Archive for June, 2014

So 2014, it’s another bank holiday weekend so that means Strummercamp. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be this weekend. Strummercamp is, without doubt, the friendliest, coolest & most unpretentious festival I’ve ever attended. The key ingredient is the fact that it’s run by music fans & the emphasis is resoundingly ‘not for profit’. Like Glastonbury, the regulars here don’t particularly worry about who’s playing, it’s the festival that matters. Having said that the line-up is always well worth the entrance fee & contains enough variety for the most discerning listener (that is except the listener who wants radio-friendly candyfloss pop vomit, which is fine if you like that sort of corporate production line McMusic but then V Festival is probably more your style.)
The quality this year is no exception so I am here to share just a few of the aural & visual delights I witnessed.

Saturday.

Dub Sex – this band is a welcome return, a long lost Mancunian gem, post- punk made in the moment & re-delivered today & sounding as fresh & edgy as it did back in the day. The band line-up still contains original members Mark Hoyle on vocals, Cathy Brooks on bass & Chris Bridgett on guitar. The two new members are Mark’s son Stefan on guitar & Kev Clark on drums.

The bands opening salvo is ‘Caved In’, with Mark’s wonderfully individual & awkward vocals riding over the dub intro into the sonic assault of the chorus. The audience certainly know this band are here. We are then treated to a further 10 Dub Sex classics including ‘Underneath’, ‘Push’, ‘Over & Over’, plus the truly awesome ‘Instead of Flowers’. The band finish with what is probably their best known songs ‘Swerve’ & ‘Tripwire’. This is the third time I’ve seen them in the last few months & I will be coming back for more. Listen up youth of 2014, emulate this lot & you won’t go far wrong.

After wandering around sampling a pint or two of the Strummercamp festival ale in the clubhouse, at affordable prices I might add, we checked out the art tent. There are some wicked stuff on show & we bought a couple of pieces of Dr Freakinstyle’s wonderfully way out work to add to our growing collection, as well as having a great chat with their creator Victor. Also in the clubhouse was the TNS Records stage which, as ever, delivers some feisty punk rock mayhem. On the merch stall by the TNS stage I was accosted by a member of Black Volvo who was selling a his own band’s branded beer. I just ha to have the bottle with its 8.2 gravity dark ale & was assured the band were even better than the beer though I didn’t get to confirm that as I had unfortunately already missed them.

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I caught a few tunes from The Rotten Hill Gang who served up a heady mix of funk-laden hip-hop melded with some reggae vibes. I should’ve taken a head count of this lot given how many band members were crammed on the stage.
Next up we were treated to a very diverse offering from Jah Wobble ranging from some cracking dub standards& a fabulous version of the Get Carter theme, in dub of course! It definitely had me hooked & perfectly painted the picture of the final scene of the film with Michael Caine on the beach.

Halfway through the set he was joined by Aziz Abrahim on guitar. I’d heard this was going to happen & was anticipating that something magical would develop & boy did they deliver the goods. The fusion of Wobble, his band & Aziz was stunning. Aziz went for it 100%, bringing in elements of his Asian Blues style & every conceivable guitar trick in the book, making it a visual as well as auditory treat. This was one of the finest virtuoso guitar performances I’ve seen in years & believe me I’ve seen a few. Anyone who regularly checks out Jah Wobble will know there’s always some new flavour to take on board & this was no exception. It was a truly magical point in the festival.

The final act of the night are the mighty Dreadzone. Here’s a band that have been on my Strummercamp wish list for years & they didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen this band around a dozen times over the last few years & they always blow me away. Put succinctly, they are the perfect festival band. Every album is better than the last & their current offering ‘Escapades’ is permanently on the CD in my car competing with the brilliant ‘Eye on the Horizon’ for airtime ‘. It’s the kind of record that should be all over the radio but, for whatever twisted set of criteria they use to choose to play music to the public, is not. The tunes from that album really shone through with a magical performance of ‘Fire in the Dark’ & ‘Too Late’. ‘Too Late’ features Leo & Greg’s old band mate Mick Jones who didn’t make an appearance, despite the rumours, which is his loss as he’s missing something very special at this festival dedicated to his mucker Joe. Dreadzone did, of course, play several of their crown pleasing favourites & had the crowd bouncing from start to finish. A crowd that, as ever with Strummercamp, was a mix of kids & teenagers through to 50 & 60 year olds. Really going for it next to me was a school headmistress & a bunch of 14 years olds. The vocal interplay between Spee & Earl 16 was as magical as ever and was a climatic end to another brilliant Saturday night at Strummercamp.

 

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