Stevenage Old Town Live

These local festivals aren’t really my thing. They’re usually not a music, music festival. Stevenage Old Town Live is a case in point. It is a festival on the high street in Stevenage’s Old Town. Both ends of the high street are closed to traffic. According to one of the local shops, it is pretty much sponsored by the local pubs and given the number of shops closed and losing a day’s business. I wonder how many don’t want the event, but feel bullied into accepting it? I’m not even sure the restaurants did well. The high street was full of food trucks. It seems the point of the event is to get people spending money in the pubs. The music is secondary, as it appears is the trade of the other businesses.

I don’t want to be unfair and suggest these types of events aren’t run properly. They are run just like any other music festival. The sound on each stage was great and stages were professionally managed throughout the day. Those involved in the event did a great job making the day run smoothly. But I’m not reviewing the event’s management. The point of this website is to review new music and events like these really care about new music. They are put on to create a relaxed atmosphere where people are happy to listen to bands playing their versions of other people’s songs while having a drink. The less challenging the music is, the better.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to go this year. I had tickets for the Rally festival in London. However, an RMT strike put paid to the Rally festival, so I grabbed a last-minute ticket.

The night before the festival I combed through the listings and disappointingly, the majority of acts were cover bands. Sadly, the weather wasn’t great on the day of the festival. With heavy rain until early afternoon and then showers for most of the rest of the day. I debated if it was worth it. But the BBC Introducing stage featured a day of new music and there was a splattering of bands playing their own stuff on other stages, so I persuaded myself to walk down to the Old Town and sample what was on offer, even if it was just for a few hours.

As expected, a lot of the music was artists covering other artist’s songs. If it was just a single song, then I stayed and watched. I moved on if they covered more than one song. At one point I moved between two stages where the artists covered the same song. It isn’t really surprising, people prefer to hear songs they already know, so many songs are a staple of cover bands.

In terms of new music, there were slim pickings. But there was interesting music to be found on the BBC Introducing stage, Cinnabar, and Red Lion stage. Mainly singer-songwriters, on the first two and metal bands on the Red Lion stage. Sadly, there weren’t many Hertfordshire bands. Maybe the organisers could work with local promoters to get more local talent and help support the local scene. However, it was a welcome treat that any new music was included. I think most of the attendees wouldn’t have noticed if there was no new music.

Highlights, though slim, included singer-songwriter Alissimon, indie band Teddy Clarke and on one of the main stages, JW Paris showed you can put new music on and people can still have a great time.

With the rain, low crowds and I assume reduced trading for everyone. It will be interesting to see if Old Town Live continues next year. It is not really my thing. I know I am a music snob. But for what it is, Old Town Live is pretty decent.