The Rockabilly Rave, it’s that time of year again when over 3000 rockabillies from all corners of the world make their way to the very little seaside resort of Camber Sands in East Sussex England. Here you find what is an innocent looking family holiday park, but for one weekend a year it becomes Rockabilly Land and let me tell you there is nothing else to compare to this.
This year after weeks of what seemed like unbroken sunshine we arrived in pouring rain, which remained pretty much all the time, did it dampen our spirits? Not in the least it just gave us cause to spend longer in the bars!
For the first time in a number of years there was no ‘50’s headliner, instead Jerry Chatterbox stated that he was passing the batten to the next generation. Would it work was a question on some minds before the start. This is the 15th anniversary weekend, and every guest received a special CD with 15 bands that have appeared over the years, a nice touch.
Now it would be a pretty huge task to comment on every act of the weekend, there were 29 live acts on the bill this year! So I will restrict my ramblings those that made me want to jump around scream and holler the most, not that there was a bad act, just some that didn’t appeal as much.
Thursday’s headline was Wayne The Train Hancock with his bar room honky tonk country style that is much more my brother’s scene than mine so I left him to watch the very professional and well received set while I got my self ready for the later acts.
The Rhythm Shakers were appearing as part of the Wild Records showcase that took place over the weekend, Flipsville is their latest album and Marlene the lead vocalist powered her way through most of the tracks, it was tight, low down, dirty, blues infused rockabilly that tore through you, the crowd loved it and we knew then the weekend was going to be a belter. The traders sold out of her CD, and the limited edition 10” vinyl that Wild Records issued just for the event with 4 of their stars on, sold like hotcakes.
Last up on Thursday were, Restless. Now if you have read any of my reviews before it is no secret that I am a product of the ‘80’s rockabilly scene and these guys are as much heroes to me as the 50’s stars are, so I was eagerly awaiting this show.
Unfortunately, Mark blew 3 amplifiers in quick succession which to be honest took the spontaneity of the set away with all of the interruptions. All the early hits and fan favourites were there, Ice Cold, Yellow Cab to Midnight, Long Black Shiny Car etc, but this show lacked something, it was the same set as they played at Hemsby last year, and seemed to lack spark, for a band that have 30 years of material and a brand new album out (which is excellent) they have plenty of opportunity to change things around. Yes they were loud, professional and sounded great but I left feeling I hadn’t seen them at their best, which when they are on form no one else can touch them!
Friday, more rain, so more beer, the first afternoon sessions of the weekend, Pete Anderson and the Swampshakers were from Latvia and played a blinder, but it was Lil Camille and the Rattletones that really took top honours this session, young and talented this is the future of rockabilly, writing a lot of her own material she put on a superb show, she was brave enough to admit not liking Wanda Jackson, to a crowd of some considerable size but got away with it because to be honest she was just so damn charming, and talented. Lets see a CD release soon, and a return visit.
Of the four acts on Friday night, for me it was the Australian Pat Capocci who just blew the rave apart, a superb set of faultless pure and genuine rockabilly, the crowd was sizable and demanded more from someone who is destined to be a big thing on the scene, check him out and grab a CD, they sold out again within minutes of the final encore.
The Modern Don Juans from California are a collective of well known faces including Bobby from Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys the singer from Star Mountain Dreamers, they played loud, hard rockabilly perfect for a Friday headline, anyone missing the older stars should by now have had their fears laid to rest, Jerry has hand picked some top bands even if they are not all familiar to us.
Closing the show were The Ceazars, last years battle of the band winners, all under 21 and subject of much chatter around the scene, I’ll make no more comment except to say that there is bound to be some controversy after this performance. Make your own minds up.
Now Saturday always sees the car cruise leave the camp at midday so the live entertainment kicks off a bit later, a casual show with Wayne Hancock in the pub was followed by, for me what turned out to be the absolute most exciting performance of the weekend.
Iz Proulx is a French Canadian piano pounding genius. I approached this show with little expectation, an unknown name opening what is usually the quietest session of the day. When he came on stage he did not come across as anything special, then he played!! He opened by saying he talks very little English, but I speak Rock N Roll!! Wow, he blew us away, Jerry Lee was in the house, yes, Iz that good, blasting through, stuff by Jerry, Charlie Rich, Johnny Burnette and his own songs performed in French. His sheer enthusiasm, and joy at being on that stage was infectious, the crowd grew and grew and yelled for more, 3 encores I think. A name to watch for, let’s see him back on the main stage next time Jerry, with a full size grand piano and a box of matches!! There’s a challenge for you.
Saturday evening then and Big Sandy and The Fly Rite Trio were set to headline, before them though was the ever excellent Infernos from the UK, they always play a great set, probably the most Sun sounding of the UK acts on the circuit, they played probably the best set I have seen from them, no messin’ no fussin’ just straight ahead rockabilly played with passion, and a love for the scene that they have been part of for so long now. Job done boys!!
Big Sandy, is always a joy to watch and with his original band Bobby, Wally and TK they are one of the best there has ever been. Why, because they make it look so damn easy, they are just brilliant. The set was great, playing the entire On The Go album in sequence, even stopping halfway to ’turn the record’ over. A huge crowd delighted at this star turn performance, yes Jerry again you were right, it is time for bands like these to carry the torch for the scene forward.
Another crowd favourite closed the show, The Bellfuries, they were so popular last year they made a quick return, Joey has the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the set, he has a soulful voice and writes meaningful lyrics, not common in this genre, but then The Bellfuries are not what I would class as a ‘Rockin’ band in the strictest sense, yes they have some rockin tracks, but they cover many genres and appeal widely because of it.
A terrific Saturday and only one day left…………
The best of Sunday came in the evening, Rusty Pinto, another Aussie, backed by Pat Capocci opened the show, where and when did they get so good at this stuff, previously with the Dragstrip Trio, now solo he had a large crowd jumping around to his brand of rockabilly, I think 'Aussibilly' is here and we better watch out if its all this good.
Amber Foxx the American songstress put on a faultless show of smoky bar room rockin tinged stuff that strays into ‘50’s jazz infused blues, helped along with a steady supply of whisky her voice smoulders through a very enjoyable set, backed superbly by the Fly Rite Trio and joined by Big Sandy for a number along the way.
Then came the Wild Records showcase, Omar Romero, Texas Steve and Dustin Chance. Absolute brilliant show, 20 minutes each, no filling in, no wasted tracks just 100% concentrated energy, exploding on the stage, Omar is a smooth operator polished dressed to perfection, voice that sails through the numbers, where as Texas Steve is pure Texas rockabilly, this was Ray Campi in ’56, Buddy Holly’s Lubbock, the energy and rawness of his performance was just how it was then and should be now. Dustin was also top stuff screaming through some wild rockabilly to a very receptive crowd. Wild you did yourselves proud, 4 top acts over the weekend and a large number of new fans no doubt.
The weekend closed with 49 Special, a band from Portugal that have that late ‘50’s early ‘60’s country rockin, juke joint sound, very Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, the sound they produced was just fantastic and took you to a place where the roads are long and dusty, the radio is on loud and the world is in front of you, way out West in a more a simple time. Very professional, and an excellent choice to close the show.
Of course the bands are only part of the Rave, the DJ’s play till 6.00 am, there are the cars, the shopping, the characters, Tikki Man, we love you in the foyer.
I haven’t mentioned all the acts and deliberately haven’t given set lists, the Rave is unique and so to old friends who I shared a chat and a drink and new friends I made, here’s to next year.
And to Jerry, a simple, but huge Thank You.