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Guilfest, Guildford, Surrey 4 July 2003

Bit of a rock line-up on the main stage Friday! Arrived just at the end of Arthur Brown’s set, where he was finishing off with ‘Fire’, with some ad-libs in as well! He seemed to go down well with the crowd and started Friday evening off well.

Next up the band that never seems to sleep with the amount of gigs they play, The Darkness. Kicking off with the instrumental ‘Bareback’, then straight into ‘Growing On Me’ (is this song really about genital warts???). The set was pretty similar to the recent one at Wembley supporting Skynyrd and Deep Purple. The other singles ‘Get Your Hands Of My Woman’ and ‘I Believe In Love’ rocked out, with front man Justin Hawkins in fine form as usual. I felt slightly embarrassed for the parents of two young kids nearby as Justin asked whether to do the clean version or ‘motherf**ker’ of ‘Get Your-’, needless to say the rude version won and the parents had to explain away the rude words! They kept plugging the album and played ‘Givin’ Up’ from that as well, a fine rocker with a stonking AC/DC style riff. Superb set, very tight and the crowd were right behind them.

Host for the evening was Radio 2’s Bob Harris (he of ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ fame) and he seemed genuinely pleased to be here and was excited about the next band, The Wildhearts. Despite being a long-term fan to my shame I have never seen Ginger & co. live before. The Wildhearts are a massive wall of sound - from the clean riffing guitars, to maniac drumming and of course the songs of punk pop genius. Highlights included ‘Stormy In The North, Karma In The South’ (the ‘Top Of The Pops’ songs as Ginger introduced it), ‘Nothing Changes’ and the modern classic, ‘Vanilla Radio’. A very heavy set, featuring plenty of quality tunes, from a band that were clearly enjoying themselves on stage.

Arthur Lee and Love have been gaining rave reviews in the past few years for their stage show and good to see a classic name still performing to the highest standards. Never heard much by the band before but after this set I will rectify that very quickly! The only tune I knew was ‘Alone Again’, a hit for them in the late 60’s. The musicianship of the band is spot on, with Arthur Lee having lost none of his vocal talent over the years. They received a rousing reception from an audience that had been steadily growing in the past hour.

Alice Cooper was the main draw tonight judging by all the t-shirts on display in the crowd. Tonight marked the second date of what is billed as the ‘Bare Bones’ tour i.e. the theatrics are cut to a minimum and out go any embellishments like keyboard players! The stage times had run like clockwork until Alice’s set, which was due on a 9.30pm but took to the stage nearer 9.50pm. As a result of the strict 11pm curfew there was no encore, which was a big anti-climax!

The classics were all in place - ‘I Am 18’, ‘Cold Ethyl’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ - this song really comes alive on stage, and ‘Only Women Bleed’. The only recent song was ‘Lost In America’, which seems to have established itself as a live favourite now. ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ still sounds good all these years down the line and ‘School’s Out’ got a rousing cheer from the crowd.

The band was very tight musically, with longtime drummer (and Kiss man) Eric Singer the only one I recognized. It really was a no frills set with no in-between song banter from Alice (although this could have been due to the curfew and late start) and only the briefest of bass/drum solos. Another strong show from Alice Cooper and the band, just a shame that there was no encore - a pox upon curfews!

Quick word about the festival- superbly organised and laid out. You had the main stage area, with a sloping field in from to give most a decent view of the stage area. (Bizarre to see Radio 2 advertising at an Alice Cooper show - in the UK Radio 2 was a real MOR station when I was growing-up in the 70’s/80’s but is now the home of rock music!) The 'Uncut' stage had other acts including Cosmic Rough Riders (superb UK harmony pop rockers - similar to CSN) on Friday night and had a smaller audience, usually between 500-700 people. The other stage was the 'Unsung Hereos' stage, made up of unsigned bands, but I didn’t get much chance to wander there, as the main stage line-up was so damn good!

Being a festival you also get a market place with weird and wonderful stalls selling everything from alternative legal drugs highs to tie-dye clothing overload on many stalls. Best stall for me was the A New Day records stall - loads of Jethro Tull & folk rock related CD’s. There are also a staggering amount of food places from Indian to veggie to Thai.

A great atmosphere and a superb night of rock - back for more tomorrow! (Big thanks to Kari and Excess for arranging my pass).

Text © 2003 Jason Ritchie

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