The Burg Herzburg Festival near Frankfurt in Germany, has deep roots. The very first time it appeared was in 1968, one year before Woodstock. Unlike some really commercial summer festivals, this one still stays true to its hippy roots and ideals, with a low entry price, really good food concession stands with all sorts of ethnic food choices, great German beer, of course, a camp ground and various side show performers AND mud! We’ve played the event 3 times over the years, the first being in 1998 when the festival was struggling to be revived. Last weekend we made our way there for another appearance. So far so good.
Under the recent control of promoter, Elmar, the festival has thrived. As festivals go, it’s not huge, but the feeling is strong. The 10,000 intrepid festival goers that were there to view us the night we played alongside Dickie Betts, showed their appreciation in bucket fulls. It was strange for me, flying in from the States, where we’ve had weeks of drought, and with the TV news full of forest fires and a heat wave, to find a damp and sodden Europe. I met the rest of the Wishbone Ash band members and they told me that they’d endured seven weeks of rain.
We had a free day to aclimatise and that evening we went down to catch the Jethro Tull set. Ian Anderson was in fine form but no Martin Barre. They had a fine young German guitarist and featured the newly released Thick As A Brick II. We had hoped to see the Tubes but that was not to be, although we did get to hear some of their post - show reflections at dinner afterwards.
The next day, I took a little stroll around the medieval town of Alsfeld where our hotel was located and bumped into über - fan, Ben Rheinhardt from the UK. He was visiting family in Germany, as well as offering his help to us. There was some kind of street festival going on in the town square with all sorts of incredible food treats and a stage where traditional folk dancing and music was taking place. Watching the festivities, while eating my second apfel strudel in two days, I was getting into the festival mood.
Yet more rain during the night meant that by the time we arrived at the festival site, there was a sea of mud before us. Didn’t seem to worry the fans. They all came totally prepared in the footwear department. We, not so, except for Joe who wore some big - ass boots. So, by the time we hit the stage, we were getting used to it, with feet caked in mud. I caught some of Dickie Betts’ set. I love the Allman Brothers and Dickie in particular still had that sweet tone which belies his ornery image. The band was good, with two drummers and a Gregg Allman look alike on keys. Featuring Dickie’s son, I think, as one of the three guitar players, the band played a lot of the Allmans’ classics including Jessica, which Bob Skeat reminded me, is known in Britain as the theme tune for the car show, Top Gear.
Listening to that music bought back all kinds of memories for me, of crazy American tours through the decades with Wishbone Ash. We’d all have our favourite ‘road songs’ from different bands like the, the Faces, The Eagles, Derek & the Dominoes and the Allmans. My songs were Maggie May, Layla and Take It Easy by the Eagles - a great road tune, if ever there was one. Jessica featured right up, perfectly capturing that on - the - road vibe. I believe our song Blowin’ Free captured that same bright, sunny optimistic 70s feel. The days of FM radio were a great uniting force for a generation in the USA because the whole country was tuned into the radio and for the most part life was positive, it seemed, and folks weren’t afraid to show that in the songwriting department.
Well, we played a great show at the festival, I thought, and it was nice catch up with fellow band members and also, some young friends of mine, Doug and Anna Cornett from the USA, in Europe on their honeymoon. Now, it’s nice to be home, back in the sunshine again for a week or so before heading out once more for the next Wishbone Ash show, this time in Colmar, France with Toto and Thin Lizzie.
Toodle Pip ~ A.P.