Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Where to feel blue this summer

As I sit down to write this the air is full of the warm smells of charred flesh on BBQs and the equally burnt meat on the fat, red Englishmen manning them. If that wasn't enough, the site of novelty aprons and the sound of overly eager ice cream men sing the praises for the time of year: Summer might just be here.

Putting aside that sensual feast, what does British Summertime mean? Festivals. But where does the committed Blues peg their tent to get the most of this year's musical offerings?


Glasto does a good line in returning artists, their performers being just as loyal as their patrons. This year Seasick Steve returns to capitalise on last year's performances, no doubt with his goodybag full of homemade instruments. Joining him are the Skiffle Punk Blues Folkies Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs and Alabama 3, a band who can be utterly relied on to be both wasted and entertaining.

Seth Lakeman provides his own brand of heartache-twinged folk and smouldering good looks, a trade that Jackson Browne has been plying for years and continues to do so. At the other end of the spectrum, flying the flag for old, haggard and classic are the country legend Willy Nelson and king of the New Orleans Jazz scene Dr John.

Newer acts gracing this years festival are Frank Turner, The King Blues and the comedian Adrian Edmondson performing with his band The Bad Shepherds.

And if all that lot doesn't sink your battleship, then dance your socks off to John Allen and The Blues Band.

Carling Weekend

Known for satisfying the heavier, more mosh-heavy brand of music, Carling's Reading and Leeds festivals still manage to hold their ends up for some quality Blues.

Frank Turner and The King Blues both make appearances here, as well as at a few other major festivals. Whilst neither have the shot-to-stardom-after-50-years fame of someone like Seasick Steve, both are as entertaining as a barrel full of drunken chimps. The end result of said barrel would probably be a mixture of Blood or Whiskey, which incidentally is the name of an irish folk-punk act with bluesy edges playing this year's festival (there would be some chimp carcasses too, but unfortunately there isn't an act called that).

Perhaps the biggest name on Carling's line-up are the Brighton-based Mumford & Sons, whose stock in trade is a mixture of folk instrumentation, timeless fashion and god-questioning lyrics so beyond their years you'd find it hard to believe Lenoard Cohen hadn't written them. You'll dance, you'll cry, you'll stay near the front of the stage too long and will get punched by a Slayer fan.


Known for gracing the party season with a middle-class, middle-aged combo of books, theatre and just a little music, Latitude provides a more mature festival. This doesn't stop them playing host to Frank Turner and Mumford & Sons too. Nor does it stand in their way of clearing a stage for the suprisingly dark musical stylings of Richard Hawley. The ex-Pulp and Longpigs member uses his acoutic six-string and a mellower than mellow voice to captivate an audience and shouldn't be missed.

For fans of 60s and 70s Soul, Jonathan Jermiah will hold the floor at the Word Arena on the Friday. His mix of Blues-Soul is served acoustically on a bed of orchestral strings with the faintest garnish of wise and heartfelt lyrics.

So whether you want to dance, dwell or just enjoy yourself, there's big Blues on offer at even the most mainstream festivals this summer.

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