Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bad Touch - Reepham Festival & The Crown, Reepham 11/08/2013

Driving down the narrow lanes of rural Norfolk last Sunday afternoon, I was getting a little concerned that this gig wouldn't live up to expectations. Taking a turn down 'Nowhere Lane' didn't help matters. Sat Nav assured me I was just over a mile away from Whitwell Station, the Sunday home of the Reepham Music Festival;  but I couldn't see any signs of life, so began to wonder.

Then, a winding road and a sharp right turn later, I pulled up in a car park and saw the Bad Touch minibus. We were in the right place! The weather was gorgeous and Whitwell Station was heaving - and so not what I was expecting.

In the distance I could hear the sounds of children cheering and the chug of a train, and as I walked through a corridor of unique food and craft stalls, the sound got closer. As an outsider, I wasn't so sure what kind of welcome we'd receive as we approached the large crisp white marquee, but everyone smiled and greeted me like I was one of their own.

The tent itself was unusual to say the least. With a proper floor, chairs and tables and a well-stocked bar, it wasn't quite what you expect from a music festival, where browning grass, plastic cups of one type of ale and standing room only are generally par for the course. This was a very welcome surprise.

We set ourselves up behind the tent on the green for a little while to soak up a few rays and take in our surroundings. It was then that the childrens' cheers from earlier finally made sense – the kids were invited to take a short ride on the tracks on an old engine – that must have made their day – much more fun than the standard fairground rides offered at festivals these days and very in-keeping with the feel of the Reepham Music Festival.

5:10 pm approached and we stationed ourselves at the front of the posh music tent ready for Bad Touch to rock the party. And they did just that, introducing themselves with 'Set the night on fire'. The sound was great and well-organised by the volunteers of the festival, and meant the boys could really concentrate on performing a top quality set, with 'Dr Heartbreak' coming next.

Picture courtesy of Kevin Huckle/Sundance Photography

Stevie made sure that every member of the crowd was on their feet by the time 'Too Late' and 'Waiting on the morning light' reverberated around the station, and, in a set filled with original tracks including 'Mirror Man' and 'Preacher', I think the boys found themselves quite a few new fans of all ages.

Suggesting a revolving stage for next year, the boys attracted the attention of those still revelling in the sunshine behind the marquee, who crowded around behind George to join in the fun. All eyes were well and truly transfixed on the young musicians from just down the road in Dereham; and when the only cover of the set – the final song on the list - was introduced, and Led Zeppelin's epic 'Rock and Roll' filled the room, the boys – and the audience were in their element.

Screaming for more, the crowd was delighted when the boys took their positions one more time and belted out the fantastic 'Down', finishing a pitch-perfect performance off in style. The queues for merchandise were a welcome addition – as was the announcement of another gig that evening – just down the road at the Crown.

Shock Hazard took to the stage following Bad Touch, and although I didn't get to see much of them, by all accounts they went down really well too, closing this fantastic festival for 2013 – and we all really hope it'll be back again next year.

During the break between gigs, we had a walk around the little market town and were impressed with the feel of the place, a real community with traditional pubs, independent stores and a church lining the main street. Settling in to a little nook in the gorgeous Kings Arms pub, we decided food would be a good idea. What a perfect place to choose for a bite to eat and a break away from the crowds. With old-world charm and vast menu choice, we were impressed with the price, the people and the quality of the food. It's no real surprise this place has been in the Good Pub Guide for consecutive years.

So, on it was to the Crown just a mile or so away from the main square. By 8pm the pub was already heaving, and the band's fans, old and new, continued to pile in to check the boys out for the second time in only a few hours.

Setting up in the small games room of the pub, the Bad Touch stage show was a little more cramped than it was at Whitwell Station, but they equally as mesmerising, as the boys were able to connect with the audience who were within touching distance – making for a really raw, gritty performance.

With two 45 minute sets sprinkled with some classic rock covers, including 'Whole lotta Rosie', 'Jumping Jack Flash' and 'Whisky in the Jar', the pub was bouncing, and the heat was intense as the crowd piled into the tight space.

Stevie ensured the rest of the pub was involved in the show by walking through the immediate crowds to perform for the fans who couldn't squeeze into the games room. His stage presence and charisma is magnetic.

Some of the set was repeated from the daytime show, but you could hear those tracks all day and not be bored, and one of these, 'Waiting on the morning light' allowed Bailey to perform an absolute masterclass on the bass guitar. 'Poison in a pretty dress' was dragged from the archives and went down a storm, while Rob excelled on lead guitar in AC/DC's epic 'Sweet child of mine'.

Despite the tight stage area, Seeks played his usual part, with his patched-up Les Paul in hand, he darted around the stage area, and even into the crowd encouraging his bandmates and the audience to give that little bit more, and even treated us all to a lesson in playing the guitar with a 'Coca Cola' glass during the cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Whole lotta love'.

George kept the beat going brilliantly for the whole 90 minutes, and despite clearly struggling with the intense heat, he was obviously enjoying every second, coming into his own during the second set, performing Mr Brownstone perfectly.

It was hard to believe this was a Sunday night – most of the audience, including myself (and some of the band) were in work only a few hours later, but the party atmosphere from the festival had overspilled to the evening, and with the Bad Touch boys giving their all, leaving the Crown early was not an option.

The 50-mile journey home was totally worth it, and I hope to come back next year, hopefully for both days of the event to really appreciate the unique atmosphere of the Reepham Music Festival. A great community of lovely people, a brilliant day was had by hundreds.

For Bad Touch, the hard work continues, with a performance at the Carlton, Lowestoft on Friday. Entry is free so please come along and see a great gig as the boys rack up the shows – and the miles – in preparation for the Quireboys Tour in October.

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