Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Cambridge Folk Festival 2014. July 31st- August 1st. The first 2 days.

Earlier this month I had the great privilege of finally getting to one of the oldest and most renowned festivals in Britain, The Cambridge Folk Festival. This year saw the celebration of 50 years of the event which made it even all the more special. Located at Cherry Hinton Hall, this festival offers more than just music, it's a whole concept of summer celebration, family outing and appreciation of true English culture at its finest. The 14,000 strong crowd consisted of literally every age group from infants to senior citizens, just one of the unique attributes to this fest, no one is considered too young or too old to attend.
Pokey LaFarge

Thursday evening's entertainment kicked  off steadily despite the heavy rain that poured down for a short period earlier. As we entered Cherry Hinton it was as if the spirit of the crowd had pushed away the ominous clouds overhead. Pretty soon the sun was shining down again and the place was officially in festival mode. The highlight of the evening was Pokey LaFarge's performance at stage 2, his brand of old style Americana certainly lifting the spirits inside the crammed to the brim tent. He and his band would again perform on the main stage the following day to even more enthusiasm. In fact the record store at the festival completely sold out of his albums over the weekend,  such was his success. I must also mention that it was a pleasure to see such a great array of CD's and Vinyl available there for sale. I of course couldn't resist buying a bunch of albums as a memento of this mighty weekend.

Friday and the second day of the festival was a beautiful sunny day, encouraging much of the crowd to file out in their deckchairs for a long run of wonderful music. My choice of refreshment for the day was the official festival ale which flowed beautifully by the pint.
Our first band experience this day was seeing Hazmat Modine on stage 1, a group I had not heard of before but proved to be a worthwhile choice. Based in New York, their brand of music is a mix of world fusion, jazz and reggae. 'Bahamut' their 2006 released album is a very worthwhile listen to get a feel of what this band are about, I would highly recommend it.

Hazmat Modine

Fisherman's Friends from Cornwall by now a favourite choice of this festival, lined out later in the evening on stage 1 to great applause. Essentially an a cappella group, their humorous sea shanties and tales of drinking and carousing had smiles going all around, a perfect addition to the day.  

Fisherman's Friends

Richard Thompson is a man I have waited for a very  long time to see play live and today was the day. A true British songwriting legend of our time, his entirely solo acoustic set was a fine pick of some of his greatest moments from his long career. 'Down Where The Drunkards Roll', 'I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight', and '1952 Vincent Black Lightning' to my joy were some of the choices. Thompson's 12 string acoustic skills had a packed out audience enthralled into silence from the minute he hit the stage. On retrospect his performance was probably my favourite of the weekend.

Richard Thompson 
Sinead O Connor would be second last this evening to play at the main stage, again a highly anticipated choice by many people attending. Her voice was in perfect pitch throughout, the set included such songs from the vaults as 'Nothing Compares 2 U' and 'The Emperor's New Clothes' along with the new material.
Recently I have found a new respect for Sinead since her refusal to perform in apartheid Israel despite being offered 10 times her usual fee. 

Sinead O Connor

Afro Celt Sound System 

Afro Celt Sound System closed the night's proceedings on the main stage with a dynamically theatrical presence. Their fusion of traditional Irish with African rhythms was concieved over 20 years ago from an idea by guitarist Simon Emmerson. Their debut album 'Volume 1 Sound Magic' was released in 1996 to huge acclaim on Peter Gabriel's Real World record label. Visually their stage show is nothing short of stunning with traditional African costume and instruments. With an imaginative merging of music cultures combined, the Afro Celt's have created something certainly original. If I were to have one criticism of the band however it would be of their sometimes over use of electronic instruments. All in all though I was very pleased to have finally seen them on stage as they have been on my list for a long time.
The first 2 days of this festival had already exceeded expectations, there were 2 more days to go and it was getting better....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Pixies Live At The Marquee Cork. 30/6/2014.

Frank Black

Boston favourites, The Pixies, a band I have waited 25 years to see play live, finally came to play in my neck of the woods last Monday night. I was naturally apprehensive at first as to would they still cut it as a live band after all these years.
The big surprise on the night was the presence of a mostly younger audience, which I did not expect, many who would not have even been born in the late eighties or early 1990's.
Too much alcohol and teenage angst was not something I was somehow expecting to witness at a Pixies gig these days, however it seems there is a new resurgence of interest in this bands music today.
The original line up is the same today, except for the absence of bassist Kim Deal, replaced now by Paz Lenchantin.
Just after 9pm the band entered the stage to a rousing version of 'Debaser', by now standing near the front of the stage proved somewhat unbearable because of the recklessness of some of the crowd's juvenile antics.
Beer spilling,pushing and shoving and blatant smoking (despite a smoking ban) was not what I signed up for, so I pushed well back from the front position I was holding to appreciate the music with less obstructions.

Joey Santiago
The band were in flying form as they thralled through a fine set of all the songs any fan would have wanted to hear from their back catalogue. Highlights included greats such as 'Cactus', 'Wave Of Mutilation', 'Where Is My Mind', 'Tame', the list goes on and on, in fact they played a total of 27 songs throughout the 90 minutes onstage. Frank Black's lead vocals as familiar as ever,  crashed through incredible guitar work by Joey Santiago. At one point Santiago toyed with no less than 3 guitars demonstrating his skills at playing different riffs on all instruments.
Paz Lenchantin
Argentinian born Paz Lenchantin fits the band perfectly as the latest replacement bassist. New to the line up as the second replacement after Kim Deal's departure. Her CV to date has included  work with Silver Jews, Queen's Of The Stone Age and Jenny Lewis. David Lovering, magnificent on drumming duties also did some fine backing vocals on 'La La Love You'.
David Lovering

Despite some media criticism about The Pixies last album 'Indie Cindy' released last year after several years of a break, the band certainly are still dynamite as a live act . New creativity might no longer be their greatest point but their legacy from the 80's and 90's has stood the test of time as I witnessed at this Cork show. The Pixies were one of those bands that gave us fresh hope during a time when MTV and daytime radio dominated the airwaves with continuous dross. Listening again to such albums as 'Surfer Rosa' and 'Doolittle' today I am reminded of their greatness, this night I realised my taste in music thankfully hasn't changed much at all since my childhood.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters Live At The Marquee Cork. 25/6/2014.

Robert Plant Live At The Marquee Cork.

Last Wednesday evening Robert Plant and his latest offering of musicians known as The Sensational Space Shifters rolled into Cork as part of the long line of gigs held at the annual Marquee festival.
After publicly making it clear that Led Zeppelin would never again tour as a band, Plant has taken his own direction several times, notably with his solo career and his collaboration with Alison Krauss.
Zeppelin fans however will not be disappointed with what is to offer with the latest live shows.
To my delight and I think everybody else's, the first choice of song was 'Baby I'm Going To Leave You' a track from the first Zeppelin long player all of 45 years ago.
Despite the huge time span since the hey days of Zeppelin in the late 60's and 70's the former frontman seemed as energetic and dynamic as ever. There is a certain spine tingling chill that you get watching such a legend of rock a few meters before your eyes.
The voice with perhaps a few octaves lower is still outstandingly powerful and never faltered throughout the set. Lead guitarist Justin Adams an accomplished producer and all round multifaceted musician was mind blowing at times with his range of abilities. The familiar riff of 'Whole Lotta Love' rang through from his guitar sending the crowd into a frenzy as the show got better and better. 'Black Dog' was given a more tamed down makeover, laced with hints of African influences thanks to Juldeh Camara and his skills with an instrument called a Ritti which is a one stringed traditional violin.
A beautiful rendition of 'Going To California' was another stand out moment, at times it was hard not to wonder was this all a dream. This night for me diminished any notions that Plant could have taken the wrong road by not continuing to tour with Led Zeppelin after the 2007 reunion concert in London.
Instead I think me has moved on graciously while remolding his career wisely, his latest band couldn't have been selected more perfectly. This was a night we will remember for a long, long time.

'lullaby and....The Ceaseless Roar' is the title of the forthcoming album which will be released in September, also there is a return trip to Ireland and the U.K in November for more live dates.  'Rainbow' is one of the tracks from the new album.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frank Fairfied Live At The Grand Social Dublin 18/01/2014.

The first gig I attended this year was at  Dublin's Grand Social, located on lower Liffey Street to see the great American folk artist Frank Fairfield last month.
I've mentioned this Californian man before on a few occasions on this blog since discovering  his music on an Uncut magazine promo CD over 3 years ago. I was also lucky enough to see his performance at The End Of The Road Festival in Dorset in  2012 which I must add was a bona fida highlight of that weekend.
If you listen to Fairfield's self titled debut album from 2009, you will be hard pushed to find a more stripped back or raw recording from this century . It comes as no surprise that this man is an avid collector of vintage 78rpm records, he seems to live and breathe and play in a style from a bygone era.
His latest release 'Duncan and Brady' is a 7" vinyl available through Jack White's label Third Man Records.
Taking in Kilkenny and Dundalk on a short stopover of a European tour, Frank completed his 3rd Irish date in the capital city upstairs in The Loft venue of The Grand Social.
Something extraordinary happens when this man takes the stage because despite his sometimes conspicuous shyness, he soon becomes enraptured in the music that flows from his guitar, fiddle or banjo.
The crowd tonight were a mix of age groups, some perhaps were just curious to check this guy out without knowing much of his work while many more were well familiar with him.
It was clear that Fairfield was enjoying his time in Ireland, mentioning that he had met 'so many sweet people along the way'. 15 minutes of so into his set tonight  left few punters unable to keep their feet from tapping against the wooden floor. At one point while tuning his fiddle, one of his bow strings broke, he politely excused himself and walked backstage to retrieve a spare one from a box much to his and everyone else's amusement.
There was time too for requests, most notable, 'Old Paint' a beautiful cowboy ballad that someone from the crowd wisely suggested him to play. Holding the fiddle down low to his breast, while singing in that distinctively raspy American voice, Fairfield seemed like a character from an 1800's gold rush era film.
Clearly he had won over an amount of new followers tonight as almost everyone stood up from their seats to applaud loudly as his time on stage came to a close.
Afterwards he kindly waited around to chat with the people there and stand for photos and sign some Cd's.
I got to shake his hand and shyly mumble some words of appreciation on his return to Ireland, I hope he understood that I was so glad to be there tonight.
I was fortunate enough to get him to autograph a copy of 'Turn Me Loose' a CD compilation curated by himself of some of his favourite 78 rpm's, a unique collection of Anglo-American vernacular pieces selected from the gramophone era. You will find this collection on the Tompkins Square record label along with his debut album and his follow up 'Out On The Open West'.