A view from backstage – Melodic mid-week melancholy – Paul’s day 6 blog

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Thanks to Steve Mitchell for the professional photos and Lottie Dixon Stage Manager for the two side stage shots.

Traditionally Wednesday night of the Festival has been saved for country and western, and the 30th anniversary show was no different. It was a dry and warmish night at Blestium Street and back stage the crew were relaxed as the technical setup was somewhat simpler this year. As I peered through the curtain I could see a steadily growing group of country fans lining up in seated arrangement as if assuming the front of crowd was reserved. This of course was confirmed when I walked on stage and asked if we would see any dancing tonight. I was rewarded by a mighty but deep reply, it was of course yes!. It’s the same each year on country night, the fans make the evening for me.

With front of crowd opened up and an ever more denser audience getting warmed up we invited our first act to the main stage. Chris James is a solo artist with a few guitars and a banjo. Even if country isn’t your thing you can normally expect a family friendly, upbeat and lively show from the Wednesday main stage.

Following Chris was our headline act Two Card Trick. A two piece who were known for many years as two members of The Country Experience. A well known act across the UK. They followed on seamlessly from Chris and ended the night in a fist full of well known lyrics and a car park full of line dancers.

Personally I enjoyed my night, but I think the show could have livened up a bit, normally the country night it a party for everyone, whereas last night was took a more subdued feel and possibly lacked a certain something that for me is what makes country. A few more up beat songs that we could sing along to would have pushed the night to the next level. Even so, I spoke to many after all was quiet and most said they really enjoyed the night. Maybe I was a little tired.

Thursday is now here and blues is on the menu. Get to the mainstage for 8 and be ready for a great show.

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A view from the Shoes – Bryn’s blog day 3

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Thanks to Steve Mitchell for the professional photos, and Bryn Williams, MC/compere, for the iphone pics. Check out Bryn’s videos at the end of the blog too.

“I’m in love with a Morris Dancer” … If anyone that was at The Fringe Stage at The Three Horse Shoes says they haven’t sung that in their head today, if not out loud; we think they’re fibbing !!

We started the night with Martin Vogwell giving a virtuouso performance. It’s an over-used phrase these days, but the only one that will do here is “Awesome”.  He brought   traditional songs to life with a modern day twist, giving anyone who wasn’t sure about Folk music a serious change of mind. We were delighted to have Emma Vogwell joining him on a few numbers with some lovely harmonies which was a real treat! – thank you Emma. Whether it was a treat for our audience or not isn’t for me to judge, but I was delighted Martin asked yours truly to join him on one of his own songs that we have performed a few times together in that past. For me at least, one of the festival highlights – thank you Martin.

Having had outstanding Folk Music grace the stage, “Folk-Comedy” took over in the form of the one and only Folk On!!  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am never lost for words….until now!!  Listening to, literally, everyone in The Three Horse Shoes singing “I’m in love with a Morris Dancer” and joining in with gusto to the “Ernie, my pet slug” song, has gone way beyond one of my best festival moments and made it into the “as long as I live I’ll never forget that” category. I bet you there are plenty of people there that will say the same. We sang, we laughed, we laughed some more until we cried, we were absolutely rammed to capacity. We know it was so busy some people couldn’t get in – for which we can only apologise but who was to know that “Folk-On” was the new rock and roll. Thank you Folk-On for giving us, as predicated, an “I was there when…” Monmouth Festival moment.

Did you know by the way, that we at The Three Horse Shoes have the only fairy lighted bucket in the festival?? We spare no expense you know 😉  Sooooo….we hope you won’t when we ask you to please give generously to help fund these amazing acts.

Talking of amazing, tonight (Thursday) is one we have been looking forward to as a number of venues and festival have been amazed by George Montague who is with us for the second half of our evening. His piano driven trio are set for huge success in the future and I have a feeling we will one day be especially pleased to say we had George Montague play Monmouth Festival.
Sadly the opening act as billed for this evening, Sam Eden, is really unwell with practically no voice to talk let alone sing. We wish him all the best with his recovery but unfortunately he won’t be with us. Now, it’s always tough programming the stages, we started many months ago. (Another reason we hope you might recognise the time and effort put in by buying T-shirts, wrist bands, and filling the bucket!) Lots of difficult choices are made and deciding on tonight’s replacement act was one of them. Having been asked by so many to see Harry Jones again, who played at The Green Dragon the other day, we have decided to re-bill Harry at The Three Horse Shoes tonight. This time you can expect his set to give the opportunity for more of his self-penned work and we hope this will give him a chance to show a slight different side to his work that you will really enjoy.

I can’t wait to see these acts and once again we are delighted to have such great musicians with us. I hope you will join us, support us, and have another cracking night at The Monmouth Festival Fringe Stage at The Three Horse Shoes tonight! ……..

…….Oh, and in the meantime I know what you’ll be singing if you were there: Folk-On !!! 😉

A view from backstage – Ruby Tuesday – Paul’s day 5 blog

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This was day 5 of the Festival but we aren’t done yet. As the sun faded and the evening took its hold on Blestium Street we were starting to warm up. If you chanced a glance at the night sky you may have noticed the threatening doom of rain or possibly lightning, something we take very seriously backstage. For if it rains we can hide ourselves beneath umbrellas, but if lightning falls on our fair stage it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Thank God that the weather held out and we could keep dry whilst enjoying the soul sounds of our Tuesday night entertainment.

The Bandits were back stage and really excited about the gig, they have wanted to play the festival for a while and this year their time had come. A mix of soul and rock n roll tunes meant that we could sing along until our heart’s content. I certainly enjoyed my view from the front row whilst slowly sipping my spiced rum and coke. Overall a fun set with a good time feel. They did a grand job.

Of course the Festival simply couldn’t be without the adjoining soul-defining sounds of the Mighty Pledge. Originally formed in 1990 for one reason, to play Monmouth festival, these guys have stuck around and built their own epic following. You may have recognized a few faces on stage and that’s what makes the Pledge. Great tunes, expertly performed, by people we know. A legendary band for a legendary festival. My personal favourite was the newest member of the band Lyndon (a long-standing festival volunteer and committee member too!) on lead guitar who I felt gave the tunes the edge they needed.

Thank you to all who attended, never before have I seen such enthusiasm on a Tuesday night. With the red wine and spiced rum, it turned out to be one hell of a ruby Tuesday.

Paul Roberts

A view from the Shoes – Bryn’s blog days 1 & 2

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Welcome to the first blog from the ‘Shoes – to complement Paul’s blog from the main stage

We’re well under way over at The Three Horse Shoes, the second stage of the Festival: now it’s time to catch up with our blog!

In keeping with the aims of the fringe events over 30 years, we bring to the festival some of the best musicians and original music in the region, complimenting the main stage and giving you even more from your visit to the festival.

I’d say we started on Monday, but of course we didn’t…We started on Thursday because, like the main stage, we do a complete stage set-up, install the pro p.a., lighting etc…normally with just a crew of two: (that’s why we started early) – and everyone involved gives their time voluntarily – no-one is paid except the musicians. SO when you visit us, we hope that, just like the main stage, you’ll appreciate both the music and the hard work and expense of running our stage too and … ‘chuck it in the Bucket’ 😉

Music started on Monday with the internationally known Sons of the Delta – a real coup for us. They were simply incredible. Then came the biggest band ever to play the second stage – The Jigantics blew the room away with their high energy, rootsy, fiddle and guitar driven songs and some incredible vocals. We lost track of the total number of instruments used but we think it was around 17!

Last night, Tuesday, was another great night opened by Gaz Brookfield – “Newton Faulkner the second” someone commented. It was without doubt one of the most passionate performances we’ve had, and the first time we’ve had a guitar crack on stage with all the tapping and drumming mixed in with the strumming – all on one guitar! Keith Thompson, having flown back from a gig in Croatia, followed on with what was practically a demonstration gig of guitar techniques from picking styles to slide and every method in between. It was one of the gigs of the festival for sure.

Tonight, Wednesday, we are getting ready for what we think will be one of those “remember when?” gigs in the history of Monmouth Festival. To start with we have Martin Vogwell. Now, we booked him because we have literally seen people stand open mouthed at his style of playing – you shouldn’t miss it. Then for something completely different, coming all the way from the village of “Dribble Patch” !?! For the first time in
Festival history we have the musical genre of Folk Comedy! There’s not much guaranteed in show business as they say BUT we will guarantee belly aching laughs and great fun music from Folk-On one of the best acts, no correction, the only act!! of their style around. We love ’em, so will you! See you at 8pm at The Three Horses – don’t be late !!! 🙂

It’s a pleasure to MC the second stage, and it’ll be a pleasure to have you with us…see you soon.

A view from backstage – another manic Monday – Paul’s day 4 blog

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Photos thanks to Paul Bond of Purabellezza Photography. Video of Secret Police (Sunday night) below this blog, thanks to Stephen Mitchell. See the Facebook page for more informal shots of the evening.

Monday Monday, so good to me! After such a huge weekend and having so much fun on Sunday night I was seriously wondering whether I would make it to the stage on Monday, but music prevailed and by the time 7pm came around I could see we were heading towards another great night of music. For this fine Monday evening the theme was simple……..ROCK!

The original line up had 4 bands coming to the stage but with Toadstool playing for us last Saturday, the three remaining bands had a longer set time to fill which was a better solution than cramming another group into the schedule. To kick things off a band from Coleford and beyond, with the youngest musicians I’ve seen on the main stage this year. Young at heart and incredibly talented, we welcomed to the stage Pandemick. Great to see the drummer on lead vocals too, a rarity and certainly a tough job. It’s occasional, but when I do sit down to hit the skins I can’t even think in a straight line, let alone remember words in a sequential order and keep them in key. My hat comes off to the boys from Pandemick. A couple of years and they will be really owning their own sound. They ended their set with the Terminator theme which for me was the highlight of the night.

Second up, Between The Lines. Again a really young band but with a whole different kettle of fish on offering. Rock, folk, Funtime and even some occasional foreign vocals, although I couldn’t get to the front of stage quick enough to work out which language their lead was singing in for that tune. They welcomed a cameo singer who added a nice female touch to the otherwise all male crew and also got the whole audience singing along to their music. There were two words that defined the band for me, stage presence! They had stack loads and although they were young, they didn’t sound it.

Our headline for the night was The Words. A more mature band with some great songs under their belt. These guys knew how to rock the stage and with Monday night ever more pressing on the audiences watches, the band did a fantastic job at keeping the mood going. For not only did many of us normal folk work during the day, but we had to do it again tomorrow. The question is do we care how tired we are? Of course not, It’s just another manic Monday. With tantalising  Tuesday just round the corner.
And another goodie for you – The Secret Police performing on Sunday night:

Paul’s day three blog – Sunday

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Sunday night and Sunday Carnival photos thanks to: Des Pugh, Hannah McGregor and Paul Bond of Pura Bellezza Photography, Emma Cheshire-Jones of ECJ photography and festival volunteers. Video (below this blog) thanks to David Ibbitson of www.goherefordshire.co.uk

Normally Sunday is considered the official day of rest, but not at Monmouth Festival. Following a noisy, colourful and spectacular Carnival day, in the evening Blestium Street car park was alive with jivers from across our fair county all enjoying the sounds of The Jiveoholics, our first band to hit the stage. I’ve known the boys from the band about five years and seen them play a myriad of gigs, but this year with their new line up I was looking forward to see how their sound might have changed. If you missed it then I can confirm that they still know how to party. The crowd were dancing their socks off and those who weren’t enjoyed a gentle sway in place of all out leg shaking. A fun, frollicky and energetic start to Sunday night’s line up.

Then something completely different with the Secret Police, one of the best tribute bands in seen in a long time, excellent covers and smashing vocals. We all enjoyed an hour or crackin’ tunes and because the bands renditions were so close to the original, most of the crowd were spotted singing along to more than one hit.

Overall a superb evening and a perfect ending to the week. Hold onto your hats though because Monday night is coming. And sees us launch into day four of Monmouth’s Festival.

What a night! Hell’s Bells & Toadstool

What a night last night was (Saturday) – as you’ll see from the pictures below, and video (see end of blog). Our compere/MC Paul Roberts (you may remember him way back from Sunshine Radio) will be blogging following each night so make sure to check in each day for the lo-down on the night’s happenings. Over to Paul …

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Photos from Paul Bond of Purabellezza Photography. See the Facebook page for more informal shots of the evening.

I love it when a plan comes together, but even more so when it doesn’t! Saturday night saw a slight change in the scheduled line up. Due to unforeseen circumstances Yes Sir Boss were unable to attend the main stage, but what the hell, Toadstool rocked the joint effortlessly with their mix of mainly self-composed tunes topped off with a few well performed covers thrown in to keep the crowd singing as well as moshing the night away.  For a last minute performance they made sure everyone in front and behind the stage was suitably hyped for the headline act.

The second night of the festival took off seamlessly where the first night finished. As with any event the normal teething problems had been ironed out in day one leaving the crew a chance to relax and enjoy the show on day two. From backstage I could tell we were in for a big night after DJ Jeff got everyone singing along to Bon Jovi in the intermission. A solid sign of a fun crowd.

if you’re an AC/DC fan and didn’t make Saturday night’s show then shame on you. Hells Bells truly owned the evening with fantastic renditions of the biggest tunes from the legendary rockers. Although I did wonder whether the lead singer had surgically removed some vocal chords to keep his voice high and tight! Certainly sounded that way, especially when he spoke for a sentence or two between songs. Either way who cares, we do what we have to do and if surgery is the answer to rocking the night away, I say so be it.

An awesome second night. Roll on Sunday for what is sure to be a truck load of swinging legs and flailing arms as we turn up the jive. Followed by a chorus of English man in New York when The Secret Police step forward.

Read Paul’s first night blog here.

Thanks to Stephen Mitchell for the video below.

So close, it’s … HERE! Monmouth Festival starts TONIGHT

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After all these months and weeks of preparations it’s finally here!!! Monmouth Festival kicks off tonight with classical diva Sarah Ann-Cromwell at St Mary’s Church, local favourites The Good Times and psycho-ceilidh rockers Neck on the main stage, and singer Andy M at the Green Dragon.

The festival fever continues on Saturday with AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Bells and Bristol based festival favourites Yes Sir Boss on the main stage, Monmouth’s new festival orchestra performing at Wyastone Concert Hall – a festival first! – and singer Lee Lloyd at the Green Dragon.

** STOP PRESS: Yes Sir Boss’s lead singer has a severe throat infection so they will be replaced tonight (Sat 18 Aug) by Toadstool, from Mon nights line-up **

A FOCUS ON: Monmouth’s new orchestra – and a new venue! Sat 18th August 7pm
A very special concert, this is a double-first for the Festival: the first ever performance of the new Monmouth Festival Orchestra (MFO), and the first time we’ve presented a concert at the world-class Wyastone Concert Hall, located just outside Monmouth. The programme will include the much-loved Brahms Symphony No. 3 and the tuneful Slavonic Dances by Dvořák. There will also be a premiere of a composition written by our own Monmouth-bred composer and conductor Chris Petrie, who will also conduct the concert. Chris Petrie studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and has worked with some of Europe’s leading ensembles including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Tonkuenstler Orchetsra (Vienna), London Sinfonietta and Chroma. Yet another example of Monmouth’s amazing musical talent.

A FOCUS ON: Carnival day, this Sunday!
The Carnival procession – including LeMans style racing cars, Severnside Silver Dragons Marching Band, Forest of Dean Morris Dancers and local people/organisations – will start at 2pm at the top of Priory Street and wend its way to the Festival stage at Blestium Street car park. There will be stalls, entertainers and workshops in Monnow Street from 10-6pm, a funfair from 1-5pm, and zorbs, archery and clay pigeon shooting on Chippenham Fields. A special Sunday Worship on the main stage at 11am will be led by Nia Price, Monmouth Band will be playing from 1pm in Agincourt Square, and there will be music from 3pm at the Robin Hood (Carnival Chillout with Angharad and Lounging About) and on the main stage in Blestium Street (local bands showcase).

On Sunday evening, rising star Harry Jones is at the Green Dragon, and the Jiveoholics and The Secret Police will be on the main stage.If you haven’t already checked out the line-up then you can do so here, and if you haven’t picked up your brochure, keep an eye out, they’re going fast.

In the meantime, checkout our Facebook and Twitter pages which are the best place to follow all the action.

Please remember …

… it really is important that you dig deep this year when approached by a friendly person holding a donations bucket.

Please think about the value for money you’re getting and donate as much as you feel you can.

We understand times are hard, so we appreciate anything you can give to make sure the Festival survives and be even bigger and better next year.

ALL donations go directly to the costs of the Festival – there are no staff, no offices, no costly admin re-charges, as everything is done by volunteers – so you can be assured that your money is being used to bring YOU a great Festival.
THANK YOU for your generosity past, present, and future!
Thanks also to our fantastic business supporters.

If you’re feeling generous as you read this, you can even donate via PayPal button top right or by clicking here.

So close you can almost taste it …


Four days to go – after all these months and weeks of preparations we’ll be ready to quite literally, rock and roll. As the anticipation builds, so will the main/outdoor stage – you’ll see it rising from the car park on Blestium Street from Wednesday.

If you haven’t already checked out the line-up then you can do so here, and if you haven’t picked up your brochure, keep an eye out, they’re going fast.

In the meantime, checkout our previous blog about the 80s or our Facebook and Twitter pages which are the best place to follow all the action.

Please remember …

… it really is important that you dig deep this year when approached by a friendly person holding a donations bucket.

Please think about the value for money you’re getting and donate as much as you feel you can.

We understand times are hard, so we appreciate anything you can give to make sure the Festival survives and be even bigger and better next year.

ALL donations go directly to the costs of the Festival – there are no staff, no offices, no costly admin re-charges, as everything is done by volunteers – so you can be assured that your money is being used to bring YOU a great Festival.THANK YOU for your generosity past, present, and future! Thanks also to our fantastic business supporters.

If you’re feeling generous as you read this, you can even donate via PayPal button top right or by clicking here.

What were you doing in 1983?

I love the 80sYou could have been … playing Pacman or Rubik’s cube, watching Dallas or the Young Ones, painting a white stripe across your nose Adam Ant-style, listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Combat Rock by the Clash, crying at ET, wearing big t-shirts with big slogans across them, ra-ra skirts and legwarmers …

If you weren’t even a twinkle in your parents eyes, then ask them about the tracks at the bottom of this post (they’ll either go all misty-eyed or roll their eyes in disgust). If you were around, enjoy the memories!

But while the rest of Monmouth was listening to all that wonderful music, a group of music fans in Monmouth were busy hatching plans to put on a FREE music festival in Monmouth ….  Read David’s story to find out about the start of the Festival. And come along to celebrate our thirtieth year – check out the line-up and make sure you’re there!

It’s incredible that Monmouth Festival has been running, continuously, for thirty years, and even more so that it’s continued as a free, independent festival, organised totally by volunteers. Please help us to keep it this way, and enable next year’s Festival to be even better by remembering to dig deep when you’re approached by a smiling person with a bucket. Thank you!

1983 number ones
The Flying Pickets – Only You
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
UB40 – Red Red Wine
KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up
Paul Young – Wherever I Lay My Hat
Rod Stewart – Baby Jane
The Police – Every Breath You Take
New Edition – Candy Girl
Spandau Ballet – TRUE
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse Of The Heart
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Men At Work – Down Under
Phil Collins – You Cant Hurry Love

Yes, time does really prove that the most popular music is generally the most embarrassing in retrospect. If you want to be reminded of some of the best albums and singles as far as NME are concerned, check out rocklistmusic for 1983:

1983 Top 20 NME albums
1. Punch The Clock – Elvis Costello
2. Swordfishtrombones – Tom Waits
3. Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy – Billy Bragg
4. The Art Of Falling Apart – Soft Cell
5. Thriller – Michael Jackson
6. You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess – Yellow
7. Colour By Numbers – Culture Club
8. Think Of One – Wynton Marsalis
9. Duck Rock – Malcolm Mclaren
10. Synchro System – King Sunny Ade
11. The Crackdown – Cabaret Voltaire
12. High Land Hard Rain – Aztec Camera
13. Let’s Dance – David Bowie
14. One From The Heart – Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle
15. Cold-Blooded – Rick James
16. Power Corruption & Lies – New Order
17. Subterranean Jungle – The Remones
18. Trouble In Paradise – Randy Newman
19. Classified – James Booker
20. Alive She Cried – The Doors

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