Los Pacaminos fronted by Paul Young – top night after a slightly shaky start.
After work and a torrid getaway, we headed out Friday night, to the lovely Voewood, a beautiful Arts & Crafts house on the outskirts of Holt. If you haven’t been there, it is worth going to the Festival just to see the house and gardens. Although of course, there are plenty of other reasons to get your Festival tix.
Simon Finch, the guy who owns Voewood is also an antiquarian book-seller, well, he’s not that old but his books are, and as he hails from Notting Hill Gate, he has lots of well-known friends and connections. So he manages to attract some great names from music – some of them a bit of a blast from the past – out to deepest Norfolk for fun and funk.
Voewood Festival has become rapidly established as a premier literary and music festival, with, it has to be said, a bit of a quirky reputation. Set in the grounds and gardens of Voewood it has been different each of the years I have been – sometimes more ambitious and sometimes less.
Going out there on the first night, I wasn’t sure what to expect – hopefully crowds of people buzzing about the place chatting, drinking Pimms and gin cocktails, with literary types performing at odd moments and tents full of activity.
In the event, I was somewhat disappointed. When we arrived it all had a bit of an unready feel and there were few people about. The wet weather may have put people off, or maybe the £30 evening ticket price, or maybe they were all saving themselves for the proper weekend but they were scarce. No-one at all in the drinks and food tents. However, when we got to the main performance tent it was full of people hiding from the glum weather, with a proper stage and lights and everything at one end and a couple of hundred peoples at in chairs. So that is where they all were.
Taking a seat with a warmish bottle of white wine from sponsors Adnams between us, my friends and I settled down. The first act, Sacha Luffman was pretty ropey. But it was her first festival live performance. She is just starting out on her music career and as a debut she did very well, supported by her enthusiastic family in the audience. And she had a lovely stage manner too.
Sacha was followed by The Rebelles who were old enough to do better – it definitely wasn’t their first gig – three women backed by four guys – through the first couple of numbers I began to seriously regret coming. To be fair, they did warm up and get going but I still thought they were pretty weak. They worked so hard to get the crowd going but they weren’t having any, they were firmly stuck in their seats, arms folded. Till Simon called bass player Guy Pratt up on stage who he had seen in the audience, and he pretty much changed the pace and upped the game single-handed. With a row of musicians onstage, Pratt got things going at last.
So, I was chatting to a friend in the interval and thinking that it was a bit of a sad Friday when I heard the sound of horses’ hooves from the direction of the stage. The whole evening pivoted on that point. The stage was filled by 6 guys, all wearing white Stetsons and cowboy gear as they crashed into the first number and just kept going. They kept up the pace, song after song of TexMex, Americana, a bit of Ry Cooder, cowboy classics. Apart from the Stetson’s, no hats or homes to be seen. And for a set of guys in their late 50s/60s (pardon to those that aren’t) they had lost nothing of what had made them famous. Famous because Paul Young was a big name in the 80s and so was their ‘stand-in’ guitar Hamish Stuart from Average White Band. He was brilliant and so cool, confident and sure of what he was doing. Paul Young was trim and tanned, sporting a small goatee, far from past it, and his fellow band members had their own style, all easy in their cowboy skins it seemed.
We were immediately up at the front, spellbound. They had it all – the drama, command of the stage, the musicianship and the easy confidence of knowing what they do and doing it well, looking fit and healthy and as though they know how to live, they were a real pleasure. And they were playing for pleasure - they evidently enjoyed their music too. We danced – although it has to be said that most of the audience didn’t till the last number - and felt totally revived.
Which about sums up the Voewood Festival – it’s a bit odd and the organisation is strange but it can turn on a ha'penny. It is all there, and more – you never know what it will hold and what’s just around the corner. It’s trogging along and suddenly something sublime happens to change the picture and wow your socks off. It's worth taking the risk of going, even if you are not quite sure what is going to be there or how it all works.
I couldn’t stay for the rest of the weekend unfortunately though we did the boost the local economy by staying in a hotel in Holt but I hoped that the Festival-goers of the weekend had a great time, There was lots in store from John Hurt to Eimear McBride, Glen Matlock to Owen Sheers – and hopefully they got the wine chilled by Saturday morning and found some Pimms!
Good luck Voewood. Thank you Paul Young and Los Pacaminos
ps keep an eye out for their new album A Fistful of Statins