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Guilfest 2006
Guildford, Surrey, UK
July 2, 2006

Guilfest 15-17 July 2006
by: M Aird

Every summer sees the Guilfest music festival take place in Stoke Park, near Guildford in England, with a whole weekend of live acts from Britain and around the world.

Billy Idol

The last day the Guilfest music festival was headlined by vintage rocker Billy Idol. I'll admit I've always had a soft spot for acts like his that have made it all the way from cool once-upon-a-time to fade into distinctly uncool obscurity and then somehow managed to claw their way back into the borderlines of cool again. It could be Idol's stage-strutting bravado, his occasional cameo roles in movies, his infectious personality -or all of the above. And yes, for some of the crowd, particularly ladies from about 35 to 45, the music itself was a part of it.

Billy's hits are still as catchy as ever, as 20000 people singing along to White Wedding proves, and his stage presence is huge. ‘Hot in the City’ went over well, especially with the temperature at the festival hitting 32 degrees (keep in mind, this is England we’re talking about), which he sang as ‘Hot in Guildford tonight’ (quote: ‘its funny, and true, its funny because its true’).

His performances of ‘Mony Mony’ and ‘Rebel Yell’ proved he still has what it was that made his music popular in the first place; it’s really just a simple pop base that’s been well-disguised by a layer of rock music and of punk sound on top to make fans feel justified in liking it. Strip it all away and you are left with pop and bubblegum, but its an illusion of seriousness that works, and there was never a moment that it didn’t look like Billy was having fun on stage.

The crowd loves him and the show professional polished and just plain good enough to recommend it to anyone who has ever been a fan. Anyone else should steer clear.

The Stranglers

Another internationally reknowned act performing on the same day were The Stranglers. They proved once again to be great crowd pullers, with thousands of fans enthusiastically singing and clapping along. These showmen put on all their hits, with highlights being ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Always The Sun’.

Breakthrough Acts

One of the great things about music festivals like Guilfest is that they allow new acts on the brink of breaking through to the mainstream to perform and get exposure to a wider audience.
Several up and coming acts gigged on stage, but in my opinion far and away the best of these were Jynxt and The Guilemots.

Jynxt

Up and coming rock band Jynxt performed a live set of their rock guitar/drum and base driven music, with Tally Spencer fronting the band with a sound that’s a little edgier than Kosheen and a little more serious than Garbage.

Jynxt's live act has developed over the last year into a professional and slick performance, with convincing backing and a tight marriage between vocals and music that put most of the other bands to shame.

Their impressive performance of the original songs The Name' and 'Bring Back Tomorrow' stood out as potential hits, and if you listen to any Jynxt get those tracks first.

They are in the final stages of releasing their first full album, and the crowd found their enthusiasm contagious. Jynxt are definitely a band to look out for.

The Guillemots

The Guillemots have been making the rounds of the live music scene in the UK recently, after shooting to attention following the distribution of their song 'Trains to Brazil' online. Once again the power of word of mouth on the internet has circumvented the usual channels, and if they are lucky The Guillemots could become a cult classic -and just as important actually sell some albums.

Trains to brazil proved the stand out crowd pleaser, with its intensely catchy chorus and optimistic lyrics. The Guillemots have a refreshing sound, with an eclectic and quirky use of a very wide range of instruments, eccentric but heart-felt song writing and genuinely unusual blend of jazz-rock-pop-artmusic. Sounds crazy (well, frankly having seen them live, they probably are a few strings short of a sitar) but it works.

The experimental aspect of their music is generally successful, although their lead guitarist can veer to far into the unknown and threaten to drown out rather than augment the rest of their sound. Especially in song San Paulo, where use of glass slide guitar adding the emotional depth of a wailing tom cat.

This minor criticism aside, they are original and as sincere and optimistic as any band you're likely to see this year.

Stereo MCs

Another highlight of the festival was Stereo MCs with their block rocking beats and monkey-mimicking lead singer/vocalist. A British Hip-Hop group thats been performing since the late eighties and found international fame in the early nineties, they know their way around the stage and how to get an audience going. Seeing this creative, edgy and ground-breaking band live is definitely recommended for any Hip-Hop fans.

The next Guilfest will be held in Guildford, England next summer. If you love live music and happen to be in the UK, check it out and remember to get a listen to the sounds coming from the new bands as well as the old. It’s well worth it.
July 19, 2006 4 PM