It has been a week now since we set off for The Great British Rock & Blues Festival. The annual weekender in Butlins Skegness, which has an accommodation capacity of 7,000 people, is a huge draw for the UK Blues community. With 50 acts in the lineup this year, we thought that this was undoubtedly the best lineup yet. You can check out our preview of the event and who we were looking forward to before the weekend by clicking here.
So how do you take 50 quality acts and boil it down to a top 10? Well not very easily at all we must say, especially given we had to straddle 4 venues at once on a few occasions. Literally every act we caught were superb, all with the exception of one artist that was particularly obnoxious on Sunday evening. If it isn’t worth saying, don’t say anything at all – so I will stop there.
The acoustics in Jaks bar were not the best, and some sound got drowned out in the huge Skyline tent where the Introducing stage was established. However, in spite of this 6 acts from those stages have made our top 10. It would be fantastic to see some of these acts move up the pecking order next year, we know one of them already has a date on a bigger stage next time around.
So we are going to get this show on the road. A few mentions to some of the acts that didn’t make the list including Sari Schorr who had the exceptional Ash Wilson on guitar, Rob Tognoni and anyone who took part in the jam session on Saturday afternoon. Thorbjorn Risager would have made a slightly extended list. This list is just like your Sunday afternoon chart show, an epic countdown of sorts to our number one. You may agree or not, you may find we simply drank too much beer, add a comment and let us know your thoughts. Here we go…
10: Joe Anderton Band
Okay, so this was basically Joe Anderton on his own. This obviously has a bit of a back story which Joe will have to tell you about himself. Either this was a late change or someone was taking the p*** because throughout his set the big screen maintained the words Joe Anderton Band bright and bold. Technically skilled with the acoustic guitar and some dry wit between songs, we can safely say this boy is a talent. We are not showing any early Essex-boy favouritism, we simply thought he done a great job in what were obviously tough circumstances. Well done, lad.
To all you haters of pickle, what the hell you having in a cheese sandwich ?
— Joe Anderton (@JoeAnderton96) January 26, 2018
9: Jo Harman
Another bread and butter decision, Jo Harman who is rarely strictly blues always ends up as a favourite amongst a crowd. Jo slipped in at that point of the weekend where we all needed a bit of soul and she added a few cups of raw blues for good measure. The sound setup was very tight for Jo’s spell on stage and the crowd we’re very receptive to her, more people at the front near the stage than any other point in the weekend. Jo Harman has lots of fans for a reasons, she is a very, very, very good singer.
@jo_harman great performance in an intimate venue tonight. Thanks for signing the CD. See you in Skegness in January
— Tony (@suffolktl) November 11, 2017
8: Jack J Hutchinson
A serious, serious talent. One that would have made it much higher I guess had we not been standing in the bar area of Jaks bar. You literally can hear nothing up there. But anyway, Jack, wow. Yeah he’s a bit more rock than blues at times, and that iss why he would be much better suited to a bigger venue, but we like his songs and we like his attitude. Jack’s songs and lyrics are raw, powerful and energetic. The crowd respond to him very well. Another reason behind that is because he is everywhere, we passed him by hundreds of times over the whole weekend. He’s a music fan, and he gives as much support to other acts as he expects support to be put into his. He could just do with everyone at the bar shutting up for 90 minutes or so.
More cracking photos from my friend Haluk Gurer from Skegness Rock and Blues Festival. pic.twitter.com/NA3aKBp5AO
— Jack J Hutchinson (@JackJHutchinson) January 26, 2018
7: Robin Bibi Band
Can’t say that I had ever really invested much time in Robin Bibi before the weekend. Yeah I listened to his CD’s, we love his track Fast Lanes Busy, but we had never seen him live. Well what an experience that was, he was one of the most technically adept guitar players over the course of the weekend, probably the best on Electric. His solos last an absolute age, but are driven, engaging and the crowd loved it. The vocals were on point too and he made the best of the Jaks bar acoustics. Check out Robin on Spotify below, and do everything you can to find him on the road somewhere near you.
6: Tom Walker Trio
Another act that we can honestly say we haven’t gone out of our way to find out a great deal about. So soulful and great guitar work, we gathered you have to have a healthy amount of both to be lucky enough to have Bob Fridzema join you on keys. A young man with a lot of talent, Tom was the first act of the weekend to take on Centre Stage and he did his job well, it was his job to get the crowd in the mood. You can find more of his bluesy but soulful voice on his 2017 EP Into Space below.
5: Rebecca Downes
We love Rebecca we make no secret of it. She featured in our top 5 before the weekend and she is unsurprisingly still in the top 5 coming out of the weekend. We were lucky enough to catch her in superb form at the New Crawdaddy a couple of years ago and we have to say she was even better this time. Whilst the band are solid and never disappoint, Rebecca used the guitar more than we have seen in the past and that combined with her powerful, lashing vocals graced the superior acoustics of Centre Stage. Steve Birkett on lead guitar is a gem too, like a jack in the box with his (somewhow surprising every time) solos. Rebecca just keeps getting better and better, find all of her upcoming gigs listed here.
Wow – Great British Rock and Blues Festival, Skegness – you were amazing!! A storming weekend that included guest appearances with Slack Alice and Connie Lush as well as the main gig and the odd moment of frivolity in between! Thanks to everyone for a great reception xx pic.twitter.com/vkyHruryW2
— Rebecca Downes (@RebeccaDownesUK) January 22, 2018
— Derek Cooke (@derekcooke) January 24, 2018
4: Mike Ross Band
Second act of the weekend – 5pm on Friday afternoon. Literally half of the attendees for the weekend were on the A1, but we weren’t. It appears unbelievable that act number two could make it in to the top four for the lot, but he was superb! We got there early, because to be fair we knew he was going to be good and we said so in our preview article, but he was the best received of all Friday afternoon’s acts and won the daily competition. This was the only point in the weekend we were sober, so hats off to you Mike. Except you don’t ever take your hat off, do you? Check him out anywhere and everywhere you can, especially when joined by the superb Stevie Watts on keys.
3: Bernie Marsden
I won’t go on here, I get enough grief from my friends for it. Whitesnake legend Bernie Marsden is a guitar-god, deal with it. He played a superb acoustic set on the Rock Stage on Saturday night. We were dead-chuffed to meet him too as he signed a book and CD for us. Hero or what.
2: Elles Bailey
We’ve got a lot of time for Elles Bailey, we mentioned her in our preview post as a late runner, the fifth in our hurried list of five. We thought people might have lost interest come 12:30am on Monday morning. Well we hadn’t lost interest, the crowd hadn’t lost interest and neither had Elles. By far one of the most energetic atmospheres of the weekend and tightest bands we saw, Elles Bailey rocked the house on Sunday evening until the early hours. She played all of the songs of hers we love, including some new ones that will sound superb on whatever album is coming. Jaks was full and at times the talking at the bar thing came up again, but Elles rode through it all. She either has a bigger following than we first thought, or she has now gained a massive following given how busy it was. Get her on a main stage next year, she won’t let you down.
1: Backwater Roll Blues Band
I used to share the gigs for these guys, saw them on YouTube thought they sounded cool. Thought they were at worst worth a go on Sunday afternoon to fill the time. How rude of me to even think that. They were superb!!!! I don’t say that lightly, we went into the weekend confident that we would be making a list with Bernie at the top followed by Lucky Peterson and Dr Feelgood, how naive we have been. Backwater Roll were the smoothest act of the weekend, great guitars, harmonica, rhythms – the lot! The crowd loved them just as much as we did. We have had no second-thoughts, no doubts – Backwater Roll were far and away our favourite act this weekend. Check them out on Spotify below.
Your Best 10?
We know the blues isn’t all things to all people, we know you probably wont all like our choices. We want to know your top 10 picks of the weekend, simply add them in the comments below.