Reflections on StowBlues

There’s plenty of food for thought after the recent StowBlues festival. The now firmly established annual event at the Museum Of East Anglian Life took place last month and while it did attract several hundred people numbers were down on previous years.

There were a few factors behind the drop in attendance, not least the wet weather which didn’t really clear until teatime by which time many had decided to give StowBlues a miss for this year. There was also a free family music day at Stowmarket Town Football Club happening on the same day which can’t have helped either cause. I’m far from convinced a town the size of Stowmarket can successfully hold two open air music events at the same time and see little to gain in running both side-by-side in future.

Some StowBlues regulars may have found the price hike to £15 too much to stomach but as I pointed out previously in this column that is still an small price to pay for seven great acts. There was a time when StowBlues was a free event and the bands played for nothing but that arrangement became unsustainable for a variety of reasons which I won’t bore you with here.

On a more positive note StowBlues 2019 was still a success. Legendary Essex rhythm and blues band Automatic Slim were, for me, the group of the day very closely followed by the Dave Thomas Blues Band. Slim are now sounding even better than they did in their pomp and I’d urge you to catch them at The Railway in Ipswich when they return there on Saturday, September 6. The following month they’re at Kelvedon Labour Club (26/10) and then on Saturday, November 30 perform their final reunion gig of 2019 at The Queen’s Head in Burnham-on-Crouch.

Thanks to all the acts who graced the new site for StowBlues. The set up behind Abbott’s Hall was excellent and bodes well for the future. Sadly one of my StowBlues co-founders Patsy Cane is bowing out so my sincere thanks and very best wishes to her. Over the coming weeks on my BBC Radio Suffolk show I plan to bring you highlights of the performances by all the artists who also included Goofa Dust, Mark Harrison, Ben Joseph, Blues Situation and Lee Ainley’s Blues Storm.   

It’s not often a local musician publishes a book so it’s great to see Ipswich-based singer, songwriter and pianist Phil Jackson putting pen to paper to do just that. In  recent years he has become a key member of The Rutles and Phil’s first publication, Socks On (Life As A Rutle), is a diary covering the group’s 2018 jaunt around the UK.

Phil has come up with an amusing read which tells of life on the road as part of Neil Innes’s zany pop combo. It doesn’t come as any surprise to me that being on tour is far from glamorous. The gigs themselves are usually great fun but getting to them, setting up the gear (musical equipment, not drugs!), tucking into the ‘hospitality’ and then packing up and heading off to the next destination can certainly test any musician’s patience and resolve.  

Knowing Phil as I do, I feel sure he remains good natured throughout and is able to laugh off any of the nonsense often associated with life on the road. He’s clearly lapping up his time as a Rutle and is only too happy to take the rough with the smooth. Do check out Socks On(Life As A Rutle) and also look about for Phil’s latest solo album.