Moseley Folk Festival 2007 – Saturday
My weekend was taken up by the Moseley Folk Festival, and it was absolutely lovely. This was the second year of its existence – I went to the Saturday in 2006 and liked it so much that I decided to go to both days this time, even though the line-up didn’t seem quite as enticing (this seems as good a place as anywhere to slot this – why weren’t The Destroyers playing? Bit silly, really).
So, Saturday morning. A works outing had taken place to Cumin in Walsall (it’s alright) the previous night and I hadn’t slept too much since, but I wasn’t going to let the lager and lamb Madras oozing out of my pores stop me. I donned the borrowed Annual Folk Festival Hat and was off and away to sunny South Birmingham. A train and a bus later, I joined the queue outside Moseley Park to find the pirates of Tyburn Jig (more on them later) strolling around and offering people biscuits. Just like the previous year, my first impression was that you can keep your Carling V-Kender whatever-have-you corporate festivals.
With a programme (including a free compilation CD) and a shiny orange weekend wristband obtained, I walked out into lovely Moseley park just in time to see opening artist Jane Weaver (who I saw the previous year, too) beginning her set on the main stage. Fairly typical stuff, in a lot of ways, but nice with it – quite fun songs, a lovely voice, and some lyrics that seemed interesting here and there.
The curse of ‘fairly typical stuff’ then decended for a little while. Neither Dominic Crane on the Lunar (side-) stage or Andrew Hockey on the main stage had anything that stood out to me amongst their ordinary singer-songwriter larks. I split the time between paying attention for a bit, then wandering around for a bit, then paying attention for a bit again etc.
Some of said wandering led me to the beer tent (it’s unlike me, I know). This worked out better than last year – the ticket system had been abandoned in favour of Sterling, and they didn’t run out of real ales anywhere near as often (no Keystone Hops remained on Saturday evening, but it was back by the Sunday). While on the subject of drinks, one should also give a hurrah for the sealed-lid glasses of wine that could be purchased. You could turn ’em upside down, swing ’em around or wear ’em on your head, and they still didn’t leak. Good idea, and the contents weren’t quite as bad as you might expect generic ‘chardonnay’ or ‘shiraz’ to be either.
Back to the main stage for Voice Of The Seven Woods, who has by now (after having seen him three times) convinced me that I’m never likely to see the same thing twice from him. This one was him on his own, with his guitar and a bunch of pedals. He varied, at first, between different styles of guitarin’ – delicate folksy picking, more insistant country blues picking, and sturm und drang violent strumming – and proved capable of both building up subtley from one to another and of turning on a sixpence where needed. Recordings of what he just did were used for layering purposes, as seems to be the fashion of late. In the distance I could see but not hear a troupe of Morrismen, and to view them flitting about whilst hearing nothing but VOTSW’s music was outright surreal. As his set drew to a close, he progressed into a magnificent feedback/noisejam bit. Not only did it actually sound effective (rather than just a tedious example of something done a thousand times before, as these things generally turn out to be), it also produced results – amongst other things I saw a small boy running away with his hands over his ears, and an old woman eith a facial expression like she’d just got a whiff of turned eggs. Ricky the acoustic guitar-plucker from Manchester got exactly the sort of responses that most noise artists want but fail to achieve.
Chris Tye turned out to be another uninterestingly ordinary singer-songwriter, and thus on the course of another wander around I came across the other troupe of Morris dancers. Rather than the white-clothed dancers I’d already viewed from afar, these sorts wore red-and-black feathery things and bootpolish on their faces (erm…) while dancing in way that was sloppier and probably more drunken, but definitely more entertaining. Big splinters of wood flew through the air as they walloped their sticks together without reserve. Some of the white-clad Morrismen looked on from the sidelines, scowling with disapproval. Jon Bounds filmed a video.
By the time I returned I’d missed the beginning of Martha Tilston, which turned out to be a shame as her set was absolutely wonderful. A nice mix of traditional and modern folkerisms, with some great songs (I loved loved loved ‘Artificial’) and a bit of charisma about her. “More!” the crowd a-shouted, alas to no avail. Definitely the best new discovery of the festival for me.
Away from the music stages once more, to hear one of Tyburn Jig‘s tales. I saw them last year and loved them – great fun for kids and grown-ups alike. After this I popped out for a little bit, getting a bit fed up of being in a park (not to suggest that it’s not a lovely park) and fancying a slightly cheaper than £3-a-pint drink or two. I went to The Bulls Head and was irritated to find that they chill their John Smiths to one micro-scintilla of a degree above freezing and thus render it tasteless. I felt like rolling up a newspaper in the traditional fashion of punishing an animal. Bad Bulls Head, naughty Bulls Head. One might even be tempted to rub its nose in it too, but then again its probably best not to push your luck with a bull. On top of this, the background jazz was proving to be altogether too Schmooooove I’ve decided that I don’t like this pub other than the upstairs gig venue.
Wetherspoons, then (they also chill a lot of things that shouldn’t be chilled, of course, but at least they leave the guest ales be), and back to the festival. Simon Fowler of the largely boring Ocean Colour Scene turned out to be largely boring on his own, too. He worked a bit of ‘Rehab’ into one song and mentioned that this was the first time he’d ever drunk coke out of a glass at a festival between others. “Aaaaaah” said an old man sitting near me; “He’s at that stage of his evolution.”
I wondered upfield and encountered The Old Dance School at the (for some reason unadvertised and hidden amongst the stalls) Bohemian Jukebox stage. Traditional eye-tiddly-eye energetic ceilidh stuff, with people on the mic calling the dances that go with the tunes. People joined in, got it wrong, came close to falling over, and generally had a great time. I didn’t indulge myself but it was lots of fun to watch.
Mose(-le-)ying on back down to the Lunar stage, I encountered Starless And Bible Black. I remember absolutely nothing about them. Hoo yuss, there’s the real Russ L coming out. Or maybe it speaks more of them. Who can say? They didn’t create any big impression on me either way, of that I can be certain.
Davy Graham was next, and as far as I can tell was the main draw of the whole festival for a lot of the proper folky types. As influential and important and all the rest of it as he is, I knew and know little of his work. I enjoyed his set though; very sixties, of course, with long guitar-picking pieces that could have bored me in other circumstances but came across as nicely relaxing right there and then, and naturally some of your proper-folky warbly singing.
It was cold, by this point. There hadn’t been any sign of rain all day, but I was dithering like a quaking rodent by this point. Andy Votel did a bit of DJing while I attempted to not to lose any unnecessary energy and waited for Tunng to bring warmth back to the world.
They did that with ease, of course. This was the fourth time I’d seen them (and funnily enough, it’s been Supersonic/Moseley Folk/Supersonic/Moseley Folk) and they’ve been absolutely magnificent on each occasion. They’re without a doubt one of my favourite contemporary bands, blending folk-rock with space-rock and electronic bits to create music of rare beauty. “People Folk” was as eerie as ever; the oom-pa-pa of “Bullets” fun as usual, and just the sound of “Beautiful And Light” was close enough to bringing a tear to my eyes. Best band of the festival.
Finally, Fairport Convention. I’m not an expert in their works (I’ve heard the ‘Liege & Lief’ and ‘Unhalfbricking’ albums, basically) but I definitely like them and was looking forward to seeing them. A couple of things were surprising about them, and (I suppose) this was compounded by the fact that I was surprised to find surprises at all. They gave off much more of an energetic jump-up-dance-around feel than I was expecting, and I didn’t predict that they’d use a lot of crowd-working tactics (blessedly it didn’t come across as irritating as that type of thing generally does). Really good fun, anyway; I’ll add my pocketknife to Bounder’s two fine beaten swords in saying that ‘Matty Groves’ was a wonderful thing to get to hear live.