Saturday 27 August 2022

Another week, Another Music Festival 

I was intending to write last week about the music festival we went to early in August but I'm afraid I have been practising my procrastination skills. It's very easy to practice procrastination, it takes very little effort and is a low cost activity. True it's a bit disheartening that nobody can be bothered to provide a certificate or reward for all the time spent but it's sometimes our fate in life to have our unique and special skills unrecognised.

My other excuse is that real life got a bit annoying. The ageing camper van needing tax and reinsuring for another year. Pre Covid we always took out EU driving cover then EU breakdown insurance combined with travel insurance as a separate policy so we could enjoy 2 or 3 trips to France. But the van is now too old to use that breakdown company, so hours waiting in telephone queues to get details of what's available and finding proof of regular maintenance, then discovering the costs to decide on a sensible alternative - if indeed there is any point to finding an alternative in today's world. I suspect we'll be lucky to pay for food and fuel and stay comfortable at home by next spring so it became more a case of the cheapest way to keep options open.

Anyhow our second festival of the summer: Still folk based music but more electric folk rock and with a twist of nostalgia acts this time, the Fairport Convention Annual Reunion which is held every August at Cropredy in Oxfordshire.

It's a very special and unique festival as it encompasses the entire village. The local WI serve meals in the village hall, the local Scouts act as marshals and litter wardens, there is a village charity car boot sale. The local pubs put on events, the cricket club rents its showers and opens its bar for drinks and snacks, there is a street market, while farmers clear their livestock to make camping space and the whole lot becomes a festival site for 3 days of music in a field at the edge of the village.

You might wonder why the villagers tolerate such an event? The festival has its roots in the village fete when the first reunion of the then disbanded band took place for charity back in the 1980s. So village events are fully coordinated with the festival, the shop and local pubs make money to stay in business, the village cricket club has some of the best amateur facilities in the country, the WI, scouts and other clubs are well financed for the year, the local economy, and local charities thrive on the income from the event and hopefully everyone has a good time.

There is still the puzzle of how to define folk music. Some is obviously traditional, Scottish airs, Irish jigs, Morris tunes, very old songs of unknown origin. Singer songwriters are generally accepted as folk music if the material is designed to tell a story, fits the style of traditional songs, and hasn't come from commercial 'Tin Pan Alley' writers. Other material is more borderline. For example the tune of Matty Groves is found with different words in the USA as Shady Grove, and as a song called Lady Margaret,. Origins lost in time, transmitted by sailors and settlers it's very obviously a folk song. But whether it counts as folk music or folk-rock when played by Tom Petty, or the 60s psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service is an open question?

I'll finish by recommending some videos that to me explain a little about wht folk rock is. The first is a US singer songwriter Emmit Rhodes, who back in the 1960s wrote a song called Time Will Show the Wiser and recorded it with his band for the US market.

 Fairport Convention heard it and recorded a cover version for their first album.

Then in 2017, at the Fairport Annual Reunion, to celebrate 50 years since the band was formed, all the same original members of Fairport - excepting the drummer Martin Lamble who was sadly killed in a tragic road accident and was replaced here by Dave Mattacks - got together and played it live onstage.

So now back to procrastinating, This weekend is the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, I'm not there but they stream excellent quality live video from both their main stages. It's watchable via their festival website or via Youtube. Just google, there is some great music going on there this weekend.