46th Cambridge Folk Festival

The Co-Operative Cambridge Folk Festival

Friday starts off with the traditional visit to The Unicorn for the full breakfast buffet. It's gone up to six fifty this year, but it's still a great way to start the day especially as one of the other Fatea team Allan rocks up with his mate Kev.

Talk turns to the day before consensus is that Lissie surpassed Stornaway for Stage Two, The Muckle Loons and Adam Brown and Alan MacLeod fighting over the honours at The Club Tent.

One hearty breakfast later and it's time to head to the festival site and start for the day. The usual pattern is to head for the back of the Club Tent and finish up writing up the day before.

On the way I bump into Cruel Folk, after the usual catch up, the band start the process of deciding when and who is going to queue to sign them up for one of the Club Tent Sessions

It's a mainstay of the Club Tent and the reason it's got its name. As well as having the odd official act from, the festival proper, The Club Tent is run in rotation by a number of local folk clubs. Acts then queue to get booked into sessions during the course of the festival. For many of those acts, playing Cambridge is the highlight of their performing year and well worth the time spent in the queue. There's several sign up points during the festival and acts are only expected to do the one.

The Club Tent is also used for Festival Workshops, at the unholy time, well for most musicians, of ten in the morning; the Club Tent is given over to workshops. Festival performers put a little back in teaching new tunes and techniques to punters. It's all included in the ticket price.

This year is an incredible year for the fiddle players, The Muckle Loons are providing three tutors this year, current Young Tradition Musician, Daniel Thorpe, 2009 winner Ruairidh MacMillan and Jack Smedley. The band is teaching a Strathspey this year. It's all good natured, Jack makes a comment than someone once described a duo appearance with Ruairidh as being the fiddle equivalent of Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King. Ruairidh cracks up at this. He's not helped by the fact that his lanyard has obscured the letters ea from the word Fatea on his resplendent T-shirt.

It's a good workshop. It's difficult to get work out how to pitch the workshops as you're never quite sure how competent the audience players are going to be, literally from beginner to master.

An innovation that came in a few years back is the Mojo Interview, this year the interviewee is Seasick Steve, making his second visit to the festival.

As you can imagine Seasick Steve is quite a raconteur, he's lived a colourful life that has seen him in almost total poverty and obscurity to being an international celebrity.

He openly acknowledges the role his appearance on Jools Holland's Hootenanny had in propelling him to international stardom, one of the questions was about that appearance.

It turns out Steve came quite close to blowing that, once on the audition and again by refusing to play the song the producers wanted to play. After a while he was convinced into doing something he wasn't used to doing, trusting someone else's opinion, the rest as they say is history.

It was one of the best interviews in the series, he does have a good number of stories to tell and he tells them well and that's before he picks up a guitar and sets them to music. That will come later with his Stage One performance.

It's time for the music proper to kick off. Opening stage one this year are another young Scots act, Braebach making their second festival appearance on the back of their second album, "The Desperate Battle Of The Birds".

The band are a five piece and I think I'm right in saying all are in at least one other band or solo artists in their own right. Patsy Reid, Ewan Robertson, Calum MacCrimmon, Donal Brown and James Lindsay make up the band. As well as songs and tunes, this is a band that will also bring dance to Cambridge even if they've got to start it themselves.

The outside screens means that there video cameras running in the pit right through including the first three songs, dodge the cameraman looks like being the game of the weekend for the snappers. It also means that Breabach are the first band at Cambridge to use the screens

None of which detracts from the beautiful music coming from the stage, five such accomplished musicians are going to make such sweet music together, and there really is no other word for it.

Alternative mellow and relaxing and pounding and driving, the band fuse their appearance on contrast. The crowd are infected by a need to move, up and down mainly, but there's some real dancing toward the edges.

The screens seem to be going down well judging by the reaction in the field, it's a bright day, if slightly overcast, but you can clearly see the images. It's a new addition that definitely fits the bill.


Photocredits:Neil King