'Mr. Festival' finds the blues
Article by John Anson, Lancashire Evening News
You get your first clue
when you drive up to Chris Powers' home. After all, only a true music
lover would name their house after the
Booker T and the MGs song Green
Onions! Then when you step inside you realize that the man who has resided over
countless festivals round the country is passionate about the blues.
Signed album covers line the halls, in the corner there is a Fifties'
jukebox and going up the stairs are photographs of music legends, many
with personalised dedications.
Anyone who has attended festivals at either Burnley or Colne will know
Chris Powers. His lively personality and even more extravagant dress
sense have made him a cult figure. You suspect as many people go along
to see what he will be wearing as to watch the artists themselves.
"This year there are 25 acts on the main stage during the festival,"
said Chris. "I've got a different outfit to introduce each me of them.
"There's some real bobbydazzlers among them, I can tell
Chris starts planning his wardrobe months in advance. He does rough
sketches and then has the suits specially made for him - in the Gambia!
"We go on holiday every year and I have a tailor there who will knock
suits up to my design. "Let's put it this way, I don't think you'd find
me going out in the street in some of my stage clothes."
Chris makes the art of MC-ing look easy but he's an absolute
professional when it comes to preparation.
"I actually keep a record of what outfit I wore and when so that I don't
wear the same thing twice," he said.
"The audience is not there to see me waffle on, I'm just the link
between the artists and the audience," he said. "I think it's important
to build up a good relationship with the audience".
"Although I may only appear on stage for a couple of minutes at a time,
I'm really working all the time".
"I act as an unofficial stage manager and try and keep things to time.
Musicians would play for ever if you let them".
"I also meet every artist beforehand and ask them if there's anything
special that they want me to say".
"I work to the motto that continuity is only noticed when it's not
there. The acts are the stars of the show and I'm just there to help
things run smoothly". Blues and soul have always been part of Chris's
life. Growing up around Rochdale, where he still lives, he initially
thought about being in a band.
"I stuck a gob iron (harmonica) in my mouth and shouted a bit," he said,
"but I soon realised I wasn't talented enough."
From there he went on to become an in-demand DJ with his extensive
record collection and in-depth knowledge. This led to the opportunity to
work at the Colne festival and this is turn led to him becoming the
official MC, a role he has undertaken for over 10 years. Chris also
takes charge at other festivals and at special soul and blues weekends.
"For a fan like me to get the chance to meet these artists is magic," he
said. "Many of them are my heroes, they are legends at what they do and
I do still get goosebumps."