You are hereCambridge Folk Festival 2010 (Friday)
Cambridge Folk Festival 2010 (Friday)
Northern Sky in partnership with Fatea
By my reckoning the Mojo interview, held annually in the club tent, reached its seventh consecutive year this morning as Seasick Steve joined a list of previous interviewees including the likes of Loudon Wainwright III, Jimmy Webb, Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, members of The Imagined Village and last year's memorable gathering of artists involved with Topic Records, each in turn facing a barrage of questions from those eager to discover more about their heroes. This year Colin Irwin spoke to the enigmatic blues singer about his life and work before a predictably packed house.
Shortly before this, half the membership of The Muckle Loons, suitably recovered from their energetic club tent set of the night before, conducted a fiddle workshop where fiddler players young and old turned out with fiddles in hand and were encouraged to put away their inhibitions for an hour or so and join in. The hands-on workshops are always the best ones and today's was no exception.
Scotland's Breabach drew the crowds into the Stage 1 area for the first time this year, as the largest stage at the festival made itself available for a feast of music that was to follow over the next three days. The vibrant Celtic sounds washed over the open fields of Cherry Hinton, provided by one of the most innovative bands on the circuit at the moment. If like me you thought one set of bagpipes was enough, then you would probably have been bemused at two sets being played simultaneously. Fear not though, it all seemed to make perfect sense in practice even if in theory it didn't. Following Breabach, one of the most eagerly anticipated sets of the weekend came courtesy of Fort Worth's lovely Quebe Sisters Band, featuring the impressive talents of three young fiddle playing siblings, Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe. Again, from a reviewer who had previously thought that one fiddle, two at the most, was enough for any occasion; it was nothing short of delightful to hear these three fiddles playing together. With tight harmonies and frighteningly skilful playing, the band instantly won the hearts of the Cambridge crowds, which in turn secured full houses everywhere they played subsequently around the festival site.
Bearing in mind the memorable Stage 2 set by Imelda May in 2009, a ripple of anticipation soon spread around the festival site today, everyone presumably wondering how the pairing of these two diverse Irish talents was going to manifest itself. Would it be Imelda May's rockabilly band plus the added bonus of having one of the finest box players in the world join their ranks, or vice versa? We discovered it was actually a case of inspired job sharing as Sharon kicked off with a few sets of tunes in her own inimitable fashion, then introducing her very special guest as 'the most amazing singer I've heard in my life and the most gorgeous person', bringing on the charismatic singer, who went on to dominate the stage dressed in green tartan with trademark quiff, brandishing a tambourine and delivering some fine Irish rockabilly, infusing the stage with oodles of energy. The ever-smiling and seated figure of Sharon Shannon looked on in awe as the Imelda May did her thing, as only she can.
With a thirty year pedigree of playing Balkan Gypsy tunes, the Serbian trumpet player and band leader Boban Markovic, together with his son Marko, brought a taste of full-on orchestral brass music to Cambridge. The Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra are probably a world away from their British counterparts such as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band as they brought the stage alive with sound and colour, if that's not blowing their trumpet too much.
Seth Lakeman continues to draw large audiences wherever he plays and Cambridge is no exception. Attracting an audience that filled the main Stage 1 area to bursting point, the band once again delivered an energetic and thunderous performance featuring some of Seth's best loved anthems such as Hearts and Minds and The Hurlers. So large was the audience that with little surprise Joe Pug was left to sing to a much smaller gathering around at the Stage 2 marquee simultaneously.
The great thing about the Imagined Village is that you can be witness to several gigs at once, whether you want a bit of the great Chris Wood or a bit of Carthy (either Eliza or Martin variety), or whether your tastes are more World Music oriented, there's a little of the Afro Celts or the Trans Global Underground in the mix, yet all serving a very British purpose. The collective returned to Cambridge this year Bragg-less but still very much on form with such diverse songs as Scarborough Fair, Byker Hill, Cold Haily Rainy Night and Slade's Cum on Feel the Noise.
Seasick Steve drew probably the largest crowd of the day, despite the heavy rain. At one point the bluesman invited a female member of his audience up on stage where she was suddenly flanked by two unfeasibly long beards, for all intents and purposes a ZZ Top tribute act, as Steve serenaded her to the easy to please audience's delight. At the same time, the Swiss Cajun trio Mama Rosin delivered a particularly fun set on Stage 2, with their very own mix of Cajun and Zydeco with a punk/rock twist. With Cyril Yeterian's melodeon and Robin Girod's guitar, banjo and rub board together with Xavier Bray's back beat, the energetic young trio narrowed the distance between Lakes Geneva and Ponchartrain for a delighted Cambridge audience.
As night settled on the damp Cherry Hinton fields and rain-soaked campers headed back across town to Coldhams Common via the festival shuttle bus, there was the gloomy prospect that the rain had set in for the duration. With the sounds of The Wonder Stuff and The Unusual Suspects ringing in everyone's ears though, it really didn't matter at all.