46th Cambridge Folk Festival

The Co-Operative Cambridge Folk Festival

Cambridge goes through phases, there are always a number of small changes, but some years see more changes than others and this year is one of those years. Some of the changes happen and others are enforced.

Of the evolutions the most notable is that the Guinness Bar has changed its orientation, but that maximises the use of space meaning more people can be served quicker, result.

Fiddle Fox

Another change is the introduction of outdoor screens on the main stage. They are not the biggest of screens, compared to some events, but they serve the purpose, it'll be interesting to keep an eye on them to see how they cope in the hopefully bright weather over the weekend.

The other big media change won't be noticed until after the festival Sky Arts have picked up the broadcast rights for the festival, so there'll be a chance for those that didn't make it here to see what they've missed.

Some changes are enforced and one of those may not be spotted by most of the public, but the journalists are well aware of the change. For as long as I can remember the media caravan has been a consistent. It's been a home from home for the journalists and snappers at the festival.

It's been there for lots of good times and the occasional bad one, but it's definitely seen some sights and heard some conversations over the years, some of them even repeatable. Unfortunately she was taken out earlier in the year Viking style.

She's been spared the ignominy of an appearance on Top Gear as part of a conkers match or pushed over a cliff for 'comic' effect. Bizarre as it might seem the caravan will be missed.

Cambridge 2010 started with the traditional pre-festival meet at a local pub. Traffic difficulties meant that we switched from the usual location at the Tally Ho! to the Robin Hood. I've got a new camera bag to boot. It may not sound much, but it's the first year it's missed since I started covering the festival.

This year the media team are holed up in a Portacabin, but we manage to track them down, it's good to be back.

It would be wrong to describe Thursday as low key, it's actually a really good start to the festival, introducing a number of local bands as well as rising names on the acoustic spectrum. What it does lack is the main stage.

There's a time to catch up with all the old names and faces before the music starts. Its funny how quickly the festival comes around, surely it can't be a year since the last one, so much seems to have happened.

It's also time to notice another change the wicker fiddler has had its head replaced by a fox. The conspiracy theorists are already linking it to the Sky deal, but it's just a spooky coincidence. There's two large figures this year, one pretty soon picks up the nickname 'fiddle fox' the other 'wicker wolf'.

Lunch was late so the first decision of the day is who to watch first? Fatea regulars will know that we've not really got on with Ezio over the years, so first band up is Cocos Lovers.

They're a family band that first really started performing together in public back in 2008. Since then they released a couple of eps and their debut album, "Johannes" saw the light of day back in April. This is their festival debut so it's off to the Club Tent to get things under way.

Cocos Lovers are a big band, some nine musicians on stage.

They've got a correspoding big band sound, plenty of layers in the songs, strong strings, harmony vocals, flute and percussion, a guitarist who seemed to have more life than the rest of the band, except possibly the bassist.

The audience were on their side though, even after a failed joke about how difficult the Club Tent is to find, it isn't.

I guess they may have been restricted by the size of the stage, which may have restricted their movement a bit, but I was wondering if I should have been at Ezio.

As it was things did pick up, there seemed to be a point where they decided to stop going through the motions and to give it some passion.

Whatever it was they did it worked, you felt the audience pick up and get into what was going on, even clapping along to the beat in a couple of places.

Maybe I was hoping for too much having read the blurb, I enjoyed them well enough, but couldn't quite understand where the buzz is coming from. The band may be from Kent, but, excuse the pun; I can't see the big deal.

I'm told that they were better when they busked the field later on in the festival.

The situation got a whole lot better with the next act, Adam Brown and Alan MacLeod, playing guitar and bodhran and accordion respectively. Despite their youth, both only being in their early twenties they are hardened festival veterans, having first appeared here at the tender age of thirteen as part of NO I.D. They've had appearances as part of The Brian McNeill Session, but technically this is their festival debut as a duo.

It starts off in guitar and accordion mode, reels and jigs making up the first set of tunes. There's only the two of them on stage, but you can feel the passion and commitment as it rolls down the audience in waves.

It's time from a break from tunes and into song as Adam breaks his Festival debut as vocalist, covering a Richard Thompson song. It's very well received and gives Alan a chance to get some well needed breath into his body.

He gets another chance to recover later when Adam shows why he's been All Ireland Bodhran Champion. Not only is a world class musician on the bodhran, I think I'm right in saying he made the instrument himself.

Not that Alan is a slouch on the accordion, what with him being an All Ireland Champion on that instrument. This is a band that is definitely crammed to the gills with talent and they are not afraid to use it.

They are joined for the final number by another junior veteran Ruairidh MacMillan, who's recently released his debut album "Tyro" and to paraphrase Harry Potter, is 'the brightest fiddle player of his generation."

He's going to be back on stage with one of his band's The Muckle Loons later and will be appearing with The Unusual Suspects on Friday.

It's a complete change of style, as well as stage next as I'm off to Stage 2 to catch American singer/songwriter Lissie.


Photocredits:Neil King