Hebden Bridge Blues Festival 29th - 31st May 2011


We eventually found the campsite at Blackshaw Head, and by the time we'd put the tent up and caught a taxi back into town the evening's entertainment was about to begin.

The Trades Club was the venue of the evening, one of three main venues for the weekend along with a few “Free to enter” Juke Joints around the town.

A slight change to the programme made no difference to the quality of the music, and Poorboy, followed by Steve “Pablo” Jones warmed the night up a treat. John Amor Blues Group completed the evening's entertainment, performing only their fifth live gig with this line-up, and boy did they perform. A spectacular and jaw-dropping set from start to finish, leaving the crowd in no doubt of the quality of this band. Must see again and again!

Most of the audience remained as the stage was prepared for what was to become Hebden's Piece de Resistance of the weekend, Paddy's Midnight Jam. A mish mash of quality musicianship, unrehearsed and raw, they played into the early hours. Paddy Maguire and his band put on one of the most exciting and top class jamming sessions ever, with contributions from John Amor, Jenna Hooson, Lance Lopez and various combinations of their bands.

And this was only the first night!


Saturday morning and we took a bus ride through the quaint cobbled streets into town for a bacon buttie before heading to the Marquee in the Park. The rain from the previous evening was holding off, and it promised to be a good day. A slight hiccup with the imprisonment of the PA gear held up the schedule slightly, but the supreme organisational skills of Paddy, Jason and their team soon had everything sorted out and the show was ready to go. Stalls and food outlets battled with the wind and the punters kept coming as a variety of top class bands played throughout the day and early evening. Pocket of 3, followed by Pie, The Blues Jukes, Markus Lazarus and Dog's Life, Sam Hare and Larry Miller had the crowd howling for more.

Saturday evening's entertainment was split between the Trades Club, hosting Dan Hudson, Crybaby and the Hoochie Coochie Boys and Tony Dowlers's Hellhounds, and the Picture House, where we decided to spectate. Krissy Matthews opened the show, and he and his band proceeded to entertain with their quality brand of Blues. Next up came a girl we hadn't seen before, and Bex Marshall gave a class performance to the delight of many fans in the crowd. The finale was worth waiting for, as Lance Lopez and his band performed their set for the first time in the UK. No doubt they'll be back again and again after going down a storm with the ecstatic crowd.

Paddy's Midnight Jam was already under way as we squeezed into the Trades Club, with some top class playing from a variety of musicians, including Lance Lopez, Krissy Matthews, Hooson and many others. The birds were singing by the time we got back to the tent!


Sunday morning and another bus ride into town for a cooked breakfast, which sustained us for the next round of superb entertainment. The Marquee was the only place to be, and friends old and new chatted happily, while memorable characters put their stamp on the weekend, including the jolly dancing man who had more energy than the rest of us put together. If we thought that the music couldn't get any better, it did, with a spectacular afternoon's entertainment. The Mentulls, The Revelator Band, Sharon Coglan Band, After Hours Blues Band, Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band, 24 Peso's and a surprise and very welcome appearance from Cherry Lee Mewis with bassist Robbie Stewart-Mathews playing acoustic guitar. How do you follow that?

Sunday evening and once again we headed for The Picture House, for the Women of Blues night. Clare Free and Hooson played their very different but equally amazing sets, and Cherry Lee Mewis and Robbie performed another mini session. Ending the proceedings came the lovely Chantel McGregor, who played and sang stunningly, and you would never have known that she was still recovering from extensive dental surgery. For the record, I am so proud of our UK Blues girls and hope to see them reach the heights they truly deserve.

Meanwhile over at the the Trades Club, Crosscut Saw and Johnnie White and the Speakeasy Blues Band ensured that the crowd was well warmed up for the amazing Paddy Milner and Marcus Bonfanti. Once again the entertainment spilled into the early hours with Paddy's Midnight Jam, featuring Clare, Cherry, Jenna, Marcus, Paddy, Paddy, Julian, Silas & co from 24 Peso's and many more. The jam sessions from this weekend will go down in history as the best ever for many people, players and punters alike.

Another early morning bed time and more overnight rain brought us to the Bank Holiday Monday, and a cooked breakfast in our favourite cafe preceded an all – dayer in the Trades Club. Plenty of opportunity for chatting and listening to some excellent CD music as the real ales flowed and people came and went. In due course the Blues Jukes performed once again, and also WT Feaster and Mitch Laddie who also jammed together, were followed by P.A.U.L from Detroit who are a definite must see again. Paddy's Midnight Jam started earlier but was no less exciting or entertaining and a highlight of the weekend, with P.A.U.L and the others taking part.

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