|Giants of Rock 2020|
24th - 27th Jan 2020
Butlins Minehead, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH, United Kingdom
Giants Of Rock continues to cement its place as one of the UK’s major rock weekends. For a winter fix of rock music in a first-class location it’s virtually unbeatable. Butlins really delivers on the infrastructure and the music, but it’s the people that make the event.
Our FFA Reviewers are almost evangelical in singing the praises of Butlins music festival weekends, and GOR is no exception. FFA have followed GOR since inception, and our guys simply love the whole experience. (Take a read of the FFA Giants Of Rock 2019 Review for just a taster of last years bash.) FFA has noticed over the last few years that GOR weekends are no longer really about the procession of fine artists that transit the stages every year; its deeper than that now. Artists come and go – but the GOR community remains. There is a genuine festival feel to proceedings, a great community atmosphere that permeates every element. It’s not just fine bands at an ideal location any more – it’s an event, a happening, in its own right. GOR has a life of its own now, bigger than any band it hosts. It’s all down to the crowd of course, their vibe and interaction. You can almost taste the camaraderie as soon as you arrive on site. It’s a lovely buzz – thousands of like-minded folks getting on down to share their collective passion. Friendly, open, knowledgeable and welcoming. It’s a pleasure to play a part and capture that spirit.
‘Rock’ is a very broad term and GOR covers most of the sub-genres. Whilst the event celebrates Classic Rock, with a number of artists clocking up over forty (and sometimes 50+ !) years in the business, there is plenty of much younger talent on show too. It’s a good mix of genres and generations; you are just as likely to witness a 20yr old blues guitarist on the stage as a 70yr old elder statesman of psychedelia. It all works together and it’s a great mix.
The Butlins Minehead Resort is the ideal location. Old clichés can be hard to change if you’ve not visited a Butlins for many years, but Butlins is very much a 21st century holiday destination these days. Their resorts are modern, the facilities absolutely on the button, with a whole host of eating and accommodation options to suit most pockets and tastes, plus all the other inclusive Butlins offerings like waterparks, bowling alleys, pool halls and much much more. Their music festival weekends are festivals without the hassle; large arena, indoors, with a warm bed and your own facilities to return to when it all gets too much. Indeed, the excellent seaside town of Minehead is just a couple of minutes down the Prom if you really want a change of scene. On site, the resort offers two large arenas accommodating a few thousand apiece, plus smaller venues, and of course, a pub with a bouncing rock disco scene!
So… Butlins Resorts and Music Weekends are a marriage made in heaven - its Quality all the way, but don’t forget VALUE. Factor in what you get for what you pay and GOR represents outstanding value for money. For your three days of accommodation, music and all the other related Butlins goodies, dependent upon when you book, your accommodation options and size of party, tickets can often work out cheaper than a typical summer festival in a damp tent. That’s stunning value.
Have there been better GOR line-ups? All this experienced Reviewer knows is that FFA did not witness a single act that disappointed, and we had yet another absolute blast at GOR. Indeed, the biggest complement we can pay as Reviewers at any event is that our two Bands Of The Festival were complete unknowns to us prior to the weekend - so high was the calibre of all the GOR fayre. Every review is just opinion; if you were blessed to attend, then the FFA highlights mentioned below may well not be yours, indeed your favourites may not even get a mention in our final edit. So it goes. Omission is not a sin. Copy space, drink and distractions did for us. If this review triggers any debate at all about music and relative merits – then it has surely worked as a review!
FFA kickstarted proceedings with Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures. What a marker for the shenanigans to come. A fine, honest to goodness rock outfit; great musicians, and FFA were up and away.
It doesn’t get more ‘Giants Of Rock’ than The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. The man is an ageless genius, influential across generations, the songs timeless, and as always – Brown delivered a SHOW. This was a psychedelic extravaganza in Reds with dancers, visuals, more costume changes than Ziggy, and, of course, that fibreoptic cape! Brown’s voice is as powerful and emotive as ever, and he rolled back the years to deliver an absolutely flawless ‘Time Captives’. It is always a privilege and honour to witness the likes of Brown perform. This is what GOR is all about. We were blessed.
Late replacements for the incapacitated Procol Harum, Oliver/Dawson Saxon delivered their typical stomping singalong bash over on Centre Stage. Front Man/Stand Up Comedian Shaughnessy owned the gaff, the crowd sang and danced – it was Rock & Roll good times – what’s not to like? FFA caught some fabulous covers and excellent musicianship from John Verity Band with ‘Star Spangled Banner / Purple Haze’ back-to-back with a blisteringly good ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ taking the absolute biscuit – a peach of a set. It’s a sad fact that many solo-singers estranged from great bands simply treat their current backing musicians as nothing more than a vehicle to deliver the lyrics. Not so with the excellent Dave Bickler. These musicians were stunning. This was a proper band. Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ stole the show of course, but these guys were no one-trick wonders. A splendid way to end Day One.
If any hard-working troubadours put the Class in Classic then it has to be Stray; yet another band who apparently find it impossible to deliver a poor set. Rather like Arthur Brown, and, erm, cheese and wine, Bromham appears to get better with age. Recent band member changes have opened up the soundscapes, and Simon Rinaldo’s keyboards were particularly outstanding. Bromham let rip, ‘I Believe It’ best of a great bunch, and yet more wonderful ‘Classic’ Rock to revel in. A great start to the day. In a music genre sometimes guilty of overt machismo, it’s always a pleasure to see the likes of Deborah Bonham grace a bill to help redress the balance. She was in excellent voice, the band superb, and the set simply flew by.
Now then – festival headliners and Space Rock pioneers Hawkwind! This incarnation of the Hawkwind family is, well, less Space and more Rock. Brock has pruned everything right back to guitar-oriented rock, with keyboards, synths, and audio/AV effects kept to a minimum. This line-up has left the verdant cosmic forest behind and is more stripped pine. When it gelled, then blimey, it really gelled; ‘Born To Go’ was frankly exceptional, and in a wonderfully shambolic encore, a breath-taking version of ‘Hurry On Sundown’ brought a tear to this wizened old Space Cadets eye. This nod to Brock’s old busking days opens up dreams of perhaps an Hawkwind acoustic tour one day [Discuss].
The Quireboys are one of THE live Rock & Roll bands, and what a great set in Reds to close Day Two. What a frontman Spike is; all the moves, all the tricks and flicks – this was Quireboys in full-on mode. The joint was kicking with a great mix of newer material and old classics. Yet again, GOR delivered first class musicianship, with some great keyboard breaks in the mix. Long before ‘7 O-Clock’ & ‘Sex Party’ whipped up the frenzy, The Quireboys set was already a triumph. A great Saturday.
FFA had an absolutely cracking Sunday, which epitomised GOR for us. Absolutely stunning artists across the board, some great performances, and a couple of curve balls to boot! Fair cop guv – never heard of the Tom Killner Band, but this Reviewer witnessed one of the best sets he can remember for a very long time at GOR. The whole band were superb. Killner’s throaty blues vocals were tremendous, the playing exceptional, more funky beats than you could shake a stick at, and the interplay between Killner’s slide guitar and the honkytonk return vibe from keyboard player Wesley Brook was a thing of beauty. In such hallowed company, to be picked as one of the FFA sets of the festival is simply an indication of the quality of these talented musicians. Splendid.
Young Scot’s outfit Anchor Lane rocked up a right ‘ol storm. Still on a learning curve, but already showing potential, this rock band have the makings of something rather good. One’s to watch – go check ‘em out. Loved Rock Goddess – a powerhouse of a three piece and some driving rock beats. Another fine performance from this all girl outfit. Melvin Hancox was hugely entertaining – and worth watching if only for a wonderful ‘Dear Prudence’ take. In a sea of emerging talent over on the Jaks Introducing Stage, Felix Rabin got the FFA vote. This young Frenchman can certainly play guitar. Hopefully we’ll see him next year.
Now this is becoming habit forming – another band new to this Reviewer? Another set of the festival? Yes Siree – I give you Malone Sibun Band! For energy, sheer quality of musicianship, great songs, dynamic stage presence, with an overwhelmingly infectious vibe of enjoyment emanating from the stage, these guys excelled. Soul fused blues rock and much else, they reminded this Reviewer of Alabama 3, if only for the wired vibe and stage demeanour. A fabulous band. What can you say that’s original about Big Country? One of THE festival bands, a promotors delight – always cast iron guaranteed to provide quality and a great live-wire performance. A cracking, if slightly truncated, set. If you want a classic rock outfit to close any bash in style – look no further than Praying Mantis. The NWOBHM label never did the range of this outfit justice, a great rock show, and yes, JayCee’s vocal projection can still demolish a wall from 200 yards – without a microphone. A great way to end a great day at a great festival.
So there you go – Giants Of Rock, a rollickingly good weekend of Rock & Roll.
Article & Snaps by Barrie Dimond