Shrewsbury is a festival perfectly in tune with its demographic. Although it didn’t quite sell out this time, unlike in previous years, it almost did and largely to aficionados who’ve been before. It’s easy to see why. The target market is not so much people of a certain age but people of a certain age +, and they come in their droves. Camper vans and caravans almost outnumber tents, and we’re talking serious and expensive bits of kit, not ramshackle conversions. What tents there are are almost as large as the vans – precious few £30 festival specials to be seen. A logical consequence of this is that, while there are children in evidence and some excellent activities for them, the average age is definitely on the high side. To cater for that age all the music takes place inside three marquees (no fear of being drenched here), all of which have rows of proper seats (much more comfortable that blankets or grass). And although the main stage has a standing area at the front it’s noticeable that even for a really popular set the chairs are all taken but the standing area pit is comfortable enough to move around in easily. There are also plenty of gaps between the music, for socialising, taking in a workshop, or just not doing much in particular (and quite a bit of that happens too). So basically, it’s a supremely laid back comfortable festival.
Festival Reports | 2013
A glance over the bill for this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival induced something of a “calm before the storm” feel, with no major wow moments this time round but many expected for the fiftieth event next year. For quite a few no doubt, finding out that the beer prices had been reduced to something sensible after last year’s hike may well have been all the wow they needed, and the festival did sell out, something it hasn’t quite managed in recent years, so they must be doing something right.
Find of the festival, by some margin, are CC Smugglers. They busk in the main bar to a large and wildly enthusiastic crowd on Thursday night, repeat the trick in the Guinness tent on Friday and then blow away a rammed Den on Saturday in their official slot. Their skiffle-ish take on old time and American roots, combined with industrial strength volumes of energy and enthusiasm is irresistible and should take them far.
Heading southbound from Dublin on a deserted motorway, George Jones dousing himself in beer and regrets on the stereo and to a man nursing Ryanair migraines, we made our way towards the 16th Kilkenny Roots festival. Kilkenny, sitting beautifully astride the River Nore, is a town of two halves. At one end of town shots are consumed like deep breaths by stag and hen parties dressed as sumo wrestlers and Tinkerbell. Across the tracks locals, old men and the visiting music loving hordes neck Guinness outside old inns awash with history, memories and love. Inside the rooms are filled with likeminded souls buzzing with expectation and excitement awaiting the weekend’s musical treats.
SummerTyne Americana Festival 2013 – Jumpin’ Hot Stage (Saturday)
The Sage Gateshead
20th July 2013
This festival, looking out over the Tyne, towards Newcastle, with its plethora of bridges linking Gateshead to its big brother, is always a cracker. You can pick from a menu of ‘proper’ sit down gigs both inside the most impressive concert hall in the UK, The Sage and on boats bobbing up the river – but best of all is the free outdoor daytime stages. Housed in the purpose built amphitheatre it’s a magical mix of the local, the burgeoning and the established.
On the menu today is a mix of the bluesy, soul, country and bluegrass, the line up always has a more blues feel than the banjo heavy Maverick, but don’t let that put you off. First up are the King Bees, who play a heady blend of good time, harp and guitar driven, Chicago style and straight rocking blues that will have you up on your feet from the get go”, it’s pretty dam accurate, and a decent start to the day, very Paul Jones.
Easton Farm Park, Suffolk, 5-7th June
Maverick is THE festival in the UK for the lover of Americana, its own attempt to return to the back woods, to traipse the path back to its agricultural roots, to reengage with the music of the earth. It’s a really really great festival, brilliant set up, brilliant venues, terrific line-up, and safe for the kids, great beer and food. The details are spot on, and the atmosphere is how I wish my everyday was.
Every year in the car home we pledge to make the ‘Maverick’ feeling last more than just the weekend. So far we never manage, but it fills us with such joy being there, it has changed us, as a family, such is the power of sitting in a tractor shed listen to Bluegrass.
This is going to read like a “Dear Diary” piece, but I can’t think of any other approach. This is what we did, and this is what we saw.
Wednesday kicked off with new Loose signing Johnny Fritz at a far-flung venue called Weather Up, getting to which started work on the blisters which would characterize the week. Fritz was slightly upstaged by an extraordinary off-the-wall performance from John McCauley, looking wasted but sounding sublime, as, alone with an electric guitar, he gave us enticing previews of what is clearly shaping up to be a fantastic new Deer Tick album.