August 03, 2004

The 40th Cambridge Folk Festival

As I mentioned on Friday, this weekend was the Folk Festival. For the first time since moving to Cambridge, I was actually organized enough to get some tickets. Usually I find out when the tickets go on sale, think about buying some, but leave it until they've sold out; even this year when I bought my tickets in late May, there weren't any tickets left for the Saturday.

I didn't bother with the Thursday evening (Residents' Night, for those of us in the city), so Friday was my first day at the festival. With attending the wedding, I missed the afternoon's performances so once again I haven't seen The Broken Family Band and Loudon Wainwright III had already played when I caught up with Jo and Carl camped out in front of the main stage. Kepa Junkera was in the second half of his set when I arrived, and when that was over only the headline remained. The Divine Comedy didn't seem very folk to me, but everyone seemed to enjoy them, from the embarrassing Dad dancing in his own unique manner in his beret, to the young couple tangoing to their heart's content under the night sky.

Luckily, the Saturday line-up was the least appealing to me. My lack of ticket gave me the opportunity to go mountain-biking with Dan and Ian. The twenty miles round the King's Forest just outside Bury St. Edmunds was the first off-roading I've done all year; great fun if a little too sandy in places! I was back home by mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day just chilling out. Because I live so close to Cherry Hinton Hall (where the Folk Festival is held), I don't actually need a ticket to enjoy the festival, I can just open my windows. So I got to hear bits of the Levellers set during the afternoon and Jimmy Cliff was live in my bedroom when I'd turned in for the night.

Sunday was another glorious day; the last day of the festival. In the afternoon, I decided to check out the second stage: Peter Buckley Hill's comic songs were rather amusing, including (IIRC) his fusion of My Old Man's A Dustman with Stairway To Heaven; Jarlath Henderson was quite listenable to, although not really my cup of tea; and on Jo's recommendation, Jim Moray - who I can best describe as an indie band doing folk music. I particularly enjoyed the Jim Moray 4's version of Poverty Knock, although some of that will be down to knowing how different it sounds when done by the Houghton Weavers.

After popping home to drop off my rucksack and picnic rug, it was back to the main stage for the evening. Ralph McTell was excellent; I hadn't heard much of his work before, but really enjoyed the songs (Peppers And Tomatoes and From Clare To Here are the only two titles I can remember) and the banter with the crowd.

Beth Orton is another person who has a great rapport with her audience. I first saw her a couple of years back at The Junction, where she didn't want to finish, and was the same this time: haggling with the organisers for more time, and even after that trying to squeeze in another song. By now I was right in the midst of the crowd, and loving every minute.

Things quietened down after Beth, although the organisers had arranged a couple of surprises to celebrate the festival's 40th birthday - the Dixie Hummingbirds did a song on the main stage (before they finished proceedings on the second stage) and Eliza Carthy made a guest appearance to perform one of her songs. All that was left was for the Michael McGoldrick Band to finish up the festival with their brilliantly played "ceilidh music" (a perfect description coined by Jo on Friday).

As BBC Radio 2 were the festival sponsors, there was coverage of the weekend on Radio 2, and there'll be a couple of shows on BBC 4 (shame I don't have digital TV) on 20th August. And "because of the unique way in which the BBC is funded", you can actually listen to the Radio 2 coverage and watch most of the main acts on the Internet! How cool is that? Although for some reason they've changed the running order of some of the playlists, at least on Ralph McTell's set. The links are all on the Radio 2 festival page.

So I can put together my own virtual festival line-up, and because I've been learning SMIL (like HTML for multimedia) recently, this link should give you the whole line-up in one long orgy of music.

00:00 - Loudon Wainwright III
00:30 - The Divine Comedy (watch out for the Queens Of The Stone Age cover)
01:35 - Jim Moray
02:05 - Beth Orton
And getting the headline over Beth because the last song is the perfect end to the festival...
02:38 - Ralph McTell

Posted by Adrian at August 3, 2004 02:16 PM | TrackBack

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