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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan


Twinwood Arena, Bedford, August 29th, 20th & 31st, 2008.

The Saw Doctors
The Saw Doctors
There’s nothing quite like being woken up by the gentle “psssssst” of a ring-pull being lovingly teased from the first can of the day, is there? It’s Sunday, it’s been raining most of the night, and Scrumpy Jack and Scrumpy Pete are getting fuelled up for the day ahead while reviewing the previous evening.
Actually it’s just Pete – Jack’s inside their van cooking up a mess of breakfast. “I said, those Saw Doctors were shite. Irish folk music bollocks. I mean, what you need is a real rock band with attitude to get the crowd going. Like the Levellers. They’re good. No, two eggs, three sausages. Black pudding. Where are the other cans? By the way, did you ever figure out why your Shirley left you? I’ve never got why Maureen walked out on me. Any fried bread?”
It has to be said that the Doctors (the self-styled “Irish super group”) can polarise opinions, although what was masquerading for a mosh seemed lively enough.
I’d been dragged there on pain of not enjoying myself otherwise by the Photographer, who as it happens had spent much of the afternoon seeking Doctors guitarist and singer Leo Moran. Down there, it was Gaelic Football shirts, waving arms, “to be sures”, and tuneless singing along. The set was the usual stuff, to be sure: all safe, no surprises, included the truly awful ‘Chips’ (“vinegar tears, salt in my wounds and the ketchup like my poor bleeding heart …”) and a brief tribute to Glen Miller (I did mention that he made his last, and of course fateful, flight from here, didn’t I?).

Leo Moran and fan
But the crowd, to be sure, were loving all of it – all of it except the thoroughly inconsiderate video cameraman that is, clearly some third-rate amateur who’d never worked at a gig before. Who the jerk was I don’t know, but most of us spent more time looking at his arse than at the band (not by choice), until the Doctors’ management managed to get him off the stage. It was almost enough to ask for a rebate on the price of our tickets, to be sure. Of course, Jozzer, who’d just turned up for the day with Trizza, had a characteristically contrary, yet sober and thoughtfully-crafted opinion.
He wrote as follows: “ …the Saw Doctors catalogue is riddled with small-town jingoism at its worst. Mundane, one-paced and shallow pap. Singing about the stars in the night skies over some nothing town in Eire doesn't work for me…the lead singer would be OK busking - ideally in a small town in Eire. The drummer made Animal from the Muppets seem like a sensitive, talented percussionist. The preening lead guitarist had no idea how talented he was. If you're around my age, you'll remember The Barron Knights, an 'hilarious' group of buffoons who used to parody current hits - with about 3% of the wit and charm of Weird Al Jankovic.
When the Saws all swapped instruments during a number, I yearned for the comedic genius that was The Barron Knights. The culmination of the Saws' act was, of course, a medley of their hit. When it came I wasn't sure it had, until the stargazers around me went even more delirious. I could Google it now. But I really can't be bothered. And by the time I came to write it up I'd have forgotten it. It's that sort of song. If only the Saws had come from Skibbereen, it would have been moderately more amusing and hopefully more difficult to write songs about.” Ouch, to be sure!
A sun drenched Saturday
A sun drenched Saturday...
We were agreed upon Saturday afternoon’s sun-drenched set by an unusually garrulous Jah Wobble (who pointedly refuses to have any ‘friends’ on his Myspace page), who performed a crowd-pleasing set drawn from his extensive dub-drenched oeuvre, and in a very unassuming way provided the musical highlight of the day, if not the weekend.
With Neville Murray on percussion, Clive Bell on pipes and all sorts of stuff, Chris Cookson on mesmerising guitar, vocalist Liz Carter (?), they featured some of Wobble’s English Folk song material, and tunes such as ‘Visions of you’. Towards the end he reintroduced Mrs Wobble who’d been on the stage for the first two pieces: “Oi oi, here’s the missus, so we’ll do some more of that Chinese dub stuff.” Mrs W was playing, with some dexterity, the Guxheng, or Chinese zither, the instrument at the heart of Wobble’s latest venture, named imaginatively ‘Chinese Dub’. He’s been touring this during the summer with a Chinese orchestra, singers and face-changing dancers, to rave reviews. And despite an occasional studied indifference to the audience, Wobble’s playing, like the band’s, was of the very highest order, not least on his encore (“Would you like some English folk music played in a curiously good way, or a 7-4 groove thing?” he asked the audience). We got the groove thing, complex, hypnotic, and something that even Robert Fripp would have been proud of. One point to note – for all his maverick sensibilities, Mr Wobble left the festival ground driving a battered grey Ford Mondeo. I might have hoped for something more. Jah Wobble
We’d also witnessed on Saturday a less-than-impressive set from a moody Delroy Williams, former backing singer and agent to Desmond Dekker, with a set of fairly well-played but badly-sung (“he’s so flat he should be making pancakes” said Jozzer) reggae standards, ranging from Dekker’s ‘007’ to ‘The tide is high’.
And following Jah Wobble the rowdy Mike Sanchez Band who worked the audience pretty well with some tight boogie-woogie playing. Just right for six-thirty in the evening. The Pretty Things, who were also victims of the comedic cameraman, demonstrated that for all their reputation of supposed menace, they were really never anything more than a good quality R&B covers band, reminding me of the shameless propensity of many sixties bands to rip off the work of US blues artists. Of all the Festival acts they also seemed the worst mixed. And before the Doctors took to the stage, we’d observed the distressing sight of a pair of septuagenarians - one with a hearing aid - grooving out to Stackridge’s opening number on the Alternative Stage in their Zimmer frames, exotic cigarettes in hands (I’m not making it up). Shouldn’t they all be being looked after somewhere?  
Mike Sanchez
Mike Sanchez
First of the British bands on Sunday were Ricky Cool and the Hoola Boola Boys. With his unlikely haircut and painfully irrepressible good humour, Ricky probably wasn’t quite what the damp crowd needed, struggling as they were to come to terms with the previous night’s hangover and the morning’s first three or four pints.
Ricky Cool
Ricky Cool (L) - Beer stocks dwindle! (R)
Up on the Alternative Stage, Juicy Lucy played to what I swear was the same crowd, now atrophied, that had been watching Stackridge on Saturday. Not even the voluminous guitar of Mr Fish, echoing from his Marshall stacks (yes – Marshall stacks!) in an attempt to cover for the absent and sadly invalided front man Ray Owens, could rouse them from their deathly torpor. Indeed the only real sign of movement was from the bar, as beer stocks around the site began to run low and speculators started stacking up in advance of a shortage. And sadly we missed Geno Washington due to “an administrative error”. The Zombies touring band played the main stage, fronted by Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, and turned in a pretty lively set, comprising a small selection from Odessey and Oracle, and then a mixture of their hits and Argent’s. Unwittingly they facilitated one of the nicest moments of the weekend when guitarist Keith Airey ripped into the lead riff of ‘God gave rock and roll to you’, when for the first time in three days the much-put-upon young and very hard-working stage crew burst into huge grins of recognition and barely-restrained air guitar.
It wasn’t long after this, as far as I could tell, that the beer ran out, causing consternation all round. We watched the excellent Richie Havens and then as the rain fell retired to the Whiskyfun Festival van, as the tones of Nine Below Zero battled against the downpour. And even Scrumpy Jack and Scrumpy Pete seemed somewhat subdued by the rain when they returned later to finish off their nightcap of a few twelve packs and a packet of peanuts. And despite part-promoter Jim Driver’s cheery optimism, how this nicely-conceived event can run again next year I fail to see. Some bands didn’t show up, others seemed pretty miserable, many of the facilities were not as described, the food was very poor, the beer ran out, the security guards were somewhat heavy-handed, and the crowd was as sparse as last year – albeit they were all having fun. Next year – well, let’s see. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick).
Rod Argent
Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent
Jah Wobble's MySpace page
Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs

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