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Bath Folk Festival

Venue: Various Venues
Town: Bath
Date: 6-14/08/16
Website: http://bathfolkfestival.org/

Summer is upon us and that means only one thing, the thing that means music, beer, food and sun, (if we're lucky). This is festival season. Bath Folk Festival and indeed the city of Bath itself is a new one for me and from the moment I realised that I was able to make even a short part of the festival I was enthralled with excitement. Bath as a place is an absolutely incredible place to have a festival, boasting as much if not more history and culture as places like London and Edinburgh but being smaller and therefore more manageable to get around and see things.

The first gig of the festival that we saw was in the cellar of the Saint James Wine Vaults seeing a young duo, Michael Biggins and James Taylor. Playing piano accordion and guitar, they offered up a wide selection of brilliant tunes from the Irish, Scottish, English and Swedish traditions. The combination of super clean and natural accordion and rhythmic and energetic guitar with a very laid back atmosphere made for a particularly memorable evening.

Later that evening, we travelled across the town to the Widcombe Social club to listen to and take part in one of the many sessions that Bath Folk Festival put on. From Irish and English to Klezmer and Gypsy Jazz the Festival gives a lot of opportunity for their punters to participate. It was fantastic to see a room brimming with older and younger people from all over the UK playing both old and new tunes and songs for hours on end.

Before the big event of the festival, the final of the New Shoots competition for up and coming artists took place in the foyer of the Komedia. Its always encouraging to see a festival supporting new talent and nurturing potential, which is what all the applicants in the third instalment of the semi final had in abundance.

First up were Snuffkin, a four piece band offering up some traditional and original songs. They have a sound that is rooted in traditional music which is evident in the vocal work and moving group singing that they do, however they also give their material a contemporary twist introducing soulful Americana sounding fiddle and a guitar and bass making the sound a big and exciting one. Snuffkin went on to win the competition and it was well deserved, however it was an extremely close call as all of the acts on that evening were of an extremely high standard.

Next up was the youngest of contender of the competition, Meldodeonist Bertie Wright. With his sound firmly placed in the English Tradition of tune playing, Wright is a talent to watch for. A personal highlight for me were the tunes that he wrote himself which demonstrated his technical ability as an instrumentalist, his skill as a tunesmith and his ever growing musicality.

The penultimate act was Tell, Tale, Tusk, a quartet consisting of a percussionist, fiddle player and two guitarist but what stands them out from the crowd are their signature three part vocal harmonies. This band had the audience transfixed by their beautiful and soul filled singing that was held together by a tight and hypnotic beat from the floor tom.

Last, but certainly not least was the fiddle and cello duo, An Dhá. Originally from Lincolnshire these two classically trained players have taken the Scottish tradition of tune playing to heart, putting jazz and classical influences into tunes from the core repertoire as well as their own original melodies. A stand out part of An Dha's set was the slow air that was played with an immense amount feel and phrased with sensitivity. The finale came in the form of their arrangement of the shetland tune Jenny Dang the Weaver, which got the audience whooping and clapping to the energetic frenzy that An Dhá created with the music.

As the last gig of the evening loomed and the mammoth cue of people built up outside the Bath Komedia there was an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement in the air. For Lau, this was quite a different gig for them as the vast majority of there electronics had been lost by Easy Jet, so they were forced to resurrect some older material that was less dependent on electronics. I've seen this contemporary folk super trio many times before but never under these circumstances and everyone was quite excited as to the outcome of the gig. The evergreen Lau tune, Hinba kicked the set off which instantly got the audience going. Despite some technical glitches that were out of their control, Lau as ever delivered a fantastic performance that took the audience from an ecstatic high that ended on a spell bound low with their tune, Far From Portland.

This is definitely a festival for your diaries and I was sorry that I couldn't have stayed for the full duration of the festival.

Matthew Tighe

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