Saturday, July 15, 2006


GuilFest 06

It's now the third year running we've been to GuilFest but this time we dragged Samantha along too. Guilford is only an hour down the road for us and the festival tickets are a lot easier to get than for Reading Festival (and cheaper).

GuilFest is Reading Festival for the "Radio 2 Generation". The festival-goers still appreciate the music but they also realise that there is more to life, like bringing your kids along or being able to sit in comfy chairs drinking beers YOU took in with you. Imagine that - a festival where they don't strip-search you for contraband like bottles of water. And they still manage to sell loads of beer.

We've been lucky - GuilFest has been gorgeous weather every time. I'm sure it will rain sometime we decide to go but for the moment we'll enjoy the clear skies and warm sun (although not TOO much, eh, Sue?)

First stop after the St John's Ambulance tent was a Comedy Tent - not THE comedy tent, we quickly realised, but some mish-mash of entertainment (stand-up comedy, karaoke, etc) in a marquee packed with Nintendo DSes. Weird layout having Kevin Dewsbury (below) talking to an audience standing the other side of 20 kids playing on tony screens, although I'm sure he's worked in worse places. Although he was funny, you felt too far away for it to work - not the same atmosphere, made worse as he had to filter out certain subjects due to the young audience (who weren't listening anyway). It's not that I need to hear blue jokes - I don't - but it does knock the comedian off his stride. One advantage of the kiddy barrier, though, was he was too far away to effectively target anyone.

Kevin Dewsbury

After Kevin finished, we moved on in search of the REAL comedy tent which was in full flow by the time we got there. Danny James was compere and introduced the 3rd act as I settled down to watch.

Danny James (Compere)

James Branch was very good - professional with a tight performance and I recommend you look out for him in the future.

Next up was Steve Day, a rarity being a deaf comedian. We didn't need to make any allowances for this and he wasn't after any sympathy although it made good material for him. He did say that it was a nice change for him to see the audience (it being a daytime gig in an open-air marquee) - usually when his wife asks him how a gig went, he has to say "as far as I know, I stormed it" (clue: he's 70% deaf). It was interesting when he touched on the politisation of deafness, a world where it has become important for some to show if you are "Deaf" or "deaf" and where friends of the deaf are more likely to take offence than the supposed targets of humour. Sue learned this when she took a Sign Language course a couple of years ago - I find it kind of weird but as a member of an oppressed minority myself (D&D player) I can sympathise and understand.


Steve Day

Tom Stade was on a roll - he looked confident and out to enjoy himself (no idea if this was drug-assisted or not). I'm sure I've seen him at Jongleurs in Reading before and recognised some of his act - basically the anti-women stuff. Good observational work and well described so that you could easily picture a "significant other" crossing her arms and delivering the laugh that meant the "Gates of Hell had just shut behind you". Obviously, I had to use my imagine a lot to create this image - Sue doesn't bother with the preamble... Also the only comedian I've come across that started off his act taking the piss out of Wolverhampton - a place he initially thought was in the middle of a fitness campaign or sports festival from the number of track suits he saw being worn. Anyway, I picked up his CD afterwards for a £5 - bargain. It had to be a fiver as us British are too tight to pay a tenner for anything  :-)

Tom Stade

Beware of Tom Bell - he is by no stretch of the imagination funny. I spent a lot of the time while he was on just staring at the floor waiting for him to finish and depart. Only act to get heckled for being boring. The compere afterwards got really defensive about it - he suggested perfectly reasonably that if we didn't like an act we could just walk out and come back later. Yes, but I was comfortable where I was and I knew Tom Bell would go away eventually so I sat it out.

To be fair, there were some good ideas but they needed better treatment - maybe this was all new stuff and he was testing it? For example, one day he looked into the bathroom mirror and saw his father's face looking back, implying that with age you will come to resemble your parent. The twist was that in reality his father had built a false bathroom wall and bricked himself in so that when the glassless mirror was looked into, it really was his father staring back. The delivery really lacked polish.

Tom Bell


Six o'clock is kick-out time in the Hush Puppy-sponsored comedy tent so I'm forced to go and find something else to do, like watch some bands. Kosheen were soon to start (I'd already missed six other bands and singers - only 3 left now) so I slowly walked my way to near the front, navigating past walls of folding seats and fields of blankets. Sian Evans has a lovely voice and I was starting to really get into the dance/electronic music. The nice part of festivals is forcing yourself to listen to a whole set of music that you wouldn't normally touch.

Sian Evans, Kosheen

Gary Numan plays heavy rock (or dark wave industrial metal depending on what album reviews you read) and I found his set entertaining although his voice never sounds like what you'd expect for the genre. In years long gone, I did buy "Tubeway Army" and "Replicas" (admittedly both second hand) but never really got into his music past the hits. I think the same applies now - the songs they played were OK but apart from "Cars" and "Are Friends Electric" there was nothing I went away thinking that I must listen to again.

a-ha headlined Saturday so I strolled off to look around at other bands (Sue wanted to see them more than I did so I left the camera with her).

On the Ents24 stage were Blue Öyster Cult and I stayed for a few songs before drifting away - definitely a show for fans only. Maybe I'd drift by later for their "hit" :-)

I watched a couple of small bands at the LiveClub stage - Toledo Steel and Occasional Rascuedos.

Toledo Steel were a group of teenagers from Brighton who made me smile - the lyrics were bit naff but you could see they loved what they were doing and that really helps make you want to stay around (unless you've just turned up at the end of their set...). Loved the drummer, bashing away in a oversized Mad Hatter top hat over a big grin.

Occasional Rascuedos started kitted out in ponchos and Mexican hats, belying their Lancashire background. Apparantly, according to their Myspace their music is "in the style of guacamole with Platanos fritos as the "funk", crunchy nachos as the "rock" and a crazy mole of chocolate and chili as all the other types of influence stuff." which obviously matches well with their songs about girls in Blackpool that look like supermodels and talk like dockers.

Time was moving on so I navigated my way back to Sue and Samantha to catch the remainder of a-ha's set. They were pretty good so I could have watched them instead of checking out some other bands but I felt I would have short-changed myself if I had just stuck to the Comedy tent and main stage. None of the bands on this year were on my "must see" list but the day was good one none the less.

A-ha on stage

Morten Harket


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