A New Day Festival - Day 1

Friday 19th August 2022

Mt Ephraim Gardens, Faversham, Kent

Given the warm welcome from both our car park steward and the staff in the wristband collection tent, it was indeed good to back for the first day of A New Day, a delightful festival held over three days in Faversham's beautiful Mt Ephraim Gardens. Arriving in good time, we headed down the hill from the entrance, towards the right, to the smaller The Sabine Jerram Stage, to catch the first of ten bands/artists on show, namely Big River, who started promptly at 12.30pm.

Indeed, this UK Blues Rock band, formed in 2016, kicked off proceedings on the main stage on the final day of the festival last year, a decision that resulted in a number of punters asking why they were on so early? We first came across guitarist Damo Fawsett when he played with his band at our WRC BluesFest at Gravesend's Leo's Red Lion just over eight years ago when he, headliner Aynsley Lister and The Mentulls Andrew Pipe, jammed together on a brilliant cover of Freddie King's 'I'm Tore Down'. Since then we've seen this band, consisting of 'The Voice' finalist/ex-Mick Ralphs Blues Band vocalist, Adam Barron, Damo, drummer Joe Martin and bassist Simon Gardiner (who has replaced Ant Wellman since last year) on the circuit numerous times, keeping the spirit and passion of British Blues/Rock bands such as Free and Bad Company, well and truly alive. And once again we were posing the question as to why they were not further up the order, given their storming 45 minute set, that coincided with the launch of the follow up to their 2019 debut album, "Redemption', and their latest four-track EP, 'Beautiful Trauma', which they played in its entirety. Stand outs for mine of their awesome ten song set were Damo's guitar solo on their EP title track, the 'Whiskey In The Jar' intro to 'Devil's Whiskey, the Lenny Kravitz vibe of 'Slow Burn', their banger 'Hometown Hustler' and Adam's vocal on 'Blackened Rain'. Just as last year, what a way to start 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 (or unfortunately, bottle of water in my case, as I was driving), before the next artist on the larger The Canterbury Ales Stage, namely Americana Folk Roots virtuoso Rodney Branigan, billed with a touch of clean comedy thrown in for good measure. Despite, reportedly going down a storm on Glastonbury's Acoustic Stage last year, 'Don't Rain On My Parade' was definitely not on the Texas-born troubadour's set list, as he jokingly dismissed a unexpected downpour, as just passing rain. Although, to be honest, despite us being all soaked to the skin, the surprise shower was just as refreshing as Rodney's fifty minute set, with not only his adventurous, boundary-breaking guitar playing, but also in his humour as he introduced the subject matter of his songs such as spanking, stalking and inflation! Highlights were his bouncing Flamenco technique on two acoustic guitars at the same time, which sounded very reminiscent of Joe Bonamassa's 'Woke Up Dreaming', that have not unsurprisingly earned him the title "The Two Guitar Man", as well as amusingly asking the audience to help him out when he forgot the words to The Beatles 'Come Together', plus his final song, the beautiful 'Love Song', pure and simple, no jokes or tricks, with its Sheeran vibe, testament to why he has shared a stage or collaborated with the likes of Jack Johnson, Bo Didley and Tommy Emmanuel.

Perhaps there was a case for Rodney to have played the more intimate The Sabine Jerram Stage, which was our next stop, to see the Rock & Blues guitarist, producer and singer/songwriter and former Argent legend, John Verity. Indeed, earlier on, when walking towards the main stage, on spotting my back stage lanyard, I had the honour of one of the A New Day crew asking if I was in JV's band, as they were trying to locate him! At least John had changed out of his beanie hat by the time he arrived on stage declaring "Good job its stopped raining", looking very dapper in black, supported by the incomparable Roger Innes on bass and Chris Mansbridge on drums. Having seen JV many times before, as expected his ten-song, forty five minute set was as sparkling as the sequins on his jacket, with a delightful mix of Blues/Rock classics such as 'Cocaine', 'I Put A Spell On You', Terry Reid's 'Stay With Me Baby', 'Purple Haze' and 'Rocky Mountain Way', plus 'Sand In My Pocket' from his latest album 'Passion', and of course two Argent hits, namely 'God Gave Rock And Roll To You' (that JV irritatingly pointed out was not written by Kiss) and 'Hold Your Head Up', where after all these years of me professing to be an Argent fan, John pointed out that the "wow" in the chorus is in fact "woman". Despite that bombshell, Verity cemented his awesome vocal and guitar playing pedigree to an ecstatic Faversham crowd, a career that has seen him support legendary artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and play with Keith Emerson and Ringo Starr.

Festivals like this are not all about the bands taking part, but they're also as much about meeting other like-minded people. As JV kindly passed me his set list, another punter asked if he could take a photo of it. This guy had never seen JV before, and I explained that the John Verity Band once supported Argent on tour, and then in 1973 Rod Argent asked Verity to front his band, following the departure of Russ Ballard. In the end I gave him the set list! Any JV fan is a friend of mine! Anyway, it was now time to head back to The Canterbury Ales Stage for ex-circus clown and fire eater (yes, seriously), Rory McLeod. Billed not only as a one man soulband, poet and storyteller, singing his own unique upbeat dance stories, McLeod is also a modern travelling troubadour using tap shoes, acappella, harmonica, guitar, trombone, spoons, finger cymbals, bandorea, djembe and various percussion instruments! The mind boggled in anticipation! Opening with some high jinx on his harmonica, as the sun reappeared, this one man band a la Andy Twyman, did exactly what he said on the tin, as he removed his red check shirt to move on to his next musical conquest, his acoustic guitar. Indeed, given Rory's stories were both humorous and moving at the same time, one couldn't fail to warm to this global traveller, even if some of his tales in his 55 minute set took longer than the music itself! Highlights for mine were his stories of Orkney, his Mum and Dad and his poignant track, 'The Dreams We Breathe Through'. As I climbed the hill back to the bar, once again I pondered whether Rory's set would have been better on the more intimate The Sabine Jerram Stage?

Anyway, on the way up, we 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. After catching up with these lovely guys and gals, we headed back down the hill towards that very same The Sabine Jerram Stage to see the Heavy Metal Kids. Formed in 1972, these guys were synonymous with the British Glam Rock scene and in particular late frontman Gary Holton, who also found fame as an actor in the TV series 'Auf Wiedersehen. Pet'. Given the excesses of the 70s, I can't really recall actually seeing them live before, so was not really sure what to expect. Step forward Knut and his two friends to enlighten us, who had travelled all the way from Norway for A New Day, and in particular the Heavy Metal Kids! A rousing intro tape that neatly coincided with the sun reappearing, saw the latest HMK incarnation, consisting of 'originals' Cosmo (guitar) and Keith Boyce (drums), plus PJ Phillips (bass), Andy Fuller (keyboards) and Simon Gordon (vocals), launch into a storming 12-song 55-minute set. Indeed, Gordon, stepping into the size nines of Holton and latterly John Altman (Nick Cotton) and Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns), put the Kid into Kids with a voice, attitude and swagger that would have made his predecessors proud, such as his introduction to 'Kitsch's 'Chelsea Kid's' - "Any Chelsea here today? No? You're Losers Anyway!" Highlights for mine were the SAHB sounding 'The Big Fire' from 1975's 'Anvil Chorus', the Deep Purplish jam by the 'originals including Boyce's outstanding drum solo on 'The Turk/Crisis' and their greatest hit, 'She's No Angel'. Although, the stand out from the set, and most probably the whole day, was their cover of Montrose's 'Rock Candy', with both Cosmo and Fuller excelling, taking me back to 1974 and The Valley when Montrose opened for The Who. Suffice to say, Knut was correct. These Kids Are Alright!

Similar to last year, 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 again well and truly evident! Our intended backstage interview with Adam and Damo from Big River was postponed for the moment as Mr. Barron wanted to see the next band on The Canterbury Ales Stage, none other than Hugh Cornwell, widely regarded as the poet laureate of the Punk era. Indeed, we all have our own support band stories, so just before Christmas in 1975 we saw The Stranglers at London's Nashville Rooms (nowadays the Three Kings Sports Bar), with their iconic line-up of the late Dave Greenfield (keys), Jet Black (drums), Jean-Jacques Burnel (bass guitar) and of course, vocalist/guitarist Cornwell. Still dressed in black, but now operating with a trio made up of Pat Hughes on bass and Windsor McGilvray on drums, Cornwell's hour long set not only took us back to those halcyon days of the 70's with 'Hanging Around', but also nicely demonstrated that time has not stood still for this songwriter, who has gone on to write nine further albums since departing the Punk icons. Indeed, stand outs for mine were 'Under Her Spell' from 2004's 'Beyond Elysian Fields', the title track from 2018's 'Monster' and 'Going To The City' from 2008's 'Hooverdam'. No 'Peaches', 'Golden Brown' or indeed 'No More Heroes', and even though I will always prefer Dionne Warwick's version, they closed out their set with a Santana-ish 'Walk On By', which brought back fond memories of The Nashville yesteryear. Cornwell releases his highly anticipated tenth solo album, 'Moments of Madness', on Friday 7th October, and to dovetail with the new album, Hugh will embark on a 21-date nationwide UK tour from Friday 4th November to Saturday 3rd December.

Thankfully our chat with Adam and Damo went ahead back stage (watch out for our podcast coming out soon), although during that interview we could all hear the wonderful voice of Kaz Hawkins booming out from The Sabine Jerram Stage. After taking home the crown of top European Blues Band at the 2017 European Blues Challenge, and following a lengthy hiatus, she now resides in France. Indeed, Kaz has been on our radar since 2015, however, as we rushed around to the smaller stage, I'm embarrassed to say that this was the first time I had seen Belfast's Queen Of The Blues live. And boy, was I not disappointed with a spellbinding hour-long set. Fortuitously catching the title track of her 2016 IBBA Album Of The Year, 'Feelin Good', for openers, Hawkins reputation as a powerhouse live performer were as plane to see as the bubble machine's bubbles exploding on our faces, equally matched by two awesome solos from Belgium's Stef Paglia on guitar and France's Cédric Le Goff on keyboards, not forgetting fellow Frenchmen, Amaury Blanchard on drums and Julien Boisseau on bass. 'Drink With The Devil', from one of her four previous album's, 2014's 'Get Ready', was the opportunity for Kaz to grab her acoustic guitar, followed by the Memphis Blues Roots of 'Hallelujah Happy People', another from 'Get Ready'. Written three years ago, 'Hold On Home' saw another unbelievable keys solo from Cédric, before the stand out of the set, and possibly the whole day, the very personal, 'Because You Love Me', taken from her latest album, 'My Life And I', released in April on Dixiefrog Records, which to these ears, given Stef's slide guitar, had Pink Floyd written all over it. Amazing. And just to finally prove her versatility, whether its classic Blues, Soul, Gospel, Rock or Ballads, Kaz showed her fun loving attitude on stage by helping out Amaury on drums on the set closer, 'I Just Want To Make Love To You', taken from the aforementioned album, 'Feelin' Good'. Follow that Ian Anderson!

As last year, the organisation on the day at A New Day by Frank and him trusty team was excellent. The same also applied in advance of the weekend itself. Indeed, we had received instructions that no photographer's were allowed in the pit for Jethro Tull's performance, next on the The Canterbury Ales Stage, and that there was also a shut down backstage, so no interviews. Believe it or not, when I exited the backstage toilets a bit earlier and saw Mr. Anderson heading in my direction, I was afraid, very afraid! Seriously though, in another twist, the "headlining" British Progressive Rock luminaries had also chosen not to play last tonight, having handing the honours over to Ten Years After. However, none of these shenanigans were going to taint the enjoyment of our two special guests and mega JT fans, John and Trish, who lapped up their polished seventy-five minute set, despite a slight delay to proceedings at the beginning. Having also seen Martin Barre, Clive Bunker and their band giving a fresh take on a lot of Tull classics as they celebrated 50 Year's Of 'Aqualung' on this very same stage last year, it was now back to business for Anderson, resurrecting their Grammy award winning tunes after a ten year hiatus, with his excellent band comprising of Joe Parrish (guitar/vocals), Scott Hammond (drums), John O'Hara (keys) and David Goodier (bass). Not being a major JT fan myself, it was still a sight to behold seeing this quirky slice of Rock history not only explain the backstory to their songs, but to also see this perennial pied piper moving majestically around the stage, singing and playing his flute. A bit like Trigger's broom, Anderson is the only original remaining iconic part, as his band, respectfully in the background, delved back in time for a set list that aptly included 'Living In The Past' (1969 'Stand Up'), 'Dharma For One' (1969 'This Was') featuring a Hammond drum solo, 'Broadsword' and 'Clasp' (1982 'Broadsword And The Beast'), 'Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll' (1976 'Too Young to Die!'), 'Songs From The Wood' (1977 title track), 'Locomotive Breath' and the title track from the aforementioned 'Aqualung' (1971), plus 'Mrs Tibbets', taken from their first new album in eighteen years, 'The Zealot Gene', released in January, based around the mother of the captain of the Enola Gay. Bit of a tenuous link here but 'The Dambusters March' taken from the very apt 'Bursting Out' (1978), not only heralded the end of a fascinating set, but also meant that the backstage toilets were now reopen! Cue Anderson's pre-recorded band introductions to the strains of Louis Armstrong, as I hastily made my way towards the gents. Aaah indeed, 'What A Wonderful World'.

With the sun now setting and with a bit of a nip in the air, given my son and I were both wearing shorts, what better way to warm ourselves up than by making our way back to The Sabine Jerram Stage for the very last time to catch the legendary English Rock band, Stray, synonymous of course with guitarist/vocalist, and Acton's very own Del Bromham. Formed when England last won the World Cup, but admired internationally, including our American WRC correspondent, Rick Menniti, Del is still at the helm, and they are just as powerful as they ever were, now comprising of Karl Randall (drums), Pearl Handle Revolver's Simon Rinaldo (keyboards), Colin Kempster (bass), Pete Dyer (second guitar and vocals) plus of course Bromham. And as expected they delivered the goods in a pulsating hour long set with lots of laughs and banter in between. They kicked things off with 'Pretty Things' from their album 'Mudanzas' (1973) featuring Dyer on vocals, followed by 'Jericho' from 'Suicide' (1971). And to prove they are not resting on their laurels, they then aired two new songs from their forthcoming/Covid delayed album, the first of which saw us literally 'Living The Dream', given the Quo vibe of this absolute belter, whereas the second, 'Black Sun', was a bit of a tasty rocker! Another from 'Mudanzas', 'I Believe It', not only saw a trademark Bromham solo, but also saw the very same guitarist in the hat hold one magical note for what seemed like an eternity, before they dipped into their 1971 album 'Saturday Morning Pictures', with 'After The Storm'. They closed out a memorable set with the title track from 1976's 'Houdini' followed by 'All In Your Mind' from their self-titled 1970 album. A definite night for the Rock purest, however, if alternatively you need a fix of Bromham's Blues, then make sure you catch Del with his Blues Devils plus John Verity, as The Verity Bromham Band will be shortly heading out on tour, beginning with The Great British R&B, Rock, Roots and Folk Festival this coming Saturday in Colne, Lancashire.

As we made our way to The Canterbury Ales Stage for the final time on this first brilliant day of A New Day, coincidentally, exactly 53 years and two days ago today, this next band played probably the most famous and iconic festival of all time. Woodstock. Formed in 1967 in Nottinghamshire by guitarist/vocalist Alvin Lee, bassist Leo Lyons, drummer Ric Lee and keyboardist Chick Churchill, renowned British Blues Rockers Ten Years After current lineup consists of only two original members, Ric Lee and Churchill, with new recruits since 2014 including bass player Colin Hodgkinson and guitarist and vocalist Marcus Bonfanti. The band’s 65 minute set got off to a storming start with the groove laden ‘Land of the Vandals’ from the excellent 2017 album ‘A Sting in the Tale’. A brilliant high energy heavy Blues song with an infectious groove. Bonfanti owned the stage with his youthful energy and passionate performance. Hot on its heels came ‘One of These Days’ from the 1971 album ‘A Space in Time’. A mid-paced rocker which saw Bonfanti blast out some vibrant harmonica lines with Churchill keeping the main riff flowing on the keyboards. The time was right for a classic in the form of ‘Hear Me Calling’ from the 1969 album ‘Stonedhenge’. A haunting irresistible boogie that juddered along with slick understated soloing from Bonfanti. The classics kept coming with ‘I'd Love to Change the World’ from the 1971 album ‘A Space in Time’. A nice mellow hippie tune with juxtaposing crashes and wallops! The energy bar was raised even more with ‘Silverspoon Lady’, another quality tune from the 2017 album ‘A Sting in the Tale’. A spectacularly fast boogie rocker with ravishing layers of smokin' hot keyboard action from Churchill and scrumptious guitar work from Bonfanti! 'Hobbit' from 1973's 'Recorded Live', preceded one of the band’s most successful single releases ‘Love Like a Man’ from the 1970 album ‘Cricklewood Green’ of which this song's repeated bewitching riff is spellbindingly potent, with Bonfanti's solo near the end taking it to another level all together. ‘Good Morning Little School Girl’ (Sonny Boy Williamson cover) from the 1969 album ‘Ssssh’ was just as sinuous! This track laid the bedrock for even greater expansive improvisation. After 'I Say Yeah from 1970's 'Watt, the penultimate number was the thundering ‘I'm Going Home’ originally from the 1968 live album ‘Undead’. And finally, to set us off into the now dark night on a high we were treated to the rapturous ‘Choo Choo Mama’ from the 1972 album ‘Rock and Roll Music to the World’. A fast paced boogie rocker that had many heads bopping and hips swaying!

What a way to end such a memorable first day. Handing the A New Day review baton over to you now Simon for the final two days. You will not be disappointed mate!

AJ

Photos by Les Linyard and AJ