The Nantwich Rory Gallagher festival, 26-28 August 2022
You can organize festivals in many ways, you often see on a festival poster more than thirty bands. In Nantwich they do it differently, this three-day festival programs 10 bands, that doesn’t seem like much but if you give each band two hours to play you get a full day. A critic may say two hours is a long time, it will get boring. On the contrary, by giving the bands two hours, they can put together such a set that you hear different songs than the standard work. The bands I saw at work in Nantwich had no problem with that.
Now the festival title suggests that it was a Rory Gallagher tribute festival, but that’s an illusion. There is a lot of fall back on the extensive oeuvre of this Irish blues hero, but there were many styles to enjoy. Organizer Steve “Rory” Web had put together a nice mix of bands. From Rock’n blues to blues rock to Southern and country rock, of course Rory Gallagher but also Jimi Hendrix even up to the Beatles.
At half past six the festival kicked off with the 14-year-old guitar prodigy Jack Austin Depsy, supported by a rhythm section that sounds familiar to Rory fans, Dave Burns (Tony Dowlers Hellhounds) on bass and Jonny Brutal (Sinnerboy) on drums. All known Rory hits were played. Playing flawlessly, the audience present embraced this young man. (Wijk aan Zee take advantage of this and get this boy to the Netherlands). Steve “Rory”web, would later say, ‘this kid is the future’.
After this sparkling opening it was time for The Rory Story, this newly formed band released a set with many songs from The Irish tour, regarded by many as Rory Gallagher’s best album. The band consisting of the aforementioned rhythm section is mainly built around singer guitarist Jon Angus. The addition of keyboards (Adam Hutchins) and harmonica (Paul Westwell) gave the Rory tracks a completely different dimension than the raw performance by Jack Austin Depsy. Jon Angus is the great pacesetter in this band his style of playing his agility on stage was infectious on the audience that after two encores kept on screaming for more.
The bands that were programmed on Saturday were unknown to me except for Aidan Pryor, and that makes visiting a festival like this worthwhile. As a music lover I’m always looking for something new. For me the James Oliver band was a real treat . This trio brought a form of blues mixed with rock’n billy. Rock’n blues or Blues’n Billy I would like to call it, so sparkling and so lively, party time. In addition, singer guitarist James Oliver is a funny man, who sprinkled witty jokes between the songs, constantly making fun of his band members. A career as a stand-up comedian wouldn’t look out of place for him either. Together with upright bass player Tony Biggs (Demented are go) and Mark Kemlo on drums, it was a two-hour whirlwind.
Much more modest was the Jim Kirkpatrick band, I was somewhat surprised to find out that he was the guitarist of The band of friends. Here he performed with an occasional band, his regular band was unable to attend. In the band, bass Ian Rowley (Paul Rodgers band, Deb Bonham), drums Neil Mc Callum and keyboards George Glover (both Climax blues band), a true all-star line up for what would be a one off performance. It was pure musical magic with a beautiful set full of classics from the British blues scene, own work by Jim and Rory Gallagher. Although it was a one off performance it seemed like they played together for years, especially keyboards George Glover (74) had a great time. The bass solo Ian Rowley put down in the Free song Mr. Big was world class. One of the highlights, a goosebumps performance of While my guitar gently weeps by the Beatles. How music can move people.
After this musical display, the question was how the next band would turn out. After all, the bar had been set quite high by Jim Kirkpatrick. The next band to take the stage was Sandraiser. This power trio brings a sophisticated mix of Rory Gallagher and Jimi Hendrix, in which vocalist guitarist Steve Pendle had to warm up. After about three songs he was completely into it and together with Bass player Nick Skelson (Sinnerboy) they did what a power trio should do: rock hard. From Voodoo Child, to Millions Miles Away and back again with all brakes released at the infrequently played In your town. After two hours of being blown away by this trio, the bar for Aidan Pryor, the closing act, was raised even higher.
Aidan Pryor is a familiar face in Ballyshannon, but he took his first steps at the Nantwich Rory Gallagher festival. For those who don’t know him, he is seen as the reincarnation of Rory Gallagher, and he lived up to that title. After his amplifier problems were solved, he went all out. Playing wirelessly, he moved through the audience, which was much appreciated. Spinning out long solo’s, he has to be careful not to lose the essence of a performance out of sight. But again, the audience loved it and couldn’t get enough of it. This turned out to be a great day and I can only say if you give the bands time, a wonderful things will happen.
On Sunday the same recipe again 4 bands and everyone for two hours. Starting with the G-man. twice old and twice young. The singer and guitarist stated to have seen Rory play in Taste, and that was a long time ago. Age didn’t matter. The bass player and drummer felt each other flawlessly and certainly the funky way of playing the bass player gave a different twist to the Rory Gallagher songs. A nice warm-up for what was to come. Jed Thomas band, the Tom Killner band and closing act Innes Sibun. This English blues giant had rehearsed a Rory Set especially for this festival.
Jed Thomas band is a strange kind of band, which has its own style, in terms of clothing, in terms of the music , in terms of performance. They mix blues with roots and swamp influences in which Jed surrounds himself with a battery of sound effects to add even more mystique to his songs. With a sophisticated mix of his own, Rory Gallagher, Carlos Santana songs he entertained the audience. It’s this variety in bands that makes festivals like this worthwhile.
The person who also contributed to this was a somewhat strange duck in the bite, The Tom Killner band, his southern country rock was a welcome change. Inspired by Chris Stapleton and Marcus King, he brought a nice piece of music, for me a discovery and highlight. Alternating his set with an acoustic solo performance, brilliant. What a musical talent this Tom Killner who seems to have totally found his way in this style of music. With a little more daring and depth on the part of the pianist, the whole can be boosted even further. Then he certainly can compete with bands like Robert Jon and the Wreck.
Save the best for last, is a well-known saying, and that’s what organizer Steve “Rory” Web made sure of. The well-known English blues guitarist Innes Sibun had rehearsed a set of Rory Gallagher tracks on request, It included well-known hits such as Tattooed lady, Shadow play, Bad Penny, also less well-known ones like I fall apart, for the last time. With a devilish enthusiasm he lashed out in such a way that with this intensity of singing his voice would’nt last to the end of the performance. However, he more than made up for that with his unparalleled guitar playing. The only way to end this performance was with the Bullfrog blues. Once again he pulled out an unmerciful slide guitar solo. Innes Sibun what a hero, the sweat was pouring down from him. This is how we love the artists, just give everything they have got, beautiful.
The Nantwich Rory Gallagher festival, a festival for the true blues lover, the theme Rory Gallagher was filled in by the performing bands all in its own way so that there was much to enjoy. The relaxed atmosphere, the lovely hosts Steve and Nigel, and everyone involved in this festival more than made the trip worthwhile.