Festival Reviews

Temple Bar Tradfest is now in its twelfth year, and as a certain Michael Eavis would say, this year's was the best one yet! A welcome attraction at the end of the bleak month of January, the event is comprised of concerts, recitals and special events in venues, pubs and churches in the centre of the capital. The term trad is applied loosely. There are indeed events that are very traditional, but the line up also included Billy Bragg, Fairport Convention, the Rails, Martin & Eliza Carthy, Mundy and an ultra-rare concert by Maria McKee.

A warm welcome from festival directors Mick Peat and Bob Rushton, plus local folk heroes John Tams and Lucy Ward greet us at the start of the 10th Derby Folk Festival. As it's the 10th festival they've put together a great line-up including the new and as yet unknown, the traditional and much loved, and the unaccompanied voices to the full-blown band.

This festival has had one or two years off but was back with a bang this year. This time round featuring some top-class bands, and including the larger 'Pyramids' venue.

Great value for money at £20 a ticket. Bands were playing from 1.00 pm at the majority of the 20 venues so inevitable there would be frustrating clashes. Notably, bands we were unable to see included, The Big Moon, Pigeon Detectives, Honeyblood, Inheaven, Sisterray, Black Honey.

Apart from The Pyramids Centre all venues are located on Albert Street and range from the established Wedgewood Rooms to various small rooms within/behind/above pubs. Pyramids is a 15 minute walk away

The first-class nature of today's line up saw co-headliners Mystery Jets clashing with British Sea Power. Having caught MJs the previous Wednesday in Reading and being a BSP devotee this choice was in reality a no-brainer. In all we managed to take in 11 great acts.

The V2s - Little Johnny Russell's
Competent guitar band to get things underway. Set List written on a waiters note-pad

The Dead Freights - Little Johnny Russell's
Highly likeable local Southampton band. Tunes laced with 60's soundalike melodies. More Animals than Beatles

Just Millie - The Vaults
Undergoing a change of name later this month. At the behest of her label she is moving into experimental electronic territory and will perform under the moniker of 'Wren'. Today an acoustic set with bass and Nicki on box-beating drums

Cassava - Little Johnny Russell's
Back to noisy guitars. Having been running late, this venue had now caught up so only caught last two songs

King Nun - The Loft at The Kings
Most interesting venue of the day - an extensive room above a pub with stage in the corner. Interesting as it presented a down n dirty rock n roll backdrop. In truth the whole room and furnishings require a refurb. But no complaints, good to see an event like this creating a useful home for creative arts. This band are from Richmond (South London, not Virginia). Nirvana guitars with Mark E Smith vocals.

Palm Honey - Little Johnny Russell's
Far and away the best 'unknown' on show today. This band is truly one to put on the radar. Standard guitar line-up but with a prominent synthesiser giving colour and depth to most of their songs. Saw them at Truck Festival earlier in the summer. As then, they announced their last song 22 mins into the set and proceeded to go into an excellent 8-minute prog-based guitar jam which moves into an extended outro comprising scuzzy guitars and strangely melodic feedback as instruments are left strewn across the stage as the band walks off.

Kassassin Street – Pyramids
Off to the Pyramid Centre for three bands firmly on our list today. Kassassin Street are a local Pompey band who deservedly drew a strong local following. The big stage and vibrant light show enabled this band to show their dancey side in full flourish. At the end of the set, lovely to see them taking pictures of the crowd - savouring their big moment. This band potentially has even bigger moments in store.

Eagulls - Pyramids
Eagulls’ songs rely on George Mitchell's powerful vocal being front and centre. Sadly today the band were a guitarist down and seemed to over-compensate by cranking up the volume of the lone guitar. As a result George's sullen poetic lyrics were somewhat drowned out. The slower 'Life In Rewind' off sophomore release 'Ullages' was the best song in today's set.

Little Comets - Pyramids
Had to play a curtailed set to get the venue back to timetable but delivered 7 wonderful songs including one of my all-time favourite songs 'The Blur, The Line, The Thickest Of Onions'. Their jerky rhythms and concisely-delivered vocal lines give this band a truly unique sound.

Lucy Rose - Wedgewood Rooms
A great turn-out for this wonderful female vocalist. Tonight with a band but that didn't detract from the delicate style in which she delivers her beautiful songs

British Sea Power - Wedgewood Rooms
BSP are not on tour currently so this was a one-off; but they were still on fine form. What I find striking about this band is that each of the six members has a brilliantly defined role down to Phil on cornet and Abbi on strings, and cowbell on 'Matches', one of two new songs in this set that otherwise comprised better known numbers including 'Remember Me', 'Waving Flags', 'Great Skua' and 'Carrion'. The customary dancing bears joined in the fun during live favourite 'Spirit Of St. Louis'. The somewhat over-exuberant white bear (aka Bi Polar) took a crowd-surf following which he fell in an unceremonious heap across the barrier. Marvellous fun!

Si

Festival Website

'Radical trad' - that is how I first saw Lynched and Ye Vagabonds described in the festival programme from Temple Bar Trad 2015. The write-up immediately made me curious. I could not make it to their shows at the time, but I checked them out online and realised these were two extraordinary new acts. A year and a half on from my discovery they have gone from strength to strength, particularly through continuous gigging. This was a joint headline show at St Luke's Church as part of the Cork Folk Festival.
 

Ye Vagabonds have been on the road playing support to Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan and Roy Harper. They have released a wonderful EP but I personally cannot wait to hear their debut album, when it will finally see the light of day? This was their biggest headline show yet and my first time seeing a full length concert by the brothers. There is something old-fashioned about Brían and Diarmuid, and this is meant as a compliment. Their music is as timeless as it is superb.

They played some of their own, excellent compositions, as well as songs by others, explaining where these were "got". There is something very wonderful about siblings harmonizing. Cork Folk got their share of this as Lynched of course has two brothers too and the Unthanks had played on the opening night.

Ye Vagabonds had brought two musicians along for the occasion. Alain McFadden on banjo and bodhrán (plus good looks and tech duties) and Jesse Smith on fiddle and viola. I did not think they added much and I was grateful that for a large part of the show Brían and Diarmuid played by themselves. When it comes to trad, less is always more, in my view.

Brían performed a beautiful instrumental piece on his own, entitled 'For Bert'. I had not heard them do 'The Lowlands Of Holland' before; a beautiful song that I had incidentally never came across until I moved from the Netherlands to Ireland.

The audience was really into it and well behaved (in terms of talking). There was much joking about the sound of cans being opened. I love the concept of Live At St Lukes. This former church is now solely being used as a live music venue. Punters are allowed to bring drinks (the website recommends three cans per person) and the venue has full cooperation from the pub and the carryout off license across the road. The acoustics in the church are slightly echo-y, which was perfect for these particular shows, but I do not know how well it would lend itself to louder music.

Support for Ye Vagabonds was by Tiz McNamara, a sympathetic singer/songwriter from Cork. An engaging storyteller as well as a performer, Tiz specializes in sad songs. Guy-with-guitar support acts can sometimes be a drag, but this was not at all the case here and he went down very well. A name to keep in mind.

On the previous night support had come from Morning Veils, a female trio, also from Cork. This was gothic, atmospheric music; a bit shoegazey as well. I was reminded of acts such as Fursaxa and Miranda Sex Garden. The girls were curiously dressed in regular clothes (one of them wore a 'Repeal' sweater) but with gauze veils tied around their heads. Instrumentation included harmonium and percussions bells. Radie from Lynched was sitting in the audience nodding along approvingly and later mentioned that she thought they had been great.

Lynched were utterly fantastic at St Lukes. It had been nine months since I saw them previously, hence many setlist changes. Their acclaimed debut album is over two years old now. Lynched have been touring constantly (many festival appearances over the summer) and have introduced a lot of new songs into their set. By the time they get to record album number two, they should have settled on perfect arrangements for this well worn-in material, thus avoiding any difficult-second-album problems. I am most curious if they will have an original song as good as 'Cold Old Fire'. If they do, they are keeping that up their sleeve for the time being.

Highlight of the show for me were the three songs on which Radie Peat sang lead. The acoustics of the church probably played a part - it was utterly impressive. It caused Ian Lynch to say, "It just struck me that I am in a band with the best singer in Ireland". True true.

Radie sang 'What Will We Do When We Have No Money', which she learned from a version sung by traveller Mary Delaney. I did not get the name of the second song she sang, but that was the one that took Ian and I guess all of the audience by surprise. The gig closed with 'The Old Man From Over The Sea'. Radie probably has enough good songs for a killer solo album, but that may be for another day. If I had any say in the matter though, she should get at least three songs on the next Lynched album.

The show included plenty of humorous banter. The original version of 'Salonika' was played so as to not to upset the keyboard warriors from the People's Republic of Cork. They also played a medley of some lesser known songs that the Dubliners recorded. Daragh explained that they got these songs on an album that they found in a 'crusty punk house' in Seattle.

The interaction between band members is a special thing to watch. The role of the quiet man with the perfect pitch, Cormac, is not to be underestimated. I found myself wondering why people get nostalgic for the 60s and 70s when there are bands as good as Lynched - and Ye Vagabonds - around that you can go and see nowadays.

The band seemed to enjoy the show as much as the crowd did. They mentioned that they love playing in churches, they complimented the audience on "some savage clapping" and wrote on Twitter that it had been one of their best crowds ever.

Move over U2, move over Kíla. Lynched are the best live band in Ireland right now.

Helen.

 

 
 
 

OnRoundhay is the newborn northern sibling of the OnBlackheath festival which has been running since 2014. The festival site sits in a natural bowl in Roundhay Park which gives very good views of the enormous music stage and two top quality video screens from wherever you are in the main arena. The tie in with John Lewis means that there's a cookery demonstration tent and a selection of fine festival foods. There's also a Penguin storytelling area , a mini sports day, and giant, costumed characters (Peter Rabbit and Spot The Dog for the kiddies, and The Clangers for grown-up kiddies with longer memories) walking around for selfies and high fives.

Promoter Harvey Goldsmith is the compère for the day and he introduces Actor, who are a discovery of BBC Introducing West Yorkshire. Actor are a three-piece based in Leeds who produce a set of epic power pop tunes in a Bat for Lashes style driven along by Louisa Osborn's vocals which are powerful and striking. Standout tracks are 'Power' and 'Baby Cries'.

Another local band The Haggis Horns are next .They play mainly instrumentals of funky tunes with surprise, surprise a killer horn section. Their sound bursts from the PA and gets the partisan crowd down the front dancing. I suspect they would be at their best in a small, sweaty venue with everyone up on the tables and dancing, but to the uninitiated each track sounds very similar and the appeal is lost after a while in the wide open spaces outdoors.

Harvey's back on stage to introduce “ one of the hottest bands around .. Wolf Alice” and having seen Wolf Alice several times in the past couple of years Harvey's not wrong. Their sound is fuller and heavier live than on their debut album 'My Love is Cool '. Highlights include 'You're a Germ', 'Fluffy' and 'Moaning Lisa Smile'. The shortened set of 45 minutes and 13 tracks means there's little chance for audience / band interaction, but that's a minor quibble as their consistently high quality live performance means there's likely to be great things ahead for Wolf Alice.

A band already with a great past, current and likely future is Primal Scream, who understand that they are playing to a festival crowd so select a set list of greatest hits. A couple of minutes of opener 'Moving On Up' ignites long distant memories, causing a stampede of grown-ups into the area in front of the stage. 'Moving on Up' is one of four tracks from 'Screamadelica' in the set which also includes 'Jailbird' and 'Rocks', plus the two best tracks from 'Chaosmosis' the new album. A final anthemic 'Come Together' sends the crowd back to their early twenties and hopefully converts a few of the current teens/ early twenties present in the audience.

The investigatory powers of Sherlock Holmes are not required to deduce from the flowery face paint and band merch being displayed by the audience that tonight's headliners James are the main reason many are here tonight. Tim Booth ,wearing a beanie to protect against the rapidly dropping temperature, welcomes the audience “Good evening , it's a real pleasure to be here”, as the intro to the slow burn of 'Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)'. 'Sit Down' causes the inevitable mass sing-along.

The giant sun disc/ speaker from the front cover of their most recent album 'Girl at the end of the World' hangs over the band and there's six tracks from that album in the set tonight. But there's a steady drip of hits including 'Laid', 'She's a star' and during 'Sometimes' there's a mass audience sing-along to the fade out “Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul”. The encore of 'Say Something ' ends in band bows and farewells to close this fine day.

The varied music selection, interesting food stalls, general good feeling and family atmosphere all blessed by the surprising late Summer Yorkshire sunshine means that the birth of On Roundhay feels like a successful delivery. We hope that the biggest village fête in Yorkshire will return again next year.

Alisdair Whyte

Festival Website

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