Review: Festival brings the holiday spirit alive

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For the third year running the Henley Music Festival drew large crowds, who flocked to listen to the huge array of musical talent on offer over the weekend. Over 60 bands were featured at 11 venues.

The festival kicked off in great style on the Friday evening with a dynamic performance from Birmingham rock legend Trevor Burton at The Black Swan, drawing a crowd of over 500 people. Also on the Friday evening, there was a return visit from Suzi and the Backbeats — one of the festival’s long-standing favourites and again Suzi delighted the audience at Matricardis with her brand of music and songs.

On Saturday, 16 acts were featured running from 2pm until 11.30pm. Special highlights were the Zoe Green Band who had a great reception at the Black Swan — the audience enjoyed her strong voice performing rock and blues songs and giving them her own special treatment. The two bands featured at the Nags Head, The Vehicle and 51 Stone who, with their brand of rock, had to perform three encores to satisfy the large crowd.

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Other highlights on Saturday were Soul Mania and X-Factor finalist Niki Evans at The White Swan, and, at the Memorial Hall, Marcella Woods in her shimmering outfit entertained the very receptive crowd with her quirky dance routines and vocal style.

Meanwhile, at The Three Tuns, Seb Tree did an acoustic set that enthralled all those present. Sunday featured a special Family Day in the Jubilee Gardens and despite the rain the lively pop singer Katie Lawson opened the show, and with her bubbly personality and performing well-known hit songs, soon had the audience singing and dancing along.

Top Abba tribute band Strictly Abba then entertained the crowd who had stayed to hear their legendary music. They were not disappointed and enjoyed their polished performance; the dreary weather was soon forgotten and it was a pleasure to see everyone happily singing along and enjoying the moment. The children were entertained by Dippy the Clown and there was face painting, and a Lego display and demonstration.  Also on the Sunday, the Mighty Boing, a high energy rock/pop/ska band, had a great reception at the Memorial Hall and the band Semi Charmed Life were persuaded to do a number of encores of their 1990s covers by the tune-hungry audience at The Nags Head.

All-girl Americana band Vix and her MsChiefs also put on a great show, full of great songs and humorous banter. Some of you may remember Vix from when she was with her band, the cumbersomely named We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re going to Use it — who had a number of top hits in the 1980s.

Monday, the final day of the festival, featured two very special performances, firstly, there was a truly stunning and slick and professional performance by Birmingham Music legend Ricky Cool and the In Crowd. He performed blues, rock’n’roll, reggae and soul and he had the audience singing and dancing along for his non-stop two-hour performance. Secondly, for the festival finale, Andy Bennett, formerly of Ocean Color Scene, performed for the third year running at The White Swan. This time he was joined in the latter part of his set by his new band and Andy informed us this was their very first live gig performing together. They were in great form and the crowd gave them a tremendous ovation and kept chanting for more — a great way to finish the festival.

The whole town of Henley was buzzing and it was great to see so many happy faces enjoying the music on offer. Many of them said this was the best thing that had happened in Henley for many years and hoped it would continue. All the businesses and venues were very happy and the tills were ringing! And who could ask for more? Here’s looking forward to 2016’s festival.

Photos by Steve Young. See more of Steve’s work, including more from the festival, at www.steveyoungphotography.co.uk