Review: Welshpool Festival - July 2017

Review by Nutty Norah
Photos by Lauren Tierney

Held at the showground at Powis Castle, this event, run by the Heulwen Trust, raises money for the disabled and funds two boats on the canal especially designed for wheelchair users and people with all disabilities.  This means that they can all enjoy a day on the canal the same as the able people.

The main stage was made up of two articulated lorry trailers, end to end, so that, while one band was on one stage performing, another could set up on the other stage making for a smooth change over.  Further down the field was the Showcase Stage, which consisted of a small stage in a tent with a large gazebo in front of it for the audience.  This worked very well. Some artists preferred to work on the grass in front of the stage!

All around the field were shops and food outlets, selling just about anything you could want or need.  The festival got underway with the traditional charge down the hill towards the main stage by the Welshpool Westerners, whoopin’ and a hollerin’ and guns a blazing!

The first act on the main stage at 11:00am was father and son duo “Clear Cut” who started the Festival off in fine style and there was no escape from Don’s jokes! 
Clear Cut

Stubby was on next and did not disappoint, always a crowd pleaser with something for everyone. 
Next came the six piece Chris Dunne Band, very popular on the club circuits and with the Line Dancers.  At 1:45pm Stubby was back on stage with his second set, followed by Clear Cut with their second set.  It was then time for Emma Swindells and her Band to perform on the main stage for the first time, following her success on the Showcase Stage last year.
Emma Swindells
The next artist I saw at Towerfest last year. Kay D was confident, very laid back and put on an excellent show.
Kay D
Next it was the Danny Lee Band, but not the Danny Lee Band that we have featured on!  There are two bands with the same name, but with very differing styles.Tthis Danny Lee Band leans more to the traditional style of country and line dancing.
Danny Lee Band

They closed the evening show at just after 9:00pm, but the night was not over – everyone moved into the beer tent where several of the day’s artists took part in a late night jam session.

Starting an hour earlier at 10:00am the first artist on the Showcase Stagewas Luke Day, an excellent musician, playing acoustic guitar and mandolin and singing in a traditional bluegrass and Americana style, he was very well received.  Next was T C Country, a solo performance from Tim. He is happier playing with his band or as a trio, but they had other bookings to honour.  A fast-paced set of the more modern Nashville sound well executed – I think Tim and his band would go down well on the main stage in future.  Next on were Two Ways Home, Issy and Lewis, whom I met at the Buckle and Boots Festival last year.  Another act that has improved amazingly and they work so well together, it’s always a pleasure to see them.

Tammy Wilde was next and as it was her first time at a Festival, she was a little nervous, but gave a good account of herself, and at just 16 years old she has time to polish her style.  Next on was John Smith, but I didn’t see him as I had to be down at the main stage to take part in our live broadcasts; likewise with Emma Moore, but she has featured in our Live Music Nights, so I’m sure she gave a great performance.  The final three acts on the Showcase Stage were The Tom Browne Band, Matt Evans, and Tallie Harrison, again I don’t know them and as I couldn’t be in two places at once, can only assume they were well received!  Put it this way – I didn’t hear any negative remarks about them!
The Showcase Stage closed at about 7:00pm when all attention moved to the Main Stage.

Entertainment on both the Showcase Stage and the Main Stage got underway at 10:00am on the Sunday morning preceded by the traditional noisy charge down the hill by the Welshpool Westerners! 

On the Showcase Stage I missed the first act One Crow Sorrow, but I did see the next three. The first of these was Echo Papa - an unusual name, her initials, as she doesn’t like her proper name - accompanying herself with a very mellow sounding electric guitar, her style is Americana folksy.  Apart from some of her own songs the covers that she did were in her own style, including an unusual version of “Jackson”.  In complete contrast were Harper’s Ferry, an international trio from England, South Africa and America, who seem well established as a touring and recording band.  It’s hard to define their style, sometimes rock, sometimes Americana with a modern twist, but always well executed, a refreshing change to the usual acts.  Amy Westney and her Band put on very lively Country Rock set, lots of leaping about and fun! The band had amazing beards and admitted to originally being a Heavy Metal band! They would be great on the Main Stage!
Amy Westney

Again, duty called and I had to return to the Main Stage for our Live Broadcast, so I didn’t see the last four acts on the Showcase Stage, the first of which was Angels With Dirty Faces, but they did play at our Awards Launch Party earlier in the year and they were excellent then, and I have no doubt they would have been the same on the Showcase Stage, but with a smaller group. 
Angels With Dirty Faces

The next three acts I haven’t seen, so can’t comment, other than to say I didn’t hear anything negative about them.  They were Naughty Alice, Penny Jayne Black and Devon Mayson, the latter two are finalists in our UK Country Music Awards, so that should give you an idea of their calibre.  The Showcase Stage closed at about 6:00pm.
Devon Mayson

Starting off on the Main Stage at 10:00am were the Texas Tornados with their first spot, aptly named, they soon got everyone in the mood for a great day of Country Music and the Line Dancers were out in force! 
Texas Tornados
The Hayden Allen Trio were on next and again proved to be very popular. After their second spots the Dusty Rhodes Band entertained in fine style, followed by the ever popular Henry Smith Band.  Something quite different next – a tribute act.  Now I must say that generally I am sceptical about tribute acts, some are very good and do a sensitive and respectful portrayal of the artist to whom they have chosen to pay tribute.  Then there are others that are just plain awful! Thankfully this one easily fell into the former category!  Peter White’s portrayal of Kenny Rogers was excellent, not only does he sound like Kenny, he looks like him too.  It would be nice to see him with a band instead of backing tracks, but he worked his magic and had some people believing he was the real thing!  And NO, I am not going to be his Dolly Parton! 
Peter White and Nutty Norah (aka Kenny & Dolly)

The Dusty Rhodes Band did their second spot and the show was closed at the very sensible time of 7:00pm by the Henry Smith Band.  The Finale was Pedro’s Trilogy, with the Welshpool Westerners parading in front of the stage and with the audience standing in respectful silence while the ceremony took place, culminating in the gun fighters firing the traditional salute, and everyone marching away to “The South Will rise Again”. 

The  Welshpool Festival is well run and has a lovely friendly atmosphere, we were lucky with the weather this year, just an occasional spot of rain, but mostly sunny.  The contrast between the Showcase Stage and the Main Stage added an extra dimension to the weekend, and it’s great to see new talent coming along as well as the established artists.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable Festival and I can highly recommend it, if you haven’t been, go next year. I think I will!

Click here to go to the Welshpool Festival website