Call me Russ L

Folkin’ hell

Posted in Music by Russ L on 19 September, 2006

True Anecdote From The Day In Question #1: In town, on my way to the event about which you’ll presently hear, I was stopped by a man who asked for directions to Moor Street Station. I’d guess at him being late 40s to early 50s (I’m never very good at estimating ages, though), Yorkshire accent, quite tall, portly, fairly nice suit. I told him which way he wanted to be going, and as he departed… he folded up a fiver and tucked it into my shirt pocket. I, sadly, was too stunned to chase after him and offer to give him a guided tour around all of the stations.


The first weekend (2nd/3rd) of September saw the first Moseley Folk Festival, in Moseley Park in South Birmingham. I attended the first day, and naturally that was the one of the two where the weather decided to repeatedly piss it down. Oh well. I borrowed a silly hat to protect me from the rain.

I liked the actual set-up/organisation a lot. It had a nice, friendly sort of atmosphere, probably a result of the relative small scale. You were greeted as you entered with a nice little “Welcome to The Moseley Folk Festival” from the stewards. I can’t imagine getting that at your Carling V-kenders or whatever-have-you.

The one problem they really, really could do with sorting out for next year (I assume it’s going to be an annual event) as far as I’m concerned, though, was the beer. Firstly – more of it. There was a standard lager/lager/Guinness bar selection, but also a variety of barrelled ales and ciders, most of which ran out early on. More barrels were obtained, and they quickly ran out too. This pattern repeated for the rest of the day. Now that they know it’ll sell, I’m sure the organisers will be able to get a shedload more to begin with next time. Secondly – the paying system. You had to walk over to a little caravan a stretch away from the bar, and buy 50p tokens. “Fair enough,” I thought, “it saves the barstaff fiddling about with change when they could be serving people,” but I was suddenly less pleased when I learned that you could only buy them in multiples of five quid’s worth. Since most of the drinks were £3 or £3.50, it didn’t divide too well. I managed to spend every last one of mine (I am ever so cunning), but I imagine a lot of people went home with a least a few left in their wallet. Initially I was a bit miffed that you had to use your first token to hire a glass, but I warmed to that idea when I noticed the relative lack of litter scattered about.

Music, then? Alright. I think these are all in the right order but I’m not entirely sure and apologise if not. Simon Lord and Robert Jessie were already onstage when I arrived, providing me with an early blast of what I’d feared the day might perhaps provide too much of if it didn’t go well – winsome little songs from affable but uncharismatic young men. I wouldn’t call ‘em bad but I did unfortunately find them to be somewhat forgettable.

A line-up reshuffle due to traffic problems for some artists meant that Scott Matthews from Wolves was on next and a lot more likeable. He mixed a bit of country and blues into his sound and, despite me spending the entire duration of his set trying to put my finger on who his voice reminded me of (he sounds exactly like someone but I just can’t place it), I quite liked him. He went down very well, too, but I’ll stop there since we’ll be coming back to him later.

I moved away from the music at this point to have a little wonder around the stalls, and ended up getting somewhat distracted by Tyburn Jig – a two-man show of pirate tales and swashbuckling adventures aimed broadly at children but with plenty of asides to keep the parents amused. It was genuinely funny (I was in stitches, alongside everyone else watching), and I’m never going to turn down an opportunity to shout “HUZZAH!” out loud (this afforded plenty). I gather they perform at a lot of events of this nature all over the country, and they’re really worth a look if you get chance.

That kept me out of the range of the music for quite a while, and by the time I’d returned it was time for Richard Burke on the tiny ‘Bohemian Dukebox’ side stage (and, the more I think about this, the less and less sure I get that I have the running order correct. I remember everyone I saw so won’t miss anything, it’s just a question of whenabouts in the day they came). Just another unremarkable singer/songwriter at first listen (sorry), although I do faintly recall noting some quite sweet lyrics here and there. A bit of spectacle was added by a troupe of Morris Men leaving the backstage area and walking in full finery past the stage while he was still playing.

Mi & L’au’s soundcheck seemed to drag on a bit, so I went and watched a bit of the Morris Dancing before returning to find them doing a fairly aimless drone bit (passing Morrisman: “Is this a song or are they still tuning up?”). It all settled down (or livened up, depending on how you want to look at it) into some very sombre-yet-pretty violin-centred stuff, distantly reminding me of Picastro and at times maybe even a less song-based version of ‘Animal Rights’ era 27. It all came crashing down, of course, everytime L’au opened his gob for a bit of a monotone singing-attempt, but while Mi was taking the vocal lead and during the instrumental passages they were lovely.

I trekked back over to the Bohemian Dukebox stage (it was a good ten yards away) for Ben Calvert’s set. I know he has his devoted following locally, but (much like when I saw him at The Jug ages and ages ago) nothing about him or his songs really stood out to me.

Back to the main stage for The Destroyers, a band I was really looking forward to getting a chance to see. Obviously, what each and every one of us needs in our life is an umpteen strong group of variously be-hatted loonies playing Balkan/Slavic/Eastern European style danceband-ish tunes. An old ranting poet type fella (I didn’t catch his name) joined them to add words to a couple of songs; you couldn’t make out what he was saying for most of the time he was there, but no-one seemed to mind. A fair few people danced, and surely everyone else was led to smile widely by the sheer fun of The Destroyers. I know I was. Second best set of the day.

The next thing we got (maybe. By now I’m really lost as regards the running order) was a reprise of Scott Matthews, again on the main stage. Apparently a contingent of fans had come especially for him (and missed him due to his first set happening earlier than planned), and compere Janice Long (From Off The Radio, Like) really likes him too, so it was re-re-wind. I forget the degree to which he repeated the same or played different songs, but I found myself liking him even more this time round. I support my fellow yam-yams.

Jane Weaver was next on the Bohemian Dukebox stage, and I quite enjoyed her stuff. Interestingly, the festival’s programme speaks of how she avoids ‘anthemic hand wavers,’ but I definitely found her songs to be the most obviously catchy of any of the three artists I saw on the little side-stage. This is not a bad thing. That was it for there, anyway – the main stage was where it all happened from hereon in.

Findlay Brown’s name kept making me think of Nick Cave’s ‘Stagger Lee’ with a slightly changed lyric. That was about the most exciting thing about him. I wandered off to purchase a Thai chicken curry in a tray, which wasn’t amazing but was still infinitely better than you expect festival food-in-a-tray to be.

I made sure I was back for Tunng, the band I was most looking forward to that day. They didn’t disappoint and were possibly even better than the previous time I saw them. Unconventional but very good songwriting is something you can’t go wrong with, really, and their oddball spacey folk is thoroughly infused with it. Set of the day without a doubt.

Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle were next. I’m going to have to confess to not knowing a fat lot about Pentangle’s cannon (they’re the sort of band that a music fan is supposed to know well, I realise, but I don’t…), but even I’m aware that this current incarnation plays in a somewhat different style to that with which they originally gained acclaim. There was a lot more jazz to this set than there was folk, including versions of a couple of standards. ‘Pleasant’ was the word that leapt to mind; nothing gripping, but not as forgettable as some of our earnest young men from earlier in the day.

A folk-lovin’ mate of mine taped me Seth Lakeman’s “Kitty Jay” a while back, which I enjoyed. Imagine my surprise to now find the lad beginning to get famous and releasing singles with glossy videos and so on. His bit-of-old/bit-of-new style provided a nice lively way to restore the crowd’s flagging stamina as night-time darkness drew overhead. His fiddle-playing positively shimmers and a fair few of his songs are genuinely affecting, so hurrah – it’s nice to see a bit of success going towards an artist who deserves it.

Finally (in more than one sense), our headliners for the day were The Incredible String Band in what was billed as their last ever (forever ever) gig. I’m more familiar with TIBS than I am with Pentangle, and I like such of their recorded work that I’ve heard a lot, but I don’t think this set was a fitting send-off. The sound was terrible, leading them to sound really ragged, and although the songs still shone through they only managed to make the best of a bad job. A shame.

It was a really, really enjoyable day out, nonetheless. I had a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to next year.


True Anecdote From The Day In Question #2: At the actual festival, I was approached by a 20-something-ish bloke.
Punter: Who’s this on stage at the moment mate?
Me: Erm… Pentangle are on next. This is just recorded music.

~ Russ L, narrowly picking the title he used for this post over “Nowt so queer as folk.”


4 Responses

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  1. helen said, on 20 September, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    The 50p token thing is a legal thing. They were not licensed premise so couldn’t sell you the booze, but they can sell you tokens/raffle tickets which you then exchange for the booze. I have been to many a church hall do in my youth that did this.

    Well that’s how it used to work.

    Anyway one drink should have lasted you all day, ask auntie Rach.

  2. Brett Wilde said, on 22 January, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I was the official photographer at the Moseley Folk festival and would be happy to supply you with pix to punctuate your blog if you like. I liked the pirates as well.

  3. throughsilver said, on 22 January, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    An old boss of mine had a compilation bearing the same name as this post. It was good; all fiery and Gaelic. Wouldn’t mind hearing it again.

  4. Russ L said, on 22 January, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Brett – Cheers for the offer, but this is a largely picture-less thing. Nonetheless, I’d recommend that everyone goes and has a look at Brett’s pictures – some very cool stills there, very cool indeed.

    Anyway, courtesy of good ol’ P’Ashton‘s Brumblog, I see that the 1st and 2nd of September have been confirmed as the dates for this year’s Moseley Folk Festival.

    I’m very happy there’s due to be another one. Very happy indeed.


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