Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. 8-10.8.2013

We did Croppers in 2009 and 2010, missed last couple of years, but the lure of Alice Cooper was too hard to resist for Her Ladyship.

Thursday. Opening 20 minutes from the ‘acoustic’ Fairports. ‘Festival Bell’, the song about a maidenhead whose title I forget, ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Walk Awhile’.                               Good stuff, but then it is Fake Thackeray. I found Jake Thackeray’s  voice really irritating so Mr W’s tribute was on a loser, sadly, with me. A genuine tribute from a genuine fan, but even Her Ladyship (who likes him) reckoned he was ‘lost in a big field’. (An evil thought crept in my mind, i.e. it would have been good for me if he had been ‘lost in a big field on the Isle of South Uist’, but that would have put me very much in a minority.).                     Next came Romeo’s Daughter.  A strange choice, having some pretty ancient ‘rock’ act who never really made it first time round, but full marks to them for keeping going. Back in the day, a young sultry female vocalist was their selling point, and they have a song which inspired their name. ‘Wild Child’ and ‘Inside Out’ also got an airing.                          Croppers has an eclectic mix for sure, and Edward 11 were further evidence of this. Some sort of folk/reggae amalgam, basically reggae with a squeezebox.  I was going to be as euphemistic as possible , and say that they weren’t particularly inspiring, but then they gave us a reggae version of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. No doubt folkie purists weren’t happy with the Byrds version back in the 60s, but today the euphemism has to go! It was complete SH*TE.  Can’t bring myself to say any more.                     Thankfully the DJ gave us Cheap Trick’s ‘Dream Police’, and on came Alice Cooper. Slightly different from his last tour, he opened with ‘Hello Hurray’ and there were plenty of early familiar songs, eg ‘Under My Wheels’, ‘No more Mr Nice Guy’, and ‘Hey Stupid’. One of Her Ladyship’s newer favourites, ‘Bite your face off’ was included, and we got a strange section featuring The Doors, The Beatles, Hendrix and The Who. ‘Eighteen’, ‘Poison’ and, of course, ‘School’s Out’ finished the night. No ‘Elected’, but all the pantomime theatricals.  He puts on a great show, although I am not a fan, and he was pleased with the reaction.  A good time was had by all (nearly!)

Friday. Missed Greg and Ciaran, but caught the last few numbers from Danny and the Champions of the World. We came in to what sounded like the riff from Squeeze’s ‘Black Coffee in Bed’, and they had that sort of 80s sound. The pedal steel gave them a Kursaal Flyers feel too.  Got people jigging around.                                   Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman. Mr S. Lakeman is probably most known for his playing with another Mr S. Lakeman,  and he had a similar feel in his playing.  ‘Jackie I said…’ is a song by the much-underrated Mutton Birds, (I think) and there was a poignant song about the miners’ strike which was rendered almost impossible to hear, as we were behind a group of about 20 people who may as well have had a BBQ in  one of their gardens, put on ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits’ and saved themselves a hundred quid or so each.  ‘Money and Jewels ‘ was good, and they deserved much more attention. Sadly, it is 20,000 in a field, not 20 in a folk club.                   The Moulettes gave us an unusual range of instruments, and they were themselves unusual too. A mainly female ensemble, again not really appreciated by what is nowadays an understandably chatty family Cropredy crowd. Impressive musicianship, but even Her Ladyship had to admit to losing interest, and maybe it could have done with being a bit more lively.                              Lunasa were next. 100% instrumental, it may work in Ireland, but there aren’t many who can carry it off without vocals. Maybe one more on stage (singing) may put them somewhere near the Bellowheads of the folk world.  Plenty of chat and info but too ‘samey’.                                      Steely Dan’s ‘Babylon Sisters’ from the DJ, and it is Martin Barre’s New Day. I thought he was short of a decent vocalist last year at Weyfest, but there has been no change.  ‘Cry you a song’, ‘Thick as a brick’and ‘Fat Man’ were among the many Tull favourites, but ‘Rock me baby’ needs Jimmy Dewar or Paul Rodgers to sing it.  Another bluesy run-of-the-mill instrumental seemed to highlight a major flaw in the scheduling of the artistes. The Moulettes had a lot of instrumentals, Lunasa were totally instrumental and MBND had a big non-vocal part too.   Too much, in my opinion, a bit more thought needed.   Speaking of more thought, all you people who bought this year’s t-shirt, look on the back. The word’ Britain’ has been made ‘Brit-ain’ and split to continue on the next line. How totally amateurish is that?!  I know it is being pedantic, but who has designed that?!  A 10 year old designing a poster would be shown how to plan the text and not to run out of space!!                          Anyway, The Levellers. More t-shirts even than Alice Cooper (no I didn’t study the layouts!),  they were big in the 90s and have had the sense to prolong their popularity by  organising their own festival. That sounds a bloody good idea, wonder if anyone else has had a similar idea?!  Plenty of jumpyupanddowny stuff (‘What a Beautiful  Day’), ideal for any festival, and Her Ladyship was impressed with the didge. Also got ‘Devil went down to Georgia’.                         The real deal next, 10cc. I wonder how many of those who snidely say it should be two and a half cc, are Fairport fans (and are watching only one of the six originals!?).  10cc are as good, and valid, as Fairport are today.   They start with ‘Second Sitting to the Last Supper’ harking back to the tour after Godley and Creme had left. Then a plethora of hits, plus the peerless ‘Feel the Benefit’. When people nominate the best single ever, (usually Queen), they should give a real listen to ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’. Absolute genius.  ‘Old wild men’ is dusted off, we get an acappella ‘Donna’ and and extended ‘Rubber Bullets’ finishes off a stellar performance  . ‘Best of Fest’ by a country mile.

Saturday. It wouldn’t be Croppers without Richard Digance and he doesn’t disappoint. The Snowmen song, ‘You were the first’, What’s the use…’, ‘Great Britain’, ‘Sod’s Law’ and the brilliant ‘Saga Lout’ kept everybody entertained and there aren’t many who could get (most of!) the crowd on their feet doing a children’s ‘animal noises’ song.                  Six gyrating wenches billow on stage, and they are the Mediaeval Babes. Definitely not regular folk club stuff, many songs in ancient verse, including Latin.  Must have taken lots of work to produce, Her Ladyship thought she heard a hint of Pink Floyd’s ‘Set the Controls…’ at one stage.  Seemed to be more on stage than UB40, and I can’t see them playing in a local pub for £200 somehow!      Don’t know their names, but one of them must have been called Cosmic Teacake, I reckon.  I looked away, and they had changed into black dresses. Her Ladyship almost missed the change, as she had to have a time out due to lack of sleep last night. Seemingly somebody snoring like a saw mill (I slept ok!).    Very unusual, and deserving of a spot here.                                Brooks Williams from Georgia starts with ‘Amazing Grace’, and the set develops into country-ish, bluesy stuff. Bit of Doc Watson, but I am not convinced of his ‘legend’ status. A song by Dave Alvin, then ‘Carry On’ (not the CSNY number which later comes out from the DJ), a Motown-inspired song which is unmemorable,  some Muddy Waters and a decent ‘Statesboro Blues’ to finish.  Not a youngster by any means, and I can’t really see him anywhere other than Planet Supportactland.                             The Dunwells from Leeds were next but the first 10 minutes or so passed me by as some a**ehole put a tent up in front of me every time I moved to get a spot where I could see the stage.  Tossers!  Electro-folky stuff, can’t quite see the ‘Americana’ tag. Started well, but like a lot of the weekend, my attention waned.                                   Paetbog Faeries. Very popular with the folk who like jiggy Leatherat sort of stuff.   There appear to be plenty of them here, but (like a lot of these acts that are festival regulars), would any of the audience actually buy a ticket and go and see them in their own right? The jury is out.   More instrumental numbers, some calypso stuff, if I was on the jury I know where I would be if I was asked to buy a ticket to see them. Of all the acts this weekend , I have bought tickets in the past for 10cc, Fairport and (under duress) Alice Cooper…and that’s it.                       Next, in Croppers’ Glasto Bruce Forsyth naff spot, we have Nik Kershaw. Last time I thought ‘Why?’, now it is ‘Why?’, ‘Again?’.    However, all was later revealed when it turns out that Ric Sanders was seemingly either his rent boy or his Fan Club president in the 80s.  Like paying to listen to a DJ and he plays the stuff HE likes and not what you want. The tent was too far away to go back and have something to eat, so I reluctantly hung around but, as I had done on previous days, invested in a Welsh oggie.  There is, of course, an old Welsh piece of advice, namely ‘An Oggie a day keeps the jazz-funk away’, and it is true!  Not a note all weekend!                       But next is a surprise 20 minute slot from Jasper Carrot. Wonderful, it made all the post-Digance stuff seem a distant memory.                            9.00pm and it is Fairport.  ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ and ‘Jewel in the Crown’ start things off, and the set includes moving versions of ‘Fotheringay’ and ‘Who knows where…’.   The guest spots, however, are not the highlight. The ‘Excalibur’ stuff from Martin Barre, and Ric’s chum Nik, seem like padding in a 3 hour marathon set, and it seems strange that the maidenhead song and ‘John Barleycorn’ get another airing. Bring back ‘Close to the Wind’ lads.  ‘Meet on the Ledge’ finishes off the festival as usual.

Croppers is always well run, friendly and polite. However, put these demure folkies behind a campervan wheel and watch them try to funnel out on Sunday morning through a narrow gate. They turn into Mike Tyson, and at one point I thought Her Ladyship was going to get out of the car and punch one of these saddoes’ lights out!    The stewards actually do a decent job trying to get people out, a thankless task.   For us, Croppers has to have someone each night to really look forward to, (eg Status Quo and Little Feat), and if next year there is a chance of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Poco or Pure Prairie League, the cheque’s in the post


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