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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 6:20 am
by will vine
Having prompted people to discuss their reasons for not going to Womad I feel the need to redress the balance and big up the festival experience. So here's my version of events at RHYTHMS OF THE WORLD last weekend.


Rhythms of the World 2014 had got under sail around four hours before my wife and I clambered aboard. I had intended getting there early enough to support the opening acts but other things got in the way. I really feel for unsupported support acts. I hope they had some sort of crowd early on.

Hitchin Priory is a wonderful spot for a music festival and it was a fine sunny day. I'd highlighted a few names in the programme but I had the luxury of no great expectations. I never again expect to be left wide-eyed and breathless in the way that early encounters with Rory Gallagher,Chuck Berry, Captain Beefheart, Youssou N'Dour, Remmy Ongala, Anglique Kidjo........ all left me. I pretty much know what to expect these days. And so, at Hitchin, it pretty much turned out, but that didn't mean that there wasn't a good time to be had.

We went in, past a couple of stages and stopped at the third where a team of Ghanaian drummers were set to do their stuff. These were the Kakatsitsa Master Drummmersfresh from performing at The Commonwealth Games, who now momentarily sat and endured an hilarious introduction mocking their tongue-twisting name. Then they were off. They hooked up a seemingly endless rhythm pattern which did eventually evolve into a nice little groove. They chanted, called and responded, stopped, restarted, and built up again. This is where it all goes wrong at festivals. I needed really to immerse myself in all that for an hour, probably with my eyes closed and I'll bet I'd have come out of it feeling wonderful. Instead, like a schoolboy at a fairground which this all resembled, I wanted to be off to the next thing. I headed to the main stage where Toque Tambour were performing.

I'm always irrationally suspicious of musical groups in uniforms, even if that uniform is only blue T shirts and jeans but Toque Tambour won me over. They are sixty local people who've spent a year in weekly hand-drum classes preparing a Rio carnival performance just for this event. With a great singer and a couple of dancers up front, and with occasional forays into soul and salsa,they brought the crowd into party mode.

Time for a bit of fifties-style rockabilly down at The Icehouse stage. I should say, at this point, that I was limping around the site supported by a single crutch to take pressure off a damaged right ankle. By the time we got there Guido and The Hellcats were already motoring. Guido, a spud-faced eighteen year old with a Flying V guitar, could sing ok and he was well supported on bass and drums by two young lads who couldn't have looked less like Hellcats if they'd tried. They were bloody great! Yet despite storming versions of Fulsom Prison,and Tainted Love (yes, that one), the audience for the most part sat on their hands, only a few girls dancing on the rather bare looking patch at the front of the stage. I did my supportive best to lurch around on my one good foot, occasionally adapting my crutch to air guitar. Guido's girlfriend,to whom he'd dedicated the low point of his act, the murder, in the key of J, of Will You Love Me Tomorrow? came forward with a couple of friends to dance as the last number was announced. A more elderly couple also made their way to the front presumably to show these youngsters how to jive but alas, the guy stumbled and fell on his approach and failed to start. Guido deserved a better, fitter audience. By now, I too was looking for a seat.

Back at the St.Mary's Stage where we'd seen the drummers earlier they had seats,church pews in fact. The presence of these and the fact that the stage was being MC'd by a Right Rev. bear testament to the community nature of this festival that started out many years ago as a free experience in the packed streets of Hitchin. Anyway, I sat. On to the stage came BURP (Berkhamstead Ukelele Random Players). I didn't sit for long. It was that same one joke that The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain do. A group of model airplane enthusiasts and librarians with spiky red hair get up and give you Another One Bites The Dust with excrutiating vocal harmonies. This was their opener, then on to The Cure's Friday I'm in Love. I've no idea what followed that. Sometimes local produce is not always the freshest.

There was a tiny stage, The Arcadeclectic, barely bigger than a seven and a half ton truck. Here, a couple of years ago I had tried to watch Little Axe in the pissing rain whilst champing at the bit to go and see C.W. Stoneking elsewhere. I cut and run on Little Axe. I feel ashamed. But I digress. The Arcadeclectic is set amongst trees, down by the river. Its smallness, coupled with the types of acts it tends to have on, sort of tempt me at least into believing I'm in the American Deep South at a little medicine show. Fanciful I know but it helps my mood along. Los Chicas Muertas, much more white british than their name implies, were plying their trade, a mix of country, blues, hillbilly, and murder ballads. All good stuff, but eventually I again cut and ran to see The London Afrobeat Collective.

The LAC too were, to my surprise, a predominantly white band. They sounded pretty fluid, had plenty good licks,and all the right moves, and a lot of people were dancing. I'd like to see them in a smaller,funkier space. Sometimes the open air blows away some of the vital sparks.

I often find myself wondering not if the band has performed well enough for me, but have I performed well enough for them? Have I played my part? Joined in and danced? Responded to the endless questioning of "Are you having a good time?" Have I clapped long enough with my hands in the air? The LAC are a party band and there was a bit of a party going on at the front of the stage. I continued to lurch around as best a man with a wooden leg can but I do get a bit pissed of with the MC's constant exhortation to "make some more noise, Hitchin."

As we walked around the site we became aware of the large number of kids in attendance;Babes and toddlers aplenty but also gaggles of teens and twenties and pre-teens. Jane observed that as this was essentially two one day events with no camping involved these were probably local kids too young yet to go to Glastonbury but dipping a toe in the festival scene here. it was great to see them enjoying all sorts of music but as we made our way up to meet a friend at the Radio One Introducing....Stage we really became aware of where the passions of these school parties mostly lay. This stage, sponsored by the BBC was promoting new young talent. I guess a lot of it was indie, nu-Soul, singer/songwriter, and hard rock. We stayed awhile amongst some very enjoyable poptastic summer sounds then left the kids to it. We had the serious business of roots music to attend to.

My wife, recovering from recent surgery, was beginning to tire and luckily she found an ex-colleague tosit and relax with whilst I took up my place front left of stage to watch Kobo Town. Calypso isn't something I've immersed myself in but as I listened to this highly entertaining crew I heard echoes of what little I knew - Mighty sparrow, Lord Kitchener, a little Louis Jordan in there too. Again it was a party and we were encouraged to jump up and down. I was still hopping around and playing my crutch guitar, this timeI noticed,alongside a young family. Mum was dancing more or less on her own while her two little girls, each with a puppy shaped balloon, laughed and jumped around with dad who was getting regularly "nipped" by Fido and Bonzo. You couldn't want for better dancing companions. It ain't cool to be cool no more.

South African pop band, Freshly Ground, were topping the bill next but my foot was now like a balloon too and it was time to head home and get the ice pack on it. I had Sunday' in the park to get through yet.


PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 8:43 am
by NormanD
That's a good one for the autobiography, Will. Keep it up, Sunday's next.


PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 10:45 am
by Jamie Renton
Thanks Will, that was almost like being there (which I wish I had been)

Roll on your review of Sunday


PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 3:23 pm
by alister prince
Thanks Will, like Jamie, I enjoyed that and feel as if I was with you. Looking forward to Part 2. 'Come on Hitchen...'


PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 5:50 pm
by Alan
Don't you mean
'You better come on in my Hitchin, it's going to be raining outdoors.'


PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 6:30 pm
by alister prince
I before E, sorry about that. Lovely riposte Alan.


PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 10:30 pm
by will vine
Considering the pounding it had taken the ankle emerged in relatively fine fettle on Sunday morning. My wife was fairing slightly less well and, deciding enough was as good as a feast, she passed up the opportunity of a second day in the field and her ticket went to my lifelong pal Alf. It was only as our car neared Hitchin that I realised that I had not brought my sturdy crutch with me. I would hop, skip, limp, and sit through the day; A rock'n'n roll soldier to the end.

With Alf along I knew this was going to be a different kind of day. Drink would be involved, but I determined that we would take it easy in the sun and be moderate in our intake. Immediately inside the gate stood a very nice, well run bar. It seemed silly not to take the opportunity of a pint since we were going to walk all the way up to the main stage to meet up with a couple of Alf's friends who'd texted us earlier to say exactly where they were. "Two pints of Golden Rhythm, please." The day had got off to a flying start.

Another big crowd but we easily found John and Mon(ica) near the front of the main stage. Ah! these looked like "campers." They had a rug spread out. They had provisions. They looked like they were visiting in the way one did in the old days of one-stage festivals, where you sat uncomfortably cross legged for hours on end protecting your piece of grass. John confirmed that this was his plan but he soon set off to buy a round of beers.

I would say remember where you heard the name Nathan Watson and The Freakanomics first but it's a name worth changing. We caught the last few minutes of their rocking set. Perhaps my ears are fresher for old fashioned rock music than anything at present. They have not been subjected to it for a long time. Next up were The SG's a local reggae band.They seemed to be a good reggae band in the way that a Ford Focus is a good car. They and it do what you expect without frills or thrills. I may be doing them a disservice. I was far to busy chatting to Monica really. As much fun as that was I needed to extricate myself from this cramp-inducing confinement. I felt unable to leave John and Mon without repaying my round so I got some more beers in and eventually bid them goodbye so I could go in search of Maharajah Blues down at the Arcadeclectic stage. The fusion of tabla and slide guitar, presented as something remarkable, is almost a yawn now. I was hoping catch something of the spirit of the late Bob Brozman but if such was to be found it was only in the black tailcoat and tie of the guitarist and not in the fingers nor the voice. It was a strange experience. Four men were lined up as if standing at a shop counter, two Indian drummers, the guitarist Richard Staines with his resonator guitar, and a skinny harmonica player. Staines looked and sounded like a chubby public schoolboy, not his fault, and he can do things with a guitar I'd be thrilled to be able to do, but all that blether in the programme about the meeting of two great rivers (musical traditions) leads you to expect more in the way of virtuosity and improvisation. The two drummers stood upright and expressionless with their drums perched on a table. The one on the far left, motionless for almost the entire duration of two songs, suddenly kicked into life in exactly the manner of one of those penny arcade dummies. In went the penny and, remaining totally expressionless, he delivered a poor, short, and pointless solo unrelated in any way to what had preceded it. Strange indeed. Time for a pint.

Back in time to see quite a bit ofSon Yambu who were wonderful. The main stage party was in full swing and now we were in Cuba. Maybe making camp there would have been a good idea after all.

Alf and I had arranged to meet up with another old school friend who I'd bumped into the day before. The allotted place was right at the very back of the main stage audience, which happened to be very close to a well run beer tent (it writes itself doesn't it?). We met up with Keith and his wife just before The God of Hellfire was due on stage. I didn't think I was very bothered about witnessing this cod-gothic sixties act which was unlikely to have been treated kindly by the years but...........well, curiosity was beginning to get the better of me. None of the others seemed very bothered but after I'd heard a few minutes of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown I decided I had to pick my way through the crowd to a better vantage point. Wow! the man was in extraordinary voice, soaring high and swooping low, and moving better than I would be even with two good feet. Arthur too had gone for the tail coat look teamed with a bright red shirt and a brightly painted head and pate. It was that long gone organ sound that got me I think. Nobody has that sound up front anymore. Arthur's outfit wasn't the only thing that came out of the old dressing up box. He'd taken bits of old psychedlia, Kites, the old Simon Dupree song and Green Manalishi and made them very much his own. It was strangely refreshing. I can't really tell you how much I enjoyed it. He's 72 you know.

Chevy Heaven? What are the chances this does what it says on the tin? Back to the little stage in the trees, by the river, next to the beer tent. Sometimes you can tell by looking....ooh! this'll be good. A little three piece band of middle aged men and an elegant singer called Wendy, and the guitarist wearing a very dodgy Marty Wilde toupee, yes this'll be alright. I have confidence in them. OH YES!! They hurtle through so many favourites - Keep a Knockin', My Babe, High Heel Sneakers, Uranium Rock,


PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 10:57 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Brilliant review, Will! I briefly met Arthur Brown at some media event several years ago. He was handing out sweets (not laced with anything). A couple of years later I met a beautiful young Czech woman who played keyboards (in London) and mentioned that her most regular gig was with AB. Any chance he still has a woman about forty years his junior in the band? Thanks again for the review - almost made me wish I had been there.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:40 am
by will vine
Yes Garth, in fact two lovely women fronting the band on keyboards and guitar, both possibly of east European origin. Youtube has a clip it wouldn't let me share -check Rhythms of the world 2014 clips.

I know that was a bloody long review and I believe the computer shut me down. This is the end of the review -
Chevy Heaven, carried on with Shakin'All Over and Honey Hush. We danced and danced. I danced 'til my foot hurt no more. The restorative power of Rock'n'Roll eh?

I should and do applaud the organisers for booking Courtney Pine and putting him top of the bill. For years as a jazz messenger in these parts I've been trying to get great jazz players to extend their audience by getting booked in at Glastonbury or Womad. An audience that can cope with various styles of World Music shouldn't have any trouble with a certain amount of jazz. All that said, Courtney has developed an arena act which seems to take a Led Zeppelin approach whereby he takes The History of Jazz, cranks the volume up to the max, and puts reggae and other dance beats to the fore. Had I not just come from boppin' the blues I'd have been ok with this but I found the endless soprano sax too shrill. We left Courtney and the kids to finish up and turn the lights off when they'd finished and walked into the town centre for a drink. Goodbye Rhythms of The World, see you again next year.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 1:06 pm
by Jamie Renton
Lovely review Will.

I'll stand you a pint of Golden Rhythm at next year's festival, by way of thanks.


PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:19 pm
by uiwangmike
will vine wrote: A little three piece band of middle aged men and an elegant singer called Wendy, and the guitarist wearing a very dodgy Marty Wilde toupee,

Are you sure it wasn't Marty himself, Will? I know he used to live in the area.