Review Rockabilly Rave #1 - 1996

We were promised a weekend of Rockabilly and nothing but rockabilly, and boy did they deliver! This was one of the best weekenders I have attended. (I am a veteran of 15 or so in UK, plus a couple in Europe). The first surprise was the camp itself. Run by Pontins, who also own Hemsby camp, the one hall was a good size and layout, the beer was good and the chalets were so comfortable that at first I thought we must have been put on the wrong site. So impressive, in fact, that I missed the first band - the Skiprats - because I spent too long admiring our temporary home. A long and very cold walk from the venue but well worth it.

I didn't have to take that walk too often due to the high calibre of music laid on for the punters' enjoyment. I first pottered into the stalls room where I was accosted by one of the DJs, "Tall" Mark Greenaway, who had a shine in his eye like a rabid fundamentalist. "Have you been in the bar yet? It's like a firkin revolution!" he enthused. He didn't seem to be particularly intoxicated, so I was intrigued enough to check it out. He was right: the joint was jumpin'.

A simple but very loud PA was being given a thorough workout by London DJ Freckles, who excelled himself by playing nothing but hot rockabilly boppers for the next hour and kept the dance floor jammed with happy feet. The second act of the event was Hot Stuff, who certainly lived up to their name. They played some great covers alongside their own excellent material, the names of which I can't tell you because I later lost my notes. The mob certainly dug 'em, as they did The Rimshots; always big fave with the London crowd, who made up the majority of the audience, the 'Shots put on a great show, with tracks from the new Big Cigar EP getting a strong response, especially "Off It Again".

The rest of Friday night belonged to the DJs, starting with Jerry's Chatabox record hop. Jerry is the guy who organised the weekender, and his twenty years of experience running/DJing clubs are his greatest asset. The pace did not let up for the whole two days - rockabilly boppers ONLY. A bit of a bummer if you only like surf or blues, but those people had wisely stayed at home. Those of us with a slap-bass addiction thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Next man behind the turntables was Go, a Japanese DJ currently living in London. He is going back home in December, and London's loss will be Tokyo's gain. When he first started DJing in clubs a few years ago he played little to make him standout from the rest. He has rapidly found his feet, however, and has an unending talent for finding great rocking tracks youhaven't heard before.

The aforementioned Tall Mark played the last two hours and had lost none of his evangelical zeal. At 7 AM the floor was still packed with frantically bopping people, about 50/50 male/female (yes, the infamous Maz was in attendance).

All that energy and yet the Rockabilly Rave was one rave without an ecstasy tab in sight. There WAS plenty of Gillespies' stout, though, which gave a splendidly colourful hangover. I wasn't terribly conscious of my surroundings until around 16:30 on Saturday, when spin-doctor Cosmic Keith was playing scorching rarities. The "special bonus Rockabilly Rave band" turned out to be The Infernos, about whom I know nothing. They were the hit of the weekend when they burned up the stage with some innovative interpretations of some great numbers. Songs like the Benny Joy diller Wild Wild Lover were lapped up by the crowd. Tightly rehearsed and with boundless energy, these boys are going far.

The Ricardos from Portsmouth, England were on after a brief spot from Go (whose time was cut short by many encores from The Infernos). I missed the Ricardos set because I was eating (I CANNOT recommend the restaurant!) but I was told that they played their usual solid rocking set. Organiser Jerry took the prime DJ spot from 21:00 on Saturday, where he was a little relaxed with the RAB-only rule, spinning some good R&B and straight Rock'n'Roll into the mix.

Riley McOwen & the Sleazy Rustic Boys soon redressed the balance with their unique brand of "authentic" (dread word!) RAB. All of the tracks they have put out on vinyl were present and correct and blasted out in crowd-thrilling manner. Sadly, McOwens voice was succumbing to "weekender throat" by the end of the set, and they had to leave the audience baying for more.

That "more" was provided by the last band of the weekend, Wildfire Willie & the Ramblers. Alas, Jan was also struck with vocal difficulties half-way through their third number which marred the rest of their show. The large Swedish contingent, who had already made their presence felt during the Rustic Boys act, kept the volume up - rowdy enough to wake up the security a little! I thought that the felines might be disappointed by the lack of encores, but most seemed happy that Jan was wounded in action (against the bottle) in true wildstyle. After all, the music played on.

Mark and Cosmic Keith worked that old magic, keeping the faithful drinking way past their bed-times. The unconscious drunks provided the usual amusing opportunities for dressing-up, debagging, etc. (Sorry to the guy who woke up cuddling a plastic penguin). The gig was rounded off in style by Dave Crozier from Brighton, who showed yet again why he is Europe's premier rocking DJ. My last happy memory of the weekend is sobbing beerily with emotion as Dave played Tooter Boatman's "Will of Love". The sight of hundreds of Rockabilly fanatics bursting their lungs with bopping was just overwhelming. Probably due to that last vodka...

Sunday was the usual round of shouted goodbyes, swallowing painkillers and swearing "never again!" Jerry promises me that he will do another one next year. If Rockabilly is your main thing, and you think a weekender should be about music (not $1000 jackets and who has the nicest car) then you should seriously consider saving up for it.

Bill Smoker