REVIEW: Punk’s not dead at Stone Valley South festival

There is something ludicrous but very life-affirming about standing in a field with other 50-somethings and singing, “If the kids are united, they will never be divided”.

More than four decades ago, when Jimmy Pursey’s Sham 69 released their punk rock anthem in 1979, the angry teenagers it spoke to imagined they would stay young forever.

But age creeps up behind you until one day, you look in the mirror and realise with a shock that you too are old.

So what do you do? Put on your carpet slippers – or dust off your pork pie hat, sing in the sun, and dance like nobody is watching?

Stone Valley South festival at the weekend was a chance to relive lost youth and remember that some songs stay fresh and their messages cross generations.

Punk Kid The Skids Photo © Gerred Gilronan
Punk Kids. Photo: © GeeGeePhotography

In Sham 69’s debut single, released in 1977 when Britain was in the grip of industrial unrest and unemployment, he sang: “I don’t wanna work to 65, And I don’t want no gold watch, And I don’t want no pension book.”

Pursey is now 66, still performing and still has something to say about social issues, rewriting the lyrics to make a political point for today: “I don’t wanna be a refugee, I don’t wanna die in the sea”.

He wasn’t the only performer to make a dig at the Government. The Skids lead singer and songwriter Richard Jobson tweaked the lyrics of TV Stars and sneaked in reference to Boris Johnson.

The Skids Photo © Gerred Gilronan
The Skids Photo: © GeeGeePhotography

The Scottish post-punk pioneers also played Kings of the New World Order in an energetic set. Jobson, now with a second career as a filmmaker and TV presenter, showcased his dad-dancing skills and some pithy repartee.

But the main message of all the bands was how glad they were to be back on stage, entertaining after an 18-month lay-off.

The crowd was appreciative of their efforts, and the sun smiled on their endeavours – all three days of the third event at Pepper Hill Farm, Great Amwell, had pretty perfect festival weather.

Stone Valley South Festival Photo: ©Gerred Gilronan
Stone Valley South Festival Photo: © GeeGeePhotography

For those who aren’t familiar with the brand, which began in County Durham and is getting ready for its eighth northern outing at Stanhope in September, the Stone Valley franchise features mod, ska, indie, punk, northern soul, soul and ’60s music with the odd foray into the ’90s – as evidenced by The Farm and the Happy Mondays on Friday and Sunday respectively.

With camping options or day tickets, the focus is on value for money and a family-friendly ethos with a warm welcome for four-legged guests, too (and a wheelchair-bound Great Dane).

Bruce Foxton From The Jam Photo: © GeeGeePhotography

While many guests are of a certain vintage, children are welcome, and there were plenty of young people embracing the mod and ska aesthetic and the chance to hear original artists reprising their greatest hits.

While the ravages of time were plain to see on stage – Jimmy Pursey looked like he’d climbed out of a skip, Boomtown Rats lead singer Sir Bob Geldof now looks like Mick Jagger’s dad and Bad Manners hefty frontman Buster Bloodvessel is half the size he was – close your eyes and the sounds transport you back in time.

The same could almost be said of The Undertones, with Paul McLoone and his wiggle doing a sterling job of substituting for original singer Feargal Sharkey, and Russell Hastings, who takes Paul Weller’s role alongside Bruce Foxton in From The Jam.

Bob Geldof Stone Valley South Festival Photo- ©Gerred Gilronan
Bob Geldof Photo: © GeeGeePhotography

New music was represented by Two Tone-inspired Death of Guitar Pop and standout act The Dualers.

Frontman and founding member Tyber Cranstoun, who started his career busking on the streets of Romford, gave the appreciative crowd a masterclass in ska and reggae music.

Along with From the Jam, the Original Rude Boy Neville Staple and The Selecter – with the impeccable Pauline Black looking and sounding as good as ever – the Dualers are Stone Valley royalty.

Pauline Black Photo:©Gerred Gilronan
Pauline Black Photo:© GeeGeePhotography

All four were on my must-see setlist, and they did not disappoint, but as ever, it’s the unexpected blasts from the past who surprise you by shaking the cobwebs off your musical memories that make this festival such great fun. I can’t wait for next year.

A Few More Pics…

This article first appeared in Bishop’s Stortford Independent Reproduced with permission.

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