Saturday, 18 June 2016

Surfer Joe Summer Festival 2016 Part 4

It's Friday and, after Thursday night's thrilling and tempestuous aperitivo, the Surfer Joe Summer Festival is about to hit the ground running. The first thing to report is that there is no rain (and none is forecast until Sunday), although there is still quite a strong breeze and a swell out at sea, sufficient for two brave souls to take to the water and risk crashing their surfboards against the rocks which line this stretch of coast. As they do this, we are finally able to manage a swim in the pool, without the lifeguard finding reason to turf us out.

We lunch at the Diner with the Hastings crowd and spend the afternoon relaxing in preparation for the first band of the night, The Surfing Boars from Sardinia. In the meantime, Keith and Claire, the rest of the Brighton Surf Massive, arrive, We catch up with the marvellous Los Venturas and I chat with Niels, from North Sea Surf Radio, about our schedule for the weekend. A little later I pass an enjoyable half-hour or so chatting on air with Niels, Jeff Big Tiki Dude and JonPaul, about some of our favourite memories of festivals from the recent past. Jeff even hints that Los Fantasticos should consider a trip to California to play at a future Surf Guitar 101 Convention. This is both hugely flattering and a really great idea. I must put it to the band.

The Surfing Boars start proceedings for the day in fine trad-surf style and they're followed by Londoners (via, variously, Canada and Italy), The Shar-Keys, who bring a notably rockabilly influence into play. Specifically, guitarist Conrad di Lanni plays his Gretsch with fingers and a thumb-pick, something I've never before witnessed in surf music and which we discuss a little later, when Niels and I interview the band live on-air. My slot on the radio coincides with The Longboards playing on the Tiki Stage and, consequently, I'm only able to catch a couple of brief parts of their set, although what I do see definitely passes muster and the crowd seem to concur.

Only the very hardiest of souls manage to see everything that happens at a festival like this and the Brighton crowd are eating when Peru's Los Protones become the weekend's first band to perform on the main stage, over on the Terrazza Mascagni. Even from where we are sitting, they sound great and Clarry later confirms for me that they indeed were great. The Razorblades arrive at the end of a twelve-hour drive from Wiesbaden. Martin looks tired, while drummer Andi seems as fresh as a daisy (in fairness, he always does). Guess which one hadn't been driving.

Next on the Tiki Stage are Watang, who I greatly enjoy, although the sound does no favours to the somewhat intricate textures of their music. I have to say that the sound at the festival is generally good, so I suppose we just have to put up with the occasional mis-fire like this. Their are no such problems over on the main stage, though, as Mexicans, The Twin Tones put on a stunning show. I really liked their album, Capello di Marriachi, but wasn't prepared for just how brilliant they would be. The main stage at Surfer Joe is big and occasionally bands struggle to command it. No difficulty for these guys though; they are terrific and feature definitely the best surf flautist I have ever seen.

Alex, from Reading band Horse Rock arrives at this point. His flight to Pisa has been cancelled due to industrial action and he has had to fly via Milan and a somewhat lengthy train journey, but he has arrived and we buy him a beer. He really looks like he needs it. Darren, guitarist with The Waterboarders, has been scuppered by the same strike and has had an even worse journey, taking a flight from Bristol to Rome and spending several hours on the runway before even taking to the air. He will not finally arrive at the festival for another hour.

Two Japanese bands follow. Back at the Tiki Stage Lorenzo is dressed as a Samurai, Ralf is clowning in a huge Sumo suit and Jeff is reassuringly normal, as he introduces us to the splendid trad sounds of The El Caminos, who duly proceed to wow the crowds. They are but a warm up, though, for the Surf Coasters over on the main stage. They are, quite simply, fantastic. Great musicianship, great performance and great, beaming smiles. If The Twin Tones owned the stage,bathe Surf Coasters absolutely dominate it. The crowd love them and they love the crowd. Wow!

It after 1:00 pm now, but there's still time to catch Hell-o-Tiki's great set in the Tiki Bar. Their costumes, burlesque dancing and heavy sound have the crowd bouncing, with Andrew and Alexandra to the fore, in support of Alexandra's Belgian compatriots. Sven is also in the midst of the throng and, as the band take to the stage for their encore, we slope of, exhausted, and head back to the hotel.

There are still two days to go. Will we make it through?

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