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