Thursday 6th August saw me setting out for the short drive to Wickham Festival in Hampshire. Strangely This is the first time I have managed to get to Wickham despite it being less that an hours drive from home. In previous years there always seems to have been clashes with other commitments but I was determined to get here this year, especially as the line-up is so strong.
The day started brilliantly as I sat to have a coffee at home after finishing packing the van. I put the Ashes test match on to watch for a few minutes before leaving. A great start to the day saw England bowl the Aussies out for 60 before I finished my coffee.
I left home around 12.30 and by 2 pm, I was onsite and set up, giving me plenty of time to put in a bit of guitar practice before popping over to the arena to collect my press pass. 5pm saw the first act on the main stage, Roseanna Ball. Devon based Roseanna was new to me but she provided a lovely start to the festival with her selection of self-penned songs whilst accompanying herself on guitar, banjo, mandolin and a stringed instrument that looked like a cross between a steel guitar and a lump of driftwood.
Next up was the brilliant Sharon Shannon band. With Sharon playing squeeze box and whistles accompanied by guitar, keyboards and fiddle we were treated to an hour of slips, jugs and reels. Sharon and her band really do provide the very best of traditional Irish music. The crowd loved it and were soon on their feet. If I had one criticism of Sharon it would be that she should add vocals to more of her songs as she does have a great voice.
As Sharon finished her set I popped over to the second stage to check out Dorey the Wise. The Hastings based quartet were finalists in this years Larmer Tree festival breakthrough music awards and I was impressed with what I saw so I was keen to check them out again. I was impressed again. These boys lay out a fine line in Indie rock. I like them a lot. They are tight and energetic and have a lot to offer with the lick laden guitar rock.
Back at the main stage Carlos Nunez was a real treat. The Galecian multi instumentalist treated us to 60 minutes of celtic folk that even saw the inclusion of the Southern Jacobite pipe band during his set. Carlos plays a variety of pipes and whistles to the support of fiddle, drums and guitar. His music is celtic folk with an infusion of latin rhythms and it brought a little slice of northern Spain to southern Hampshire. As I have said numerous times in the past in this blg, there is always something at a festival that surprises and delights, something that you have never heard before that is new to you that becomes something you love. Carlos ticked that box for me on the first evening of Wickham festival.
Andy Fairweather-Low and his band played a stunning set in the main stage big-top. Andy’s take on British blues guitar combined with his instantly recognisable vocals never grows old. Andy was on top form as he took the audience on a journey through a top quality set that included hits like Wide-eyed and Legless, Bend Me, Shape me and If Paradise is half as nice interspersed with music from his latest album. By the end of the set the crowd was on its feet and enjoying every note.
I suspect that most of those at the mainstage, like me, were looking forward to seeing the evenings main event, the inimitable Wilko Johnson. This time last year we thought that we would probably never have the opportunity to see Wilko again. As I am sure many of you know the former Dr Feelgood man was diagnosed with terminal cancer a couple of years back and took to the road in what many thought was the most final of ‘farwell tours.’ This time last year Wilko cancelled a number of festival appearance because his health took a turn for the worst. Amazingly Wilko got back on the road after having a massive tumour removed. Having missed his set at Glasonbury I was delighted to have the opportunity to see him last night. For 30 minutes or so we saw glimpses of the old Wilko as he shuffled across the stage brandishing his guitar like a machine gun as he sprayed the audience with guitar riffs.
As the set progressed though it became obvious that all was not well and after a couple of stutters Wilko had to be helped from the stage, the evening brought to a premature close. It was clear that Wilko was unwell so lets hope that it proves not to be too serious, perhaps the effect of heat and tiredness and that this wonderful man bounces back.
I am alreaady extremely impressed with Wickham festival. The site is brilliant, compact, well laid out and the three stages just a couple of minutes walk from each other. The organisers clearly have things worked out because despite the proximity of the stages to each other I did not detect any sound bleed between stages. It looks like it will be a great weekend. So here’s to todays line-up.