A Bedlam Breakout at Northampton Roadmender

Posted 14th March 2024

What started in our local pubs more than 25 years ago, has grown and evolved into the UK’s premier festival for fans of psychobilly. As the 2024 instalment of Bedlam Breakout prepares to go live at the Northampton Roadmender, festival founder Tobe Wright spoke with Pulse’s Sammy Jones about his passion for the sounds…

“The scene was pretty hit and miss in the mid-noughties so we decided to do something to keep it going,” Tobe said, recalling the idea to put on a series of shows at the Racehorse.

Plenty has changed since those days; the venue still exists, but has been spruced and relaunched as The Black Prince, of course, and what started as the occasional live show is now a full-on weekender hosted at The Roadmender.

Bedlam is all about the psychobilly, rockabilly and garage sounds, and Tobe’s ears were tempted by the genre while he was at school.

“I was mainly into punk, but a rockabilly friend played me an album by the Meteors, I think in around 1981. Within a couple of years I had drifted away from the punk stuff and the psychobilly scene had taken over my main love for music…”

So revered is the Bedlam bash that people arrive via planes, trains and automobiles, travelling from around the world to enjoy the event. How does that feel?
“Great,” is the obvious answer, “When we see how much fun people are having, it’s a reminder of why we do it all. Personally, I find it slightly awkward that people know me, as I am a quiet person who likes to sink into the background, but I do feel a great sense of pride in what we have achieved and it’s a small cross to bear if it means this underground music scene keeps going because of the graft we put into it.”

Perhaps the continued success of Bedlam is that its creators are passionate music fans themselves. This isn’t about making a quick buck, but supporting the scene. It’s about a community of like minded music lovers indulging those passions. Tobe met his wife through the scene and his social network has been enriched by the friends he has made over the years through Bedlam.

While the festival has a hardcore contingency who book their hotel stay even before the line-up has been announced, newcomers join the party year on year. And there’s lots for the taking.

“The Friday night is a great mixture of styles and we tend to have a big name rockabilly band headline, but the main two days of the festival have bands from around the world, psychobilly being the mainstay, but we mix in some rockabilly bands and some great garage punk too.

“We promote the newer bands on the scene to get them noticed, and some of the smaller bands from abroad to give UK fans a chance to see what other countries have to offer.”

Bedlam attendees will need more than just beer money though, with a range of stalls selling all kinds of merchandise across the weekend; from 50s homeware and t-shirts, to jewellery and handbags, and that’s aside from all of the Bedlam merch and music that is sold at the events and online throughout the year, to help fund the event.

Oh, and after you’ve enjoyed the music, what could be better than enjoying some more? “After each day at the Roadmender, we host after show parties at The Bear and have bands playing there until the early hours. It is only accessible once the doors close at The Roadmender and you must be a wristband wearer, so it keeps our crowd together and is a free bonus for them.”

Trying to organise this beast of an event is an all-year round job, and so the bash which used to be held twice yearly has been streamlined to one big weekend. It makes things more manageable for the team of 10 responsible for staging it. No-one who has ever juggled the many responsibilities of running an event like this would begrudge them the change. There is always so much to do: from sniffing out new bands, to running the website, and advertising. And let’s not start on the event days themselves. Like we said earlier, it’s a labour of love.

“We’re like one big happy family… most of the time,” Tobe says with a laugh. This year’s offering will be an emotional one though, due to the recent loss of one of the crew members and a best friend to many, Steve Buckland, known to many as Tiny, but Bedlam will also serve as the perfect place to celebrate his life. And music-wise, things are shaping up just fine.

“We have a fantastic range of old and new bands, including Spunny Boys who headline on Friday, and Mad Sin from Germany are one of the biggest psychobilly names from mainland Europe. They will headline on the Saturday with Irish bands Spellbound and the Klingonz.

“Guana Batz headline the Sunday night and have been rocking since the early days, with main support from French psychobilly band the Astro Zombies.
“It’s such a varied festival, with bands from Finland, France, Germany and Holland playing over the weekend. If you like anything from rockabilly to punk, psychobilly to garage trash, you’ll find it all at the Bedlam weekender, with top DJs playing too.”

‘It’s a knees-up that adds a splash of colour to Northampton on a cold March weekend,’ the event blurb says, ‘An energy crackles the air as beer flows, old comrades catch up and new friendships are forged…and that’s even before a note’s been played!’

It sounds mighty friendly, and it is just that, assures its founder. “I would say to any newcomer, ‘Even if you come on your own, it won’t be long before you get talking and drinking with people. It is a non-judgemental festival, and very welcoming. All we ask is that any attitudes are left at home. Come on in and enjoy the madness of it all!” Tobe invited.

“At the end of the day we are all gig goers, we are just daft enough to organise a big party for the crowd to come to. If we weren’t doing it, we’d be going to it as punters!”

To book tickets for Bedlam Breakout on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 click to bedlambreakout.com

Want to attend the Friday night warm-up? Purchase tickets on the door at The Roadmender.
Please not that advance ticket sales close a week before the festival.

Who’s on, when:
Friday, March 15

The Spunnyboys
The Highliners
The Raggy Ass Boys
Henry & The Bleeders
Cavegirl & the Neandergals

Live at The Bear:
The Backwoods 3
The Teenage Zombies

Saturday, March 16:

Mad Sin
The Nut Jumpers
The HyperJax
The Zipheads
Octopus King
Flatline Rockers
The Memphis Invaders

Live at The Bear:
The McCurdy Brothers

Sunday, March 17:

Guana Batz
Astro Zombies
The Sabrejets
The Pharaohs
The Scarecrows Aka
Frantic Vermin
The Drugstore Cowboys
Thee Creepfreaks
Jack O’ Bones

Live at The Bear:
The Resurrection Machine
Planet Strange