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Past Times

Status Quo in Montrose: Denim, dancing and drinks at magical MoFest

The denim-clad legions headbanged and rocked like teenagers from the moment guitarist Rick Parfitt launched into the familiar chords of opening song Caroline. reports.
Graeme Strachan
Were you there when Status Quo rocked the Mo back in 2014? Image: DC Thomson.
Were you there when Status Quo rocked the Mo back in 2014? Image: DC Thomson.

Montrose East Links became a sea of swaying denim when rock legends Status Quo heralded an explosion of air-guitar joy on May 23 2014.

The denim-clad legions headbanged and rocked like teenagers from the moment guitarist Rick Parfitt launched into the familiar chords of opening song Caroline.

Montrose went absolutely Quo crazy.

The thought of Status Quo playing anywhere in Montrose but through a pub jukebox would have been insane before a small group of locals put the town on the music map.

They were unhappy with the live music scene and organised the first Montrose Music Festival in 2008, where Scottish funk heroes Average White Band were the headline act.

Montrose Music Festival — which affectionately became known as MoFest — linked up with concert promoter LCC Live in 2013, which ultimately proved to be a game-changer.

On February 25 2014 it was announced that Status Quo would headline MoFest on May 23 with the town’s East Links being transformed into a 4,500-capacity concert venue.

The announcement made front-page headlines.

Quo’s Friday night gig would be kicking off a full weekend of live music across Montrose including a performance from ex-Seahorses singer Chris Helme.

Making history with Status Quo in Montrose

Quo frontman Francis Rossi promised the band would make history in Montrose.

He said: “Many years ago we had a band called Ronnie Montrose that supported us at Wembley, so when I heard the name of the place it was already on my radar.

“I won’t look it up on a map – we’ll just turn up and do our thing and have a great time.

“I find it a great honour that we might be able to make history for this festival.

“They’ll work on it and suddenly everyone will want to do Montrose.

“It’s got a great sound to it – it really has.

David Paton and Anne Jenkins from the MoFest committee celebrate the announcement. Image: DC Thomson.
David Paton and Anne Jenkins from the MoFest committee celebrate the announcement. Image: DC Thomson.

“Mark my words – it’ll be a real groovy place to play before long.

“Glastonbury used to be a festival that bands would really stay away from, but all it takes is a few and people feel they have to be there.”

While fans might have been shocked to hear about rock royalty headlining an emerging music event, Rossi suggested the band had a history of going beyond the expected.

“We were the first band to go on the Des O’Connor show when everyone told us we shouldn’t, and we did the same with Cannon and Ball,” he said.

“All rock bands think they’re hip and cool, but we just do things we want to do.

“That’s the way it’s always been, it doesn’t matter if it’s the hammiest or the grooviest festival ever.”

Status Quo fans queued from 6.30am

This was the first time the festival had hosted an outdoor event of this scale and tickets went on sale on February 28, priced £37, from the Links Hotel and Ticketline.

Quo fans dusted off their denims and queued for hours to snap up tickets.

Queues as some get there as early as 6.30am to make sure they got tickets for Status Quo. Image: Tony Morrison.
Some got there as early as 6.30am to make sure they got tickets for Status Quo. Image: Tony Morrison.

The Courier reported: “Fans turned up as early as 6.30am, with hundreds lined up outside the Links Hotel by the time tickets went on sale at 10.30am.

“Organisers were left stunned as 1,500 tickets were also bought online within 20 minutes of going on sale.

“The 4,500-capacity gig at the town’s picturesque East Links will kick off a fantastic weekend of live music.

“The Quo gig will be the hottest date on the Angus summer music calendar and fans were urged to act fast or risk missing out.”

MoFest chairman David Paton thanked everyone who purchased tickets and said excitement was already building and would only increase the closer it got to May 23.

Gordon and Joy Milne were among the lucky people who got Quo tickets at Links Hotel. Image: Tony Morrison.
Gordon and Joy Milne were among the lucky people who got Quo tickets at Links Hotel. Image: Tony Morrison.

Good luck getting a hotel room!

Some hotels were already fully booked with the Quo‘s dedicated army of fans from all corners of the UK keen to party the night away on the edge of the North Sea.

Would there be Marguerita Time for Quo fans at the East Links?

Angus Licensing Board members debated granting an occasional alcohol licence for the concert before approving a public bar despite concerns over accessibility to under-18s.

These fans, holding inflatable guitars, were ready to have a great time when Status Quo arrived in Montrose. Image: DC Thomson.
These fans were ready to have a great time when Status Quo arrived in Montrose. Image: DC Thomson.

One of Scotland’s top licensing solicitors —  Janet Hood — spoke on behalf of the MoFest committee and said the bar would operate a challenge 25 system.

She said: “I certainly headbanged to Status Quo in my younger days when I was a student. It’s going to be a great event for Montrose, which will bring in 5,000 people.”

The licence from 5pm to 11pm was granted.

Status Quo was proving to be the hottest ticket in town.

Tickets with a face value of £37.50 were being advertised at vastly inflated prices online.

Around 30 tickets were kept back in a bid to put off touts trying to cash in at the gate and they sparked a mad rush when they were sold on a first come, first served basis.

Unforgettable night at East Links

The Quo Army lapped up hit after headbanging hit.

Young and old surged to the front from the moment the band threatened to take to the stage, clapping solidly until they arrived, and filling every pause with chants of “Quo”.

The five-piece strolled on stage with no fuss, picked up their instruments and launched right into the first riffs of Caroline in their trademark V-legged formation.

The band on stage as Status Quo perform an unforgettable set at Montrose East Links on May 23 2014. Image: DC Thomson.
Status Quo performed an unforgettable set at Montrose East Links on May 23 2014. Image: DC Thomson.

With as much energy and chemistry as they’ve ever had, the rockers rattled through Caroline, Paper Plane and Hold You Back before pausing for air.

They may have sold more than 120 million records worldwide and had numerous British hit singles, but they did not just go through the motions, and had the audience dancing and clapping along to every tune.

With just the right amount of rock and roll attitude and some appropriate quips about how cold Montrose was, frontman Rossi welcomed the fans and cracked a few jokes before launching into Rain.

The favourite classics followed: Down Down, Whatever You Want, and of course – Rockin’ All Over The World – and no one was standing still.

How could they?

MoFest chairman David Paton was named the town’s citizen of the year after the gig.

The big names continued to come to Montrose…

Status Quo’s success paved the way to secure other big names to appear at MoFest including Madness turning Montrose East Links into the House of Fun in 2015.

And 2016 saw East Links sets from boogie-woogie pianist extraordinaire Jools Holland and raspy-voiced Canadian rock giant Bryan Adams as part of his Get Up tour of the UK.

The inflatable guitars and air guitars were flying in the crowd when the Quo hit the stage. Image: DC Thomson.
The inflatable guitars and air guitars were flying when the Quo hit the stage. Image: DC Thomson.

The festival appeared to be riding on the crest of a wave after Adams’ fantastic performance when the Beach Boys were announced as headliners for the 2017 festival.

But MoFest quickly became a victim of its own success, which brought with it spiralling costs.

The festival limped on following the Beach Boys’ performance but the BBC’s Biggest Weekend in Perth being scheduled on the same date as the 2018 MoFest didn’t help.

Bands just weren’t willing to compete with the BBC and just a few hundred people turned out to watch The Hoosiers deliver a headline set at Montrose Town Hall.

Hawaiian shirts everywhere you looked when the Beach Boys came to Montrose in 2017. Image: DC Thomson.
Hawaiian shirts everywhere you looked when the Beach Boys came to Montrose in 2017. Image: DC Thomson.

MoFest chairwoman Anne Jenkins said: “People don’t see the work that goes into MoFest.

“The committee give up days and days of their time throughout the year and blood, sweat and tears to pull it off.”

Of course, nothing lasts forever.

Music fans feared the worst when MoFest pulled the plug on 2019 due to a lack of volunteers but promised to “step back, regroup and come back stronger in 2020”.

Just days later LCC Live announced it would bring platinum-selling artist Jess Glynne to perform at the inaugural Live at the Links to plug the gap.

The 2019 summer event also featured the Kaiser Chiefs and Madness and was the largest weekend event in Scotland outside of Glasgow’s TRNSMT Festival.

MoFest was wound down.

LCC Live director Les Kidger then said Live at the Links would become a permanent fixture on the Angus music calendar, before the pandemic struck in 2020.

With UK music festivals thankfully having emerged from Covid-enforced hibernation, might we see live music returning to Montrose East Links in the future?

Quo at the Mo 2024 anniversary waltz, anyone?

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