The summer festival season is well underway, and this weekend's Vicfest in Martham may have been one of the least well-known, but it was certainly one of the best, as a wide array of musicians descended on this small village in Norfolk to celebrate the one thing that brings us together in all its forms – music.
Taking place over a weekend in aid of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Vicfest is refreshingly different. Set in the grounds of the Victoria Inn, the main tent dominates the area, and is well laid out, with a stage at either end and an all-important bar stocked with lagers, ciders and ales half way along the back wall.
Outside the main tent, there's plenty of space for families to set themselves up to enjoy the afternoon, with a couple of food stalls selling decent quality meals at fair prices down one side. Campers who stayed for the whole weekend (and why wouldn't you want to?) had plenty of space on the grounds too, and the facilities themselves were impressive as festivals go.
But, people didn't go just to sit on the grass and enjoy the sunshine, or eat a thai curry from the stalls, they went to enjoy the music. And you couldn't help but love the huge variety of acts that were chosen to play this year.
Covering every genre from rock to folk, and from blues to indie, the event was very well organised. As one band completes its set on the main stage, the acoustic stage gets the thumbs-up from the sound man, and the transfer in instant, no waiting around for another band to set up and sound check, it's seamless and professional.
We joined in the fun on Sunday afternoon, just as Big Black Cadillac were finishing their set, and from what I saw, I'm sorry I missed it. Bringing back the sounds of the 1950's, this four-piece had the audience jiving in the summer sunshine.
Banjax, a local Great Yarmouth acoustic trio were next to impress, with their catchy takes on pop favourites like Paulo Nutini's 'New Shoes' and Katie Perry's 'Hot & Cold', before Cambridge-based garage rock group Violet Bones took to the main stage and belted out original tracks from their album 'Decline of Vaudeville' with passion and power. As the flip between stages continued, Tom Pearce bravely took to the stage armed with his acoustic guitar to take the audience on a journey with his storytelling style and meaningful lyrics.
As the sun started to cool and the evening set in, the sound of the Second Hand Blues reverberated around the festival grounds, and those still enjoying the last warm rays made their way inside the tent to enjoy the show. Having been together for five years, this trio sounds professional and tight and has performed alongside the likes of Terry Reid and Dr Feelgood. With the main stage then free for Bad Touch to set up, Addison's Uncle took to the acoustic stage to provide light relief from the heavy riffs and drum beats, adding a folk-rock sound to the evening's entertainment.
As the audience turned its attention once again to the main stage, the disco lights came on and the PA whirred with the sounds of Bad Touch. Stevie introduced the band with debut single 'Set the night on fire' before belting out AC/DC classic and crowd favourite 'Whole lotta Rosie'. With the growing crowd completely hooked, the time was right for a selection of original tracks, kicking off with the funky Dr Heartbreak showing off Bailey's bass-playing skills to perfection.
On his new drum set, George took charge in the brilliant performance of second single 'Too late' before Seeks took centre stage with a great rhythm guitar introduction to the upbeat party track 'Waiting on the morning light'. Talking directly to his audience, Stevie shone during 'New Day', during which he told the crowd that the new day 'is yours, and it's mine for the taking'.
'Preacher' followed, which saw the boys get serious with a bluesy instrumental, headed up by a mesmerising lead guitar performance by Rob G. The brilliantly written latest single 'Mirror Man' followed, before the party got into full swing with the introduction of some 'good, old fashioned rock & roll' courtesy of the legendary Led Zeppelin and covered to perfection by the Bad Touch boys, who seemed to be enjoying the show as much as the crowd.
With a 45 minute slot at the festival, there was only time for one more song, and it could be no other than fans' favourite 'Down', a track which reminds me of so many classic rock tracks over the decades, catchy and timeless, and one which deserves its own little place in rock history.
The Bad Touch faithful were satisfied, but Vicfest had more to offer, with Bill Downs finishing proceedings with his meaningful, powerful acoustic set before handing over to headlining act Dumbfoundus. The Gorleston-born duo, Noel and Nathan, introduced an unexpected but brilliant reggae sound to the Norfolk coast to bring this amazing weekend festival to a close.
As a first-time visitor to Vicfest, I was not disappointed. The work done by the staff behind the scenes ensured that this festival was professionally run, distinctly different, and a massive breath of fresh Norfolk air.