Last review of the festival was 2012, we haven’t been since. We decided to give it another go, as the line-up looked much better than what was offered from next January’s Rock and Blues Festival. Got there in good time and went for a couple of heartstarters in The Front Room.
Friday. First on is Kelly Oliver . (guitar, vocal), to quote a Richard Thompson lp. Mixture of traditional and original songs. Pleasant voice, there was no danger of the ladies sat near us joining in…or even paying attention. One was doing patchwork, the other crocheting. Her Ladyship’s stomach was making noises like a pitbull with piles, so went for our evening meal. Cara Dillon. Missed her last time , in favour of Iain Matthews, so was determined to check her out. Plenty of original songs, including ‘Shotgun down the Avalanche’. Her group included husband Sam Lakeman and well-regarded folkie John Smith. We both switched off a bit when she went into Christmas mode, but woke up when Joni Mitchell and The Pretenders got airings. ‘Beautiful Star of Bethlehem’ was the first of many ‘singalong’ requests during the weekend. Oysterband. One reason why we chose this weekend. To say they are absolutely ‘the business’ is preaching to the converted or the blissfully unaware. If you amongst the latter, put them on your bucket list . Mixture of older and newer songs, ‘Walking down the Road with You’ had their devotees at the front in full voice and there was an interesting re-vamp of ‘Oxford Girl’. ‘Granite Years’ has stood the test of time, but no room for ‘Bells of Rhymney’ despite Her Ladyship’s pleas. A great performance. Interestingly, I picked up a couple of 1993 ‘Folk Roots’ magazines from the library in Castleford (home of John Jones’ mother’s family). ‘ Oyster Band’ featured on the front cover and there was a piece inside re their ‘Holy Bandits’ lp. They were big news in the folk world as long as a quarter of a century ago. Donovan’s ‘A Gift from a Flower to a Garden’ was advertised too, as was ‘Intuition’ an lp featuring 6 female artists including a certain 19 year old young lady recently made a Freeman of Barnsley. Sorry, no prize for her identity. Los Pacaminos (feat Paul Young). A couple of our friends were keen to see them, being Paul Young fans. I warned them that we have seen them before and it won’t be a Paul Young show at all. Basically a Tex-Mex type outfit with Paul Young one of 3 vocalists. Standards like ‘Tequila’, ‘Wooly Bully’ and ‘La Bamba’ were featured, but I reckon the advertising was a bit economical by not emphasising that this NOT a Paul Young show. They were…ok . We had missed the latest incarnation of Lindisfarne, they clashed with Oysterband, but I collared Rod Clements later on , who kindly signed my ‘Dingley Dell’ cd cover. (My late cousin Alan Brown gets a name check on the Family Tree). Re the Lindisfarne story, we know some fans from the early 70s who regard the situation as a soap opera on a par with Eastenders, has anyone called it North-Eastenders yet? If not, I claim it. Lindisfarce even? It was refreshing to see Mr C the following morning , duly waiting in line for breakfast with the proletariat . Would Bob ‘Man of the People’ Geldof do the same on Sunday morning , or send a minion to queue up in his place which I believe he did at an airport check-in desk? The ‘larger than life’ DJ played Fairport’s most famous song, calling it ‘Meet ME on the Ledge’. She later referred to Ray Davies’s ‘Harry Rag’ as ‘Henry Rag’.
Saturday. Having just mentioned Lindisfarne , first up were The Pitmen Poets. One of them is Billy Mitchell, no not an Eastender but a North-Eastender. Also part of the Lindisfarne story…and Lindisfarne Story! The flyer says ‘An epic journey through the life and times of the people who made their living in the Northumberland and Durham coalfields. ‘ . Bob Fox, Jez Lowe and Benny Graham joined Mr M and did what it says on the can. Her Ladyship reckoned it was like listening to her late grandfather, a Durham miner. She thought they were wonderful, she was not alone. Gary Fletcher Band. The Blues Band bassist was keen to say he was not going to churn out a lot of 12 bars, he has a day job to do that. All good musicians, but we left after about 20 minutes, it just seemed to lack a bit of purpose. Quite a few left too, to check out Gryphon on the other stage, but there was a worrying stampede in the opposite direction. Onstage were the afore-mentioned veteran folkies, reformed to present their mediaeval noodlings. Very much an acquired taste, I fear. We didn’t acquire much. We lasted about as long as ‘The Directory of Italian Second World War Heroes’. David Knopfler and Harry Bagdanovs. DK left Dire Straits after the first 2 lps and his onstage patter and occasional interview reveal that he is very much incommunicado with his brother. He tells us there were 2 writers in the group…but only for about 25 minutes. What he should really be doing is thanking his more talented elder brother for making him a millionaire. His songs all sound like they could have been out-takes from a Dire Straits lp or MK’s ‘Sailing to Philadelphia’ and his vocal style is strangely familiar. A strange act for a Folk Festival, he is also on at next year’s Rock and Blues Festival. Coincidentally, he is on the Rock Artist Management roster (see reviews passim). Having said all that, he and his chum were ok. Kate Rusby. First of her annual Christmas show dates. We are both fans, but would have preferred her ‘regular’ show. Her Ladyship went , out of curiosity, to check out Bob Geldof. She came back saying he was very good and the joint was rocking. Itchy Fingers. Local lads made good, last year’s Introducing Stage favourites. Good end -of-night dancing stuff. 50’s swing style, Her Ladyship especially liked the percussionist’s armoury.
Sunday. Chris Jagger’s Acoustic Roots. Her Ladyship had gone off to see one of her favourites Fake Thakray..the recipient of the Annual Programme Spelling Mistake Award. But I stopped for Mr J. ( Fiddle, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar. Had that Parisian cafe feel to it.) Things quickened up with a Cajun number. Proceedings slipped back into Stephan Grappelli mode for ‘Lights of the City’. I enjoyed ‘Long Black Veil’. which the Clarence White-era Byrds used to do. He has a good onstage patter, with very little reference to his more famous/infamous brother. Question. What common human bodily function can Mick Jagger (according to Chris) not perform? * Answer at the end Slim Chance. Saw them last time they were here. Similar set, mixing mainly old Ronnie Lane songs like ‘How Long’, ‘Debris’, ‘The Poacher’, ‘You’re so Rude’ and ‘Ooh La La’ with some current songs. Great good-time afternoon act for any festival. Went out into the Pavilion and caught a bit of Crumbling Ghost, who would have been more at home at the Cambridge Rock Festival ,having a female-fronted 5-piece. Mind you, you could say the same about an OAP with a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club t-shirt!. Kasim Sulton. Another strange choice. ( Her Ladyship nipped off to check out Jona Lewie, she didn’t stay long). He has a CV almost as long as a list of reasons why Donald Trump should not be let anywhere near a building with a Zip Code 20500. Just Kasim plus acoustic guitar, he played original songs, plus numbers from his times with The Cars, Utopia and Blue Oyster Cult. An acoustic snatch of ‘Godzilla’ was the second time we had heard the song at Skeggy, the first being via Blue Coupe (see earlier review). Both times preceded by Her Ladyship bellowing out the title. Did ‘Across the Universe’ too. Would have brought my Utopia cds to sign if I’d have known he was on. Donovan. Now 70, the 60s folk troubadour gave us his familiar, fairly chronological trip through his 60s singles and lp tracks. Don, it is a touch immodest to refer to your first 2 lps as ‘iconic’. His voice, sadly, has not always weathered well and his phrasing during ‘Remember the Alamo’ and ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ was particularly dodgy. But anyone who has seen Bob Dylan live since 1992 has witnessed some terrible vocals! Pretty much all of his hit singles from the 60s, sadly no place for the 70s and Her Ladyship’s favourite ‘The Intergalactic Laxative’. Plenty of cds and vinyl on sale, but is it just a bit naughty charging a fiver more for a signed copy? Holy Moly and the Crackers. Did I hear them being announced as ‘All the way from Newcastle’? Donovan had just come all the way from New York…and not the New York up in County Durham. 7-piece, featuring 4 with facial hair and 3 without. The 3 girls were armed with trombone, fiddle and accordion. Unusual genre for relatively young musicians but a good end-of -fest choice. Not enough to keep us from our appointment in Chateau Snoozeau though.
All in all , a very good weekend. Some great acts , some a bit less than great. So a few extra thoughts
- Staff. All very efficient and friendly. Apart from one barman who overcharged Her Ladyship. He wouldn’t admit it, and she went back the following day to have another go and called for the manager. She got her refund!
- Artists. Pretty good, although difficult to see some as ‘folk’
- Disabled access. Ridiculous on first night where wheelchairs couldn’t get past people sitting on the floor. At one point on final night though, I was surrounded by 3 Sherman tanks plus ‘carers’ One of them nearly ran over my bloody foot. . Well done to the man who was sitting and played hell when one of them just stood right in front of him. All for equality , but it is not a bloody one way street.
- Heat. I had to clap during Chris Jagger’s set just to keep warm.
- Queues. Even worse than before. Sunday evening, doors open at 7.00pm. Queues started at 4.30pm!!! Two and a half bloody hours!!
- Floors. The Front Room pub was like walking on treacle, and all the venues were like that. Her Ladyship said one of the toilet floors was filthy.
- Food. Perfectly fine, has been for ages.
Still a good value and popular weekend