Squelch… Wickham Festival finally kicked off to a great start with sets from Low, Barker, Morris & Tunstall which sounds like a firm of solicitors instead of musical, dance and poetry partners in festival law; Andy Fairweather Low, Les Barker, the Wickham Morris Sides and KT Tunstall.
Now tell me… where are you going to get a “bend me, shake me, a sermon from the church of the holy undecided, a strip the willow and a black horse and a cherry tree all the the same place!
Here is the moment when the sun came out and everyone forgot about the thirteen days of rain that fell on the site the day before it opened which caused the “elf and safety” three hours delayed start.
The main Thursday night event on the All Time Grates Stage was 10CC, who played all their hits, which they performed as a masterclass in song-writing. They even offered us the following words of wisdom from their extensive mantra…
Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze …
Friday afternoon had a definite garden party feel that went off with a Wizz, bang and Spooky side-splitting Tickell. It all started with the legendary Wizz Jones who rolled out all his hits including ‘When I Leave Berlin’ which Bruce Springsteen covered.
TheSpooky Men’s Chorale followed, the Antipodean Blue Mountain settlers, that worry local livestock to such a degree that the local farmers club together to pay for their international tours (so long as they agree to do reworked Abba and Bee Gees choral arrangements). Luckily, Kathryn Tickell was there to restore order, Northumbrian Pipe Style, who together with The Side brought Wickham back into the hear and now with evocative slow airs that could break your heart one minute and then fling you seamlessly into life-affirming jigs and reels the next.
In between Tickell and the Spookies (great idea for a band name!) I managed to dash across to the Hapi Stage to catch a bit of the fab Portsmouth based band Bemis. I also managed to grab a copy of their excellent new album A World of Difference that I encourage you all to go and check out for free here
There was barely enough time for a quick change over before it was pedal to metal down the West Country highway in search of Fishy Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands. All three did the West Country proud and I think its was a great bit of programming to put Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands all on the same stage and evening bill.
Here is my favourite moment of Friday night, when Show of Hands treated us to a slowed down version of the Don Henley classic “Boys of Summer” . Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Saturday opened with more Wickham Festival goodies… Alas, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie didn’t make it for the reunion but folk legends, Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe turned up on the All Time Grates Stage in the afternoon. Then it was a quick hop and skip across to the Hapi Stage for a blistering set from Gilmore & Roberts with festival energy in a bakers bun-dance. Then back again to the All Time Grates Stage as master Dhol drummer, Johnny Kalsi fired up the furnaces of the drums of the mighty Dhol Foundation to create a high-energy, pulsating folking brilliant musical soundscape of Punjabi beat, rhythm and intensity.
If that was not enough excitement for one day, there was a just enough time to sponge down before the main evening event of the big punk-folk-rock 3. I’m sure you will all know who they all are, as the Saturday evening, three in a row line-up, for many, was one of the dream festival programming highlights of this year (dreamt up by the mind of that festival organising genius, Mr Peter Chegwyn) which even included a returning Chopper as part of the Oysterband mix. For those who have not worked it out, it was of course The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Oysterband and The Levellers. I also legged it across to the Hapi Stage to see some of my old matesChris Sherburn & Denny Bartley set with the lovely Emily.
Time had flown by and before anyone knew it, it was “Sunday folk fun-day” and the fourth day of Wickham.
I’ll start with Ray “Chopper” Cooper who opened on the Hapi stage…
Fay Hield then blew in with the Hurricane Party on the All Time Grates Stage and Glasgow boys Imar followed and got the main stage dancing. Wickham festival favourite Duncan Chisholmfollowed with his Gathering before the afternoon slot was brought to a riotous close with Tankus The Henge (a great festival band).
LAU opened the Sunday evening slot which felt like a kaleidoscope of colour washing over the All Time Grates Stage. The power went off at one point so we even got a couple of un-amped numbers.
The finale for me was the crowned Queen of the Wickham Festival crowd, Eliza Carthy with Sam Sweeney & the rest of her merry Wayward Band. Unfortunately, I had to leave early so missed the Peatbog Faeries set but Eliza said that they tore the place apart, so I have been lamenting the early departure ever since.
I was bitten by a Ferocious Dog on the way out and am looking forward to repeating the experience at one of their other gigs soon.
This was a prestige gig billed for TMTCH as The 30th Anniversary Reprise Show – nothing like making the most of it.
The London Sewage Company are, in Ron’s words, a powerpunk outfit with a lead guitarist inexplicably missing from a heavy metal band. They also have a nice line in humour –“London sewage comes from everything you do” – ho, ho. They played a strong set but it lacked light and shade and you couldn’t help but wonder how their song about London’s lost toyshops would have sounded if written by Ray Davies.
Merry Hell showed them how it should be done, mixing power and restraint. My top track was ‘Bury Me Naked’ featuring Andrew Kettle’s only instrumental contribution – on hammer and spade! You have to hear the verses or the whole point of the song is lost so the band held back but the moment the last words left Virginia Kettle’s lips it was as though a switch had been flipped and that huge fairground chorus rolled over us.
They have a sizeable back catalogue now and they mixed them up and much as a ten song set would allow. Ron was disappointed that ‘No Money’ was omitted and I would have loved to hear ‘Iron Man’ but, although that song carried over into their first album, the days of Tansads are now a fond memory. Quite rightly – Merry Hell are their own new creation and ‘The Crooked Man’, ‘The Baker’s Daughter’ and ‘The War Between Ourselves’ are songs for this century.
The Men They Couldn’t Hang seemed a bit off form initially. Their third song, ‘The Ghosts Of Cable Street’, got the crowd bouncing and was excellent but ‘Shirt Of Blue’ seemed oddly lacking in energy. After the mid-set acoustic break – Phil Odgers sang ‘Carrying A Flame’ from The Defiant and Cush’s choice of ‘Hotel Chambermaid’ was interesting – they came back and suddenly stepped on the gas.
‘Smugglers’ hit the ground running and the other selections from The Defiant: ‘Bonfires’, ‘Fail To Comply’ and ‘Scavengers’ eclipsed the recorded versions. There are a few fixed points in any TMTCH set – it’s just a matter of waiting. Jon Odgers sat in for ‘The Crest’ after ‘Going Back To Coventry’ and ‘The Colours’ and ‘Ironmasters’ closed the set with ‘Walkin’ Talkin’’ as an encore.
This was their night and their crowd and at the end we were all bawling out the choruses. All together now: “Red is the colour of the new republic…”
Dai Jeffries Ron D Bowes
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The revered British folk punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang will see out their 30th anniversary campaign with a return visit to Shepherd’s Bush Empire in west London on 4th April 2015. This show will neatly bookend a year that saw them play a sold out date in the same venue in April 2014 before unleashing their ninth studio album, ‘The Defiant’, in the autumn.
The Defiant was funded via a hugely successful Pledge campaign. Produced by long-term collaborator Pat Collier, it was recorded during savage bouts of drinking, mess, ribald reminiscence, raucous recreation and a week of bed and board at a South London flophouse and features such traditional themes as piracy, fascism, fishing and a little touch of romance in Henry V’s invasion force of 1415. It undoubtedly reinforces TMTCH’s reputation as both originators and unique pillar of the roots rock renaissance, as well as one of Britain’s finest ever bands.
Championed by John Peel, TMTCH’s debut single ‘Green Fields of France‘ was a huge hit on the UK Indie chart and was no. 3 in Peel’s Festive Fifty for 1984 (behind The Smiths and Cocteau Twins). It subsequently appeared on their first album, Night of a Thousand Candles . The following year saw the release of How Green Is The Valley’ while by 1988 and their third album Waiting for Bonaparte, TMTCH had also achieved recognition in mainland Europe for their political comment and raucous live shows. Touring in support of 1989’s Silvertown, the band played to a crowd of over 250,000 in Estonia as communism started to crumble, prior to an unforgettable appearance at Reading Festival. At the height of their career, they recorded the acclaimed Domino Club  with producer Pat Collier, but then went on hiatus in 1991 following a ‘farewell tour’. Performing sporadically for the next few years, TMTCH reunited permanently in 1996 and released a new album, Never Born To Follow’and the Six Pack EP  that displayed a fresh power and vitality to their music. Two ‘Best Of’ collections, Majestic Grill, and The Mud, The Blood And The Beer [both 1998] were eventually followed by the well received albums The Cherry Red Jukebox’ and the Pat Collier produced Devil On The Wind’ in 2009. TMTCH have spent the last few years touring regularly throughout Europe and playing at numerous festivals.
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The first leg of the “Ghost In Our House Tour” is behind us and we are now busy rehearsing for the forthcoming acoustic leg. For those who haven’t seen the acoustic incarnation of the band we can’t recommend it highly enough. Some of the venues on this leg will be seated giving you the opportunity to enjoy the more subtle side of the band but as ever there will be the opportunity to belt out an anthem or two! There may even be other new songs added to the set…
The band have been worked hard on the tour and actually played two sets in both Derby and Lancaster. Derby saw the first performance of material from the new album when “The Baker’s Daughter” was aired for the first time by the six piece acoustic band. It was played again by the full band at night along with ‘The Ghost In Our House’ and another driving rocker, ‘Rage Like Thunder’, though Stocksbridge were denied the latter which, due to a special request, was replaced in the set by ‘Emerald Green’. We made our third visit to Telfords in Chester, a venue where the audience are as close to the band as its possible to be which always makes for a lively night! Continue reading Merry Hell – news from The Ghost In Our House tour
The revered British folk punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang will celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2014 with the recording and release of a brand new album via a campaign with Pledge Music that has already seen them raise almost 90% of their target amount in the first three weeks (to 18th November). In addition to the purchase of signed CD’s, extremely limited vinyl copies and an exclusive bonus CD, other incentives invite Pledgers to contribute backing vocals, perform at one of TMTCH’s forthcoming live shows and have a curry with them afterwards! Every Pledger will also be entered into a raffle to win a unique prize dubbed ‘The Bundle’, which will be created during the recording sessions and which the band claim –
“will include the original studio track notes, lyric sheets, rough mix discs, CD’s that we’ve been listening to, half finished bottles of Oban whiskey, a mandolin signed by the band and any other studio detritus we decide to throw in.”