Review Rockabilly Rave #18 - 2014

A & J All the Way To Rockabilly Rave 16 by Andrew Smith

On a beautiful day in June, the gravitation pull of the near full moon encouraged us an many others to follow their noses south to Camber Sands, and the 18th Rockabilly Rave.  There are events and weekenders that simply are a must for us, and top of my list is the Rave.  It offers the escape from day to day reality, and a chance to share four days with like minded folk, and enjoy the best Rockabilly from all a myriad of artists from near and far.  And it brings attendees from equally amazing distances, arriving as they do in cars heaving under the strain of four occupants and all their clobber.

It’s not long before the tranquil setting of the Pontins site comes alive with rumbling cases, heavy foot fall on the iron stairs and pockets of people with no sense of direction, searching for their accommodation.  Flags adorn windows, sounds emanate from various players, livers brace themselves for the inevitable alcoholic onslaught, smoke alarms bleep incessantly, and opportunistic gulls try and nab food from unsuspecting people’s bags . The sun shone gloriously through Thursday, so warm it was, it almost unrolled the sides of Mal Price’s hat.

The Detonators Car club do sterling work directing traffic in the main entrance, ensuring the classics have pride of place near the main building.  The stalls had set up and the first purchases were made, hey, they were actually open for a full twenty minutes before someone (who will remain nameless) had made a purchase.

Enough of this frippery, we thought, not wanting to miss what the coming night would bring.  All of which takes place in the main ballroom the first day.

Rock n Doel.  Thursday night began in earnest in the main ballroom with the Doel Brothers.  Last year they kicked some Hillbilly butt in the downstairs hall, and now deservedly, they were on the main stage playing to a decent sized crowd that increased as the set went on. 
This is memorable stuff readers, the brothers, joined by Steve Whitworth on upright bass, played an entire set of their own material, and much of it whetting the appetite for their new upcoming CD release.  With the quality of the sound so pristine, and the class musical and vocal delivery so adroit, it actually sounds like the material came out of the ‘tonks somewhere other than Hampshire.
Tracks like ‘I Left My Wife In Vegas’, ‘Show Me You’re Mine’, ‘Rockin’ Shoes’, ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’ and ‘Screamin’ Bop’ were cheered along rowdily and deservedly throughout.  It can be a tough spot going on first, but the Doel Brothers hit the ground running and set the event up perfectly.

The Shooting Stars from the UK were recognisable from other bands, but new to us.  Although for all the world they looked like a Western band, they truly enforced the ‘can’t judge a book by the cover’ philosophy  This was powerhouse stuff folks and at times not for the faint of heart.
The opening ‘Shooting Star Stomp’ was a rip roaring success of a pounding instrumental that fair shook the hall to it’s foundations.  I think the set only contained eleven tunes, but all were ballsy, pounding rockers, like the title of their 10” single ‘Watchtower Blues’.
The goodies kept coming with ‘Shoulda Moved to Memphis’, ‘I Ain’t Messin Around’, ‘Incinerator’ and ‘Lettie Boo’ assaulting the aural experience.  Storming stuff!!

Jittery Jack launching his new CD and making a long overdue return to the Rave was up next.  His image had adorned the cover of the Rave booking leaflet, so people were familiar with the cartoon likeness if not with the music.  Personally, if I’d have heard ‘What’s Buzzin Cuzzin’ that would have done me, and indeed that’s what he opened with!  There then followed a set of Boston based original stuff that really rocked in a slightly crazed and out-to-lunch style.
Wide eyed and frantically strumming his personalised and I’d suggest, long suffering acoustic guitar Jack tore through numbers like ‘Peek a-Boo Honey’, ‘Clam Box’, ‘Can’t Dance’, ‘Boston Baby’, and the encore of ‘Boston, My Home Town’, supported by Amy on lead guitar, ripping through the solos.  Top stuff!!

Los Strait Jackets, masked Mexican wrestler style hit the stage next, three electric guitars and drums tearing through a powerful instrumental to open their show before introducing Big Sandy as their vocalist.  Now some of it was in Spanish, and lost on me, although Jackie Wilson’s ‘Lonely Teardrops’ sounded exquisite.  Loved ‘I Thought it Over’ as well.  Los Strait Jackets weighed in with another instrumental, one of the greatest ever, ‘Rampage’ unsurprisingly excellent as the lead ‘mask’ was Eddie Angel. 

Rounding of the first day at the Rave was Sheffield four piece, the Tex Speed Combo, with Kev Ellison on fine form bounding around the stage as he does.  Opening up with ‘This is the Night’, the lads served up a fast paced treat with ‘Raw Deal’, ‘Doin’ Alright’, ‘Weep No More’ and ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ delighting the crowd of stop-outs.  The now standard encore of ‘Wolfman’ wasn’t enough for the crowd who still called for more, so they obliged with a tear up take on Gene’s sixties stroller ‘Bird Doggin’.   

Raving dot….dot.  Best tracks at the Rave ever ever to pull your pint for this year are Carl Perkins’ anthemic ‘Dixie Fried’ (rave on cats) the ever present ‘Pretty Girl’ by Eddie Cochran and ‘Black Widow’ by Billy Jack Hale……Someone get ‘Pascal’ a hearing aid please, and a pad and pen.  Pascal is a guy that regardless of how close he is, has to be shouted at in double figure decibels, and then when he walks on, shouted at again to remind him of where he is going!........For some, the whole ethos of the Rave can be summed up thus:- Beerbeerbeerbeer, collapse, beerbeerbeerbeer, sleep, eat slop, uncontrollable laughter at flatulence, beerbeerbeerbeer, oh there’s a band on, play ‘air bass’ beerbeerbeerbeer.  Repeat for four days consecutively OR :- Buybuybuybuy, try on buybuybuybuy, reject, chatter, make up, handbags, buybuybuybuy, locate partner in pub for more money, white wine, Oooo Scotty Baker, buybuybuybuy. Repeat for four days.   This is not scientific, or gender specific of course J ……I write these initial thoughts accompanied by the gentle gurgling of the fridge in our chalet that sounds like we had someone bog snorkelling in it …Forget padlocks, chains and alarms, the stall holders employ cutting edge security measures to prevent ne’er do wells from their burglarious intent, blue tarpaulins and nippy clamps!.. ..So regular readers of Bettajive drivel will be aware of my hate-hate relationship with the gulls (other verminous, annoying, screeching, pain in the arse birds are available) at Camber.  Well that was compounded by the sight we were greeted by Thursday.  We had parked near our chalet and within twelve hours, it being the only car in that area, it was festooned by large deposits of gull guano, the size of dinner plates.  Gits!!  One lady lifted her food box over the fence to save walking a fair distance around it, and a gull tried to pinch one of her baps (bread ones, honestly some people’s minds are in the gutter).  June did ‘shoo’ it away on her behalf, at least I think that was the words she used, I presume there’s a species called a King Gull?…..

Hi-Ho - The Hi-Tones.  With the Friday guests piling in as well, the first full day of the Rave kicked off with the intimacy of the downstairs hall.  The weather remained sultry and warm outside, which initially we thought may have an effect on any attendance for the bands early doors.  The Hi Tones from Russia, another gem from areas you wouldn’t necessarily immediately scout for Rockabilly talent perhaps. 
Four frantic lads playing music in a kind of ‘Brand New Cadillac’ style.  The opening instrumental ‘Death Valley’ set the tone with it’s earthy low down guitar licks.  I say it every year, but it amazes me just how many foreign bands write original material in another language, and there’s stuff in the Hi Tones set that bears that out.
They mix up covers and originals, like ‘Honey Hush’ ‘Let’s Have a Ball’ ‘Bite Your Lip’, ‘The Devil’s Queen’ and ‘I’m Walking Out’, and topped it all off with an interesting reworking of ‘Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On’ again in the ‘Cadillac’ style.

Hort Stuff.  Shaun Horton and the Tennessee Trio were on next making a welcome return to the Rave.  Recently better known perhaps for his work with the Del Rio Ramblers, Shaun was back with a slightly adjusted trio backing him, to put on an excellent show.
The enigmatic front man has a great country bop and Rockabilly sounding voice, perfect for covering mid 50’s material.  ‘Rock Ola Ruby’ opened the show, quickly drawing a large crowd.  So many songs to appreciate as the lads worked through ‘Do Me No Wrong’, ‘Hep Cat Baby’, ‘Eenie Meenie Miney Mo’, ‘Dear John’ and ‘Jello Sal’.  To be honest you could pick any one of the twenty or so tracks, and with the Shaun Horton treatment, it sounded first class.   

Ricky Rocket and the Phantoms ended the afternoon’s shenanigans.  The German five piece featured the three non vocalists in suitable black with phantom eye masks and Ricky out front on acoustic rhythm guitar.  Yet another blistering set in the afternoon sessions, as they launched into ‘Sparkling Brown Eyes’ to start with.  Personally I’m not that keen on tracks like ‘Dance Franny Dance’ or ‘Let’s Dance’, but both of these featured in the set and you know what, when it’s performed to such a high level, it works for me!!
The set list featured familiar tunes performed with considerable aplomb, the likes of ‘Move It’, ‘Blue Black Hair’, ‘Blue Swingin’ Mama’, ‘Betty Ann’, ‘Justine’ and ‘Domino’, with their own ‘Phantom Pain’ slipped in for good measure.

Stompin’ - KC Byrd of the Barnstompers. So to upstairs, and don’t spare the horses!  The pace is unrelenting once the Rave starts, and your Bettajive Reviewers are on the case from start to finish.  In any event, there’s no way anyone should miss an act like the first one on in the main ballroom.
The Barnstompers from Holland are pretty much the best Western swing and bop band you’ll see, and their set was a delight from start to finish.  ‘Thingamajig’ opened the show, a super bounce along ditty that it is, and set the tone for forty five minutes of sheer brilliance.  Lead singer Caas Stiger has the perfect vocal delivery and the rest of the Barnstompers have that quality that exudes enjoyment, and brings the crowd along on the same trip.
Wiley Barkdull’s ‘Too Many’ is just goose-bumpingly brilliant, ‘Cajun Baby’, ‘Changed My Mind’, ‘Alligator Man’, ‘Stack O’ Records’, I could go on and name the whole set and not pick one particular winner.  Rapturous applause brought them back on and the crowd were treated to a sublime rockin’ cover of ‘Rebound’.  Oh brother! 

Ramblin’ James and the Billy Boppers, well it must have been ten years since they last appeared on the Rave stage.  With ex-pat Ashley Kingman on lead geeetar Ramblin James, wide eyed and grinning throughout, invited the faithful to a stripped down Rockabilly party with tunes like ‘One Time’, ‘Sneaky Pete’ ‘Honey Baby’ and ‘Stutterin’ Papa’ hitting the spot.

Next on, the towering presence of Deke Dickerson and the Ecco Fonics.  Oh yeah readers, this is one of the premier Rockabilly performers in the world.  He was playing the first of two shows at the Rave, the second one is featured later readers.   His skills on the guitar are quite jaw dropping, and whether it’s Carl Perkins or Lee Dresser material he’s performing, slow stuff or out and out rockers, it’s quite deserving of the bill topping slot he had.  Missed the standard, and particular favourite of mine ‘Wearing out the Soles of my Shoes’, but hey, take it from me, this was ace!

Don Cavalli topped off the night in fine style as well.  Billed as from France, he employed a Swedish backing band who complement him perfectly throughout a well received set.

More Ravin' Cleanliness is part of the Watchdog witch-hunt at Pontins, although the efforts by one couple to ensure sterility, really did go beyond the call as they washed the windows, floor and fold out sofa bed……What galoot of the Pontins parish decided it was a good idea to cease serving coffee and bits in the café? Oich!........ Some of the complaints you hear are jaw droppingly bizarre sometimes. ‘This ain’t Rockabilly, his turn ups are too high, he hasn’t got any turn ups, that Jittery Jack wasn’t jittery enough and I bet that ain’t his real name, I saw Lonesome Em with somebody so they can’t be that lonesome, one of the blokes in the Doel Brothers isn’t technically a brother, Little Carl could be littler.  Daft I know, but some are along those lines….Wry smile raising quote to me while I was watching one performer.  ‘I like this guy, his stuff’s original you know, yeah some is self penned, and some he’s written himself’ Well quite!.... I don’t care how well ‘ard you are or think you are, you still had to wear a seaside-rock pink coloured wristband…. 

Hurtling into Saturday , and it was back over the downstairs hall for two more excellent acts, starting with Miss Mary Ann and the Tri Tones from Estonia.  See my comment above about bands writing songs that are not their native tongue, and marvel at acts like this one.  This particular Mary Ann, eye catching in her gold lurex dress and cascading blonde locks, led her band in an absolute corker of an opening set.  Musically, the Tri Tones were spot on, and the sound was crisp and clear, with Mary Ann’s vocals pitched perfectly over them.  Most of the set being original material, was unfamiliar, however, everything was top drawer stuff.  The lyrics of ‘We’re Gonna Rock n Roll Tonight’ were composed in such a way that they avoided the inevitable stereotypical path trod by so many. 
Basically we got a CD’s length set that was an absolute pleasure to witness.  Try and get your ears around stuff like ‘Kitten Walk’, ‘You Robber You’, ‘Movin’ Up’ and the excellent trim phone inflections of ‘Bye Bye My Baby’.  It was hardly necessary for MC Russ Sear to ask if we wanted more, as the reception was loud and raucous.  The band duly obliged with scorching version of ‘Tongue Tied’, followed by a lengthy queue for their merchandise after the show.  What a jewel of a show, and we are only just getting started.

Last year, I got mostly to hear Jamie Bubba Faulkner in the pub.  Thank heavens that he’s now on stage in the downstairs room where the shorties like June and I can see as well as hear!  Backed by Tom and David Doel of the Doel Brothers and bassist Huey Moor, Jamie produced an ace set.  Some covers, some original songs, it made no difference to me.  I guess you could compare Jamie’s vocal delivery to a young Charlie Feathers, listening to ‘Rock Bop Baby’, ‘Broken Man’, ‘Don’t Go Baby’ and Hank Thompson’s ‘One Six Pack To Go’.  Rhythmbomb Records was cleaned out of his recordings after a kickin’ set from Jamie, who with partner Steffy Spaankuch, performed a great duet ‘Please Don’t Love Me’.

A quick turn around for the floor staff as the hall was readied for the second Vintage Fashion Revue, organised by Bettina Scralett.  This year, the show featured a few fellows as well as the parade of ladies, with some collections from prominent clothes makers and stockists on the scene.  This year, we decided to watch from the punter’s angle, among the throng sat around the ‘L’ shaped catwalk.  Excellently organised as usual, with accompanying music from Jimmy Guntrip on the decks as well.

Shuffle the Pack! Gene Gambler and the Shufflers Another quick turnaround and we’re back in the main ballroom again, at the beginning of one of the best nights at the Rave in the world ever ever (and there has been sooooooo many).  First up from Wales, debuting material from their brand new CD ‘Aces High’, were Gene Gambler and the Shufflers.
I don’t know about their being on so early, although people did trickle in and a couple of songs in they had a decent crowd to play to.  And boy did they play!  Starting out with just four on stage, we were treated to a super set opening with ‘Rock Be My Baby’.
A hefty chunk of the playlist consisted of their CD including ‘Miss You’, ‘Indian Girl’, ‘Be Bop Beetle Bop’, ‘Wait a Minute’ and ‘Who’s Been Foolin’ You’, along with top covers of ‘School of Rock n Roll’ (as a five piece with keyboards on stage), ‘Oakie Boogie’ and the excellent ‘Find my Baby For Me’.
A really memorable performance, full of stage jumping enthusiasm and first class musicianship that set the night up perfectly.  You never go wrong with a Gene Gambler show!!

Two legendary Rockabilly acts made up the next show, Joe Clay and Sid & Billy King, back by the excellent Barnstompers.  This was not one of your ‘one-hit-song-then-a-load-of-Elvis-covers’ type original act shows, here were two turns that have their own catalogue of classics.
Joe Clay, belies his years boinging round the stage like a thing on a spring, and among the audience, while belting out ‘Goodbye Goodbye’ and ‘Doggone It’.  Clearly still loving his music and performing with such gusto, he rolled back the years in a top show.
The King brothers, although not quite so demonstrative, still have an immense amount of talent, and Sid still sounds like those records we all have.  ‘Put Something in the Pot Boy’ ‘Booger Red’ ‘Sag Drag and Fall’ just a taste of what you missed if you were still ninnying about in  your chalet at the time.  Classic tracks by two classic acts.

 Scott-land  So who would follow that show then?  Well the return of Scotty Baker, that’s who, backed by the excellent and wonderfully named, Hanks Jalopy Demons.  Last year he headlined the whole Rave with his image adorning the flyer and program.  This year he was back on the main stage, in a show that had more than one surprise!
Freshly coiffured from the Boppo studio, he commanded the stage from the start, opening up with the embittered ‘Wasted My Name’ from the new CD ‘I’m Calling It’ (reviewed elsewhere).  The songs are all originals, one could hint they are the best that Johnny Cash didn’t write maybe, and the words are crafted around certain aspects and events in Scotty’s life.  ‘Tyre Kickers’ for example, about time wasters coming round to your house to look at a car, with no intention to buy, just, well, kick the tyres.  ‘Broke On Pay Day’ must resonate with so many who find that there is too much month left at the end of the money. ‘Just Like That’ about a car that everyone had, but actually didn’t, that has tongue planted firmly in cheek.
‘Move to the City’ was tinged with irony, especially as in real life he’d moved to a small town.  As on the Cd, he brought Coral Lee on stage to duet on the tremendous ‘Love Not Money.  ‘Knockout’ he announced, yes he has a girlfriend, Eva, who’s a knockout, and invited her up on stage, and right there, proposed on stage!  Fortunately she said yes in a moment that would have bought a tear to a glass eye.  How he managed to carry on the show after, I‘m not sure, but to great adulation, he did, and came back for an encore of ‘C’mon and Fight Me’.  So loud were the cheers we were also treated to one side of his Wild Records 45, ‘Cheater’.
Last year’s show was immense.  With those runs already on the board, there was even more expectation in the room for him to deliver, and did he ever.  

Okkkkkkkkkaaayy where are we going now then?  Only an act like the Dave and Deke Combo, returning after a few years.  Dave Stuckey and Deke Dickerson (sporting a strategically placed cross of masking tape on an exposed part of the chest) bring humour and out and out professionalism to the Rave stage in a show that makes you laugh out loud, slap your thighs and stomp your feet.
It might look to some that they are larking about just for the hell of it, but the show flows wonderfully.  ‘Chrome Dome’ about baldness is a masterfully compose ditty, ‘Snatchin’ and Grabbin’, just brilliant, as was ‘Salty Boogie’.  ‘Billy Briggs’ ‘Chew Tobacco Rag’ benefited from a perfect rendition and a new up to date verse about those electronic cigarettes.  So excellent and so obvious they were going to be called back finishing off with ‘In The Meadow’, which is set to ‘In The Ghetto’, and is hilarious.  The interaction with the audience and bounce along toe tapping timbre of the set made for a brilliant Saturday night into Sunday morning show.

It was left to Charlie Hightone and the Rock-its from Spain to close the night out, an unenviable task indeed after what had gone before.  For lovers of high octane rockin’ in Spanish and English, pounding away at the end of the night, this would have been right up your street.  Dancefloor powerhouse tracks ‘Booze Booze Booze’ and ‘Dead End Track’ featured of course, in a solid set.

For those in a spin.  The DJs, the very lubrication that oils the wheels of the changeover spots during the afternoon and evenings.  It’s them that bring the dancefloor to life.  Of course we didn’t see them all, it would have been impossible to do so, but dispatch style mentions for James, Blip Blop, Carrie Hope, Simon Flintstone, Little Carl, Danny, Jimmy Guntrip, and for sheer variety, Billy The Hick.  The selections ranged widely from Hick’s out and out Hillbilly, through Blip Blop’s exceptional Western Swing to Carl’s mix of classics and surfy stuff.

Something to Cro about!  The Sick Sober and Sorry sessions take place in the Queen Vic pub on Sunday, where at 1pm people still bid each other a good morning, so out of synch with real life we are.  We, being of small stature have no chance of seeing anything, but such was the quality of the weather, we could hear the great John Lewis powering over the inevitable chink of glasses and idle chatter.  I’m not sure John Lewis is a  back of the pub turn at a weekender like this, but that’s coming from someone who couldn’t see anything!
Into the downstairs hall for the final three acts of Rave 18, starting off with the trio from Croatia (loosely geographically put) Mississippi Queen.  This trio had dispensed with drums so although the sound was stripped down, it was also beefy and the pounding bass kept the beat going well.
Bands that do covers often tread a very familiar path, although these guys didn’t and the biggest surprise for me in their set was the rendition of ‘Eileen’.  Being, dare I suggest, of similar ages, the lead singer Karlo Starčević related the tale of hearing Johnny and the Jailbirds singing this song on a 45 in the ate 70’s, and paying tribute to a long gone teenage time, they played it.  It doesn’t matter who you are, a song that seemed omnipresent at the time, that has faded from playlists, when resurrected, can’t help but make you feel nostalgic.
The rest of the set, was very good too, liked greatly ‘100000 miles’ ‘Cincinnati Fireball’ and ‘I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry’.

Next up, not to be confused with Thursday’s Shooting Stars, were German band, the Star Shooters.  These guys really ratcheted up the pace again with a no nonsense pacey set of rockers. Think ‘Bip Bop Boom’, ‘Going Strong’ ‘Rock Rock’, ‘How Come It’ and ‘Crash The Party’ for example along with material new to me like ‘Whose Baby Are You Baby’ and the imaginatively titled ‘Pug Headed Baby’.  No prisoners taken in this set readers.  

The last act of the downstairs sessions brought Lew Phillips on stage with the Round Boys from Germany, who are as good a backing band as anyone could wish for.  Lew, visiting the UK for the first time was clearly nervous to start with, although he drew a large and encouraging crowd to catch his set of Holly-esque sounding songs, many of which were his own compositions.
The self titled CD contains all of his own material and a lot of it was on show that afternoon.  It was a complete change of pace from the previous two acts, and Lew was also of the right kind of age to be singing about young love and falling in it.  ‘Mary Lou’, ‘You’re The One’, ‘My Little Woman (Bang Bang)’ and of course ‘Mister Coulter’ caught the attention as did ‘Rave On’, a tribute to his greatest influence.

Let’s have some Mo!  Arrrrghhh Sunday night already, how did that happen?  Oh dear, it’s all slipping away from us for another year dammit!  What could raise the spirits then?  Well how about the second appearance by the Round Up Boys, as the Unholy Four this time on the main stage backing Lil Mo.  We’ve seen Mo on stage at Camber before, as Lil Mo and the Dynaflos, this was totally different.
Mo is a bundle of energy on stage and has a slightly higher pitched voice, and utilises it to great effect.  He can switch from the butt kicking sounds of ‘I Got a Dollar’, ‘Right Now’ and ‘Rebound’ to country beauties like the cover of Webb Pierce’s ‘There Stands The Glass’.   ‘Big Door’ hit the spot, as did the encore ‘Danny Boy’.  Seriously funny, engaging and above rocking.

Hanks Jalopy Demons are basically a reviewer’s nightmare readers.  This was a band new to us, and they perform their own material.  So a little research and a sneaky peek at the playlist later and I was ready.  Truth be told, maybe I wasn’t quite ready for some of the off the wall lyrics about, well dead people J.  Oh sure they rock, with acoustic guitarist and wide eyed singer Hank Ferguson leading the assault with such obscure tales in songs like ‘Mess You Up’, ‘You Bring Out The Wolf In Me’ and ‘Mess You Up’.  Top Aussie rockin with an almost horror twist? You betcha!

Charlie Thompson, so often a bit part player at these events, finally had a decent length set to perform on the main stage.  His ace Hillbilly/Rockabilly voice is just the ticket and was complemented by the exceptional lead guitar skills of Chris Wilkinson.  He can rock, he does country, Hillbilly or ballads.  Glenn Glenn’s ‘Kathleen’ for example, mid set, among the rocking stuff, worked like a charm, and at the other end of the scale, there was the out and out blast that is Ray Harris’ ‘C’mon Little Mama’.  A great performer with good stage presence, having a laugh with the crowd as well, the biz.

And now, as the song went, the end is near, yikes had a non Rockabilly moment there.  The Rimshots, can you think of a better way to end a party than with the ‘shots?  Clearly many couldn’t and stuck around midnight to take in this fantastic show, and with the original line up too.  John Lewis commanded the stage out front, ‘Ramblin’ Man’ is superb, ‘One More Beer’ mandatory, ‘Pick a Bale of Cotton’ apparently the audience’s choice, even references to their earliest work on the 45rpm ‘Volcano’, and of course ‘Woodpecker Rock’.
A perfect end upstairs, to the Rave, which we left with Simon Flinstone tending to the dancefloor needs of the diehards while we ventured downstairs into the pub for the second annual Sugar Bowl.  This event was hosted by Emma ‘Sugardoll’, and featured Johnny Congeroo (isn’t he……?) and Koops Kooper on sounds with Doghouse Sam and the Magnatones playing live and a bit bluesy in the far corner stage.

Talk about rude awakenings.  No not the standard rumbling train of dumpsters, not the elephantine footfall of other guests departing, nor the rumbling of their cases’ wheels.  No, how about the cleaner letting herself in without knocking on the door a full hour and twenty minutes before we were even supposed to be leaving.  She was encouraged to leave, shall we say.  But her invasion only reinforced the fact that we were back in the land of the living dullards again. 

Squashing our belongings into the car, and wishing everyone else a safe trip home, we began our meander back to Essex. 

The Rockabilly Rave number 18, was one of the best for sure.  The bands were either great, brilliant or outstanding, the DJs kept the floors moving well. The glorious weather at times were to the detriment of the attendance in the halls, however, each act met with appreciation and especially from their fellow players, always down the front supporting.  Jerry Chatabox spreads the net far and wide across the globe to bring the best of the best to England for this event year on year.  The number of re-bookings already are testament to the expectation for 2015.  Long may it continue.   

Words (c) Andrew Smith, photographs (c) June Smith

The 18th...
Rockabilly Rave

By Paul Culshaw.

The excitement had been building for months but finally the 12th June arrived and we packed our bags and we set off for Europe’s number 1 Rockabilly event,  a time of no sleep, a heap of liquor, the best music ever, the rekindling of old friendships and making of new friendships..... The Rockabilly Rave!

Of course, we all know what fun we have at the Rave, the drunken antics, the sun rising before you go to bed, the morning after the night before but what about those that work at the Rave, yes people work at the Rave to make our weekender the best ever, year in,  year out, there are lots of people who work, but we’re going to concentrate on the stars of the show and what it’s really like to prepare for playing at the Rockabilly Rave, the exhilaration of the night and how they really feel afterwards! I spoke to a few of the guys playing at the Rave before they actually performed.  I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as you enjoyed listening to them!

The whole Rockabilly scene is based on love of music, music, style and passion! This passion is fed by the bands and I’ll tell you a little something about the bands preparations, expectations and excitement for the Rave.....

Firstly let me introduce a Rockabilly artist who has appeared at the Rave many times, Charlie Thompson who hails from Ol’ London town.

This is what Charlie has to say about performing at the Rave ‘For me, it is the Mecca. If you are a Rockabilly artist this is the Mecca for the genre, its hallowed ground and it's a real honour!’

Of course Charlie has been to the Rave as an entertainer many times, playing with the Blue Star Boys, several Swedish bands, and alongside Miss Mary Ann on a special show. He did also say he’d ‘also been known just to go for the beer!’

Then I asked him about what he felt about the show coming up.
‘It will be a special experience for me as I am showcasing my new band; the band is called "Charlie Thompson and His Chickasaws" (two English guys and two Swedes). I'm really looking forward to this. We have quite a few more new songs than the last time we played and I believe after many requests I will be doing a true Rockabilly show for those who have always asked me to return to the rockin' side (as many know, I love country too).’

As many bands can’t truly make a living on our scene we asked Charlie if he’d be busy leading up to the Rave ‘Yes, because I'm in the Fire Brigade and will be working beforehand’ these guys do it for the love of it, and still often have to work like we all do! That’s a lot of work to make our weekenders great!

Of course The Chikasaws, fronted by Charlie went down a storm and Saturday night in the Queen Vic was stomping!

Next up are the preparations of a band that is making big, big waves on the Rockabilly Scene right now.  The Doel Brothers are based around southern Hampshire in England.

I had a chat with David Doel, who shared how they felt about the up and coming gig at the Rave, when it comes to ‘preparing for the Rave this year, simply we've been gigging, playing..playing and more playing! Rehearsing is always the best way to get new material in to the set, but there's nothing like the live reaction you get from a new song! So yeah we feel ready than ever to start the Rockabilly Rave off, with our second appearance, with it being on the main stage in fantastic.. hopefully improve on our 1st appearance which was awesome, the reaction we got was brilliant last year so we don't wanna disappoint!!’

The Doel Brothers didn’t disappoint with a spectacular set and all of those who saw them know, although it seemed impossible, they did improve on their first appearance, don’t miss out on seeing these guys!

So what is it like to perform for the first time at the Rave, it’s quite a gig, got quite a reputation and we are an audience who know our stuff! It’s got to be daunting! I had a chat with Lew Phillips as it was not only his first appearance at the Rave but his first appearance in the whole of Europe! When I asked him about it, this was his response ‘I feel very excited about playin' at The Rockabilly Rave not just because of the event himself but also because that will be my very first appearance in Europe and also the first time in my life my feet will hit the European floor. I think that will be an amazing experience for me that I'll never forget! Lew’s home town is Joliette in Quebec and Rockabilly fans are kinda hard to find in this small town.  ‘I just want to thank all my fans all over in Europe for the support, every single day I'm appreciating more and more what you’re doin' for me!’

Lew didn’t have to worry about his first performance, at the Rave or in Europe, he went down a storm!

Our next hardworking, hard travelling artist stormed the Rave last year and returned for another shot this year, from the other side of the world in Australia. Scotty Baker comes from a rural town in northern Victoria and he actually had to post all the new songs off to the musicians to learn, they had 1 rehearsal a week before flying out!  I spoke to Scotty after the gig and he shared a few secrets! ‘We did have an acoustic run through the day before in the chalet at Pontins’ yes people this is how close it gets sometimes!  When I asked about what, if any, new material Scotty had performed he told me ‘I recorded a new cd that was ready literally the day we flew out. The CD "I'm calling It" on the Press-tone label which has 14 self penned tracks I performed 7 of the new songs and also performed a song off my upcoming 45 with Wild Records’

When I asked Scotty how he was feeling ahead of time about performing at the Rave again  he was pretty excited about it ‘Yes, I was very excited as the first one had gone so well. I knew I'd be warmly welcomed back. I was also very excited to be catching up with my UK friends’

Scotty stormed and charmed the Rave just as he had last year, but more importantly this year he charmed his fiancée who he rather romantically proposed to on stage, was playing at the Rave not enough excitement for him? Clearly not, congrats go to Scotty and Eva, because of course she said yes!

Perhaps the busiest band at the Rave this year were The Barnstompers, I talked to them after the event, to see how they had felt about the run up, and how much they’d enjoyed it! Not only were they there to play their own set on Friday night but they were backing up the Rockabilly Legends, Sid & Billy King and Joe Clay on Saturday night!
‘Believe it or not, we've backed up Sid King & brother Billy over 50 times in the last 20 years. So we've know each other (personally and musically) for a long time. Backing them up at the Rave did not really take a lot of time, we practised once because we know the songs. On the other hand, it was the first time for us to back up Joe Clay. That was more "work". We've been practising a couple of times in Holland, after doing as much "homework" as possible. We've know his original recordings for a long time; it's as good as Rockabilly can get and it's exactly our "cup of tea". But to get it really right you really have to dig into the songs and get every start, break and ending of the song right... thát takes time.
Every time when we're asked to back up "Original artists" we listen to the original recordings and we try to approach these originals as good as we can. Especially the lead guitar player puts a lot of time and effort in the solo's which he wants to copy as close as possible.’
So they really wanted to get Joe Clay’s stuff right, they were happy with Sid & Billy as they’d played with them so many times, imagine their surprise at the sound check when after only a few songs  Joe Clay said "ahh, we don't have to go over each song... you guys know what you're doing". Quite a compliment if a little scary!
They also told me that
“Funny and unexpected things happened during the set of Joe Clay; first he went to the drummer and started playing drums and later he jumped into the audience and sung the last song. I think we anticipated well, and just followed him as he was doing his thing’

Saturday’s extraordinary show with Joe Clay and Sid & Billy King, backed by the cool Barnstompers was laid back, easy going and totally correct, in fact beautiful in its correctness!  And then one second Joe Clay was back on stage performing and the next King brothers, performing and then Joe Clay again, over and over some amazing dream!

Only an hour after they’d were signing autographs with the Rockabilly Legends they were out of stage clothes drinking a beer, watching other bands and hanging out with all the people they've known for a long time

Every single band at the Rave laid down their music with gutsy passion, style and from heart, and entertained every last one of us, making the Rave just as special as ever! Always passion on the Rockabilly scene....yeah man...passion.....

Thank you to Jerry for the amazing amount of hard work, he puts in, in organising the Rockabilly Rave!  Thanks to the DJs for keeping the dance floors packed! Thanks to the stall holders for stocking cool stuff! Thanks to the Pontins staff for making everyone welcome and for cleaning the joint up when everyone’s gone! But most of all, thank you to you, for the hard work you put in, in drinkin’ huge amounts of....liquor! Hell, thanks to everyone in the world!