It was a cold start, I was greeted by a frost on the car, which I convinced myself would be good training for Skegness, they say it's bracing for a reason. It was also dry as a bone which considering the amount of rain that has fallen recently that was definitely a bonus. Once I'd left the rush hour traffic behind, progress was good, the omens for the 3rd Great British Folk Festival are good. The journey is part of the experience, the superstitious in me tends to equate the two.
Progress turned out to be so good I managed to get to East Kirby for lunch. The UK's only other Lancaster Bomber capable of moving under its own power is based there. "Just Jane" is having an engine rebuild at the moment, but I was fortunate enough to catch her being rolled out of her hanger, the day is getting better.
I catch up with the rest of the team at Tesco's in Skeg for a pre-festival drinks and nibbles purchase before heading off to Butlins to settle in. The travel gods once again operating in our favour, straight in and through the new drive through checkout, no problem. Even our allocated chalet was the nearest to the carpark it's ever been. Beer and orange juice waiting in the fridge, top.
The site is undergoing a bit of a refurb ready for the Summer so no swimming this year, but that's something to look forward to again for next year and we're here for the music. Food, accommodation and music are all to a good standard. Time for the first beer of the festival, a browse through the program before checking in with the onsite team, a spot of tea and then all's ready to go. Time to make the first choice of the weekend, Fake Thakery or Oh Susanna, Oh Susanna wins out quite quickly, judging by the size of the audience in Reds, it seems that I was not the only one making that choice.
Oh Susanna hails from Canada and as far as I could tell didn't have a banjo on her knee :-). A couple of people around me showed surprise that Oh Susanna is a single artist, rather than a group. If I have one issue with the Great British Folk Festival, it's with the essential guide. Whilst an improvement on last year, it still doesn't contain information of all the artists playing, which makes it difficult to pick up detail on artists you might not have come across before. Whilst there were a number in the audience that may not have known Oh Susanna before she started, they definitely did by the end.
The BBC's Sue Marchant was the compere in Reds and she had a beaming smile across her face as she introduced the opening act, after the anticipation, the third Great British Folk Festival is go.
There was a brief look of shock on Oh Susanna's face. I don't think that she was expecting to walk out on such a large crowd, but she certainly didn't let it distract her, a quick quip and she was off. Her sound is very much on the Americana side of the acoustic spectrum, but in terms of heart, it's pretty much pure folk, there were songs about illicit affairs, murder etc, sometimes in the same one.
If she was surprised by the size of the audience, she was gobsamacked by the respect they gave her music, listening intently and then hitting the riotous applause in all the right spaces. This was part of a tour that Oh Susanna is on, her first to the UK, I believe, she felt the need to compliment British audiences on the way they listen to music, something which endeared her to a crowd, many of whom were listening to her for the first time. Not that she needed her banter to do that, her music was talking for her in volumes.
This was a set that was as full of passion as it was finally crafted folk songs. Oh Susanna has that gift of affinity, which goes a long way towards making an artist a live sensation. To be really great you have to back that with the talent, which Oh Susanna has in droves, a great way to kick of the festival, the omens appear to have been correct.
Due to the slight staggering of start times, I'm able to nip across to Centre Stage and catch the end of Fake Thackery. As the name implies, Fake Thackery is a tribute act to the late great Jake Thackery, one of a number of such acts with a goal of keeping the music of the singing raconteur alive and kicking. It's a brave choice for the opening act in the large venue, but also one that shows a festival organisation that is prepared to take a chance on innovating their bill so they can offer that something different.
It seems to have worked, whilst not really my cup of tea, I do enjoy the odd Thackery song, although in a sense all Jake Thackery songs are by their nature odd, I can appreciate the appeal of them and understand why people would want to keep them alive. The set seems to have gone well, by the time I'm there to catch the end, he definitely has the audience warmed to what he's doing.
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