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World-class music in Rochester this spring

Date: 23/04/2008           Category: Events

There is a rare opportunity to catch one of the country’s most well connected musicians – Denny Laine - as he takes to the stage for this year’s Sweeps Festival on Friday, 2 May. The festival itself begins with the Jack-in-the-Green awakening ceremony at dawn on Thursday, 1 May and ends on Bank Holiday Monday, 5 May. Rochester Castle Gardens concert marquee plays host to world-class live acts as part of this year’s Sweeps Festival from Friday, 2 – Sunday, 4 May. Denny Laine may be best known as the third member of Wings, but he has a fine musical pedigree. By the age of 11, he had given his first public performance and now, 50 years on, he is bringing his band to Rochester Castle Gardens. In 1962, he formed his first, Brum-beat band, Denny and the Diplomats. Two years later, he left to form The Moody Blues which achieved number one success with the million-seller track Go Now. The band was signed by Brian Epstein and toured with The Beatles. This stood Denny in good stead in later years. After his departure from The Moody Blues in 1966, Laine’s contribution to the British music scene was significant. In addition to being a singer/songwriter, Laine has played guitar and bass with a number of bands. The Electric String Band lasted just a year, releasing two singles in 1967/8. The band not only shared billing with Jimi Hendrix and Procul Harum, but also paved the way for the more famous Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Laine’s next move was to join forces with other pioneering musicians of the 60s, Ginger Baker and Graham Bond in Ginger Baker’s Air Force. It seemed he was destined to move from band to band, from bass to guitar, as one musical project followed the next. However, the break-up of his next band, Balls, led to the formation of Wings with Paul and Linda McCartney. Although the band members came and went throughout the decade, Laine and the McCartneys were constant fixtures from 1971 to 1980. Denny provided lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals, keyboards, bass, writing and co-writing skills, as well as being a solid solo performer. Together the trio formed the nucleus of the band, being called that "strange, three-winged beast". It was with Wings that Denny enjoyed the biggest commercial and critical successes of his career, including co-writing the smash hit Mull of Kintyre. Wings had 12 top-10 singles in the UK and 14 top-10 singles, including six number ones, in the US. But, by 1980 Wings disbanded and Denny Laine began his solo career. An output of 20 solo albums has secured his status as a seasoned, prolific performer. Denny Laine has shared the stage with some of the best UK and US musicians of the past 50 years and the Sweeps Festival is is a rare opportunity to see him live, with support from Ruby. And Denny is not alone in bringing some musical joy to the festival. There are two other gigs in the castle gardens concert marquee and two ceilidhs at the Corn Exchange. On Saturday, 3 May, The Battlefield Band bring its Celtic mix of traditional and self-penned material. Founded in 1969, the Battlefield Band has been performing world-wide for the past three decades. Support comes from acoustic duo, The Dealers – winners of The Folk Factor 2006. The Dealers play their own material as well as a range of covers from Leadbelly to Leonard Cohen and Billie Holliday to Tom Waits. Show of Hands take the stage on Sunday, 4 May. Acknowledged as the finest acoustic roots duo in England, the pair has built up a huge fan base in Europe, America, India and Australia. They have sold out the Albert Hall twice and headlined at major musical festivals from Glastonbury to WOMAD. The band was voted Best Live Act at the 2004 Radio 2 Folk Awards. The music is a mix of rock, roots, blues and country played on an array of instruments from around the world. Support on Sunday, 3 May comes from local band, Wheeler Street. Although the seven members are still in their teens, they have all been playing from an early age. Their imaginative arrangements of traditional songs and tunes, mixed with excitement and enthusiasm have earned them a solid following. The Sweeps festival late night extras take place at The Corn Exchange. Take your partners for the Festival Ceilidh with live music from The Climax Ceilidh Band on Saturday, 3 May 10pm-1am. Sunday night revellers at the Sweeps Ball will be entertained by The Bursledon Village Band from 10pm-1am at The Corn Exchange. Tickets for the Ceilidh and the Ball cost £6. Festival concert tickets are priced at £16.50 and are available from Medway Visitor Information Centre, 95 High Street, Rochester ME1 1LX. Phone 01634 843666. Visit www.medway.gov.uk/sweepsfestival for more information. ends