Sunday started with Nine Below Zero, purveying bluesy vocals over rock and roll and rhythm and blues. ‘I Can’t Do My Homework Any More’ garnered a good crowd response and was performed with passion and soul. The driving drums and harmonica harmony of ‘Sugar Pie’ gets the crowd singing along and then bopping around to the rock and roll beats of ‘Hoochie Coochie Coo’. The rhythm and blues number ‘It’s Hard Going Up But Twice As Hard Going Down’ has a sing-a-long chorus that is infectiously catchy and the tongue in cheek spoken section that states an education in the blues as a reason for rejecting a university education as the band are introduced. ‘Madison Blues’ is dedicated to the legendary Seasick Steve, shortly to play himself, and explodes with an exuberant vocal as bubbles burst against the brilliant blue sky. ‘Mechanic Man’ is then performed in a recklessly riotous manner, a foot-tapping ode to life on the open road. A driving ditty to despair is
encapsulated in ‘I’m So Alone’ with the harmonica solo highlighting the heartache of the lyrics. Followed quickly by the pacey ‘Don’t Point Your Finger At The Guitar Man’ with its infectious beat has people jiving around until its abrupt ending and the frenzy continues with a slice of punky blues in ‘Three Times Enough’; its rocking riffs and crashing drum making it my favourite song in the set. After commenting that it looks like rain again so they better do some blues the band launch into a beautiful ballad with an echoing electric guitar refrain and then the harmonica solo of ‘My Love Will Never Die’. Launching straight into ‘It’s Never Too Late’, bouncy blues with a catchy chorus and ‘Packed Fair And Square’ with its rock and roll rhythm and then ‘Woolly Bully’, which even has the deckchair sitters bopping along – in fact I can see some black and white cows on a distant hill and I am pretty sure that they are po-going too. ‘Eleven Plus Seven’ offers a crazy crescendo of a conclusion to a very enjoyable set.
We make our way over to the Songbird Stage to see Stax with Steve Winwood. A superb slice of classic soul is delivered with ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ and ‘Natural Woman’ further complemented by a soul version of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ that has the crowd grooving. The crowd are then clapping along to ‘Proud Mary’ before Steve Winwood makes his way to the stage and entertains the audience with his soulful voice performing ‘Roll With It’, ‘Higher Love’ and ‘Gimme Some Lovin’.’
Quickly heading back to the Main Stage for the much anticipated Seasick Steve, I grab a refreshing fresh lemonade with mint and make my way down to the crowd for some frenetic blues. Seasick Steve explains to the crowd that he has just been told during an interview with Absolute Radio that he looks scruffy and he responded with ‘no shit’ which I love in today’s image obsessed media circus. There is no denying that here is a man with amazing musical talent, accompanied by drummer Dan Magnusson, a frenetic player who clearly loves playing as much as Seasick Steve does. ‘Thunderbird’ is a pacey piece of dance inducing blues and the crowd erupts into movement as the growling vocals sail across the field and the furious ending exhausts the audience who are trying to keep up with some mental moves. We are then hijacked by ‘Cheap’, a foot stomping rhythm that twists into a quiet whisper before punching you in the face like a frenzied fist at the end. The rocking rhythm and driving beat of ‘I Don’t Know Why She Love Me But She Do’ has vocals extolling the virtues of the protagonist’s woman and Seasick Steve ventures into the audience and invites a girl onto the stage before performing the beautiful ‘Walkin’ Man’. ‘Diddley Bo’ has the crowd joining in with some background yells and it quickly becomes apparent that a Seasick Steve gig guarantees not only that you will watching one of the finest blues performers that you will ever see, but you will also have a really good time. The crashing bluesy rhythm rattles along to an energetic ending as Seasick Steve engages in some brilliant crowd banter and then explains that he is honoured to be sharing the stage that day with Jools Holland, as he explains the impact of his appearance on the Jools Holland Show on his career.
A sonic blast heads our way courtesy of ‘Never Go West’ as the gravelly lyrics herald the storming ending to another great track. The lyrical intensity of ‘That’s All’ with its focus on the way in which words can lose their meaning if you don’t recall their origin and is a perfect slice of anthemic blues. As Seasick Steve continues to regale the audience with fantastic tales between tracks, such as how Magnusson made him a guitar, ‘Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ is a bolt of ballsy blues that belts out under the beautiful blue sky. Ending with a stomping blues storm in ‘Dog House Boogie’, Seasick Steve has created a bouncy infectious beat and boy did the crowd boogie along to that one.
Fun is the order of the day over at the Riverside stage as we catch the end of The Inflatables set which has the crowd skanking away to their charismatic front man and manic musicians as they cover ska classics ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘Nightboat To Cairo’.
We then witness some wonderful weirdness in the shape of The Mighty Redox with rock and rolling beats that have people dancing around in front of the stage with their Hawkwind style spacey fantasies of a warped dystopia and menacing masks. ‘Kicking Down Your Door’ is a rock number with duelling guitars and bass and a driving relentless beat somewhat redolent of kicking down a door and the set is interspersed with country style ditties. If you go to see The Mighty Redox, I can assure you it will be impossible to be bored as I emerge from having been somewhat stuck inside my polo neck jumper (it had turned a little cold) to see the lead singer jumping around and pretending to be a kangaroo…I am sure she had her reasons that I missed due to my slight wardrobe malfunction. The crowd absolutely loved them and I can understand why as they were certainly different!
Comedy was then on the menu with Carl Donnelly, who entertained us with tales of taking photographs on your phone when you are in the toilet, the horrors of danger wanking (I had not heard of this prior to the gig, but am now really quite disturbed by the concept) and the potentially fatal consequences of crumpet cramming (not a euphemism.) He then discussed with hilarious consequences the laziness involved in pre-cut fruit and dance muggers and preparing a dance sandwich…which was very funny but also very visual so I guess you had to be there.
Next up was Abandoman, quite honestly one of the wittiest and brilliant comedians I have ever seen…and it is part of my job to watch comedians every week. Starting with the hilarious ‘What’s In Your Pocket’ rap, quite literally based on the contents of the crowds pocket, Abandoman astonishes with his ability to quickly compose fantastically funny responses to the items that he is shown. He then questions two members of the crowd about their lives and interests and creates a musical song based on their responses that again is ridiculously amusing. Asking the crowd to tell him things that annoy them and getting the responses misuse of apostrophes, the sky remote not working, and when your egg yolk bursts (yes…a little working class for Cornbury…this offering came courtesy of our editor Jordan), Abandoman created a revolutionary song about the fury that these issues creates and it was brilliantly hilarious. We will definitely be checking him out again in the future and you should too – absolutely fantastic!
Ending the evening is the excellent Jools Holland and friends. A burst of vibrant melody erupts across the fields and you are aware that you are in the presence of some amazing musicians who are going to make magical melodies under the ebony sky. The piano then tinkles through the air as we are treated to a delightful piece of fast-paced Dixie heralding the fact that you might want to put your dancing shoes on. Rosie Mae‘s beautiful vocals were evident in a swinging edition of ‘Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea’ and the music keeps on coming with a sprinting piano melody echoing gorgeously under a gradually greying sky and a truly awesome brass section, including Chris Barber on trombone and Michael Barry Rose on saxophone. The crowd danced away to ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Street’ and then the smooth soulful songstress, Louise Marshall, sings beautiful blues under purple lights with ‘My Heart Will Not Be Broken’. ‘Valentine Moon’ is a lovely laid back blues ballad and is followed by ‘I Went By’ with soaring vocals and an excellent orchestral tapestry of a tune behind it. ‘T-Bag Scuffle’ is a twinkling piano, soulful saxophone and Jools’ jubilant singing to a boogie woogie tune which morphs into an anti-rain dance with Holland clapping and the crowd chanting ‘No rain’. The originator of ska music, Rico Rodriguez, is then invited to the stage and sings a swinging ska version of ‘L.O.V.E.’ The rain is spitting spitefully down despite the crowd’s requests for relief but no-one really cares any more because we are having our own blues party under the ominous clouds, accompanied by tremulous trombones. Soft Cell’s Marc Almond strides onto the stage to a relentlessly racing orchestra and bluesy piano and performs ‘Bruises’ which has the crowd bouncing in spite of the rain. ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ is dedicated to Gene Pitney and the orchestra with Almond‘s vocals makes an immense sound that is awe-inspiring. A dance frenzy then follows as Almond performs ‘Tainted Love’ and the crowd sing along with the lyrics and I am dancing away in my wellies in the rain.
A boogie woogie beat accompanies some call and response with the crowd and then the brilliant Ruby Turner sings the upbeat ‘I Need A Man With A Whole Lot Of Energy’ and then performs tremendously ‘The Informer’. With the backing of the impressive orchestra, Ruby Turner shines as she sings the soulful swinging ballad ‘To Love A Child’ and ‘Roll Out Of This Hole’ heralds the coming of night. A gospel interlude with a virtuoso vocal ‘Get Away Jordan’ leads to the crowd yelling for an encore and they are certainly not disappointed with ‘When You’re Smiling’ with soulful vocals shimmering through the darkening air. Some more call and response precedes a joyful ‘Enjoy Yourself’ with the crowd singing along and dancing and Rico Rodriguez returning to the stage. The set ends with Ruby Turner performing ‘Up Above My Head I Hear Music In The Air’ and the crowd continue dancing to this upbeat track. Enjoy yourself?…we certainly did!
Cornbury Festival in 100 Words
Eclectic musical range of acts to suit all tastes. Fantastic comedy provision daily. Staggered stage times so your favourite acts will not clash. Family friendly festival. Quite Interesting area for the more cerebrally minded. Funfair for extra thrills. Reasonably placed stages with easy access across the whole site. Good mixture of exciting new acts and legendary performers in the field. Relaxed atmosphere with country theme courtesy of hay bale seats. Brilliant for blues enthusiasts. Real ales available on site. Chilled out coffee shop area with acoustic acts throughout the day. Lots of dancing and friendly festival atmosphere from the crowd.