The last time I ventured into Torquay United’s home ground at Plainmoor was December 7th, 1981 for Tony Brown’s testimonial match against Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United, fast forward 34 years and here I am, though this time, I am covering the first ‘Yellowfest’ music festival that is being held at the ground, would it be an event that would go down in history or would the attendees be leaving at half time, read on to find out….
Sadly, we weren’t able to make it to the event at the opening time, I was sorry to have missed the first 3 acts but was ready to make up for lost time having walked through the gates just as ‘The Esplanades’ were finishing their set to a rapturous round of applause form the crowd who were clearly already in the ‘festival spirit’. The sun was shining, there was a light covering of cloud and everyone had their fingers crossed that the smattering of rain that paid them a visit earlier in the day had moved on to bother another part of Torquay which wasn’t Plainmoor!
With the stage situated in the middle of the pitch looking inwards towards the main stand (I think it’s called Bristow’s Bench?), there was more than adequate seating and with a designated area at the front of the stage, there was ample space to stand/lie/boogie to your hearts content. All around the outside of the pitch were traders peddling their wares along with a merchandise table chock full of T-Shirts, CD’s and other goodies. In the far corner was a caravan advertising body piercing, a strange thing to do whilst at a festival, I was considering a ‘Prince Albert’ but thought I’d consider it a while longer, the desire soon passed…. I’ll admit that I was tempted to have a go on the inflatable slide though I was left disappointed having been turned away as the man wouldn’t believe that I was under 8 years old! Dejected, I headed to the bar for a cider and found a nice spot in the sun where I waited for the next act to grace the stage.
During the time it took for the stage hands to whip The Esplanades’ gear off the stage and set it up for the next act, I glanced around at the array of ‘festival gear’, Hunter wellies, ladies with flowers in their hair & panama hats were very much the order of the day leaving me quite under-dressed for the occasion! I forgot my shades and sun lotion, I was sort of hoping that I would need neither but as soon as we got there, the sun put its hat on and came out to play!
The P.A. was silenced and The Simmertones took to the stage to kick off their set of summery ska that was guaranteed to get the masses up and skanking away to their addictive output. I counted at least 11 members up on the stage which included a superb 4 piece brass section with an array of Saxaphones and a super impressive trombone player who looked like he belonged with the popular ska band Madness. After a couple of their songs, I wondered when the vocalist was going to pipe up, after the song, the stand in front man (all the way from Buckfastleigh) said that he was asked to cover for their normal front man (Glyn Wilcox) at the last minute owing to him having a knee operation and whilst he did a sterling job of providing some percussion and intro vocals, I feel that their performance was somewhat marred without Glyn at the helm, stirring up the proceedings and getting everyone jumping. With that said, they still managed to put on a dazzling display of ska infused sounds that the crowd were lapping up, even I had got a bit of a skank on, you couldn’t help it, you just had to let yourself go with the music.
The next act on stage have supported the likes of local Mercury Music winners Metronomy, had a track featured on a popular US TV show and have been referred to as “Coldplay with balls and a stiff drink instead of world peace and green tea”, which I think sums them up perfectly, yes folks, I am of course referring to an amazing local trio going by the name ‘These Reigning Days’.
They took to the stage and fired into their opening track ‘Renegade’, which sounded brilliant, with its driving drums, urgent bass and super catchy chorus, this is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. ‘Too Late’ started with Dan Steer’s stabbing guitar over a tight high-hat prior to the drums and bass crashing in to accompany the bluesy swagger which ended with a super heavy breakdown, brilliant stuff.
Dan did a grand job of keeping the crowd entertained between tracks, doing his very best to peddle the ‘Yellowfest’ T-Shirts and mentioning that they too had a range of ridiculously priced merchandise available at the merch stand, I did see the TUFC mascot dancing like nobody was watching whilst wearing a ‘TRD’ T-Shirt!
‘Fever’ was a full on rock stomper from the off which featured some atmospheric guitar and bass work, Dan admitted that this was “The most fun gig that they have played so far this year” which was great to hear as they were getting as much back from the crowd as they were giving out, proving that it is all about give and take! They played a brilliant version of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ which they managed to (excuse the Simon Cowell-ism) ‘made their own’, with their own unique style firmly stamped on this rock n’ roll classic.
Dan mentioned that they were planning on putting a new album out soon and this was the perfect venue to try out some of their latest material, we were then treated to a track called ‘All I Wanna Do’ which featured some proper space age bass, ‘Self Destruct’ kept up the high energy levels that the band are renowned for and ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ featured some growling bass licks, thumping drums and Dan’s terrific falsetto voice which all blended perfectly with some nice tight guitar riffage. If these new tracks are a taste of what we can expect from their new album, you can take my money now!
After being promised a ‘99’ from the Mr Frosty van, (that’s an ice-cream folks, not some smutty euphemism) the guys kicked into their last track, ‘Crazy H-Satellite’, another new one which hooked you in like a mackerel on a fishing line, powerless to the drive of the song which resulted in a proper heavyfest by the end. I was almost expecting Dan to drive his guitar through the speaker stack and then set fire to the drums, thankfully, he didn’t, this may have something to do with the fact that he is endorsed by Mansons Guitars in Exeter and if you knew how much these bad boys cost, you too would keep your wits about you when closing your set!
All in all, a super tight performance from a local band that have a very bright future ahead of them, if you are heading down to Volksfest in Plymouth on Friday May 23rd, you can see them rocking the main stage alongside a plethora of other killer acts.
The evening was drawing in, gone was the sun and here was the cooler weather, the fashion had changed from ‘bo-ho chic’ to ‘sensible fleece’ and who could blame them, there’s nothing worse than being warm all day and then realizing that you only bought a T-Shirt with you to a music festival and end up sleeping in a black bin liner in an attempt to keep warm (not that I did that at Reading Festival in 92’ after watching Nirvana lift the roof off the main stage….no sir, that must have been someone who just looked a bit like me!) Anyway, I digress, back to Yellowfest and the next act….
Back in 1973 in South London, two teenage friends formed a band that would later see them referred to as ‘The new Lennon & McCartney’, their hits included ‘Cool for Cats’, ‘Tempted’ and ‘Up the Junction’, I am of course referring to a band called Squeeze. From this classic act come two singer songwriters who went on to perform as solo artists and in many other acts, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook.
They took to the stage to a huge roar from the audience and Glenn dived straight into a track that really showcased his guitar skills whilst Chris provided some tight tones from his acoustic. Soon after they started, Chris left the stage ‘for some caviar’ leaving Glenn to play some solo tracks including ‘Chat Line Larry’ and ‘Ray’, Chris joined Glenn again to take the audience back to 1974 with a fantastic version of the early Squeeze track ‘Halfway’. I started to recognize some of the later Squeeze classics when they played ‘Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)’ and kept the momentum with ‘Some Fantastic Place’ and ‘Cold Shoulder’.
From here on in, it was plain sailing with the crowd eating out of their hands, ‘Labelled With Love’ had everyone swaying gently to the memorable lyrics that just came back to you after so many years. ‘Tempted’ kicked things up a notch with Glenn’s sublime guitar intro prior to Difford coming in with his acoustic alongside the vocals. The highlight of the set was ‘Cool for Cats’ which allowed the audience to take over the chorus part (in relatively good voice too!).
After ending their set with ‘Goodbye Girl’, they said their farewells, thanked the audience for having them and left the stage.
Prior to the headline act of the evening, the raffle took place, I don’t think that this was meant to be the comedy highlight of the event but the way the compare ran it was beyond compare. In usual football club fashion, the prizes were somewhat suspect and a big song and dance was made of jars of jam, blankets and umbrella’s, I think it was the men’s hand moisturizer, Turkish delight and multi tool kit that tipped him over the edge, leaving him on stage, questioning if these were actually proper raffle prizes…..We all knew that the funds raised were going to the club so everyone took it in good humour!
Time now for the headline act of the event, it’s not very often you get to see a legendary band who have toured the world countless times and produced many hit songs, I thought I only knew about 3 of their tracks, turns out I knew a whole lot more than this, I just never knew that it was these guys that created them!
Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme formed the band in 1972 after spending a few years recording together, each member bringing a wealth of musical knowledge and the ability to play multiple instruments. This allowed them to experiment with different styles and over the years they have racked up an impressive 11 albums (not as the original lineup).
So, you’ve probably guessed that the headline act was 10cc, let’s go back to Yellowfest and see how the rest of the evening panned out.
I counted at least 8 guitars on the stage, the dry ice was pumped, the audience was ready, all we needed was the band….suddenly, the lights dropped and the band took to the stage. They burst into their 1974 classic ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ which appeared on their 1974 album ‘Sheet Music’, this sounded absolutely phenomenal, full credit to the sound engineer(s) who did a great job in getting the levels just right. ‘Good Morning Judge’ saw some awesome guitar ‘duelling’ between Rick Fenn and Mick Wilson, I was getting lost with who was playing which instrument, it appeared that the keyboard player had picked up rhythm guitar duties. For the next 90 minutes, they dazzled us with some classic tracks including ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ which featured some very Dave Gilmour style guitar work at the end, ‘Silly Love’ made an appearance alongside ‘Feel the Benefit’ which seemed to go on for an eternity, after checking on the internet, I see that this was a 3 part track lasting some 12-13 minutes….
Rick Fenn’s playing was literally off the scale, he’s such a talented player and has a great track record behind him having played with the likes of Mike Oldfield, Rick Wakeman and Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. Paul Burgess did a sterling job of keeping the beat, he too has had his fair share of A-list groups under his belt such as Jethro Tull, Magna Carta and The Icicle Works.
Graham Gouldman announced a track from 1972 called ‘The Dean and I’ and mentioned that it was one of the very first tracks that they recorded as the original lineup. ‘From Rochdale to Ocho Rios’ had a real calypso feel to it, whilst the classic intro to ‘I’m Not in Love’ received one of the biggest cheers of the night, this sounded awesome with some great vocal harmonies and subtle bass part, it took me back to school disco’s in the early 80’s, running away from girls who were looking for a slow dance, how the tables have turned!
From here on in, it was plain sailing, they turned up the tempo with a flawless version of ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ which ended with the line ‘I don’t like Torquay, I love it’, brilliant!
After a short break, they returned to the stage to play an a capella version of ‘Donna’ which they recorded back in 1972 (the year I was born!) which sounded great with all of them picking up a different vocal part, they then picked up their guitars and burst into ‘Rubber Bullets’, which, despite being 42 years old, sounded as fresh as the day it came out of the oven, the finale to their set featured Rick Fenn playing keyboard whilst Mike Stevens took over his guitar whilst it was still round his neck, it really was an amazing piece of musicianship that I cannot truly put into words.
When the song ended, they all walked to the front of the stage, took a bow and amidst cheers and shouts of ‘more’, left the stage.
So, looking back over the day, highlights for me included the summery vibes of The Simmertones, the epic, stadium sized sound that These Reigning Days bought to the venue, the mellow, classic tones of Difford and Tilbrook and of course, the talent that oozed from every pore of Graham Gouldman and his comrades that are 10cc, will we be back next year, just you try and stop us!
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by 241 Photography
For full galleries of the bands that we saw at the festival, please select from the list below;