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Sign of the Times music festival is a wet wet wet weekend saved by great music





The Waterboys were an apt first-night headline act for the Sign of the Times festival at Church End, Little Hadham.

On Friday night, Mike Scott’s band, best known for the hit The Whole of the Moon, gave a crowd-pleasing performance despite the wet weather.

Music fans also highlighted psychedelic rockers Kula Shaker, fronted by Crispian Mills, and the youthful exuberance of The Ks, playing tracks from their debut album, I Wonder If The World Knows?, as standout sets.

Starsailor in the rain. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Starsailor in the rain. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

In the Big Top tent – a haven from the elements – English ragga DJ General Levy, ska, hip hop and breakbeat outfit The Dub Pistols and London four-piece ska punk band Buster Shuffle brought some reggae-inspired sunshine sounds to the festival on day one.

There was some criticism from ticket-holders as the persistent rain forced organisers to issue a parking warning on Saturday, urging revellers to find alternatives to driving onto the site as the farmland turned into a quagmire and vehicle access became treacherous.

For those who did brave the downpours, Saturday’s headliner was again apt – Travis struck a chord with their biggest hit, Why Does It Always Rain on Me? As one drenched festival-goer observed: “Has there ever been a more apt finale song?”

Extra mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Extra mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

The weather must have been familiar to Saturday’s other stand-out Scottish act, Peat and Diesel. They are a three-piece from wet and windy Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. If you haven’t experienced their fusion of folk and punk, check out The Christmas Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan in The Hebrides to discover why they’re the biggest thing to hit the Western Isles in decades.

Die Twice, an alt-rock four-piece from Exeter with links to Bishop’s Stortford, were also an early hit in the Big Top, channelling their “heroes of the past and present”.

Those three bands alone exemplify the attraction of Sign of the Times. First and foremost, it’s a nostalgia-fest, but there is also space for new names and some left-field acts.

If you add in a set by Toyah, complete with a guest appearance by husband and King Crimson guitar hero Robert Fripp, what more could you want?

Toyah on stage with a guest appearance from husband and guitar legend Robert Fripp. Picture by Vikki Lince
Toyah on stage with a guest appearance from husband and guitar legend Robert Fripp. Picture by Vikki Lince

And for anyone who needed their spirits lifted further, England’s Euro 24 quarter-final penalty win against Switzerland was shown live.

The question on Sunday was: would headliners Feeder have Seven Days in the Sun? Alas, it wasn’t to be. While temperatures rose for a time, the rain continued to fall – but the fans danced on regardless.

They bounced along to Heavyweight Champions of the World Reverend and the Makers while Dreadzone, the electronic music outfit founded by ex-Big Audio Dynamite drummer Greg Roberts, raised the roof in the Big Top.

Travis by Alfie Bruce, with thanks to Sign of the Times festival
Travis by Alfie Bruce, with thanks to Sign of the Times festival

Lightning forced a pause in the proceedings, stopping performances by The Alarm and Starsailor for around 20 minutes as a safety precaution.

There was a lot of love for Alarm frontman Mike Peters, who in 2005 was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and announced earlier this year that cancer had returned.

Mike Peters of The Alarm. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Mike Peters of The Alarm. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

The audience responded warmly as he joked about losing his trademark, backcombed blond hair, and he praised the NHS for his care.

Other bands which hit the right note with the audience were Then Jericho, who impressed with a tight set; The Lottery Winners, who deliver music with a message, and Scouting for Girls, who are always fun.

But it was Feeder who were the main draw. From the moment singer Grant Nicholas stepped on stage and kicked off the set with Buck Rogers, the faithful forgot the trials and tribulations of muddy clothes, wet feet, soggy canvas and stranded cars and enjoyed a fitting end to a festival beset by bad weather and saved by great music.

The Waterboys’ Mike Scott by Steve Niblett, with thanks to Sign of the Times festival
The Waterboys’ Mike Scott by Steve Niblett, with thanks to Sign of the Times festival
Sign of the Times Festival. Picture by Vikki Lince
Sign of the Times Festival. Picture by Vikki Lince
Echobelly. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Echobelly. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Heavy showers over the weekend added to the festival atmosphere. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Heavy showers over the weekend added to the festival atmosphere. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
General Levy. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
General Levy. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Getting in a mud-dle. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Getting in a mud-dle. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Reverend And The Makers. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Reverend And The Makers. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Even more mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Even more mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Mark Shaw from Then Jericho. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Mark Shaw from Then Jericho. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Mud as far as the eyes could see. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Mud as far as the eyes could see. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Thom Rylance of The Lottery Winners. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Thom Rylance of The Lottery Winners. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
More mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
More mud. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Die Twice on stage in the Big Top. Picture by Vikki Lince
Die Twice on stage in the Big Top. Picture by Vikki Lince
Dub Pistols. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Dub Pistols. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
The K’s. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
The K’s. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Despite the rain, the weather couldn’t dampen the crowds’ spirits. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Despite the rain, the weather couldn’t dampen the crowds’ spirits. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Jonn Penney from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Jonn Penney from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Feeder’s Grant Nicholas. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Feeder’s Grant Nicholas. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Turin Brakes. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Turin Brakes. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

If you have any photos from Sign of the Times, please feel free to send them tophotos@stortfordindie.co.uk.



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