19 June 2009: Southside Festival 2009 – Neuhausen ob Eck, Germany

Thursday 18th June

Arrived in Zweibrucken to beautiful sunshine and a beautiful smiley face of my friend Iris who was picking me up and driving me to Saarbrucken where I was to spend the rest of the day in her garden eating cherries straight from the tree and annoying her cat with a long/thin stick. Later the same day we had a lovely dinner at a rather picturesque local old brewery come restaurant where I was introduced to the delights of krautbeer.

9 am Friday 19th June

Iris, Nichole and me finally finished packing the big van which was to be our home for the next 3 days with everything we could possibly think of minus the kitchen sink. We said our good-byes to the cats, set not 1 but 2 sat-navs and off we went, festival bound.

What I wasn’t aware of was that the tiny airfield in Neuhausen ob Eck where the festival was held was in the middle of the Black Forrest, almost 4hrs drive away from our departing point. Glad to say we took a shortcut (?) through France and shaved some 100km off the journey.

Several beers ater, I mean hours later, we arrived. Thank f***! We drove around a bit, found a spot near the loos (but not too near so we wouldn’t run the risk of suffocating with the notorious vile fumes which would no doubt come from it), unpacked some gear, dressed down to match the already mashed & unwashed revelers in the caravan next to us and off we went to watch a few bands.

We managed to see the last couple of tunes by Less Than Jake. They were up on the Green Stage. I thought they were a good “warm up” band. WIN. Little did I know they were far better than the following act…

Lily Allen was a let down. I didn’t quite get why the fuck she was there in the first place. But I stood there for as long as I possibly could before I walked away from a cold, distant, un-passionate, mechanical set where Lily hardly managed to smile at the crowd and the bored looking musicians. Ok, she is competent and hits her notes but she totally lacked the festival spirit. FAIL

Fleet Foxes were on next at the Blue Stage. If you are not familiar, let me try to describe them: they look like hairy Yetis but sing like angels. Anyway, as they started their set it started to rain quite heavily. Wet and cold we stood there in total awe because they were simply divine! Their mellow tunes delivered to perfection. It was quite an experience and I highly recommend you go watch them. Big WIN

I was soaked to the bone and cold so I duly went to get mashed at a Brazilian kiosk selling caipirinhas. Damn! They were good! So good in fact that I lost track of time, missed Fettes Brot and most of Die Arzte. But I must say that from what I saw of Die Arzte they were really good and a real crowd pleaser. I didn’t stay until the end because their set overlapped with Nick Cave.

I arranged a meeting point with the girls and off I went. Needless to say we never managed to find each other but that’s another story.

Mashed, wet, cold and alone I went to the Blue Stage to watch Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. This one is easy to write about: it was f***ing awesome, mind blowing, brilliant performance! And what a sexy mutha f*ka! Even when the PA died on him, he carried on until the end of the song before leaving the stage for a few short minutes. He returned, apologized to the punters, had a dig at the sound engineers and went on to deliver what was to become the highlight of the festival IMHO. Uber mega bitchin WIN

© AndreaUrbanFox

Originally posted at http://andreaurbanfox.wordpress.com/

21 March 2009: Re-Play Music Festival – The Grove Tavern, Wimbledon, London, England, UK

Some days are better than others and last Saturday was one of the better days. I’d go as far as to quote Lou Reed “Just a perfect day, problems all left alone”.

That bright and warm thing in the sky that you kids call the sun was beaming down relentlessly which is most unusual but very welcome after months of simply miserable weather. The only problem with these early sunny days is the pasty white legs and spare tires on show. Although this is a small problem, catching a sight of the offending body parts can be blinding if the sun reflects from them at a particular angle.

So, after deciding not to venture outside preferring the comfort of my friends sofa, I settled down for a 7hrs non stop Rugby. Yes folks, I am one of those people who howl at the TV set.

Sun gone, Rugby over, yours truly well satisfied with the results, it was time to put on some slap and go out. The Idea was to go to this gig at a pub not far from my friend’s gaff, where I spend most of my weekends. I only intended to see one band, Eastroad, however, once I got there and realized it was a mini music festival in aid of a worthwhile cause I decided to stay.

The venue was The Grove Tavern, conveniently located straight across the road from South Wimbledon Tube. For many years it was nothing but a run down pub badly managed which attracted the lower echelons of south London. Glad to say those days are well and truly over. From the large comfy sofas to the semi secluded good size beer garden, from the well dressed hunky door staff to the young, cute and friendly bad staff and with a good size stage with pretty good acoustics, The Grove has had a face lift and reinvented itself.

I got there kind of late and there was a small queue to get in. There was also a symbolic 1 Pound charge to enter. That said, the 1 Pound included you in a raffle draw for which the prize was a guitar. All the proceedings of the night went straight to Re-Play Music Festival which is an initiative where people donate their old, broken and/or unwanted musical instruments, they are refurbished and donated to schools, prisons and/or individuals who can’t afford to buy one. I think it’s a great idea and worthy cause. They have my full support and I’d like to think that all of you reading this will also try to help by means of donations, spreading the word or making The Grove your preferred booza.

The first band I saw was Mary Jane Burning. By the time I got there they were mid set so perhaps my review of them should be limited to an “ok performance but nothing special” because I might have missed out on some brilliant song or fireworks display. But from the 3 songs I got to hear nothing but second guitarist sticks to mind. Err…I lie. I vividly remember everything but to go any further would be unkind. Just one question: What was that girl doing onstage?

The following act was Eastroad. Well, what can I say about Eastroad which I haven’t already said in several reviews of their gigs? Not much. Taking away the technical difficulty they had during performing the first song, their act was delivered just fine. I did have a feeling, for the first time, that maybe the bass player should be the front man. He certainly has more of an onstage presence, more rock `n roll. Food for thought.

Time for Action. No need to be alarmed or get up. This is the actual name of the band that proceeded. I must say that I had no great expectations of this band. I have never heard of them, they looked young enough to not be allowed in a pub and I’m no great lover of ska. But the truth must be said: Time for Action rocked my socks! The music was a fusion of several genres: ska, punk, reggae, hard rock…all topped up with a perfect dose of irreverence and rebellion. The kids, I mean, the musicians were well rehearsed and as tight as a rats arse! I loved every minute of it! Meg, the lead singer/guitar/harmonic has a huge onstage presence. His energy was immeasurable and his political speeches took me back to a time where people gave a damn about politics instead of this herd of sheep of today. I wish Time for Action all the very best and urge you to try catch one of their shows.

Now then, from a never heard of band to the winners of last year Indie Awards: The Penny Black Remedy. It is easy to see why they were the winners. They are obviously natural born, professional musicians. Every song played was delivered flawlessly. Not one single note out. It was like listening to a mastered album. Their stage presence was pretty good too. They looked comfortable and seemed to be having fun with each other. Its not easy trying to describe the genre they fit in to. They say its Balkan alternative country rock…err…I suppose I’d buy that….whatever that means. If I was asked to describe their style I would have to say I heard something similar at the last BarMitzva I attended…just a hell of a lot better. They were the only band to get just about everybody dancing, including yours truly which is unheard of. My only fear is that due to the genre they get pigeonholed as world music. They have a new album out now, so don’t take my word for it, just go get the album and make your own mind up.

A heartfelt thanks The Grove staff, new and old customers, all the artists and Bob the organizer for supporting this cracking initiative. Also worth mentioning that Green Futures Festival Radio was broadcasting this event live. Green Futures has a stage at Glastonbury festival so be sure to go check them out!

© ASG @AndreaUrbanFox

17 May 2008: Bearded Theory – Derby, England, UK

This new little colourful festie consisted of several hundred happy folk wearing fake rainbow beards having a fun time all in the name of charity for Oxfam and for a very reasonable price of only £12.

The setting seemed hidden deep in the hillside of the Derby Dales wrapped around the Knockerdown Pub near Carsington Waters. This is quite a scenic pub all secluded and private with a few geese & ostriches running around in the neighbouring farm. Families enjoyed the wooden carved playground and kids marquee containing face paints, musical instruments, circus toys and more.

The 3 stages at the festival, included, Main Stage, the Dance Tent, and the Open Mic Stage for random stand up comedians and musicians.

Artists this year included Dreadzone, 3 Daft Monkeys, Rev Hammer, Beetroot Kings, Hobo Jones & the Junk Yard Dogs.

There were plenty of homemade food stalls dotted around the site, including a Teeny Tiny Tea Tent, Merch tent, and not forgetting the Real Ale Bars offering Bearded Theory Real Ale.

Congratulations to the management and roll on Bearded Theory 2009.

Roy & Debbie Sandbrook

08 March 2008: Bloom Festival – Koko, London, England, UK

The Bloom Festival, taking it’s cue from the likes of Big chill, took over KOKO last night in a one off night to spread it’s fare beyond the confines of a single summer weekend. First on were the London Breakbeat Orchestra. Watching a thirty piece classical string and wind section putting their melodies on top of a broken beat backing track was initially charming and novel, but there was not enough groove, incision or even humour to justify using them as anything other than what they were… Canon fodder for what was on next.

Super Nashwan, a real find for Bloom, took to the stage in as a young whirlwind of Gospel singers, Caped Keyboard players and dirt-driven guitars. Suddenly we had a six piece band on stage who made the atmosphere kick into the fever of a festival. Super Nashwan’s frontman takes you through a hot spectrum of anthemic emotions that leaves you feeling truly uplifted. No question – Super Nashwan stole hearts with their high voltage good time performance.

Next up Caged Baby capitalized on the good will built up by Super Nashwan’s performance with a balearic live P.A. party set showing the light side of four to the floor. Although his voice was not in the same league as what came before or after it, his extended laptop band have a warmth and rumble that got feet tapping and towards the end of the set, hips twisting.

The Elektrons were the headliners – a band hand built by the Unabombers (top Djs in the Manchester scene responsible for the infamous Electric Chair Club Night.) Their similarity to Gnarls Barclay in their look, tone and vibe is astounding – although, on last nights givings…. there is no stand out “crazy” to propel them to megastardom. However their funky party pop-hop really won over the crowd and is exactly the sort of upbeat festival fair that you can imagine winning them a lot of friends on the circuit this summer, at bloom and beyond. A special note must also go out to the elektrons vocalist who’s laid back charisma and pitch perfect soul voice was the highlight of the Elektrons set and endeared them to many.

Newcastle grand Central DJ Riton finished the night off with some pounding miami bass, electro and techy beats: encouraging the frivolities of the crowd to spill onto the stage. All in all a great party night which bodes well for a young festival spreading it’s wings and coming into full bloom.

Anon

Freeborn John – Rev Hammer – DVD/CD (released 19 May 2007)

Freeborn John - Rev Hammer

Rev Hammer’s concept for his Freeborn John DVD/CD has been around for a long time.

The original studio CD was finished in 1996 and this DVD package’s literature thanks “Mark Chadwick for an idea in a country garden, July 1994”. However, there are recordings in existence of Rev performing some of the songs on here (“ England’s New Chains” and “ Elizabeth’s Great Gallop”) as early as 1992.

This gives some indication of the amount of love, endeavour and effort that has gone into this project, covering the best part of 15 years. And it shows.

Freeborn John tells the story of John Lilburne, the leader of The Levellers (no not them) in 17th century England , and “the first English Radical”.

This DVD is a recording of the performance that Rev and his fellow musicians performed at the Beautiful Days festival, Escot House, Devon in August 2005. You also get a CD of the live recording as well.

The DVD (and CD) consists of 13 or so tracks, the majority written by Rev with one written by Justin Sullivan of New Model Army which is, I believe, exclusive to this release.

The story starts where it should, at the beginning, and takes you through Lilburne’s life, telling of his run-ins with Prince Rupert, The King and eventually Oliver Cromwell.

The story is told in a sort of Folk-Rock-Opera style with passion and intrigue as each of the performers taking the stage puts in enthusiasm and effort. And what performers there are, including but not restricted to; Rev himself taking the part of John Lilburne, Maddy Prior playing Elizabeth – John’s wife, Justin Sullivan (of New Model Army), Rory McLeod who somehow manages to pull off a great performance as the folk singer (something he has been doing for much of his life) and The English Civil War Society who put in brave performances during the fighting scenes.

I’ve listened to the original CD numerous times and the live CD accompanying this DVD a number of times, but nothing prepares you for the full impact of the DVD presentation. However, you have to pay attention – let yourself get distracted and the impact is lost.

But if you sit there and immerse yourself in the experience of the story, the storytelling and the songs, then you will be moved. Some of the literature in the DVD booklet is included on the DVD to help with the narrative and this works well, filling in the story between the main areas covered by the songs.

This is a DVD that is a required purchase for anyone who was at the Beautiful Days festival in 2005, an historic recording of an historic performance, which could quite easily move the viewer to tears at times (especially during “Seventeen Years of Sorrow” and “Lilburne’s Death Song”) and a document for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of England without the need to resort to a history book.

But for Rev Hammer, nothing like this would ever have seen the light of day as I can think of no other performer around today who could have pulled it off.

Rumour has it that Rev is planning to tour the show next spring (2008). If this rumour turns out to be true, then I wish him luck and can promise here and now that I will be there.

16 June 2006: Levellers – Big Session Festival, Leicester, England, UK

“And these are the days and the ways I’ve known”

This is the second year running that I’ve been to the Oysterband’s Big Session Festival in Leicester. Last year was to see Mark Chadwick and Rev Hammer (with Seth Lakeman on fiddle) on the Friday night and this year I’m back to see the Levellers headline the main stage.

The Big Session Festival is a small-ish festival, run by the Oysterband out of De Montfort Hall in Leicester, and the line up over the weekend included Dan Donnelly, Seth Lakeman and Chumbawumba (acoustic), as well as the Oysterband themselves.

After catching a bit of Nizlopi, while sitting on the grass outside the marquee, I wandered into the main hall at the designated time to be greeted by loads of kids running around having a wail of a time and hardly anyone awaiting the Levellers.

As the time moved on, the hall gradually filled up with a wide selection of people ranging from young children right up to people way past retirement age. This is one of the great things about this type of festival, everyone gets to mix together and experience and enjoy the same music rather than being segregated by venue type.

At about 21:00, the lights went down and (I assume it was) one of the Oysterband came on stage to thank the Levellers for appearing, mention the Levellers own Beautiful Days festival that the Oysterband have appeared at a number of times and set the show going.

The band took to the stage to the sound of the audience whooping and cheering and Mark started off by introducing the band. I’d already noticed that there was a stranger in the midst. Sat on the left of the stage in Simon’s seat was Mr Dan Donnelly. Mark went on to say that Simon was unable to attend due to personal reasons (what these were was not elaborated on, but I hope that all is OK with Mr Friend) and Dan Donnelly was sitting in and helping out. I’ve seen Dan perform before and he is a very good and very competent musician.

The band launched into “Robbie Jones” and we were off, with the crowd quickly warming to the performance.

“The Road” followed and then it really took off for me with “The Lowlands Of Holland”. I love this song, especially when performed live, and it certainly seems to go well every time the Levellers play it.

Mark was keeping up a great rapport with the crowd and seemed to be enjoying himself enormously. “Together All The Way” was next up and despite Dan struggling with the Harmonica parts at times, it seemed to gell together wonderfully. The lovely “Confess” was followed by, the new “Song for Bloke” was next. Written as a tribute to a very dear friend who has passed away, this is a lovely number, but unfortunately the crowd were unfamiliar with it and it seemed to only attract some light applause, which was a shame.

Dan took over the vocals for “The Boatman” and despite being forced to battle against a sound engineer who seemed to refuse to turn his mic up, pulled it off very well and was entitled to the positive reaction of the crowd that greeted the end of the number.

Most of the band left the stage for “Julie”, leaving Mark, Jon and Dan to perform the song. Mark had trouble with his mic this time and the vocals at the start were virtually inaudible, until they were suddenly turned up about a third of the way through, which prompted a massive cheer from the crowd who had been helping out on vocals until that point.

“Four Winds”, as it so often does, seemed to blow the roof off of the venue and at the end a bra was chucked at Mark, who passed it to Charlie on the drums. The Levellers seem to be amassing a vast collection of girl’s underwear over the last couple of years, and it seems to surprise them every time it happens.

During the gig Dan received quite a few visits from his roadie, who kept having to remind him to plug his next instrument in. I guess this is what happens when you take on the roll of a multi-instrumentalist at a moments notice and Dan coped admirably with the situation. Before the start of the next song Dan asked what key it was in and Mark told him immediately that it was in D, Dan misheard and questioned again “E”, and Mark reassured him that it was D, but that it didn’t really matter and that he could play it in E-minor if he wanted. There was then a short discussion between Charlie, Jon, Mark and Matt, before Mark announced to much laughter that it was actually in A.

A storming “What A Beautiful Day” followed, with the crowd forgetting (once again) that there is a break in the middle of the song and applauding during the break. The real and louder cheering happened at the end of the song.

Dan on vocals again for “Men-An-Tor” followed, and his vocals were even better on this one, and then we were launched into “Carry Me” and the floor erupted into what it was designed for, a dance floor. “Burford Stomp” was next, with Mark forgetting the words half way through and seemingly repeating the chorus twice instead. It didn’t make any difference at this point though, as the whole place had gone wild and the dance floor was rocking out.

“Dirty Davey” then brought us up to the end of the set, with the crowd once again forgetting the break in the middle of the song and applauding prematurely. It makes no difference in the end though and the song continues speedily, before the band left the stage to warm and rapturous applause.

After much stomping of feet and yelling, the Levellers reappeared for “Another Man’s Cause”, a slower number to lull us into a false sense of slowness, before the ever-present “One Way” sped us into “The Riverflow”. This was the song that I’d started off the day singing, so it was fitting for me that they should end the show with it tonight. As ever, it was fast and got faster as it went on, but probably didn’t quite reach it’s normal very high tempo, perhaps because Dan was helping out in place of Simon.

All in all, another great show as expected, with Dan Donnelly proving that he’s a very versatile musician as well. I hope that other people who experienced his own set later in the weekend, which unfortunately I was unable to attend, appreciated that as much.

Setlist; Robbie Jones / The Road / The Lowlands Of Holland / Together All The Way / Confess / Song For Bloke / The Boatman (Dan Donnelly vocal) / Julie / Four Winds / What A Beautiful Day / Men-An-Tor (Dan Donnelly vocal) / Carry Me / Burford Stomp / Dirty Davey / [Break] / Another Man’s Cause / One Way / The Riverflow

Live At Woodstock (DVD) – Jimi Hendrix (released 19 September 2005)

Everyone knows that Jimi Hendrix was good but seeing him at Woodstock really brings it home.

The fluidity and style with which he played – not to mention the soul – were out of this world. Delays on the day meant Jimi and his band of gypsies didn’t go on stage until 9am which might have been a pain for the festival-goers but it does make it easier to examine his playing all these years later. His dexterity and speed throughout some incredibly complex arrangements is plain to see and it is truly breath-taking.

This DVD is not perfect though. Critics point out that it is not a complete reproduction of the set as two songs with Larry Lee on vocals are excluded. Also, ‘Hear My Train A-Comin’ is only included in amateur black and white footage on disc-2 as the official cameramen were all busy changing their reels. The newly-formed 6-piece band are clearly flying by the seat of their flared pants on several occasions, although they do generally get away with it. The sound mix is also debatable because Larry Lee’s guitar and the two percussionists are barely, if ever, heard. Although looking at the state of Jerry Velez, bongo-player extraordinaire, it is probably a good job.

On the plus side there are plenty of highlights such as ‘Message To Love’, ‘Izabella’ and ‘Woodstock Improvisation’. Jimi’s natural showmanship is a joy to watch and listening to him talk either on stage or during interviews is a valuable insight into an easy-going, intelligent and kind man. It is also useful for all wannabe musicians to see how Jimi leads the other band members with various nods of his head, motions of his guitar, or the occasional scowl when something displeases him.

And of course there’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’. I first heard his version of this many years ago and thought it was good, but seeing him play it really adds a huge weight to the performance. At times watching this DVD I found myself contemplating whether Jimi Hendrix was actually human because surely nothing on this earth could do the things he could.

The extras are OK but don’t add a great deal to the package which isn’t a big problem because the main event is so good. However, it is nice to get a flavour of life at the time and perhaps what it was like to be around Jimi Hendrix.

This release would probably satisfy anyone who was going to buy only one Hendrix DVD as it contains most of the classics. In my opinion it also showcases Jimi’s unique guitar talents the best with significant footage of his playing, rather than singing, style.

Main DVD set-list; Message to Love / Spanish Castle Magic / Red House / Lover Man / Foxy Lady / Jam Back at the House / Izabella / Fire / Voodoo Child (Slight Return) / Star Spangled Banner / Purple Haze / Woodstock Improvisation / Villanova Junction / Hey Joe

Extras include; The Road To Woodstock documentary / Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock – A Second Look / Jimi Hendrix press conference / Nashville Roots with Billy Cox and Larry Lee / Recording artefacts And memorabilia

@Jimbob247247

10 July 2005: Da Riddim Squad + The Bazookas – Newham Festival Music Stage, London, England, UK

A sun-soaked crowd in Central Park, East Ham, was treated to a day of free live music, as a selection of East London’s finest musicians and bands took to the open-air stage.

Kicking off around 2am slightly risqué hosts, Break FM’s Matt and Spencer introduced us to an eclectic series of acts, before the afternoon really warmed up, as Ella and Dreadkey captured the sunny mood with beautiful rnb tinged acoustic numbers that showcased the stunning Ella’s incredible voice perfectly.

The audience grew steadily as The Strand and Michaelsband both punched out feel-good funky indie, before the excellent Urban Dove mellowed the crowd with some chilled reggae.

Next up the much-talked about The Bazookas. Throughout the day these lads, dressed all in black complete with the requisite chains, sunglasses and over-the-top-hairstyles, had been sauntering around the stage area, dripping with too-cool-for-school attitude. They were going to have to be very good to live up to their hype!

And were they! The sleepy, chilled out vibe was ripped apart as the East London quartet launched into a blistering non-stop three-song opener, topped off with The Bangles classic, ‘Walk like An Egyptian’. Despite the stifling heat The Bazookas frightened us with their incredible energy and the crowd responded with huge cheers of approval. The middle of their awesome set was, according to the seemingly somewhat deranged frontman, new material and judging by the crowd reaction you can expect to hear the same songs on a much bigger stage in the not too distant future.

The lads topped off the day mischievously encouraging the crowd to take the next day off work with the anthemic ‘Phone In Sick Tomorrow’ and then, with a huge finale paid tribute to the heroes of World War 2 on VJ Day with a mighty version of the wartime classic ‘We’ll Meet Again’. The lads departed the stage to a great ovation and left everyone convinced they are certainly destined for the Big Time.

Last up, the summery vibe of Da Riddim Squad’s reggae was a fitting end to a hot and sticky day and was joyously received by the crowd by now numbering a few thousand. A series of frontmen each brought their own unique flavour to Da Squad’s hypnotic basslines and by the end of their huge set Newham had achieved new heights yet again to end a fantastic week for the borough.

Chris WWoods

08 July 2005: Levellers – National Forest Folk Festival, Leicestershire, England, UK

08 July 2005: Levellers - National Forest Folk Festival, Leicestershire, England, UK

Yes, “Your mind can go away”…

But I’ll get back to that later.

So that map said left onto the B5030, off the A511, but was it sign posted? No. Did it say how far along The A511? No. Several miles further and I decided it was about time to turn left even though I still hadn’t seen the right road and I asked a chap on a bike. Directions were acquired and off I went again. Down to the end and turn right, check. And then a little further and turn right. But I’d been going for miles and there were no signs and no sign of the venue, so I slowed down past a pub, and looked round hopefully.

And there, sat outside, enjoying their drinks, were Jon and Mark.

So then I knew I was on the right track and 150 yards further down the road was the car park.

The venue was a fairly large amphitheatre with a fixed, tent like cover over the top of it. You could also sit outside on the grass banks and I settled down to chill out and wait for the Levellers.

This was their first gig since their acclaimed performance on the Jazz stage at the Glastonbury Festival and they were rocking.

The band appeared on stage and appealed for everyone to move forward (and therefore unavoidably crush the line of security people across the front of the stage) as, as Mark put it, “We’re not used to gaps at the front”.

We got “The Game”, “England My Home” and “Make U Happy”, near the start. Simon took over the vocal duties for “For Us All” and was left on his own on stage for “When Love Runs Out Of Time” (which seemed to have an extra bit at the end).

“Last Man Alive” was greeted like an old friend and the crowd stepped up a gear for “Sell Out” and “Together All The Way”.

There were shouts somewhere around this time for “Just The One”, but Mark replied that he’d given up drinking so that was a definite no-no (I don’t believe him, but he alluded to this at Leicester with Rev Hammer as well).

Instead Boaksey appeared with his didgeridoo, in full make up and we were launched into “3 Friends” (which surprised me, because I was expecting “This Garden” for some reason). “3 Friends” was quickly followed by “One Way” and as always the crowd responded again, with the line of security people in front of the stage taking a severe battering from the mosh pit.

“Liberty” was played somewhere in the middle of all this, with Jeremy bouncing up and down with his bass, head back in exultation, as if the world depended on it.

After “Burford Stomp” Mark announced that they’d been going for a speed record, and a think they just about made it, though how they ever play that fast I will never know.

And then, “Riverflow”. Full on speed rush, with the entire crowd singing along.

I can’t remember the order of the tracks in the encores, as I was too busy dancing, but there were definitely at least two encores, and they definitely played “What A Beautiful Day” (“This one’s for the people in Moira, who’ll know this one”), “Battle Of The Beanfield”, and “What You Know”, and there may have been more.

And yes, “Your mind can go away”.

Simon’s in virtual hysterics, Jons struggling not to laugh and I couldn’t see the rest of them at this point. Except Mark, who having forgotten the words to “What You Know” at the “Your mind can go away” bit and then filled for a bit and then sung “That’s it, ‘Yes your mind can go away’” appeared not to know whether to laugh or cry, at one point holding his head in mock despair, and then laughing his head off. Before coming back to the mike for the next verse with a postcard with the words written down on.

People often ask me why I go to see the Levellers so much. All the shows must be the same after a while.

But, there are so many reasons. They are the best live band in the country. They make records that I love. They have songs that can move you to tears. And sometimes they make you laugh, hysterically. To put it simply, they make me happy.

Then they were gone, Jeremy waving at us as he went with a towel on his head.

They played nothing off “Zeitgeist”, nothing off “Mouth to Mouth” (I think, except “What A Beautiful Day”), nothing off “Green Blade Rising” and nothing off “Hello Pig” and we still got two hours of excellent, full on rocking/rolling/punking/folking music, and we all went away very, very happy. Show me a band that can give you a roaring show for two hours and barely touch four of their records and you’ll be pointing at the Levellers.

And I’ve got my December tickets already!

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer – Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer - Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

It was a glorious summers evening when I arrived at De Montfort Hall to be greeted by the sounds of Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers emerging from the indoor main stage at about 8:00.

I collected my armband and headed off to explore the outside area with a drink in one hand and a programme in the other. There were loads of stalls in the outside area, selling food and the usual festival clothes, plus one selling rather tempting hats.

The real ale marquee was well placed next to the Marquee stage where Mark and Rev were playing and I settled down in the Marquee to await the band.

Mark and Rev arrived, guitars in hand, with their summery outfits topped off with splendid Cowboy hats and as they vanished back stage to prepare the seated (on the grass) crowd was joined by plenty of others congregating at the back.

The compere appeared and announced the next act to the expectant crowd as Abbott and Costello and Mark and Rev appeared and began to argue about which one was which. They went on later to compare themselves to a number of other duos such as Morcambe and Wise (“This is why Morcambe and Wise never used guitars” from Rev).

As they appeared on stage the crowd stood up, only to be told by Rev to “Sit down and relax, this is a folk gig you know”. It was good that everyone sat down and chilled as the view of Mark and Rev seated left to right on the stage would have been un-seeable to anybody past the first row had everyone stood up. For some reason there was a spare seat, all set up with Microphone to the right of Mark. Mark later explained that Jon Sevink (the Levellers extraordinary fiddler and Drunk in Public percussionist) had been expected but according to Mark, “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £20.00”.

After a bit of problem with the sound levels we were off (Gary the sound man sorted it out after receiving some light hearted abuse from Rev and the crowd). We were treated to (amongst others) “Punch Drunk” and “Ole Welsh Soul” from Rev’s debut album “Industrial Sound and Magic” and “Galahad” from the Levellers “Wild As Angels EP”, together with a storming version of “Julie” and “What A Beautiful Day”.

Mark had trouble with his guitar jack for the majority of the early songs and it all really fell apart during “What A Beautiful Day” as we were asked to sing along to the chorus several times while guitar leads were swapped and re-swapped. It made the song really, with Mark making the verses really slow and attempting to speed it up into a real stomper for the chorus and then being dealt a bad hand by his guitar lead. They both apologised, but there really wasn’t any need.

Mark commented that they were drinking “only water”, and Rev announced that Mark might be, but he was on the Brandy. Medicinal apparently as at times Rev struggled with his vocals in the humid atmosphere of the tent. Mark, despite Rev’s difficulties, still managed to virtually chain smoke his way through the gig.

Mark was leant another guitar by some kind soul and after another couple of numbers, including “One Way” and a haunting version of “Confess” from the Levellers excellent new album “Truth and Lies”, which sounded fantastic with just guitar and vocals, it was announced that Mark and Rev would be joined by an extra special guest.

When the extra special guest arrived, he was announced by Rev as, and then the amplifiers let out a loud noise and I failed to catch who they were. This was a shame because it turned out to be a fiddle player who I got the impression, perhaps wrongly, had been dragged out from his night in front of the telly to play at the last minute. It doesn’t matter really because I cannot praise him enough. The next song was “Together All The Way” which would have been almost impossible without the fiddle. Mark helped him through it, counting him in at all the right places. The track was much slower than normal but the crowds’ appreciation afterwards was immense. They got a standing ovation from everyone, including those sat on the floor.

The fiddler made the last few numbers and the gig really got going with Rev’s “Burford Stomp”. Rev then encouraged everyone to stand for the last number “Down By The River ‘O’”, which went down a storm with the crowd dancing about as if it were there only chance all night.

They left the stage to staggering applause and came back for another quick rendition of “Down By The River ‘O’”, and then left, thanking us as they went, with Rev apologising for the sound problems and thanking us for our patience. He really didn’t need to as everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I left the marquee and, after a quick last look round some of the stalls, I headed back to the car for the journey home. Everyone else headed to the main stage to catch the end of Eddi Reader’s set, but I didn’t want to spoil the memories of a great gig, in a great little tent, in Leicester.