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The Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, June 18th-20th 2010 (Part 2)

June 29, 2010

After a mighty all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast at the Premier Inn, we walked back up to De Montfort Hall for a full day’s Big Sessioning. The weather was still a bit nippy, so we popped into the big tent to see folk wunderkind Blair Dunlop, the 18-year-old son of folk ‘Guv’nor’ Ashley Hutchings and singer Judy Dunlop. He started with an instrumental and some impressive guitar skills, and showed a wide variety of folk influences in the rest of his set, which included standard Black Is The Colour, a medley of Morris tunes, a Damien Rice song and a fine version of Nic Jones’ Canadee-i-o. Understandably at his age, he can be a little hesitant on stage and his voice needs to develop some more, but I was impressed. As Astral pointed out, though, if he’s going to make a name for himself, he’ll probably need to fly the folk nest and seek inspiration and collaborations elsewhere. One to watch…

We nipped into the big hall to see upcoming folk youngsters Tyde, with a trio of fiddle, guitar and accordion. They were lively and jolly, but as nearly all of their set comprises jigs and other dance tunes, it becomes difficult just to listen to it. A few more songs and a change of pace would sort that out – and the accordionist is very good indeed. Next on the big stage was Nancy Elizabeth (below left), who’d impressed us at the Barbican the other month, and we weren’t disappointed this time. Her songs are finely wrought and well-performed, she’s a congenial host(ess) and she was accompanied on some tunes by bassist Jon Thorne, who seems to get everywhere these days – not that I’m complaining. She also did a lovely cover version of Lal Waterson’s Cornfield, which was also her contribution to the fine Lal Waterson tribute CD Migrating Bird.

The weather hadn’t picked up much, but I went out for more beer before hitting the big tent for the Holy Bandits, who are really an acoustic Oysterband with a couple of guest vocalists. They were fun and bouncy, and this style is perhaps more to my taste than their electric stuff, which can veer towards the ponderous on occasion.

In my experience, some festival-goers are ‘box tickers’ and rush around at the mercy of the clock, while others just wander around taking in whatever’s on offer. I suppose I’m somewhere between the two in that I’ll go through a festival line-up meticulously highlighting the acts I want to see, but when I get there, the plan goes halfway out of the window. So late Saturday afternoon became something of a ‘do nothing’ time, which meant accompanying Astral to the real ale tent for further tasting opportunities. What I didn’t expect was one of the highlights of the whole weekend – Warblefly, who were playing in the beer tent.

They’d been bigged up in the festival programme as the Pogues on drugs, which really isn’t necessarily a good thing, but their roaring set of drinking, fighting and shagging songs was a real tonic. The lead singer played the part well, despite looking like a rather dandified English version of David Johansen, while the bass player was the spit of Roger Waters circa 1990. Spooky. Their playing was great fun – lots of fiddle, accordion, bass and loud choruses – and they eventually persuaded most occupants of the tent to get up and dance. Beer tents were made for music like this.

I was beginning to feel peckish, so I went along to venerable festival institution Leon Lewis and his veggie delights (left). Leon’s been doing festival food for thirty years and it’s just the sort of wholesome veggie fare to keep you going. It’s also delicious and, what’s more, he’s not even paying me to write this… A huge plate of Mediterranean veggie delights hit the spot and, after a couple more beers, it was time to ignore the main headliner indoors, Kate Rusby, and head for the big tent to see Dreadzone.

After a few technical glitches – even reggae acts use MacBook Pros these days it seems – the band took to the stage and delivered an entertaining set. There was a tiny bit of folk and a smattering of hip-hop and electro, but essentially they’re a good old-fashioned dubby reggae band with a radical edge. Just the way to finish off a Saturday night. Right, one more pint and then bed…

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