Emptied of expectation. Relax. (tinyjo) wrote,
Emptied of expectation. Relax.
tinyjo

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With a hey down down, with a derry derry down

This weekend I've been enjoying the delights of traditional English music at the inaugural Oxford Folk Festival in the company of my parents. From the website I had had the impression that it was just going to be the few concerts advertised on the website but in fact the programme seemed packed when we got there for our afternoon concert and there were lots of other interesting looking events we might have gone to if we'd realised. The two concerts we did attend, both on the Town Hall main stage were great.

The afternoon session was kicked off by KTB, an old favourite of mine. She seemed to take a few songs to get into her stride but still, she played a pretty good half hour set. There was enough new stuff mixed in that I started to wonder whether by the time Truck comes around she'll have a new album. She was followed by an older pair, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lockwood, she singing and occasionally playing the flute, he accompanying on guitar. They were pretty good, sticking to traditional English ballads and so on but giving them lots of life and energy and fun. Kathryn had a beautiful voice and I was amazed at the way she managed to switch from singing to flute playing and back so smoothly. The headliner for that gig was Martin Simpson, a guitar virtuoso. Just listening to him tune up was amazing as he rippled across the instrument adjusting strings as he went. His style was more American blues style folk than English although he did a bit of both and was just captivating. He had a very rich singing voice and the guitar playing was just jaw dropping.

After popping to Pizza Express for a bit of refreshment between gigs, we headed back for the main evening gig. This one was even more of an unknown quantity that the afternoon for us as none of us had seen any of the groups before, although we'd seen and loved Spiers and Boden when they were supporting Eliza Carthy together. This one kicked off with the Witches Of Elswick who turned out to be 4 pretty young women singing accapella arrangements of English traditional songs. The singing was really good and they did some nice chat between songs too, riffing off each other. We then proceeded to Magpie Lane, a bit more of a traditional folk club band. They were pretty good and played together well, but they weren't really as good as the Witches - I think that they were particular favourites of the guy in charge (the chap from the Port Mahon if memory serves) which probably explains their high billing. The final band of the night was Bellowhead, the Spiers and Boden big band. This was a 10 piece extravaganza with a brass section as well as extra strings and miscellaneous fronted by Jon Speirs (squeezebox) and Jon Boden (violin & vocals). We'd loved them when we'd seen them as a duo because they bought so much energy to the proceedings and Bellowhead were as good if not more so. They did do a couple of slower numbers but they also included some great instrumental dance numbers and plenty of great songs. One couple got up and started dancing in the aisles to the hornpipe quite early on and more and more of the younger audience members joined in until there was quite a line threading round the seating. I wished that it had been a non seated gig, not being quite up to joining the more experienced dancers but really feeling like I wanted to get up and jump around a bit myself. They wound up with the Prickly Bush (a Spiers and Boden signature piece I assume as everyone seemed to recognize it and they played it last time we saw them as well) and got a well deserved standing ovation. They played us another couple of numbers for encore and by the end the management had put the lights out as we really had to vacate the premises :) I think that for a first gig together they can be feeling pretty damn pleased with themselves.
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