No Glastonbury this year? Who cares, when you can see Liam Gallagher fronting Green Day for a cover of The Sex Pistols‘ God Save The Queen instead? Granted, it might not be the real Liam Gallagher nor the real Green Day, nor for that matter the real Glastonbury, but it is Worthy and you could do yourself a favour by signing up for it next year.
Somewhere around March, your intrepid reviewer decided that when there’s a gaping hole in the festival calendar that nothing is going to fill, maybe the 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 down winner was Glastonbudget, also known as the Wymeswold Music Festival, an all-tribute bands festival held at Turnpost Farm in Leicestershire promising such musical delights as Pink Fraud, the Stereotonics, Antarctic Monkeys and Robbing Williams. Not to mention the real (yes, REAL) Chas and Dave and a second stage of local unsigned Leicester bands. It just had to be done, didn’t it?
The campsite opens around 5pm Friday evening. It’s not too full, not too muddy and while there are no bands until Saturday morning, there is acoustic/stand-up entertainment for the evening. With some help from the beer tent this goes down a treat, with MC the Earl of Mongoose encouraging crowd participation and eventually ceding the (relatively) open mike to a festival-goer who plays Oasis covers to a lively and welcoming audience. There’s a fun, relaxed, atmosphere, a DIY vibe that’s genuinely reminiscent of the real Glasto and too often, sadly, missing from the more corporate summer festivals.
The new bands kick off around midday on Saturday, an hour or two earlier than the tributes. The festivals ethos is admirable use the tribute bands to 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 Nicholas Tanner and William Coupe deserve credit for this alone.
The prime new band slots are clearly the earlier ones, as there’s little else to do and no greatest hits to tempt the crowd away. Black Vinyl Heart try gamely to combine classical strings with walls of sound a bit too ambitiously, but they deserve credit for trying and watching them makes me feel slightly less guilty about running away to the tribute stage before their 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 Dave Navarro with just the right be-wigged intensity you’d hope for. They’ve dressed up, learned the riffs and even the drizzle can’t dampen their appeal.
But the real stars of the weekend are, without doubt, the Antarctic Monkeys. Armed with little more than one album from which to construct their set (albeit an album from which the entire audience knows the words to every single track), they’re scorching and even earn themselves an encore. They play You Look Good on the Dancefloor a second time but the audience certainly doesn’t mind. If Alex Turner and Co really dislike publicity so much, they could do a lot worse than paying the Antarctic Monkeys to do their tours for them.
By now, one thing is pretty clear: the enormous advantage of tribute bands is that they’re competent musicians who don’t waste time playing anything but the hits. You can sit in front of The Stereotonics, One Step Beyond (Madness), Oasish and US4/U2 safe in the knowledge that there’s absolutely no danger of hearing ‘The next one’s from our new album’ when what you actually wanted was that one off the advert. They deliver, and they deliver well. Oasish put in more effort and are consequently more fun to watch than the real Oasis have been on the twice I’ve seen them. If they were on against each other, I’d take the tribute band any day, even if they are also the Stereotonics and, in their day jobs, Chesney Hawkes‘ backing band. Not many people can say that.
And even better? US4 give you everything from New Year’s Day to City 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 Freddie Mercury might if he was still alive. They’re so good that Brian May books them every year for the Monaco yachting regatta. By the time Mercury leave the stage, it’s been a bloody brilliant day.
Sunday starts bizarrely with a church service in the campsite acoustic tent. As this is the after hours stand-up venue, we wait for the jokes to kick in but by the second hymn realise there aren’t going to be any and slowly back away to the main field, where The Second Coming is only an hour away. Brandy coffees in a double decker bus-cum-open air bar and Knievel, a Led Zep-alike New Band, fill the stage nicely until The Clone Roses appear. Then it’s time for Green Days and I can’t avoid the temptation of the mosh pit, full of air-guitaring 12-year-olds and over-enthusiastic groups in matching t-shirts who are having as much fun here as they could have anywhere.
And then for me it’s over, the real Morrissey at the London Palladium and Paul Oakenfold at Canvas are promised my attention for the rest of the day, pulling me away before I have a chance to sample The Austrian Stones, Robbing Williams, The Jamm, Pink Fraud or (phew!) Guns2Roses who I’m sure all did a sterling job.
I’m genuinely sad I have to leave early, and not just because it means I’ll miss Chas and Dave. It’s been great fun in all senses of the word. 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 is going to be as permanent a fixture in my festival diary as the real thing. Make sure you put it on yours as well, whether you’re a tribute band, a new band or just a punter looking to hear your favourite performers play their greatest hits like they actually want to be there, this is well worth the £37.50 price of admission. Bargain.