Buck Moon Blues Festival 8 July 2023 at Imber Court Part Three

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Review by Tim Marcus with photos from Sam Conquest Photography

After another short twenty-minute burst from Nick and Eduardo on the acoustic stage we’re back out on the lawn just in time to see Steve Beastie introducing us to the wonderful Dom Martin. Having already seen Dom for the second time this year the previous weekend on the “super Sunday” of the Alfold Rock & Blues festival, this was one of several sets we’d been eagerly anticipating today, and we weren’t disappointed. Dom’s straight into it, kicking off with a wonderful cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s fifty-year-old classic, “Spoonful” which features some great bass lines from Ben Graham.

There’s plenty of great music still to come from Dom including “Messin’ with the Kid” at which Dom departs the stage and goes walkabout around the lawn, stopping on his way back to allow a small kid near the front of the stage to have a strum on his guitar. As the set continues someone out on the lawn in front of the stage decides they have an urgent need to make themselves the centre of attention and impress those around them as they interrupt Dom while chatting between songs with a cry of “Up the RA!” In fairness to Dom, he seems more surprised than irritated by this as shown in his response: “Really? Brave man.” We then get a great version of one of Dom’s early songs “12 gauge” before a second moron appears on the scene and decides it would be a good idea to keep interrupting Dom while he’s trying to tell us the story of how he came by his guitar.

After two attempts to shut the idiot up, Dom, understandably irritated simply gives up and gets on with the music. Before he leaves us we get to hear his new single, “Unhinged” and of course he’s simply too good not to be offered an encore which comes by way of Taste’s “What’s Going On”. It’s been another stunning set of powerful blues rock from Dom and his band. Just a shame the ambience of the set was taken down a little by a couple of thoughtless attention seeking individuals who proved the old adage that you should never drink on an empty head!

Meanwhile, back inside on the acoustic stage, there’s another changing of the guard as Will Wilde, frontman of his new band, Bad Luck Friday, takes to the stage, accompanied by a guitarist whose name, unfortunately, I didn’t catch, to give us a harmonica master class. Again, like the Terraplanes Blues Band before him, it’s two sets of approximately twenty minutes each, with the highlights of the first one, for me anyway, being “Angel Came Down” and his harmonica-led cover of Gary Moore’s “Parisienne Walkways”.

We’re now well into the early evening and down to the final two bands on the main stage, both international bands who have travelled to be here. First up is a band making their first-ever appearance in the UK, all the way from Milwaukee, it’s The Altered Five Blues Band. This smoking blues quintet got together twenty years ago and has been making music ever since, with all band members contributing to the songwriting. Charismatic and larger-than-life frontman, Jeff Taylor has been described as having a voice that is a cross between Howlin’ Wolf and B B King and believe me, it’s as smooth as silk as they deliver us a great seventy-five-minute set of hard-hitting, deep groove ridden blues.

It’s a very enjoyable set and Altered Five Blues Band is definitely a band I’d like to see returning to the UK sooner rather than later. I’m not particularly familiar with their material however my two top picks from their set tonight were “Great Minds Drink Alike” and their encore rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Before we return to the main stage for tonight’s headliner there’s time for one more quick burst from Will Wilde and his harmonica and he brings his second short set to a conclusion with a great version of the song first recorded by Muddy Waters way back in 1954, “Hoochie Coochie Man”.

By now, we’re running almost around forty-five minutes behind schedule, I’m guessing due to a combination of a couple of longer-than-planned changeovers on the main stage and three or four slightly extended sets with unplanned encores however it is now finally time for the stage’s headline act of the day, Australian keyboard maestro, 45-year-old Lachy Doley. I mention his age as Lachy has been playing professionally, most notably the Hammond organ, since the mid-nineties however I have to confess to never having known about him until our main stage compere for the day, Steve Beastie played him on his radio show a couple of years ago. The song he played that day was a cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin” which totally blew me away.

I immediately sought him out on Google and came across some video of him performing this song and was even more impressed with what I heard and saw. Not only does he play the Hammond, but he also uses an instrument called a whammy clavinet. This is to all intents and purposes a small keyboard with the equivalent of a tremolo arm attached as you might expect to see on an electric guitar. The sound it produces is awesome and I couldn’t wait! He kicks things off with a song called “Money” (not the Pink Floyd song albeit a song with the same sentiments). Also included in his set tonight is a Spencer Davis cover, not the one I’d hoped for that’d first introduced me to this great talent but nevertheless still a great rendition of “I’m a Man”. It’s not long before the whammy clavinet comes into play as Lachy launches into a song I just love to hear him play, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” however sadly, only part way into the number the clavinet packs up. Whether it’s a problem with the instrument itself or the amount of electrics that Lachy has plugged in on the stage has simply blown a fuse I’m not sure however he brings the song to a halt and there’s a few minutes of downtime as he and the stage crew try to fix the problem. After two or three minutes, he’s back behind the keyboards and starts the song again, but alas, after just a few notes on the clavinet, it blows again however this time Lachy chooses to continue and plays out the song on his Hammond. Personally, I’m gutted. One of the things I’d been most looking forward to today was seeing and hearing Lachy playing his clavinet however sadly it was not to be. Fortunately, Lachy is a master of the Hammond organ so despite my disappointment he still puts on a wonderful show. Of his own compositions, he plays this evening, my personal favourite is “The only cure for the Blues is the Blues” before he concludes his only UK performance of the year with an extended version of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”.

Despite the technical problem, it’s been a great show from Lachy. Given he’s based in his home country of Australia, his UK appearances are rare so if you do ever get the chance to see him play live I’d suggest you grab it with both hands. From the age of about 15, I’d also considered the late, great Jon Lord as the master of the keyboards, particularly the Hammond organ, and that no one could touch him. But believe me, Lachy Doley is right up there with him: he’s that good.

Under normal circumstances, after the headliner had finished, we’d be making our way back to the car park to head off home. Not tonight however as following Lachy, we’re also treated to an after-party. Sadly though, as a result of the aforementioned change over overruns and unscheduled encores, we’re now running well behind which has meant that one of the two bands due to be playing at the after-show, The Big Wolf Band, have had to be cut. Not what anyone would’ve wanted however given the time, regretfully the festival organisers were left with no other choice. Nevertheless, Jonathan Earp and his band were no doubt compensated in full and have been promised a spot on the main stage at next year’s event. Now the after-party itself was not to take place on the main stage but was being staged in a large function room on the first floor of the building. Given the “well to do” area in which this festival is based I can only guess that maybe this was due to some sort of licensing issue with regards to music being played outside however once Lachy has finished his set there’s a considerable delay before the final act of the day gets underway as equipment has to be moved from the main stage into the upstairs function room.

The band chosen to close proceedings here this evening is one of my favourite blues rock bands currently on the circuit, the exciting, Brave Rival. Unfortunately, the various delays have meant that there’s only time for them to play a set of around forty minutes rather than the scheduled hour. The downside to the after-party of today’s festival was that it required punters to purchase a separate ticket, an offer that appeared to have been taken up by only a minority of festival goers that day. Consequently, by the time Brave Rival did get to take to the stage at well past 11:00 pm, there was only a small, but select, gathering in front of the stage. However, as I’ve always said about Brave Rival, their shows feel so personal and intimate, it’s like having your mates come around to play just for you in your own front room so those that did make it through until the end had a great conclusion to the day as the band rattled off a well-rehearsed set that you might normally expect them to play when they’re filling a supporting slot somewhere.

Things come to an end just before midnight as we bid farewell to friends both old and new. In terms of the music and ambience of today, there’s absolutely no doubt that this first Buck Moon Blues Festival has been a roaring success. I’m sure however that from an operational point of view, the organisers will be the first to admit that there’s been the odd teething problem and lessons to be learned from today. Equally, I have no doubt that they’re wise enough to recognize those areas and ensure that they’re put right for next year. In a nutshell, perhaps it’s a case of “less is more”. It’s been a long but enjoyable day however if the quality of musicianship is going to be anything like that that we’ve seen today, then all I can say is “Roll on Buck Moon Blues 2024!”

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