On the sunny morning of June 14 I got chatting to a couple of Rockabilly fans who were staying at Pontins Camber Sands for the Rockabilly Rave festival and thought I’d take a look.
I’d been told that Pontins camp is transformed to Rockabillyland for this festival. Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, dating back to the early 1950s in the United States, especially the South. As a genre it blends the sound of Western musical styles such as country with that of rhythm and blues, leading to what is considered “classic” rock and roll. It has a specialised following known for their 1950s fashions and appearance.
By mid-afternoon Pontins camp looked very busy and in the main hall there was a fun atmosphere of everybody ready to enjoy themselves and a long queue at reception snaked across the foyer. Cheerful greetings were being exchanged where old acquaintances were rekindled, many in broken English as different nationalities had come far and wide to this event.
There was a large arena filled with vintage and retro stalls supplying everything you need for the essential look of Rockabilly, with sharp stylish 50s fashions and ladies hair and make-up hot and haute enough to rock the world.
There are few places that you will see more denim than at the Rockabilly Rave. Apparently your status is not designated by the turn-up on your jeans despite the popular myth. Or whether you have Levis versus Prisn Blu’s (or in my case Hell Bunny), it makes no difference. I heard the dissenting voice of a supposed rocker, lamenting the appearance of the guys and girls on the Rockabilly scene as looking like engineers or mechanics.
That may well be the daytime look, but towards evening there were some very sharp looks indeed. For many of the guys it’s vintage gaberdine or rayon shirts, Western or Hawaiian style. These go with peg trousers that have creases sharp enough to give a paper cut. There was tremendous attention to detail both in clothing and (for those fortunate enough to have it) hair. The grease, pomade or gel to hold it, glistened in the sunshine or the lights in the hall. The ladies’ hair was fabulously styled often with flowers or ornaments.
The ladies in their skirts, wide-leg trousers, playsuits, Hawaiian outfits and dresses had clearly spent many hours perfecting their look. With onsite hairdressers for both men and women, the carefully coiffured look was within reach of many.
There was an atmosphere of excited anticipation as I admired the rows of classic cars parked outside the main hall. They formed a display that would have classic-car petrol heads tripping over their tongues in admiration.
The Rockabilly Rave celebrated its 23rd anniversary this time. Certainly there is a special atmosphere among the attendees so that when they attend Pontins camp for this event they know it’s something special. The music is fantastic, the dancing brilliant and for those who really appreciate it, it’s Rockabilly heaven, and possibly the closest some are likely to get to heaven!
Image Credits: Mags Ivatt.