As Mike Badger presents his 7th annual fundraiser, Getintothis’ Del Pike braves the mud and dons his stetson for a fine ol’ country hoedown.
It’s festival season and despite a few cancellations and the question of “Are there too many festivals in Liverpool?” being raised, it is important not to overlook some of the more lesser known but equally important events across the further reaches of the city and the good work they are doing. One such festival is Mike Badger’s annual fundraiser at the Shy Lowen Horse Sanctuary in Netherton. July 10 marked the 7th event and managed to raise a stable load of money for the centre as well as providing a brilliant day out for all who were there.
Mike is one of those people who help to make the city a much more colourful place. Not content with founding The La’s and leaving them to enjoy their glory, Mike has spent the last twenty odd years keeping country and rockabilly alive in the city through his own music and regular events, peppering the landscape with his tin sculptures and introducing us to weird and wonderful music through his celebrated Viper label. The Shy Lowen festival adds to that slightly leftfield approach to entertaining the masses.
We asked Mike how it all began, “I watched a programme on Channel 4 called Teenage Horse Whisperer about kids with behaviour problems working with horses that had been neglected and it was fascinating. Then I recognised Scouse accents and realised it was at Shy Lowen Horse Sanctuary. At the end the commentator said that the initiative was under threat because of cuts so I decided to do a music fundraiser to help out – That was in 2010 – Funnily enough Buffalo Clover from Nashville were staying with me at the time and they played the first ever one. Now their singer Margo Price is riding high in the charts.”
We also asked Mike who this festival is aimed at, given the some might say, niche nature of the line-up, “It’s a real family event, but of course everyone is welcome. Shy Lowen does a great deal of outreach work in the local community so there’s people from the North end of the city and people from the South enjoying the ambiance of a very special place! Old and young it’s about as inclusive as you can get.”
The line-up at this year’s festival was just as electric and fitted into the landscape of a real country hoe-down perfectly. Playing on the make-shift stage surrounded by hay bales and set against a field of beautiful horses were acts as diverse as Si Cousins, a gentle sing-a-long guy knocking out songs like Singin’ in the Rain as the heavens opened. Other solo artists like Mark Burn and Chris Elliot set the scene for a family friendly day with a true flavour of Americana in their exceptional songwriting.
Things get lively when the Loose Moose String Band take the stage, seemingly raggle taggle but sincerely as tight as hell, putting their country spin on a brace of pop hits from the past 30 years. Calling in on Ini Kamoze’s Here Come’s the Hotstepper, Bowie’s Let’s Dance and perhaps their finest moment as the sun came out, Prince’s Kiss.
The Yellow Belly Stragglers bring the real McCoy to the day and as always stay true to the old time countrybilly of Champion Jack Dupree’s Cabbages and Piney Brown’s You Bring Out the Wolf in Me. Dave Searson is one of Liverpool’s hidden gems’ with a truly unique voice.
What remains one of the more endearing elements to the day is how band members continually jump in on each other’s sets, creating a true feeling that there is a real family vibe going on in the Mersey Americana scene. Not dissimilar to the “In the round” technique we saw at Bluebird at the Bluecoat at last year’s LIMF weekend. Paul Kavanagh’s (Ex Top) beautifully chilled solo set, warms him up for his role in Mike Badger’s own Shady Trio straight after. Always entertaining with his rota of crowd pleasers including Growing Old Disgracefully and John Got Shot (In the Barber Shop), Mike is loving the day and noting that with each 50p bag of carrots sold, there is a future for this great venue.
Bayou Noir, largely made up of familiar faces from the rest of the day, finish the set with their breath-taking set of French Cajun tunes and ensure that everyone goes home with a song in their heart.
This kind of music certainly brings the folks in but we wondered if it was still under-represented in the area, Mike lent us his thoughts, “I’ve made this Music Fundraiser an Americana one purposefully. There’s The Loose Moose String Band ( Bluegrass) Bayou Noir ( French Cajun) Mike Badger and The Shady Trio (Rockabilly Scouse Honky Tonk) and The Yellow Belly Stragglers ( Old Timey Countrybilly) to show the richness of the Country underground we have in the city.
“There’s the old C&W circuit which has always been massive but for more alternative country Rockabilly, NO it’s not represented at all, (with the exception of the Action Packed! Night and Rockabilly Rumbles) – I suggested to Liverpool Sound City years ago to have an Americana type stage for the festival but nothing happened. It’s a big part of the roots of Liverpool music in particular and should have more representation.” It’s difficult to disagree with Mike at the end of this hugely successful event.
Don’t just take our word for it though, we let Mike have the final word on why we should support the sanctuary and leave a space in our schedules to go to next year’s event, “Bernadette Langfield re-mortgaged her home to build stables on some land she managed to secure from Sefton Council and is an incredible, selfless woman. The work she does for unwanted or abused horses and ponies and the outreach work around the Sanctuary is incredible.
“All types of hoses are there from little Shetland ponies, Old Nags to Race horses and thoroughbred show jumpers who wouldn’t be broken. They all coexist in a type of equine sanctuary – the horses’ behaviour changes as soon as they come through the gates because they now know they are safe. I was honoured to have been made a patron a few years back and the more people who know about Shy Lowen the more have their lives enriched – it really is inspirational that there are people like Bernadette her husband Eric and helpers like Kellie O’Shea – These people very quietly and methodically help the world go round. – Bring Carrots!”
Watch this space next summer for details of the 8th fundraiser, its well worth a bus ride to Sunny Netherton, but don’t forget your wellys.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Stu Johno and Mike Badger