Now this is a bit of a joke I think to myself as I walk backstage with an access-most-areas wrist band on my arm! How theHell did I manage to blag this? Ah yes Journalism what a beautiful game this is!


SO
I had no idea who was playing apart from one band Hot Club of Cowtown. I had seen these guys on Jools Holland at Christmas last year and had promised myself to see them, so as soon as I saw they were on at Guilfest I was going. Me and Matt (Williams, Pennyblackmusic photographer) got there about twenty minutes before they got on and, boy ,was I glad we did. This has to be the coolest band I have ever seen. They were suited ,booted and smooth as a babies, well you know what I mean! It was truly a lovely breath of fresh air to hear a band that can play in a way that wouldn’t be out of place in a gin joint in prohibition Chicago in the 1920’s!

Hot Club are a three piece made up of Elana, Jake and Wit (fiddle, upright bass and guitar respectively) and they are awesome. They are a hot Jazz/ swing band playing a collection of covers and original material in a 1930’s style and it is totally and utterly enthralling.

The only problem was that this caused the whole weekend to peak far too quickly! The rest of the day was taken up with Simple Kid and The Beta Band.

Simple Kid is a 28 year old Irish singer songwriter who has created a bit of a cult following from his live shows using his laptop to remix his tracks as he goes along. This evening however he was doing a straight Simple Kid set withban acoustic guitar.. At first I couldn’t understand the attraction as most of what he was doing was done better by Beck and to a certain extent Dylan but slowly he grow on me. His songs were very good (slight understatement I would have sold my pets to have written some of those songs!) and his voice was one of those in which you can feel the pain contained within the soul.

Last up were the Beta Band. Now I was really looking forward to these guys as a lot of my friends had really spoken this band up. What a disappointment ! This band were just awful. Looking at my notebook for them it has sadly just one word beside then “B*ll**ks” . Truly a huge letdown.

Saturday was taken up by wandering rather aimlessly round the festival sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere as neither Matt or I had heard of many of the bands and had no drive to go hunting when it was about 25 degrees in the shade! The first highlight of the day was Rolf Harris. He strutted on the stage to the audience’s cries of “Rolfy Rolfy!” combined with a mass chorus of didgeridoos! He opened with 'Sun Arise' at which point Matt turned to me and said “He’s just a bloody good all round entertainer” and to be honest I couldn’t have put it better myself! Rolf is nothing special but he is a British institution and where would we be without him!

After a fair wait and a lot of food it was time for the first act of the day that I wanted to see, Katie Melua. Her voice is far more mature than her twenty years should allow, instilling images of Ella Fitzgerald, Suzanne Vega and numerous other female singer songwriters. Her opening solo number shimmered into the crowds' consciousness and once joined by her full band she had truly grabbed the crowd and had them hanging on every rise and fall of her smoky voice. Her set easily combined covers (including the Cure’s 'Love Cats') and her own material happily at home with up beat swing tracks or slow tempo ballads. She already has and is Star material and what this girl will achieve over the next decade one can only guess, wonder and perhaps hope that this young hope may salvage what is left of the flagging British music industry from its string of young sugar coated pop idol upstarts. As an interesting aside her piano player is the legendary Mike Batt of the Wombles theme tune fame!

Last but by no means least we had Simple Minds. I’m a wee nipper to this music lark or so my more senior colleagues keep telling me and standing in the crown watching the tech crew set the stage for Simple Minds I had to agree with them! Eventually and after a long discussion with several people around me trying to work out what the band's famous song is the band entered the stage to a huge roar from the crowd. In my mind they looked a bit more portly than they would have been at the height of their fame in the 80’s. They came on strong and within seconds the crowd was waving its arms clapping in unison and generally reliving their collective youths, many with their children in tow! Frontman Jim Kerr shimmered around the stage and within the first song had left the stage and was dodging photographers to get to grips with the front row of the crowd. For me it was half an hour till I recognised any of their songs but the crowd around me never came down. Everyone was clapping, bobbing their heads and in a word or two loved it!

After they had finished all the Press were invited back stage for a huge party with pretty much free everything. By the time we had left it was daylight again and everyone was feeling (and looking) a little worse for wear!

So it was Sunday by the time we had recovered from the previous nights' shenanigans. It was gone 4 and, to be totally honest with all you lovely readers, neither myself or the esteemed Matt Williams had any idea who was playing as we had both lost our press pack running orders.

This was the weakest day of the entire weekend with UB40 being the only big name band. The day just disappeared with no bands really sticking out apart from perhaps The Hamsters, who as I watched bought back a long lost memory of a long forgotten family holiday to a Butlin’s Rock and Blues weekend where I remembered marvelling at what a kick drum felt like through a full PA. Apart from that they were just a very good hard working pub blues band but nothing special. In fact there is something slightly disturbing about a balding man playing a note for note rendition of Hendrix’s live at Woodstock version of Star Spangled Banner.

So all in all it was a really good time. Guilfest has the nicest vibe of all the festivals I have been to with music aimed firmly at the Radio 2 demographic. It was totally kid friendly. It was a hugely enjoyable weekend .

Can I go next year please?


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Matthew Williams


















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