The folkfest with the Moselest
The third till the fifth of September saw me moseying to Moseley Park in Moseley for the Moseley Folk Festival, bag o’provisions in hand and silly hat pulled down loooow (for I am the most nefarious gangsta at the suburban folk fete). Happily Moseley Park was as lovely as ever, and happily the weather was more-or-less well behaved until Sunday. Less happily, the Friday and Saturday were a lot busier than I’ve ever known it be before (the Friday was particularly surprising – “have all these people got the day off work?” I wondered. I then realised that a good number of them were hippies. This explains everything) and the queues for the bar and food and such were on the verge of mental. I hope this problem doesn’t continue in future years. The lovely lovely vibe of the thing could really do without being spoiled by the frustration and agitation caused by drink-fetching hesitation.
Get your streamers and party hats, ready, too, ‘cos we reached a milestone – The High Llamas on the Saturday were the thousandth different band I’ve ever seen live. They should win a prize. (EDIT: No they shouldn’t, sorry. Accountancy error. The prize should actually go to Dan Walsh & Will Pound, of whom we will hear a little bit more in just a minute).
The highlights (i.e. the acts I thought were better than “quite good”, i.e. a pleasingly substantial proportion of what I heard and saw):
~ Erland & The Carnival: Featuring fellas from (The) Verve and The Orb and so on. 60s-ish, a bit like The Doors but a lot more rhythmically-based. Their songs seemed likeable on the first listen, and I especially enjoyed the Animal-from-The-Muppets moment from the drummer towards the end.
~ Fyfe Dangerfield: The boy knows how to do big.
~ Beth Jeans Houghton: Not at all what I expected from the wacky “I’m mad, me” publicity blurb and photos. Pretty (and often very catchy) melodies over busy jump-up backing.
~ The Divine Comedy: Pleasing comic song(s). I left halfway through, though. I was enjoying it but I didn’t want to get burned out too early.
~ Spider John Koerner: This year’s legend-that-I’ve-never-heard-of-prior-to-the-run-up-to-this, and another triumph. Striking, choppy guitar playing over stompy stooped-over-fiddler style (you know what I mean) hoedowns. The vocals/percussion-only version of “Days Of ‘49” was strong, strong stuff.
~ Jo Hamilton: The best new discovery of the festival, even if her name is one I was familiar with from local listings and such. The percussive guitar, groovy basslines, and vocal acrobatics on a lot of her songs brought to mind early Carina Round, and you know there’s little I like more than early Carina Round. Elsewhere she came across as more Portishead-ish, with spacey blurbles provided by an Air Piano theremin. She also played with Rainbow Chasers the following day, who were pleasant enough but I definitely enjoyed her own set more.
~ Dan Walsh & Will Pound: More stooped-over-fiddler hoedowns, only A) instrumental and B) without any actual fiddle. Extremely high energy stuff from just banjo and harmonica, and they really won the crowd over bigstyle.
~ The Low Anthem: The second-best new discovery of the festival, even if their name was familiar to me from… all over the place, really. From wide-open-plains expansive Americana to raggedy-ass country-rock, with enormously effective versions of each.
~ Goodnight Lenin: 70s-west-coast-American-style folk rock (think Simon & Garfunkle and Crosby, Stills & Nash and so forth). Gorgeous sound and lovely harmonies. They’re probably going to be huge, as I imagine we all know by now.
~ Martin Simpson: You really know you’re arriving at a folk festival when the song being played that gradually becomes more and more audible as you approach is “Sir Patrick Spens”. His own “Never Any Good” about his father was absolutely beautiful.
~ Little Sister: Lovely fun, just as they were the last time I saw them. “Charming” is the word that seems most appropriate for them, with their close harmony singing, lots of different styles over the course of a half-hour set, kazoo, bird noises…
~ The Destroyers: Predictably, the best set of the festival (it isn’t fair on the other bands, really. There should be some sort of handicap). You know ‘em by now, and if you don’t then you’re probably not going to suddenly start listening to my recommendations at this late stage. As well as all the usual favourites, this time we had Paul Murphy doing his own “Shoplifter’s Talking Blues” solo, and the new “There’s A Hole In The Universe”.
~ Lúnasa: Their jigs and reels were fun, and their flautist’s banter between songs was even better still.
~ The Unthanks: With a bigger (and less folksy) sound than I remember them having a couple of years ago, although that could just be me. They still had the beautiful harmonies (adjectives like “lush” were invited), though, and the North-Eastern clog dancing. You’ve got to love the North-Eastern clog dancing.
And that was me done, after that. I would have liked to see The Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain and I certainly was tempted by the announcement immediately after The Unthanks had finished that all of the ales had been reduced to a pound-a-pint, but alas. It had been a big weekend.