Tag Archives: hadfest

113. HADFEST 2016, Little Hadham, Hertfordshire. Featuring: THE KAZANS; KNUCKLEFUNK; THE BIG BOYS; SARAH SYKES; MAX LAVERN; and ROB WHEATON. A charity event in aid of KAZFEST. Saturday 16th July, 2016.

(Pic: Hadfest)

(Pic: Hadfest)

Preamble: When Ray Boddy of Blues band The Big Boys asked me along to this year’s Hadfest in the Hertfordshire village of Little Hadham, I was of course interested. I went three years ago (before I started my website), and I remember it was a great family day out with some good local bands lined up; and a couple from further afield too. On that occasion, I went with some family  and friends – including Folk band Devonbird who were on the bill.

Little Hadham is a small, quiet village just West of Bishops Stortford, in Hertfordshire; just off the A120.  Its first musical claim to fame is for once being the home of Folk-Rock giants Fairport Convention; and they named their sixth album Angel Delight (1971) after the former pub, The Angel, in which they lived in the village until an out of control lorry infamously crashed into the late Dave Swarbrick‘s bedroom! The village’s second claim to fame, is the annual musical event: Hadfest …

Hadfest / Cazfest – a worthy cause: Hadfest has been running a few years now. I last went there in 2013 when the line up included a couple of the local bands that also appeared this year too – more on them anon. There was a stage at one end and stalls for food and drink along the sides. This year it was run in aid of the charity Cazfest (link below), which was set up in memory of local teenager Caroline Johnson (Caz) who unfortunately passed away in 2008 from an undiagnosed heart condition at the age of only 17. The charity is run by Caz’s Mum Lesley who we met on the gate. She aims to raise awareness and screening for teenagers. A great cause.

ROB WHEATON...He was there to tell us how to do it! (Pic: PTMQ)

ROB WHEATON…He was there to tell us how to do it! (Pic: PTMQ)

Let the fun begin! It was billed as a family day out, so I took some of the Quill clan along again – including baby grandson and dog.  As we made camp, my old mate Rob Wheaton of Folk band Devonbird, came over. Great to see him. He was due to play Hadfest in his own capacity this year as a solo singer/song-writer/guitarist; and was first on the bill. There were a lot of kids activities to begin with though – races and a Tug o’ War etc; and it all looked a lot of fun! So while that was going on, I had a chat to Ray Boddy of The Big Boys. Unfortunately, Ray seemed to be plagued by tiny spiders that were intent on crawling all over his head; and I had the unenviable task of helping him remove them! But hey; its Rock’n’Roll – anything can happen! I also bumped into Mark Sutherland of Café Music Studios (link below) in Bow, East London; haven’t seen him in yonks.

Then Rob took to the stage. He played a short set of five of his own numbers:- his amusing Deep Purple spoof ‘Bloke In The Water’; his imaginative ‘Tomorrow’s World 1978’; an old song of his that he has recently reworked ‘One Night Stand’; and the song about a man who blames his wife for everything he does wrong ‘You Weren’t There To Tell Me Not To Do It’. As an ex-resident of the village, Rob knew a lot of those present, and they of course called for encore. This was duly delivered with his song about where he now lives in Devon, the beautiful ‘Valley Song’. But I didn’t hear him play his appropriate and amusing ‘Festival Song’, unfortunately. There is some talk of a solo album from Rob which I think is long overdue, as he has been writing great songs for years… so come on Rob, get down that studio soon, mate!

Sweet Home Chicago Hadfest! (Pic: PTMQ)

THE BIG BOYS… Sweet Home Chicago Hadfest! (Pic: PTMQ)

Next on the bill was a young local lad, Max Lavern. He strummed through a couple of good covers – of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’; and The Beatles’ ‘Eight Days A Week’. He didn’t seem too nervous and played them well enough. It’ll be interesting to see how much he will have improved if he plays Hadfest next year. And good luck to him; its always good to see young musicians having a go…. and he can say that he has played a festival gig now too! Max was followed by local singer Sarah Sykes. She sang along to backing tracks of West End shows. Not my cup of tea, but she was certainly very good indeed, I must say. At this point, my party and I – with the addition of Rob W – decamped to the local pub for some nosh…

The Nag’s Head is a lovely 400+ year-old pub in the village run by Paul and Natalie Arkell. It is only a few minutes walk from the venue. In fact three years ago it hosted Hadfest 2013 in the field opposite. I’ve visited it a few times in the past and have always been pleased with the food, the drinks, and the service – all at a reasonable cost too. This occasion was no exception; and was as good as ever. Our little party sat outside, enjoying the peace of the Hertfordshire countryside evening. The baby and the dog behaved themselves too! Half way through our meal, we heard some Blues drifting our way when the wind changed; alerting us to the fact that The Big Boys had begun their set. So meal finished, we strolled back to the arena.

KNUCKLEFUNK... had us up dancing! (Pic: PTMQ)

KNUCKLEFUNK… had us up dancing! (Pic: PTMQ)

Back in the arena, When we got back, the Big Boys were in full swing; with Ray on harmonica. I’ve seen them a few times before – including this same festival 2013. They’re good. They mainly play well-known Blues covers like ‘Sweet Home Chicago’; with a couple of their own songs thrown in, like ‘The Big Boys Are Back In Town’. Being well known locally, they went down well; and people were up dancing. At one point they were joined by a trumpet player too. A great set.

Next up was a great Funk band called Knucklefunk. A similar band called Makossa played Hadfest 2013; and I’m not sure if there is a connection. Now Funk is not normally my thing; but I know a good band when I see/hear them. Musicianship and vocals were excellent; and they were tight; with good stage presence. More importantly, they had everyone up dancing. I didn’t know most of their stuff, but there was a great cover of an old Sly And The Family Stone number which I did know. A fantastic set!

THE KAZANS...They really got me! (Pic: PTMQ)

THE KAZANS…They really got me! (Pic: PTMQ)

The headline band were local Rock-Pop covers band The Kazans. They too have played Hadfest before and are well known locally. They played a great variety of songs from many genres; beginning with 60s rockers ‘You Really Got Me’; and ‘Honky Tonk Woman’; and The Beatles staple ‘Twist And Shout’. Various Pop songs followed including ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ and even a Beyonce number.

By then it was rather late for the baby to be up and about, so we left the festival near the end of The Kazans’ set; and headed home. But all in all a great day out with some fine music. Sound and lighting were good throughout (far better than 2013!), and the event was well organised – although there wasn’t much on line about it beforehand. Anyway, it will be interesting to see who plays Hadfest next year. PTMQ


Click pic for Cazfest website





Click for Cafe Music site

Cafe Music



71. DEVONBIRD “Turning Of The Year” (2015)

Second album Turning Of The Year (Photo courtesy of Devonbird)

Front cover and inner liner (Photo: Devonbird)

I was pleased and honoured when my friends Kath Bird, Sophia Colkin, and Rob Wheaton, of Folk band Devonbird kindly sent me a pre-release download of their second album Turning Of The Year some time before it was due to go on sale to the general public. They asked me to write about it for their press release, and review it on my website too. I was of course, only too pleased to do so.

I was very impressed with the prototype versions of some of the songs that I’d heard on Garageband software that my good friend Rob (the band’s guitarist) had played me (in confidence!) some months before the studio recording began; so I knew that I should expect something good. It was a long wait, but worth it; as this second album is even better than their debut, Hangman’s Daughter (2013).

This fine new opus sees Devonbird in full flight; with Kath, Sophia and Rob melded together as a unit and spreading their wings confidently. They have comfortably embraced some of the various sub-genres of Folk music ranging from the Traditional to the Progressive. Turning Of The Year is a collection of nine excellent songs – mostly penned by Kath, and inspired by local / family history; legend; Folklore and spirituality.

(Photo: Devonbird)

Rear cover illustration. (Photo: Devonbird)

The opening track ‘Star People’ is one of those that I was familiar with some while ago; and is one of my favourites on the album. It is a Progressive-Folk piece that is really quite astounding. It starts with the ethereal sound of whale-song; and has an epic, desperate, and wondrous vibe to it throughout; which enhances the subject matter. It is dedicated to adventurers in days of yore, who have experienced being plucked to safety at the moment of impending doom by Guardian Angels – or ‘Star People’. Kath’s heartfelt vocals; along with Sophia’s and Rob’s respective musicianship make this a great opener.

The two-part track ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’ (written by Kath, and fiddle player Sophia respectively), was first aired at the excellent Exeter Oxjam gig back in November last year (see my review on this site  #28). It was also the song chosen by the band for a video (see my article #58 ). Its a cheerful little song; simple but effective in construction, and builds nicely to a climax in the ‘Jenny Wren’ section where Sophia gives a fine display of her art. Its a celebration of the trees: ‘I love to see the fruits, and the shoots, and the roots’ sings Kath. Think of Beltane or Orchard Wassailing and you’ll catch the drift – the changing seasons; or the turning of the year.  I missed Kath’s ‘Whoop! Whoop!’ at the intersection of the two parts, that she utters when the band perform the song live, though! There is a link to the video below.

‘Mary’ is a fine traditional sounding tune. Its about Kath’s Nan Mary, who came from Dartmoor and worked for the noted scholar, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (The writer of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ among many other hymns).

The tempo is picked up for ‘Rain Dance’. It is, Kath tells me ‘…quite simply about witchcraft on Dartmoor!’ It is a lively little song, perfectly evoking the folkloric beliefs of some Devonfolk. I can see the witches dancing around the oak tree as I write!

Title track ‘Turning Of The Year’ is another favourite of mine. It is a love song about the meeting of ‘Twin Flames’ (akin to ‘Soul-Mates’ I think), and steeped in the esoteric spirituality of New Age mysticism. Musically too, I find this song very charming; the vocal melody from Kath, and the harmonies from Rob are superb; all backed by wonderful fiddle from Sophia.

The CD (Photo: Devonbird)

The CD (Photo: Devonbird)

Apparently, driving home along the A303 from their appearance at Hadfest in Hertfordshire in 2013, Kath had been inspired to write ‘Dead King’s Land’ as they passed Stonehenge and its satellite monuments.  This sacred and ancient landscape has provided a muse for many an artist; and she came up with this wonderful song as a result. It is another that I first enjoyed in its seminal form; but I was very impressed indeed with the finished article. Its another Prog-Folk piece with a beautifully arpeggiated multi-tracked  intro from Rob; sympathetic fiddle from Soph; and more haunting vocals by Kath. Lyrically steeped in the mists of prehistory, Kath asks for the Dead Kings not to be forgotten. It is a song that greatly appeals to me. One of the best on the album, for several reasons.

‘Rose’ is apparently about love in its purest of forms. In this song one lover has to wait for her soul-mate (or ‘Twin Flame’?) to return from overseas. It is a beautifully sad song with a yearning feel to it.

‘King Of The Fairies / Morrison’s Jig’ are traditional Irish tunes; interpreted by the band in their own inimitable style. A beautiful piece; it is a vehicle for Sophia’s violin in perfect synch with Kath’s whistle. As in ‘Greenwood Tree’, the piece comes to life for the second part. Traditionalists couldn’t complain about this one!

Finally, ‘Rebecca Downing’s Lament’ is an interesting song. Kath took the words from a Broadside by T.Brice, and put them to a sympathetic trad-style Folk tune.  Its about the last woman to be burnt at the stake for witchcraft, in Exeter in 1782 – at the age of only 15! Its a well thought out song beginning with an ominous death knell from a church bell. Kath’s vocals and Soph’s fiddle are exceptionally sympathetic on this one.

All in all, this is a wonderful album in my humble opinion. It is clear that the band have tangibly progressed as a unit. Particular strengths are: Kath’s song-writing skills; Sophia’s continually impressive fiddling; and Rob’s increasingly good vocal harmonies – he plays the guitar pretty well too!

Recording was done at The Green Room in Devon; and production was by Mark Tucker – who had previously worked on their debut album too; so it was a foregone conclusion that he’d be asked to do this one as well. The CD comes in a standard Jewel-Case, with a very inventive and colourful design depicting the ‘Turning of the year’ (not easy to achieve with four seasons and only three band members!)  Photography is by Brent Ellicott and George Totorean. I think I’d have liked the lyrics printed out on the cover, but this is an oh so minor complaint!

Turning Of The Year is to be released on 9th October; and is quite likely to be my choice for Folk album of the year; so its a big recommendation from me!  Yes, I know I’m biased because I’m friends with the band, but it really is an excellent album, so I’d be spouting superlatives about it, even if I didn’t know them personally! Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean. PTMQ

Here is a link to the official video for the song ‘Greenwood Tree / Jenny Wren’. (See my write-up on the making of this video Entry #58)…..

And here is a link to the band’s website; with details of gigs etc (including the album launch gig on 9th October)…





Being a friend and big fan of folk band DEVONBIRD, I feel I want to help promote them as much as I can – especially now as their career is starting to take off after the release of their excellent, highly acclaimed debut album, ‘Hangman’s Daughter’; and their nomination for ‘Best Folk Act’ at the South-West Music Awards last year. They are starting to gig further afield than their West-Country heartland now too – having played a few dates in Wales and appearing at the excellent HADFEST 2013 in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire.

DEVONBIRD’s website showing band profiles, gigs and other stuff is at:

My review of ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ can be viewed on Amazon, where you can also download the album:

The title track from the album ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ can be viewed on You Tube along with many other excellent DEVOBIRD videos:

I’m now eagerly awaiting the 2nd album from the band; hopefully this year.

Good luck DEVONBIRD! Phil The Music Quill