REVIEW: The Big Gig ’18 – Horsham Tribute Music Festival

A Touch of Little Mix. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180061
A Touch of Little Mix. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180061

The Big Gig ’18, Horsham Sports Club, Saturday, June 16

Festival-goers of all ages enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of live music on the grounds of Horsham Sports Club on Saturday.

Compere John O'Sullivan. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180072.

Compere John O'Sullivan. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180072.

The Big Gig ’18, Horsham’s tribute music festival, featured an array of energetic pop and rock covers from a selection of top-notch tribute acts.

The event also had plenty of food stalls full of tempting treats that included traditional fish and chips, Vietnamese street food, ice cream, candy floss and South American barbecue.

For the adults there were beer tents and vendors selling Pimms and Prosecco, while children were well catered for with fun activities, a bouncy castle and slide, face-painting and festival glitter.

Horsham’s own comedian and ‘newsagent provocateur’ John O’Sullivan was compere for the day, filling the time between bands with wisecracks, silly games and witty observations about audience members.

Forever Jackson. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180082.

Forever Jackson. Picture by Liz Pearce, LP180082.

The first musical act of the festival was Flairz who delivered a feast of ’70s hits (ABBA, T-Rex, Wizzard, Bay City Rollers) in their lively and loud glam-rock style.

Singer and lead guitarist Zodiak Starchild was dressed in a garish gold, red and orange outfit, complete with a top hat, to pay homage to the genre’s pioneers.

When John O’Sullivan described Zodiak’s look as a cross between Tony Blair and Joanna Lumley, it was an image that this audience member was unable to remove from his mind. But Zodiak himself sprinkled plenty of wry, groan-worthy jokes into his set, making the whole thing a fun and tongue-in-cheek affair.

Next up was A Touch of Little Mix whose epic and somewhat ominous intro seemed a bit out of place with their bouncy, sassy yet inoffensive pop sound.

Flairz. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Flairz. Picture by Lawrence Smith

But the foursome are very good at what they do, and they provided Horsham with colourful singles from the popular girl group, which all featured tight choreography and impressive harmonising.

They got a great response from the young girls at the festival and the cheering at the front was noticeably high-pitched.

If Little Mix was a little too modern for the older audience members, Forever Jackson offered a trip back to the ’80s and ’90s with a fantastic tribute to The King of Pop.

Sure, Robin Parsons needs make-up and costumes to look like Michael Jackson, but he definitely doesn’t need any help sounding like him. His vocal performance at the Big Gig was astonishing, and captured that mix of sensitivity and strength that the real Jackson’s voice was able to convey.

Flairz. Picture by Cheryl Zimmermann

Flairz. Picture by Cheryl Zimmermann

It’s perhaps unfair to pick out one highlight in a set that contained ‘Thriller’, ‘Billy Jean’, ‘Beat It’ and ‘Smooth Criminal’, but for this ’90s kid it was ‘Black or White’. Robin perfectly expressed that exuberance and aggression that Jackson had in his 1991 chart-topper.

The dancing was great too and, yes, Robin performed all the moves properly including the iconic moonwalk.

This was a scaled down version of the full Forever Jackson show, with only two backup dancers and a backing track instead of a live band. But anyone who may have been disappointed by the lack of live instruments had nothing to complain about when The Blunter Brothers arrived on stage.

Featuring four saxophonists, a trumpeter, two singers and several others on a variety of instruments (I lost count to be honest), the band offered a set packed with funk, soul and jazz classics that had everyone at the front dancing.

Their sound was smooth, powerful and highly professional with a particularly strong version of ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire.

They also performed ‘Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)’, another hit by Michael Jackson. This wasn’t a spot-on impression like the previous act though. Instead, The Blunter Brothers injected their own style into it, delivering a rousing version of the song that also managed to sound effortless.

The Blunter Brothers. Picture by Lawrence Smith

The Blunter Brothers. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Finally, as the sun began to set, revellers were treated to Pure Magic, a stirring tribute to Queen that had fans clapping, singing and cheering to the legendary rock group’s best tunes.

‘I Want To Break Free’, ‘Somebody to Love’ and, of course, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – they were all there and they were all delivered with real passion and precision.

It was a suitably grand finale to a huge, fun-filled day of live musical entertainment.

Fundraising, volunteers and sponsors

As well as being a fun family day out, the event was a fundraiser for St Catherine’s Hospice and Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity.

Big Gig ’18 had a large, hard-working team of volunteers, led by Mike Manktelow (event lead), Chris Wassell (chairman), Dave Baxter (musical direction) and Chris Shambrook (bar manager).

Horsham Sports Club thanked their sponsors XA Digital and Business Pulse for their generous contribution towards the successful day, e-social butterflies for their fantastic promotional work, Bright Brothers Production for Videography and Cheryl Zimmerman and Lily O’Driscoll for their photography. The club also thanked local brewery Hepworths for their support, as well as the whole community for making The Big Gig such a happy festival.

Plans are now underway for next year’s event on Saturday, June 22. People can keep up-to-date with the festival on Facebook and Twitter.

See more pictures of the festival here and watch video highlights from the event here.

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Pure Magic. Picture by Lily O'Driscoll

Pure Magic. Picture by Lily O'Driscoll