The end of May (what a lovely phrase that is) means Red Rooster time! My fifth experience of this wonderful little festival. A bit of a delayed and confused entry to the site for me meant I missed most of the first set whilst I setting up camp but there was however still ample camping spaces to choose from. This definitely felt like the best Red Rooster yet though, it was most certainly the strongest lineup. I could barely recover from one outstanding performance before it was time for yet another. So many incredible highlights, the thrill of seeing Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Pokey LaFarge, Worry Dolls, The Bonnevilles, and Daddy Long Legs again, to being blown away by new discoveries such as Yola Carter, Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band, McKay & Leigh. Add to that a exceptional performance from a new-look The Vagaband that was as exciting as I have ever experienced by them, in front of a rocking crowd of noisy enthusiasm. The addition of Mark “Boweevil” Howes has changed the dynamic and sound in a brilliant way. Plus of course Yve Mary B brings magic to everything she touches. They sounded energised.
(Thanks to Ramblin’ Wreck for the following videos)
We also had superb local band sets from Ida Mae, Big Steve Arlene (with Henry Greenwood and Will Fergusson), Lucy Grubb, 4D Jones, Yve Mary B and the Wild Boohickeries and so much more. It was a great festival. My review for Outline should be published any time now but here are some photos from a wonderful weekend. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Yola Carter, Pokey LaFarge, Daddy Long Legs, McKay & Leigh, Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band (who I absolutely loved … Rainbow Girls spirit!), The Bonnevilles, Los Chicos, and the Vagaband all provided amazing sets. I didn’t quite manage to see everything I wanted but that was impossible as everything was good and sometimes happening simultaneously. I gave it a darn good try though.
The weather held out, all except for fifteen minutes or so, the music was incredible, the vibe friendly and relaxed and the grounds beautiful. The Euston Hall grounds set in a quiet village with a population of just 130!
It was great to see The Bonnevilles again after seeing them at NAC with James Leg. A large and enthusiastic audience made their pleasure known in a powerful set.
Lucy Grubb, with a very fine band around her continues to make staggering progress each time I see her. This was a standout set to a rapturous reception.
All I knew by McKay & Leigh before the festival were a couple of songs, one being a fine track called “Analogue” but I now consider myself a bone-fide fan after catching not only their main stage set but also the completely different bonus second set they played on the Little Red Rooster stage an hour or so later, by which time I was already sporting their t-shirt. I got their CD too and would have bought anything else they had if their suitcases hadn’t gone AWOL. They are the real deal and one of several festival highlights for me. Clever songwriting performed so clearly, a lovely easy-going engagement with the audience, charming tales of their dog, bars, cars, cowboys and a crystal clear story of their own Major Tom character’s solitude on Intergalactic Shipwreck Blues. I rather fell in love with McKay & Leigh, they have a beautiful chemistry, great warmth, gentle humour and so much charm that you feel you know them. Storytelling songwriting at its best. I was pleased to shake their hands and come away with a signed album.
Worry Dolls were familiar to me from their OPEN gig a while back and after finding them as they arrived on site looking for the stage they told me of their drummer’s challenging journey from Somerset which included a flat tyre. You wouldn’t have guessed from her brilliant performance. It’s clear to see why they were among those chosen to perform at the recent UK Americana Awards Show in Hackney. Another strong set from them which left me with several earworms. I already have their album on vinyl from their Norwich visit.
Friday’s headliner Pokey LaFarge played a hugely well-received set to a packed audience. A good selection of favourite songs and this is the way to do audience participation. It was superb stuff.
Due to the Howlin’ Woods tent and catching up with friends it was a very late night but I started Saturday with the relaxed and soothing vibes of Yve Mary B and the Wild Boohickeries (who are Lauren Dove and Mark ‘Boweevil’ Howes) at the Little Red Rooster stage. The perfect, gentle start to the day. Breakfast followed and then it was over to the main stage.
4D Jones put on a belting show as first main stage act of the day, the biggest stage I’ve seen them on. Norwich’s own Dr. Feelgood I however also heard them described by compere Paul Mills as “Norwich’s oldest boy band”, and elsewhere as the “Finest rhythm and blues band north of the River Waveney”! They always put on a show, with smiles on their faces matching those of the audience. A lot of fun as always and they too got a great reaction. And sold out of all their CDs before I even reached the table.
I was chatting to my friend after their set, as Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band were setting up and soundchecking. They piqued the interest of both of us and we were so glad to catch this set. A Badass fun attitude and a great sound, they put me strongly in mind of when I first saw the Rainbow Girls. Talking about their night before and how they didn’t know how they had even made it on stage in time they were funny, relaxed and so much fun. We both loved them, everybody did. Strong songs and engaging interaction. “This one’s about my favourite thing”, “What’s that?”, “Codeine!” If I’d had more money left I’d have bought their entire back catalogue too but came away with new album Come With Me. Loved this band and they put a big smile on my face.
Big Steve Arlene with Henry Greenwood and Will Fergusson also played a lovely and well-received set on the Little Red Rooster stage, as did Ida Mae who closed the night there with a powerful set that got everyone dancing and singing along.
Inbetween were some extraordinary sets on the main stage. Yola Carter literally moving people to tears with her rock and country inflected soul. A truly remarkable and powerful performance with one of the best soul voices I have ever heard live. Another standout, and a deserved winner in the Best Song category of the UK Americana Awards in London earlier this year.
Los Chicos were crazy rock fun, the singer performing a section of the set from up high in the lighting rig and also getting the audience as one to singalong a chorus of “Shit!” on We Sound Amazing But We Look Like Shit. Hilarious, but they do sound amazing.
The most exciting name on all of the bill for me was Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. I was so looking forward to this after seeing them last year in Norwich and they didn’t disappoint. It was even better in fact with the atmosphere of the much larger crowd. My favourite set of a festival with an extraordinarily high calibre of music. Slim Cessna and Munly climbed down from the stage and shook our hands before climbing over the barriers and singing among us while the amazing band played powerfully and quite unlike anyone else. Pedal steel, keys and bows, bass, drums, double-neck guitar, and two banjos. God I love this band. Those in the know describe them as the best live band in the world. I’d go along with that.
The quality didn’t drop for a moment and the next set was from the incredible Daddy Long Legs to a packed crowd. Powerful, enegetic and raw, I think everyone loved them. How could they not?
Over the two days and three nights I think I caught at least part of 26+ sets and still missed many I hoped to see. I enjoyed them all though I didn’t quite connect with Alabama 3, probably because I was too much on the periphery of the big tent at the time.
The site was clean, had loads of toilets which were regularlay cleaned, ample food outlets and choices though a friend did make the valid observation that although some outlets were serving food with recyclable cutlery etc. there was no place to put them for that purpose afterwards, there needed to be “Any other recyclable items” or “green waste” bins alongside those for tins, cardboard and so on, but other than that it’s hard to see how anything about Red Rooster could be bettered. It’s a gem.
Packing away on Sunday morning and noticing the field slowly emptying I was pleased to see that just about everything was cleared away. People bagged up and disposed of recyclable waste and rubbish in the allocated areas and the site seemed to be left almost exactly it as it was found, which is just as it should be but not always the case at all festivals. There was a respect here.
Definitely the best Red Rooster yet, totally marvellous. A non-corporate breath of really fresh air!
Thanks to Red Rooster, Outline Magazine, Wee Davey, and Rupert Orton.
all rights reserved (c) shashamane 2018