Event review: Radfest at the Oval Tavern, Saturday 16th July


By - Tuesday 26th July, 2016

Heat, all day drinking, funky sets and sublime guitar… Rob Preston on a day and night in the Oval garden


Brooks and Gray. Photo author’s own.

Radfest returned for its second year on Saturday July 16th and saw a dozen or so bands play all day and into the night at the Oval, close to East Croydon station, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer via a £10 entry, raffle money, t-shirt sales and so on.

The whole shebang kicks off on the outdoor stage with Red Skye, a band of youngsters whose rock covers could be heard halfway down Oval Road. The weather is sunny, nay, glorious, and hits by the likes of Muse and Arctic Monkeys are delivered with swagger, the frontman’s showmanship gathering pace throughout their set before letting rip with one of their own numbers. Brooks and Gray are up next, with some golden oldies. These two chaps armed with acoustic guitars offer ‘Itchycoo Park’, ‘If I Fell in Love, ‘I Wish I knew Then’ and ‘Tonight’s the Night’, the latter two sung with a voice so like Rod’s you’d swear he was hiding behind the Oval’s little blue shed with a third mic. The audience is in love with this set, and as more seats are taken leaving standing room only, it’s a joy to see such genuine appreciation and hear such singing along, especially from those who heard these songs the first time around.

Local lad Tony Patience is up next, and things get a good deal mellower with American folk-inspired songs played faultlessly with scoops of sublime slide guitar. The influence of Kelly Joe Phelps is clear, and the audience goes gooey as Tony is joined by a harmonica-blowing pal for the remainder of his songs.

Marvel. Photo author’s own.

The next band, RG Winfield and D Shuffle, set up on the indoor stage. It’s standard blues fare, the sort of band which is enjoyed at The Oval’s regular jam night. They are followed by Marvel, scheduled to appear on the outdoor stage but with covers from the likes of Nirvana and Green Day, it’s best not to upset the neighbours, so the three-piece thunders away inside, and do very well to play its two Metallica songs with just the one guitarist. Flame-haired frontwoman Angela belts out the lyrics whilst thumbing away at her bass, and all is well!

Then the Voodoo Sheiks come hot on their heels (and impressive heels they were too!) again indoors, and again, more blues. The audience can’t seem to get enough of those three chords though, and they go down a treat. We’re back outside for Robert Coyne, whose drummer uses only brush sticks, and whose lo-fi sounds bring grey skies, the odd flying ant, and a now much bigger audience, sadly, not all of whom are here for Robert, and are too talky for those at the back to really appreciate this great musician, so its head-to-the-front to fully lose oneself in one of the most credible acts of the day. A quick change around and we have the Radfest RSB Band, a trio of men playing Neil Young covers, and where else might you have heard the great man’s songs sung as harmonies? Heart of Gold doesn’t quite go as planned, and Young makes way for other legends as ‘Norwegian Wood’ (they clearly didn’t get the memo about Tony Patience already giving us that), ‘Summer Breeze’, ‘Closer’ and ‘Wild Horses’ become the final songs played in the garden, as we head back inside to a packed pub for the remainder of the festival.

The Hipster Ray. Photo author’s own.

Goodbye afternoon, and hello evening, as the members of BOA proudly shout their band’s name before pounding into their set. These four young men liven the whole event up no end, with a funky set of original songs, some disco classics (‘Freak Out’, ‘Good Times’), and a very groovy interpretation of Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’. Truly exciting: for me, they were the highlight of the day.

They make way for The Hipster Ray, a six-piece who dally with ska beats, surf riffs, bouncy pop punk, an unlikely clarinet throughout, a voice not unlike that of Richard Butler, and some very impressive hats. They add to a thus far varied line-up, and don’t disappoint their crowd. Katie Bradley and her band give us more blues, this time with plenty of sax. Katie has quite a set of lungs, and not just for singing: the lady can play harmonica too, though she doesn’t really have what I would call a blues voice. She is joined by a guest vocalist from the next band on the bill for ‘I Would Rather Go Blind’, and is frankly shown up by her.

Said guest vocalist is Yoka, of Yoka and the Sugar Beats, beginning with a mash-up of ‘Born to Be Wild’ and ‘Fever’, and going on to effortlessly interpret greats like ‘Feelin’ Good’ and ‘Duffy’s Mercy’, with Yoka taking to the flute, and the big man on guitar wowing with some impressive guitar solos, whilst maintaining an excellent chemistry with his frontwoman. A favour is returned as they are joined by Katie Bradley for one of their last numbers, and as their set is completed, I have to applaud drum man Spencer the most for thumping away throughout both sets.

Due to some ‘technical complications’ with the drums, we are kept waiting a good thirty minutes for final band Roadhouse. Compere Natt Tapley, who has done a sterling job all day (despite some wince inducing use of four letter words around young ears), gives us some amusing and topical poetry to fill this gap. When the band are ready, it’s more blues, and given the band’s name, that’s no surprise. I can’t help wonder how relevant ‘Route 61′ and the rest of it is to men who look like they’re all plasterers called Dave from Clapham. Due to the heat, or the all-day drinking, or both, most of the audience has crashed outside, and sadly there’re not many left to witness this final band. Still, vocalists Mandy and Sarah give it their all, as they bring the event up to its eleventh hour of live music.

Photo author’s own.

All in all, a great day, especially if you like your blues, and at £10 a ticket, no one could really complain. The Oval Tavern, now back to its rightful place as Croydon’s premiere music venue, is the perfect place for it, and I’m sure the Radfest team will be doing it all again in 2017. If so, please leave those annoying hand clap toys at home. Whoever thought they would be a good idea needs a jolly good word with themselves.

Rob Preston

Rob Preston

Rob was a co-host on Croydon Radio's Encyclopaedia Croydonia, and hosts the popular bi-monthly tribute nights at The Oval Tavern on Oval Road. As a writer / photographer his work has been published in Doctor Who Magazine, Dreamwatch, Auton, Dog's Breakfast, Bulletin Your Head and SoHo Life & Technology Today. His short stories have been read at Tales of Croydonia at The Oval Tavern, and he is currently working on two anthologies of his own short stories, one crime, the other horror. He has written and directed seven plays at various Croydon venues, and survives today as a jobbing actor.

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  • Ian Marvin

    Great review, I think I missed a few of your highlights including the beginning of BOA’s set (caught their Floyd cover though.) The Neil Young harmonies of Radfest RSB were a revelation although ‘Summer Breeze’ inspired such despair in me I had to flee upstairs again. Not sure why . . . in all an excellent day for a good cause. I won’t embarrass the close relative who does the work of two guitarists by identifying him.