Now in its fifth year, the Red Rooster Festival has shaped up from humble beginnings to be THE go-to weekend for rock’n’roll, blues and roots music . Vive Le Rock donned its dungarees to check it out….
RED ROOSTER FESTIVAL
EUSTON HALL, SUFFOLK
With a track record of good weather, Red Rooster is something of a rarity in the UK calendar. Better not jinx it! It’s also one of the easiest on the eye, when it comes to locations, situated in the grounds of Euston Hall on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, by wood and river. Moreover, it’s compactness means you don’t waste time and energy slogging everywhere, can easily find your mates and are generally in with a good chance of making it back to your tent before passing out.
Kicking off on the Thursday evening, just as most people are arriving, the mainstage offers a low-key bill of mellow country rock, headlined by Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie, trading in a weird concoction of garage rock through a Queen filter.
The following morning, though, the fest sets off in earnest with London’s long-serving Cajun aces Joli Blon, who do an amazing job of shaking the masses out of their torpor. The day takes shape approvingly via the many-headed Cash-style country-punk of The Johnsons, ZZ Top-channelling newcomer Sam Morrow and Texan golden boy Jarrod Dickinson, who takes time to salute homestate legend Doug Sahm with a terrific cover of ‘I’m Glad For Your Sake’.
After a Prosecco-and-veggie-burrito break, Vive Le Rock returns to the mainstage for another of Texas’s finest sons, Dale Watson. Single-handedly saving country music one truckin’ song at a time, Dale’s on fine form, the crowd quickly getting into singalong mode on ‘I Lie When I Drink’ (“…and I drink a lot!”). Ever the consummate pro, Dale takes some beating, although Nick Lowe gives it a good go. Since teaming up with LA’s masked instrumental surf band Los Straightjackets, the Godfather of Pub has been reinvigorated: delivering an elementary ‘greatest hits’ set, rockin’ recent single ‘Tokyo Bay’ is as good as anything the great man’s ever done.
By Saturday both stages – and the sun’s rays – are getting into their stride, so we slap on the lotion to enjoy sets on the Little Red Rooster acoustic stage from fast-rising skateboarder-cum-country-blues-picker, Yorkshire’s own Serious Sam Barrett – drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend – and the country’n’rockabilly of The Haystingers, unphased by a mid-set power failure.
Over on the mainstage, it’s Euro-tastic with youthful French rockabillies Howlin’ Jaws delivering a blistering set, closely followed by Switzerland’s Powersolo and the homegrown Oh! Gunquit, featuring the finest hula-hooping, trumpet-blowing frontwoman of the festival.
East Londoner Errol Linton has been a reliable draw on the London scene for many years, so it’s great to watch him deliver a crowd-pleasing mid-afternoon set of his reggae-infused blues. He’s definitely deserving of bigger things. So too, Cedric Burnside: grandson of the legendary R.L. who kickstarted the noughties punk-blues scene, he delivered a blistering set, backed only by a hard-hitting drummer with an infectious beat. The two even swapped places at one point!
For the final act of the weekend, Vive was in a bit of a quandary, but sorely tempted by the soul-inspired space-rock of The Budos Band, we opted for the tried’n’tested Legendary Shackshakers on the Little Red Rooster stage. One of the most dynamic acts of the festival, it’s a shame they’re relegated to the smaller stage, but their fiery gothic-country-punk has zero airs and graces, quickly creating the atmosphere of the moshpit, frontman J.D. Wilkes risking life and limb (his, the band’s, the crowd’s) with his cavalier mic-stand antics. A brilliant punk-rock frontman, and quite possibly the only one armed with a banjo, Wilkes is a force of nature who deserves much wider fame.
The party kept rockin’ well into the night over on the Howlin’ Woods DJ stage, but totally spent from the Shackshakers, Vive (dis)gracefully retired. Out first Red Rooster successfully completed, we’ll definitely be back next year.
Pics by Ken Taylor