What’s the best thing about Hastings? Why, Fat Tuesday’s Unplugged Saturday! What could be better than rolling from pub to pub to see 20 minute sets from some of the best musicians Hastings can offer? In the cold and driving rain.

Anyway. You have various options.

You can stay in the same pub all day and if you don’t care for the performer, just like a bus there’ll be another one along in a minute. Or you can choose your itinerary and get a drink in each of the 28 participating venues. Or even follow the same band around all afternoon and get completely rat-arsed! It’s a great afternoon despite the weather.

In the London Trader we discovered The Haystingers, a 5 piece band led by legendary Funkin’ Barstewards guitarist Keith Osborn, now playing banjo, and featuring Jason Wilson on double bass (off of James Hunter no less). Pocket hillbilly Keith in his purple satin shirt, has put together an authentic foot tapping seaside Americana sound. The Haystingers sing about trains mostly. They do have other songs but they are also about trains. We loved them.

Trudging through the snow to The Anchor we caught Hannah Bradbeer, a previous X Factor on-the-telly contestant who apparently just managed to avoid going on the ‘live shows’ by allegedly not being good enough. Well she seemed good enough to us! Fancy another G&T?

It’s still freezing and raining but we managed to make it to The Albion where the heating appeared to be off and saw a bit of Gavin Martin the revered ex-NME journalist, reciting over loud backing tracks. The combination of lots of people shouting at each other and Gavin’s Belfast accent (which always reminds me of the government’s ridiculous muting of Gerry Adams’ voice last century) got the better of me. And it was cold. So reluctantly, we left.

Another G&T? Ok, lets go to Seed (see what I did there?) because we can see a fire outside! Inside was Luvia, a doll-faced singer songwriter who’s probably still at school, and sounded a bit Kate Bushy but without the weirdness (not sure if that’s a pro or a con). Very enjoyable.

Personally, the stars of Saturday were The Shady Pines. A choir of ten sparkly (not shady) beauties led by the multi talented musician Rebecca Byrne. We saw them in the Dragon Bar and it was a bit of a squash what with people helpfully bringing pushchairs
into this small space, but we just managed to lift our G & T’s in time to their mellifluous singing. What a delight they were.

It’s impossible to see every act participating in Hastings’ Mardi Gras and sadly the freezing rain was a factor in deciding whether we could walk from the Albion to the Crown (no). Acts I wish I could have seen were, the United Stoats of America (great name) and Chantelle Duncan, whose 5-star debut album I reviewed in this paper last month. I hope you saw them. If not there’s always next year. Another G&T? Oh go on then!

To see the full flamboyancy of this great five day festival, check out all the photos here


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