Northampton’s very own Bedlam Breakout festival celebrates its 25th anniversary show this March so Peter Dennis spoke to organiser Tobe Wright to get the low down on this years event…
The term ‘psychobilly’ might be an unfamiliar term to the average NeneQuirer reader so here’s a brief history lesson. By 1980 the nihilism of British punk rock had reached its logical conclusion. The youth, enjoying the energy but bored with the politics of punk fused it with American rockabilly. A touch of horror movie imagery was added along with a healthy dose of humour and an electrifying new music genre was created: psychobilly!
It was this energy that event promoter Tobe Wright harnessed as, from its humble beginnings as occasional gigs at The Racehorse, Bedlam Breakout has risen in stature to become the premier UK psychobilly festival and now boasts an impressive 30 bands over three days.
Tobe expands on the events origins: “We’d been putting on gigs in the mid 90s purely because interest in the scene was in decline at that point. It seemed like a festival was the logical progression. It has now grown into the biggest psychobilly festival in the UK purely through hard work and a heartfelt love of the scene.”
The Bedlam Festival is now organised by a group of 10 friends.
The festival gives Northampton a real international flavour by attracting fans from all over the world and they certainly add a splash of colour to the town on Bedlam weekend. I wonder what lengths do people go through to attend the festival? “We had one guy that flew in from Saudi Arabia, landed in Scotland and flew straight down to Birmingham and then on a train to Northampton. That’s dedication! We’ve had people who’ve travelled from Australia and a Japanese guy who lives in Tasmania attends regularly.”
Bedlam also places the town on the global stage by attracting the world’s biggest bands. Can you tell us something about the international acts who’ll be appearing?
“On Friday we have a band called The Wreck from France. Saturday will be headlined by Batmobile from the Netherlands and also appearing will be The Psychonauts from Switzerland, Clockwork Psycho from Slovenia and Hola Ghost from Denmark. On Sunday we have The Rusty Robots from Germany and The Quarenteds from California, USA.”
So what made you hold the festival in Northampton and why at The Roadmender?
“Well originally all the guys and girls involved were from Northampton. With regards to The Roadmender we get on great with the owners and staff, they’re always very helpful. Plus it’s the perfect size for our event: a big main hall, roof top area, a big bar and to top it off it’s right in the centre of town with hotels and eateries close at hand.”
The festival is run as a purely not-for-profit endeavour. However despite filling the towns hotels and bringing a lot of trade to the town the event receives no council funding. It seems unfair they subsidise classical music events but not the alternative arts.
“We aren’t aware that funding is available. We organise and fund the festival off our own backs, and yes, local hoteliers do very well out of the festival but, sadly, a lot of the hotels now know the dates and increase their prices!”
How would Tobe describe the festival to the uninitiated?
“A great atmosphere from start to finish, such a friendly, family feel from what we’ve been told! Great bands from around the globe playing a variety of psychobilly styles. Most people would have heard of the older bands from the 80s but we also try to push the newer bands in the UK, so it’s a great mixture. We also have stalls selling clothing and jewellery, festival merchandise, CDs and vinyl too.”
Finally this festival will be the 25th anniversary. That’s quite a milestone. Do you have any surprises to commemorate this event?
“The biggest surprise is that we kept going this long! If we told you the surprises they wouldn’t be surprises. Come along and give us a go!”
Bedlam Breakout runs from 15th to 18th March.
Day and weekend tickets are available from The Roadmender website.