September 11, 2023

ALL PHOTOS: LESLIE LINYARD

Still held in the sumptuous surroundings of glorious Mount Ephraim Gardens, in the heart of the garden of England, a ten minute drive north west of Canterbury, the New Day Festival once again proved itself to be one of the highlights of the summer festival season. New Day is an opportunity to wallow in some great nostalgic sounds, with a crowd which clearly loves its music, whilst sampling some quite delicious ales. If it’s contemporary bands you’re into, you’ll not find too many here!

One of the key selling points of New Day has always been its diversity of line-ups, and this year’s line-up was as eclectic as ever, with all ends of the musical spectrum being heard. The  three main headline acts were Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons, the Ozric Tentacles and bona fide 60’s legends The Zombies … how different are they?? There was an especially welcome appearance from prog legends and local heroes Caravan plus a welcome visit from Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle. There were nods towards new wave, with From The Jam, a couple of  tribute bands, notably ZZ Toppd, and even the Glenn Miller Orchestra! With several other genres being represented, there was definitely something for everyone here.

You know you’re in a different kind of festival environment when, before the MC announces a band, he tells the crowd, ‘could those coming onto the site from the car park, through the orchard, please refrain from picking the plums?’

FRIDAY
In auspicious circumstances – it was raining – The New Day Festival kicked off. Diversity of line-up is one of the key features of this event and, with the exception of death metal and rap, just about every other taste was well catered for.

Avawaves

After entertaining and rocking sets from Leatherat and Gypsy Pisteleros, the main Canterbury Ales stage hosted a performance by Avawaves, which was much different from the norm at this event. Avawaves are a two piece female group, Anna Phoebe and Aisling Brouwer, both classically trained violin and keyboards players respectively, and they gave a virtuoso display of musicianship which proved, while classical music is often graceful and elegant, sometimes it can be gritty and raw. Their music was atmospheric and highly enjoyable, especially tracks like Lucid Dreaming and Waves, which Anna said was inspired by a walk along the beach near her home. They were followed by Czech prog band Cuprum, playing the event for the second time (they were here in 2022) who’d ‘come to play some East European music for you’.  Their lyrics were sung in Czech and they played songs about ‘old drunk people’ and ‘abusing cocaine.’ Their music is heavily rooted in and  influenced by seventies prog bands and they’re redolent of Focus and Jethro Tull, especially with the keys and the flute.

Mythra have been around for some while now and, introduced by the MC as ‘my favourite Geordie band’, their set showed they’ve not moved very far away from their NWOBHM roots. There are still three of the original band in the line-up and, still active on the metal scene, they gave a very energetic and powerful performance with newer songs like Deep In Your Dreams mixing nicely with older pieces like UFO and Stop The Echoes.  NWOBHM survivors Thunderstick added to the sense of occasion with a dramatic entrance and then blasting out some fine theatrical rock which was well received. Their concluding number, ‘Let’s Do The Time Warp Again’, got everybody jumping about doing this dance, with singer Raven Blackwing doing a great job getting the crowd to dance. 

Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons

Perennial favourites, Nine Below Zero, gave the crowd a blast of their infectious take on R&B with a set mixed with classics, Can I Get A Witness and I Can’t Help Myself, some dedications – You Don’t love Me Baby, to John Mayall, and a poignant Twenty Yards Behind, to the sadly late Wilko Johnson – plus their own tracks like Cold Cruel Heart and new song Austerity Blues, a dig at current political strife. Geordie legends, Geordie, asked us Can You Do It and told us to Keep On Rocking, which they dedicated to fellow Geordie boy John Miles, who died in 2022, and then played some covers, notably Nutbush City Limits, dedicated to Tina, and then, as good North Eastern boys, they paid homage to The Animals with Rising Sun and We Gotta Get Outa This Place. They even had the Animals’ current guitarist, Danny Handley, in their line-up.

Then it was the turn of headliners Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons to show every rock band on the bill across the whole weekend just how it’s really done. From the opening notes of We Are The Bastards, this was an exercise in raw rock power. Their set at the inaugural Maid of Stone festival a month back was largely an all Motorhead affair but, tonight, they mix it up with some ‘head classics – Iron Fist, Born To Raise Hell, Damage Case and Ace Of Spades – and a few of their own, These Old Boots and Dark Days; plus they played Schizophrenia, a track from their forthcoming album. They also performed some surprising covers .. God Save The Queen, Silver Machine and Heroes, which singer Joel Peters dedicated to the audience as we were now standing in the rain again, before a powerful version of Overkill rounded off a superb set.

Skylines

SATURDAY    
Very few actual tribute bands ever play New Day, but this weekend saw a few performing, and todays proceedings opened with Skylines, a tribute to prog band Camel, and they did a sterling job of interpreting Camel’s music, opening with Song Within A Song, a track from the classic Moonmadness album, before giving the crowd an almost twenty minute series of pieces from The Snow Goose, rightly considered to be a prog classic, including Rhayader, Sanctuary and Dunkirk, before closing with a superb version of Lunar Sea, also from Moonmadness.

They were followed by Splink. As they say, ‘if it sounds good and touches the soul, then why not?’  Their music flitted between being occasionally jazzy, with touches of folk and prog mixed in. After opening with a lengthy continuous piece, they played tracks like Kozmosis, Brambling Song and they close with the proggy Canterbury, appropriate given the fair city itself is only a few miles down the road.

Local Canterbury scene and prog legends Caravan took the stage to a rousing reception and, for this reviewer, played one of the sets of the weekend. Their newest member, top prog bassist Lee Pomeroy, has injected new life into the band and given them an almighty shot of adrenalin, and they sound better and tighter than for some while – and they played a blinder. ‘There’s lots of good music at this event but, until then, you’re stuck with us’, Pye Hastings deadpans as the band kick off with Memory Lane Hugh, followed by Headloss, both from their Girls Who Grow Plump album. Golf Girl then gets everyone singing along. Somewhat surprisingly they only performed one track from their most recent album, title track None Of Your Business, before concluding with their lengthy prog epic Nine Feet Underground, from their magnum opus, Land Of Grey And Pink.

It seemed strange seeing Jacqui McShee onstage without either Bert Jansch and/or John Renbourn either side of her – which shows how long since I last saw her – but she still has her rich, smoky golden voice and now fronts a slightly more jazzy Pentangle. Her band, which features ex-Tull and Fairports drummer Gerry Conway, played a few of their newer pieces, Nothing Really Changes and Circus Acrobat (dedicated to certain top politicians who ‘aim for the moon but hit the sun’) plus also the delightful Once I Had A Sweetheart, Cruel Sister and concluding with Light Flight. It was lovely seeing her onstage again.

Splink

The only gremlins in the system to appear over the weekend turned up just as Lindisfarne were onstage and about to begin, which meant they had to play a slightly shorter set, but they still performed a good set with classics like Lady Eleanor, Meet Me On The Corner and the inevitable singalong Fog On The Tyne all getting a good airing. The next act, however, were the absolute polar opposite of everything heard thus far. System7, fronted by Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy, play a form of heavily processed techno, featuring dance based rhythms and psych ambience. To this reviewers untrained ears, it all sounded like the same piece was being continuously played for seventy minutes, as there was no break from start to finish. Whatever it was he was playing, it left me cold and made me yearn for the Stevie Hillside-Village who once played real music with real instruments. From comments on social media, I would appear to be very much in the minority here, but I just didn’t get it at all. Fair play to Steve if he wants to go in a different direction, but this wasn’t for me.

Headliners UK space proggers Ozric Tentacles performed their signature blend of rave electronics and hippy aesthetic, with drum and bass rhythms, spiralling guitars and swirling ‘out there’ snyths. Their last appearance at New Day in 2021, as a duo, saw them performing mid-afternoon in bright sunshine, which negated the impact of their light show. Tonight though, with a full band, it’s pitch dark and their glorious light show is amazing. They took the crowd out into the ‘blooposphere’ (Ed Wynne’s term) but with no piece being overly long as they created their own sonic landscape, and there are at least attempts at songs. They concluded what had been an enjoyably diverse day in the gardens.

SUNDAY  
The Lionesses final, plus being stuck behind a slow moving horse transporter, means I missed most of Troy Redfern’s set, but arrived just in time for ZZ Toppd, a ‘lil ‘ol band from … Essex!! They certainly look the part … the beards, the attire and the stage movements … and they sound the part as well. Their set is a run through of most of the Top’s best known numbers, opening with Got Me Under Pressure and then running through Cheap Sunglasses (‘if you’ve got ‘em, wear ‘em’), Legs, Tube Snake Boogie and concluding with Tush. They were a real fun start to the afternoon and they did a good job reminding us how good the Top once were before they lost their edge. And then, proving eclecticism is very much alive and well and living at New Day, came a set from the Glenn Miller Orchestra!! A stage full of musicians in matching red jackets gave the afternoon crowd a series of Miller classics and they had the sound spot on. This worked well in the mid afternoon sunshine, and at least one couple were seen smooching by the beer tent. Most people hadn’t realised they knew as many Miller songs as they did!

Mary Reynaud as The Angel

Then it was back to the serious business. Franck Carducci & The Fantastic Squad, an explosion of colour and stagecraft, were playing the final date on their current short tour, though they promise they’ll be back next March. Their set merges a psychedelic atmosphere with humour and some very imaginative and varied music. Amongst other things we’re given the real story of what happened to Alice in Wonderland, (which prompted Sting to ask what this was all about when they appeared on the same bill), the slower and more atmospheric The Angel, which sees singer/guitarist Mary Reynaud flitting about the stage fluttering wings, plus newer pieces like The Limits Of Freedom. For their concluding piece, they ask the audience for total silence and the whole band sings On The Road To Nowhere, on acoustic without using microphones.

Rosalie Cunningham followed, hotfoot back from a Friday gig in Austria, to perform one of the sets of the weekend. She has a warm, engaging vocal style and the music she and her band play is ’60s influenced, and infused with a kind of ’60s English psych whimsy, and she and her band were well received in the late afternoon sunshine. After an instrumental intro, she performed several numbers from the Two Piece Puzzle album, including Donovan Ellington, Riddles & Games and Duet, which she sings with her partner Rosco, the bands guitar man. She closed with a song from her previous band Purson, Tempest And The Tide, which saw bass player Claudia Gonzalez Diaz playing flute.

Rod Argent

In front of an impressive stack of Marshall amps, From The Jam played a set which finally convinces me there’s life after Paul Weller. David Watts kicked it off, followed by Town Called Malice, In The City and That’s Entertainment, plus a version of the Martha Reeves classic Heatwave. They concluded with Going Underground and Eton Rifles. David Cameron once said Eton Rifles was a song he particularly liked, which prompted Paul Weller to reply, ‘what exactly was it about this song he didn’t understand?’ They’re followed by Eddie & the Hot Rods, now sadly shorn of the late Barrie Masters, whose memory they dedicate several songs to. They may well have been a ‘punk’ band back in the day but, as sure as eggs is eggs, they ain’t one now … tracks like Bad Time Again and their late seventies opus Teenage Depression were performed hard rock style, with wailing guitars and rock riffs, showing they’re now far closer to Phil Campbell than Barrie Masters. They close the John O’Connell stage with Do Anything You Wanna Do, then a concluding one-two of Gloria and a raucous version of Born To Be Wild.

Headlining the main stage were sixties legends The Zombies, and as good as many other acts this weekend were, the Zombies possess that one inestimable quality other bands lacked, which was pure class. Sixty years long in the tooth, still fronted by Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, and with a back catalogue to die for, they rounded off an excellent weekend with a set strewn with tracks from their latest album Different Game (no 15 in the UK album charts, Rod informs us) such as You Can Be My Love and Merry Go Round, plus the title track, mixed in with timeless hits like Tell Her No. Blunstone’s voice is a gift from the Gods and, at 78, still sounds amazing. We got a couple of tracks from Odessey & Oracle, Care Of Cell 44 and Time Of The Season, plus a stunning version of You Really Got A Hold On Me, before a lengthy version of Argent classic Hold Your Head Up, with Rod explaining the song’s origins and the crowd singing the chorus. The song included a long varied keyboard break, with several well-known pieces of classical music thrown in, along with other clips, before they brought the curtain down with She’s Not There.

And then it’s all over for another year, when it’ll be same time, same place. See you there!!

AROUND AND ABOUT THE FESTIVAL

For this reviewer, one of the best things about being at New Day is just wandering around the site and taking in the crowd and feeling the vibe emanating from it. There’s a quite delightful ‘feel’ to this festival. This definitely isn’t an ‘all the young dudes’ event. It’s an event laden with fans, many of a certain age, who genuinely love their music and happy to be entertained by a diverse range of artists. The facilities are also spot on – no lengthy waits to buy food or alcohol, various stalls and tents selling a range of products, a merch stand for bands to meet and talk to fans and one of the most glorious locations to see anyone play music.

I met up with virtuoso violinist Anna Phoebe just prior to her performance with Avawaves, and asked how she thought their music would be received by a festival crowd?  ‘Oh, I don’t know’, she smiled. ‘This looks like a very diverse event, and there are all kinds here, but we appeal to all types of people, and music is music, isn’t it? We played a festival in Leipzig recently and I met a guy who said he’d travelled for four hours to come and see us. He also said he was a death metal fan but couldn’t tell anyone!’

 I reminded Anna she’d also played at the inaugural Rambling Man festival in 2015, which was my first exposure to her music. ‘That’s right, we did. I was with my band then, and I remember it rained the whole time I was there. Weather was horrible but the event was really good.’

The New Day audience showed its appreciation for what it heard, and it’s undeniable the guy in the off-the-shoulder, pink chiffon dress, carrying a replica of Thor’s Uru hammer while gyrating slowly in front of the stage, enjoyed Avawaves’ atmospheric music!

Cuprum were clearly delighted to be back in the UK and performing at New Day again, as they’d played the event in 2022. Earlier in the week, they’d been spotted sampling the delights of the various hostelries around Faversham, and they were seen wandering around the festival site over the whole weekend, stating they were excited at the prospect of seeing Caravan and especially Pentangle, as they were fans of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, who were major influences. Were they pleased to be back?

‘Oh definitely’, guitarist Jan Drchal stated. ‘We played here last year and we were well received by the crowd. We also came here in 2018 but as punters, just to see bands we liked, and we were invited over to play a couple of years later, but couldn’t come due to Covid, so we didn’t come until 2022’. Who would they say were their main influences, I asked? ‘We’re influenced by the bands of the ’60s and ’70s, which are the best decades for music’. Last year they were unable to bring their Hammond organ over to the UK with them. What about this year, I wondered? ‘We still couldn’t bring our Hammond with us. It’s too big and they wouldn’t let us bring it out of the country’. A rueful smile.

Matt James, Splink guitarist, spoke to me after their set. ‘We’ve been called a lot of things. We’ve been called prog/folk, psych/folk and so on, but basically we’re a prog band’. How did they think they went down, I asked? ‘Yeah, the crowd seemed to like us, though we could only do just over forty minutes today, and we usually play for much longer’.

Lee Pomeroy

Lee Pomeroy, for this reviewer, has given Caravan a major shot of adrenalin, and their set at New Day saw them playing with renewed vigour and drive. Their 2018 appearance was somewhat mellow and laid back but, here, they rocked out and played one of the sets of the weekend. Lee is a prog bassist of some renown, with a track record of playing with many different acts and artists, including recent gigs with Rick Wakeman and That That (!!). When their then-bass player Jim Leverton left Caravan in 2021, on the very day they began recording their last album, Lee stepped up to the plate at short notice to help out and is now a full member of the band. How did he come to get the gig, I asked?

‘I knew of Caravan, and I was offered the gig after their previous bassist left. Evidently he was fed up with the new stuff, and wanted to get back to playing R&B again. Anyway, I knew someone who knew the band and, through him, I was approached and asked if I’d like to play on None Of Your Business, so I agreed’. And you’ve toured with them as well? ‘Yeah. The gigs have been going really well, and I’m enjoying the experience, though I was talking to someone recently who asked if I’d played on any of Caravan’s earlier albums. I had to point out their first album came out in 1968, the year I was born!’ he laughed. Who’s influenced you as a bassist and do you have a favourite bass player, I asked? ‘I don’t have a favourite bassist as such’, he stated, ‘and I’ve been lucky enough to see  many of the bass players I like and admire – players like Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, Tony Levin, Mike Rutherford, John Myung, Bruce Foxton…’

I expressed surprise at Foxton’s inclusion. Why Bruce Foxton? ‘He’s a really good bassist, plays well and helped make The Jam what they became. But, as I mentioned, there are so many good bass players out there and I’ve enjoyed seeing many of them. I’ve seen Crimson a few times and Levin’s an amazing player’. I’d seen Lee play with Headspace a few years back, but they’ve been very quiet lately. Are Headspace still a going concern, I wondered? ‘Yeah, we’re still together but I honestly can’t remember the last time when all of us in Headspace were in the same room at the same time. We’re all so busy with other things … I mean, Damian (Wilson) plays with several other acts and does tours with Adam (Wakeman) in January and February, so we’re always doing things, but yeah we’re still a band. Will we ever record another album? Who knows?’

After a brief talk about the crowd at New Day, Lee went off on a tangent. ‘I remember going to see Marillion at Hammersmith, and The Cardiacs were the support act. I love the Cardiacs but they were being given a real hard time by the crowd, who were shouting at them and all that. So Fish got pissed off with it, and he came out and angrily told the crowd, ‘these guys are our friends, we asked them here to play so show them some respect and listen’. It was a shame this had to happen’.

A lengthy chat with Lee meant I missed seeing Flutatious, but they sounded good from where we were. After the gig, Lee declared himself pleased with how things had gone … ‘and it was lovely hearing the words to Golf Girl being sung back to us’. Julian ‘Pye’ Hastings is now the only original member still in the band … David and Richard Sinclair now live in Japan and Italy respectively and Richard Coughlan sadly died in 2013. But Pye’s kept the band on the road and, fifty five years on, they’re still going strong. He agreed with my comment about the New Day Festival almost being his spiritual home. He’d played here when the event was called Canterbury Fayre twenty plus years back. ‘Yes, New Day almost is. We’ve played here quite a few times and we enjoy doing it’. The last album’s been well received. Any plans for a follow-up to it? ‘There are. I’m working on a new album now, hopefully for release next year. I’ve got six songs in progress and ideas for others’.

Rosalie Cunningham

He then explained some issues with recording None Of Your Business: ‘Jim (Leverton, bass) wasn’t really into it. He kept making mistakes, but would just look at the engineer and say, ‘you can fix that, can’t you?’ whereas for me you should be looking to correct your own mistakes. Anyway, the first day of recording, at Rimshot studios, Bredgar, he decides he doesn’t want to continue and leaves. We’re about to record a new album and this happens! But we knew someone who knew Lee (Pomeroy) so he asks Lee if he’d be interested, and he was. He recorded all the bass parts for the album in just two days, and he did a remarkable job. I sent him the files and he just added his parts and they were just right. We usually like to record old school, all musicians in the same studio with ideas bouncing off each other’. I mentioned to Pye that I live one mile north of Rimshot studios and, if he opened the windows, I could probably hear them playing. ‘Nah, not us’, he grinned, ‘we play quietly’. Pye then came out with a surprising comment. He’d been sidelined with major health issues but had been given the all-clear: ‘Earlier this year I was in hospital being treated for eight weeks’. He described some of the treatment. ‘But happily I’m alright now, it was caught just in time’.  His message to other guys? ‘If you think you’ve got a problem down there, go and get it looked at and checked out. Don’t put it off, guys, get it done!’ I mentioned that Frank Zappa had left getting treatment for Prostate Cancer too long and it eventually led to him dying, aged only 53. ‘My point exactly. Don’t wait’.

Raphael Mura, who drummed with Rosalie Cunningham during her set, had originally been the drummer in her previous band, Purson, but was stepping out from his current band, Throwdown Bones, and helping Rosalie out on a few gigs. Onstage later she would describe him as being ‘her musical soulmate’. ‘The regular drummer wasn’t available so Rosie gave me a call and asked if I could step in, so I did. We’d played together before in her previous band so I fitted in okay. But it’s been hectic … we played at a festival in Austria on Friday evening, flew back yesterday and travelled down here today’. Purson were making a name for themselves but unexpectedly stopped. Why was this, I wondered? ‘Purson finished because Rosie wanted to do something else, but what we do now is not too dissimilar from what Purson did’. Alas, in London the day before, Raphael had had his mobile phone stolen from his hand while using it by a guy on a bike, who’d come up behind him, snatched the phone and hurried away, but Raphael wasn’t hurt in this incident, though understandably miffed at the loss of his phone.

Rosalie herself enjoyed the whole New day experience. ‘I’ve been here once before. I was here six years back as a punter but I’ve not played here, so it should be interesting. I’m excited about playing here. It’s a very diverse crowd but that’s good – it’s an opportunity to spread our music across different generations. We played Cropredy and it was a similar feel with an audience going right across the ages’. How did she enjoy playing Prognosis in April, I wondered? ‘Oh, Prognosis was a great event. Riverside were great, weren’t they?’

Indeed they were.