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.
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!
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.
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 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