Festival Reviews

The ninth Derby Folk Festival has expanded to four venues across the city featuring some of the best traditional and contemporary folk from the UK and beyond.

After a short introduction from festival organisers Bob Rushton, Mick Peat and festival patron John Tams, we start Friday evening in the City marque.

The Liberty to Choose are a collaborative project interpreting traditional songs from the New Penguin Book of English Folks Songs with a modern twist or two. The line up tonight consists of Bran Peters, Jackie Oates, James Findlay and another festival patron Lucy Ward (her 3rd album 'I Dreamt I Was A Bird' was released today). Good versions of 'The Mole catcher,' 'The Spotted Cow' , James Findlay does a great 'Barbara Allen'. The highlight for me is an unaccompanied ' The Trees They Do Grow High' which features Lucy and Jackie two of the best female voices in British folk, spine-tingling stuff.

Next is Flats & Sharps , who are a young bluegrass five piece. Whilst they play the music from the Appalachian mountains, they originate from slightly to the East in ... Penzance. They're a great fun band with the traditional set up of banjos, acoustic guitar, fiddle and upright bass. We get to here about their “Gig Granny” as they call her who suppliers them with sound advice and illegal substances (take this with a large pinch of salt). Highlight 'You Can Have Her, I Don't Want Her' is a favourite at wedding party bookings apparently.

Headliners on Friday night are Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, who play a great set of songs from their four albums. It's only when you see them live you truly appreciate how well Kathryn's warm, precise vocals and Sean's elegantly strummed guitar compliment each other 'The Robber Bridegroom', 'Child Owlet' and 'The Banishing Book' being great examples. Kathryn goes solo with piano for the devastating ' The Ballad of Andy Jacobs' which describes the difficult choices people had to make during the miner's strike in order to survive. The most heart-breaking moment is on '52 Hertz' written about a whale who's singing his mating call at 52 Hertz which is lower than other whales can hear so he swims the oceans alone ' 52 hertz, I'm singing a love song that no-one can hear' . All together now, aaaah .

After a rugby-ball shaped disappointing Saturday night I return on Sunday, perhaps unwisely, to see a Welsh band Calan (who only mention the rugby result about half a dozen times but it's all good natured). Today's line up is a four piece of two fiddles, acoustic guitar and accordion missing the usual Welsh harp, who blast through high speed instrumentals to wake the early Sunday morning crowd up. Bethan Rhiannon Williams-Jones provides beautiful sweet vocals on the slower tracks along with some impressive percussive step dancing . Considering they left Wales in the middle of the night to arrive for today's openers slot they're very chatty as we learn about being deported from the States (nothing more sinister than a paperwork issue) and a broke folk musician's tradition of gifting songs as wedding presents such 'Cariad Caerlyr (Leicester Love)' from the new album 'Dinas'. The twin fiddle blast and shouty chorus of 'Tale of Two Dragons' is the highlight of their energetic set.

Next is an unexpected delight The Dovetail Trio in the Derby Guildhall. Another young (this seems to be a trend) trio of Jamie Roberts (acoustic guitar and bv) Rosie Hood (lead vocals) and Matt Quinn (concertina and bv) who present a beautiful set of trad songs split between unaccompanied and full band tracks. 'Poison In A Glass Of Wine' as Rosie said contains a plot spoiler in the title, and her enchantingly, sweet vocals on 'Frozen Girl' about a girl travelling in the freezing winter causes something hard and jagged in the throat and brings a tear to the eye. They have just released their first album 'Wing of Evening' which is well worth checking out .
Back to the City Marque for John Spiers , squeeze box player extraordinaire, member of soon to depart Bellowhead and a duo with Jon Boden for a set of beautifully played squeeze box instrumentals and up-tempo dance tunes which cause the first outbreak of enthusiastic dancing in the aisles including a mother and infant combination which rightly gets a shout out from John.

The good people of Furthest From The Sea , a local arts organisation have been hosting a Festival Fringe stage all day in The Bell Hotel. Isembard's Wheel, describe themselves as “Folk. And then some” play a lively set with a The Levellers, Frank Turner feel. Felix M-B is a local talent with a down to earth delivery in a Nu-Folk style similar to Nick Drake or Laura Marling.

Melrose Quartet consists of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, the band are named after the street they all live on in Sheffield, the combination of their four voices is very effectively used on the unaccompanied tunes such as 'Santa Georgia' written about the multi-cultural part of Sheffield they live in and 'Bampton Fair'. Their virtuoso twin fiddle, squeeze box and guitar playing illuminate the full band parts of the set. We hear another two gifted songs on 'Wedding Bells' which Jess wrote for a friend's wedding and 'Margaret Fagan's 50th Birthday Polka' . We get a glimpse into the Kerr/Fagan household when after a lovely version 'John Ball' which celebrates the life of the English radical, Nancy reveals she often sings this to their children as a lullaby ,except when James (who is Australian, but doesn't mention the rugby result) is in charge of bedtime when it's more likely to be AC/DC.

This is only a small part of the great musical events which occur in the city during the Derby Folk Festival, and we're already looking forward to a celebration for DFF10 next year.

Alisdair Whyte

 

My first visit to The Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia was an exhilarating and gritty experience. Based in the Baltic quarter of Liverpool and centred on the Camp/Furnace venues, a few roads had been closed to create the festival site which added a further two stages.

A good selection of fairly priced food, beer and coffee meant no one had to leave the site in search of sustenance, which was just as well as the music flowed non-stop across the various stages from 3pm on Friday and 1pm on Saturday though to 2am the next morning each day.

Not an acoustic guitar in sight all weekend (apart from Slug) Friday blasted off to the sounds of Vuelveteloca, wall of sound merchants from Chile and it was a psych Chilean afternoon as we also had impressive sets from The Ganjas and Chicos de Nazca. New discoveries straight away!

Dengue Fever were their usual fabulous selves but I think they expected a longer set than the 45 mins provided, as a band member was overheard afterwards saying they would have re-jigged the set song wise had they known. not that anyone noticed, it was great set anyway and marvellous to see this unique band again.

Jacco Gardner is a bit of a star these days; tight band, toe tapping great songs and nice voice. Just the perfect package.

Now, what band could make NIN sound like Simon & Garfunkel? That must be Destruction Unit who reduced the audience into wide-eyed submission under bright white lights after just one song. Perhaps the loudest band I have heard in over forty years of gigs!

Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe where far more subtle. A mesmeric set that was one of the true highlights of the festival.

Pinkshinyultrablast from Russia pretty much matched their name with, female vocals, shiny new songs and a lot of shoegazing power.  A great set. After a couple of hours of stage hopping it was Carlton Melton who rounded off Friday with a brilliant widescreen sounding set.

One of the major hightlights of this festival was the light show on the two main stages, which on the Camp stage consisted of having the band on camera and then throwing a load of psychedelic colours around them which, was then projected behind the band and at the back of the venue. This meant that if you could not get anywhere near the front to see the band, you could just turn round and watch the projection behind.

 

 

Saturday kicks off for me with Radar Men from the Moon. Based in Eindhoven, it's more shoegazing/ psych being produced to a very high standard. The Flowers from Hell (well, Toronto and London) were something quite original as well as being the largest band of the weekend. Ethereal voices and a room filling sound was an early highlight of the day.

Meance Beach from Leeds hit all the garage rock buttons and were followed by the magnificent discovery of the quite beautiful sounds of Death and Vanilla, a band with ambient,Sigur ros leanings.

Hey Colossus played to a rammed one in one out District stage and nearly blew the roof off the place

Canada's No Joy had a 'hit you between the eyeballs', no chat, no fuss  set followed by three bands that really again enhanced the feel that this weekend is all about new discoveries; Kandodo3, Cult of Dom Keller and Lumerians from San Francisco, The latter hooded space rock warriors.

Sunderland's Slug, part of the Field Music collective, had a main stage slot on Saturday evening but for some reason the psychedelic crowd were not ready for the bright pop and happy stage banter from this fine band. They gave it their all but it was pretty much a lost cause. A case of the wrong gene of band for the festival I guess.

Jane Weaver packed them in for her set. When she was announced for this festival earlier in the year she was not playing any other festivals. By the time she actually played in Liverpool it must have been around her 10th festival appearance of the summer.

A queuing system was put in place for Hookworms and Spiritualized, which meant I saw the last song of the former and the complete set of the latter which in turn meant missing The Heads for fear of not getting back in for the festival headliners. This was the first and only time I had this issue all weekend and wonder if there was a substantial uptake of day tickets on Saturday evening?

To say that the Spiritualized set was epic would be an understatement. As usual nothing other than a thank you from Jason Pierce but, a tighter band you could not wish for. Standing next to the guy doing the lighting, the amount of effort he was putting in over his board was nearly equally as compelling as watching the band themselves!

So a fine festival all round and one I will definitely return to.

Pete

 

No major changes on the site itself to mention this year. The Silent Disco was now in the Garden stage area, and there was a sizeable Fox at the top of the field for the Woods stage and an elephant hanging from a hot air balloon in the Big Top tent. The woods themselves were a myriad of colour and sounds with many delights to be discovered.

Sunday was glorious weather; the rest of the weekend was overcast and generally autumnal. Less of a family feel this year with the kids already being back at school but an increase in the pre-Uni crowd was evident. As ever a decent vibe and many smiling faces.

Palma Violets were a rocking start for the early arrivals on Thursday with a crowd surfing, stage invading set and the festival as a whole kicked off on Friday with a laid back, jam orientated Ryley Walker on the Garden Stage just after midday on the Friday.

Loose Music's Andrew Combs brought a fine country vibe to the Woods stage followed by a trio of ladies who stormed the rest of the afternoon. Frazey Ford stared off gently with some very fine songs from her solo album followed by the rising star that is the formidable Nadine Shah who put on an electric performance in the Big Top tent. The trio was completed by a sonic if somewhat distance performance from Torres.

Back to the Big Top for a superb show from a psychedelic driven Pond who really excelled as did, the fun filled Diagrams in the Tipi (Uncut Stage) tent. 

TY Segall's Fuzz blasted the last remains of any Friday daylight out of the sky and plunged the world into darkness with their sonic horizon filling sound. Final choice of the day was Tame Impala or Low. I went with the latter and was rewarded with a spell-binding set from the band containing a lot of new material.

Low seem be to on a creative high again. Adam mentioned that he was surprised to be invited back to the festival where last time he threw his guitar into the crowd (not gently either). Thank heavens they were asked back though, this was a show totally focussed on the music, no major lighting or videos, just the music.

Saturday started with a soon to be indie Welsh legend, H. Hawkline. Huw and the boys really had some cracking songs in the sunshine followed by The Duke Spirit who delivered a rocking return on the Woods Stage.

Madisen Ward & Mama Bear gave a delightful show of country blues to a packed and overflowing Tipi tent audience after which Stephen Steinbrink brought some heart wrenching solo tunes to the same stage followed by a young Flo Morrissey who then charmed another substantial crowd on the Uncut stage with her angelic voice.

A sojourn to the tented base camp was followed by a widescreen rock show from My Morning Jacket who packed a 60 minute set with as many songs as they could. Leaving time for an encore, I got the impression that they left the stage, only to be told there were no encores?

Tonight's Saturday headline for the 10th anniversary of the festival was the much sought after Surfjan Stevens, whose shows the previous week leading up to the festival were given 5 star reviews across the board but, could that translate to a festival field? Well quite frankly, yes. I don't think I have ever seen a festival audience so quiet and reverential. Dawn Landes was in Surfjan's band this time around and the whole unit seemed  to gel exceptionally well together. It's just hard to actually find anything lacking in the performance, stage lighting, sound or enthusiasm of the band; this was darn near as perfect festival set as you could wish for. some more thoughts on this particular set are HERE.

Sunday was a slow peaceful start but we did make it to the Woods stage for the rather excellent Houndtooth who were just beautiful in the sunshine. The Black Tambourines from Nottingham lived up to their growing live reputation with their Stones like riffs and retro reverb filled tunes. Ultimate Painting followed, these guys part Mazes, part Veronica Falls are a really first rate outfit. Marika Hackman underlined her performance at the Green Man Festival with another fine set, just one woman and a guitar (and amp).

Sunshine, main stage, Alvvays, what more could you need for a teatime slot, just glorious, the band from Nova Scotia relay delivered even though lead singer Molly Rankin was suffering with a sore throat.

A Giant Sand gig is always an intriguing affair and after a storming set at Glastonbury hopes were high for End of the Road show. Endless tuning meant the band where fifteen minutes late on even Howe quipped, "we only have time for one song now, but, it will be a good one". Howe never really seemed to have his heart in it and although the remaining forty five minutes sparked occasionally, overall it was a sense of what could have been.

Future Islands on the other hand exceeded expectations with a thoroughly entertaining set as day turned to night. Headliners for me were The War on Drugs who wound up the festival on a terrific high. There must be a new album soon and still more to come from this great band.

Highlight's of the late night sets in the Tipi included Jaco Gardner who had everyone dancing on sore feet and Ex Hex who just rocked the place to the ground.

So, the Tenth Anniversary is done and dusted and an excellent event it was as well. Here's looking forward to 2016!

Pete

Festival Website

The overriding sensations' at Green Man 2015 were, the fabulous vibe amongst the sold out crowd, staff and artists, the sensational music and, the apocalyptic rainfall.

The Black Mountains of the Breacon Becons in Wales offered us a sunny Thursday morning to set up base camp, before the rain started to fall around teatime. Settling in all day just saw us check out part of the revitalised Leftfield's set before returning to the Courtyard for the100 Welsh Ales and Ciders testing commitments.

Facilities remained impressive throughout the weekend. Even with all the rainfall the site and staff responded well to the changing conditions. Indeed how much have festivals changed these days when the main concern of someone coming out of a toilet cubicle is to whisper the news that "the hand sanitiser has run out, is that ok?" …. Another brilliant job all weekend by 'Andy's Loos'.

Friday starts off with competition winner's Hunck and the hardy souls standing in front of the main stage. A nice and brave set from the band to get the festival started. The Green Man Rising stage is next and the fabulous Art Bandini and band offer some rootsy blues and Americana by way of a seven piece band. It's a real spirit raiser!

Coral guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones had the perfect tone for the weather and C. Duncan followed with songs from debut album 'Architect', which is full of fine music from this Scottish producer and musician, today with a  full band this was classy set.

Slug, part of the Field Music Empire from Sunderland, were in fine fettle having survived the car journey down from Wearside and really got the crowd revved up in the Far Out tent. A really great show from a charismatic band. Teleman followed with a very polished set and lots of new songs. This band is really maturing nicely.

Syd Arthur bring their heavily 70's influenced sound to the Chai Wallah's tent, but with a rum 'Super Furries Fizz' in hand, the sonic attack on the senses that is otherwise known as Viet Cong was the preferred option. Formed from the ashes of Canadian sonic warriors, 'Women' the band did not disappoint, particularly with the Neil Young esqe style, never-ending finishes' to songs.

Singer/Songwriter Joe Pug played a lovely set in the summer sunshine on the Walled Garden Stage. Storytelling and singing in equal measure made this an intimate set. Calexico in all their glory triumphed with a great set on the Mountain stage.  Indeed it was hard seeing anything surpassing this set for the rest of the day when next came, Atomic Bomb! The music of William Onyeabor with a joyous explosion of sound and attitude. Special guests included Hot Chips' Alexis Taylor and Jimmy Rip from Television amongst the large band of singers and musicians. If Calexico were joyous then this lot moved the happiness level up to good few notches. Hot Chip were the headliners on the Mountain Stage on Friday evening and seemed to draw the biggest crowd of the entire weekend to their show. I however, chose Mew on the Far Out Stage to end my Friday night. An excellent band with an ever growing catalogue and nice light show, this proved a rocking end to a Friday night.

Hannah-Lou Clarke was our first full set on Saturday. Initially checking the music out as we wondered if this Hannah-Lou, was the Hannah-Lou of 'Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou fame. She wasn't but, my, what a discovery. With a very fine band in tow, this was a fine set. Good songs, lead and rhythm guitars. With a grit reminiscence of Beth Orton and with this band set-up, Hannah-Lou Clarke is one to look out for.

As with every version of this festival, the great music just continues to flow and, Marika Hackman had the main stage all to herself with her electric guitar and amp, as the sun shone down on a quiet disbelieving crowd. There was even a queue at the Ice Cream van. Marika's lovely songs kept the crowd entranced.

The Far Out tent was bursting to overflowing halfway down the hill for Songhoy Blues, but in the sunshine the rhythms sounded just as good even if, you couldn't actually see the band. The Leisure Society continued the feel-good factor with their usual style and had the crowd jigging away. Then Nick came out with the comment "where's this rain we were promised". Well it turned up around teatime and took on seemingly apocalyptic strength over the next 18 hours and well into Sunday morning.

The Green Man Folk are made of hardy stuff and like any festival, you just get on with it. On Sunday morning it was reassuring that not many cars had left the site.

So Saturday continues apace, Jane Weaver spreads her psych sound from the Silver Globe LP across the Walled Garden crowd, followed by the storm at its most ferocious and primal.That's not the rain by the way, that's Richard Dawson who was next up on the Walled Garden Stage. Certainly an artist to split opinions, I found his set captivating. Described as a folk musician from Newcastle, that title just scratches the surface of a spine tingling live performance. 

It turns out that we are in the Walled Garden for the afternoon and early evening. The final act for us this evening is the sublime This is the Kit with added Rozi Plain. A delightful and delicate lo-fi set from this wonderful band.

It's 9.30pm and the rain has eased and the main stage turn's it's attention to the legend that is Television performing the equally legendary album 'Marquee Moon'. For those people of a certain age, this is 'Goosebumps on the back of the neck time'. The bands are electric and the songs from the album captivating. It's great to see the kids of today dancing along and singing the words. As impressive as the recent Patti Smith 'Horses' shows, both gigs were quite astonishing.

Biggest decision of the weekend was Super Furry Animals or Slowdive (who on earth did that scheduling?). Welsh band, Welsh festival, so SFA got our vote and the ninety minutes of hits and more was truly well received in the pouring rain. The recent UK tour obviously had longer shows and there was the unknown factor of what was ahead. Tonight it was more a celebratory homecoming and the band triumphed.

The heavens kept the tap open all night and well into Sunday morning. Boots turned to wellies and the grass disappeared into the mud. Having said that, the site drainage is excellent and there are never any real Glasto mud moments.

Sunday was a day of musical gold, starting out on the Far Out stage with the excellent Ultimate Painting. Part Mazes part Veronica Falls, there was a slight twinge of West Coast evident though an impressive set. Steve Gunn was next on the Mountain Stage. A prolific songwriter and guitarist, he as fabulous in the strengthening sunshine. Plenty of exercise today moving between stages, hence a new slim line Matthew E. White appeared with his band on the main stage  and were beguiling, after which it was back up the Far Out stage for workwomanlike set from Waxahatchee. No chat, just a chock –a block set of songs squeezed into the band's allotted forty five minutes slot.

Son Lux were a real find. Perhaps a close comparison would be Battles (for me). Son Lux seem genuinely nice guys, pleased, happy and humble to be playing at the festival. The music was superb and a band you should truly check out.

The sun is blazing and everyone is drying. Antlers and The Staves both put in solid sets in the sunshine. Back in tent for the first gig I have seen by Public Service Broadcasting. What an original idea for a show, educational, engaging and visually enthralling. The day just gets better.

Back to the main stage for Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty. For a drummer he is certainly not shy in coming forward making this is a brilliant and fun show. Great songs from a growing solo back catalogue. Josh is a real showman.

Final band of the festival for me is Goat. Again I had never seen this band live before and what a live experience they are. Psychedelic aerobics in Aztec costumes perhaps might get close. An outstanding performance anyway.

So there we are then, another Green Man passes with the burning of, yes, The Green Man and fireworks. Another stunning edition of this family friendly festival.

Pete

 Festival Website

The Pig Hotel, Pensford, a few miles west of Bath, is one of a small chain of boutique hotels in the South of England. Through the summer months most locations host a live music event under the 'Smoked & Uncut' banner.

It is an imaginative attempt to showcase original and contemporary artists in a wonderful setting. This particular event was right up our street as favourites Teleman were on the bill topped by singer-songwriter with god-like status in my eyes Ed Harcourt.

We made the festival the centrepiece of the weekend and stayed the weekend at the hotel. So as we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday breakfast in the conservatory we were able to see the festival being set up before our eyes. The spacious lawn was populated with straw bales which lent itself beautifully for a picnic-style music afternoon. With just 650 tickets on sale there was plenty of space, arguably a little too much space as the tendency for folk to place themselves at the back (some behind the small tented sound desk) meant there were no people up close to the stage. The only exception was toward the end of the Teleman set when the band encouraged a few people forward, so I was able to jump around for their set closer 'Not In Control'

A nod to the catering. This is a top-quality hotel and restaurant and the festival fare followed suit: a variety of alcoholic beverages including some decent real ale plus a selection of fresh cooked food from pizzas, flat-breads to barbecued mini-skewers with dips. A voucher system was in operation. With vouchers (=1 pint) at £5 each it puts it on the expensive side. But accepting that, it's good to see establishments like this provide an entree to families to the wonder of listening to a variety of music in the sunshine.

Given the family-centric nature of the day the live music lasted from 12.30 to 6.00 pm, followed by DJs for an hour. In that time we enjoyed:

Carousels & Limousines - guitars to get the afternoon off to a rocking start

The Drystones - a guitar and fiddle duo playing lively tunes with overtones of The Unthanks/Bellowhead. A virtue of this genre is that it got a few people to their feet. New song 'Green Trees' came to an abrupt end - with fiddle player, Alex, explaining that guitar player, Ford, had broken a string. They then went into a final assault of a medley of songs with Ford demonstrating his prowess on a number of variously-sized penny whistles. Impressive and entertaining in equal measure. 

Brother From Another - an acoustic duo that performed a few covers under a canvas at the side of the lawn. I didn't have high hopes as they went into their opener 'I Wanna Be like You' from The Jungle Book, but they redeemed themselves with some George Benson and Hendrix material later in their brief set.

Sinnober - a folk/indie band with Danish roots but now located in Somerset. Great melodies and a very tight live performance with songs covering multiple styles including an unmistakable Zutons sound in 'Lucky 13'. The only slight disappointment was that they terminated 'Hollywood Lies' without the guitar solo that brings this song to a conclusion on their eponymous debut CD.

Teleman - their debut album 'Breakfast' was in my 2014 top-3. Nevertheless it was good to see them breaking away from those tunes. More than half their set was 'new' material including recent single 'Strange Combination'. Not a major shift from the winning formula and unique sound of their first offering but 'Dusseldorf' and 'Glory Hallelujah' are underpinned with a slightly heavier piano sound. '23 Floors Up' from 'Breakfast' was a set highlight.

Ed Harcourt - played a set sprinkled with many of his better known numbers 'Apple Of My Eye', 'I've Become Misguided', 'Born In The Seventies', 'This Ones For You'.  At one point he clambered from the stage cutting a pied piper-like figure with children draped round his neck as  he delivered a number  a cappella (in Spanish).  Another brief sortie across the lawn accompanied the beginning of set-closer 'Until Tomorrow Then' delivered with the now familiar RCA microphone and the usual Harcourt panache 

A marvellous conclusion to a beautiful afternoon. 

Si

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