I love a good festival, but I’ve been to that many that I’m struggling to decide which one to write about! Do I talk about the many Downloads I’ve been drenched at, or maybe High Voltage when I got the VIP treatment? I should probably talk about this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair whilst it’s still fresh in my mind, but seeing as I’ve had an entry this month about people complaining, I’m going to tell a story where more than one person decided to let me know how upset they were about a day of sunny music on the riverside.
It was summer, it was my birthday, and I’d got tickets to see Seasick Steve and Newton Faulkner at the Stockton Weekender in, believe it or not, Stockton-on-Tees. The festival ran for the full weekend but I was just interested in the Friday. Tickets were a bargain at £15 for the day and it was only a twenty minute walk away which meant I could have a drink or two!
When I got there, I joined a short queue to pick up my obligatory wrist band and went for a mooch around. In-between listening to bands I’d never heard of and can’t remember and drinking beer, I spoke to a few people eating parmos (which is a regional delicacy). Essentially, it’s a flattened, breaded chicken breast covered in béchamel sauce, parmesan and more cheese just to be sure, often served with chips in a cardboard box. Salad is optional.
“How are you finding the festival?” I asked one couple “nice weather for it!” I added.
They nodded and told me they were waiting for Newton Faulkner. “He’s good, we’ve seen him a few times” they added. We chatted a bit more and compared gig stories and then I asked if they’d been to the Weekender before.
“We come every year” they said, “but we’ve had to pay this year! It’s normally free. It’s a bit cheeky.”
A few people shared this revelation with me. Here I was, thinking my £15 day ticket to see two chart topping (and musically talented) acts was a bargain, but it turned out I’d been had by those pesky event organisers.
I put that to the back of my mind when Newton Faulkner came on. He’s a magnificent guitar player and I’ve never seen anyone play quite like him. His fingers dance over the strings and a wonderful melody follows. He enjoyed that he was playing by the river and that he had the replica of the HM Bark Endeavour as his view. “Let’s all pretend we’re on a pirate ship” he said. “That one” and pointed down the river.
When he was finished, I went in search of another beer and started chatting to another random person. She was a middle aged woman with blonde hair wearing black and had a dislike of paying £15 for the day’s music. “It was free last year” she told me “with The Human League playing. I’ve never even heard of Seasick Steve, who is he?”
I think she regretted that question. “You’ve never heard of Seasick Steve?!” I exclaimed and then, because I’m a fountain of all worthless knowledge, informed her of all the Seasick Steve trivia I thought she should know.
“Is he famous then?” she asked.
“He’s been on Top Gear” was my reply. If that doesn’t make you famous, nothing will.
“I must have missed that one” she responded.
When the famous Seasick Steve made it to the stage, complete with dungarees and a drummer, they played a brilliant set and went on to smash up their instruments at the end. I normally don’t agree with this rock ‘n’ roll antic, but seeing as most of Steve’s instruments are home-made and rescued from skips, I’ll let him off.
The Stockton Weekender closed its doors in 2014, which is a shame – it was a great little festival attracting some well established names over the years. I only went to the one but it is fondly remembered. In the end it came down to money (as most things do) and the festival wasn’t making enough to keep going. Declining record sales and bands trying to recoup their losses on the live circuit were mentioned in the Tees Music Alliance press statement as one reason for shutting up shop.
Could this have been prevented? Possibly, but people don’t buy albums as much anymore and tend to cherry-pick their favourite songs from digital retailers. Music streaming sites probably haven’t helped either. Mind you though, if people weren’t willing to pay £15 for a day ticket to a festival, they probably wouldn’t want to fork out £10 for an album either…