No Glastonbury this year? Who cares, when you can see LiamGallagher fronting Green Day for a cover of the SexPistols’ God Save the Queen instead? Granted, it might not be the real LiamGallagher nor the real Oasis, nor for that matter the realGlastonbury, but it is Worthy and you could do yourself a favour by signingup for it next year.
Somewhere around March, your intrepid reviewer decided that when there’sa gaping hole in the festival calendar that nothing is going to fill, maybethe best thing to do is simply accept it and, rather than look for what the’best’ alternative might be, look for the stupidest instead.
The hands downwinner was Glastonbudget, also known as the Wymeswold Music Festival, anall-tribute bands festival held at Turnpost Farm in Leicestershire promisingsuch musical delights as Pink Fraud, the Stereotonics,Antarctic Monkeys and Robbing Williams. Not to mention thereal (yes, REAL) Chas and Dave and a second stage of local unsignedLeicester bands. It just had to be done, didn’t it?
The campsite opens around 5pm Friday evening. It’s not too full, nottoo muddy and while there are no bands until Saturday morning, there isacoustic/stand-up entertainment for the evening. With some help from thebeer tent this goes down a treat, with MC the Earl of Mongoose encouragingcrowd participation and eventually ceding the (relatively) open mike to afestival-goer who plays Oasis covers to a lively and welcomingaudience. There’s a fun, relaxed, atmosphere, a DIY vibe that’s genuinelyreminiscent of the real Glasto and too often, sadly, missing from the morecorporate summer festivals.
The new bands kick off around midday on Saturday, an hour or two earlierthan the tributes. The festivals ethos is admirable use the tribute bandsto draw the punters in and then put the unsigned locals in front of them.Even if they’d all been rubbish (and they weren’t), organisers NicholasTanner and William Coupe deserve credit for this alone.
The prime new band slots are clearly the earlier ones, as there’s littleelse to do and no greatest hits to tempt the crowd away. Black VinylHeart try gamely to combine classical strings with walls of sound a bittoo ambitiously, but they deserve credit for trying and watching them makesme feel slightly less guilty about running away to the tribute stage beforetheir successors Wild House appear.
First up of the tribute bands are the Ded Hot Chilli Peppers.They’re brilliant, delivering everything from Dani California to DaveNavarro with just the right be-wigged intensity you’d hope for. They’vedressed up, learned the riffs and even the drizzle can’t dampen theirappeal.
But the real stars of the weekend are, without doubt, theAntarctic Monkeys. Armed with little more than one album from whichto construct their set (albeit an album from which the entire audience knowsthe words to every single track), they’re scorching and even earn themselvesan encore. They play You Look Good on the Dancefloor a second time but theaudience certainly doesn’t mind. If Alex Turner and Co really dislikepublicity so much, they could do a lot worse than paying the AntarcticMonkeys to do their tours for them.
By now, one thing is pretty clear: the enormous advantage of tributebands is that they’re competent musicians who don’t waste time playinganything but the hits. You can sit in front of The Stereotonics,One Step Beyond (Madness) , Oasish and US4/U2 safe inthe knowledge that there’s absolutely no danger of hearing ‘The next one’sfrom our new album’ when what you actually wanted was that one off theadvert. They deliver, and they deliver well. Oasish put in more effort andare consequently more fun to watch than the real Oasis have been onthe twice I’ve seen them. If they were on against each other, I’d take thetribute band any day, even if they are also the Stereotonics and, intheir day jobs, Chesney Hawkes‘ backing band. Not many people can saythat.
And even better? US4 give you everything from New Year’s Day toCity of Blinding Lights without even once banging on about fair trade,George Bush or the Pope. Brilliant as are headliners Mercury,fronted by a balding, slightly paunchy bloke who looks just like FreddyMercury might if he was still alive. They’re so good that Brian Maybooks them every year for the Monaco yachting regatta. By the time Mercuryleave the stage, it’s been a bloody brilliant day.
Sunday starts bizarrely with a church service in the campsite acoustictent. As this is the afterhours stand-up venue, we wait for the jokes tokick in but by the second hymn realise there arent going to be any andslowly back away to the main field, where The Second Coming is only an houraway. Brandy coffees in a double decker bus-cum-open air bar and Knievel, aLed Zep-alike New Band, fill the stage nicely until The CloneRoses appear. Then it’s time for Green Days and I can’t avoid thetemptation of the mosh pit, full of air-guitaring 12-year-olds andoverenthustic groups in matching t-shirts who are having as much fun here asthey could have anywhere.
And then for me it’s over the real Morrissey at the LondonPalladium and Paul Oakenfold at Canvas are promised my attention forthe rest of the day, pulling me away before I have a chance to sample TheAustrian Stones, Robbing Williams, The Jamm, PinkFraud or (phew!) Guns2Roses who I’m sure all did a stirlingjob.
I’m genuinely sad I have to leave early, and not just because it meansI’ll miss Chas and Dave. It’s been great fun in all senses of theword. Cheesy yes, but in the best possible way. The bands love what they do(so much so that they’re all clearly desperate to be asked back next year),the audience love what they do, and everyone leaves happy.
The real Glastonbury will be back next year but from now on, this isgoing to be as permanent a fixture in my festival diary as the real thing.Make sure you put it on yours as well, whetheryou’re a tribute band, a new band or just a punter looking to hear yourfavourite performers play their greatest hits like they actually want to bethere, this is well worth the 37.50 price of admission. Bargain.