The Red Rooster Festival, Euston Hall, Suffolk. 6-8 June 2014. Review and photos by Richard Shashamane
Red Rooster is a beautiful little festival, just over the southern border into Suffolk, set in glorious grounds. There are a couple of stages, one a small shack and a much larger main stage in a marquee enclosed in a wooded area not far from the picturesque lake.
The music was a mix of blues, bluegrass, folk, soul, Americana and to close the musical part of the festival an absolutely storming set of dirty rock and roll blues from the truly outstanding Jim Jones Revue. The acts were all well-chosen and I didn’t see or hear anything that didn’t impress me a great deal. Particular personal highlights for me were the aforementioned Jim Jones Revue, The Vagaband, ChessBoxer, CC Smugglers, Big Boy Bloater & the Limits, Fred’s House, Danni Nicholls, plus a few others whose names I did not catch.
It was such a lovely weekend, with wonderful deep south decor touches scattered around the grounds (including hammocks in a small wood), it was very child and pet friendly (dog tickets were available and they wore collarbands!) the security people were refreshingly friendly and relaxed and this reflected the convivial and chilled mood of all the festival goers. A big well done and thanks to the organisers!
Danni Nicholls started things off on the main stage at about 6pm on Friday, and the live music for the night was closed by the excellent CC Smugglers who I already loved from Bestival and an amazing performance at the Pig’s Big Ballroom. They wowed the place and got the whole place dancing and jumping. At the time of their performance they were at 99% target for their album Pledge. Help fund the album and pledge here.
On the Saturday afternoon my friends in The Vagaband played one of the best sets I’ve ever heard by them play. Sounding punchy and beefy with the full eight piece line up and a perfectly selected set list. The new darker-edged songs sounding better each time I hear them were played alongside a few older set favourites and their slot of 45-50 minutes or so felt over in the blink of an eye. They filled the tent up within moments of starting up and left the stage with the crowd loudly begging for more but alas a tight schedule and running order had to be strictly adhered to and a deserved encore was not possible.
It was nice to bump into Murphy’s Lore earlier in the day but sadly their set coincided exactly with that of the Vagaband’s on the other stage.
I hadn’t come across ChessBoxer before but really enjoyed hearing them, the duo of Ross (violin) and Matt (banjo) from Nashville bringing a real dose of genuine southern Americana and a first taste of Dualling Banjos with violin and banjo, and it worked a treat!
On Saturday Ross played again and during the set covered beautifully If I Needed You by Townes Van Zandt. Whilst walking around the lake with Jose a bit later on I was telling him about this and during the walk and talk we actually bumped into Ross himself in a charming moment of serendipity and coincidence so all had a nice chat.
They were joined onstage for a couple of songs, by the Duke of the estate, who was really good on a version of Folsom Prison Blues
To close the music side of the festival were The Jim Jones Revue. Inexplicably, this band who are soon to embark on a farewell tour had slipped under my radar until now. Within seconds of their first song starting though I found myself edging further and further in. They were introduced as the greatest rock and roll band in the country. This is no overstatement. Thunderously loud and powerful they are that rare breed who play dirty, grungey good old fashioned garage rock music without looking cliched or cheesey. They are brilliant. There are echoes of Led Zep, The Ramones, The Stooges, MC5, The Clash, The Stones, Motorhead, and a touch of Dr Feelgood – all delivered in a southern blues rock manner with powerful riffs, and all borne from the spirit of Little Richard. I absolutely loved them and it is one of my favourite gigs … ever! They look the part too, some great poses, expressions, with an energy that is at times threatening, menacing, exciting and dangerous. Just how such rock and roll should be – I need to get hold of their music! They play their penultimate gig at Open in Norwich in October. That one is unmissable.
I do hope this Festival will continue and grow, these smaller festivals that run without corporate backing and done just for the love of the music are the ones I love best. Everyone I talked to seemed to share this feeling too. Both stages had excellent sound and the weather was by and large kind, a very late night/early morning shower on Friday night/Saturday morning, with another short downpour later on were the exceptions to the long spells of glorious warm sunshine. What was actually waking me in the mornings was the heat in my tent from the early morning strong sunshine. Although a comparatively small festival I still didn’t manage to catch all the superb music that was on offer.
It does seem the kind of Festival that is crying out for our own Hank Jd Sleek who would be an absolutely perfect match and fit here.
Despite the showers though the campfire was kept alive for the duration of the festival with songs and chat around it well into the mornings and throughout the days. If I could change anything it would probably only to be to have one or two more food outlets and some more boards of the set times as the rain kept wiping them clean! I’m not complaining though, with two stages fairly close to each other it was not difficult to catch just about everything one wanted to see and I had a whale of a time throughout the weekend. Sunday was a chilled, relaxing affair by the lake, watching the dragonflies and the wizard ferrying people in charming coracles! Elsewhere people swam, picknicked and strolled around. Such a lovely end to the weekend!
My big thanks to Red Rooster, The Vagaband for giving me lifts there and back and for being brilliant, and all the wonderful friends old and new that I met during the weekend. Of course, thanks also to all the acts and artists and all involved in organising this super occasion. I am already looking forward to next year’s!
Welcome to Red Rooster, a good-time weekend of Rhythm and Blues in the heart of Suffolk County. We’re kind of particular about our music, which is why we’ve only got the finest R&B, Americana, Blues, Roots and Country musicians on our bill.
We believe that the highest quality of music and style is what keeps the party going throughout the day and into the night.
On our travels around the world on the hunt for the best musicians new and old, we kept on coming back to the deep south of America. It’s passion and love of not just Rhythm and blues, Americana and country music, but for food & drink, good times, and more importantly life, made us stop, think and start enjoying things just a bit more.
We miss a good ol’ rack of ribs soaked in Bourbon, spinning our girls round dancing, listening to a man sing his heart out on a guitar made out of an old cigar box.
It’s a long way from Suffolk to enjoy the sounds and smells of the deep south, so we thought, why not, let’s try and recreate it in the heart of the Suffolk countryside. It’s early days for us, but we hope you will join us and grow with us on little adventure.
Embracing the sounds and lifestyle of the American Deep South, Red Rooster is the premier boutique festival for Rhythm and Blues, Americana, Soul, Roots and Country music with performances from The Jim Jones Revue, Big Boy Bloater, Miraculous Mule, CC Smugglers, Scoundrels, Danni Nicholls and more
words and photos (c) richard shashamane 2014