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CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL
Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire 16-19 August
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photo Ian Pollard
The Cambridge Rock Festival 2007 worked like a dream. While the much
higher profile V Festival down the road in Chelmsford saw fans leave early
because of the combination of rain and mud, the 4 day Cambridge Rock
Festival positively basked in the success of its own planning.
Promoter Dave Roberts had obviously learned from his previous years experience
with bad weather and relocated the festival to an animal rescue centre that
doubled superbly as the festival grounds.
The event was so well organised that the animal lovers were still able to do
their thing and mingle in the outdoor with rock fans who were in transit from
one stage to another.
It was apparent that both Thursday and Friday had already got off to a cracking
start with Eddie & the Hot Rods the name that most people were talking
But come Saturday there were three stages to choose from, including our very own
Stage 2, which presented two days of up and coming band and solo artists.
And it was gratifying to know that fans took time out from the bigger names to
support some excellent sets from an array of consistently good bands.
Stage 2 was in fact in a sizeable room in a restaurant, and while some bands
found this incongruous, most revelled playing to an enthusiastic rock crowd who
enjoyed the chilled atmosphere.
In fact Stage 2 got off to a laid back start with singer-song writer Charlie
Barker - who incidentally had appeared to an impromptu set on the camp site
in the early hours of the previous night. Her stage presence and heart felt
lyrics did the trick holding the crowd for a full hour.
Ray Owen, photo Noel Buckley
In between her songs there was time for a quick dash to catch Ray Owen rolling
back the years with Juicy Lucy, who are today a powerhouse rock band,
though Ray's bluesy vocal refrain acted as a foil for the guitar overdrive.
Bromham, photo Noel Buckley
Del Bromham's Stray followed in a power trio format with Del rocking the
place to great effect with such anthems as 'I Believe It', the powerful
'Jericho' and the magnificent rock anthem 'All in Your Mind'.
Back to GRTR! Stage 2 for two numbers by ambient folk band Tidy before
nipping back to the big stage for the Celtic, multi instrumental Bluehorses,
who went down very well especially with the rock crowd who had never seen them
Martin Ace, photo Noel Buckley
The re-born Welsh rockers Man followed and gradually built up a head of
steam. For a band whose numbers often top 20 minutes, the prospect of playing a
set little under an hour didn't seem to faze them, as they mixed two highlights
from their Diamonds & Coal album - the title track and the tub thumping riff
driven 'All Alone' - with long term favourites 'Romain', and of course the
climactic twin guitar workout 'Spunk Rock'. The latter gave the band a great
reception, and they duly took their bow with veteran Martin Ace positively
A quick dash to the young bands on Stage 3 found several punters still in a
state of shock from coping with the excellent Led Zep 2 playing their an
early morning wake up call, before the Grunge factor took over. But both
Strawberry Shortblade and Kyrbgrynder acquitted themselves well
on the two songs by both that I caught.
25 Yard Screamer, photo Paul Rule
PUCK rocked things up on Stage 2 and while 25 Yard Screamer proved
to be a unique prog rock outfit who somehow combined thematic development with
impassioned singing and great playing. Already signed to getreadytorock, this is
a fine band well worth catching as is Natasha Sohl who worked a more
straightforward but very effective rock approach.
Nine Below Zero , photo Noel Buckley
Back to the big hall for the unflappable Nine Below Zero who in the form
of Dennis Greaves proved you can't beat a great front man, and virtuoso players
in an R&B format. Brazilian metal merchants Mindflow were certainly
committed to their cause but seemed out of step with the programme while the
Australian Pink Floyd in truth delivered a rather pedestrian 'Dark Side of
the Moon' before picking things up on a 'best of Floyd' second set, that was
ultimately rapturously received.
John Otway, photo Noel Buckley
Sunday may have seemed a strange day to rock people out, but by the middle of
the afternoon well over a thousand people had sufficiently woken up to give
John Otway and his big band a brilliant ovation.
Otway seemed genuinely delighted by the crowd, and his twin guitar line-up
worked up a stirring dynamic. By the time of the theramin driven cover of 'Crazy
Horses', Otway had visibly left people in tears with his zany show. In fact on a
top ten ranking of the whole weekend, Otway came a close second!
John O'Leary, photo Noel Buckley
The following John O'Leary Band had it all to do, but proved to be an
inspired choice for a bluesy chill out zone, as a good crowd hit both the front
of the stage and filled the chairs to listen to a high octane set full of funk,
swing, cool grooves, inspired harp and dazzling guitar playing from O'Leary and
Jules Fothergill respectively. Blues never sounded so good from the founder
member of Savoy Brown, and the band again received a fine reception at the
The only casualty of the unremitting rain was the walk way to Stage 3 which was
very muddy, so back to Stage 2 for the political folky Simon Hopper Band
and the well received local heroes Respond, before a quick sprint back to
the main hall for some fine thematic prog rock from Karnataka. While the
vocalist looked very Gothic the music proved to be both intricate and complex by
turns but was accessible enough to please the assembled throng.
Hazel O'Connor, photo Noel Buckley
Hazel O'Connor and her band proved to be one of the surprises of the
festival, winning over the crowd with real passion most notably on a cover of
the Stranglers 'Hanging Around'. Certainly the queues on her merch stalls
suggested she had connected well with the crowd.
Deborah Bonham, photo Noel Buckley
Deborah Bonham followed, and what a voice she has. And although some of
the arrangements in her set were a trifle ponderous, she excelled on the Steve
Marriott gospel favourite 'Black Coffee - with Jerry Shirley on drums - and a
chilling version of Zeppelin's 'Battle of Evermore'.
Back on Stage 2, and Taildragger deservedly got a tremendous response
with their classy mix of shuffles, boogie and blues. Perhaps their reception was
not so surprising as they were a good choice in mixing up the styles.
Sacred Heart topped the bill, and their fans were out in force for some
hard hitting melodic rock that pleased the diehards.
Andy Powell, photo Noel Buckley
Back on the big stage Wishbone Ash overcame technical problems to deliver
a mellifluous set full of melodic lines, sweeping harmonies and some fine solo's
as expected from Andy Powell, and the impressive Muddy Manninen from Finland.
And finally after a long enough wait the bill topping appearance by Thunder.
They didn't hit the stage until 10.45pm, but Thunder thrillingly demonstrated
just why they were the festival headliners.
Every cliché, every riff, every
note, every call and response, every joyous rock and roll moment was mined in a
bar storming set. Some of the crowd had already left after a few numbers simply
because it was very late Sunday night and they had to get home in the driving
rain. But the Cambridge Rock Festival will have to work very hard to ever get a
headliner to top this performance
Danny Bowes, photo Noel Buckley
Vocalist Danny Bowes is arguably the most charismatic front man in the land with
an immense vocal range and joyously choreographed dance routine.
Thunder don't deal in the unexpected, but what they deliver is a stupendous rock
show that lives off the back of some compelling melodic hooks, lots of sing-alongs,
plenty of hand clapping, bags of fun and of course crunching guitars and Hammond
Thunder, photo Noel Buckley
Thunder take it all back to how it was many years ago, and for most of us at
Cambridge 2007, this was the band that personified what the festival was all
about. Thunder were simply magnificent. And so was the festival.
The stewarding, security, signage and services were all excellent, the
atmosphere was friendly, the prices were affordable, and with 140 real ales,
still no one fell over. Here's to the next one chaps.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos © Noel Buckley, Paul Rule, Ian
Watch the videos!!
Festival feature & interviews
Festival review 2 (Rising Stars stage)
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