It was first festival of the year time with a very full Love Folk Saturday programme that at £35 for a day ticket offers immense value for money. Get into the swing with a Friday night show and then do a full day (indoors), not too taxing to keep the hand in, ready for a Summer of festival hopping. An afternoon and early evening of four gigs in the studio, Busk Love Folk going on in the foyer and an evening gig by a legend can have no-one complaining.
Trios, band leaders and their bands and a strong North Eastern geographical leaning made up this year's Saturday line up. Plus a very strong emphasis on the challenge of an unchanging and photographer unfriendly red stage lighting in the studio added to by the fact that anyone wearing a red stage costume was going to look rather glaring in any photographic evidence of the events. Hence the inevitability of Andy May walking on stage with a devilishly bright red shirt with his trio outfitted thankfully in less red.
Perhaps the 'folkiest' of the bands of the day mainly due to the presence of his distinctive Northumbrian pipes. What Ian Stephenson called "the Rubik's cube of musical instruments" and one which like the fiendish puzzle itself, some, Mr May the master, can make look devilishly easy. Almost like he's not even trying in fact.
The inclusion of some new tunes, including one by Ian inspired by a dog walker (stranger things have happened) and a tribute to mentor Alistair Anderson saw Andy switching to piano and Ian to accordion giving a glimpse what some might consider just a one dimensional pipe sound.
Delightfully taking to renaming Love Folk as "the Love Festival" (many of us casting our minds back to seventies TV series, The Love Boat or possibly the more recent and more ghastly Love Island) Rachel Newton led her trio including Matty Foulds on subtle percussion and the fiddle of Lauren MacColl, through a set with a strong Gaelic flavour.
Her harp almost as iconic as a Hendrix Strat or a Jimmy Page double neck, having encountered Rachel with her band at Cambridge Folk Festival deliver a dark and brooding set, there was some expectancy of something more that you'd possibly expect from the delicacy of the harp sound. The combination of harp and the Scots Gaelic gave an ethereal and occasionally haunting quality and atmosphere. Proud Maisrie, introduced as an epic, evolved into a genuinely grand performance - possibly the pick of the whole weekend. No wonder Rachel needed a breather afterward.
Some light relief from Rob Heron & the Teapad Orchestra was just the ticket really in terms of pacing. A few technical difficulties - dodgy connections - and an audience that were happy to sit a listen it rather felt a bit flat. Their sort of low key lounge jazzy swing music really needs to be the soundtrack for an audience moving if not quite up and dancing. And so to Holy Moly & The Crackers in the slot which seems reserved for a band who can kick things up a bit and leave people with the feeling of having been entertained.
At the risk of turning a review of the day's music into a fashion commentary, there's a friendly rivalry with Rob Heron about who plays the most gigs and one which has developed into 'beret wars'. No contest really as Ruth Patterson looks seriously more the part in her beret selection; sorry Rob.
Neither too were the Crackers (or Crackersss as they're known) going to be outshone by the exciting news of the raffle being drawn at the end of their set. In the same way as young bands like The Eskies and The Elephant Sessions, they have a vigorous devil may care approach and you know they're going to give a performance whether there are 4 or 400 watching. A sheer life and soul vibrancy with a unrestrained and determined energy emitting from the stage. Good choice.
In the main theatre, a healthy turn out were warmed up for "the classic six piece line up" of Lindisfarne by Tracey Browne. Scouted out by and proudly donning her FATEA colours, it looked like the 2015 black with white branded T shirt model fortunately, rather than the self-destructing-when-wet 2014 version. Taking the chance to pull out her guitar rather than play back up for Thea Gilmore, the "oh - is there a support?" Lindisfarne supporting doubters, by the sounds of their appreciation, were impressed.
Perhaps there were some in attendance (one for certain) who'd seen Newcastle's favourite folk rock band Lindisfarne back in 1971 on the Charisma package tour with Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator. It was known as the 'six bob tour' - that's 30p in new money and not a bad bargain I'd say. A risky venture that's since gained legendary status and a lesson to be learned in the art of live music promotion. Nonetheless, unlike their peers they've evolved into a durable outfit with the musical chair regularity in changing members and comebacks that allows them to remain a force and have an appeal as a working band.
Working through around a dozen different line ups, disbandings and reunions, the young guy giving it his all down by the side of the stage may have been under some sort of influence, but as he was overheard during the break, his dedication was the same as his fans: "I just f**king love Lindisfarne."
Working up a set that involved most of the contents of a decent sized music shop, the instantly recognisable moments liberally cherry picked and strategically dotted into the running order of easy seventies folk rocking. No need for new music in the last decade or so, although there was a concession to a newer song from 1989's 'Amigos', proof enough that Lindisfarne can now comfortably do their thing on the heritage act fan circuit.
It sums up Love Folk pretty much as an event that provides the variety of music to cater for the wide range that we class as folk, particularly in embracing the showcase performance nature of the Busk Love Folk stage. Just a case, like all music promotions, of making sure that there's an audience that is constantly evolving as well.
Mike Ainscoe - Words, Pictures
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