It takes a lot of preparation to get a festival under way, you know. And also to write a personal review of the event. So, here's my preview of a review which is actually a brief overview which I hope you will view and let me have your views (Phew...)
Knowing I'd be fully committed for the whole weekend, I started by beginning the recording of Blues Exclusive # 34 on the Thursday. This, I figured, would allow me a good launch for completing the job post weekend so I could send it off, as usual, on Monday. Having completed about 70 minutes of the show, I felt smugly ahead of the game.
I mentioned in my last Blog that I was seeking assistance to cover the Blues Trail - with 26 performers at 20 venues over Saturday and Sunday afternoons, it was impossible for me to get to all to ensure the musicians were ready to start at their scheduled time and to announce those who wanted an introduction. Enter (Stage Left) Norm, my former co-host at the GTFM Blues Show. For those who don't know, we aired a weekly two-hour dedicated Blues Show from January 2003 until March 2016. I spent Thursday evening devising a sensible schedule for us to get to the venues in time then cross-referencing the lists with the maps of the town. Never was a foray more meticulously planned. For those who never heard our show (Shame on you!) there's a photo below - you may recognise us from festivals all over the UK...
The beauty of a festival like this is the true sense of community which has developed over the years. This was the eleventh year and some people have not yet missed a single one. For them, it is in some ways a pilgrimage. Regardless of race or creed this weekend is a tonic for the soul. There are always many veterans of previous campaigns in the bars, cafes and clubs of The Trail and I love meeting up with old friends - followers and artists. Newcomers are welcomed warmly (literally this year as the weather was really pleasant). Some come for specific days just to see a particular performer or band; others are there for the duration.
This year's event was touched with sadness too as we lost Pat Grover, the President of the Festival, just a few short months ago. I am certain that Pat would have smiled, probably cracked a joke and then encouraged everyone to just enjoy themselves and have a great weekend. I'll be paying tribute to Pat and his music on a forthcoming Blues Exclusive.
Friday evening -
There was an air of expectancy about the De Valence Pavilion as we approached the kick-off. I met up with Norm and we ran through the lists for the following days. Although we're now both hosting Blues shows on different stations, we agreed that we'd do joint interviews. (It'll be interesting to see how this works out when I begin the edit). We got to interview several of the performers over the weekend and I'll be posting details of the upcoming broadcasts (i.e. which Blues Exclusive will feature which artist on the Gig Review page. I'll also be reviewing some of the individual performances there in coming days as well as reviewing several new CDs on the CD Review page). Come back to this website every day or two as it will have lots of new content being added.
Back to the festival... Lisa Mills was first up, delivering songs from her soon to be released album 'Mama's Juke Book'. Lisa has a way of pulling a crowd in and this was no exception. We later chatted with her about the album in her dressing room. We didn't get to see much of Leburn Maddox Band as we were with Lisa but all reports I've heard (and the little I saw) suggest that he went down really well with the crowd.
Gerry Jablonski's Electric Band finished the evening with a very full-on performance which delighted the audience. We decided it would be wise to avoid the late night show because I've been there in earlier years and know it goes on really late. There was a full programme for us for the next couple of days and we didn't want to be serving the festival badly by stumbling from venue to venue red-eyed and ragged. Reports from the late-night session were very positive.
Saturday daytime -
Norm and I bounced around Tenby like the silver balls in a flipper machine, checking that performers were ready set and go and introducing those who wanted us to do this. We bumped into each other occasionally and the consensus was that things were running smoothly and the mood in the camp was high.
Saturday evening -
We completed the trail for the day with aching feet (knew it was a mistake to wear new trainers when I'd donned them in the morning) and a sense of relief. There had been no major hiccups and we were really anticipating the evening's entertainment. I'll be writing separate reviews of performances from Glas and Bella Collins Band on other pages in the next day or two but they will be very positive reviews.
Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes - A late substitute for King King who withdrew because their lead singer/guitarist, Alan Nimmo has health problems, Paul and The Kingsnakes were really on form. Paul has had his own medical issues in recent years but this in no way impeded his crowd-pleasing performance. I've seen Paul on many occasions (indeed, I've introduced the band a few times at festivals) and always enjoyed every minute of their shows. And a festival crowd always seems to bring out the very best from the band. After the show we interviewed Paul and this will feature in a Blues Exclusive shortly.
During The Kingsnakes' set, we dashed to the Church House to take a quick look at The Rumblestrutters. They performed a fabulous set with a number of tracks from their debut album 'Prohibition Blues'. I'll be reviewing the album in a day or two.
Late-night session - At times like these, I recognise how age is taking its toll. With some sterling performances from Bella Collins. Chad Strenz (of the Kingsnakes), Christian Presse and even Paul Lamb himself the music was delightful. We snagged interviews with Bella then Paul - both featuring soon on the Blues Exclusive. Why is age taking its toll? Well, my hearing is not what it was - I blame it on Led Zeppelin and a night in Cardiff's Capitol Theatre back in 1971. The experience was painful because it was so loud. (I remember Long John Baldry telling me once that he went to their first concert as The New Yardbirds and they were so loud they gave him a nose-bleed). Anyway, after a day of being on my feet and walking more than I do when I take my collie walkies I was very worn out. I realised it was time to go home when I was chatting with Chris Osborne, Chair of the festival, and realised I couldn't hear much of what he was saying because of the ambient noise. (Is 65 too young to be getting a discrete hearing aid? Maybe I need to grow my hair again...) As I was about to leave, I was introduced to Dale Storr and we had a great chat about his music and other New Orleans-style piano players. I'd like to have continued the conversation but knew in my heart it was time to head for home. I got there about 2.45 a.m. and then couldn't sleep!
Sunday afternoon - After struggling awake and getting to Tenby before midday, it was on with The Trail again. Norm abandoned ship around 4.00 p.m. as he had pressing things to do - he was, I know, very disappointed to have to miss the final night of the festival. Between Trail times, I returned to the De Valence and ended up talking with Kaz Hawkins Band's Tour Manager, David. Just the previous night, they'd played at the Robin 2 as one of the four finalists in the UK Blues Challenge and they'd won. This means that they will now be representing the UK in Memphis in the International Blues Challenge as well as in the European Blues Challenge. As you might expect, the ensemble were flying high. I chatted with Kaz in her dressing room and this interview will feature in Blues Exclusive # 35 (That's next week).
I was also at the De Valence when the Ian Siegal Band arrived and I helped carry their equipment from the van. As a drum was handed to me from the van, I realised that the young man handing it over was young Joel Fisk, the renowned guitarist from the London area. We spoke briefly and he told me he was playing with Ian Siegal just for this tour (marking Ian's 25 years as a touring musician).
Other reviewers will doubtless be offering their detailed opinions on the evening's performances. For me, suffice to say that with artists of this calibre you're always guaranteed a great night's entertainment. And these bands did it in spades.
Festival done and dusted, and after a brief restorative sleep, I returned to my recording of this week's Blues Exclusive. It was very difficult to pick up after a whole weekend away from it. In fact, it felt like weeks since I'd last paid it any attention but this tends to be the festival experience; it is sometimes a shock to realise that something that happened weeks ago in your head had actually taken place just the day before.
Keep reading and listening in coming days - there's an awful lot more of the Tenby Blues Festival 2016 to disseminate.