Brian Wilson headlining at Guilfest

GIG: Guilfest – Headline Act Brian Wilson
DATE: Saturday July 11th 2009
VENUE: Stoke Park, Guildford
COST: £45 day ticket
RATING: Saturated but smiling through the rain

Our main aim at the Guilfest was to see Brian Wilson, and a more detailed review is below, however as a summary, the gig was awesome. Despite the teaming rain, the audience had Fun Fun Fun and the band (and also Brian Wilson) were on top form, and seemed to enjoy every minute that they were on stage.

Arriving at about 4pm, being festival virgins, we got our bearings…..… loos, check, beer tent, check, food trucks, check, main stage, check.
Apart from some of the acts on the Main stage and the Ents 24 stage, we had not heard of any other artists performing at this festival, so took a wander around the various stages and tents to see what was occurring.

The first act we saw was in the acoustic tent, Jack Blackman, a young blues man. Well, if you can have the Blues when you look no more than 14! Instead of singing Robert Johnson’s “Cold Hearted Woman,” maybe he could write his own “My Baby Done Text Me” or something! Nice if you like blues, but with each song starting to sound like an extension of the last, we left the tent just before he finished his set. Good guitarist though.

Wandering around, we caught the tail end of what sounded like a good band, on the Ents 24 stage – Los Albertos, a very Madness / Ska influenced band, with 2 sax players.

Next act we saw was Eddie Reader, on the Ents 24 stage. Her set included a few traditional Scottish songs, and had a real Celtic sound, with her band comprising accordion player, double bass, acoustic guitars, drums & ukulele. Her voice sounded great, and she was completely at ease on the stage, filling in between songs with witticisms. Mid way through her set, the rain, which had threatened for the previous couple of hours, started but that did not deter the audience in any way, who jigged along to the music. This was someone who knows how to work a crowd. No wonder she’s revered in her native Scotland. Her popularity was shown by the queue outside the signing tent after her gig. It was longer than the queue for the women’s toilets!

The Lightning Seeds were next up on the Ents 24 stage, but we only caught a couple of their songs, before heading over to the main stage, where the Charlatans had just vacated the stage and Brian Wilson was setting up. That cross over period seems to be critical in getting a good place in front of the stage, and we did stand around for 30 minutes or so, waiting, a couple of rows from the front barrier while the roadies did the sound check. At this point the rain started in earnest and did not let up for the rest of the night.

Brian Wilson and his band took to the stage promptly at 9.30pm, and began with “California Girls”, ended with the “have a safe journey home” song, “Love & Mercy” and was filled in between with 90 minutes of fantastic Beach Boys classics and Brian Wilson solo songs. Brian’s official website had promised a few lesser known songs on this tour – songs that wouldn’t usually make it into the greatest hits set list, and we were treated in this respect to “Shut Down”, “Salt Lake City”, “Custom Machine”, “All Summer Long” & “Do You Wanna Dance” and a couple of songs from his solo work – “Imagination”, “Soul Searchin’” and “I’m Going Home”, the latter from his most recent work, “That Lucky Old Sun”.

Firm favourites included in the set list were “Fun Fun Fun”, “I Get Around”, “Sloop John B”, “Do It Again”, ”Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and the ballads of “Surfer Girl”, “Don’t Worry Baby” & “God Only Knows”, which the audience sang along to in full voice. When Brian started “Good Vibrations”, he stopped the band before the end of the first verse, and asked the crowd if they wanted to sing along (we had already been singing very loudly!).

The rain was absolutely teeming down, a fact not lost on some of the band members, including Paul Mertons who wandered to the front, rain drenched area to deliver a couple of sax solos, and keyboardist, Scott Bennett who jumped off the stage (did he know how high it was??) to the delight of the audience at the front right of the stage.

Brian was in the middle of a monologue, when Jeff Foskett, the consummate professional keeping the antics in check, with a “come on guys”, to which Brian said, “OK, shut up.” like some naughty schoolboy being reprimanded and continued the set! Jeff also took on the falsetto parts that Brian can no longer reach, with is usual flair and also played the last bit of “Surfin’ USA” with his Gibson held high above his head.

The band was buzzing. Nelson Bragg, the percussionist, just days after being released from hospital following treatment for a pulmonary embolism, put his heart and soul into banging all manner of percussion. Probyn Gregory, looked like he was in Spinal Tap with all the dry ice swirling around him, tucked in the top left hand corner of the stage, performing his seamless multi instrument changes (including his fab 12 string Danelectro, guitar, french horn, trumpet and theramin).

Tonight we found out that the bass player, Brett Simons actually can smile and sing, helping out on some backing harmonies, and Darian Sahanaja took the lead on a short stint of a Little Richard song “Keep A Knockin’” which the band never finished, and led into “Little Deuce Coupe”. Taylor Mills’ vocals came over extremely strong tonight. Nick Walusko, wearing his trademark black cap, played his Jazzmaster, and Mike D’Amico banged his drums while managing to keep his hair in place.

The band and Brian Wilson seemed to really enjoy themselves tonight and shared some banter. During the encore, when Brian played his bass, he was really grooving and seemed to be very reluctant to leave the stage when curfew fell at 11pm.

After the encore Paul Mertons led the whole band out to the front of the stage, oblivious to the downpour that was still trying to cause a power cut everywhere, for a farewell to the crowd, with the band standing arm in arm for a final bow. A nice touch, before they all piled on the tour bus to head up North to Gateshead for their next show.

So, in summary, a fantastic Greatest Hits show, with the band and Brian Wilson enjoying every minute, and the crowd loving it all, despite the torrential downpour that did nothing to dampen the spirit of Summer in Surrey!

And the traditional round up of the state of the loos! The Guilfest website forum praises the loos at this festival……. I just shudder to think how bad the loos at Glastonbury are if these ones in Guilfest are the best!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jack Blackman here, thanks for the song idea. I'll credit you for it