Music festival Sign of the Times returns to Little Hadham this summer for a third year, with line-ups led by Squeeze and Levellers.
The two-day event at Church End on Friday and Saturday, June 16-17 celebrates the best of bands from the 1980s and ’90s, with a blend of rock, indie, new wave, blues and folk-punk on two stages, as well as the usual festival draws of bars, food and stalls.
With more artists to be announced, the 24-strong bill already includes Madchester favourites Inspiral Carpets, Glastonbury rockers Reef, the Unbelievable EMF, Guy Chadwick’s House of Love, Wiltshire’s finest Jesus Jones, Terrorvision, who hit N0 2 with their hit Tequila, Irish rock band Therapy? and Black Country band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.
For aficionados of the 1980s, Joy Division and New Order bass player Peter Hook & The Light lead the way on Saturday with Sheffield synth-poppers Heaven 17, Clare Grogan and Altered Images, The Icicle Works – who had a top 20 UK hit with Love Is a Wonderful Colour – Scouse singer Pete Wylie and the Mighty Wah, and The Primitives, best known for their 1988 track Crash.
Friday night’s headliner Levellers formed in Brighton in 1988 and now consist of lead singer and guitarist Mark Chadwick, bass player Jeremy Cunningham, drummer Charlie Heather, violinist Jonathan Sevink, Mark Savage on keyboards and newly-rejoined guitarist Dan Donnelly.
Taking their name from the 17th-century political populist movement, the Levellers became one of the most popular indie bands of the 1990s and headlined at Glastonbury in 1994, where they performed on the Pyramid Stage to one of the largest crowds ever recorded at the festival.
They have released 12 albums, most notably their second long player Levelling the Land, and their best-selling single, Fifteen Years, reached No 11 in the charts in 1992, followed by a clutch of top 20 releases between 1993 and 1996.
Marc Almond will also appear on Friday night. He became a 1980s icon as lead singer of synth duo Soft Cell with long-term collaborator Dave Ball.
They topped the singles charts in 1981 with their version of Tainted Love and their debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, was a platinum seller.
In all, the band had 12 top 40 hits, including Bedsitter, Torch and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye plus four top 20 albums in the 1980s.
Almond’s musical success continued with off-shoot new wave band Marc and the Mambas and he has enjoyed a long and critically acclaimed solo career, including a collaboration with Gene Pitney, Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart, which topped the charts in 1989.
During his four decades in the spotlight, he has sold over 30 million records worldwide.
Glenn Tilbrook’s music and Chris Difford’s lyrics have been the driving force behind four decades of success for Saturday’s headliners Squeeze since their formation in March 1974.
Difford claims that he stole 50p from his mother’s purse to put a card in a sweetshop window to advertise for a guitarist to join his band, although he was not actually in one at the time. Tilbrook was the only person who responded to the ad.
They emerged from Deptford in south-east London as new wave stars at the end of the 1970s and their top 10 UK hits include Cool for Cats, Up the Junction and Labelled with Love.
Widely cited as a big influence by a host of big names, in September 2019 Squeeze were joined at the Louisville, Kentucky Bourbon & Beyond Festival by ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums, for a performance of their 1982 hit Black Coffee in Bed.
Bands that began their careers opening for Squeeze include U2, R.E.M., The Jam, The Specials, Dire Straits and XTC.
The current line-up is Tilbrook on lead guitar, keyboards and vocals, Difford on rhythm guitar and vocals, Stephen Large on keyboards, drummer Simon Hanson, former Dirty Vegas frontman Steve Smith on rhythm guitar, Melvin Duffy on pedal and lap steel guitars and bass player Owen Biddle.
As well as day and weekend tickets, the festival organisers have revamped their VIP offering. Premium tickets include meat, vegetarian and vegan barbecue food options, “posh” toilets, separate parking and a fast-track entrance, a heated marquee with table seating and soft furnishings, a welcome drink, a dedicated cocktail bar and waiter service, a guest DJ and an outside beer garden with stage view.
This year, for the first time, Sign of the Times is also offering VIP camping and glamping options in addition to regular pitches at the Church End site.
* For more details and to book, see signofthetimesfestival.co.uk.
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