Archive for June, 2013

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s that time of year and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was yet another festival in a sea awash with festivals. But in this case you’d be wrong. Now in my not inconsiderable amount of years on this planet I have been to more than my fair share, starting with Reading in 1979, so I feel reasonably qualified to offer up a view as to what’s good and what’s not.  In the intervening years since Reading  I’ve experienced a plethora of venues & line-ups & whilst the range of what’s on offer has steadily increased it’s the spirit of what a festival is all about has somewhat diminished.  It’s admirable that Glastonbury sells out before the acts are even announced, such is the faith of the public in the Eavis legacy & the lure of this festival over the last few decades. Indeed I know someone who goes yearly & prides himself on how few bands he sees, because for him the line-up is most definitely second to the unique atmosphere this festival generates. Having done Glastonbury myself left me with rather an unexpected legacy.  Sadly its the massively over inflated food prices & appalling state of the toilets that have overshadowed the musical experience. One year the Manic Street Preachers took their own toilets and who could blame them. I love festivals but I am dismayed by the increasing exploitation of the ticket- buying punter. The prices at the concessions are a joke, albeit a very bad one.  Just because you have a captive audience & you feel you can take the piss doesn’t mean you should. The booking of many of the bands is totally predictable with many acts playing a festival tour so that when you look at the headliners it’s often difficult to discern one festival from another. Still, I’m hooked & when I have the budget I still step out & indulge in some audio borowski 2 strummercamp 2013 copy

This brings me nicely to the breath of fresh air that is the Strummercamp festival at Manchester Rugby Club. This is one such event that totally bucks the trend & should have a share of the festival-going public. I have to confess to my shame it was on its 6th year before I got off my backside & checked it out.  This year was number 8, an admirable accomplishment for a totally independent not-for-profit festival. Yes that’s what I said, ‘not for profit’, refreshing in these money grubbing days of corporate endeavour.

It would be easy for me just to review the bands but they are only one aspect of what makes this festival truly special. Not to ignore the quality of the acts new & old, this year we had The Beat, The Undertones, Neville Staples, Three Johns, Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds, The Men They Couldn’t Hang & the incredible Beki Bondage with her band Vice Squad. Now there’s a 50 year old that could teach  women what being cool is really about.  She is a fine example of what happens when you know exactly who you are and being totally comfortable with it.  Beyonce might think she knows about the empowerment of women, but she is so far wide of the mark. If she believes that flashing your tits and grinding your hips is somehow empowering then she has completely misunderstood what personal freedom is really about, but hey that’s a blog for another day.

Vice SquadHmm! Old punk & ska bands I hear you say, well no, not just genre pioneers like those mentioned, there’s a veritable shed load of others such as the wonderful George Borowski & newer bands & singer songwriters like The Cornelius Crane with their Mancunian take on Americana, Trevor Roots & the Collaborators dropping a set of classic & contemporary reggae, the highly engaging Activators, the hippy infused and occasionally tongue-in-cheek tunes of Eliza P & many more strong acoustic acts on the second stage. The TNS records stage is in attendance again delivering a strong mix of newer punk bands. Now there’s a label built in the shape of how things used to get done and I take my hat off to them.

Alongside the musical talent is an art show, the art all being punk & musically influenced, I purchased a few pieces by Dr Freakinstyle, his skull sculptures had my partner & I hooked. He was exhibiting along with Paul Hannah, Joey Mutant, Michelle Fitzpatrick & Mark Crossey, the art is an inspired addition in the spirit of what this festival has to offer.The Cornelius Crane Strummercamp full

One of my pet hates of festivals & venues whilst I’m having a groan is the way they smack your arse with beer & food prices, sure everyone has to make a living but ripping people off is no way to go about it. So Strummercamp, beer at non inflated average prices & with real ale available for the lovers of proper beer such as I, they even had a Strummercamp bitter this year along with a cider, I must confess to having imbibed a few pints of that. The food available was great at a totally affordable price, vegetarians were well & truly catered for, all freshly made & tasting spot on, not like the prefabricated cardboard, ofle crap turned out at most concession stands, this was a proper mobile kitchen set up. I should point out that for the more civilised of you out there that there was also a cricket match on, if you needed a break from the music, no problem, sit & chill in the clubhouse whilst watching a few overs.stage times sunday

All the musical elements totally great & absolutely essential but I would say that like Glastonbury I believe you can buy a ticket without knowing who is one, it’s got that vibe. The site is amazing, it’s a rugby & cricket club venue with a couple of stages on the pitch surrounded by the camp with another venue in the clubhouse. The mix of people is pretty much all ages, veteran gig / festival goers who have the opportunity to bring their kids, this festival is affordable. For the kids, there were plenty in attendance there were circus games, face painting (mind you plenty of mid 20’s blokes were going for that), the music of course & sharing something special with their parents & a couple of days with camping for a similar price of one ticket for a One Direction show, less than half the price of a Rolling Stones ticket & in what feels feels like a totally safe environment with very friendly stewards who are volunteers not paid thugs! I certainly feel safer there than any arena show I’ve ever been to. Being at the festival you are not just a punter you are definitely part of something, the spirit of the festival is based on music inspired by Joe Strummer & The Clash, I think Joe would’ve been very touched & proud of the way his legacy is being handled by organizer Phil Fitzpatrick & his Los Amigos crew.

Here’s to next year then!

Simon Collier.eliza p strummercamp 2013 copy SOD Strummercamp 2013SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA band Dave Howard Stage Sunday Strummercamp 2013 audiienec strummercamp 2013 Strummercamp 2013

Stage Entrance Strummercamp 2013 pooch strummercamp 2013 running times accoustic stage sunday strummercamp 2013 copy SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Cowell Egging!

I don’t watch Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice, X Factory or any other so called reality or talent show, it’s all low brow uninteresting & when I did observe it in it’s early incarnation often humiliating experience. Big Brother, well don’t get me started there!

Unfortunately not watching these shows, which have without doubt stifled creativity & pandered to the corporate money making machine with it’s lowest common denominator products I can’t totally ignore it because some TV channels think that what happens on all of the above can constitute news. No it’s not, people living & dying,  World economics good & bad, I’m not adverse to good news, I’d love to hear more of it reported but it’s disaster & vacuous celebrity shite that faceless producers seem obsessed with. They would probably argue that this is what the public is obsessed with but I would ask what came first the chicken or the proverbial egg?

Anyway, to the point, over the weekend, on the news, all over Facebook I notice this Simon Cowell ‘egging’ thing & for once my curiosity is spiked, did somebody actually stand up to the musical anti-christ? I admire his ability to make money, in my opinion his contribution to society is just what he pays in taxes, it certainly isn’t anything to do with art or creativity. As a consequence I went looking for the footage, what a joke. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as contrived in years, even Alistair Campbell would’ve advised Tony Blair not to go for that stunt, or at least hired somebody to do it more convincingly. Where does a member of an orchestra hide a box of half a dozen eggs for starters, I thought she was going to laugh at one point, the performers barely batted an eyelid, Cowell didn’t press charges & had a joke ready. The master of publicity strikes again, Mr Mean gets his comeuppance, yawn bloody yawn, please don’t soil the news programmes with this boring inconsequential tripe & tell me something interesting.


PS – I am aware in discussing this I do add to the publicity, I only hope my opinion offers a little balance.