After two years without a Skeggy fix, this year’s festival proved a cracker for all, being a major catch-up for many since the first Lockdown, including myself.
Butlin’s Great British Rock and Blues Festival, Skegness
14th – 17th January 2022
Review and Photography: Sally Newhouse
Attendee numbers were unsurprisingly down, with around 2500 on-site over the weekend, but that meant less queuing at bars and more time to enjoy a full schedule of artists. It was easier to find a table to sit, chat and enjoy the wide range of music on offer over the four stages. In my opinion, it was more like a relaxing holiday, with bands, than a frantic festival, despite there being 50 artists to try and catch during the weekend.
And with very reasonable prices for warm apartments, staggering distance to the all-indoor stages and a fabulous choice of food, it should be a no brainer for festival-goers.
Last-minute cancellations by bands due to the Covid-19 effect must have caused a headache for the promoters, but there was a queue of musicians champing at the bit to play Butlin’s.
We lost the magnificent Hollowstar, Vambo, Walter Trout, Vincent Flatt’s Final Drive and Rhino’s Revenge but gained the incredible substitutes Geordie, Nazareth, Deborah Bonham and The Gary Fletcher Band.
The quality of the Introducing Stage, for experienced bands who have not played the Skegness festival before, was as top-notch as regulars have come to expect.
Four bands play each afternoon over the three days. The audience vote for their favourite and the winner from each day comes back to play the main stage the following year. It was incredibly difficult to choose who to vote for. All deserved to ‘win’, and I would love to see all 12 acts play again.
The main stages, known as Reds and Centre Stage and the smaller pub-like stage, Hot Shots, are only a minute’s walk from The Skyline and each other, so it is easy to nip from one to the other. I managed to see every band over the weekend except one (sorry, Connor Selby).
There were so many musicians who rocked my docs over the weekend, but looking at the audience reaction, I think a few had that razor’s edge over the weekend.
Friday, The Introducing Stage saw The Ramblin’ Preachers voted through to the main stage next year out of the four very different bands to play. I think their brand of raucous riffs and rhythms hit the spot for the rockers in the audience.
In Reds, the lion rampant himself, Alan Nimmo of King King, had the crowd eating out of his hand and singing along with his warm whisky vocals. He looked as splendid as ever in his red kilt.
Blues rockers Miguel Montalban And The Southern Vultures followed King King and dazzled the audience with a journey of riffs supported by Miguel’s superb band. They performed music from the Vultures album, kicking off with his own song Wander and then delivering an impressive cover of the Hendrix classic Hey Joe. Backstage, after the show, Groundhogs came to commend them on an excellent version, which was lovely to witness.
Meanwhile, in Hot Shots, Redfish created a party atmosphere playing their own songs and threw in the Chuck Berry song You Never Can Tell.
Saturday kicked off with a ukulele jam in The Skyline, followed by appearances by Butlin’s favourites FM and The Stumble on Reds stage.
For the first time, travelling from Las Vegas, we welcomed to Centre Stage the Soul Doctor, aka the versatile rock blues and soul saxophonist/singer/songwriter Jimmy Carpenter. His funky vibe got the feet tapping and created a lively mood in the venue.
Again, four very different and very excellent bands played the Introducing Stage. The blues-rock-soul sound of Brave Rival won them a place on the main stage next year.
I was in awe of the huge rocking sounds of White Raven Down, who played every inch of the stage in a performance worthy of a stadium.
Perhaps the most surprising addition to the bill on Saturday evening was Jo Carley & The Old Dry Skulls, a very different genre of band to play at Skeggy R&B. Their reputation of combining the voodoo sounds of the blues with old-timey vaudeville cabaret had been the subject of hot discussion in the Facebook R&B group for weeks before the event as “ones not to be missed”. Hot Shots was packed out, and the crowd filled with anticipation. Indeed, they were spellbound throughout the band’s set.
Sunday was the final day, and I admit I was beginning to flake, but my red boots were back on at 8 am, and I refuelled with a hearty full English breakfast in the premium dining room; fuel for the next 16 bands on my menu for the day. Highlights? All of them!
With frontman Dennis Greaves in his splendid Persil white suit and dazzling smile, the six-piece Nine Below Zero smashed it in Reds during the day.
The best audience reaction was for The Allman Brothers Band Project, who delighted the crowd by busting out the classic Jessica, the iconic tune used by Top Gear.
Regulars to Butlin’s, Dr Feelgood were magnificent in the evening, with singer Robert Kane firing on all cylinders. They raced through one hit after another, with the audience dancing and joining in for the choruses of Back In The Night (cue lots of pointing), Down At The Doctors and Milk And Alcohol.
With the return of Gordon Russell on guitar, Dr Feelgood also played a few from the back catalogue that they hadn’t performed for a long time. Dr Feelgood are one to watch, with new material written for a new album to be released later in the year, hopefully.
Other highlights of Sunday include the energetic and supreme Nazareth. Carl Sentance’s voice improves with every year like a fine wine, a worthy replacement for Dan McCafferty.
Blues Rocker Eliana Cargnelutti followed on Centre Stage after winning her slot on The Introducing Stage last year. I only wish I had her talent and stage presence. What an absolute shredder and a treasure.
The Sunday bands on The Introducing Stage were a little more laid back, which was perfect for a Sunday afternoon.
Blue Nation had to play as a two-piece at short notice as their drummer couldn’t make it. They entertained the audience with their banter as much as their music and will be back next year to play the main stage in 2023.
I retired at 1 am on Monday morning as my surprisingly comfortable bed back in the warm apartment was beckoning. I missed the very last band of the weekend but went to bed fulfilled and, like so many, thrilled to be back at this extremely well-run event, catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for nearly two years.
Butlin’s Great British Rock And Blues Festival is back at Skegness in 2023 from 13-16th January.
As Minehead’s Giants Of Rock isn’t happening next year, get in quick. For more details, visit bigweekends.com
The full weekend’s line-up:
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures,
The Wilson Brothers (Ash Wilson),
Clearwater Creedence Revival (Tribute),
John Verity Band,
Deborah Bonham & Peter Bullick,
Starlite Campbell Band,
Gary Fletcher Band,
Nine Below Zero,
Jim Kirkpatrick Band,
The Allman Brothers Project Band,
Johnnie Williamson & The Blue Swamp Band,
The Blues Matters Stage in Hot Shots:
The John Angus Blues Band,
A Blues Rock Jam Session for all,
Jo Carley & The Old Dry Skulls,
When Rivers Meet,
The Terraplanes Blues Band,
The Chris Bevington Organisation,
Connor Selby with Eddy Smith.
The Introducing Stage:
Max Bianco & The Blue Hearts,
Tom Atas Duo,
The Kendall Connection,
Alex Fawcett Band,
White Raven Down,
Emma Wilson Band,
Laura Evans Band,