I'm back from my visit down to the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham and I have a heap of photos and recollections to share with you below. Forgive me if I jump about a bit, but this weekend has been a bit of a blur. View this as an alternative review of the festival... You read this blog for a reason right? Welcome to my world...
Spirits were high as we arrived in Cheltenham. I had it covered with two ukes at the ready: my hell-fire red Kingcaster electric uke and the one and only infected Tokyo uke. I must have been getting a bit hyper in the build up. How else can I possibly explain the following video?
In case you're wondering what a hell-fire red Kingcaster electric ukulele looks like...
It's a little bit blurry, but if you peer really hard, you can just about make out two large pillars and the stage in the picture on the left. :-D
I was a little bleary-eyed on the Saturday; The result of a little bit too much of a good thing the night before. In all the excitement, I only went and forgot my camera in the hotel room, so unfortunately a number of the pictures in this post are from my phone and a little bit blurry. On the right of this picture is a shot of the first band of the day, Sam Brown's International Ukulele Club of Sonning Common who wowed us with a top rendition of Pinball Wizard and a curiously country and western version of Ace of Spades. This is the very same Sam Brown who had a hit with Stop! in 1986 (daughter of Joe Brown). She mentioned on the day that she could no longer sing, but didn't explain why. You can't leave us with half a story Sam! Does anyone know the ending?
I love this Dead Mans Uke postcard on the left. I found it on a table in the "exhibitors" room. Unfortunately, I never got to hear the duo play. My bro says that DMU were doing a turn on the door welcoming people into the Cheltenham Town Hall on the day of the concert.
The picture on the right is a plea for some crowdfunding for The Ukes in America documentary. This looks to be another Ukulele Orchestra of GB tour. I seem to remember that the band were begging for money to fund a tour of Australia this time last year ;-) . Now they're off to crack America!
You won't believe this, but I ran into more scarabs on my travels. The ones in the middle of this picture were snapped in the window of the Millenium Music Shop. I came across the other two in the Rotundra Tavern in Montpellier. What is it about Montpellier? No-matter where you're heading, you always seem to end up there! As a sign of our frustration, we wrote a song with the catchy chorus of "I don't want to go back to Montpellier". It was on one of my many visits to this suburb that I concocted my idea of manufacturing a new love potion called "Golden Scarab Root Complex" with the catchphrase "It gives you the horn". I wonder if it will catch on?
Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2013
I discovered the launch of an inaugural "Northern" ukulele festival and hooked up with the organisers on the Saturday. I won't say too much about the festival at the moment other than it is going to be based in Pontefract (near Leeds) running over the 12th and 13th of October 2013. Get your tickets now. All of the details are in the picture above. I hope to be doing a more detailed teaser for the event in upcoming weeks to give you a feel for what it's all about and what you can expect at the event. Watch this space.
This set of snaps is of a few curiosities I came across on my travels. It kind of sums up the weekend: walking... drinking... and music!
Below, I'm being checked up on by Mrs Uke. "Yep, eveything's fine Love. Early night tonight..." ;-D
There were a couple of instances where I thought I might end up like these guys, but thankfully, I managed to keep my nose clean all weekend. These pictures are great, but I reckon Louis Sidoli is having a laugh. The pictures form part of a limited edition print run of 495 (that doesn't sound very limited to me) and are on sale for £399 a pop. Outrageous! If anyone's interested... I want the Hendrix one!
Update: I've just discovered that this collection is called Most Wanted. Reminds me of my own Wanted collection.
There were a lot of beautiful ukes on display at the festival. I took loads of pictures, but I'm only going to call out some of the more unusual ones. First off, check out the UkeEllie Risa on the left. I hadn't seen one of these before. I like the distinctive design. The uke on the right is a simple fluke, but I'm going to call out that the body is plastic, and so is the fretboard! Wasn't expecting that.
Here are a couple of shots from outside the Exmouth Arms on the Sunday. On the left is the Open Mic tent. On the right is the auction table. It was heaving. Despite promises to perform, I never did put my name down on the list. I'm not sure the Ballad of Tokyo Zombie would have cut it to be honest ;-)
"The Re-entrants are no more"
Last year I heard the Re-entrants for the first time, here at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. They were performing a Rock set. I'd seen a number of months ago that the two were changing their name with the intention of focusing more on their own music. I must say that I much prefer the newer stuff. Phil Doleman (the bald one) and Ian Emersson (the other bald one) have definitely got the skills to pay the bills. Whilst I certainly get the feeling that there is a more serious air to the duo's music these days, I love that they are still capable of having a little bit of fun along the way. Check out the song below that was a big hit on the night... Fair to Middlin'...
Here you can see one of the many U-Basses that were on display in the exhibition hall. They've really taken off this past year and it seems that every bugger's got one now... except for me. They're easy to spot with their super-thick strings. Talking strings... See the Living Water Strings to the right. I really haven't got a clue as to what that's all about. Drop me a note if you know.
Update: Daniel Hulbert knows! Living Water Strings are available through Ken Middleton's website. Ken manufactures and sells these 100% pure fluorocarbon strings in various ukulele sizes.
I spotted a fair bit of merchandise on sale this year from the various artists who performed. You can see some CDs here from Sarah Maisel (whose set I missed as I caught up with a relative of mine... Burger King) and an Andy Eastwood DVD. My only purchase on the Saturday was a Jews Harp. Just need to learn how to play that now.
This is a clearer shot of the seating and stage. The Cheltenham Town Hall is a great location. 10 points if you can guess the average age of the audience.
This collage of shots was taken high up on the balconies. It gives you a feel for the size of the place and the number of people there for the evening show.
My bro has been at me to get a tattoo. He even picked out the shop where I was to get inked: Tokyo Tattoo. Tokyo! Could this be a sign? Can you see that Tokyo Tattoo is situated in Unit 13... unlucky for some. Ha ha... Luckily for me, Tokyo Tattoo was closed! In case you're wondering, there was some talk of Godzilla. I won't say any more...
Ukeristic Congress were the turning point at the concert for me. Up until these guys came on, it was all feeling a little bit "Meh". This boy-band had traveled over from Dublin and I'm pretty certain that two of the gang were from last year's Aisling Out Walking. I'm struggling to remember which songs they played, but I do know that they finished with a rousing version of Raw Hide. You can see that I'd moved a little bit closer to the stage here. I could just about see their lips moving as they sang.
Can you tell which one is the bassist?
Here is some more ukulele porn. What a beautiful Gibson-like uke on the left, and check out the weird harp-uke-thing on the right. I declined the offer to give it a play, not knowing what I'd do with it. Apparently the guys on this table were the inventors of this particular design and have sold the rights to make it to some far-eastern country. So if you see them about... now you know ;-)
You turn your back for a moment and the little monkeys are up to all sorts. I love this picture of me and Jules D outside the Cheltenham Art Gallery.