Sorted for seats and fizz

Despite, or because of, the weather, Solihull SummerFest was a big hit with the Bank Holiday crowds.

Solihull’s been putting on its own festival in Tudor Grange park for the last three years. This year’s lineup, spread over two days, saw Sister Sledge headline on Saturday and Busted on Sunday. In between, punters got a full range of acts from local bands making good through to X Factor winners and multi-platinum artists.

It was typical festival weather, as with the heatwave long since departed, festival faves of wellies, plastic jackets and flower headbands topped by hoodies were the dress code of the weekend. With each day’s programme lasting for ten hours, there was an outbreak of fold-up chairs and the occasional beach blanket braving the mud. There was plenty of chair circling and much prosecco in evidence with a good-spirited crowd giving a warm reception to the acts that could be heard even above the screams of what has to be one of the scariest rides I’ve ever seen outside a theme park.

We rolled in on Saturday to the sounds of George Michael tribute Rob Lamberti. Walking through the park, I was convinced that I was hearing the original of Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, so good was the sound. Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift possibly sounds even better now than he did then, and with a set including Johnny Come Home, Good Thing and She Drives Me Crazy, there was plenty of crowd participation.

10cc arrived during a rain shower, bringing a greatest hits set that demonstrated just how great they still sound. Opening with the Wall Street Shuffle, they cruised effortlessly through every fan’s favourites. Art for Arts Sake was studio-perfect and a wall of sound. The rain showers that came down mid-set caused a few technical problems but undeterred, the audience were up and singing for I’m Not In Love and Dreadlock Holiday (the one from the cricket). An encore saw the a capella version of Donna in full doowap style. Last up was their first single, Rubber Bullets, a brilliant bar boogie romp that has us twitching if not actually dancing due to being a bit chilly.

Alesha Dixon really fired up the growing numbers in side the auditorium, bounding on stage with so much energy the crowd were in her pocket immediately. Romping through her hits, including some Mis-teeq top tens, those stage front were word-perfect on The Boy Does Nothing. Rak-Su, X Factor winners last year, then brought out their iTunes chart toppers in a set that saw plenty of action and a whole lot of screaming from the audience that wasn’t from the top of the big ride.

Blue have sold forty million singles worldwide. Their mellow take on life fitted well with the festival vibe, with most people on their feet for All Rise.

There was a slight delay before Sister Sledge took the stage, and it was a very chilly crowd that watched the stage intently for signs of movement. The family Sledge now has extra members in the band, making for a tight groove that got the audience to really move beyond a festival shuffle. Kicking off with Everybody Dance and All American Girls, it was clear that those voices have lost none of their power over the years.

All the hits were there, including Thinking of You, Frankie and Lost in Music. We even got a Chic-tastic run of Good Times and Le Freak to keep the open-air disco going. We Are Family sent everyone home happy from day one of SummerFest, no doubt welcoming the thought of a nice warm bed rather than a soggy tent.

The rain really set in for the early part of Sunday’s Summerfest, sadly reducing audience numbers for Kerri Watt, Sugarhill Gang, The Dualers and local covers band 2 Weeks Notice, the end of whose set we caught and who went down well with their local following. The Beat were sadly lost from the line up due to illness, and the remaining acts moved up the set times, although with the forecast looking decidedly unfavourable, some of the rescheduled times might have proved a mixed blessing.

Undeterred by the grey skies, the Lightning Seeds had the audience bouncing along, with Ian Broudie taking time to chat to the crowd as few other acts had done. Covering all bases from Sugar Coated Iceberg to Change, Lucky You, Pure and the anthemic, memory-jogging Life of Riley, we were all remembering just how many good songs they had in their back pockets, a brief chant of Football’s Coming Home making up for the absence of recent chart-topper (again) Three Lions from the set. The rain had made a brief return while they were performing, but fortunately the predicted downpour stayed away for the rest of the day’s acts.
I’d been eager to see Razorlight, and they didn’t disappoint. Four million album sales can’t be ignored, and the band still sound tight and sharp. It’s been a while since I’ve stood close enough to the speakers to be able to feel the music as well as hear it, and this set was a fine opportunity to jump up and down a lot while seeing the festival’s excellent camera work at close quarters. All the favourites including Vice, Golden Touch and America were there.

We couldn’t stay to see Busted, but by all accounts they didn’t let a few technical problems get in the way of an entertaining set, even if their language at times caused a few raised eyebrows from the parents of young children in the audience.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, we saw some great live music and no matter what the weather’s like for SummerFest 2019, Solihull will be ready for it.