Butlins Rock & Blues Festival 2012 – (Bands, Beer & Birds)

Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash

Woke up this mornin, in a Butlins bed,
empty hip flask of whisky, and a very sore head …

Another festival of Rock and Blues is over and my thanks to David for driving and Carl and Sue for being such good company. I have done so many workshops in the lead up to this years event that I could not help wonder what are the primary benefits for such a weekend. My conclusion is that it is to give aging original band members the chance to relive their musical highlights to very appreciative audiences.

On the Friday evening it was great to see John Verity (born 1949) on the Central blues stage smiling his way through some great songs and especially ‘Hold your head up’ as he played in Argent for a number of years. Then one of the highlights of the weekend as Ten Years After hit the stage with confidence and some quality songs, ending in a storming ‘I’m going home’. Leo Lyons (born 1943) the bassist smiled throughout and had the energy of an eighteen year old…

Ten Years After

Saturday saw our regular excursion to Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve for a spot of guided bird watching. I say it every year but birdwatching with an expert like David amplifies the experience thirty fold. Highlight was a male hen harrier that gave us the most amazing flypast as it searched the salt marsh for potential prey.

Saturday evening saw us camped in ‘Reds’ the rock stage for Deborah Bonham who ended with a rocking version of Rock & Roll from her dad’s old band. Then came Argent with all the original members including the return of Russ Ballard (born 1945) who has an amazing song writing pedigree. A terrible clash of timings meant we had to leave before the end to see our old favourites ‘ The Animals and Friends‘ on the other stage. Pete Barton the singer/bassist has an amazing voice and stage presence. I got a place in front of the stage I could have touched his bare feet. Eventually original member John Steel took the microphone and said he was celebrating 55 years in Rock and Roll asnd has his 71st birthday this week.

Pete Barton of the Animals and Friends

Final band of the night was Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash (lead picture). Again he is the original remaining bassist, making me wonder why bassists are so resilient and have such an urge to carry on. All the hits from Argus and a storming Jailbait to finish.

Sunday we were out on the coast once more, this time to the north. We saw sandlings playing on the waters edge and an obliging Greater spotted Woodpecker swooping in a sine wave fashion across a nearby wildlife trust reserve.

I just managed to catch Gerry McAvoy (ex of Rory Gallagher and Nine Below Zero) and his new band in the afternoon slot after watching Sunderland draw to the smoggies in the FA cup on TV.

Sunday night saw a very loud Skinny Molly rip through some great, new to me, songs but by ending with Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird they made my top three of the weekend. I stayed and watched FM even though they are not really my cup of tea. Speaking of drinks, our biggest secret find of the weekend was that the bar in Reds was selling celebration gift boxes of a pint of Marstons – Butlins real ale with a free engraved glass for only £2 as they were almost on their sell-by date. So we ended each evening with a pile of empty boxes and each a stack of pint glasses to take home. My wife was not that impressed at her matching 6 pint glass set as a present on my return.

A reminder of the next generation of rockers ended the festival on the rock stage. Crucified Barbara the Swedish, all female, three quarters blond thrash/heavy metal band were surprisingly good and did a great version of ‘Killed by Death’. The wonderfully named vocalist Mia Coldheart together with band mates, Klara Force, Ida Evileye and Nicki Wicked sent a lot of middle aged men home happy on that very cold evening. Great bands, great birds and for the first time, great beer.

Crucified Barbara and a youthful but greatful audience

Footnote: Apologies for the poor quality photos this year, when I took out my camera on arrival I realised I had left the memory card at home so the above pics were on my little android phone which seems to dislike spotlights.



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