Gig review and photography by Ken Harrison

It’s the beginning of December and I’m at a seaside resort for my final festival of 2017, but I’m not here for a sandy beach and a few waves. I’m at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis for the second ‘Electric Dreams Weekender’, a collaboration between Butlin’s Live Music Weekends and Vintage TV that creates a weekend of performances by classic synthesiser based bands, and some of their younger ‘Future Vintage’ contemporaries across two stages.

An adults only weekend, the grown ups can leave the kids at home and enjoy a range of entertainment across the site including discos, live music, quizzes, food and drink in the many restaurants and bars. Imagine one of the retro festivals but without the camping, as the resort accommodation provides the creature comforts for the more discerning festival goer.

Elecrtric Dreams-3

Friday opens up on both stages with DJ sets by Julian Little on the Main Stage and with Mike Sullivan on the smaller, more intimate ‘Reds” stage. The first band of the weekend opening the Reds stage is Glasgow based Helen Marnie (Ladytron) in her solo career as Marnie, whose band performs some up-tempo dreamy electro-pop. Over at ‘Centre Stage’ Swedish artist Frida Sundemo performs some harder hitting electronica with some big drum sounds played on two drums which light up on the beat. New single ‘Gold’, a particularly strong track.

Marnie

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Frida Sundemo

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Garry Christian brings his band The Christians to the stage for a great set of classic Christians tracks opening with ‘Forgotten Town’ their 1986 debut hit as well as ‘Ideal World ‘ and ‘Born Again’. Garry is his usual humorous self, commenting about the (only a few seconds) late start due to his’ unprofessional band’. The Christians are a well loved band, and although only Garry remains as the sole original member, are a great act live. Johnny Hates Jazz plays Centre Stage with Clark Datchler and band ‘turning back the clock’ for their eighties hits, ‘Turn Back The Clock’, ‘Shattered Dreams’ and ‘Heart of Gold’ as well as their newer single ‘Magnetised’.

The Christians

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Johnny Hates Jazz

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An iconic band from the 80’s,  A Flock Of Seagulls (AFOS), with Mike Score (with distinctive hairstyling) and a great band of musicians, who created great synth music such as Wishing’,  ‘I Ran’, ‘Space Age Love Song’, and award winning instrumental ‘DNA’, although their success was more US based, where Mike Score relocated to a few years ago. With only Mike Score remaining, and the hairstyle long gone, AFOS rarely venture out on the road, but played a great set opening up with a blistering version of debut album track ‘Modern Love Is Automatic’ and included ‘Space Age Love Song’ in the set.

A Flock Of Seagulls

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Howard Jones and his Electric band close the Centre Stage with a great set of classic Jones tracks opening with ‘Like To get To Know You Well’ and including ‘Equality’, a rousing, singalong ‘What Is Love’ and closing with ‘New Song’ which turns into a very danced up ‘Rave’ version. Having seen Jones and band play in Birmingham less than a week earlier, the difference in the audience feedback through the set was staggering.

Howard Jones

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Saturday started early with Artificial Pleasure and their edgier electronics and guitars, with Welsh duo Future Perfect closing the early afternoon set in Reds with some new tracks from their forthcoming album ‘Touch’ set for release in 2018. ‘Title track ‘Touch’ and ‘Assassin’s Eyes’ promise an interesting release ahead.

Artificial Pleasure

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Future Perfect

Day 2, Electric Dreams Weekender, Bognor Regis, UK

Such is the demand for The Human League, they play a matinee and an evening set on Centre Stage, with their brightly lit white stage set the backdrop for Phil Oakey (in leather jacket and huge white trousers) flanked by Joanne Catherall and Suzanne Sulley and band playing classic League tracks opening with ‘Love Action’, ‘Sound Of The Crowd’, (from 1981’s Dare album), closing with ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ as an apt finale.

The Human League

Day 2, Electric Dreams Weekender, Bognor Regis, UK

Empathy Test are up next, a London based duo comprising of Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf, with a live set up complemented by Christina Lopez on drums and Sam Winter-Quick on keyboards. Already making a name for themselves on the contemporary electronic scene, the band have appeared on Vintage TV and play a great set of catchy poppy electronica.

Empathy Test

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Avec Sans, a London-based electro-pop group are up on the main stage as the follow-up to Human League. The band is made up of Alice Fox on vocals and Jack St. James on the electronic percussion, and play tracks from album ‘Heartbreak Hi’. With some great tunes and beats in the set, they are certainly an act to look out for.

Avec Sans

Avec Sans-2

As the party warms up over at Reds stage, 80’s band (less electronic, more salsa) Modern Romance led by Andy Kyriacou, play the hits and more, including ‘Best Days Of Our Lives’ and ‘Don’t Stop That Crazy Rhythm’ and a cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘Saving All My Love’ by Natalie K.

Modern Romance

Modern Romance-6

Neil Arthur’s band Blancmange close out day 2 with a set of old and new Blancmange tracks opening with the Abba’s ‘The Day Before You Came’ (in my opinion, one of the best covers of any song ever!), Game Above My Head’, ‘Living On The Ceiling’, ‘Blind Vision’ and ‘Unfurnished Rooms’ the title track from their new album. DJ Pat Sharp took the stage to end the night with a DJ set of great electronica, and plenty of ‘selfies’ with the audience.

Blancmange

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Pat Sharp

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The final day of Electric Dreams is a much more chilled affair, with only three acts on Centre Stage to bring the weekend to an end. Although some comedy acts are playing in Reds, and a Pop Quiz is on in Rosso’s Bar to test the grey matter, and a silent movie showing of the 1985 Live Aid concert, with the audience getting the audio feed through headsets. Vintage TV presenter Gail Porter, goes mobile with the film crew around the resort interviewing the punters about their favourite songs. Vintage TV have been filming the festival over the weekend, so look out for a broadcast at some point soon.

Gail Porter

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Sunday evening kicks off with Nottingham band, April Towers (Charles Burley and Alexander Noble) open proceedings well with a set of electronic and guitar based music, with track ‘Silent Fever’ a highlight.  Previously supported by BBC Introducing and described by ‘Crack In the Road’ as ‘Pet Shop Boys on Speed’, these are another up and coming act to look out for.

April Towers

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‘Tragedy And Mystery’ from Liverpool (Kirby kids) band China Crisis (Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon) begins their set of lush songs from the 80’s, with ‘African And White’ getting an airing alongside ‘Black Man Ray’ ‘Arizona Sky’, ‘Wishful Thinking’, ‘King In A Catholic Style’ preceded by Gary Daly anecdote about lyrics making no sense and some soft drug usage. Daly is chatty and engaging, and with a great self-deprecating humour and pays tribute to the recently deceased Walter Becker (Steely Dan) who produced a couple of their early albums. The set closes with ‘Working With Fire And Steel’ and their first single ‘Christian’.

China Crisis

China Crisis-12

Thomas Dolby battles the technology at the start of his set, as the power fails to his keyboard rig, recovering quickly, to open with ‘Golden Age Of Wireless’ track ‘Commercial Breakdown’, a beautiful version of ‘One of Our Submarines’ dedicated to those who perished in the recent Argentinian submarine disaster. Accompanied by Kevin Armstrong (Prefab Sprout/Mike Garson band) on guitar and Matt Hector (Iggy Pop) on drums 1992’s ‘I Love You Goodbye’ gets a great rendition, then a newer ‘this century’ song ‘Evil Twin Brother’, followed by ‘Field Work’ his track with YMO’s Ryuichi Sakamoto. Getting a bit political now with ‘Airhead’ dedicating it to the Kardashians, Hilton’s, and Trump’s of this world, and followed by his first ‘hit’ single ‘Europa And The Pirate Twins’ from 1981. Dolby shares numerous anecdotes about dodgy BBC producers (later linked to Operation Yewtree), meeting Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet at the BBC, and a terrific piece of recording from the late lamented Dr Magnus Pike (who appears on ‘She Blinded Me With Science’) as part of the recording process.

Thomas Dolby

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With Dolby live programming on stage, ‘Hyperactive’ gets a big blast, moving into ‘Hot Sauce’ and ‘Silk Pyjamas’ to bring the set, and the weekend to a close. We didn’t get ‘Windpower’ sadly, but we got a great slice of Dolby’s repertoire, which due to his teaching commitments these days is all too rarely seen out on the road.

Thomas Dolby-2

Over the weekend, we got a terrific mix of the old and the new, in an ideal setting. Not having been to a Butlin’s resort for many years, I was impressed with the set up. The accommodation was well appointed and contemporary, and with excellent dining in the various restaurants, made for a very enjoyable, but too brief a stay. Butlin’s Big Weekends run many events throughout the year, including Soul Weekenders, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, Rock, Folk, Dance and a whole lot more. There’s certainly something for most people’s tastes to get away for a weekend of good value entertainment and to dance your socks off. Electric Dreams will back in 2018, and so will I.

Links/Further Listening

Butlin’s Big Weekends

Web: https://www.bigweekends.com

Vintage TV

Web: https://vintage.tv

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VintageTV/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VintageTV

Marnie

Web: http://helenmarnie.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helen.marnie.official

Twitter: https://twitter.com/marnieofficial

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/helenmarnie

Frida Sundemo

Web: http://fridasundemo.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fridasundemo

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/fridasundemo

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/fridasundemo

The Christians

Web: http://www.thechristianslive.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thechristianslive

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thechristians

Soundcloud: https://www.youtube.com/user/THECHRISTIANSTV

Johnny Hates Jazz

Web: http://johnnyhatesjazz.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JHJ_Official

A Flock Of Seagulls

Web: http://www.mikescore.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MikeScoreOfficial

Twitter: https://twitter.com/REALSEAGULLS

Howard Jones

Web: http://www.howardjones.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Howard-Jones-Official/111460981993

Twitter: http://twitter.com/howardjones

Artificial Pleasure

Web: http://www.artificialpleasure.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArtificialPleasure

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/artpleasure

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/artificialpleasure

Future Perfect

Web: http://www.futureperfect.org.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/futureperfect1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/futureperfect2

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/simonowen-1

The Human League

Web: http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehumanleague/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/humanleaguehq

Empathy Test

Web: https://www.empathytest.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/empathytest/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/empathytest

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/empathytest

Avec Sans

Web: http://avecsans.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/avecsansband

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/avecsans

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/avecsans

Modern Romance

Web: http://www.modern-romance.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/ModernRomanceBand/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndyMR_VOX

Blancmange

Web: http://www.blancmange.co.uk

Facebook: http://facebook.com/BlancmangeMusic

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/_blancmange_

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/blancmange

April Towers

Web: http://www.apriltowers.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apriltowersofficial

Twitter: https://twitter.com/april_towers

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/april_towers

China Crisis

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/China-Crisis-295592467251068/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChinaCrisisUK

Thomas Dolby

Web: http://www.thomasdolby.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/officialthomasdolby

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thomasdolby

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/thomasdolby

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