Over to the Main Stage next to watch Danny and the Champions of the World perform some beautiful rock ballads with a healthy dose of ballsy blues thrown in for good measure. ‘Let’s Grab This With Both Hands’ is a bluesy ode to optimism with a soulful rock vocal, against an awesome backdrop of rolling green countryside that is permeated by a saxophone solo as bubbles float gently across the green countryside. With some entertaining instrumentals that show the superb skill of the band and a rocketing set that includes the riotously upbeat number, ‘You Don’t Know’, its anthemic chorus and gorgeously gravelly vocals leads us to a crashing crescendo of a conclusion and a lot of crowd appreciation.
The Riverside Stage with its hay bale seats is our destination for a while now as we are entertained by The Brickwork Lizards, who are laying down some entertaining Mexican style falsetto vocals that descend into a growl on occasion. An infectiously enjoyable set, they even make the rain stop with a song about the sunshine and their traditional Mexican tunes soon have the crowd clapping along.
The Epstein followed and produced a sonic swirl of sounds under what was quite frankly a deluge of rain. They managed to retain a crowd despite the awful weather with their soulful vocals over laid back indie vibes. ‘Finally Forgive’ was a fun folky melody that had the crowd waltzing in their wellys as the rain finally stopped and The Epstein entertained us with sounds that tip a hat to Mumford and Sons. By the time the song ends, the vagaries of the British weather are revealed as we bask in glorious sunshine and a large crowd emerges from the tea tent as the less hardcore revellers join us to enjoy the remaining songs from The Epstein set. A Dylan cover is swiftly followed by ‘Sophia Loren’, a mellow melody that has the crowd swaying gently to the melancholy guitar and the evocative lyrical lines dedicated to the actress. The set ended with a slice of bouncy indie with soaring vocals and a catchy rhythm melded to soulful harmonies called ‘Make This Our Home’ and then a lovely piece of vocal led pathos with a strong building beat to the chorus with ‘I Held You Once.’ All in all, a very enjoyable set despite the exceedingly strange tempest to heat wave weather.
Next up we have Melic, recently returned from New Zealand, and experiencing the strange weather themselves as the rain has developed into torrential yet again. Starting through the shower with a beautiful ballad that metamorphosed into a stomping folk rock anthem with a participatory ‘rain, rain, go away chant’ that had the crowd facing the ridiculous weather with a sense of fun. The rain, unfortunately, responded to this level of musical defiance with a tremendous torrent but Melic continued undaunted with a saxophone infused soul rock number that had people splashing around in glee, including a union jack clad stilt walker adding to the festival atmosphere. The band then entice us to dance in the rain to a racing tune and the audience does so joyfully…Melic have a contagious likeability that have the crowd on board and partying from the start. They then show a lyrical depth and passion with new song ‘He was a fighter’, an emotional ballad with a lovely melody and it then swiftly becomes clear that Melic are an undefinable genre twisting band complete with soulful saxophone sparkling tracks as the sunshine returns, driving rock numbers with great guitar solos, beautiful ballads with elegant melodies and funked up frolics with building choruses. Melic then mention their website, which receives a cheer so loud it can probably be heard in space, showing that Melic fans certainly are fanatical…they love that website! The showmanship is ramped up some more with a double drumming foot tappingly catchy extravaganza with a building vocal and an infectious beat and then a genre smashing ska style slice of sunshine which ensure that Melic‘s musical style really escapes definition unless one classifies them under ‘bloody good time’. This is consolidated during final song ‘Nowhere I’d Rather Be’, with its rocking rhythm and soulful verses until it erupts into the triumphant territory of rock. Melic are singing that there is nowhere they would rather be and if you have any sense you will find out where they are next and make sure you are there with them for a gig that will leave you breathless with its breadth and brilliance.
The Songbird Stage is the set up for Hugh Laurie’s Copper Bottom Band and we head swiftly over in some severe rainfall for a rocking blues set with this as expected charismatic front man. The man himself salutes the crowd for their British hardiness despite the weather, and quips that he is particularly proud that his band, made up of Americans are here to see the fabled stiff upper lip. Laurie sits at the piano and we are treated to the crashing bluesy number ‘St James Infirmary.’ ‘Junko Pot‘ then has the crowd dancing to its rock and roll rhythm but are swiftly out danced by Laurie’s funky moves, again ensuring an entertaining and enjoyable set. A dedication to the greatest trumpet player that ever lived precedes ‘Buddy Bolden’s Blues‘ and then the crowd erupts into huge cheers as Laurie theatrically removes his jacket and jests about guitars being slimming. Laurie plays a bouncy blues rhythm on the guitar with lovely harmonies from Sister Jean Maclean performing a Leadbelly cover. Maclean continues on backing vocals during ‘Unchain My Heart’, a plea for release with the many instruments combining to make a beautiful melody that acts as a creative canvas perfect for Laurie’s soulful voice. The band then perform ‘Winin Boy Blues‘ with Laurie growling with his guitar in the recently reappearing sunshine and Laurie joking after the ‘Don’t deny my name’ line that he could do that but chooses not to. Sister Jean Maclean then takes the centre stage with Laurie on piano for ‘The Legend of John Henry’ and her amazing voice reverberates through the now cloudless sky. A swinging blues foot tapping melody is performed, ‘Wild Honey’, and is followed by ‘Let Them Talk’, with a passionately heartfelt vocal over an elegant melody that shows the power of the blues to move the listener. ‘Tipitina’ is an upbeat piano tune accompanied by the guitar which has the crowd dancing and Laurie then regales us with a tale of an odious woman who wouldn’t let him play ‘Swanee River’ when he was learning piano and then follows with the fast paced piano melody with a harmonica overlay and again the audience is dancing around to the rollicking rhythm. Ending with ‘Changes’ with its twanging banjo and affirmation of life jollity and the bluesy brilliance of ‘Tanqueray’, the band have the crowd clapping along and screaming for an encore. A very enjoyable time for all indeed.
The Comedy Tent is our next destination with compere Jared Christmas making some entertaining observations about New Zealand‘s army and the failure of Superdrug to live up to a name that offers so much promise. Sketch show ‘Totally Tom’ creates a world in which the liberal and the not so liberal press are locked into a Stars Wars type struggle for identity which is followed by an amusing swipe at interpretative dance and the moment when you realise that the person that you thought might be your soul mate definitely isn’t when you see them dance for the first time. This made me recall my ex-boyfriend Steven. I’m all for dancing like nobody is watching but he was more of the ilk of dancing like you have never heard music before and you don’t quite understand it. We did not last!
Richard Herring is always hilarious so we knew to expect a high laugh ratio and we were certainly not disappointed. After explaining to the laughing crowd why you’re kids don’t actually love you, explaining that all children are sexual excrement and your mother is a whore, Herring expounds the theory that people who hate their kids are much more interesting than those who conform to the socially expected norm of mutual affection. Finishing on an explanation of the unwitting horror of hazelnut encrusted romantic gestures disasters, Herring leaves the audience in a fit of giggles and with a healthy fear of ferrero rocher.
Jared Christmas then engaged in some flump marshmallow related porn simulation with an audience member ( I realise now that this sounds seedy. It was actually very funny. Perhaps you had to be there.) Two character comedians followed. Flange Krammer, a German ski champion with ‘eat my powder’ catchphrase and some near the knuckle sexual innuendo, and Barry from Watford, an elderly character who engaged in some very funny cack handed ventriloquism and had us in hysterics with the concept of diy elderly vajazzles.
The Main Stage was the place to be at the end of Saturday to see the legendary Elvis Costello. The crowd come alive and the dancing starts in earnest with opening number ‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’ with a great deal of singing along and jumping up and down on behalf of the fans surrounding us. ‘High Fidelity’ keeps up the pace and highlights Costello’s song writing skills. A tight wedge of rock and roll is encapsulated in ‘Mystery Dance’ with its frenetic rhythm and infectious dance inducing melody, followed by the pounding rhythm and fiery vocals of ‘Uncomplicated’ which sees Costello shrouded in misty blue light whilst the crowd bounce around under strobe lighting and a darkening sky. A quick yell of ‘1,2,3,4’ and we are rocketing into the racing rhythm of ‘Radio, Radio’ and the pacey set continues with the crowd singing along to |Costello’s soulful soaring vocal on ‘Everyday I Write The Book’. The heart-breakingly beautiful ‘Good Year For The Roses’ echoes across the silver tinged sky and is swiftly followed by the passionate vocals of ‘Bedlam’, much to the delight of a very appreciative crowd. The brilliantly bouncy ‘Watching The Detectives’ is a reminder of the eclectic back catalogue of Costello, seeming to defy efforts to categorise his music as it straddles many different genre. The piano melody of ‘Clubland’ tinkles delicately across the southern countryside and then Costello’s distinctive vocal penetrates the rapidly descending dusk which would be much more enjoyable if I wasn’t unfortunately stood next to an ‘Instant idiot-just add alcohol’ who had metamorphosed from a vaguely irritating women of the uber-posh variety to full on pain in the arse after consuming several bottles of wine. The driving guitar of ‘Stella Hurt’ prompts some enthusiastic dancing from me, which may have irritated ‘Instant idiot’ as she packs up her deckchair, picnic basket and obnoxious children and moves further back in the crowd. I may have glanced at her in a murderous way prior to this due to her very loud talking through the quieter songs but either way, it enables a much more pleasant conclusion to the rest of the concert. The funky tune of ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea’ creates a disco atmosphere, with the crowd dancing companionably along with one another as the band is introduced and demonstrate their considerable skill across a wide range of instruments. An ardent vaulting vocal accompanied by a beautiful melancholic melody on the guitar is performed courtesy of ‘A Slow Drag With Josephine’ and the audience is captivated as Costello’s star quality shines under the spotlight as he whistles the tune.
As Costello performs ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’, I feel moved to tears in a way that rarely happens when reviewing bands despite my enduring love for music. Opening with a barbed political comment (apparently the Prime Minister was present; somewhat ironic when one considers the plethora of cuts that he has sanctioned that will effect the arts), Costello sings with passion and pathos the resonant ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’, a song that echoes my own emotions with regard to Thatcher, the woman who brought the mining community that I grew up in to its knees and whom I still hate with a visceral passion that has prevailed despite the modern movie makers attempts to garner pity for the person who never showed any to the those whose lives she turned into tragedy without a second thought. I felt moved by the music and the meaning contained in lyrics that so closely echoed my own sentiments and I believe that is what the very best music should strive to do. It felt like many of the audience shared a moment of social protest against the injustices of the past and never could that be more relevant than today and in the presence of those who learnt their politics from the same polemic of cynical selfishness. Anyway, enough radical ranting (for a music journalist) from me…what about the rest of the show? Well, it is a hit laden crescendo with the crowd dancing joyfully to ‘Oliver’s Army’, ‘Pump It Up’, ‘Peace, Love And Understanding’ and ‘Tears of Rage’ – In short it is bloody brilliant with Costello showing that he is a consummate showman with the talent and passionately poetic lyrics to back it up!