A New Day Festival - Day 1
Friday 20th August 2021
Mt Ephraim Gardens, Faversham
Given, for obvious reasons, that this was my first outside festival for over two years, the congestion on the two-lane M2 at the tail end of my journey, was a mere inconvenience. Having heard such good reports in recent years about this newish festival held in Faversham's Mt Ephraim Gardens, the warm welcome we received from A New Day stewards Toni and Paul, as we parked up our car, further heightened our excitement of what lied ahead over the next three days, as we headed up the hill past the assorted camper vans and tents towards the gates. You could smell "festival" in the air - and I didn't mean the toilets!
Oh, how we've missed this! With two other Kent festivals, namely Ramblin' Man Fair and Black Deer both casualties of Covid-19, it was so reassuring to see a queue once again, proudly displaying a myriad of Rock t-shirts, despite its length! Indeed, no doubt like a lot of people, whilst in the queue, I bumped into some friends, Stewart, Eve and their five-month old labrador puppy, and as we entered the beautiful grounds, we then headed down the hill, towards the right, to the smaller Stage 2 to catch Stevie Simpson - One Bloke - One Mandolin.
Apparently, earlier in his set, baseball capped Stevie had quipped that the gates must be locked, given he was initially playing to the proverbial one man and his dog. Thankfully, the crowd swelled once the queue had subsided, and Simpson got the attention his one-man set duly deserved. Stand out's for mine were the excellent 'The Gallow's Song' and the "one about playing Country music when you're not American" - 'Country Music And Blood Flowing Through My Veins'. After Covid-19, Stevie's invite to the punters to visit his merch stand, seriously took on more of a financial significance nowadays, and indeed there was not enough time to interview the festival regular, once described as "probably the hardest working musician on the biker circuit", as he was off to Weyfest! Anyway, what a great set to kick off A New Day.
One of the great things about A New Day is that there is no band overlap. So you had ten minutes or so to grab another beer, before the first band on the larger Stage 1, namely the iconic Soft Machine, originally formed in the Garden of England's World Cup winning year, just up the road in Canterbury. Ironically, almost 53 years ago to this day, the original incarnation were playing the New York Rock Festival in Flushing Meadows, Queens, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and understandably, a bit like Trigger's broom, they have had many components over the years. This latest incarnation featuring John Etheridge (guitar), Theo Travis (saxophone/flute/keys), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums), was originally derived from 'Soft Machine Legacy' - formed in 2004 - although the 'Legacy' bit was dropped six years ago. An expected explosive mix of Psychedelic Rock, Jazz Fusion and Progressive Rock, saw a few punters down the front with children, amusingly looked for cover on their opener 'Hidden Details', underlying they are indeed an acquired taste. However, there is no doubting the quality of this unit, chomping at the bit to play live music once again, underlined by the excellent 'A Man Who Waved At Trains', written by original keyboard player, Mike Ratledge. Soft Machine are also playing London's iconic 100 Club on Monday 20th September.
The sun was now out, so it was time to climb the hill to the bar. On the way up, I bumped into A New Day regulars Mr Green, Mr. Pink etc., who were the ones who originally tipped us off about this festival, having regularly seen the guys at Ramblin' Man, Wrinklystock and on the London gig circuit. However, the wait for my beer took too long, caused by card payment problems at both the bar and the merchandise stand. However, despite the problems, the feel good factor continued across the festival, the age demographic of which was well spread, although the balance was perhaps tipped, understandably, in the wrinkly rockers favour. Indeed, that old adage of, "That You Are Never Too Old To Rock" was well and truly evident!
It was time for The Emerald Dawn on Stage 2, and on the way down the hill, I not only managed to get myself a diet coke (very sad), but I also bumped into Jamie Pipe of The Mentulls, who were playing on Sunday. Suffice to say that Jamie very kindly agreed to do a short interview, where he dropped the bombshell that he was also playing keys for Martin Barre later tonight!
I suppose it wasn't the greatest of introductions when the MC mistakenly introduced The Emerald Dawn as Kindred Spirit, although the expectant crowd assembled saw the funny side of this faux pas! The multi-instrumentalist, Symphonic Progressive Rock quartet from Cornwall, fifteen miles from Lands End to be exact, were our Friday Video Of The Day with a taster of their fourth studio album, 'To Touch The Sky' that was released in March, and so their set was highly anticipated. And we weren't disappointed, as Tree Stewart (keyboards/vocals) rocked her three-tier Roland stack around, complemented by the Tintagel t-shirt wearing guitar prowess of Ally Carter, and the engine room of David Greenaway on bass and Tom Jackson on drums. As they said "We only do long songs", but that didn't matter as the crowd lapped up 'Beyond The Wall', 'Shadow In Light' (wow!), ("Disneyland In The Dark") 'In The Dead Of The Night', that also saw Ally on saxophone), the epic 'Dragonfly', and finally, the Jazz Fusion of 'As Darkness Falls'. We also managed to interview the delightful Tree afterwards, who tipped us off that they will also be playing Balham's Bedford on Sunday 19th September. We will be there!
One of our treasured WRC correspondents recently recalled the time when he saw Ozric Tentacles at Tonbridge's Angel Centre circa 1985. With the exception of headliner Martin Barre, all the bands today were a first live for me. So, with the noise emanating from Stage 1, as I made my way from Stage 2, imagine my surprise to see just two musicians on stage playing keyboards! Indeed, one of the most influential bands to emerge from the UK’s festival scene, Ozric Tentacles Electronic comprises of the creative vision of multi-instrumentalist Ed Wynne and Silas Neptune who performed tracks from their extensive back catalogue as well as tracks from the most recent album, 'Space For The Earth'. Uniquely connecting fans of Progressive Rock, Psychedelia and dance music culture, you just couldn't keep your feet still, as the audience danced to their trippy, dreamy soundscapes, with Ed also outstanding on guitar, as the sun shone with a distinct whiff of wacky backy in the air.
It was definitely Prog Folk Rock five-piece Kindred Spirit this time on Stage 2! Indeed vocalist/guitarist Elaine Samuels had kindly posted on our Facebook page earlier in the day that "they were really looking forward to playing for you all this afternoon." Consisting of classically trained Catherine Cooper, playing flute and saxophone, Martin Ash on guitar, violin and viola, Mike Hislop (also of The Far Meadow) on bass guitar and drummer Aleem Saleh, their sound initially was reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, although did I detect a hint of Pink Floyd in "I Need Your Love'? Complemented by their resident dancer at the front of the stage (think Howard Jones in the 80's), in what appeared to be a dressing gown plus his staff, the stand out for mine from the set was, 'Seek The Fire', that saw everyone clapping their hands together.
Back to Stage 1, and as the MC said "there's meant be an ex in there somewhere, but this is Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash!" Praise indeed for the spangly suited founding original member, lead vocalist and key creative force, that over four decades later, continues to delight audiences worldwide. And today was no exception, with their distinctive dual guitar harmonies on Melodic Rock Ash classic after classic, taken from their albums 'Argus', 'Pilgrimage', 'There’s the Rub', 'New England' and 'Live Dates'. Given the band had not performed for eighteen months, Turner was not only on good form with his bass guitar but also with his banter, wishing Paul (whoever that was) a happy birthday, plus a bit of a political catch up by saying "goodbye to Europe, Trump, Afghanistan and Covid-19!" Thankfully, his band, consisting of guitarists Danny Wilson and Misha Nikolic, and drummer Tim Brown, did all the talking musically, particularly on 'Sorrel', 'Blowin' Free' and 'Doctor', that left the A New Day crowd in rapture.
Following interviews with both Martin Barre and his drummer Darby Todd, we were now back on Stage 2 catching the remainder of feisty, Celtic-inspired, psy-folk band Flutatious' set. Blending soaring melodic flute, flying fiddle, spacey guitars and groovy beats, the band consisting of classically trained flautist Michelle Devonshire, untrained upside down bass guitarist Bill Forwell, violin player extraordinaire Stella Ferguson, Mr. subtle guitar Andy Faulkner and banger of pots and pans and skins and things, Malcolm Bailey, have built up an incredible reputation with their live performances. Indeed, their nine song set rocked along, the stand outs for mine being 'Spacechick', 'Consumption' and their finale, 'Road To Skye', dedicated to the audience, that saw some epic guitar feedback from Faulkner, clapping, dancing in the aisles (if there were any aisles) and deserved rapturous applause. Where else would you see our friend in a dressing gown, now resplendent with a crown, dancing with a bearded guy in a Rush t-shirt?
Slightly behind schedule, multi award-winning folk singer Seth Lakeman was next up on Stage 1. With the sun going down, a less frenetic set was the order of the evening as the charismatic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began with the title track from his Mercury Prize nominated ‘Kitty Jay’. Dartmoor's favourite son not only has a incredibly distinctive voice, but he can sure play that viola, as he asked the crowd to try and sing along to the title track of his gold selling follow-up, 'Freedom Fields'. Also a member of Robert Plant's band, The Sensational Space Shifters, the word sensational has certainly rubbed off on his own band - outstanding backing vocals, mandolin, banjo - you name it - on a chilled setlist that included '1643', the ballad 'The White Hare' plus a glorious track, that I didn't catch the name of, that had an unmistakeable Plant vibe to it. "Good to see you dancing there", Lakeman remarked, as he picked up his viola and tuned it in, before launching into 'Lady Of The Sea', followed up by his new single 'Love Will Remain'. Indeed, love was certainly in the evening air when Seth concluded his delightful set, as the New Day crowd demanded an encore, that Lakeman duly obliged.
"Finally we can come out of the bunker and make a racket again.. deep joy!" That was indeed Krankschaft's early morning post on our Facebook page, and to be perfectly honest, the Punky Space Krautrockers were already on our must see list for Day 1. The final band on Stage 2, on all accounts it was a very welcome return for the band that graced the very first A New Day Festival back in 2016. Sweeping the stage with their brooms and wearing orange overalls to match their Orange amps, you could have easily mistaken them for the the New Day cleaning crew, until they launched into the driving Rock of 'Dark Energy'. It was the nearest we had come to a mosh pit all day, and was duly welcomed with open arms by their following, who sang along to 'Hollow Earth', the electronic Pop of 'Our Words' (with a peddle board twist), the new, slower 60's Psychedelic sounding 'Under The Ocean' (and not 'Crazy Horses'), the quirky Prog Rock of 'Enlightenment', a storming cover of SAHB's 'Faith Healer', the swingers club dedication for 'Moon' with its The Who meets Coldplay vibe, and finally the Punky 'Who What Why'. The Krautrockers were right, this set was indeed deep joy!
With an almost full moon peeping out above the magnificent ampitheatre that was Stage 1, it was time for Friday's headliner, 50 Year's Of Jethro Tull's 'Aqualung' with Martin Barre, Clive Bunker and band. We also had the opportunity of catching up with Martin before the set, given the last time we interviewed him was when he released his solo album 'Roads Less Travelled' almost three years ago. Indeed, Barre relayed the sentiment of our interview by confiding with the crowd that the last twelve months had been a nightmare, and rehearsal preparations for tonight's performance, for God knows how long, had been difficult. Well it didn't show! Consisting of more or less the same line-up when we saw them headlining at the Chelsea Blues Festival back in March 2019, their polished professionalism immediately shone through early doors with some not so well known Tull tracks, such as the instrumental 'After You After Me', plus of course, some classics. As we mentioned earlier, The Mentulls Jamie Pipe was guesting on keys, with Martin joking with the audience that "Jamie had to learn the whole of 'Passion Play' last night!" Or was he being serious? Imposing vocalist Dan Crisp's Anderson mannerisms were beguiling, duly backed up two wonderful backing singers plus the engine room of Alan Thompson on bass and Darby Todd on drums, who we also interviewed earlier, and who a week earlier was playing in front of 40,000 Devin Townsend fans at Bloodstock! And if that aperitif wasn't enough, the 'Aqualung' main course duly followed in its wonderful entirety and sequence with original JT legend Clive Bunker joining Todd on a dual drum kit. Despite, sadly no Dee Palmer, Barre once again demonstrated why his sound and guitar playing is a major factor in Jethro Tull's success. And if you missed out, make sure you purchase Martin's '50 Years Of Jethro Tull', that similar to tonight's set, gives a fresh take on a lot of Tull classics.
Continuing the food analogy, Day 1 was very similar to dining at a carvery and asking for a bit of everything. So many genres. So many great bands. Roll on Day 2!