Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's a Convention, man!

I used to be a trifle suspicious of music conventions celebrating this or that particular band. The genre hinted at being unhealthy; too many freaks and wierdos stuck in their teen past with a terrifyingly detailed and obsessive knowledge about one band, and with album collections devoid of anything released since 1971. To be honest, I did once guide a largish group on their way to the Liverpool Beatles festival around London sites. Amonsgt whom there were a high number of folk I wouldn't have wanted to be next to on a 4-hour coach journey... I swear that one of their number could even told me what colour socks George was wearing on any given day had I been foolish enough to ask!

The annual Matthews Street Beatle festival, held over the August Bank Holiday weekend in Liverpool, is probably the grandaddy of the genre. I avoided going for many years. I knew too many of the regular 'professional' attendees from around London. I successfuly manage to avoid them here but the 'pool is a much smaller city; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. A couple of years back I relented. I discovered that the nutters were actually easily spotted, and avoided; copy-cat hairstyled, badge-covered, bags overflowing with photos, media clipping and EP covers to be autographed, tee shirts boasting of previous convention attendance. They had big signs over their heads stating 'approach me at your peril'!

Much to my surpise, I enjoyed the weekend, especially the tribute bands who had come from Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Musically tremendous with tango, bossa nova and salza arrangements freshening up the golden oldies. There's nothing worse than a band simply trying to copy a Beatle number.

Conventions have proliferated, worldwide. And why not. They offer a great opportunity to wallow in a bit of nostalgia, buy a few bits 'n' pieces of memorabilia or maybe a CD or vinyl missing from your collection, and to commune with like-minded souls. The majority of attendees, it seems to me, are of the interested variety, rather thsn the gimlet-eyed obsessional. Don't expect a real live band member though (even if they aare still with us on the planet); the best you can normally hope for is a third-cousin, twice removed. In the UK there's the Queen convention, held in that Queen-inspired town of Great Yarmouth (sic) on England's east coast and which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Led Zep fans stage another, as do fans of the Rolling Stones. Fast approaching is our own Hendrix 40th anniversary weekend, and The Who convention.

'Oo fans will already know of this event; it's in its 29th year apparently. This year it takes place over the weekend of October 2nd and 3rd, with the main event held at Camden's Dingwalls on the Sunday. They've a great line-up that includes Thunderclap Newman. Definitely something in the air. Also present will be past asociates of the band including Doug Sandom (the original Detours drummer) and 'Irish' Jack, the 'Face' from the Oo's Goldhawk Road days.

You'll find details at

The really great thing about the majority of these events is that they are run by real fans, with any profits often donated to a worthwile cause. The Who Convention is no exception. I'll have some more on Who-related matters in a forthcoming blog, including an interview with both of the above gentlemen.

If anyone knows of any other interesting conventions, I'd be delighted to hear about them. The George Formby one doesn't count by the way!

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