Thursday, 23 May 2013

First Vintage Festival



12-15 AUGUST 2010

The welcoming committee at the entrance to the site. (Photo: Patrick Steel)

Pop culture heaven is a place where Teds, Mods, Rockers, Hippies, Soul Boys and Soul Sisters, Rastas, Punks, New Romantics and Goths dance arm in arm laughing, with their children and grandchildren at their feet. At the Vintage at Goodwood festival over three days in August 2010, pop culture heaven came to Earth.

Imagine the best party you’ve ever had, the best gig you’ve ever been to, the best pub you’ve got drunk in, the best market you’ve shopped at, the best night club you’ve danced in and you’re getting pretty close to how good Vintage was.

If there was a downside, it was the event’s instant success: the shops and exhibitions on the pop-up high street needed to be double the size, as did the fashion marquee, which the organisers could have filled twice over judging by the amount of people turned away from each catwalk show. There should have been another on-site pub, although The Festival of Britain was packed to its artificial rafters throughout the three days with people of all ages singing and dancing along to everything from 1980s power ballads to ‘Louie Louie’ by the Kingsmen. Why, I thought, isn’t every pub in England like this on a Friday and Saturday night? It was like joining in a scene from Glee.

The incomparable Atters Attree (centre) and chums put on
the style. (Image: The Chap)
The festival promised a celebration of “five decades of British cool” – from the 1940s to the 1980s – which for once wasn’t totally dependent on music, also showcasing art, fashion, design and film. The promised balance worked: there were as many people foraging through the market, enjoying the funfair and queuing for the Wall of Death as there were watching Martha and the Vandellas ­– well, maybe not quite as many. The crucial point is that music is the magic glue that that binds the other four categories together, as well as being a soundtrack to everyone’s daily life through the years.

Appropriately, everywhere you went on the site you could hear some kind of music. And the music was brilliant and eclectic. The first live act I saw was Sandie Shaw’s ‘Reclaim the Song’ revue which featured a top-notch big band and various guest female singers, among them Mica Paris and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. It was quite something hearing the latter tackle Pulp’s ‘Common People’ and Squeeze’s ‘Up the Junction’. Sandie herself, apparently performing for the first time in 25 years, sang her best known songs as well as The Smiths’ ‘Jeane’.

Faces drummer Kenny Jones and guitarist Ronnie Wood
at the Vintage press conference. (Image: Vintage)
This diversity was part of the point of Vintage, with a lot of the musical acts not just trotting out their usual festival sets; they were contributing something one off, something special. Peter Hook performed Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures LP with a full orchestra and choir, the Pretty Things did all of their rock opera SF Sorrow with narration by Arthur Brown and The Feeling celebrated the best of British song writing with guests as varied as Viv Albertine and Tony Christie. The reformed Faces, ripping through an incendiary set, were a living and breathing cross section of musical genres: early ‘70s good time rock and roll (Wood, McLagen and Jones), late ‘70s Punk (The Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock on bass) and ‘80s Pop Soul (Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall on vocals – and yes, he was good).

As Mick Jones once said, “everything connects”, a fact borne out by his rock and roll CCA Art Bus (parked next to the Strummerville stall, touchingly) with murals by Sir Peter Blake, no less. In it you’ll find Dr Who jigsaws next to Sniffin’ Glue Punk fanzines, next to Bottom VHSes next to The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite stage gear. The Faces were there too, represented by framed record sleeves that the teenage Jones avidly collected before his own band took off. Mick’s looking for a permanent venue for his library in London, which clearly shows there’s a growing acknowledgment of popular culture as an important part of social history. Vintage is Mick’s ethos writ large.

Mick Jones and artist Peter Blake with their Art Bus.
(Image: CCA Galleries)
On a personal note, despite the presence of a cinema showing British classics like Zulu and The Lavender Hill Mob, I’d like to have seen TV through the decades represented. It was as equally as significant as film, arguably more so. If Vintage goes again next year, which seems like a safe bet, I’d really like to see some TV milestones featured. Perhaps The Avengers, Boys from the Blackstuff, Hancock…?

The great thing about this festival was that everyone there was up for it. If you paid a visit to the Soul Casino you’d find an instructor teaching enthusiastic volunteers how to dance to Northern Soul – and that’s at 11.30 on a Saturday morning. In the Let It Rock marquee they were holding jitterbug classes and over in the Torch Club you could learn how to Tea Dance. The heartening thing was that in every area there was a significant amount of the under 10s enjoying themselves as much as their parents or grandparents. One particularly noticeable and gladdening thing was that there was no one offensively drunk or kicking off. It was all good natured, family friendly and chilled out; in short, very English.

Perhaps the good atmosphere was something to do with Vintage being just the right size; there were no massive queues for anything, not even the toilets, usually a notorious festival black spot. The music stages didn’t need massive TV screens as you had a good view wherever you stood and their various PAs were the best I’ve ever heard at a festival. The logistics of it all had been meticulously worked out.

I could run on and on about the many highlights, but the main point of writing this was to get across what a great event this is for people who love all aspects of popular culture. For me, it’s as close as you can get to heaven without having to die first. Mind you, in my personal pop heaven, all the missing episodes of ‘60s Dr Who, The Avengers and Callan will be available in hi def. On a loop. In 3D.

NB: I saw a guy with a floppy fringe and shades wandering nonchalantly around the high street and saw him again nodding along to Kid Creole and the Coconuts. “That looks like Matt Smith,” I thought. “Nah, can’t be.” Looks like my celebrity radar needs an overhaul. The Doctor was, indeed, in the house.

CCA Galleries:
The Chap magazine:


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