanna be like you’, and ‘See You Later Alligator’, wind the spring tightly, Cliff giving his all, shadowed at the back, Stu opens ‘Flip Flop Fly’ on his Epiphone guitar, as Richie keeps everyone nicely in check on his drums, heard but almost invisible.
How can you finish a fast, fun night of rock, rhythm and blues? Well how about turning to Mr. Chuck Berry to show us the way, The Fabulous Boogie Boys presented us with a fabulous and exhausting (as it should be) ‘Jonny be Goode’.
The question is, how did new keyboard player Jay fit into all this mayhem, well he certainly had the right keys to open the door to an entertaining evening of fun at The Hop Pole. Jay, the red jacket fits well, I can only look forward to the next session of the Fabulous Boogie Boys.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Davina And The Vagabonds
Robin 2 Sept. 9th
Where to start, I am selective in the bands I see and review, too much hard work if your not likely to enjoy the music. I have seen some excellent bands and fine performances, rarely disappointed, but occasionally, you just have to revise your reference points.
Davina and The Vagabonds have defrag’d my hard drive, and written a new sector. They are just stupendously, bloody good. Its cream cake day, time to open that 50 year malt, words may fail me.
Davina sparkles with mischief on the piano, everything from beautifully soulful blues to full on barrel house, is at her fingertips. In her voice I hear elements of Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Paloma Faith, in a fusion of Jazz and Blues.
The Vagabonds dovetail with Davina perfectly, superlative trumpet and trombone, from Dan and Ben, who both add to the vocals. Underpinned with double bass and drums from Andy and Alec.
The play is a mixture of New Orleans blues, Dixie, a bit of Rock & Roll, and large doses of jazz and blues. BUT, everything is delivered in their own style, whether its Fats, ‘Ain’t That A Shame’, Etta’s, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ (superb) or Chuck’s ‘Nadine’. They are not a covers band, these songs receive original interpretation, and then some! Some lovely Trombone and trumpet work from Ben and Dan places ‘Nadine’ on a different level.
Self penned compositions liberally sprinkle the session, the deeply soulful ‘Blues Got A Hold Of Me’ contrasts with the tango rhythms of a cheeky ‘I Really Try To Be Good’, Eartha Kitt could not have done it better. ‘Lipstick And Chrome’ is a rollicking full on, swinging, Dixie band start, leading into Davina’s energetic boogie on the piano, ‘River’, runs deep into the blues waters.
Hold it there; its not just about the fabulous musical performance conjured up by this band, there is a huge bucket-load of humour and banter mixed in, the audience is drawn in to the fun. Davina vocally jousts with the sounds Dan can squeeze out of that horn. Have a look on You Tube for ‘St Michael Vs the Devil’, and you will get the idea and feel of Davina and co. ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ is to die for!!!
The whole evening seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, I wanted more, much more. The tour in the UK is brief, following an extensive time in Europe. I hope they all return soon, but don’t tell anyone else, I may not get through the door. Blues with a difference, indescribably wonderful.
Words And Photos By Graham Munn
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