Sunday, 7 August 2011

Let me introduce the band

I'm in a pub. It's probably my fifth of the day. I'm on my sixth pint and all I've eaten in something grilled in a bun. The average hair colour around me is grey, where hair is present. And my ears are starting to dribble at the sound of another meandering bass solo.

Welcome to the Maryport Blues festival.

The premise. Book some good/famous blues acts and put them in a marquee, charging £100ish for the weekend. Also book some quite good but not-famous blues acts and send them trawling around the pubs of a small fishing port, charging £6 for a wristband that gives entry to all the pubs. Add lots of cheap alcohol in plastic glasses and hundreds of locals drinking in the streets. Let the carnage ensue.

Maryport is in West Cumbria, sort of Carlisle and go left until you get wet and salty. For Southerners in the UK, it's very very North. The accent is Geordie put through a scrambler. We (Chris and I) spent the six trips with our regular taxi driver chuckling and agreeing without understanding any more than one word in ten. For all we know he was threating to drive us off the harbour into the sea - and we'd chuckle and reply "yes, sounds fantastic".

The Blues festival has been going for thirteen years now. Not non-stop you understand, not even blues guitarists can keep a solo going for that long. It's grown to encompass the marquee of "proper" bands along with the "Blues Trail" of pubs and clubs. This gives the whole town a party feel as there is music everywhere - there is even a free outdoor venue as well. Obviously this descended into fighting and vomit later in the evening but by that time we were safely in the "rich outsiders" marquee.

So, the bands:
  • Barry "Sinnerboy" Barnes. Some acoustic, some mandolin. The festival needed more acts like him - a bit different to all the other blues/rock three/four pieces.
  • Paint it Blue. A blues/rock four piece. Singer was folky which didn't really work for the material. Guitarist competant, bass and drums played by pensioners. Poor sound quality.
  • Dr Truth. One of our favourites. Mainly original songs, excellent musicians, top-class vocalist with what looked like 150 years of experience and anecdotes to draw on. He could have expired at any time - that's what a blues singer should be like. Actual age - probably 62.
  • Sandi Thom. She's famous. Well, she had a hit about wanting to be a punk rocker. Surprisingly good.
  • Cherry Lee Mewis. Terrible, terrible name. Same venue as Paint it Blue and again poor sound. Others we met raved about her though.
  • Dog House BB. I don't really remember this lot. Pub was packed.
  • Hooson. Powerful female singer, one of the best of the weekend. Funny coloured hair. From Yorkshire so the blues-chat was hard to take seriously.
  • Philip Sayce. He was second on the bill in the main tent, so he should have been top class. Thankfully, he was. By this time Chris was drunk enough to pay him the complement of "as good as Joe Bonamassa" at the CD signing. Thankfully he didn't hit him, and bumped fists instead.
  • Jonny Lang. We went to see Jonny Lang. He disappointed us. He fell into the world of meandering blues cliche - for someone with so many great songs, why was it hard to actually play any of them normally? Yes, I'm sure you can do it in jazz-scat with a 15/16th time signature but it doesn't help the song.
That was just the Saturday. There were five more on the Sunday. By Sunday evening we were all blused out and went for a walk and a curry instead.
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