Red Rooster Festival 30 May – 1 June 2019
It’s always with great excitement that we turn up at the Red Rooster Festival. That’s partly due to the fact that it’s normally our first festival of the season and marks the start of summer. But, more importantly, it is always one of our favourite festivals. From the moment you arrive at the beautiful setting of Euston Hall, you know that you are going to enjoy one of the most relaxed and best festivals around.
The really lucky attendees would have enjoyed the start of the festivities on Thursday evening, but we couldn’t arrive until the Friday. That meant the first band we saw were the Orphan Colours. But it’s one hell of a start, as they were a great opening (for us) act. They have a wide Americana sound which suggests plenty of time has been spent listening to Tom Petty. It’s quite a commercial sound and songs like “Won’t Let You Down” wouldn’t be out of place on a Petty best of album. Tracks like “Waiting” seem ready made for US mainstream airplay. The songs are built on big, easy going, melodies and great harmonies. The band themselves are supremely tight. It’s a hell of a band to have on early in the festival and they are immediate contenders for our favourite act.
The Johnsons then offer up a more country flavoured sound. But, this is no John Denver kind of country. Instead, it’s a far dirtier, soaked in whisky variation of the genre. It may be country rock but it has a darker, blues twist to it. They also spice up the sound by adding in some fifties flavoured rock n roll to get people moving. Things then get a slightly more Californian feel with Sam Morrow. Together with his band they have a harder rocking sound. It reminds us of the blues flavoured rock that The Black Crowes used to deliver. There’s just a sense of ‘cool’ that they bring. A point rammed home by the fact they deliver the coolest version of ZZ Tops ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ that we’ve ever heard. Given his name, it’s not surprising that many of the songs feel like they could happily sit on the Sons Of Anarchy soundtrack. It’s a sound that the audience lap up.
With the sun creeping out, we are drawn to the beautiful setting of the Little Red Rooster stage. And we’re just in time to catch Carson McHone deliver a solo acoustic set ahead of her full band appearance later in the day. She delivers a great show and has a natural and appealing stage presence with some good one liners. Having said that, songs like “I Need Drugs” are themselves enough to catch the attention of the music and sun worshippers in attendance.
Next up we catch The Black Eyed Dogs (featuring Ethan Jones) a band who are a bit lower on the bill than we may have expected. It’s certainly no surprise that they deliver a great set to a large and enthusiastic audience. Ethan perfectly plays the role of the Americana veteran. We weren’t so sure about the Grateful Dead cover, which morphed into a bit of a musician’s jam session (although ‘Deadheads’ would’ve loved it!).
As we head towards the evening, the next act on the main stage appears to be one that a fair proportion of the crowd have come to see, Dale Watson and his Lone Stars. They really get the party going with song after song of good time rock n roll. Not surprisingly, the main stage tent is rammed and everybody is clearly up for a good time. It’s a set that reminds you that, no matter how times change, you just can’t beat a bit of good old rock n roll. Throwing in a cover of “Ring Of Fire” just makes sure that we have one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the festival.
Headlining on Friday night was Nick Lowe, who also appeared last year. This time, however, it’s a bit different as he is supported by Los Straitjackets. Visually it’s a bit weird seeing the pop veteran supported by a group of masked men! But then you hear Nick delivering classic songs and all you can think about is what a great songwriter he is. Every now and then he just drops in a perfect power pop style song. Even when he plays his latest single it’s a little rocker that puts most younger bands to shame. We probably said this last year, but to hear Nick perform the utterly brilliant “(What’s So Funny About ) Peace, Love and Understanding” is worth the entire festival admission price in itself. The set is a perfect end to a fantastic day of live music. Whilst some of the crowd would have happily made their way back to their tents, plenty are left dancing to more great tunes either at the main stage or at the brilliant Howlin’ Woods.
The next day we awake with fuzzy heads, but to a blue sky and the promise of sunshine and more great bands. Whilst just after 11 would normally be a bit early for us at a festival, the hot sun has us heading over to the Little Red Rooster stage to catch Clare Free. Her acoustic rock style thankfully acts as a refreshing start to the day.
It helps to wake us up in preparation for the good time rocking sound of James & The Ultrasounds. They play a mighty fine, fifties flavoured, rock n roll. It succeeds in getting the early crowd up and dancing…no mean feat. They have a fun, simple rock n roll style, very much in line with JD McPherson but with a bit of a ‘punky’ twist. They’re a big hit with us and the festival crowd.
If you weren’t awake by then, the moody blues of John J Presley would have given you a bit of a shock. He played the kind of dirty blues that fans of Jack White would love. He appropriately brings a swampy blues feel to accompany the blistering mid-day sun.
From that very American sound, we went to the French band Howlin’ Jaws. France may not be the first country you think of for rockabilly, but this band seem determined to change that. Attracting the biggest crowd of the day so far, they deliver an upbeat rock n roll show. They also have a bit of style and it’s great to see the singer swinging his double bass around the stage. They do a brilliant job of not just getting people tapping their feet but actually up and dancing. It’s no surprise when they receive the biggest cheer of the day.
Powersolo keep the main stage rocking with a more muscular form of rock n roll. Having only arrived on site 12 minutes before the start of their set, they don’t mess around. They keep the large crowd in the tent and away from the draw of the sun, which in itself is impressive.
Things get even hotter with the arrival of Oh Gunquit. Together with some brass, they bring a bit of glamour to the festival. They sure know how to rock n roll and put on a show. Their rocking sound has a brash quality to it with a Crampsesque feel. It’s a dirty, totally unwholesome brand of rock n roll which is just perfect for us. They have a dynamic and engaging singer who commands & prowls (quite literally at some points) the stage. She kind or reminded us of the legendary frontman Michael Monroe. It also brings us a first ever sight of a singer hula hooping in the middle of the crowd. Oh Gunquit definitely gave a festival stealing set and we are going to make sure we find out more about them.
We were then escorted into the evening by Jesse Dayton. It’s a good time rock n roll set that seems perfectly suited to this festival crowd. One which, by this time, is suitably buzzing from a combination of sun and booze! It really seems like Jesse was born to play at Red Rooster. We were particularly chuffed to see the set include a cover of The Clash’s ‘ Bank Robber’. That then left J.D Wilkes & The Legendary Shak Shakers as the band we chose to end the festival. The band can barely squeeze on to the Little Red Rooster stage, but that doesn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm. That eagerness was not surprising though, when you consider they were able to look out on to a large field of supportive music fans. Despite it being the end of a busy day, the Red Rooster crowd continued to bring brilliant support and lapped up the rocking set delivered by Mr Wilkes and his band.
Once again, this was a fantastic festival experience. Full credit should be given not just to the band but also the organisers for delivering yet another brilliant festival. They were helped by the fantastic weather. But, it’s the wonderful easy going atmosphere that really makes Red Rooster so special. They continue to resist the over commercialisation that so many festivals end up falling foul of. Instead, you get an event that remains focussed on providing great music, food and drink in a wonderful environment. We’ll certainly be back next year and we suggest you get your tickets ASAP to make sure you don’t miss out.