Live Review: The Great British Alternative Music Festival (Friday), Butlins, Skegness, UK, 5th October 2018

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The Great British Alternative Music Festival (Friday)

Butlins, Skegness, UK - Friday 5th October 2019

After a trek from Manchester to the East Coast I find myself in an off season holiday park for The Great British Alternative Music Festival, during the summer months the resort is aimed at families, but this weekend is very different. It’s surreal to see punks of all ages, including a fair selection of the usual suspects I’ve encountered over the summer, congregating in front of the Puppet Castle having a well earned pint ahead of The Lengthmen kicking the weekend off. As the crowd start to emerge, mostly via one of the bars, The Lengthmen and Jack The Lad start things off with two blasts of old school high energy punk rock that warms up the steadily growing crowd for a weekend that has become a regular fixture in many punks calendars.

The Blue Carpet Band bring the spirit of the MC5 to Skegness with a full tilt set of garage fuelled punk rock. Their live reputation has preceded them, and it’s deserved. The Blue Carpet Band are everything that your parents warned you about, hyperactive punk ‘n roll straight outta a garage somewhere in Detroit, this won’t be the last time I see them live and today’s performance sees them win the vote on the Introducing Stage which means they will make a more than welcome return at next year’s event. The Relitics are another band that are new to me and they continue the assault, combining 70s punk roots, post punk and power pop that is delivered with a rock ‘n roll sensibility containing a strong anti-fascist message. A must see for any fans of Glitter TrashLoaded 44 or Choking Susan, their set creates a perfect end to the opening day’s Introducing Stage.  

On the Centre Stage Hands Off Gretel have been promoted following last year’s triumphant appearance on the Introducing Stage. It’s not been that long since I saw this band but in that short space of time Hands Off Gretel seem to have become a different beast from the one I’ve previously encountered. Their line-up has expanded back to a quartet and they seem like a slicker and more focused proposition than when I’ve previously encountered them. Frontwoman Lauren Tate is nothing short of bewitching today and on the basis of the new material that was previewed tonight mainstream success can’t be far away. In a complete contrast the Reds Stage is hosting Ed Tudor-Pole who is delivering a suitably idiosyncratic and eccentric acoustic performance.

I was meant to catch Eddie And The Hot Rods earlier this year at Strummercamp but misfortune befell their singer, Barrie Masters, when he was involved in a car accident. Thankfully he’s recovered and rumours this was to be their last live performance have been put to rest as they have announced a 2019 tour supporting Stiff Little FingersEddie And The Hot Rods deliver a set of old school pub rock that despite being the oldest band present this weekend sounds updated and reinvigorated for 2018. Continuing the eclectic vibe of the weekend The Blockheads are delivering a funkier alternative to a packed Centre Stage, one that keeps Ian Dury’s legacy alive and builds to the inevitable elongated climax of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

The holiday camp resort becomes increasingly surreal as the night wears on, whether it’s anarcho punks on the penny slots, a group of the older punks in heated conversation at Seaside Treats or just the generally odd juxtaposition of the by now drunken punks populating a family friendly seaside resort, it’s a sight that takes some getting used to and the late night soundtrack of songs by The Beatles recorded in a heavy ska style doesn’t help to dispel this. The appearance of Bad Manners brings a party ska vibe into the mix, they are the perfect act to close the opening day on the Reds Stage as they ensure that the venue is still bouncing well into the early hours as they knock out hit after hit to a crowd that oozes good time fun.

Who better to headline Centre Stage on the opening day than the perennial punks UK Subs, their appearance is preceded by a rousing singalong to a selection of punk classics that set the crowd up perfectly. The UK Subs are a band that have defied the years, they still somehow manage to sound as relevant and energised as they did four decades ago, such is the energy in their set it’s hard to believe that Charlie Harper is now 74. They deliver a crowd pleasing set that concludes the Centre Stage and sees people depart towards their rooms, with many wandering forlornly across the sprawling holiday camp long into the night in search of the accommodation.

Tickets for Butlins 2019 Live Music Weekends can be booked here

Photography by Steve White and you can visit his Flickr site here,

Review co-written by Steve White