|The Great British Alternative Festival - Minehead, Butlins - 27th-30th April 2012|
|Written by Fraser Munro|
|Wednesday, 16 May 2012 04:00|
As we approach the hallowed ground that is Butlins Minehead I'm still thinking £110 for three nights of music, accommodation and food, this can't be right? While at first glance this is as much a Ken band fest (one original member and a bunch of "Kens" in each band), with quality like UK Subs, The Damned and John Otway on offer this weekend, is actually a gig goer's dream.
Having booked in and parked up I'm initially taken aback by the flurry of activity going on as a bunch of blokes try the de-Butlins-affy the place, transforming it from a kingdom of merriment to one big bouncer filled bar. Why do they need such security for a music festival? It then begins to dawn on me that while this may be a top punk rock treat for many of us, it's stag night hell for many more. The wankers and wankeresses soon start to appear wearing their fancy dress, matching shirts and L plates. What will they make of the bands? Probably nothing, it'll merely be a soundtrack to their drinking and fighting. Oh shit this weekend may have taken a nosedive before it even begins!!!!!
Okay, a quiet calming pint and a perusal of the itinerary is in order. Double oh shit, 6 bands a night spread across two main stages, Centre Stage and Reds, with clashes a plenty. While these two venues would handle the nighttime shows, the vast Skyline Pavilion would only be utilised for the daytime shows. Still I keep telling myself, it only cost £110 and it is the inaugural event.
The dubious task of opening the festival on the Centre Stage fell to Department S who I must admit I'm not that familiar with. Think Joy Division or maybe Pulp at a push. Though I only caught a few tracks, early single 'Going Left Right' and a cover of Alvin Stardust's, 'My Coo-Ca-Choo' sounded pretty cool. The call of the Anti-Nowhere League on the Reds stage was too much. The first staging issue suddenly smacked me square in the chops. Reds is significantly smaller than the other venues and because it was hosting most of the cool bands those in control of the event used a strict one-in-one out policy. Big queues a-go-go! Once in though it has to be said that The League were on top form and the packed in audience lapped it up. I must admit to being a touched under whelmed by the band on last year's Motorhead tour but tonight the band were in a different err...league. A quick run down of the set went something like this... We Are The League / We Will Survive / I Hate People / This Is War / My God's Bigger Than Your God / So What / Can't Stand Rock 'n' Roll / Dead Heroes / Snowman / Woman / Streets Of London / For You / Never Drink Alone / Fucked Up & Wasted / (We Will Not) Remember You / We Are the League.
A quick dash back over to the Centre Stage for a very quick flavour of Hazel O'Connor. Bounding on to ancient single 'D-Days', you can tell Ms. O'Connor is a quality performer and if it wasn't for the irritating clashes and queues outside Reds I'd like to have watched the whole set. The Subs are calling... and much like Motorhead, the UK Subs are a British institution. No matter how often you see Charlie tearing through the likes of 'Warhead', 'Stranglehold' and 'Endangered Species' it always seems fresh and exciting. Now with the return of Alvin Gibbs, (who ironically didn't perform tonight) forming the basis of a stable line up, the band seem to be going from strength to strength. The set list went something akin to...Down On The Farm / Endangered Species / Government Official / Tomorrow's Girls / Warhead / Stranglehold / Disease / C.I.D./ I Live in a Car / Party in Paris / New York State Police.
Happily the night had not be marred by the stag night army who were probably happily swilling back their ale in fancy dress watching Ex Simple Minds in all their glory on the centre stage. I strategically avoided the bass player and drummer's version of the Scottish arena rockers but the prospect of the half past midnight performance of a totally Ken Sham 69 wasn't tempting me to stay awake either. Apparently the Sham put on a great show but I was happily tucked up in my chalet bed at the time.
Saturday's rock n' roll odyssey begins at the massive Skyline stage with the 'Sex Pistol for a second' Ed Tudor Pole. His punky, ramshackle country stylings drew a hefty audience and with tunes like 'Swords of a Thousand Men' and 'Who Killed Bambi', Ed couldn't fail to gain a few more fans. Next up was a surprise addition to the event, former Ocean Colour Scene guitarist and Weller sideman, Steve Craddock. His turgid blend of Weller inspired tosh served only to inspire the crowd to wander off and find something far more entertaining to do. For most I imagine that was sleep!
Opening up the evening's entertainment were mod also-rans The Lambrettas. Though I only caught a few tracks the band seemed as average as I was expecting, though their run through The Small Faces 'All or Nothing' stood out as okay-ish. Then came a quick dash downstairs to Reds to catch Ghost Dance and general eighties wank fantasy Annie Marie Hurst who proved to be the surprise package of the weekend. Promoting her new album 'Day of all Days' Ms. Hurst and her band delivered a blistering set of old and new. Well worth looking out for should the band come your way on their tour later this very year.
Okay now I have a choice The Damned or The Beat??? And of course The Damned it is! The funny thing about the Damned is that even though they've had more line up changes than most it is that they have always remained relevant and never been a Ken band! Dave is on form tonight, bounding onto the stage in a Freddie Mercury leather man outfit and having fun with the crowd throughout. The Captain was a touch more reserved than usual which for me is a good thing as sometimes he tends to over shadow proceedings a touch, with Dave then withdrawing to allow Sensible to become ringmaster. Tonight's set although short was awesome.....and I mean leg tremblingly fookin' awesome. It went something like this... Wait for the Blackout / Lively Arts / Silly Kids Games / New Rose / I Just Can't Be Happy Today / Disco Man / Love Song / Neat Neat Neat / Plan 9 Channel 7 / History of the World / Fan Club / Ignite / Eloise / Anti Pope / Smash It Up. Beg, steel or kill to get a ticket for The Damned's current tour. It will be an epiphany!
As Pinch trashes his kit at the end of the set I sprint to the Centre Stage to witness another of my favourite bands, The Jam.... well From The Jam anyway. At least 5,000 people must have jammed themselves into the venue to see Bruce Foxton and his band belt out the Jam classics. Mark Brzezicki of Big Country fame has replace Rick Buckler on drums in recent years and Russell Hastings stands in for original main man Paul Weller. Hastings does a fantastic job, he looks good and sounds even better, in fact he's just like the best bits of the modfather but you just don't want to stick a screwdriver in his smug arsed face! The set went a touch like.... Down In The Tube Station / To Be Someone / Modern World / Pretty Green / David Watts / News of the World / Little Boy Soldiers / That's Entertainment / Smithers-Jones / When You're Young / Start / Strange Town / Eton Rifles / Going Underground / "A" Bomb in Wardour Street / In the City / Beat Surrender / A Town Called Malice .....and every mod, punker and stag night monkey went crazy for it!
As the last chords rang out on the Centre Stage I high tail it back to Reds to catch the last 20 minutes of Eddie and the Hot Rods. Even though I miss out on their signature pub rock anthem 'Do Anything You Wanna Do', what I saw was excellent.
Sunday morning and it's still pissing it down. The crowd has literally halved as the stag night hordes have all scuttled back to their shitty little lives and left the music fans to pick the bones out of the remains of the weekend.
This afternoon the Skyline is host to some top treats on it's massive and under used stage. First off former Advert TV Smith peels off an inspiring acoustic performance featuring material from his past and present musical adventures. The likes of 'One Chord Wonders' and 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes' rub shoulders keenly with 'Expensive Being Poor' and 'Great British Mistake' to make a more than satisfying musical experience.
Next up is ex Dr Feelgood man Wilko Johnson who was on cracking form, riding on a current wave of popularity, due to recent high profile appearances in the film 'Oil City Confidential' plus a spot on The Jools Holland show, not to mention his autobiography 'Looking Back at Me' to be released on the 30th May. Next up is mod revival also rans Secret Affair. The band still boast Ian Page and Dave Cairns from their glory days but their piss weak sound was only rescued by their two genuine classics 'Time For Action' and 'My World'.
This evening's line up is a bit of a mixed bag and while I really enjoy a great set by The Vibrators, it's my last visit to the half full Centre Stage for the weekend and so I miss out on Nine Below Zero and the totally Kenned up Dr Feelgood. In fact the Vibrators pull off a highlight of the weekend with their version of 'Sound Of The Suburbs' with former Member and now Vibrator Nigel Bennett handling the vocals.
On to Reds for the rest of the night where first up were The Blockheads who despite lacking most of their key members put on an average at best performance. Filling Ian Dury's boots is his friend and ex minder, Derek Hussey (aka Derek The Draw) who led the crowd through a set of sing-a-long classics tracks that couldn't fail to entertain, but whether you'd actually pay to watch this stuff is another question. Next up is another British institution, Mr John Otway, who performed his two hits 'Cor Baby That's Really Free' and the more recent 'Bunsen Burner' with vigour and gusto. Absolutely brilliant from beginning to end.
Finally, the last band of the weekend and the one I was really looking forward to seeing. Ladies and gentlemen, the Boomtown Rats..... Well the Garry Roberts and Simon Crowe version anyway. Did they disappoint? Fook yeah!!! Absolute shite... two fat gits and a bunch of Kens kick the crap out some genuinely classic tunes. Give up now!!!
And that was about it, a ton of bands for very little cash. See you again next year Butlins, another Great British institution.