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Gig Reviews...Guilfest '09

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GUILFEST Stoke Park, Guildford July 10th-12th 2009

Having been every year since 2002 bar last year when our baby son was born (and he made his festival debut this year) I have always thought that Guilfest separates itself from a very crowded festival season in its sheer variety.

On Friday you had Motorhead, Saturday Trans Global Underground and on Sunday the mum's favourite Will Young. Shame Will Young wasn't on Friday night as it would be cool to see him duet with Lemmy...

Anyway arriving on Saturday afternoon first up were Trans Global Underground whose last few numbers we caught and they seemed to go down well. I do like some of their music but they have that wailing woman vocal which is not always kind on the ears. But some damn fine funky beats mixed with a bit of world music makes for a festival pleasing mix.

Luckily we were walking around the festival so missed the pop pap of Linda Lewis and were just in time for Toploader. Good sound and they are a lot heavier live than on album that's for sure. 'Achilles Heel' and their big hit 'Dancing In The Moonlight' were the best received of their set.

Then it was off to the Kid Zone and this year they have excelled themselves with a couple of craft themed tents, the circus big top for the children's shows and of particular delight to a certain thirteen month old a toddler's area. Lots to play with whilst dad enjoyed his Chupa Chups free lolly. Sadly by now the rain was gaining a hold and by the end of the night it was a good old British summer's night i.e. chucking it down with rain.

The theatre tent is a novel idea although some of the shows are not that great but at least it was dry and you could have a sit down. We watched an enjoyable short drama set at a wedding but weren't so impressed by a songs from the shows set which was dominated by one overbearing female singer who didn't have the best voice.

The Charlatans on the main stage seemed to be going down well but it was the Lightning Seeds for me! It was heaving on the second stage and like the second stage headliner Joe Bonamassa both deserved to be on the main stage. A great set by a band who know their way around a decent pop rock tune, main man Ian Broudie certainly does. The hits were there like 'Lucky You', a slow acoustic version of 'Marvellous' which sounded very different from the original version and of their new album, 'Four Winds' a cracking tune 'All I Do'. Great set by a great band.

Quick trip down to the Rock Sound tent, oh dear some death metal cookie monster growlers - next! The Surrey Advertiser tent features local bands but the three I saw over the two days were not great. Nice guitar playing but very average vocals and lyrics.

The Unison tent had people pogoing like it was 1977 to a band playing a few Clash classics like 'I Fought The War'. Sunday this tent had Eric Faulkner of the Bay City Rollers so you can't accuse them of not covering many musical bases.

Back to the main stage for the headliner Brian Wilson. Sadly his set clashed with fast rising US blues star Joe Bonamassa who recently headlined a sell out gig at the Royal Albert Hall. I plumped for Brian Wilson as chances are I won't get many opportunities to see him as he is not a frequent touring artist over here. (I did briefly brave the rain to see some of Joe Bonamassa's set. He is an amazing player and he has a great set of tunes to back this up. Definitely top of my 'to see live' list).

Brian Wilson was backed a band that almost matched the Rock Choir in size! The band includes Darian Sahanaja who has been a member of Heart since 2004 and Styx drummer Todd Sucherman, although I am not sure he was in the band tonight as Styx are touring the US at the moment.

Despite the rain it was sunshine all the way musically including 'California Girls', 'Surfer Girl', 'In My Room', 'I Get Around' a superb 'Sail On Sailour' and 'Do It Again'. There were a few covers as well including Little Richard's 'You Keep A Knockin' and a simply stunning run through Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B Goode'.

Brian Wilson seated centre stage at his keyboards had the crowd in the palm of his hand and his voice still has that classic sound that helped make those Beach Boy songs the classics they are. To hear 'Good Vibrations' and 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' sang live is a lifetime ambition done and glad to say I was more than impressed.

Encore time had 'Surfin' USA', although it was more like mud-sliding Guildford UK by this stage of the night. Fantastic to hear 'Fun Fun Fun' and 'Love And Mercy close the night. What a superb set, good mix of Beach Boy and solo classics performed by a very accomplished band. I have been waiting a long time to hear these songs performed live and I was bowled over by Brian Wilson and his band. The rain didn't matter as the music kept the sunny spirits going.

Sunday started with Rock Choir, who have over 1,200 members of whom many appeared throughout the weekend at the Guilfest. They provided a rousing start to the day running through a set of pop and rock classics. Next up the seemingly ever touring Hamsters who played a no-nonsense set of blues rock and are the heaviest band on the Sunday line-up for sure. Again a band made for festivals as they hold wide musical appeal.

They were followed by The Beat who went down well but ska music is not my cup of tea so instead I went for a cup of tea and back to the Kids Zone where my daughter had great fun on the giant slide. Sadly no free lollies left though...

After taking in the Guildford Philharmonic doing ABBA tunes it was time to go home as the rest of the bill including the Happy Mondays, Will Young and Dodgy Lookin' Toilet Chain, err sorry Goldie Lookin' Chain held little interest. But for many these bands will doubtless entertain and that's what the festival is all about celebrating the diverse world of music.

Another great Guilfest although sadly not as many stalls as previous years maybe due to the current economic climate maybe.

For a family festival that's not too big to be overpowering, and has enough going on, you can't beat Guilfest.  

Review by Jason Ritchie


Brian Wilson setlist

California Girls
Dance Dance Dance
Surfer Girl
In My Room
Salt Lake City
Custom Machine
Soul Searchin'
Don't Worry Baby
I Get Around
Sail On Sailor
Do It Again
Then I Kissed Her
You Keep a Knockin
Little Deuce Coupe
Do You Wanna Dance
Sloop John B
Wouldn't It Be Nice
God Only Knows
TLOS intro
I'm Going Home
Good Vibrations
Johnny Be Goode
Help Me Rhonda
Barbara Ann
Surfin USA
Fun Fun Fun
Love And Mercy



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