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Review: Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne


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After two years of Covid-induced exile, it is wonderful to see bands back on stage performing.

This time last year there were some novel ways to get around regulations such as holding drive-in music festivals where guests had to stay in their cars.

Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action
Soaking up the sun at Groovy Fest 3
Soaking up the sun at Groovy Fest 3

That happened at Groovy Fest at The Woodstock hidden in the back lanes of Sittingbourne and within spitting distance of Kent Science Park.

On Saturday it was back to the old ways, although the crowd seemed a tad smaller, possibly because of remaining coronavirus fears.

It may also have been because the cost of living made punters baulk at a very reasonable tenner to see five bands.

It certainly wasn't because of the weather. The sun shone and Groovy Fest 3 provided a feast of entertainment next to the town's football ground.

It also marked the long-awaited return of a crop of festivals in the Swale area. (See end of story for dates to add to your diary)

Free Spirit at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Free Spirit at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Nick Spink of Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Nick Spink of Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Pom-poms at the ready at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock
Pom-poms at the ready at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock

First on the Triple A Events stage was Matt Brooks Music followed by the newly formed Free Spirit on only their sixth outing. They comprise music teacher Lawrence Lock on vocals, Sam Coomber on guitar, veteran muso Melvyn Randall on bass and James Chapman on drums.

The four-piece scatter-gunned the early crowd with glam rock numbers from Bowie, Sweet, T-Rex, Hendrix and even a 20-minute marathon version of Free Bird, ending with The Stones' Honky Tonk Women.

Next up were Cakehole featuring ex-Billy Wears Dresses singer Nick Spink. This is a band which just won't give up and despite their relatively early spot on the running order took no prisoners beginnin with a fast and furious version of Mrs Robinson.

They followed with crowd-pleasers Park Life, Oliver's Army, Twist 'n' Shout, Tainted Love, Teenage Kicks, One Way Or Another, Love Shack, Wipe Out and dished out glitter pom-poms for Hey Mickey!

Marvellous Mo the the Backline Ferrets (probably the best-named band in the universe) took the penultimate spot which, if your lead singer is Maurice Dunk the festival organiser, you are perfectly entitled to. Already with one relatively new member (awesome lead guitarist Neil Williams from Herne Bay) they unveiled their new drummer Dan Betts from West Malling, on only his second gig with the band.

Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) with hat at Groovy Fest 3 at the Woodstock, Sittingbourne. Picture: John Nurden
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) with hat at Groovy Fest 3 at the Woodstock, Sittingbourne. Picture: John Nurden
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk, centre) and the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3 at the Woodstock
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk, centre) and the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3 at the Woodstock
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) with Neil Williams, left, and bass-player Dave Curling of the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) with Neil Williams, left, and bass-player Dave Curling of the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) and the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3
Marvellous Mo (Maurice Dunk) and the Backline Ferrets at Groovy Fest 3

Mo, wearing his distinctive feathers top hat, admitted later: "We held a lot of auditions but we knew straight away Dan was the man for us when he managed to sink two pints within the first 20 minutes."

The Ferrets ransacked the pub band song book starting with Bryan Ferry's Let's Stick Together, James Brown's I Feel Good, The Stones' Brown Sugar, Thin Lizzy's Whiskey In The Jar and Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

They mixed in some Kinks, Madness (Night Boat to Conyer?), Bad Manners, Duran Duran and a bit of Summer of '69. Saxophonist Paul Devereaux was superb, especially with an eerily excellent version of Baker Street.

But it was headliners Marylebone Jelly who once again stole the show with their relentless non-stop brand of party music. They never seen to have any dud tracks.

Lead singer Ed Austin, adopting a black leather look, cranked open their set with Robbie Williams' Let Me Entertain You and then never stopped for breath, segueing into I Predict A Riot, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Wham's I'm Your Man.

Singer Ed Austin and bassman Chris 'Riggo' Payne of headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Singer Ed Austin and bassman Chris 'Riggo' Payne of headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly at Groovy Fest 3
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly at Groovy Fest 3
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3 at The Woodstock, Sittingbourne
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3
Headlining act Marylebone Jelly in action at Groovy Fest 3
Dancing at Groovy Fest 3
Dancing at Groovy Fest 3
Pom-poms at the ready thanks to Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3
Pom-poms at the ready thanks to Cakehole at Groovy Fest 3
Having a laugh at Groovy Fest 3
Having a laugh at Groovy Fest 3
The stage at Groovy Fest 3
The stage at Groovy Fest 3

Favourites soon followed including Breakfast At Tiffany's, Shut Up And Dance With Me, Sit Down, Video Killed The Video Star and a full-fat version of It Must Be Love by Madness.

No wonder the crowd continued to party into the night. It was groovy, man.

Other Swale festivals to have in your diary include:

Party In The Park (Sittingbourne, June 25) with Marylebone Jelly, Iwade Rocks (July 23) with Marylebone Jelly, Take-Off tribute fest (Queenborough, July 23) with GoSpanDuran and UB40, The Jam, Freddie Mercury and Stevie Wonder tribute acts.

Chickenstock (Stockbury, July 29-31) starring 10cc, A New Day (Mount Ephraim, Faversham, August 19-21) with Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Focus, Atomic Rooster and The Sweet, GeorgeFest (George Inn, Newnham, August 20) with Marvellous Mo and the Backline Ferrets and, of course, the Faversham Hop Festival returning on September 3-4.

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