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The Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, June 18th-20th 2010 (Part 3)

June 30, 2010

Sunday morning coming down… in our case, down to another hearty Premier Inn breakfast, much to the lads’ delight. The weather had perked up, so we fancied spending much of the day lounging around on the festival lawns and doing nothing much. The day’s music was set to finish at six o’clock, so it was a truncated day, but a lovely sunny, warm one. The morning was punctuated by the sound of stick and bell as the Morris men were in full swing. We stayed near the bar, which was the right thing to do, though some of the younger Morris lads congregated there in the hope of attracting girls – in the world of folk, I guess a Morris outfit constitutes a uniform and you know how a girl just can’t resist…

We sauntered into the big tent for a lively and fun set from Kerfuffle (left), the young folk band fronted by Bellowhead fellow Sam Sweeney and Hannah James, supported by Sam’s brother Tom on bass. Sam explained that this was their last tour as Tom was leaving to get a ‘proper job’, but they’d carry on in some incarnation. We got clog dancing, fine fiddle-playing and some very good accordion, which was a nice way to blow away any Sunday cobwebs.

Next on the EFDSS-sponsored stage were Will Pound and Dan Walsh, two young and hugely talented exponents of the harmonica and banjo respectively. They look like they’re barely out of school, but they’ve both graduated from Newcastle University, having studied Folk and Traditional Music for their degree. Thankfully there’s nothing stagey about their performance – in fact, from time to time it’s endearingly casual – but there’s no denying their immense talent and their great ability to meld two apparently disparate instruments into a vibrant whole. There were plenty of traditional folk and bluegrass numbers in their set, but also a cover of Paul Thorn’s Hammer And Nail, a bit of Horslips and a splendid Turkish-Balkan style improvisation. Pound and Walsh make a very good team and will, I hope, go far.

There was then plenty of time for more lolling and soaking up the sun, as the strains of a band called Woodstock drifted from the far end of the beer tent. As their name might suggest, they play a whole lot of CSNY, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young covers, including Out On The Weekend, which sounded pleasant enough, but not sufficiently powerful to drag me in from my sunny spot. Eventually we went back into the big tent to see talented fiddler and singer Jackie Oates. She played an entertaining set of jigs and reels and old folk songs, including Alasdair Roberts’ take on The Lover’s Ghost, otherwise known as Ghost Lover or, in a slightly different form, The Grey Cock. It’s the usual spine-chilling tale of a young chap who, after many years away, visits his love at the dead of night and proves to be, well, dead:
   Oh, when shall I see you my love? she cried
   Oh, when shall I see you again?
   When little fishes fly and the seas they do run dry
   And the hard rocks do melt with the sun.

Alasdair Roberts also wrote the title track of her fine album Hyperboreans and, with Jim Moray as both brother and producer, she’s in the company of a lot of young folk talent but is more than capable of matching the best of them.

And so to the finale, a rousing set from the Oysterband to send everyone home happy. I enjoyed this more than I did last year and I think there’s something in the air that prevents too much political grandstanding – frontman John Jones suggested that they are ‘… the perfect band for a recession. Miserable lyrics set to happy tunes.’ And the big audience singalong number is Everywhere I Go which I prefer to many of their political songs as it doesn’t paint the world in black and white:
   And war is peace and peace is war and less is more and yes is no,
   They want to tell you this, they want to tell you that,
   Just hold your hat when the black wind blows.
   Everywhere I go I hear what’s going on
   And the more I hear, the less I know.

After we’d left the festival, we tried out the vegetarian Indian restaurant Shivalli down near the railway station. The good news is it’s fantastic – we gorged ourselves on a fabulous veggie buffet – and we’ll be back in August when we come up for the Summer Sundae Festival.

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