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The Ritchie Blackmore Convention


Saturday 23rd October 2004, The Limelight Club, Crewe, England

A Report by Mike Garrett

The Venue Described

The first-ever Ritchie Blackmore Convention (celebrating 40 years of a musical legend) was held in The Limelight Club (Crewe, England). Situated in the county of Cheshire, the venue Website www.crewe-limelight.co.uk describes the club as having: "…three floors, the Annex Bar and the brand new Music Cafe, wonderfully friendly atmosphere. From humble beginnings (with mainly tribute bands) the club is now one of the North's top venues".

When viewed from the outside, the club appears as a rather old, austere brick building. The arch windows at the front (and the overall appearance of the building) lead one to think that maybe the building was originally some form of Church? (Following a follow-up discussion with the Limelight Club management, I can confirm that the building was indeed a former Methodist Church that was closed in the late 60's or earlier 70's. It was then used as Snooker Hall in the 80's to 90's. The current Limelight Club management then took it over as a derelict ex-snooker club in early 1994 & managed to open November 30th 1994. Thanks for the information Ray!)

Attendees watching Blackmore videos © 2004 Mike GarrettAfter going up the entranceway steps and entering the club, my friends and I found our selves in a large bar area, with a pool table and a TV screen. Initially, it was a little confusing where the main musical activity of the venue was to be staged. The secret was to go into what looked like a "corner alcove" in the bar area and there a door could be found that one went through and descended down the stairs to the lower level (which may have been a former large basement or crypt area?)

At the immediate bottom of the stairs, were the toilets plus a small basement café area that served food for most of the day. One could continue up the corridor from the café; this went up, via a few steps, to another bar area (effectively bringing the visitor back up to street level). Alternatively, instead of going along the corridor, one could simply stand at the bottom of the stairs and choose to go either into the café or go through the right-hand door into the main room where the convention was being held.

This larger room had a stage dominating one end of the room (the end nearest to the entrance door just described). Facing the stage was a wooden floor area that was in turn flanked by raised areas. Both raised areas had a wooden banister running around them, with tables and chairs on the raised areas. Behind the wooden floor area (which had tables and chairs on part of it, the half furthest away from the stage), was a bar area, raised to just a slightly higher level area, than the two other raised flanking areas just described. In regards to the two "back corners" of the room, one had tables and chairs in it, the other had a doorway which led to the upper part of the corridor (mentioned earlier). The walls of this large event room where covered in posters, advertising bands.

The Afternoon Events - A Personal Perspective (1pm - 5.30pm)

For the purpose of the afternoon event, a large (16 feet across) video screen was temporarily suspended at the front of the stage. This was to facilitate the reviewing of rare Blackmore-related film footage.

Whilst the films were being reviewed, a number of trade stalls were attracting interest. Jerry Bloom's MBTP stall was in one of the back corners of the room; CDs on the table with tee shirts and posters hung on the wall behind it. A special thank you must go to Shelley and
Joy (with matching red tee shirts and bleached blonde-hair!) who worked hard on the stall for a lot of the day! On each of the two raised spectator-areas, there could be found another stall. One was a DVD stall; the other stall was selling vinyl albums. Some were rarities but apart from the foreign-language album covers, I had everything else!

Jessie Haynes & band © 2004 Mike GarrettIn terms of fans trying to get to the stalls, it tended to appear to be a little bit crammed-in, in regards to space. There were about 150 fans in attendance during the daytime (but this number increased to 200 during the evening). A little bit of patience in waiting for one's turn was thus required but ultimately, everyone still had enough time to see and buy whatever they wanted. The slight limitation in available space was obviously dictated by Jerry's need (as convention organiser) to get everything fitted into the one room; a necessity that no one can begrudge him for. They should offer him and his organisation team (Neil, Alan etc) much praise instead!

There was also originally intended to be two competitions. No one entered the "Ritchie Blackmore Air Guitar Impression" competition (what a shame!) but the caption competition had many entries. The picture showed Candice squeezing Ritchie's cheeks. The winning caption read: "Are you turning purple yet?"

During the afternoon, there was also a break in the activities already outlined so that a "Questions and Answer session", could be chaired by Rob Fodder, who had been Ritchie's Personal Assistant on tour for a number of years. The start of this session unfortunately (from my point of view) coincided with my friends and I having meals upstairs, as I intended "to go into amateur journalist mode" after that. Thus I missed some of Rob's contributions but I did manage to hear a couple of the more important questions. One was concerning Ritchie throwing water over an on-stage cameraman, at Birmingham NEC in 1993 (and I myself was present in the audience at that gig!). Rob's reply echoes what he has previously written in MBTP magazine. Essentially, Ritchie had not agreed to the on-stage camera and even though he had been promised it would not be there, each time he tried to go on stage, he found that it still had not been removed. This was why he arrived on stage late, very upset and threw the water at the cameraman. Rob emphasised that the water was aimed at the cameraman only and was not intended to hit any band member on stage, even though it might have done by accident. Rob mentioned that Ritchie ran behind the back of the stage and got the cameraman with another bucket of water just before Black Night started!

Another question was in regards to Joe Lynn Turner in Deep Purple. Rob outlined a well-known story, in which Ritchie supported Joe but the other members wanted Ian Gillan back in the band. Rob's additional comments went something on the lines of the following: "Joe Lynn Turner understood the immense pressure there was to re-instate Ian Gillan. He was thus quite willing to stand aside".

I would also like to thank Richard Gillitt who emailed me this additional comment regarding Rob Fodder's talk. "Too many stories to mention but one about Ritchie and Thomas (from the Geyers) ‘discussing’ ‘Smoke on the Water’ at great length; ending with the guitarist admitting that, it may not be the most complicated of riffs but it’s made me a lot of money’ (or words to that effect); stuck in the memory. Many of the stories centred around the explosive rivalry between a certain guitarist and vocalist!"

Jessie Haynes – Cowgirls, Castles and Rainbow Eyes - An Interview and Review

Though I have been a fan of Blackmore’s Night since the outset of the project, I have never actually seen them in concert with JessieJessie Haynes © 2004 Mike Garrett Haynes (except for the Live in Germany video). On that video, Jessie comes across as a very friendly and sincere person; loving the music that she helps to create and play; and valuing the friendships that she makes with her fellow musicians.

When it was announced that Jessie Haynes & Cowgirl Ecstasy would play at The Ritchie Blackmore convention (23rd October 2004), other fans and myself, realised that here was a chance to make up for those earlier missed opportunities and also catch up with what her latest musical project.

The band took to the stage at 5.30pm and consisted of Jessie Haynes (vocals & guitars), Trina Michne (guitars), Alex Sarkis (drums) and Susan Collins (bass). The song set list was: Prophecy, A Girl, Another Match, I Don’t Wanna Know, Dracula, I Know, Arizona, Selling Roses, Castles & Dreams, Temple of the King and Rainbow Eyes.

Perhaps not surprisingly (considering Jessie’s former musical influences), Cowgirl Ecstasy present a very gentle acoustic style of music; creating a very relaxed atmosphere amongst its audience. Four tracks (Prophecy, A Girl, Arizona and Selling Roses) appeared on the "Jessie Haynes & Cowgirl Ecstasy – Limited Edition Compilation" CD that was being sold on Jerry Bloom’s MBTP stall.

After playing her own material, Jessie then performed a version of Castles & Dreams that some members of the audience gently sang along to. The song Temple of the King featured Jessie playing electric guitar. Finally, dedicated to Neil Davies (MBTP), the song Rainbow Eyes was performed; it was obviously under rehearsed but Neil Davies appeared "moved" all the same and it was certainly appreciated as an unexpected surprise.

In between songs, Jessie entertained the audience with a few anecdotes. She thanked Rob Fodder for the loan of guitars to Trina and herself (as it was too expensive to bring their own from the U.S.A. due to the high charges made by American Airlines!)

Jessie recounted how Trina, Susan and herself had been in an all-girl band when she first met Ritchie, Candice & co. Jessie was then in Blackmore’s Night during the "Shadow of the Moon" and "Under a Violet Moon" tours. She told the audience that during the early Blackmore’s Night rehearsals, each song was played in many different ways in order to work out which was the best and then recorded at the end of same day.

Jessie & Mike © 2004 Mike GarrettSince the end of the "Under A Violet Moon" tour, Jessie has stayed in contact with Candice but the two never had time to get together until recently when Ritchie & Candice invited Jessie to a down town pub in New York. Ritchie had several tables put together, so that everyone could sit around them as one large group. Guitars were then produced and much singing and drinking then ensued!

When Jessie’s Convention performance came to an end, quite a few fans (myself included) went to the front of the stage to get autographs from each band member and also to be photographed stood next to Jessie. The rest of the band members were also overwhelmed by their sudden rise in popularity! Some fans that had not bought Jessie’s CD before the performance, hastily rushed to buy a copy from the MBTP stall, in order to get Jessie to sign it before she disappeared.

A little later, I was privileged to be able to interview Jessie for about half an hour (albeit hastily improvised in the Limelight Club’s downstairs café!) I asked if Jessie’s band were playing any more dates in the UK. The answer was "No"; they had flown over especially to perform at the Convention (as a special favour to Jerry Bloom) and were due to fly back to the U.S.A. the next day.

I explained to Jessie that I was researching with a view to writing an article on Blackmore’s Night stage scenery and costumes. We thus talked about costumes from Jessie’s perspective.

Jessie said that she liked to dress as a gypsy. She preferred very bright colours, with very flowing skirts. I mentioned the white top she sometimes wore on the Live in Germany video. She explained that her grandmother made that particular garment for her. Jessie also had other medieval blouses, in white, green or black.

Jessie Haynes & band © 2004 Mike GarrettJessie explained that Candice had bought several dresses at Renaissance Fairs. Apparently, these can be of a one-size-fits–all type. By purchasing a black bodice (from the Gothic clothing store "Hot Topic" in New York), Jessie was able to "pull-in" the excess material, either on her own dress or on one that she might be borrowing from Candice. Jessie also pointed out that she and Candice had often temporarily swapped various items of costume for the purpose of film shots.

Another source of costume supply that Jessie had used was Medieval Mayhem, as she regarded some of their clothes as "beautiful". Jessie had also made a few costume items herself or in the case of some dresses, had modified them from off-the-rack items to give them "jagged edges" to resemble a Witch’s Dress look.

A particular favourite item that Jessie mentioned was a red and black necklace that also had a half moon and bat on it. This was a special gift from Candice; presented during the band's very first tour. Jessie also added: "I've seen them give gifts to lots of new members... they are very generous that way!" I asked Jessie about her choice of medieval shoes. She explained that though she had worn footwear, a lot of the time, she had preferred to perform barefoot! In contrast, Candice had a large selection of tall suede boots, in different colours. (That was in 1998; Candice’s wardrobe has expanded considerably since then!)

Jessie said that she still wore her medieval costumes, usually when attending a Blackmore’s Night concert as a member of the audience. She summarised her time with Blackmore’s Night as "The best of both worlds; pretending you are medieval but still having electricity and bathrooms".

A Final Thank You

I would like to thank the band members of all the bands featured, who kindly gave me information regarding their music and their contributions to the Ritchie Blackmore Convention. I would also like to acknowledge the support given to me by Jerry Bloom, Richard Gillitt, Rob Fodder and Ray (at the Limelight Club!)

Mike Garrett

This article was published in co-operation with: "Black Knight - The Journal of Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire (ENGLAND)"
C/o Mike Garrett, Email: black-knight@tiscali.co.uk


Ritchie Blackmore Convention


A report by Kevin Dixon

Crewe is not the most attractive of North English towns; however the Limelight Club enjoys the reputation as one of the top rock venues in England. The first ever Ritchie Blackmore convention was held there on Saturday 22nd October 2004.

Jessie Haynes © 2004 Kevin DixonThe day was divided into two separate sets, with the afternoon devoted to rare videos, question and answers sessions and the first UK appearance of former Blackmore's Night member Jessie Haynes. The evening set being set aside to accommodate two of the best Blackmore covers bands namely Burn and Rainbow Rising.

More Black Than Purple editor Jerry Bloom was master of ceremonies for the event. Following a rare showing of Blackmore's Night in Sofia 1998, we had his introduction to the event, making us all feel very welcome indeed. The afternoon session was a lot fuller that I had expected, and we were soon enjoying Rainbow from Castle Donington.

Of course the inevitable technical gremlins appeared, but were dealt with quickly in good humour, and the show carried on. The organisers had certainly provided enough for us to watch, and if that was not enough we soon had a question and answer session with Rob Fodder. Rob was of course Ritchie's personal assistant for many years, through Deep Purple, Rainbow and Blackmore's Night. His answers were very informative and often very amusing.

Following a short break to allow a sound check, Jerry announced the arrival on stage of the first band of the day. Jessie Haynes and Cowgirl Ecstasy.

Jessie Haynes & Cowgirl EcstasyJessie Haynes © 2004 Kevin Dixon

Prophecy, A Girl, Another Match, I Don't Wanna Know, Dracula, I Know, Arizona, Selling Roses, Castles & Dreams, Temple of the King, Rainbow Eyes.

It was really good to see Jessie and her band make such an effort for the convention. They played a selection of their own material and some Blackmore related covers. Their own material was generously appreciated by the afternoon crowd. Despite the late set up and technical gremlins, the band played really well. The cover of Castles and Dreams was great, highlighting Jessie’s vocal purity, despite her sore throat. Temple of the King allowed Jessie a chance to play lead electric guitar. Sadly the cover of Rainbow Eyes was not so good, with Jessie having to sing in a key lower than she seemed comfortable with. I guess this might be why Blackmore's Night has never done the song. Overall the band went down really well. They were certainly pleasant company over the weekend, and gave their time to anyone and everyone without any complaints.

Burn

Stormbringer, Strange Kind of Woman, Woman from Tokyo, When a Blind Man Cries, Burn, Mistreated, Long Train Running (incorporating Child in Time & Knocking at Your Back Door as brief instrumental sequences), Space Trucking, Black Night, Highway Star and Smoke on the Water (of course!)

Three piece band, and at times the lack of Keyboards showed. The set started really well, with a great version of Stormbringer. The guitarist really captured Ritchie's technique, and despite playing songs from different eras, he also retained the tone suitable for each song. I was really impressed by the band. They worked really hard and the enthusiasm helped them to overcome the sometimes weak sound. The cover of the Doobie Brothers song was really clever, and the interpolating was really well done. Knocking at your Back Door was probably the highlight of the set for me. They closed with a well received version of Smoke. Thoroughly enjoyable set from the band, one that I really enjoyed and that seemed to go down well with the crowd.

Rainbow Rising

Kill the King, Miss Mistreated, 16th Century Greensleeves, Do You Close Your Eyes, Catch The Rainbow, Still I'm Sad, Man on the Silver Mountain, Since You Been Gone, I Surrender, All Night Long, Black Night, Stargazer. Encores: Difficult to Cure, Long Live Rock n' Roll & Smoke on the Water.

Jessie Haynes © 2004 Kevin DixonWell the guitarist certainly looked like Ritchie, had all the right moves and gestures, but the sound wasn't quite right all the time. Certain songs worked really well, other did not. The rest of the band was certainly working hard, and the crowd really enjoyed them. However I did not enjoy them as much as I had Burn. To me they seemed to try too hard during some numbers, and at times they looked like a band who had rehearsed all the spontaneity out of their obvious ability to play the music. It lacked that edge of uncertainty which you get with Ritchie live. However despite my doubts about the band, it has to be said they played what they played well. Catch the Rainbow was very good indeed, and the long version of Man on the Silver Mountain, including the Blues and Starstruck, was fun. The guitar demolition and amp explosion was fun to watch, but to me a bit pointless. The amusing version of Smoke resplendent with the Convention organisers onstage certainly gave the convention a really wonderful end. The sight of Jerry waving the broken guitar was hilarious.

So was it all worthwhile, well it was certainly well organized and the venue was well suited to the conventions needs. Everyone seemed to have a great time. The only downside for me was trying to find a taxi after the event, getting one and having to let it go as Mr. Fodder did his good Samaritan routine and helped out a lady in distress. We then had a long 20-minute walk back, just making it in time for the bar.

My thanks to Jerry, Alan and all at MBTP, Jessie Haynes and band, Rob and Anihoa, Richard for coming all that way for three hours, Richard and Splodge, Costas and his wife and finally Callum for the company on the road.

Kevin Dixon


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