Maryport Blues Festival July 25 2008
Support Acts seen: Little Jenny & the Blue Beans and Alvin Youngblood Hart
So its a warm Friday night and I set off for the 100 mile drive to see Chuck Berry at the Maryport Blues Festival. Chuck Berry! The guy is 81 and still playing. I haven’t seen Chuck since the 70s at the Newcastle City Hall and Sunderland Empire. Another show I remember is the nightmare (but so bad it was good in its own way) Buxton 73 festival which was taken over by Hells Angels; Chuck ended up dancing with a crowd of Hells Angels on the stage. So lots of memories and a long long time since I’ve seen the guy play; looking forward to this one. I guess I am not expecting too much; it will be great just to see him again.
The drive over goes quite well. Get lost in Carlisle and stuck behind a tractor on the windy round to Maryport. It starts to pour down with rain just as I enter Maryport. The festival has moved site from the last time I was here a few years ago; its now by the Rugby Club rather than down at the harbour. The car park is a short walk from the site so I don’t get too wet. The main stage is a pretty big marquee; must hold quite a few thousand in there and its pretty full. I feel quite at home in this crowd; lots of old grey haired people round me; many of them sporting t-shirts from other blues festivals.
I catch two of the other acts on the bill who are pretty good. I have a chance to walk around the site; it has quite an impressive camp site with a lot of lovely camper vans (I make a mental note that it would be great to have a camper van and start going to festivals again!).
At aorund 10.30pm Chuck Berry and his band take the stage. The vocal mike doesn’t work for the first song; the crowd is shouting at Chuck and the band to attract their attention but they don’t seem to realise what is wrong. Anyway after the first song is finished the mike starts to work and a mighty cheer goes up from the crowd. Chuck is great. It is hard to believe that he is 81. His voice sounds good and very strong; his guitar is a little out of tune; but then as I rmember it ; it often was. He plays lots of the favourites, No Particular Place to go, Sweet Little Sixteen, etc (but no Johnny B Goode). We all sing along to My DIng a Ling. He has his son Charles playing guitar for him and his daughter is singing and playing mouth harp. She is pretty good and gets a great cheer. The last number sees Chuck inviting girls (and then boys) up on to the stage to dance with him. The stage is soon full and Chuck and the band are hidden behind a sea of dancers. And then its over. He has been on stage 1 hour (as expected) and it was much much better that I had hoped. People start to leave the marquee and the general feeling is that he was great and can still rock. Pleased I went to see the old guy again; a true legend. The drive home seems to fly over; I’m still thinking of Chuck. Get to bed aorund 2am. A good night and a nice festival.
Festival site: http://www.maryportblues.co.uk/
Chuck Berry site: http://www.chuckberry.com/