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BIG MAC5 “Acoustic Stage”.. a look behind the scenes.


Once again the Acoustic Stage featured musicians giving live performances, and with RioMacRae featuring their own songs. It featured the two youngest singers around, Bryony Harrison and Katy MacAndrews; both are at the start of their musical careers and it was a pleasure to be able to showcase them. The day started with Tony Justice, who provided the speakers and amplification for our stage and John (Ponytail) Wallace (our sound engineer for the 3rd year running)being there by nine, while I was 20 mins later, due to the Bacon Baps provided by Linda Robinson. By being late all the speakers were already in place, so Linda and I then unloaded all the guitars, amps and backup equipment needed to support the acts during the day.


The stallholders, MAC Committee and supporters, were already there setting up, and they are a really cheerful lot as always, laying out their offerings and getting ready for the public. I love the music but the stallholders and helpers are some of the unsung heroes that makes it all work. The staff at the Chiringuito headed up by Manuel, were also busy getting ready and looking after us.


Fusion Charity Band (Alan Taylor - Vocals, Pam Taylor - Ukulele, Robert Blackburn - Ukulele , Michael Dawson - Cajon, Lesley Patrica Darling - Ukulele, and myself on bass) were first up and they were in by 10:30 to setup as they were using their own equipment. The weather was very good to us and the day was heating up nicely. Fusion did their 45 minutes set bang on schedule and had the audience joining in. This was their second year in being the first act on and their cheerful happy music always gets us off to a good start. The next act due on wasn’t available so we carried on for a longer set while John Wallace got RioMacRae setup. As the artists were playing live sets, the change overs were always going to be tight.


RioMacRae (Fred Smithers - Guitar & Vocals, Denise Smithers - Vocals, Jason Newton - Drums, John Bremer - Guitar/Mandolin) were fresh back from the West Coast as a Duo, where they had none less than the bass player from Sly and The Family Stone working with them, not to mention the Trent Blues Festival in 2018. Their set is mainly all their own songs, and what a pleasure to hear original music sung and played by talented musicians. Their Club Desierto is a FB group that you should follow if you like laid back original songwriting. While they were clearing the stage John was again getting the next artist Bryony Harrison mic’ed up for sound.


Bryony Harrison has an amazing voice and tonal range. I first came across her at a talent show last year where she was clearly the best in the show. We’ve seen her at another charity event last year where she gave another stunning performance, and an even better one this outing. There is bright future ahead for her and one to watch.


Next up were Pulse as a trio (John Wallace - Bass & Vocal, Pete Thom - Guitar & Vocals, Dennis Danzelam - Guitar & Vocals). We’ve been fans of Pulse for years and this was their 3rd appearance on the acoustic stage at the Big MAC. With Pete leading on vocals, and the others on harmony, it was a real pleasure to just sit back sand enjoy the music, except that I had to take over on the sound desk as John was playing Bass. We had a solo singer and two bands to follow but were dropping behind schedule so we opted to get Plan Bee and The Groove setup on stage ready for a soundcheck before bringing on Katy MacAndrew to have herself and her guitar mic’ed up for sound.


Katy McAndrew is just simply outstanding. She sings and plays guitar to an audience as though it’s the most natural thing for a 16 year old to do. She is very current, and is a recording and performing star in the making. We intend to be at her first solo concert, whenever and wherever that is. Another one to watch so will someone go book her please (after her exams)


Plan Bee and the Groove, or as Denis (Plan Bee) stated “The new Plan Bee and the Groove” kicked off with high energy, soul/funk and they just got better and better. As I was part of the old Plan Bee and the Groove, I can affirm that this new setup is just so so good and so much better. With Denis on Guitar and Vocals, Juan Carlos Parra Castelló on drums, Ian Henry on Bass and Paul Rawlins on Keyboard and Vocals, they have to be the best Soul/Funk/R&B band around … As John Wallace our sound engineer said afterwards .. “didn’t fancy being the ones to follow them”. Book Book Book.


Next up were The Blues Club … Herman Primus Guitar/Vocals, Colin Barnard Drums, Laurence McNally Bass/Vocals, Jon Stack Guitar/Voclas, Jeanne Wilson Saxaphone, Dustin Greenwood Keyboard, Tony Justice Vocals. We were tired and it was our 3rd gig of the week but we did what we always do .. we played the blues to an appreciative audience, then it was time to call it a day, pack away and load up all the equipment, and head off home.



So once again a big thanks to all who helped organise, setup, or provided food, drinks and support. Thanks to all the performers, who turned up, for giving so freely of their time and their talent and for being such nice people, and mainly to all who turned up to support such a worthwhile charity.

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