FESTIVAL BEAT Vol. 25 (2017)
notes by LUCA FRAZZI (SOTTOTERRA RockZine)
THANX TO DOMINIC TURNER for translation
A silver wedding anniversary means a quarter of a century. Truly exceptional and impressive figures when applied to a rock festival, especially if you stop to consider how it all started, the sheer quality of the music on offer, and the fact that it has never accepted compromises in order to make a quick buck, nor has it surrendered to the powers that be. The Festival Beat has now reached its twenty-fifth edition. Few other events can boast a similar curriculum vitae and very few have managed to attract new generations of fans to the same extent as the Festival. After first seeing the light many years ago, as a tiny, pure, unassuming child at Castel San Giovanni, it has now become a fully-fledged artistic, cultural and economic reality at Salsomaggiore. There can be no denying the Festival deserves all these accolades, because 25 editions are an important sign: quality music can attract crowds if it is promoted, organised and presented in the right way. That’s exactly what happens at the Festival Beat, and it’s even more true of this special forthcoming edition: a very impressive line-up, a number of side events, and the traditional party atmosphere with which visitors to the Festival are all too familiar. Moreover, this year will see ample (and legitimate) cause for celebration… and rightly so. We’ve got the Mummies all the way from California (their only European date!), one of the longest-awaited bands in the history of the Festival; the welcome return of the huge talent that is Graham Day; the exotic charm of the 5,6,7,8’s from Japan (the very same band that Tarantino wanted in “Kill Bill”); and the best of old and new garage rock from all over the world, including Italy (naturally, and more present than ever). In particular, there will be a desire to celebrate this remarkable achievement together. As usual, we’re expecting even greater numbers of enthusiasts from all over Europe and overseas, as confirmed by the bookings at the hotels in Salsomaggiore, a town that (together with the surrounding area) has shown the ability and foresight to host the Festival since 2007, and that is now reaping the social, cultural and economic benefits, as confirmed by the figures.
There must be a good reason if, after 25 editions, we still have a multitude of volunteers working hard to ensure that the Festival continues to grow (and never to the detriment of the quality of the bands scheduled to appear). And that reason has a name: PASSION. It’s what enables us to look forward already to next year’s edition. But for the moment, let’s enjoy this one: happy Silver Anniversary, Festival Beat!
THE MUMMIES (USA) – ONLY EUROPEAN GIG!
Well, the rumours had been circulating for some time… and at last we have confirmation: the Mummies will be at the Festival Beat! THE frat-rock band par excellence, and an object of cult worship for at least two generations of garage enthusiasts, they’ll be flying from California to Salsomaggiore to play just one gig in Italy… an event that looks likely to go down in history. The Mummies will unleash the primordial instincts that have made them an institution (and one of the leading names) in the field of extremely lo-fi garage rock. Those who have seen the band live describe it as a unique experience. And this is another very good reason why we’re anxiously awaiting the 30th June, to discover whether their reputation as a devastating live band is fully deserved. You still have one or two reservations? Well, we don’t. For the very first time, these four killers, whose identity shall remain unknown, are preparing to set light to an Italian stage with their primitive rock’n’roll: and what better audience than the Festival Beat audience?
THE 126.96.36.199’s (Japan)
Yes, it’s none other than the girls Tarantino chose for Kill Bill. But the 188.8.131.52’s are all this and more: the band already existed before that film and they’re now more alive than ever before. They may be beautiful and exotic, but first and foremost they are excellent musicians, a trio that have been causing a stir on the sixties underground scene for several years, thanks to their convincing, sophisticated sound. Their physical charms need no further comment, but these three Japanese girls will overwhelm you primarily with their simple, direct music. This is one appointment the sixties maniacs will not want to miss.
THE GORIES (USA)
30 years of garage punk and blues, 30 years at the forefront of a scene that has seen them take on the role of pioneers, protagonists and dominators. Ladies and gentlemen, from Detroit: the Gories! If you’ve managed to survive the impact of the Mummies, prepare yourselves for a fiery Saturday that is scheduled to end with their show. Mick Collins, Dan Kroha and Peggy O’Neill and their thoroughly lo-fi garage will really put your coronaries to the test with a performance as rough as it is instinctive. Stomach-turning riffs, basic rhythms: their records, but most of all their live performances, embody the spirit of the most primitive rock’n’roll, the work of a trio that epitomises the essence of the motor city sound. It’s taken us a long while, but the Gories will finally be making their appearance on the Festival Beat stage. One more big name (and not just any old name) for the most impressive line-up we’ve ever had. Get ready to sweat buckets with the kings of lo-fi; it’s going to be an evening to remember.
GRAHAM DAY & THE FOREFATHERS (UK)
Here to put a shine on this 25th edition, 17 years after his appearance with the Solarflares, is the return to the Festival Beat of one of the great talents of the last three generations of British rock. The name of just one of his many creations is sufficient as an introduction: the Prisoners. Graham Day, who has spent the last 35 years as one of the rulers of the garage beat scene, is still giving out lessons in style with that extraordinary evocative ability that has made him a star performer (correction: THE star performer). Joining him in the Forefathers, are his “brother” Allan Crockford (bass player of the Prisoners and a top-notch songwriter) and Wolf Howard, another legend of the Medway sound. Fans of the Small Faces, of the garage sound and of all good music, be sure to join us on Saturday 1st July in order to applaud one of the greatest, most authentic and criminally underrated figures on the British rock scene: His Majesty Graham Day.
ARCHIE & THE BUNKERS (USA)
They are regarded as one of the latest sensations on the American garage scene. The band consists of two brothers, Emmett and Cullen O’Connor, drums and organ. They hail from Ohio, the same part of the world as Devo, the Pagans and Pere Ubu, and you can hear a certain likeness. These two American youngsters carry on that bizarre sonic tradition associated with Cleveland and the surrounding area, suspended somewhere between low cost futurism and the mid-sixties punk heritage. Here for the first time in Italy, the O’Connor brothers are ready to cram 50 years of “oblique” punk into their set. Uncompromising and with little or no sense of restraint, Archie & The Bunkers will have no trouble gaining the approval of the Festival audience.
DEAD ELVIS & HIS ONE MAN GRAVE (Holland)
Dead Elvis is also making his return to the Festival. Those of you who were there will still remember his explosive show at the 2015 edition. By popular request, this crazy Dutch performer will be bringing back his exhilarating trash-rock’n’roll with a view to ensuring that the temperature remains high. Of course, he’ll be appearing between sets, but you can be sure he’ll be in full control of the situation. On the face of it, there was no way we could omit from edition number 25 of the Festival an artist capable of resuscitating “The King”. To invite him back was as much a moral obligation as a pleasure.
THE PALE LIPS (Canada)
Put the Ramones, the Bangles, the Runaways and the Pandoras in the blender together: the result you get will be the sound of the young Pale Lips from Montreal in Canada, four girls for whom labels such as punk, garage and power pop are of relative importance. Their priority is to enjoy themselves and to entertain others. And they manage very well, thanks to the freshness and the simplicity of their spontaneous approach to music. A most pleasant discovery, especially for enthusiasts of the more pop-oriented and carefree garage music.
REVEREND BEAT-MAN (Switzerland)
The Reverend is very much at home at the Festival Beat. Practically a fixture on the bill, and dearly loved by the Salsomaggiore audience, he’ll be giving his special contribution again this year. So let’s be sure to welcome and applaud one of the most influential figures of the last 20 years on the lo-fi/garage scene, a man who knows the ropes like precious few others, and is capable of truly essential solo performances with an impact that is guaranteed. Welcome back, Reverend!
THE RIPPERS (Italy)
In Italy, the wildest, speediest and most unruly interpreters of the garage punk genre are the Rippers from Sardinia, a traditionally fertile area for the disciples of uncompromising sixties sounds. This is what history tells us, and the Rippers are quick to emphasise it. They’ve been on the scene for a good few years now, and can boast a never-ending discography, together with a blind fury that has remained undiminished since the band first started out. So let’s all get up close to the stage, and pay a well-deserved tribute to a minor legend from these shores.
THE TEMPORAL SLUTS (Italy)
Those of you who are regulars on the scene know them well by now, because for many years they’ve been playing with great knowhow and passion that brand of street-oriented punk rock rooted in the mid-seventies. Their influences are exactly what you’d expect: the Stooges, the MC5, the New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, the Dead Boys, and their ilk. Few others have studied the lesson as well as this band from Lombardy, and the result is a lengthy career that has always been firmly based on fast, hard-hitting punk rock. And this is another reason why the Festival Beat welcomes them with open arms.
KING AUTOMATIC (France)
This Frenchman is one of the best one man bands on the planet. Behind the King Automatic moniker lies the ex-drummer of Thundercrack (the garage/lo-fi cult band from the nineties). Now very much on his own, he continues to serve up trash-rock’n’roll as though his life depended upon it, with a nod of the head to obscure artists from the fifties as well as to Devo and Kraftwerk. Is it really possible? The Festival Beat is deeply honoured to welcome him, so come and see for yourself.
THE LU SILVER STRING BAND (Italy)
Some people might have doubts about their “classic rock” stylings, but you certainly cannot doubt the talent and the passion of the Lu Silver String Band, a name that is a disguise for a handful of hardened protagonists of the Italian neo-sixties and hard rock scenes. And if you like the Faces, Humble Pie, the Stones and Grand Funk Railroad, then you’ll feel obliged to come and applaud them on Sunday 2nd July, when edition number 25 of the Festival winds down to the sound of some traditional guitar riffing. A nice little “deviation” into the seventies that the Festival audience will no doubt enjoy.
MOTHER ISLAND (Italy)
Deep psychedelic sounds, an image that evokes big names from the past, and that far-off era of California’s “summer of love “. This, and a whole lot more besides, make Mother Island a band that you really need to discover. If you love the echo and reverb of Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar and you think Jefferson Airplane are a truly essential band, then you’re going to enjoy yourself on Sunday 2nd July: Mother Island and their psychedelic garage sound will be waiting for you in Piazza Brugnola, intent on showing you yet another side of the never-ending sixties universe.
THE PRETTY FACE (Italy)
A cornerstone of the Italian garage scene, the Pretty Face, from Milan, have always stayed true to their roots. They’re returning to the Festival Beat after 11 years, with a live set based on a simple, direct mid-sixties sound. They still have exactly the same enthusiasm that set them apart when they started out, but they can now count on some twenty years experience obtained in the field. The Pretty Face will be opening the Festival on Wednesday 28th June at Mad Cafè: purists and disciples of classic garage punk, you have been summoned.
SEX CRIME (USA)
From Portland, Oregon, a band that is sure to cause a stir. Featuring ex-members of the Epoxies and the No-Talents (two outstanding punk bands of the recent past), Sex Crime are a perfect mixture of the sounds associated with late seventies USA and nineties lo-fi garage. And what’s their formula? Aggression, melody, a fresh approach to the subject, and a straight-to-the-point, no frills style. It’s their first time in Italia, and Sex Crime will certainly enhance the roster at this deluxe edition of the Festival. And you can bet they’ll leave their mark.