Monday, September 06, 2010

Moseley Folk Festival – Day Two, Saturday 4th September 2010

Day two and...bugger moi...the sun’s still shining. Genius. Arrived just in time to catch Lisa Knapp’s hauntingly beautiful rendition of Polly On The Shore, delivered acapella. It was one of many anti war songs delivered over the weekend, the majority of which were written hundreds of years ago but which, sadly, are every bit as relevant today (ignoring the stuff about galleons and cannonballs that is). A quick shuffle over to the other stage saw Arborea’s David Lynchian tinged folk (all sparse guitars and floaty vocals) which, at one point, cleverly incorporated a cheeky snatch of Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning unless I’m very much mistaken (on ‘Dance, Sing, Fight’ I think it was).

Next up the compere for the day (the lovely Paul Murphy) made a minor gaff, when he introduced Alasdair Roberts as Alastair Campbell...prompting a moment of panic when I imagined Labour’s spin doctor spouting bull crap at us for half an hour. Thankfully it was a different kind of storyteller altogether. Mr Roberts is something of a keeper of traditional folk ballads and I spent a happy half hour or so immersed in a different time. There’s plenty of misery in these tracks but I guess people had a lot more to be miserable about a few hundred years ago when life was more of a case of survival rather than which handbag goes with which outfit. If there’s one thing trad folk does really well it’s make you glad (in some ways at least) that you live in a time and a country where the basics of life are pretty much a given. Even if you do have to put up with spin doctors.

As the sun blazed down on us...yes, I was shocked too...Johnny Flynn, poster boy of the new folk scene (I can see why...he’s chap) stepped up to the main stage. Like Mumford and Sons he’s got a fine line in jaunty folk numbers and a voice that, in places recalls some of the greats like Martin Carthy and Phil Ochs. If there’s one thing about folk as a genre it tends to embrace the aging process, with artists often going on to produce some of their best work way beyond pension age. It’s too early to tell if Johnny will go on to do likewise but, judging by his passionate performance of ‘Fighter’s Refrain’ I wouldn’t bet against it.

Thanks to a ‘bit of a queue’ (ahem) in the bar I missed part of Malpas’ set but caught enough to be spellbound by their dreamy folk. The fact that their lead singer Ali’s previous band (Envy & Other of my favourite Birmingham bands ever) failed to get the success they deserved still gets on my man boobs and if you let it happen again I’ll be very, very cross with you all. So there. Bonus points for the lovely Miss Danielle Perry’s vocals, the perfect accompaniment to Ali’s, on a number of the tracks.

Right, next up a true legend...or leg end as he called himself. Spider John Koerner (not a real spider, but possessing the kind of limbs that would make a daddy long legs feel more than a little stumpy) first toured the UK way back in 1964 and was, by all accounts, a bit of an inspiration for old Bobby Dylan. He’s a regular visitor to these shores, having last toured here in...oh...bugger...1981? At this rate he’ll be back in 2039. But I’d book a ticket if I were you. He’s the real deal. A 100% proof American folk hero. That stuff I was talking about earlier (how some folkies do their best work when they get a little older), well, here’s the proof. ‘Days of ‘49’, which Spider performed just accompanied by a dude on bones and by stomping his foot was as close to American folk gold dust as you’re likely to hear.

We got jokes too! It went something like this. A man visits God and says “God, is it true that a million years to us feels just like a second to you”

“That’s true” replied God.

“And is it true that a $million to us is just like a penny to you?”

“Yes” replied God

“Well then Lord” said the man “could I just have one of those pennies?”

“Sure” replied God “Just give me a second...”

Catch the Spider if you can...or else check him out...on the web...naturally.

Next up The High Llamas. I like the High Llamas. I really do. I went to see them about 400 years ago and their lead singer Sean spent most of the set fussing about the sound. Fast forward to today and, well, he spent most of the set fussing about the sound. Does he always do this? The sound sounded fine to me. Both times. Maybe, like Brian Wilson, he can hear perfection in his head but can’t find it in real life. Shame. Still ‘Nomads’ and set closer ‘Checking In, Checking Out’ still retained that woozy Summer time feeling that makes the world feel a better place.

After a quick nibble it was time for The Low Anthem who started off a little bit slow for my liking (it may have been the time of day...I was ready for a bit of ooomph) but found form on some of their later numbers. They’re one of those bands that all swap instruments, which makes me feel really inferior. I can’t even play the recorder and here are a bunch of people who can play the organ, drums, violin, guitar...hell, the lead singer even played a saw. Take the piss why don’t you. I bet he could probably play a artichoke if you asked him (ignore me, I’m only jealous). Pick of the set included ‘Whiskey, Cigarettes and Wild, Wild Women’ a yeehaw bar room lament that amusingly coincided with a member of the audience (who had clearly had his fair share of the first of these three) attempting to stand up. He failed. Miserably. Perhaps he’s still there?

Right, on to Goodnight Lenin. If you don’t know how highly I rate this band then shame on you. Where’ve you been eh? They’re simply one of the best young bands around for me with an album’s worth of material that should, if there’s any justice in the world, see ‘em headlining festivals like this. It was a relatively short set but they still managed to cram enough fine tunes to make this one of the best performances of the weekend. I was particularly impressed by a new-ish song of theirs that I keep wanting to call Overcoat...but it might not be called that at all. Anyway it’s the one where Liam goes a bit nuts with his guitar half way through. Love it. Part of the appeal of the band for me taps in to the Irish heritage of some of the band members and it’s this fusion together with a new twist on the American folk of Dylan and CSN & Y that really excites in terms of their future development. Anyway, just go and see them. Trust me.

Last set of the day and it’s time for Jamaica’s very own Donovan. He is Jamaican isn’t he? That would explain all the ‘Yeah mons’ that peppered the show. Either that or he smoked way too much weed back in the 60’s. You’ve got to love him though and you can’t argue with the songs. ‘Catch The Wind’, ‘Jennifer Juniper’, ‘There is a Mountain’ (more cod Jamaican accents), ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Season of the Witch’, ‘Mellow Yellow’ and, of course, his signature tune ’The Hurdy Gurdy Man’...all of whom were cheerfully delivered to an eager crowd. It was all great fun and it reminded me of just how many great songs this crazy cat wrote.

Far out mon.


Michelle said...

About playing a saw - there is a musical saw festival in New York City every summer: They have a workshop for learning to play a saw :)

The Baron said...

Thanks Michelle - some great videos on that website. I'm sure I'd end up decapitating myself if I tried it though! I'm not good with tools...