The 1st Carlisle Blues Rock Festival (2007) – Steve Bouckley
The first ever Blues Festival in Carlisle and we had weekend residents tickets, yippee, as the festival had been sold out for months.
We went up on the train and the hotel is right next to the station. After a speedy check-in and throw the bags in the room, it was down to the bar for a swift pint and say hello to some of the Maryport crowd, before dinner was served. We’d bet that there wouldn’t be any real ale on in the hotel, but there was, Cumberland Ale. Then we bet that there wouldn’t be any in the function room, but there was, Yates’s, brewed by an ex Jennings brewer. One of Nick the organiser’s nice little touches for the weekend.
Then it was up into the large impressive ballroom to see Tantrum opening the event with a blistering set. ‘It’s Been A Long Time Coming’ was delicious, and a new one ‘Burning Out’ was a real rocker, with an extended outro that rocked even more, what a great start. ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ had tons of slide and wah wah pedal, lovely stuff. Their encore was a ‘Rollin and Tumblin’ soundalike with the kickdrum vibrating the dance floor, which then turned into a hillbilly stomp. Next on was Ian Parker with a mix of new material and stuff from his fantastic back catalogue. We’d not seen him for a few years and it made us realise what we’d been missing. We won’t have to wait so long till the next time we see him, because he’s on in Maryport in February. ‘Funny How’ was the first of his old stuff, Morg on the keys superb as ever. ‘Need You By My Side’ had his heart and soul into it. The crack in the toilets was that he’d make a good gospel singer. I said that gospel was the root of all modern western music and blues and jazz and country were all derived from that. More emotions running high in ‘Don’t Want To Give You Back’, then ‘Ooh Wee Baby’ had the first of the dancers up and that definitely wasn’t gospel music! ‘You Were There In The Night/You Were Never There In The Morning’ was out and out blues, so the gospel theory was right out of the window.
Headliner Marcus Malone started off with a love song dedicated to his three year old daughter before he got fired up and into the rocky stuff. ‘Baby I’m Gone’ really kicked ass. He’s got an excellent guitarist in Stuart Dixon, but played a mean axe himself during ‘This Heart’s For Real’. You know when a band is cooking when they’re all right into what they’re doing, almost oblivious to the crowd, concentration and enjoyment both at the same time, which is difficult to do, but comes together when they’re having a great time, well, this was one of those occasions. The encore was a sublime ‘One More Time’ and they’d been excellent throughout. A couple of nightcaps in the bar and it was off to bed, somewhere about half three.
Saturday lunchtime and the Steve White Band played a short stint in the bar before the ballroom opened, a late idea from Nick just to fill a few quiet moments. At one o’clock it was up to see Eugene ‘Hideaway’ Bridges. A big man, with a big voice, a bit like BB King actually, only more soulful. ‘Stormy Monday’ was delicate and passionate. His accompanying percussionist sat on a box and played it with brushes.
Things ramped up when Steve White came on for his main set and woke everybody up with some exciting Rory Gallagher stuff. No effects pedals, just a basic raw guitar sound.
Connie Lush finished off the afternoon and was superb, as usual. She had a new guitarist and drummer, both excellent. Ian Siegal had arrived and he came on for an impromptu duet that they just winged their way through and had a great laugh together. The last number sounded a bit like ‘Summertime’, huge heavy bass licks, soaring guitar and deep lyrics, gorgeous.
Straight down to the bar to catch Route 666, a fabulous three piece from Liverpool, with their rocky set. Last time I’d seen them was on one of Chris’s Ullswater Blues Cruises. The bass guitarist does the patter and plays a Rickenbacker. Nice. They played a Mick Jupp penned rocker that predated anything Led Zeppelin ever did.
After dinner it was The Stumble back in the ballroom. A twin guitar and tenor saxophone extravaganza with superb vocals and they never missed a step. ‘Bus Stop’ by drummer Boyd Tonner was great. Best singer of the weekend was Paul Melville.
Then Ian Siegal came on clad in a silk shirt and leather trousers. Christine, our MC for the weekend, secretly adores him. He kicked off with a Bo Diddley medley of ‘Not Fade Away’ and ‘Who Do You Love’, before launching into ‘Groundhog Blues’ from his current CD “Swagger”. ‘God Don’t Like Ugly’ was sung a cappella style with a deep gravely voice. ‘Mortal Coil Shuffle’ was deadly slow, while the title track ‘Swagger’ was excellent. There wasn’t a set list, but they’re so tight together that Andy Graham on bass and Nikolaj Bjerre on drums can pick up what was coming next from Ian’s first notes. ‘Sugar Rush’ followed, a tribute to Sam Cooke, that had Andy jumping up and down. Christine passed by the stage and handed over a bottle of JD that they immediately cracked open and shared. “Who would crawl over fifty pussies to get to one fat girl’s asshole?” Ian wondered. Us too, I must add. The encore was ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, one of Ian’s particular favourites, and we hung our heads and cried.
Headliners of the festival The Nimmo Brothers topped things off with probably one of the best sets I’ve seen them play. ‘Long Way From Everything’, from the “Coming Your Way” CD, was a slow’n’easy starter. ‘Bad Luck’ (never leaves you) was big and powerful. ‘Gotta Slow Down’ was the customary tune where they play quieter and quieter, testing the audience to the limit to keep extremely silent, unbelievably, Stevie actually dropped a pin and we all heard it! That doesn’t often happen. A rocky ‘Nothing In Chicago For Free’ was brilliant before a slow and bluesy ‘Moving On’, followed by ‘In My Mind’ cooled things down. The tempo ramped back up again with ‘Doing Pretty Good For The Shape I’m In’, where the whole house was singing and rocking. The encore was ‘I Believe’ that climaxed in a spectacular guitar riff trading duel.
Sunday afternoon, and after a couple of menders in the bar, we headed up to the ballroom with Ian Siegal for his relaxed set. He played a couple of solo acoustic numbers before Andy and Nik joined him. ‘Catch 22’, my favourite on the CD has absolutely brilliant lyrics, the best lines being “She’s always to blame, but never at fault” at the end of a cracking verse. And then Roz, the alto sax player from the Olly Alcock Band joined them on stage. ‘Revelator’, a nice slow twelve bar was picked up easily, and she blasted out an improvised solo to suit. Apparently, Jesus is a techno geek and knows that you can buy Ian’s CD’s and DVD’s from his website. Midway through a bluesy number, they broke into ‘Radar Love’. All too soon it was over, but we clamoured for more. The encore was ‘I’d Rather Go Blind, and Roz came back on again, absolutely great, and an absolutely great weekend, well done Nick and the rest of the organisers, we thoroughly enjoyed it.