It is once again that joyous and liver-challenging time of year when the pubs of Gloucester give themselves over to the annual Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival.
The Blues Festival started on Saturday (23rd), with the Cafe Rene Blues Festival within a blues festival starting on Monday. This year there are a total of 9 venues providing 72 gigs by 62 unique acts over nine days.
The venues involved are 8 pubs – Cafe Rene, Cross Keys, Dick Whittington, Fountain, Gloucester Brewery, New Inn, Old Bell, and Tank (unfortunately, the ninth on the programme, the Long Dog, closed just before the festival started) plus Peppers Cafe. That is an increase on last year when there were only 7 venues, so even more choice.
Some of the venues only have one or two acts on over the week, but as always there are the stalwarts: The New Inn wins the prize for consistency, having music over all nine days. It may also have the most bands, but they are not named for Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so the Cafe Rene wins most named acts with 19.
Just for a flavour of what is going on, as usual, here is a brief summary and some poor quality photos of what I have been up to so far this week.
On Saturday, having first enjoyed the sun and some excellent music at the Gloucester Quays Food Festival, followed by a pint of two at the Tank beer festival, we started the official blues proceedings with Last Minute Hitch, featuring Gloucester Blues legends Mark Cole and Rick Edwards, at Gloucester Brewery.
Staying to the end meant that, after a quick dash into town, we only managed to catch an hour of Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue before heading for the bus.
On Sunday we started in The Fountain to see the Hired Guns. Usually loud and heavy, they had decided to go acoustic and do some proper blues this year, which was fantastic. They even had a guest appearance from local blues stalwart Damon T.
They finished in time for us to head to the Dick Whittington to see the Foremen. I drank far more than was sensible for a school night, but the music finished in plenty of time to catch the last bus home.
Monday was Reverend Robert and Friends in the New Inn. Reverend Robert was in the UK from Illinois; he plays good, traditional pre-war blues and provided a nice mellow start to the week. His friends turned out to be Gloucester blues stalwart, Damon T; the man responsible for organising the festival bands, Tim Porter; and Tim’s daughter who turns out to be a whiz on flute and keyboards.
Our next stop was Cafe Rene for the start of their Blues (and beer) festival to see Innes Sibun Band. Unfortunately due to some medical emergency in the pub the band couldn’t start until 10pm, so it was an all too brief set before I once again had to do the sensible thing and head for home.
After 3 days I had seen six different acts in six different venues. Things going well so far!
Tuesday started in Tank to see Barney Porter. Having seen Tim’s daughter perform on Monday we were now seeing the not inconsiderable guitar skills from his son.
We stayed far too long at Tank, meaning that we only got to see an hour of Debbie Bond Band in Cafe Rene, which was a shame as she had travelled from Alabama and her soulful, rocky blues was fantastic. If she comes back she is definitely one to seek out. I really wish we could have a later No 10 bus, for this week at least!
And so we come to Wednesday. Wednesday is different. Having learned from bitter experience, I now routinely take Thursday and Friday off work during blues week. This means that I didn’t have to worry about the 1100 bus home.
The evening started in relaxed style back at the New Inn with Tommy Allen and Emil Engstrom.
My plan was then to head to the Long Dog to see Bridget and the Big Girls Blues: an excellent band, but sadly one which could not appear as the Long Dog unexpectedly closed at the end of last week.
Instead we headed to the Old Bell to see Adam Sweet. Playing solo on an acoustic guitar he played some superb songs, including an impressive version of Pink Floyd’s Money. The small venue was packed and sweaty, but a great show which, unfortunately we could only stick with for one set because there was too much other choice. It was also impossible to get any photos.
We popped into the Cross Keys to see a couple of bands at the open mic – well, it would be rude not to as it is such an institution of the Gloucester Blues Festival – before once again heading to Cafe Rene to see the always excellent Lewis Creaven Band.
Without having to worry about a bus home we could stay to the end and I was glad we did. His guitar playing is superb and, on this occasion, included playing with the use of a chair (!) and playing the guitar backwards behind his head Jimi Hendrix style.
So that is it, we are half way through. Not having to worry about work, the rest of the festival can start earlier (including Peppers, who always do good bands starting at 6pm) and finish later. Wish me luck!