Bedlam Breakout is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the psychobilly calendar. Not just because it was the UK’s first psychobilly weekender since the Hemsby Big Rumbles, or because it has a great mix of established headliners playing alongside the best of the new breed, but it also gives a welcome break to bands that are just starting out.
Put the kettle on and settle down with a cuppa while I fill you in on the past, present and future of Bedlam Breakout Psychobilly Festival, and catch up with founder crew member Tobe “Bedlam” Wright.
BEDLAM BREAKOUT PSYCHOBILLY FESTIVAL
You can’t help but notice the friendly and easy-going atmosphere at these bi-annual events, where you get the chance to meet up with mates from all corners of the UK with increasing numbers now attending from Europe and beyond.
Its success cannot be wholly due to atmosphere and line-up alone. Without the sheer
hard work and effort put in from the “Bedlam Crew” who all do it “for the love of the scene” with no financial gain. They are all gig-going billies who work their butts off, not only during these two weekends but tirelessly help advertise bands and all the other psychobilly gigs going on up and down the country throughout the year. So credit where credit’s due, it’s hardly surprising that people are keen to support them.
THE BIRTH OF BEDLAM BREAKOUT PSYCHOBILLY FESTIVALS
“Bedlam Breakout” started out right back in 1992 under the moniker “Jack the Kipper presents”. Tobe, who’d been attending psychobilly gigs for almost a decade himself, decided to have a go and put on a few gigs at the Racehorse Pub in his hometown of Northampton, with bands such as Frantic Flintstones, Demented are Go, Long Tall Texans, Thee Waltons, etc.
Within a couple of years, the UK scene had dwindled to a glowing ember from that firey torch that it had once been in the heyday of the 80s. Only The Charlotte and the Hemsby Rumbles were putting on big events, so after the 6th Big Rumble Tobe and his wife Ju joined forces with a small team (Steve and Al) and put on “Bedlam Breakout Part One” to try and get things going again.
It was held in August 1996 at The Irish Centre, Northampton, and boasted an 8 band line-up that was headlined by Mad Sin and Demented are Go.
“Part Two” followed the year after with Godless Wicked Creeps from Denmark with none other than The Sharks, Skitzo and The Hangmen amongst the line-up. Sadly this was very poorly attended by the Brits, and having lost a shed load of money, the team had no option but to call it a day.
They still carried on going to what few gigs there were in England, but family life took a hold, and it wasn’t until the new millennium when (after an afternoon spent with too many jugs of Sangria in Calella) Tobe, Pip, and Alex were “encouraged” that it would be a really good idea to put on another Bedlam Breakout. Well, of course, everything seems like a good idea when you’re surrounded by sun, sea, and sand! Thankfully for us, the seed was sown, and plans were afoot once they landed back on English soil.
BEDLAM BREAKOUT – THE PSYCHOBILLY RESURRECTION
In April 2007 (along with a few more merry men on board) they brought us “Bedlam Breakout Part Three” an all-dayer at The Soundhaus, Northampton, followed by Part Four a few months later.
The internet clearly helped with advertising the events, but these guys were out at gigs all the time to hand out flyers, and being the likeable cheeky chappies they are, other folks were more than happy to help spread the word in their neck of the woods too. By “Part Five” in March 2008, numbers had increased and the all-dayers were attracting punters from all over the UK and abroad, so the guys started to put on a little pre-gig shindig for those travelling in the night before.
That clearly opened up the doors for Bedlam Breakout to develop into a weekender showcasing a minimum of 18 bands and aftershow parties. It has been held at The Roadmender since “Part Six” which is a good sized venue that is close to hotels and food outlets, has great sound and lighting, a separate bar, loads of merch stalls, and a roof-top smoking area.
BEDLAM BREAKOUT PRESENT
I caught up with Tobe shortly after Bedlam Breakout 26 in September 2018 which was also the home for Western Star’s 15th birthday party. I asked him to clear up confusion over the current format for the weekenders. Is it a two day or a three day festival?
Tobe: “September’s festival was only a two-day event purely because of some huge changes behind the scenes at Bedlam. Phil ran the merchandise side of things almost single-handedly and had to pass this over to myself due to some serious health issues (which thankfully he’s making a great recovery from).
This meant that I had to have a purpose-built storage unit ( the shed of doom !) made and then I had to build it all, kit it out with insulation, board it out, have electricity put in for lighting/heating etc. This all took it’s time to do which meant nearly 3 months of the shop not being up and running!
So it was really for my own sanity to drop a day off of that festival. I had the pressure of the above, concerns for Phil and family, and to top it off, I also had to learn from scratch how the hell to run a mail order shop, of course with Phil’s input and guidance, which he continues to do.
BEDLAM BREAKOUT CREW
This huge event can’t be handled by one man alone and there is a large crew that play their part in the festival and organisation behind the scenes.
Tobe: “Myself and Phil Benson (Potbelly) run the shop side of things and do the majority of band booking’s, as well as the obvious working at the festivals, but all crew put in ideas for bands to look into and will gather prices from various bands they speak to etc. All the guys advertise the shop page and push that side of things throughout the year.
Tigz organises the food side of things at the festival and keeps the bands more than well watered!
Andy is stage manager now.
Tiny, Chris S and Andree run backstage security with Chris Setzer and Peter doing DJ duties in between. Andree lives out in Germany and deals with any bands from out that way as well as scouting for bands to potentially bring over to the festival, and he keeps the crew fuelled up with Mead!
Peter runs our website stuff and all technical things for us with ticketing etc.
Phil Carey helps Sue on the weekends running the merch stalls.
Phil C, Chris S & Chris Martin now run the mailing lists which has taken a huge burden off of my shoulders.
Tiny runs his radio show weekly and pushes the festival a lot on that.
Chris M has recently joined us following a few years of supporting us with guitar loans to the bands and has been a great addition.
As has the addition of Stu Roland who ran stage at the last festival with Scott McCabe seamlessly as Andy was unable to make it.
So as ya can see, all involved have various roles but also do lots of other things. Tbh it’s chaos really but it works pretty well!”
BEDLAM BREAKOUT PSYCHOBILLY FUTURE
So that leaves us to delve into the future. Although the internet is great for so many things, including gig promotion, it also opens up to the old rumour mill. I believe in going straight to the source to find out what’s really going on, so I asked Tobe to fill us in on the future of Beldam Breakout and the psychobilly scene in general.
Tobe: “Now there’s a question Jo! We need as many people as possible to help with advertising gigs for starters This will get the genre back out there in the face of anything underground. I think a lot of people who put on gigs etc. now rely on the internet too much Ya still need to do the groundwork of getting to gigs and dishing out fliers IMO!
I can see it slowly getting more younger people into it but not as many as it deserves. With bands like the Graveyard Johnnys, Zipheads, Knocksville etc., who don’t play purely to psycho crowds, they keep bringing in new interest to the scene.
The old problem of supposed “alternative” music media ignoring the psycho scene is still a big problem, tho I must praise our local area’s press and radio stations for their interest and help with each festival. In general, it’s ignored by the press sadly, so it carries on as a DIY thing. At some point, we will get someone in the music business to take notice of it again!
Regards Bedlams future plans? We will keep doing them as long as people keep coming, it’s as simple as that! Bands we’d like to see at Bedlam, bands that want to play it, not bands that want stupid amounts of money, or even bands that totally ignore emails/calls left when trying to book them. They are the bands that are happy to take psychobilly’s money but then ignore the scene itself. So bollocks to bands like that ( no I won’t name and shame..but it’s happened!)”
BEDLAM BREAKOUT THANKS
Bedlam wants to say thanks to everyone that not only helps us out during the year with fliers/postering etc. , but to those that offer help, give up their time over the festival weekends to help in all sorts of ways. It really IS appreciated. To all the record labels, bands that we deal with throughout the years, a special mention to Alan Wilson who has given advice and friendship as has Dell from Fury, both are inspirations to us. We have had people knock us too sadly. But people, in general, know what we are about and that we only do the Bedlam thing because we have a passion for it. It’s not to be known or recognised. We do it because it’s in the blood!
On a personal level, I’d like to thank my wife Ju, who has been long suffering over the years but has always been supportive of what I do regards Bedlam. She knows it’s a huge part of my life and understands why I do it. She’s the love of my life whom I met through the psycho scene, had my daughter with and basically saved my life, literally! So in one respect, I feel that I owe psychobilly!
Big love to all the Bedlam crew “family” and all Bedlamites for supporting what we try to do. Thanks to you and D for all you do for Bedlam, and the scene in general, singing from the same hymn sheet I think is the phrase!“
You can find more info about Bedlam Breakout on their website and their Facebook Page. Be sure to check out the Bedlam Breakout Shop too, where they sell psychobilly and rockabilly CDs, Vinyl, merch for the festival and other bands. All profits going straight back into the festival.
You can find current UK psychobilly gigs and festival listings on my other webpage UK Psychobilly Gig Guide and you can also add or follow me at my UK Psychobilly Gig Profile where I share posts from all the pages that I run.
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