Red Rooster Festival 27-29 August 2021
The prospect of turning up at the beautiful grounds of Euston Hall for the wonderful Red Rooster festival is always one that brings a sense of delight and excitement. After the covid pandemic and the resultant stress and despair it has brought, there can’t have been one single attendee that wasn’t delighted to be actually attending this years event. It has been easy to forget just how great it is to hear live music, see a band and experience that feeling with a bunch of people who just want to enjoy themselves.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to the festival than to have The Future Shape of Sound as the very first band we saw. There probably isn’t a band who better exemplifies the festival in terms of both their sound and joyous approach to music. They expertly blend rock n roll and gospel to create a sound that makes you glad to be alive. Alex McGowan leads the band like a music hall showman and is flanked by powerhouse lead vocalist Debbralee Wells and a mini gospel choir straight from the church of Rock’n’Roll. Their vibrant mix of musical influences and upbeat sound takes no prisoners and even this Saturday lunch time crowd are all up singing and dancing. The only disappointment is that this was an early slot so they only got about half an hour. It left the crowd baying for more and really we’d all have loved to see them play a full headline set…. Maybe another year!
The Future Shape of Sounds set also saw a guest appearance by Paul Ronney Angel of the Urban Voodoo Machine. He must surely have been up for an award for hardest working man at the festival. His guest slot was followed up with his own solo performance over at the Little Red Rooster stage. This gave him a chance to show more of his gypsy troubadour style as opposed to the explosive style of his main band. The more bluesy sound perfectly matched the very un-August like weather and he used his raspy vocals to keep up the spirits of the crowd. As usual, the in-between songs banter offers additional entertainment as well as some political/social commentary. However, first and foremost, Mr Angel is a true rock n roller. A point exemplified by the acoustic cover of I Wanna be Sedated by the Ramones and the crowd participation on a song about what a pain in the arse 2020 was. We are sure this set will see many people seeking out his solo album.
The voodoo theme was then picked up by Robin Evans, surely the only face painted Blues & Alt country artist hailing from Norwich. His sound certainly offers more to New Orleans or the bluegrass of the deep south than the Norfolk broads. Playing some incredible guitar licks whilst also accompanying himself on a kick drum, he is clearly a very talented musician. It is also the first time we have ever heard a song about badger milk! The set was nicely rounded off by an incredible version of ‘bonkers’ which had the expected impact on the crowd! The smaller stage continued to hold our interest with the presence of Jimmy Regal and The Royals who actually managed to bring a big band sound to the little stage. They had a traditional blues sound that sees our first sighting of some jive dancing from the audience (another reminder of just how good it was to see people just getting their kicks from live music).
Our return to the main stage saw us catching up with the incredible Ida Mae. These are clearly stars in the making and deliver some of the best vocals we hear all weekend. Both lead singers have powerhouse vocals which they combine to perfect effect on some amazing harmonies. Add in some guitar work that just demands the crowds attention and it’s no surprise that they attract a lot of people into the tent. Their move to Nashville has clearly paid off as they are an extremely tight and talented band. Indeed, the only thing we would have liked to see is a bit more of a sense of fun as on occasions it felt a bit too perfect for our rock n roll sensibilities.
Coincidentally, we made a similar comment about Kitty, Daisy and Lewis when we last saw them here at Red Rooster a few years back. Now further up the bill and acting as support to the headliner, it is clear that they have really nailed not just their songs but also their performance. They provide some great rock n roll which really does warm up the crowd and gets them singing and dancing along with the band. They manage to build in many of the sounds and styles that the Red Rooster festival is all about. It’s a mix of rock n roll, rockabilly, soul, ska , blues and jazz. They also continue to amaze with their ability to switch between instruments during different songs. Their level of talent is amazing. But more importantly than that, this set sees a huge improvement in the tempo of the songs and the way they work the crowd. They now seem more relaxed and want to join the crowd in having some fun.
Saturday’s headliner is Richard Hawley and you have to give full credit to the organisers for securing such a great act (something they have demonstrated a constant knack of doing). It is clear that he is a big attraction for many of the people attending. He delivers a set which consists of epic songs that build to triumphant conclusion. He is able to effortlessly switch his vocal style from rocker to blues to old school crooner. Perhaps not offering the easy singalong style that might appeal to the casual listener, there is no doubt that the strength of the songs and the sense of grandeur offered by the set will have left his fans in raptures.
Sunday morning began for us with Black Cat Bone and boy were they the perfect band to smash the hangover out of our brain! They’re a down and dirty rock n roll band with a set full of big licks, big choruses, sleazy vocals and scuzzy harmonica. There’s a kind of Black Crowes feel to some of their songs but with more of a modern rock style edge to it. They also have a lead singer who is a proper ‘rock star’ and adds a real sense of pizzazz to their sound -something we love! They certainly draw a very impressive crowd from their morning slumber and kick start another day of top music.
José McGill and the Vagaband bring a more country feel that easily bridges the distance in miles between the east country of Suffolk and the mid-west of America (hence why perfect for Red Rooster). They also add a dash of pop into the mix which allows their sound to have a wider audience appeal and it’s no surprise they get a good reaction from the assembled crowd. CMAT then offer quite a change given this is a solo performer with just a guitar but she is also in possession of one hell of a voice. There’s an almost bleakness and lo-fi style to her sound which is in keeping with many of the acts who have had some mainstream success recently. Although there’s also an element of the uniqueness and quirky sound of Kate Bush about her as well.
Things then go full circle with His Lordship a band that is a true rock n roll act. The sharp suits and their sound also give them a bit of a new wave edge on occasions, which certainly appeals to us. If there was anyone in the crowd still suffering from a Sunday afternoon slumber then His Lordship will have dragged them out of it. It’s mainly rock n roll but has a modern twist which could see it appealing to fans of the likes of JD McPherson. What’s amazing is that this was only their 2nd gig as a band (although the members have a long music pedigree). Given this is a completely triumphant set it’s somewhat scary to think how good they could get – definitely a band to keep your eye out for.
The one band we were really looking forward to seeing more than any other this weekend was the Urban Voodoo Machine. Now they weren’t the headliners but we are going to take the liberty of regarding them as being so for the purpose of this review. We have already commented how lead singer Paul Ronney Angel had been popping up throughout the festival, but it was clear from the moment that the band marched to the stage that he and the rest of the band were intent on ensuring the crowd had the time of their lives. They delivered a cocktail of sounds ranging from rock n roll, flamenco rock, ska, rock and blues that left the crowd totally intoxicated. In a post Brexit/pandemic world, the Urban Voodoo Machine were the real shot in the arm that the crowd needed. This is a band whose music epitomises good times and the joy and passion that music can bring. They deliver not just great songs but a sense of showmanship that has the crowd eating out of their hands. They create an atmosphere that is beyond any of the other great acts that performed over the weekend. A truly triumphant performance which led to us hearing numerous people demanding that next time they are indeed the headline act.
As we said at the outset, the anticipation for this festival was already at fever pitch. It will come as no surprise to those who have been to Red Rooster before that it comfortably met the demands of everyone who attended. It really is the perfect small festival in terms of delivering great music (that includes the fabulous DJs that appear over the weekend at the Howling Woods stage and the main stage that keep the punters dancing until well into the early hours). It also continues to provide numerous purveyors of fine food and drink which seems to get better each year. As if all that isn’t enough, it’s at the perfect venue with the nicest staff and the most laidback family festival vibe you could ask for. The first set of early bird tickets for next year have already gone but make sure you keep your eye out for the release of the next batch because you NEED to support this great event.