LET'S ROCK - THE UK'S FAVOURITE RETRO FESTIVAL
LET'S ROCK MAIN WEBSITE:
The Let's Rock Retro Festivals are host to some of the most iconic artists of my generation; the 1980s; one of the most exciting and pioneering eras of music. Riding the wave of the 1980s revival, Let's Rock now have 10 - yes, 10! - festival location sites up and down the UK - from Let's Rock Scotland to Let's Rock Southampton, such is the enduring popularity of 1980s music and the success of the Let's Rock festivals.
In fact, each year there are many 'first-timers' at a Let's Rock festival, and I know that thousands and thousands of Let's Rock festival-goers return year on year, like I do! The 80s revival really is alive and kicking!
In fact, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Let's Rock The Moor this year, a new Kids' Kingdom will be introduced for children to help keep them occupied, including circus workshops with the Big Top Mania Circus, tricycles, crafts, face painting and a local favourite; Dave The Disco. Also appearing will be The Sooty Show Live!
How I discovered Let's Rock
As Let's Rock The Moor approaches its 10th anniversary this year, it's clear that again, I joined the party late, because I only attended my first Let's Rock festival in 2014! I couldn't believe that I'd missed a few years of these amazing retro festivals until I realised that my discovery of them coincided with the end of my law study, having taken my final exam in January 2014. In order to successfully complete 4 solid years of study around full-time work, sacrifices were inevitable; one of which was most definitely my social life!
It was actually during a short break from my revision for my January 2014 exam when I came across the Facebook page for Let's Rock Bristol while browsing Facebook. Looking at the line-ups for both days (Bristol was previously a weekend event), I was both astonished and delighted to see that the festival brought together so many of my favourite artists from the 1980s on each day and so I booked my ticket immediately!
Let's Rock Bristol was amazing from start to finish, and from that day forward, I vowed to attend as many Let's Rock festivals as possible ..... which I did .... !
As mentioned above, Let's Rock now have 10 festival locations from the very north of the UK to the very south. Click the link below and it will take you to a central website from which you can choose your preferred location, and for more information.
The Let's Rock Retro Festivals website:
Let's Rock also hold various accounts on the usual social media outlets, which are listed below.
Let's Rock hosts
The hosts of the Let's Rock Retro Festivals are DJ and TV/Radio presenter Pat Sharp and entertainer and TV presenter Dave Benson-Phillips. Dave Benson-Phillips is the perfect host with his interminable ability to keep the crowd entertained in between band changeovers, and he has an endearing natural sense of fun and warmth which keeps the crowd engaged. Pat Sharp of course needs no introduction, and has deservedly earned the accolade of 'legend' from his years of TV and radio experience and wealth of knowledge of music, particularly of the decade which gave rise to the iconic artists which the Let's Rock festivals celebrate; the 1980s. The chemistry between Pat and Dave is undeniable and together at front of house, they are the ideal festival hosts.
The inevitable gaps in between band changeovers are filled in a variety of ways by the Let's Rock hosts. Pat may keep the crowd entertained with DJ sets, or Dave may lead a karaoke session, or run through the line-ups for the day, or even host kiss-cam!!
Social media links to the hosts:Twitter: https://twitter.com/patsharp
DAVE BENSON-PHILLIPSTwitter: https://twitter.com/DaveBensonPhill https://twitter.com/gettingbackDBP
What are Let's Rock festivals like?
Over time, I've discovered that some of my friends' perceptions are that all festivals are akin to festivals such as Glastonbury or Reading. The Let's Rock festivals, I'm delighted to report, are happily nothing like these types of festivals. First and foremost, for me, the music at Let's Rock festivals is far superior to the 'modern' festivals which play host to mostly mainstream music artists (!!!), but also, although the Let's Rock festival sites are host to thousands of festival-goers, they are smaller than the larger festivals. This is both a joy and a blessing. There is only one main stage, which means that not only do you get to see all artists on the bill, you do not need to spend hours trudging through the grounds to other stages or to reach various facilities/bars etc, which means you can just choose your spot for the day, chill out and enjoy the festival, with all the amenities within a short walk!
People generally attend festivals for different reasons and enjoy them in different ways. For some, such as I, it's all about the music. I generally choose which festivals to attend according to the line-ups, but having said that, all line-ups for the Let's Rock festivals are consistently brilliant such that it's more a case of 'how many can I afford to attend?!'.
I have been known to stand at (or rather, lean on!) the barrier at Let's Rock festivals for the entire day, having arrived at the festival site early in the morning so that the instant the gates are opened, I can break into a sprint towards the stage to secure my place along the barrier! Being at the barrier (AKA being a 'barrier babe') is amazing because you get an uninterrupted view (important if you're only 5'2" like me!) of the performances, can take photos of the bands with clarity, and of course there is something very special about being up-close and personal to the artists which you do not get from watching the big screens further back!
Photo: Richard Green
Then there are others who prefer to select the VIP experience.
Club Tropicana VIP
I had my first VIP experience only last year, at Let's Rock Bristol, and I have to admit, the main deciding factor for me was the fact that for the first time (that I know of), Pat Sharp played DJ sets in between some of the band changeovers in the VIP tent. Having become a fan of Pat by then having seen him host Let's Rock a few times, and having enjoyed his DJ sets from the stage, it really was a no-brainer for me!
The best way to describe the VIP enclosure is that it is a haven of luxury away from the hustle-bustle of the crowds in the main arena; not that being in the main arena isn't a brilliant experience too, because it absolutely is. There is a great sense of comradery between other festival-goers because we are all there for the same thing; to enjoy the music and to see our idols perform live, and as I said, I've spent many festivals there! But, for me, the VIP enclosure has so many advantages.
Garden furniture is set up outside the main VIP tent, and it is just heavenly to be able to sit there in the sunshine and have a bite to eat or a glass of Pimms, while watching the main stage. And of course, if there is a particular artist you want to see up-close, you can just make your way down towards the stage - we have even been known to make our way to the barrier from the VIP enclosure on occasion! There is also a great sense of comradery in the VIP area, and my friends and I have found that others are happy to watch your belongings and seats if you want to pop to the stage or the bar, or the main grounds for a wander, etc.
A bar is situated in the VIP tent, and there are rarely queues to buy drinks there; in fact, I've never waited more than a few minutes to be served, if that. The VIP tent also contains lots of seating; it is not only a very attractive area with well-thought out 80s-themed furniture and decor, it is a really good-sized space (and an essential and very welcome retreat when the British weather is unkind!). Plus, there is plenty of room for the dancefloor when Pat takes to the decks!
You'll see from the flyer above that there are various other extras which are part of the VIP experience.
Check out the promotional video for Club Tropicana VIP package:
Last year, the Let's Rock team announced that for 2018, Nathan Moore (Brother Beyond/Worlds Apart) will join Pat in the VIP tent for live sets (see flyer below).
I was a fan of Brother Beyond/Worlds Apart in the 1980s but became a renewed fan of Nathan Moore following his appearance at Let's Rock Birmingham 2016 at Sandwell Valley Country Park. His performance was full of energy, he was very engaging and delivered a great vocal performance. I felt sad that his set couldn't have lasted longer so I was delighted to see his new involvement announced with Let's Rock for this year.
Nathan Moore - The Harder I Try - Let's Rock London 2015
Nathan Moore - Everlasting Love - Let's Rock London 2015
Martyn Lee interviewing Nathan Moore - Let's Rock Southampton 2017
Let's Rock Christmas
Last year saw the introduction of Let's Rock Christmas at Wembley arena which was not only the best Christmas party ever, but another fantastic opportunity to celebrate the magic of the 1980s.
Check out the teaser video for Let's Rock Christmas:
You can see from the calibre of the line-up that a fantastic night was promised....and a fantastic evening was indeed delivered. Pat Sharp opened the night on the decks, following which he introduced the first artist of the night, Nathan Moore, who sang a Brother Beyond track and also a brilliant, but poignant, tribute to the late, great George Michael with Wham's Last Christmas.
The party was well and truly started with everybody in a festive celebratory mood. Particular highlights of the night for me were, as always, Kim Wilde and her incredible band, and Nik Kershaw. However, another special moment for me was Jona Lewie's appearance, which marked his first live performance in around 30 years, and which included the Christmas classic 'Stop The Cavalry'. There were also various duets/collaborations, including Kim Wilde and Tony Hadley, Go West and Tony Hadley, and of course Nik Kershaw with Go West.
Let's Rock Christmas was a truly exceptional festive night of entertainment and I do hope other similar such Let's Rock Christmas events will follow.
Check out this video montage of Let's Rock Christmas:
Let's Rock Christmas links:
The Retrobates AKA 'Not The House Band'!
Some people assume that the way in which festival line-ups are determined denotes each artist's popularity, but I personally don't think that is necessarily the case, save for the headliners, obviously. The order in which the artists appear is dependent upon other commitments and mostly whether the artist needs the house band; The Retrobates. The artists requiring the services of the house band are on first to allow the house band to play concurrent sets, and then those artists with their own bands appear afterwards.
And that brings me on to the amazing Let's Rock house band; The Retrobates.
The Retrobates' Facebook Page:
Check out this interview with Pat Sharp & The Retrobates:
This year sees the introduction of The Retrobates House Party ....
Having seen most of these artists before, including Peter Coyle (ex Lotus Eaters), and of course Nathan Moore, both of whom are fabulous live performers, I just know that this part of the festival is going to have a really upbeat infectious party atmosphere, and it is right that The Retrobates have their own share of the limelight,
Above: Peter Coyle and Jack Hymers (China Crisis) on keyboards - photos taken at The Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music, Birmingham, March 2017
Why I love Let's Rock
I was 10 years old in 1982 and so I wasn't really old enough to attend the gigs of my favourite bands playing at the height of their career. It is therefore extra special for me to be able to see so many of my favourite artists now at a Let's Rock one-day event, and I feel so fortunate to be able to do it. There are other retro festivals at which you can see many iconic 80s stars, but for me, no other retro festival brand comes close to Let's Rock. I have been to other retro festivals, including Rewind, but Rewind's main attraction for me is their resident DJ, legendary Rusty Egan, whose DJ sets are also awesome.
Let's Rock consistently offer fabulous line-ups, and they obviously hold the formula for success given that there are now 10 Let's Rock festival sites up and down the UK. Additionally, as mentioned above, this year saw the introduction of Let's Rock Christmas; an inspired idea and an exceptional night! I could be incorrect, but I've not seen another retro festival host a Christmas event on this scale.
Even in between the band changeovers it is so much fun at a Let's Rock festival - whether you are in the main arena dancing along to Pat Sharp's DJ sets, or singing along to Dave's karaoke sessions, or enjoying the music beaming out from the speakers, or whether you are in the VIP enclosure partying away to one of Pat's DJ sets.
So much do I love the Let's Rock festivals that I find myself wanting to attend more and more of them - one is definitely not enough each year now! I actually felt quite sad at Let's Rock London last year as London marked the final festival of the year for Let's Rock. Next year I hope to do around 4 of the southern-based Let's Rock festivals. Much as I would actually love to do them all, I don't have sufficient leave from work or adequate funds in the bank!
I've talked about why I feel the Let's Rock festivals stand out from their competitors but another element in which Let's Rock excel is their slick organisation and exceptional security and health & safety arrangements.
From very early in the morning, individual rows are carefully set up with barrier-style fencing outside the main entrance so that festival-goers queue in an orderly manner. The queues can obviously be quite long but notwithstanding that, people are ushered in pretty quickly. Security searches are thorough, which I find very reassuring. It is good to know that security is taken so seriously; imperative in these current worrying times. There always seems to be adequate numbers of medics on standby too, which for me, as a type 1 diabetic, is also very reassuring. Last year, a fellow festival-goer who was standing near the barrier had a seizure, but the medics were in attendance literally within 2 or 3 minutes, and the young woman was taken away immediately for medical attention. The speed and skill at which the medics attended was remarkable.
People inevitably complain that food and drink is overpriced at events such as these, but the pricing structure is pretty standard for all festivals/outdoor events/concerts. However, Let's Rock do allow you to bring your own food into the grounds (unlike some other festivals) and (non-alcoholic) drinks, and so you have choice.
The standard blue portable toilets, again, are standard at these types of events, and a necessity in the middle of a field/open grounds! However, as mentioned above, if, like me, you're not keen on them, just spend a little bit more money and buy a 'posh-toilet' ticket where you will find flushing WCs and running water to wash your hands at sinks equipped with hand soap and hand lotion.
Let's Rock produce lanyards which are very inexpensive to purchase, and which set out the artists' running times for the day, together with a map of the festival site on the other side. It is a simple but genius idea because it is astonishingly difficult to remember when your favourite artists are due on stage and festivals sites have differing layouts. It is therefore usually the first thing I buy and they also serve as a great souvenir of the day.
A major feature of the Let's Rock festivals is that the general admission tickets are so inexpensive, starting at £30 and potentially rising to £55 (VIP tickets are obviously more expensive), dependent upon how far ahead of the festivals you buy the tickets. When you consider how many iconic artists you get to see in just one day for the ticket price, it is an absolute bargain!
To give an indication of how amazing the Let's Rock festivals are, check out the photographs I took of just some of the iconic artists who appeared at various Let's Rock festivals I've attended over the years, together with videos of the performances and Let's Rock footage of Pat Sharp interviewing the stars:
ABC - All Of My Heart - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
ABC - Shoot That Poison Arrow - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
Pat Sharp interviewing Martin Fry of ABC
Carol Decker - China In Your Hand - Let's Rock Bristol 2014
Pat Sharp interviewing Carol Decker
Chesney Hawkes - The One & Only - Let's Rock London 2017
Pat Sharp interviewing Chesney Hawkes
Hazel O'Connor - Will You - Let's Rock Southampton 2017
Pat Sharp interviewing Hazel O'Connor
Dr & The Medics - Spirit In The Sky - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
Holly Johnson - Relax - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
Pat Sharp interviewing Dr & The Medics
Five Star - System Addict - Let's Rock Southampton 2015
Pat Sharp interviewing Five Star
Go West - We Close Our Eyes - Let's Rock Bristol 2015
Pat Sharp interviewing Go West
Heaven 17 - Temptation - Let's Rock London 2017
Martyn Lee interviewing Glen Gregory
Jimmy Somerville - Never Can Say Goodbye - Let's Rock London 2016
Jimmy Somerville - Don't Leave Me This Way - Let's Rock London 2016
Pat Sharp interviewing Jimmy Somerville
Katrina - Walking On Sunshine - Let's Rock London 2017
Pat Sharp interviewing Katrina
Midge Ure - Vienna - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
Midge Ure - If I Was - Let's Rock Bristol 2014
Check out Nick Heyward talking about Let's Rock
Pat Sharp interviewing Nick Heyward
Nik Kershaw - Wouldn't It Be Good - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
Nik Kershaw - The Riddle - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
NIk Kershaw - I Won't Let The Sun Go Down ON Me - Let's Rock Southampton 2015
Pat Sharp interviewing Nik Kershaw
Tony Hadley - Gold - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
Pat Sharp interview with Tony Hadley
The Human League - Don't You Want Me - Let's Rock London 2017
The Human League - Electric Dreams - Let's Rock London 2017
Tiffany - I Think We're Alone Now - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
Tiffany - Radio Romance - Let's Rock Exeter 2016
Pat Sharp interviewing Tiffany
Toyah - It's A Mystery - Let's Rock London 2017
Pat Sharp interviewing Toyah
It is easy for the music played at the 80s retro festivals to take you back to your childhood/teenage years where music was everything, the world was a carefree place, and the Top 40 rundown on a Sunday and Top Of The Pops on a Thursday were eagerly anticipated each and every week. That in itself evokes golden memories and a happy vibe, but I also find myself completely lost in and consumed by the music in the here-and-now at each Let's Rock festival. It is amazing to be in the company of thousands of other like-minded festival-goers, also so obviously passionate about the music of the 1980s, so many decades on. A day at a retro music festival for me is pretty much my ideal way of spending a summer's day. Never did Sister Sledge's song 'Lost In Music' have more meaning for me.
Sister Sledge - Lost In Music - Let's Rock The Moor 2017:
Some of the most memorable performances for me ....
I have seen so many iconic artists at the Let's Rock festivals over the years, that I don't think I'd be able to recount them all. However, some of the most memorable performances for me have been: Kim Wilde, Rick Astley, Boney M, The Human League, ABC, Midge Ure, Jimmy Somerville, Five Star, Nik Kershaw, Belinda Carlisle, Nathan Moore, Tiffany, The Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Sister Sledge, and Kenny Thomas with Living In A Box.
It was actually because of Let's Rock that I became a fan of Rick Astley, as I wasn't even remotely a fan in the 1980s!! Rick Astley was one of the headliners at Let's Rock Bristol in 2014, but not being much of a fan at that point, I didn't even go down into the main arena when he was due on stage, instead choosing to watch from a bit further away. However, I was astonished to see the phenomenal audience reaction to Rick Astley; even at the mere mention of his name; I'd rarely seen audience engagement at that level before then. So when he was billed to appear the following year, I made sure I was at the barrier. Needless to say, Rick's performance was sensational; he really is the ultimate entertainer; and ever since then, I became a firm fan, and because of that, I was introduced to his recent self-penned album, '50', which I loved instantly (and which made it to number one in the mainstream charts!). So thank you to Let's Rock for that!
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up - Let's Rock Bristol 2014
Rick Astley - Uptown Funk - Let's Rock Bristol 2015
Rick Astley - Together Forever - Let's Rock Bristol 2015
Pat Sharp Interviewing Rick Astley
Conversely, I'd always been a fan of Kim Wilde but had never seen her live before, so I was incredibly excited at the prospect of seeing her at a Let's Rock festival. I don't really have the words to describe how awesome a Kim Wilde set is. It was amazing to witness the incredible audience reaction to Kim and her superb band rocking the entire crowd to 'Kids In America'. It was one of those awe-inspiring experiences I'll never forget. If Kim is at a festival I certainly do everything I can to be there!
Kim Wilde - Kids In America - Let's Rock Bristol 2014
Kim Wilde - You Came/You Keep Me Hanging On - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
Kim Wilde - Chequered Love - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
Kim Wilde - A Little Respect (Erasure) - Let's Rock Bristol 2014
I can remember listening to Boney M on the radio as I grew up and always liked their music, so I was really looking forward to seeing them at Let's Rock. Unsurprisingly, they went down an absolute storm with the thousands of us watching their performance! Everybody was singing and dancing along; let's face it, you'd have had to have lived in a cave all your life not to know the likes of 'Rivers of Babyon', 'Rasputin', 'Daddy Cool', etc, etc. Boney M's current male singer absolutely exudes charm, charisma and confidence, and he certainly has all the moves! I never expected to ever see Boney M live and it is incredible that Boney M's music is being brought to a new generation in this way.
Boney M - Medley of full set - Let's Rock London 2017
Boney M - Daddy Cool - Let's Rock London 2017
Boney M - Let's Rock - Holiday - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
Boney M - Rasputin - Let's Rock Norwich 2017
Pat Sharp Interviewing Boney M
The Village People
Another Let's Rock highlight for me was watching The Village People. Again, I'd listened to their music on the radio growing up and so I was really looking forward to seeing them perform live. The American disco group had the crowd completely engaged from the start, with their iconic costumes, well-known anthemic songs, charismatic on-stage presence, and perfectly executed choreography. With all these winning ingredients, their set couldn't be anything but the massive hit that it was. The entire crowd all around the festival grounds joined in to 'YMCA' - it was an extraordinary sight.
Crowd dancing to YMCA - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
The Village People - YMCA - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
The Village People - Go West - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
An artist I have not yet seen at a Let's Rock festival and the artist I am most looking forward to seeing at Let's Rock this year is OMD; one of my all-time favourite bands. They headlined Let's Rock The Moor last year but I was unable to go, so no way am I missing them this year!
Below is some video footage of OMD at Let's Rock The Moor:
Enola Gay: https://youtu.be/bzm-xfEflHs
Also, check out Pat Sharp's interview with the synth legends:
I hope this blog, with my photographs and the video footage sourced from YouTube goes some way to explaining why attending Let's Rock Retro Festivals is such an incredible experience, but you can also check out these highlights of recent festivals from the Let's Rock 80s YouTube channel, for a taster of what you can expect from a Let's Rock festival:
Highlights - Let's Rock Southampton 2017
Highlights - Let's Rock Exeter 2017
Highlights - Let's Rock Bristol 2017
Highlights - Let's Rock The Moor 2017
Highlights - Let's Rock Birmingham 2016
Also, below are some more interviews with the stars by Pat Sharp:
Interview with Paul Young
Interview with Blancmange
Sister Sledge interview
Interview Tom Bailey
You can find even more footage of festival performances and further interviews with the stars, both on Let's Rock's own YouTube channel, and from videos uploaded to YouTube by Let's Rock festival-goers.
A Let's Rock retro festival for me perfectly represents all that a fabulous summer's day should be for a music lover - a day where you can cast off the constraints of daily routine, escape the ordinary, and have a relaxed sunshine-filled day of incredible live music; dancing, singing and having fun with friends in a safe happy environment.
There is nothing better is there?
LET'S ROCK MAIN WEBSITE: