I’ve banged on a lot about the Gloucester Blues Festival – I always do – so here’s the long version of how it went down for me. So long in fact that I have decided to divide it into two parts – after that I promise to shut up about it until next year.
The festival started on Saturday 26 July, but sadly I had prior commitments, so for me it had to wait until Sunday…
Sunday 27 July
I had arranged to meet Kate, my go-to drinking buddy for the week, on the bus. I wasn’t sure how many other friends would be up for a Sunday night outing to the pub, so was expecting a quiet evening. We started with Otis Mack and the Tubby Bluesters in the Fountain and before long we were surrounded by loads of friends, including Paul, Nick, Philo and Sonja, which boded well for the week.
Otis Mack is a great showman and does some great upbeat blues, and of course the Fountain does excellent ale. Nonetheless, we were dedicated and after the first set we tore ourselves away to see The Reverend Robert and Friends in the New Inn courtyard. This was much more mellow blues and provided a nice gentle end to the weekend. By this time Dave had joined us and was driving, so I even got a lift home, which was a result.
Unfortunately, at some point during the evening, Bryn from BWM Promo had been taking pictures of the courtyard from the gallery which he posted onto Facebook. He managed to capture me looking like a moron playing with my camera in just about every shot. This would come back to haunt me later.
Monday was another day off due to prior commitments for a work function: my last night off for the festival, but it still wasn’t an early night.
Tuesday 29 July
We started early, with Steve Walwyn and Sam Powell at Peppers. It was a lovely evening and the courtyard was packed. By the time I arrived Kate, Dave, Paul and Nick were already there; Nick and Paul having enjoyed (?) a nice romantic (?) cycle into town.
I had arranged to meet friends Simon, Steve and Ken, the date especially chosen as Simon knows Sam Powell, but they didn’t arrive until late and had no chance of getting a seat. The blues was excellent, hot dogs superb and there were even bottles of beer available to keep us going.
The late arrivals all decided they needed more sustenance than a hot dog, so went to Cafe Rene for food when the set finished. The more dedicated of us set off for the Old Bell and Matt Woosey. I love the Old Bell for music – small, intimate and laid back, and serving a superb pint of Gloucester Brewery’s Galaxy. The music was excellent and the girls in our party seemed especially taken with the member of the band playing what I can only describe as a box.
We then headed for the Cafe Rene to rejoin the rest of our party and enjoy the DTs, featuring Honeyboy Hicklin and Steve Walwyn. The pace really picked up now with some great rocky blues, with the added attraction that the beer festival bar was open. Nonetheless, for some reason several of our party decided to return to see the end of Matt Woosey instead.
In a rare display of sensibleness I decided to go home on the last bus, so I was home at the boringly sensible time of 11:30pm, meaning I could at least partly function at work on Wednesday. I did miss the end of the DTs which was a shame, but I’ve been drinking with these people before and I know that missing the bus can lead down a very dangerous path!
Wednesday 30 July
After a groggy Wednesday at work I was once again in town early to see Keith Thompson at Peppers, along with the usual suspects: Kate, Dave, Nick, Paul, Philo and Sonja. By now the New Inn photos have been spotted on Facebook: I am now “Camera Guy 2” (Camera Guy already being a well known character around the pubs) and the new sport seems to be photographing me taking pictures, although it doesn’t build up momentum just yet.
Keith Thompson was excellent, as was Pepper’s hospitality once again.
For our next stop we decided on a quick visit to Dick Whittington, where I decided to supplement my hot dog dinner with the local delicacy of pickled egg in a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. This was not recognised as the culinary treat that it is by all of my companions, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that it looked like someone had sat on the crisps.
Too busy eating I failed to get a picture of Wes Finch, who was playing a very mellow kind of blues in the front bar. Time was tight however as, being Wednesday, we had to make way for that Gloucester Blues Festival tradition: The Cross Keys open mic night with Mark Cole.
The Cross Keys is once again whole, having previously been divided into two with part of it housing an antiques shop. It was good to see the bar back in its rightful place. It seemed a bit high however; poor Katie working behind the bar could hardly see over it!
Next stop was the Cafe Rene for The Worried Men, who are always excellent – and very loud! Cafe Rene was packed and sweaty, but brilliant nonetheless (or maybe because of that!). We must have liked it because we lingered long after the band had finished, moving from beer to shorts to shots. I don’t know what time we finally headed for the taxi, but it was almost 4am when I finally dragged myself into bed. I’m not stupid though, I had the rest of the week off, unlike Dave…
Thursday 31 July
And so we were past the half way mark. Despite having had the day off, this is the one day that I didn’t head into town for the early set at Peppers, largely because Kate and Dave had deserted me for the rugby and I thought I’d be Billy no-mates for the evening.
I needn’t have concerned myself, however; on the way to the bus I received word from first Ken and then Matt and Rachel that they would be in town. They joined me in the Old Bell, enjoying the musical stylings of Jack Blackman.
Our only other venue for the evening was The Fountain for Hired Guns. If we thought the Worried Men were loud the Hired Guns were even louder, and their music is a very loose interpretation of the term ‘Blues’, more accurately described as hard rock. It’s bloody good though!
Everyone apart from me had to work the next day, so trying not to look too smug I shared a taxi home at around 1230.
Which brings us to the long weekend of blues, so this seems like a good place to stop Part 1… more later.