Glastonbudget May 2011
This is the 7th year of the Glastonbudget festival – a popular event which for some reason had never crossed my radar.
Set on a farm in the heart of the Midlands near Loughborough, Wymeswold is not particularly accessible by public transport and my arrival by cab followed a dire journey from London as, typically, the rail and underground services could not get their act together at the weekend. To cap it all the weather was dreary, but once on site, I was immediately cheered up by the fun atmosphere, the buzz and the anticipation of a full day of gigs to entertain the 10,000 raucous spectators.
The festival layout, programme and website were all somewhat confusing, probably because there was so much going on with an incredible diversity of acts and 2 separate areas – The Village with two stages and the main stage a short walk away, not to mention the mandatory campsite in the next field.
The two most important stages were the Main Stage and the Big Top stage, which projected very annoying flashy video shows on the background screens. It was a shame that this video-on-a-loop detracted from the enjoyment of the band, displaying their names in a crude style better suited to a trade fair than a rock concert. Side screens would have lent a spectacular air to the main stage, and in the few cases where the show was in fact projected up on the background screen it was a vast improvement on the jarring graphics.
Generally there was a lot on offer at Glastonbudget; fairground attractions which were not so popular, a range of stalls and a good mixed selection of food and drink although for the latter I have seen better. As a wine drinker I was very disappointed with the quality; festival management clearly cater well for the beer and vodka drinker, yet believe that festival-goers are completely undiscerning and will down any old gut-rot all day long ... wrong! In contrast High Voltage offered excellent options in the form of perfectly decent Wolfblass, so I hope Glastonbudget will improve on this next year.
The food offered a better choice; I enjoyed Ostrich burgers, Thai curry, paella, great pies and chocolate waffles. As for the loos, these were not the best, but ok as festivals go and not too crowded so at least there was no waiting although the toilet rolls seem to have been pilfered within minutes of opening.
The stalls offered the requisite hippy jewellery and clothes tents including a second hand clothes tent which offered much fancy dress fodder to both sexes.
This brings me on to the crowd. Mostly from the Midlands and environs, the crowd knew how to enjoy themselves and revelled in the dressing up. There was just about everything from men in gimp suits, cave men, men dressed as Abba, men dressed as women, women in bridal dress and women dressed as furry animals. Nothing took anyone by surprise.
My only previous experience of a tribute festival is Marvellous near Reading which has always been good fun, smaller and easily doable with the one main stage and quality acts. Glastonbudget differentiated itself by offering a mix of covers bands, tribute bands, single acts and an array of up-and-coming new bands.
It didn’t posit itself in any one genre so that pop, rock, indie, folk and metal from all periods were juxtaposed without grating on me at all. Maybe this was because Glastonbudget is about fun and not taking the music too seriously. This is not to say that there was not great musicianship – there was – but it was more that prominence of the cover and tribute bands lent an air of the English tongue-in-cheek and a tolerance of all that was on offer.
Many acts seemed to be fairly local or from further north and I was told there had been a serious auditioning programme leading up to the festival for the 160 bands that finally made it to perform across the 6 stages.
On the main stage there was an eclectic mix of acts. I caught a bit of Madness. I am not that keen on them, but have to admit they were good. Everyone responded to it because they love the songs and if you want to let go, Madness is your group! Madness were followed by The Jamm and A Town like Malice went down a storm as did Going Underground. The look was fun – headed up by a couple of older guys resembling east end criminals in their black suits.
Again on the main stage were Beach Boys Smile. These wholesome American guys kicked off on Sunday on the main stage and looked as if they had just walked out of Harvard or the Hamptons! There was true Beach Boys vocal blending - better than the real crooners can manage today and the solid harmonies and pitch combined well with the look to be totally believable. The band apparently started out with three brothers passing time in the car on holiday trips and today they have developed into a truly professional show that you can’t help singing along to.
The main stage sported too many acts to mention but I enjoyed Tina Turner, Mercury, Fillers (Killers) and Four Fighters (Foo Fighters). These were all really competent musicians, sounding pretty much like the right thing and also great performers with just the right look – Tina (Kinisha) was hilarious moving like the Acid Queen herself in somewhat exaggerated – but perfectly copied style and the Fillers were just a really good act on their own regardless of who they were supposed to be.
Finally however, US4/U2 have to have the last word as regards the Main Stage. This band was stunning – playing the usual numbers and some other less obvious ones – competently and confidently. The guy next to me agreed they were fantastic commenting “he looks just like ‘im too!”. This U2 tribute band have been going for 10 years, hail from Leeds and play everything from pubs to large festivals even appearing on BBC2. They must surely get the seal of approval from the real thing!
Before moving on to the Big Top stage, the two minor stages are worth a mention as they offer a launch pad for single artists and new acts. The Charney Arney stage (what kind of name is that?) was a large tent with bad acoustics and too close to the main stage so as to clash with it.
Charney hosted some folky, acoustic acts, Emily and the Martins with rather screechy female off key sounds which grated on me, but nevertheless added another dimension to the festival - not well attended however but appealing to the older crowd.
Great Scott were good and were a change from the other acts. All their music is free on Facebook and this is a rap duo who were supported by a drummer on a couple of bongos. They were incredibly accomplished despite a fairly awkward performance and were able to ad hoc to words thrown out by the audience.
Revilo performed on the Charny stage. Oli, is a very young boy very new to the music scene with such a strange voice it is a sound that a music industry guru might just pick up on and turn into a unique act.
There was also the SaddleSpan stage, one of the smallest I have ever seen and rather lost amongst the clamour of the festival. I caught a bit of Jack Kenworthy who I had to say I didn’t rate (too amateur) and Neon Sarcastic who I did. .
Moving on to the Big Top stage, I arrived to catch just the end of Metallica and wished – instantly – that I had got there earlier. True to the real thing, amazingly loud and great to watch, this has to be one of the best Metallica tribute bands around. There was also Reconcile, an interesting hip hop, metal mix which was not bad, not my music, but energetic despite being ruined by a tiny crowd bar the few hangers on that must have been friends and family.
Sham in the same area were good but played to an empty audience as they were competing with Madness on the main stage. Also in the Big Top were the Tribal Suns – an up and coming band from the Midlands with whom I was so impressed by a couple of numbers, I got to interview them afterwards, so watch this space for more on Nottingham’s youngest answer to U2 meets psychedelic, metal, hip hop in Rokpool soon.
Maetloaf one of the last acts on the Sunday was an experience, a believable act with a fantastic backing babe dressed in skimpy leather and heels – quite a contrast to the giant himself. Once Dead Ringer kicked off, everyone was going mad for it. All the favourites were wheeled out and Maetloaf worked Anything for Love (Meatloaf’s only number one ever) brilliantly – coping with the long intro and making it a real metal-blasting number.
More disappointing were the Fufu Sailors. A big band sound for 5 rather motley members performing 60s covers. They got the crowd bopping, but need more finesse in my view. The bass guitarist was quite entertaining, looking seriously like Jack Black. It was a shame there was a slight struggle to get started on the Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running, but 3 bars in it was a great performance of a difficult number.
Worth a brief mention are Skam#, classed in the brochure as old school hard rock who finished with a memorable number She's a Lesbian! One of the last acts on Sunday in the Big Top was Ghoad, a Saxon tribute band (I had no idea one even existed and they must be the only one) comprising a group of long hairy rockers with energy and a plausible sound. They suffered a very low turnout sadly competing with the Four Fighters on the main stage, but still performed to top professional standard to the small group of die hards who hollered out the lyrics along with the band.
The bass player was a fantastic head banging showman and lead singer Noel from Wales did a pretty good job as Biff Byford. Having seen Saxon themselves only 4 weeks before I expected to be disappointed, but the minute Wheels of Steel and 747 were belted out I felt the same rush of adrenaline - a great experience and I would travel to see them again – Noel just needs to get the military jacket, straighten his long locks and die it blonde to get the look!
Definitely worth a mention are Bon Jovi UK – there seem to be a number of Bon Jovi bands springing up and this one is seemingly new. From around the Midlands the entire group had the right image. It is so good to see the whole band play the part, not just the lead who was a real looker, ironically sporting Bon Jovi t-shirt, a perfect slim physique plus classic shades under shaggy straw-blonde hair and that ravishing smile that got the girls screaming.
I managed to catch the singer Nigel and drummer Richard after the show and they told me they had worked really hard on the look and it worked. This band seem to be phenomenally popular as one of the best new tribute bands around and they certainly filled the tent up – lets hope we see more of them in the rest of the UK.
With all these acts, especially a covers band as opposed to a tribute or any other type, there is an art to structuring your set list to keeping the fans engaged. A classic example of a group that did this with style is a band that was just odd but which just worked. Wellard Willy – the whacky name originating from Eastenders - are based in the Midlands.
Wellard’s mad, charismatic and energetic lead singer Jezz (who from behind I thought was female) really clinched the experience as the ultimate, ageing long haired, sparkly, glam rocker. Wellard members must have grown up in the 70s and they covered U2, Bowie, The Stones, The Police, Kinks and the Clash and I would have loved to see them do Slade.
Wellard kicked off with Rebel Rebel just about my favourite song and my first reaction a few bars in was that it was a Stones number I was trying to place and when I realised it wasn’t, my second was that they were crucifying Bowie. However half way through I realised that this was because Wellard were performing Rebel Rebel in the style of the Stones – which led me to think – wouldn’t it be awesome if The Stones realeased their own version of this? Maybe someone should suggest it to Mick & Keith?
All in all Wellard encompassed my summing up of Glastonbudget – don’t take it too seriously, dress up, have fun, bounce around like a maniac, love what you do and enjoy the music.
This festival had enough quality music to bring me back but the management need to tighten up the layout and the structure of the bands, their line up and stages for a more coherent experience.