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Butlins Festival of the '60s

Butlins Festival of the '60s
March 21-24, 2014
 
A review by Wayne Adderley

My first return to Butlins Bognor Regis in a long time I was surprised by the changes. I stayed at Wave, one of the three hotels they have in the resort, and was amazed at its design and style. After booking in at 12:00pm I was seen by the reception who were very friendly and helpful.

The room was modern with everything you'd want including a fridge.

The only thing negative was they had bins for smokers right outside the main hotel door, which meant you had to walk past many people and if like me you don't smoke, it's not nice. It would be good if they were moved just away from the main doors as that's all it would take.

This weekend was Festival of the 60's and I was presented with a nice pocket-sized book detailing the line up for the event.

One thing that stood out was the way they've organized the concerts. In the past I'd often miss some bands because I'd be watching others at another venue there, but now with only a slight exception most bands play twice once in each venue. This makes what could be a hard decision of who to see into a win-win result. I decided the smaller venue Reds was my best bet for the Friday night concerts.

A major annoying factor about this venue is waiting to get into the venue means waiting out in the cold, and if it rains there is no shelter. This has been an ongoing issue for years with Butlins; it's fine in the summer but not in the cold winter or general bad-weather days. It would be so easy for them to deal with this issue which I heard others in the line complain about.

The first band was Dave Berry and the Cruisers and as always Dave and his band brings the "wow" factor.

Performing his hits as well as some rocking covers, Mr Berry is a master at his craft and with such talent should still be releasing new songs via a record label.

Next were a cover band called Kasuals who for me took a while to get going and I never really got into their show, though the crowd in the venue seemed to enjoy them.

Then The Animals and friends appeared on stage and to my surprise with a different lead singer. Although musicianship and the lead singer could sing well, it lacked the powerhouse vocals I've come to expect when Peter Barton is with them. After about 40 minutes or so I'd had enough and left the venue.

Saturday

What a difference staying in hotel rather than a chalet is, not only is it nicer but you don't get the noise from people returning late.

I only booked to have a breakfast meal but liked the new layout of the Deck. Also what was very noticeable was the friendly and informative staff.

The food was very nice which is something I've come to expect from Butlins. The only major issue was again a lack of cover while waiting to get into the eating venue which like Reds issue could easily be sorted. I like many others got wet while waiting to get in thanks to the lack of any cover and of course the rain.

Afternoon entertainment at Centre Stage

Sadly the DJ from Centre stage lacked style; maybe he's normally better.

It's a shame the DJ from Reds venue last night wasn't here this afternoon as he was a big hit with people and knew what he was doing and talking about, very entertaining.

Elvis through the years

The afternoon's entertainment kicked off with an Elvis show and I'll make this review in real simple terms, the only way to get closer to a real Elvis Presley concert would be to travel back in time.

The musicians and singers were very good and the Elvis himself was amazing. Not only did he sound like Elvis but he looked like him (has he had surgery done?—who knows or cares). He took everyone back in time. This was a two-part show with the first being focused on the early career and the second being the Vegas years. Just as with the first half of the show the energy level was electric with what you'd expect if you watch a dvd of Elvis in concert.

Amazing show.

Reds venue this evening and once again found myself standing in the cold. But there's a twist this time as thanks to people power who complained they opened a small area so at least some could be warm.

Come on, Butlins, deal with this and add cover outside; they did for smokers.

The Merseybeats are one of the hardest working bands out there and you can tell by their showmanship, performing all the hits plus some of their favorite songs by other artists. This band should still be recording new songs if record labels would look beyond their noses. If you get a chance, go see The Merseybeats.

The DJ in Reds kept things going playing some fantastic tunes and his overall style is entertaining.

Next up was Vanity Fare who not only played the big and minor hits but turned out some great California style sounds. They are one of the best harmony bands out there and remain a big draw to their shows. They also know how to play the crowd and I could see the room getting busier as they were about to come on the stage.

Last band of the night were The Swinging Blue Jeans who I'd seen many times but this was only the second show I'd seen since Ray Ennis retired a few years ago from the band. This concert unlike the first felt they'd regained some of the lost rock n Roll thunder they had had with Ray but they're also still lacking. They're all good musicians and singers but the show didn't always flow with too-long gaps as they'd talk to the crowd or tell bad jokes.

One thing that shouts to me is that they have Pete Oakman who's not only a great bass player he can also sing very well. The writer of "A Picture of You" (which he sang), he is very much under-used as a vocalist and I'd like to see him do more lead vocals. That's not saying anything against Alan Lovell, who can indeed Rock and Roll. Personally, having heard that Ray Ennis is looking to return to music again, I'd love to see the current Jeans invite him back; now that would make one hell of a band with all those elements in place.

Sunday

Bit better from the centre stage DJ this afternoon with less talk and more music.

Time for Centre stage venue for two live acts starting with The Kinx—who, yes, as you may have guessed, are a tribute to The Kinks. The band blasted through the greatest hits and were indeed very entertaining.

Next is one of the original British Rock n Roll stars, Marty Wilde and The Wildecats. Having seen them before it was noticeable he had added other rock n roll songs I'd not heard him sing before. This turned out to be one of the main highlights of the weekend as Marty who has been in the business for 56 years shows no sign of stopping. He loves the crowds cheering him on as he blasted through one song after another. As always came the heartfelt tribute to Billy Fury, whom he was friends with. Marty Wilde is a star and still bundles so much talent.

Evening

One person, a lady whose name I don't know, who works as resort safety person, must be given attention here. Not only did she do her job but was very helpful to people, going out of her way to finds unused chairs and taking them to people looking for somewhere to sit.

I'd also noticed her keeping areas clear and safe for people and she was very friendly.

I don't know her name but Butlins, if you read this, she's the only lady doing that job I've noticed, and wears glasses, so special mention to her here.

Marmalade were the first on this evening and are a favorite of mine but sadly Sandy's lead vocals could hardly be heard for the first 20 minutes or so. Not happy about it and having no way to tell the band or speak to the sound person, I took to twitter to let Butlins know and they got it sorted and contacted me back.

The power of a tweet.

Once that was sorted I could hear why this band still enjoys continued success. Top musicians and vocals and an amazing version of "Norwegian Wood" in their own style. This was except for technical issue a great concert.

Next on was Edison Lighthouse who I've felt times seeing them in the past were more karaoke as they'd have the audience sing more than the lead singer, but on this show I was pleasantly surprised as the lead singer sang more. Good mix of songs from Rock n Roll and '60s tunes, not a personal favorite band of mine because of past shows, but better tonight and the crowed enjoyed them.
 
New Amen Corner finished off the weekend in style performing covers from the '60s as well as Amen Corner hits. The band are a big draw with fans enjoying not only the music but the ladies also enjoyed what I can only think to call cheeky entertaining flirting by the lead singer.
 
Great performance by the band.
 
Butlins now adds for extra money a VIP fast-pass type of thing which I noticed mainly people with disabilities and their family and/or carers use. I personally think they should have priority to get into venues especially seeing how pushy people can be when a venue opens to get to the seats they want with spending extra money on a pass. I'd like to people with major disabilities be giving these VIP early access to venues for free; they shouldn't have to pay more to be able to have a chance to seat in a better place.
 
This review on Butlins and the bands are my personal thoughts and I'm sure people will both agree and disagree with me which is expected.
 
It's a shame Bognor Regis only has one '60s Festival a year now. Although there are some issues that I feel strongly needs dealing with, I do overall feel this was a great event and that Butlins and its staff deserve praise.
 
 
 
 
 
Wayne Adderley—Official site featuring links to other related websites including news, film and other media projects, cover recordings on You Tube and Twitter page
 
 
 
See also Wayne's writeup, The Swinging Sixties, on the British Beat page

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