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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 108

Date:- 19 July 2003

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Hazy days in Hot Sleepless Summer nights
Photographs and Report by Dominic Bonner
AS FESTIVALS go - thoughts of Glastonbury and Leeds pre-dominate the mind of the masses during the summer months as destinations to view idols of the stage. Ironically, it seems that smaller festivals such as Guilfest in Guildford get overlooked - possibly a criminal sin.

It is true that Guilfest could not even begin to compare with 'Glasto' in size, but this 3-day festival that began in earnest in 1992 has been one of the best untapped festivals in the south west of England in recent years.

Indeed as I searched through the mire of the 14,000 people as the festivities began with the horde pitching up their tents, it was strikingly odd that the 'hippie' element was largely missing. Only to be replaced by a dynamic of cultural people from across the country - with only a meek poetry bus hidden in the dance corner of the field keeping the faith of true festival hippy spirit.

The festival began on July 7 in which several bands vied for the attention of passers by from four stages featuring smaller artists to the massive radio 2 stage to herald the likes of Alice Cooper on the Friday and Madness on the Saturday. But it was the smaller bands that unexpectedly caught the eye as opportunity beckoned more than just a pub band capturing a pub-like audience in the middle of a field, gaining the respect of future fans.

Southern band Fixxer amazed with their firebrand delivery of metal akin to Metallica with their delivery of punk metal song '8th deadly sin' and proved to follow through with a gritty performance of the foul mouthed self defeating 'Jerk' and despite the disaffecting allure of the small stage, they proved to be worth every second of view. However, it was alice cooper who was to strike the gauntlet down with an astounding performance of old hits such as 'Schools out' that gained the talk of the night as the dance stage boomed way into the early hours of the morning - leaving many journalists hazy and clinging for minutes of sleep.

Saturday proved to be an eye opener as Liverpool's John Power that stole the afternoon with a display of 'real' music on the Radio 2 stage that looked promising for the future. By comparison, it was Aqualung who bored the 6,000 strong audience into a coma with an emotionally charged performance with hits from their new album 'Two'.

Strikingly, it seemed that the opener 'Falling down' was to be the tone set for dreamy lullabies that would set the majority sleeping as they bored with yet another version of a failing Radiohead clone as poor substitute for the real thing. Indeed, lead singer who implored for rain, ultimately turning the crowds in search of food as opposed to watching a set of 60-minute drivel. Leaving the result of this Southampton based band failing to move the air let alone the earth with their somewhat schizophrenic dreamy Brit-pop.

Without doubt it was former Skunk Anansie singer 'Skin' that stole the show with her performance of her new album 'Fleshwounds' and a few old Skunk tracks that lured the crowd.

Skin's belated arrival served only to bait frenzy from the barrier hangers of fans trading places for view, but in spite wait, this was no distraction from what was to be the performance of the weekend from one of the most accomplished artists at the festival.

From the beginning, Skin set the agenda with an animal incarnation of stage presence as she delivered a display of powerful ballads such as 'Faithfulness' and 'Don't let me down'. As she leapt into the crowd surfing and singing her way through some of the set with hungry photographers enjoying every second of this pinnacle moment - Leaving the 10,000 strong audience in awe of the power of her songs.

The Stranglers performance by comparison was somewhat jaded as most of the original band were missing from the line up with the only real source of entertainment from their set arriving with the poignant song 'Golden Brown', adding to the humidity of the hot evening.

Despite the rather gainfully touching appearance of Richard Thompson on the Uncut stage, who gave the most intimate performance of the event with an unmistakable delivery of folk and blues. It was ultimately Madness with their awesome brand of nutty music as the heavily attended gig opened with 'One Step Beyond', testing the stage barrier and the crowd to the limit as frenzied fans danced and fought their way through to gain a view of the most popular band of the early eighties.

Old favourite 'My girl' triggered singer Suggs into acknowledging the talents of the late great Barry White whom he attributed the former crooner of soul as being responsible for his first ever kiss. But this two hour set featuring 'Prince', 'Baggy Trousers', 'Embarrassment' and the finale of 'It Must Be Love' was only a snippet of a feast of a performance that brought nostalgic memories of days gone by.

As the sun faded into the night and the festival neared its end. It became apparent that this little known festival was somewhat of a gem and that the spirit of true festival attendance was here, on this small field in the middle of a small town - where unexpected but renowned celebrities gather each year in this little corner of Surrey. 

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