Guitar man Jon gets call for Hyde Park

Jono Armstrong plays his guitar, right.
Jono Armstrong plays his guitar, right.
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A SCARBOROUGH musician is set to fulfil his childhood dream after winning a global battle of the bands competition to play alongside Jon Bon Jovi in front of 130,000 music fans this summer.

Jon Armstrong, 31, formerly of South Cliff, and his Indonesian-based band Gugun Blues Shelter will perform live on the main stage of the Hard Rock Calling festival in London’s Hyde Park in June after hundreds of thousands of fans voted for them in Hard Rock’s international competition on the festival’s website.

Hundreds of bands battled it out at Hard Rock cafes around the world for a place in the final online vote to decide who would be heading to London to play at the iconic rock festival alongside legends of Rock such as Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Adam Ant and the Killers.

Jon’s band GBS booked their place on the plane to London after they were voted runaway winners of the South–East Asia and South America region at the end of April before going head-to-head with the three other regional winners from Europe, America, and central Asia to determine who would win the star prize of sharing the main stage with Jon Bon Jovi on Saturday June 25.

After a week of campaigning for online votes on Indonesia’s TV and Radio stations, the band emerged victorious with another landslide victory and Jon, a former pupil of Scalby School and Scarborough Sixth Form College, admitted he was over the moon when the news came through.

“It’s really unbelievable. I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not hallucinating,” he said.

“Now we just can’t wait to get out on to that stage and show all of those fans who we are and what our music sounds like.”

The band specialise in electric blues-funk and have been highly acclaimed across South-east Asia, rocking shows from Shanghai to Singapore and will be well-known to local music lovers after they played gigs at various venues around the town during their UK tours in 2008 and 2009.

Jon plays bass in the three-piece band alongside drummer Aditya Wibowo and phenomenal lead guitarist Gugun, who has been labelled “Indonesia’s answer to Jimi Hendrix” by members of the South-East Asian music media.

Music has always been a big part of the bassist’s life and he was a key member of Scalby’s Jazz band as well as the Sixth Form College’s “Easy” concert band and he credits his musical schooling as one of the major influences on his career.

“I was never too hot at maths or any of the academic subjects at school. Music has always been my passion and has saved my life,” he added.

“I was involved in the music set-ups at Scalby and up at the college and that’s where it all began, in those days I suppose.”

The band, who are soon to release their fourth album, have gone from strength-to-strength in recent times, sharing the bill with Buddy Guy and the Gypsy Kings at Singapore’s Rock and Roots festival 2010 while they rubbed shoulders with stars such as John Legend, Toni Braxton and Santana in the backstage area of Jakarta’s Java Jazz festival in March 2010.

Fluent in the language of Bahasa Indonesia, Jon himself has become somewhat of a celebrity in his adopted country and is currently the presenter of a daily live music programme on Indonesian TV.

But despite the group’s rapid rise to fame, Jon admits that the prospect of playing in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming rock fans will still set the butterflies buzzing in his stomach as the band make their final preparations before going out on stage.

“Playing to a large crowd is such a buzz especially when they start to get into it. We as a band can really feed off the audience’s energy,” said the 31-year-old.

“We’ve played in front of pretty big—sized crowds before but this will be massive.”

This summer’s Hard Rock Calling festival celebrates 40 years of the iconic themed restaurant, founded by American friends Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett in London in 1971.

Organisers are expecting up to 50,000 fans per day and past festivals have boasted big name superstars including Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and The Police.

l For more information on Jon and Gugun Blues Shelter, you can visit the band’s website at www.blues-shelter.com or you can follow Jon on his Twitter account @nyep_nyep or the band @GBluesShelter.

Tickets for the festival are on sale online at www.hardrockcalling.co.uk/2011/ and range from £55.25 to £550.