A lovely sunny day brought a day out to the Bootle Music Festival, in the company of My Beloved Wife and a couple of occasional gig-mates in friends Lee (wearing a James t-shirt) and Ali (who last featured in this blog for an Amsterdam gig in December 2016 – see here). Prominent on the bill were Space, Dodgy and Glenn Tilbrook.
It was being staged on some fields adjoining the pub, with all being owned by SAFE Regeneration on behalf of the local community. The festival was a sequel to 2018’s successful first venture, with prices kept reasonable – £15 for the day, or £25 for the weekend, and free for under 10’s.
The day had a family vibe, with lots of kids enjoying the climbing wall and canoeing as we settled into some deckchairs in the sun. Sadly, while The Boy Wonder might have enjoyed these element for an hour or so, he’d not have been happy with the loud music once we moved into the main field.
We could hear the bluesy rock sound of Xander & The Peace Pirates from the main stage, catching glimpses while heading to and from the beer tent, but not being sufficiently moved to leave our seats.
I was most looking forward to seeing Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer, guitarist and writer of the tunes for Squeeze, whom I’d never got round to seeing at any point.
Squeeze were a key band for me in the early 1980’s, with their Cool For Cats single from March 1979 being the first record I ever bought, as detailed in My Early Musical Journey. I would have heard plenty of their other releases as they were a regular chart presence before my sister got their Singles – 45’s And Under compilation album, probably for Christmas 1982.
I loved those songs (and still do), but somehow never took the plunge to get one of their original albums, although I did buy their comeback Babylon And On album on cassette, which was released in September 1987.
I eventually got some Squeeze on CD when I bought their Greatest Hits in December 1995, effectively an expanded version of Singles – 45’s And Under that includes a couple of songs off Babylon And On and some other lesser reunion tracks.
Tilbrook was on stage on his own, just one man and his guitar, which surprised me and I did wonder quite how he would pull it off, but he somehow made a virtue of these limitations.
The first number was Third Rail, a Squeeze song I was utterly unfamiliar with, as it’s off 1993’s Some Fantastic Place, although it crept to #39 when released as the first single off that album.
There were a few of his solo songs in the set, but he also played ten of the twelve songs from Singles – 45’s And Under, clearly knowing what the audience wanted. It was fantastic to hear these songs in person, some of which I have known and loved for almost forty years – especially being performed with such obvious love.
Some cover versions featured in his set, including Bacharach and David’s (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, first made famous by Sandie Shaw, and Tired Of Waiting by The Kinks, a song (and band) I’ve loved for about as long as Squeeze.
After that came Black Coffee In Bed which had a slightly weird guitar solo, but had the crowd singing along. This was followed by the absolute highlight of the set in Slap And Tickle, which was simply stunning live, despite being no more of a personal favourite than many of the others he played.
The set continued to be thoroughly enjoyable, first with excerpts of David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel and Ziggy Stardust before the Squeeze hits returned.
The last two numbers were Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) and Is That Love, meaning the only songs he didn’t play off Singles – 45’s And Under were Goodbye Girl and Cool For Cats.
Next time he or Squeeze are back on the boards, I will make more of an effort to catch them – if only to get to see Cool For Cats being played. I must also finally take the plunge on a proper album of Squeeze’s, probably 1981’s fourth LP East Side Story.
On the bill next were Dodgy, who were celebrating 25 years since their second album Homegrown. They’re a band I never did more than quite like, having bought Homegrown from WH Smith in Meadowhall in October 1996 while I was on a trip visiting my old university friend Simon.
My Beloved Wife had bought the follow-up Free Peace Sweet (ouch), so I was aware of much of their output. To my ears, they were always a bit of a second division Britpop act, with some decent singles.
They kicked off with the sublime Staying Out For The Summer, with another early highlight being So Let Me Go Far as they opened with four straight cuts from the anniversary album.
Found You from Free Peace Sweet was nicely poppy, and was followed by Making The Most Of, another track from Homegrown.
There were a couple of songs from their most recent LP, What Are We Fighting For from 2016 before If You’re Thinking Of Me from Free Peace Sweet segued into The Beatles’ Dear Prudence, as apparently it often does.
In fact, Priest gave a shout out for winning the European Cup “six times” as he was exiting the stage after their closing number, Grassman.
Before the headliners, the DJ spun a great collection of local favourites, from the poppy likes of Black and China Crisis to Bill Ryder-Jones’ lovely Two To Birkenhead and a Clinic tune I couldn’t place.
I bought both of Space’s first two albums as they were released, when they were very much of the zeitgeist, before pretty much disappearing without trace, at least at a national level.
I’d even been to see them once before, with My Beloved Wife at the O2 Academy in town in December 2011.
They started their set with Charlie M from 1996’s debut album Spiders, following this up with a “song about smackheads” in Happy Clowns off Attack Of The Mutant 50ft Kebab from 2014, so not a song I was familiar with.
The next song, Money, was introduced as their “first single”, thus forgetting the 500-copy 12” If It’s Real from 1993. This was enlivened by a quirky fake woodwind solo by lead singer Tommy Scott.
They hit their big hits in the middle of the set, with Avenging Angels followed by another Top 10 single in The Ballad Of Tom Jones, sadly but unsurprisingly with Cerys Matthews only featured from the record and not in person.
They were joined by a rapper called (I think) Owen for another newer song in Pterodactyl before Tommy was in the midst of the crowd for the fabulous Female Of The Species, during which he called somebody “motherfuckers”, though I’m not sure whom or why now.
Mr Psycho was followed by the boss Drop Dead as Spiders dominated the end of their set, leaving the stage after Neighbourhood.
They were soon back for the singalong Me And You Versus The World, after an aborted attempt at another song.
They certainly pleased the vast majority of the crowd, playing an entertaining set as Tommy got progressively more ‘in the mood’!
Overall, this was a great little festival – very well run and organised, with a good crowd that did not overwhelm the facilities, so queues for drinks and toilets were perfectly manageable, with the good weather obviously also helping.
It continued on the Sunday (which we didn’t go to), when The Farm headlined. We’ll certainly keep an eye out for this for next year – a great community event that is well worth supporting.
I wore my green Teenage Fanclub t-shirt, probably my favourite band to ever fall near the Britpop banner, although they were somewhat uncomfortable bedfellows and aren’t really Britpop in fact.
There were actually quite a few other band tees in evidence of all kinds – from Alabama 3 and AC/DC to The Beatles and John Lennon, and from Half Man Half Biscuit and The The to Pink Floyd and The Doors. Others included Belle And Sebastian, The Who, Johnny Marr, Jimi Hendrix and Cypress Hill.
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Here is a most of the music from the show on Spotify: