Live Review: The Great British Alternative Music Festival (Friday) – Butlins, Minehead, UK, 8th March 2019

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Great British Alternative Music Festival (Friday)

Butlins, Minehead, UK - 8th March 2019

A six hour road trip from the North West England to Minehead in the South West precedes my arrival at the off season Butlins holiday camp that is hosting the counterpart to last October’s Great British Alternative Weekend in Skegness, it’s spring in the UK so of course it’s raining but as this is an indoor festival no one cares as other than a brief scurry from apartment to the main arena it doesn’t affect the weekend in the slightest. Inside there are similarities as there is the same haunted fun fair feel, a few lost souls clutching a pint wander between arcades and closed family orientated attractions, where is everyone? well they’re all in the bars obviously. As well as the attractions on offer at the bar the pool tables are occupied and there’s a bowling alley, which makes this akin to a small scale Punk Rock Bowling, albeit in somewhat colder conditions.

Unlike the Skegness weekend the Introducing Stage is in the more intimate venue of Jumpin’ Jaks, this is somethings of a double edged sword, on the one hand it makes for a more intimate atmosphere but it also has limited capacity, so latecomers may find themselves denied entry. Kicking the weekend off is Charred Hearts, they deliver a noisy start with some straight up punk ‘n roll. As with many of the bands on the Introducing Stage they’ve been around for a while, in this case 38 years, but the criteria is bands that haven’t played the main stages so introducing is a loose term. South London outfit Plague UK are next up and they bring a touch of old school punk rock to the weekends

The Outfit are a completely different prospect, they blend punk, hip hop, dub and international rhythms to bring something that is truly original into the mix, and for me they are they are one of the stand out acts from today’s Introducing Stage.  The Outfit‘s thunder is stolen by The Papashangos who bring their own brand of chaos to Minehead, there really is no one quite like this band of dysfunctional misfits, they have an energy born of the punk scene that is coupled with a sense of the ridiculously theatrical and no respect for personal space as their lead singer spends the entire set embedded in the crowd. In all of their press releases they will tell you they are terrible, don’t listen to them.

Big Country are opening the Reds Stage, this might sound unusual given the circumstances of the sad death of Stuart Adamson, but they deliver a set that is true to their original spirit, this year also marks the anniversary of their classic album The Crossing, as a result their set is weighted towards an album that is regarded as a classic of its time. They are followed by Another of Stuart Adamson‘s former outfits, The Skids, a band who have been accumulating critical acclaim since their return. Tonight is the first opportunity I’ve had to experience them first hand and I’m not disappointed.

 The Skids play with an energy that belies their years, Richard Jobson remains a hyperactive presence fronting the band in a set culled from their latest album, 2018’s Burning Cities, as well as the tracks you’d expect from their back catalogue and a few riotous punk covers, including the Buzzcocks‘ What Do I Get? that is dedicated to the memory of the late Pete ShelleyThe Skids are also the first band of the weekend to cause the floor of Centre Stage to literally bounce. Such is the popularity of this band the place is packed and with almost every number played lending itself to riotous ‘dancing’ we find ourselves standing on what could best be described as a giant trampoline.

Clashing with The Skids are The Blockheads, arguably the hardest decision of the weekend and for many it was a toss-up to decide who to see. The Blockheads continue to keep the legacy of Ian Dury alive and even without the charismatic presence of the legend that is Norman Watt-Roy on bass. The Blockheads go down brilliantly delivering a set of instantly recognisable, crowd pleasing punk-funk. Closing the Centre Stage is Peter Hook And The Light, the long standing legal wrangling between the original members of New Order and Joy Divison led to the him resuming touring on his own terms and revisiting his back catalogue, and he’s never looked back.

Tonight opens with Atmosphere that is dedicated to the late Keith Flint of The Prodigy. It’s no surprise that that his set leans heavily on the punk and post punk of Warsaw and Joy Divizion, which to my ears is where Peter Hook’s strengths lie, his gruff vocals are better suited to the punk material. As ever The Light provide an authentic and flawless backing for a set that is largely culled from Unknown Pleasures, an album that is unarguably one of the most influential albums of the last forty years. Strutting around the stage delivering those unmistakeable bass riffs Peter Hook knows tonight is good. In fact it’s better than good as he plays a set that proves to be one of the weekends highlights.

Meanwhile on the Reds Stage Bad Manners are the perfect choice to close the first day with their good time party ska, knocking out hit after hit to a crowd that wanted to have fun and dance the night away rather than have their thoughts taken to places perhaps a little darker by listening to Peter Hook And The Light. What is important to note about the opening day of the Minehead leg of The Great British Alternative Festival is that unlike its counterpart in Skegness this was not just just about punks of a certain age reliving their glory years, the location means that it has attracted the curious, and those who would not normally be exposed to the punk scene, including a hen weekend and the offspring of the original punks, which means that the bands aren’t just preaching to the converted.

Tickets for Butlins 2019 Live Music Weekends can be booked here

Photography by AJ PhinkJohn King and Steve White. You can visit Steve White‘s Flickr site here, John King‘s Live Music Pix website here and you can click on any of the photos to view a slide show of the images.

Review co-written by Steve White