Last week I blogged about the first half of the Gloucester Blues Festival 2015, but that is the easy part. At the beginning of the festival you are still fresh, but as the week progresses the constant late nights, poor diet and over-drinking start to catch up with you.
At the same time, the festival gets into its full swing: the music starts earlier, goes on later and there are more bands to see. The sensible festival-goers amongst us take a couple of days off work. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It is hard work, but we rose to the challenge – and we loved every minute of it!
Here is the story of that challenging second half of the week.
Thursday 30 July 2015
Having the day off work meant getting to Peppers for the early evening session was much easier, so we were in plenty of time to see Keith Thompson. Last seen playing with Alter Ego on Wednesday, here he was solo and acoustic and, as ever, very good.
We stayed to the end of the set and headed out to catch the end of the set in the Old Bell – the only day that they are joining in on the blues trail this year. Due to some scheduling oversight the intended band wasn’t able to make it, so at short notice Barney Porter agreed to step into the spot. The fact that he is the son of Tim Porter, the man responsible for organising the bands for the whole event probably helped! Tim also stepped in to accompany on harmonica – the second time this week and this time for a whole set.
Next we headed off to the Cross Keys to see Blue Street, who played some superb blues covers – all stuff that you know and can sing along too – although I generally don’t, by popular request.
With no work tomorrow it seemed rude not to finish the evening at Cafe Rene, just managing to catch the end of Red Butler, more good high-energy blues rock – I will be looking out for them again to catch more of their set.
Friday 31 July 2015
Now things are getting really serious. As we are both off work for the day my friend Kate and I agreed to get into town for the4:30pm start in the Fountain for Taffy Was A Thief – and we were glad we did!
The weather was warm and sunny, so the music was in the Fountain’s attractive courtyard. Taffy Was A Thief “we prefer not to be known by the acronym” were extremely good, singing both covers and their own compositions – some of which were very funny although maybe better suited to a post-watershed slot!
Unable to drag ourselves away, we stayed to the end of the set, meaning that we were late getting to Peppers for the always excellent Sons of the Delta and had no chance of a seat in the packed courtyard. We were therefore reduced to eating our sausages in the back passage. Oh dear, I think Taffy Was a Thief may have rubbed off on me.
With Sons of the Delta finished we returned to the Fountain for the always popular Worried Men, who were now inside the pub playing their trademark blues inspired rock music to a packed pub.
There was a difference of opinion amongst our group for the next venue. Some of us plumped to head for the Dick Whittington to see Chicago Bytes, who played some very good slide guitar and harmonica based blues.
The others went to Cafe Rene to see the Soul Strutters who, by the time we joined them, had finished their set. We’ll just have to catch them next time as they are regulars at Cafe Rene.
Saturday 1 August 2015
Music started early on Saturday: 1 pm at Dick Whittington and 2 pm at Cafe Rene. We decided to hold back a little, however, meeting up at 3:15 to see Blues Festival regulars Damon T and Luke Philbrick on the Cafe Rene Green Stage at Greyfriars.
The weekend programme was extremely busy with a lot of excellent acts:some very tough choices had to be made. In the end we decided to head off to the Dick Whittington to catch the end of Memphis…
…and then the start of Rumblestrutters, who play superb prohibition era blues and do actually use a jug as one of their instruments.
Next we headed to the New Inn to catch Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band. We had been advised not to miss these as they travelled from Scotland to be with us and were therefore unlikely to be regular visitors to Gloucester. The recommendation proved valuable – they provided a superb high energy blues/ rock set to a New Inn courtyard more packed than I have ever seen it.
Our final choice for the day was to return to the Cafe Rene Green stage to see the Zen Hussies, who were more jazz/ swing than blues, but nonetheless extremely good
Sunday 2 August 2015
The last day of the festival and we made on final push, determined to see it through to the end fuelled by beer and barbecue-based cuisine. Once again the weather was superb: hot and sunny, the best day yet. The weather gods have been kind to the Blues Festival this year, which always helps.
We met at Cafe Rene to see the full Sons of the Delta Band, who started the day in good style.
I then made the difficult decision to miss Victoria Klewin and the True Tones at Cafe Rene and instead head to the Dick Whittington to see Steve Kent, playing with a full band rather than his usual solo act.
I then rejoined the others in the Fountain to see Mary Spender, who played some relaxed, mellow blues ideal for a relaxing Sunday afternoon in the courtyard.
We headed back once more to the Cafe Rene Green Stage to see Lewis Creaven, another Blues Festival favourite. This year his set was much more low key than previously, when he has tended to ‘throw shapes’ to a backdrop of rock lighting and, I think, maybe the better for it. Maybe I’m just getting old.
We were torn next between staying for Ben Poole or returning to the Dick Whittington to see Steve Browning. In the end inertia won and we stayed and didn’t regret it.
And then the festival finished almost as it had started for us with Laurence Jones taking to the Green Stage. Having seen him at the New Inn the previous Sunday we were keen to see him again and once again weren’t disappointed.
By now though we were flagging. Our abused bodies ached and we were all desperate for sleep, so it was with some relief that, for the final time, we dragged ourselves off to the taxi rank and home.
So glad I had the foresight to take Monday off too….
We will, of course, be back to do it all again next year!
So that is it for another year. As you can hopefully tell from my blog I have once again enjoyed it enormously. I think the approach this year of fewer venues all providing a more substantial programme of music has worked very well, albeit that it has resulted in some very difficult choices at times. I know that plans and discussions are already taking place for next year’s event – I can’t wait!
I have to give a HUGE thank you to all who played a part in making it such a terrific week. In particular, thanks to all of the venues that have put the bands on throughout the week at their own risk and expense; to Tim Porter for arranging the acts and liaising with pubs (and joining in from time to time on his harmonica); to Marketing Gloucester for supporting it; to the bands themselves for just being brilliant; to all the hard working bar staff throughout the city that have had to put up with our drunken ramblings; and last but by no means least, to those friends that have joined me along the way and made it such a blast – special mention has to go to Nick and James for managing the whole eight out of nine days with me and to Kate, Dave, Louise and Tim who weren’t far behind, as well as a host of others who have partaken with enthusiasm throughout the week.
Next year we’re going for nine out of nine…