jury is still out with regards to who, if anyone, was to blame for
the Foot and Mouth outbreak despite the best efforts of the tabloids
to find someone or something to blame, but because of it, the Outlaws
were forced to hold their justifiably famous rally at Donington
Park in 2001. Nobody was happy with the situation - except perhaps
the owners of Donington Park - but this year the rally was back
home at its normal site, the Pentrich show ground, and expectations
were high that the event should be a cracker. I don't think anyone
arrived late on Friday evening. The weather was so invitingly hot
and perfect that even though I'd said I'd be arriving on the Saturday,
I packed quickly after work and took off, arriving on site as the
sun set and, stone cold sober of course, was amazed and delighted
to be suddenly surrounded by hordes of happily hammered brothers
and sisters. I knew already this was going to be a good one.
the guys I was meeting up with, I got the tent up just as they all
ran off to see the Levellers, headlining the Friday's entertainment
on the Main Stage, at the bottom of its natural amphitheatre. I'd
naturally missed most of Friday's other bands on stage, but the
Levellers have a knack for making up for the loss.
more than any other bike show, the Rock & Blues is promoted
as a rock festival too, attracting a special mix of people. Hard
core bikers party alongside dead straight people and festival regulars.
Rather than causing any friction, the 'Bombay Mix' of piquant people
seems to work extremely well indeed - nothing like a bit of the
old cross-fertilisation to strengthen a bloodline. Look who's in
the Rock tent now, look who's gone bonkers in the Rave tent and
lovin' it, look who's found a bunch of cool people and is belly
laughing in the sunshine. It's got to be good for everybody.
freaks the straights and the festival crowd more than anything is
how absolutely safe and secure they feel. Under the relaxed but
watchful eyes of the Outlaws security, they can finally really let
their hair down safe in the knowledge that their kids are going
to be safe or their tents aren't
going to emptied. As bikers we're pretty well used to looking after
ourselves while being looked after from a distance. But it is a
very special thing we have amongst ourselves, and people who are
not at all used to it, appreciate it perhaps a lot more than we
think. Again this has got to be a good thing, but perhaps we as
bikers should not take what we've made for granted either, the vibe
we create is a very special thing to be cherished and protected.
morning with 2 aspirin and a fantastic cup of real coffee from a
real coffee stand a few 'doors' down, I was ready to explore the
Rock & Blues' in-marquee custom show. The show is now easily
one of the most important custom shows in Britain, if not Europe
and the staggering standard of entries reflected that. Winning a
trophy here is beginning to take on the same
kudos as used to be the case with a Kent Show trophy, and customisers
know it. Multiple-show-winning Harleys jostled alongside bizarre
multi-cylindered car trikes and bonkers sub-125cc choppers. Before
I'd known it I'd spent the rest of the morning in there.
there's a lot more than that to the Rock & Blues. The aforementioned
Rock Tent, right next door to the beer tent was bouncing as I passed
at about 1.30pm, so I popped my head around the flaps to witness
a storming set by a fantastic covers band called Tin Rat. I wasn't
the only person to think they were great either. The
place was absolutely packed with grinning, bopping people with more
crowds ten deep, straining to watch from outside.
was a giant fairground for people who needed to bounce their beer
and baguettes about a bit. I didn't, never do to be honest, but
'vive la difference' as they say down Canal Street.
you could choose to be twanged into space, or even pay a fiver and
get your own private striptease, and hearing 'The Stripper' coming
from the rave tent late on Saturday afternoon seemed a bit odd until
I discovered that during the day it hosted male strippers for any
ladies that could stump up the paltry £3 to get in ... which
obviously made it perfectly normal. Later in the evening the Rave
tent kicked in properly and didn't stop 'til dawn.
night saw Girlschool, Rose Tattoo and the Blockheads on the Main
were great. An enduring memory for me will be hearing the Blockheads
finishing their set rather naturally with 'Sex and Drugs and Rock
and Roll'. The watching crowd took up the chorus - again rather
naturally - but a quite magical moment in time saw the singing taken
up by people further and further away: a rolling wave of joyful
voices reaching the very edges of the site, where the chant was
taken up by bemused but game people who probably couldn't even hear
the Main Stage. Everybody I could see by the light of the stall
I was at was singing - the whole site was singing - thousands and
thousands of people.
Rock & Blues is deliberately different and isn't like any other
event in the biker calendar: it ploughs its own furrow and weaves
its own magic. I'd would heartily recommend the Rock & Blues
to anyone - whether or not they own a motorcycle - they are guaranteed
to have an experience they will not forget in a hurry.