Uke-a-Bay 2017 round-up

Well, Folks…

we promised you a bigger and better festival this year. Did we deliver?
Judging by the feedback we got at the venues and since, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
More sessions, more venues, more bands and more happy people. This year we had seven indoor venues: The White Lion, The Station, The Royal, The Bay Hop, Number 44, St Paul’s church and Theatr Colwyn. We thought we had a packed program but our keen-as-mustard musicians crammed in extra sets too.

Over 3 days, 7 venues hosted 10 sessions in which 18 groups played 28 sets (not counting busking). Here’s how we did it.

Friday

It all began at the White Lion, Llanelian, just a short hike up a seriously steep hill from Colwyn Bay. Local groups Ukulele Party and Woteva supported Ooty & The Cloud, playing to a packed pub. The crowd included all of the Uke-a-Bay team, who were taking advantage of not having anything to do. Our thanks to Phil Hartley Williams for organizing the evening.

Saturday

A grey morning put Erik off alfresco events. Instead, we had nearly five hours of music and mirth inside St Paul’s church. An overturned caravan on the A55 attempted to scupper our running order but Paul was never that organised so things sort of got shuffled around to keep the music coming until the missing musicians made it to the church.

Desperate Measures kicked things off. Special mention goes to Troy Kettle who, at just 14, is Uke-a-Bay’s youngest performer.

The BLT (Becky and Lucy Farrah) quickly got fed up of singing alone and roped in all their mates from Woteva for a few.

By then, young Ged had arrived and The Coachmen could go on. Half an hour of jazz and ragtime. Excellent. But don’t take my word for it. We’ve got three of their songs on video thanks to Ken Brabin (the one in the middle). Have a listen and be impressed.

We’d never heard of The Coachmen until they got in touch and asked if they could come along. We are so glad they did! And they were followed by another turn new to us: Young At Heart. If you were at GNUF, you might have heard them before but this was their first Uke-a-Bay weekend. Beneath that Uncle Albert beard beats the heart of an old romantic. Their set was heavy on love songs, but there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Bill  did do Amazing Grace too, in deference to the venue.

Fagin’s Boys were up next. For me, what sets them apart is not musicianship (though that’s excellent) but the drama they bring to the event. Fagin (Gerald) is… a character. His asides, role-playing and promenading around the church add so much to an already good performance standard.

The hardest job I had on the day was trying to get a photo of Uke Waves. Ray, mate, stand still next time. Uke Waves’ playlist is very 1980’s but seasoned with some country classics and Ray’s own song writing. Their performance of Blurred Lines was a lot more family-friendly than the original too.

The final turn of the afternoon was another new-to-us group: BUG – Banjo, Ukulele, Guitar. They were the hardest working group at the festival. St Paul’s was their second set of the day, having already played in Number 44 earlier in the afternoon. They were so good, they got invited to play there again on the Sunday morning. Tight harmonies, excellent timing, a varied songbook. What’s not to like? They brought Saturday afternoon to a rousing conclusion.

As if all that wasn’t enough to keep everyone happy, you had choices. CBUG played at The Station, supported by Young At Heart, and Ukulele Party were in session at The Bay Hop and, as already mentioned, BUG did an afternoon gig in Number 44.

Which brings us to Saturday night. Theatr Colwyn was almost completely full this year, including a gaggle civic dignitaries, this being a mayoral event. Local group Woteva got to warm up the audience for Fagin’s Boys. Fagin had found himself an ‘Oliver’ for the evening: Ged Lloyd of The Coachmen.  In hindsight, If they want a youngster to pick a pocket or two, they should talk to Michael Adcock. He opened the second half  of the show and has blazingly fast fingers.

Gaudy Orde returned to Uke-a-Bay for a second year, with more marvellous, mirthful, musical mayhem. This time they got Shev Parry (BTW Happy  anniversary to Shev and Karl) to  interpret a song through the medium of modern dance while dressed as a donkey. Helen Spoons ran an impromptu workshop on playing the spoons (with half a dozen audience participants), Jeff’s son looked embarrassed about being on stage with his dad and one of the BUGs demonstrated a suspicious lack of musical timing that I’m sure she’ll be teased about for years to come.

Sunday

Cruelly, we’d arranged  for Michael Adcock’s workshop to start at 10AM. Michael didn’t realize there were two 10 o’clocks in one day. Nevertheless, he turned up to impart a little wisdom to the gathered throng. Ricmacfeegle and A D Cooke ran workshops too.

Meanwhile, BUG were back at Number 44 for a pop-up session that started with an audience of 1 (me) but the place quickly filled up. That was BUG’s third full set in less than 24 hours and they weren’t done. After Number 44, they headed down to the shopping centre for a bit of busking. They only turned up at The Royal when their voices actually gave out and they had to stop singing! That’s proper dedication, that is.

Sunday afternoon in The Royal began in fine style with Chonkinfeckle. We also had sets from Ricmacfeegle, A D Cooke and a thoroughly bizarre but hilarious solo performance from Jeff Japers.

(Our thanks to Corrie Shelley for the photos)

Those preferring a little less rowdiness had the opportunity to hear the Cherry Pickers in the Bay Hop instead.

As afternoon dwindled into evening, the hardiest of the revellers would wend their way once more to Llanelian to finish the weekend where it began, at the White Lion. Chonkinfeckle , A D Cooke and Ukulele Party entertained a packed pub until late. Thanks again to Phil Hartley Williams for organizing that.

And finally…

If you want to support Uke-a-Bay, please stick a pin in the map.

Thanks.

Thank You

Well folks, Uke-a-Bay 2017 is over.

We’d like to thank everyone who helped pull off our biggest weekend yet.

And we’re not quite done. Keep an eye on our website over the next week or two for reviews, photos and videos.

If you took photos that you’d like to share, please send them to us and we’ll add them to the galleries.

 

The Uke-a-Bay Team

Uke-a-Bay 2016 was a blast!

Saturday August 13th, 2016

For Uke-a-Bay 2016 we got a spiffing new venue: a marquee in the grounds of St Paul’s Church. This offered a big improvement in sound quality, thanks in large part to Lukasz of Tape (a local sound studio), who provided the PA system and technical expertise.

The al fresco Saturday afternoon was marred only by the unremitting dullness of the sky overhead. In previous years, Uke-a-Bay has been blessed with better weather but, while the coolness, wind and grey skies kept the crowd small, nothing dampened the enthusiasm of the groups performing there.

Colwyn Bay has a thriving Ukulele scene (Is that really a thing?), with somewhere close to a hundred local players, most of whom seem to be in a band. While the skill levels and ages of players vary widely, the one constant is the enthusiasm they all bring to the stage.

 If you want to see happy musicians, just follow the sound of plinking strings.

 

CBUG - Happy, smiling people - small

 

I know one of them doesn’t look happy. That’s because she was playing bass, not a uke. Obvious really.

The Colwyn Bay Ukulele Group is where it all began. From humble beginnings, the group has grown, split, grown some more and now looks a bit like this:

 

Colwyn Bay Ukulele Group turned out in force!

Colwyn Bay Ukulele Group turned out in force!

 

Ukes At The Wharf turned up again from Burscough and were as good as ever.

 

Ormskirk 1 pano

Ukes On The Wharf

 

Next up were Woteva, featuring Clarice the Pirate Queen and two genuine young people (Not just the young at heart).

 

Woteva (Erik's house band)

Woteva (Erik’s house band)

 

Rounding off the afternoon session were local duo Uke Waves (Ray and Teresa).

 

Uke Waves (Ray and Teresa)

Uke Waves

 

Teresa was sporting a fine head of skin in aid of Macmillan Nurses. Find out more about that very worthy cause here.

Ray is not just an excellent vocalist: He has great stagecraft. I would be delighted to see them with a bigger audience, like the one in Colwyn Bay Theatre for the evening show. (Hint, hint, Erik.)

Which brings me in a timely fashion to the evening.

This year, the concert in Theatr Colwyn was a Mayoral event, which was why the local bigwigs turned out in numbers in all their civic bling. It was also a free event and I’m sure there aren’t many places where you can see three top acts in a proper venue for nuthin’.

First on was A D Cooke, a northern girl, from  Wigan.

 

A D Cooke 1

A D Cooke

 

Her performance jogged a memory of K T Tunstall’s debut on Jools Holland’s show. Andrea is adept at the same trick with a sampler, allowing her to accompany herself.

Here’s a video of one of Andrea’s songs.

 

 

And from the sublime …

 

Gaudy Orde

Gaudy Orde

To the ridiculous.

Gaudy Orde describe themselves as a mediocre folk combo from Pontypridd. Don’t believe the hype. They are not mediocre! The creative chaos that is Gaudy Orde only works because six skilled musicians work well together. They are (left to right) Jeff Japers, James Parr, Tall Joy, Helen Spoons, Romany Bob and Barry Sidings. If any of those are real names, I’ll be amazed.

A set full of wonderfully witty songs celebrating cows, Brian Blessed and a chimpanzee in a plastic mac, but my personal favourite was The Size Of Wales.

The last act of the night was Chonkinfeckle (Tim Cooke and Les Hilton).

Chonkinfeckle

Chonkinfeckle

More raw, throbbing talent from Wigan. While less zany than Gaudy Orde, Chonkinfeckle are known for comedic, reminiscent songs. Here’s an example.

For the last song of the night, A D Cooke joined Tim and Les on stage and sent everyone home with their feet tapping.

And finally …

 

Erik couldn't have pulled it off without their help

 

Uke-a-Bay 2016 was brought to you by Erik the ringtail lemur, ably assisted by Alice Farrar, Lukasz Kusmirek from Tape, Lucy Farrar, Keiran Eastwood-Mulvaney, Paul Richards and Becky Farrar. Sorry for this… So Farrar, so good!

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