Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2023

Butlins, Skegness. Friday 13-January-2023 to Monday 16-January-2023.

Our fifth and final time at this festival. We started going in 2017, there wasn't one in 2021 and we skipped 2022 as we were still a bit cautious about Covid. It turns out that the organisers are no longer going to put on this event.

A quick summary of the weekend:

Music: that’s the whole point of the weekend. The joy of discovering new bands and listening to old favourites discovered at previous events. This year‘s new discoveries were:

  • Terraplanes Blues Band
  • Ten Years After (we are a big fan of Marcus Bonfanti who is now their lead singer / guitarist)
  • The Milk Men (who could be the new Dr Feelgood)
  • Jamiah Rogers
  • Andy Taylor Band 
Full list follows.

Accommodation: forget any mental picture you might have of Hi-De-Hi style chalets. The accommodation is high standard, has a living room / kitchen and bedrooms that wouldn’t be out of place in many a hotel. We had booked gold class accommodation in the hope that some of our friends might be able to join us. As it happened neither couple were able to so we were rattling around in a three bedroom apartment.

Food: as we have done in previous years (other than the first year) we have gone for the inclusive food package - all you can eat in the Deck restaurant, I would describe the food as pub quality food, a reasonable selection to choose from. They always have a carvery, an Oriental / Indian dish, a grill bar, a fish counter, and a variety of others, so you’re never short of something to suit. We usually eat about 6:30 so there is time to finish our meal before the first act at 8 o’clock.

Audience: as previously noted, a large percentage of the audience are corpulent men with straggly beards and long grey hair, many with walking sticks. Where do they all come from? What did they do for a living? We don’t see anyone looking like that wandering around the streets of Penrith. Are they all lorry drivers?

Timetable: in previous years we have flitted around from venue to venue seeing part of an act and moving on or finding a spot and then one of us guarding the chairs while the other went to check out the competition. This year we pretty much stayed put in our chosen venue for each session.

Parkrun: the Skegness Boating Lake parkrun may have been discontinued, but Cleethorpes was only an hour's drive away, so we got up bright and early to drive up the coast. It was the last Parkrun we needed to complete our Pirates challenge: seven C's and an R and, of course, we had packed our pirates costume. We drove up and arrived just in time, throwing our coats off as they set off. 

A cup of coffee with friendly volunteers afterwards and it was back to Skeggy.

Every year I promise myself I will take my camera so I get something better than crappy iPhone pixillated images. Maybe one day.

Friday 13-January-2023.

Rebecca Downes (Centre Stage) ** Good but first act of the festival and early in the evening so lacking a bit of atmosphere. Certainly we did not enjoy her set as much as the first time we saw her in 2018.

Ten Years After ft. Marcus Bonfanti (Reds) **** Great show, especially fabulous guitar playing. The combination of Marcus Bonfanti (39) and Colin Hodgkinson (77) playing together and off each other was sublime - as if they had a joint pact with the devil.

Saturday 14-January-2023, lunchtime.

Alvin Youngblood Hart (Reds) *½ enjoyable even though we did not know any of his music and his voice was not perfect due to some lurgy.

The Stumble (Centre Stage) *** Chicago style blues, great  musicianship and soulful singing. Cannot go wrong with a ZZ Top lookalike as one of the lead guitarists, a cooler than cool dude bassist and a fantastic sax player.

Saturday 14-January-2023, evening.

Rob Tognoni (Centre Stage) * Giving him a second listen. Just like last time, an accomplished musician and band but just not my type of music. 

Terraplanes Blues Band (Hot Shots) *** Delta blues band, very good musicians: lead guitar & vocals, bass, drums and a harmonica player who looks like he has based himself on Coco Robicheaux, great music and atmosphere.

Animals & Friends (Centre Stage) **½ Enjoyed them more than last time. Only one original member now. A bit retro but excellent musicians and a great set with lots of audience participation.

The Milk Men (Centre Stage) *** Excellent energetic rocking blues from a charismatic band. Sounding like a cross between Robert Palmer and Dr. Feelgood. They just look like they are having great fun. Mostly original material but some excellent covers: Oh Well, Pinball Wizard and Doctor Doctor. 

Sunday 15-January-2023, lunchtime.

Blue Nation (Centre Stage) ** Rock. Only heard a bit of one song but liked what I heard. 

Sad Cafe (Centre Stage) * Rock. Good tight band, not sure about the lead singer's voice on the more raucous numbers.

Chicago Blues Legends ***

  • Jamiah Rogers, right (guitar, vocals) - fantastic young man, one to watch
  • John Primer, centre (guitar) - new to us, great old bluesman
  • Billy Branch, right (harp aka harmonica) - as good as ever

Sunday 15-January-2023, evening.

Willie & The Bandits (Centre Stage) *** Accomplished band, good lead singer / guitarist / weissenborn player. Play a variety of styles including blues and rock. 

Climax Blues Band (Centre Stage) **½ Lively, enjoyable but not as impactful as last time. Sound in venue not great and not sure about the sax player they had with them this time. 

Don Martin (Hot Shots) ** Enjoyable singer-songwriter, quite intense, only stayed a short time due to conversation levels.

Andy Taylor Band (Reds) *** Great rock band from Orkney! Strong lead singer / guitarist.

Sadly the last Great British Rock & Blues Festival so next year we may opt for somewhere a little warmer and find ourselves some winter sun. 

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