REVIEW: FSA Fest, Newark Showground

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 13.37.21Is there a better way to spend a weekend than being at a festival of country music?

Fort San Antone has now evolved into FSA Presents and this was the first festival that has been held under the new concept. It’s still organised and operated by Wayne Hadlow and Jess Roberts. It’s still part of the FSA indoctrination for Wayne to smother you in his famous man hugs, and it’s not hard to have a great time.

Our numbers don’t match the huge US country festivals but we can’t imagine that those festivals offer any more of a feel good factor.

It was a brave move to relocate to the East Midlands from the traditional North West base. However, the new venue was ideal for the numerous tents, caravans and mobile homes. Parking was on site and very close to the music venue. It was also ideally situated near to the A1 and very easy to find.

The actual music venue was changed late on. Something to do with curfew times so the size of the room was downgraded but this didn’t matter too much.

The only slight gripe was that the bar was closer to the stage than it really should have been. Alcohol and acoustic music don’t always mix and there were a few occasions when the bar chatter intruded upon the quieter moments. Just a minor gripe, however, that didn’t in any way detract from the overall feel good factor.

One of the downsides of music events becoming huge is the lack of the personal touch. We have a country music family that extends to the talented guys that appear on stage and the regular punters that show up to watch. It’s a meeting of old friends. Most of the acts either stay the whole weekend or for most of it. The Friday night performers could be seen on the Sunday evening offering support to their mates. This is unique to the weekend festivals and is lost at the huge expanse of the O2 arena for C2C.

We had the best talent that the UK country music scene has to offer. 34 acts spread over 3 days. Every act was supported hugely by the devoted followers of country music. The numbers were naturally higher at the peak times but we are sure that the guys appearing early on would still have considered it worthwhile appearing.

We will upload as much as we can over the next few days to give you an insight into FSA Fest if you weren’t there or good memories if you were.

We are very fortunate to have such a talented bunch of singer songwriters in this country and we are also blessed to have someone who will arrange the venues to allow them to perform. We implore you to check out Dan’s interviews with Wayne and Karl, who are the guys who put their money where the mouths are. Our ‘scene’ depends upon them and we have to support them.

Music festivals are all, in some way, unique. Here we had all acts appearing on one stage so there was no reason to miss anyone. If you had chosen to sit on the hay bales at 7pm on Friday evening and left your reserved spot at 11pm on Sunday you could have experienced the whole of the weekend’s musical output.

There are always acts that resonate more than others. There are also acts that always put on a consistently good show. Dexeter will never disappoint but it was also good to hear Acoustic Journey’s reaction on Friday evening and Robbie Cavanagh with his full band.

The Saturday night peak time slots were filled by Thorne Hill, Jess and the Bandits (featuring the guitar skills of Luke Thomas) and to close the evening, Pauper Kings.

Thorne has been on the scene for about a year. He has fast become a must see act and he smashed it again here.

We all know what Jess and the Bandits can offer. Why Jess Clemmons isn’t a huge star is a complete mystery to us.

A band that may well be stars soon are the Pauper Kings. Tim has indicated that the long awaited new album is almost set to drop. The songs sounded great live and the show ended on a high with the crowd singing along. Top entertainment and a Saturday night to remember.

Sunday lunchtime slots suffer a little from what has gone on beforehand but our very own local midlands girl Emma Swindells more than roused a few sore heads.

There were 2 acts that we also should mention on Sunday afternoon. Kevin McGuire had delayed his family holiday to appear and had travelled down from Glasgow. The crowd built up during his set and the reaction said it all. He has a modern sound and a superb voice. It’s early days for him and to date he has limited musical output but hopefully this will be rectified shortly.

The Southern Companion were a revelation. Their brand of Country/Americana and covers of classics by Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton literally brought the house down. The post-set appearance in the W21 photo area was very busy and they sold lots of albums. Darren and the boys were blown away by the reaction and we really want to see these guys again.

The Sunday evening set was also very strong. Holloway Road are almost ‘must-haves’ on the festival scene these days. We loved the apparent hap-hazard way that they performed their set. Nothing prepared and everything spur of the moment. You can only do this if you know your stuff and they certainly know their stuff.

We have seen Jack and Rob develop over the last year or so. They are a band that has to be seen live and we hope that the masses catch on. Great guys and very talented.

Not easy to follow Holloway Road but Katy Hurt’s impeccable vocals and songs coped easily. You don’t get nominated for female vocalist of the year by the BCMA for nothing and she received a superb reaction at FSA.

To close proceedings for us was our current female vocalist of the year Laura Oakes. We have always sung Laura’s praises. She is superb and we are very lucky to have her. Her song writing skills complement her vocals hugely. We doubt if there is anyone writing songs in the UK for our market that can produce such memorable hooks. Her vocal range is amazing and the audience loved her.

Credit to Wayne and Jess. They organised a stellar weekend and we can’t wait to see what is in store for next year.