The FolkCast Crew had a great time at the Great British Folk Festival, held in Butlin's Skegness, over the first weekend of December 2012. You can hear our series of special "FolkCast Blast" interview podcasts but here are our reviews of the festival facilities and the music we heard.
THE FESTIVAL FACILITIES
|FolkCaster Mark with happy waitress Erzsebet|
And, like just about all first-time visitors I guess, I was soon very impressed by what we found. Our accommodation was modern, comfortable and - most importantly for the middle of winter - warm and cosy! There were five in our party: myself (Phil) and Jo, Babba, and our friends Mark and Jenny, who came armed with camera and laptop and a steely determination to document as much of the weekend as they could.
|Phil updates FolkCast's Twitter/Facebook massive |
from the apartment at Butlin's
Once we'd settled into our 3-bed apartment, complete with bathroom, well-equiped kitchen and a lounge with big telly and DVD player, we set out to find the music. It was only a five minute walk away, and with the weather set cold and mostly bright for the weekend that was good news!
The entertainment hub of Butlin's houses the main "Centre Stage" venue, plus various bars, restaurants, shops, amusement arcades and family fun facilities.
Separate rooms and self-catering is available, but our accommodation package came complete with breakfast and evening meal in the Yacht Club - a pleasant carvery where very attentive and welcoming staff showed us to our seats and brought us drinks from the bar while we helped ourselves to a wide choice of good-quality food.
|Jo, Phil and Babba all set for folkie fun|
From there it was off to Centre Stage and the slightly smaller second venue, Reds, for the weekend's entertainment. This got under way on Friday evening, and importantly for a folk festival there was well-kept real ale on at the bar (Pedigree and Hobgoblin on handpump) and prices were reasonable, too.
We couldn't see everything, but here are reviews of some of our highlights.
Fake Thackeray (review by Babba)
- Audio interview with Fake Thackray: FolkCast Blast 004
Oh Susanna (review: Mark and Jenny)
|The Fureys with Davy Arthur|
|The Fureys: decades of touring equals mic stand pint rests|
- Audio interview with Patsy Matheson: FolkCast Blast 002
- We were all distressed to hear that shortly after appearing at the GBFF, and after she had returned home, Deborah suffered a very nasty fall and was hospitalised with a broken eye-socket and cheekbone and facial trauma. FolkCast sends her our warm wishes for a speedy recovery.
|Roy Mette with Triangle|
- Interview with Roy Mette and Triangle: FolkCast Blast 003
|Show Of Hands|
The last gig of a tour can either be good or less so, depending on how the tour has gone. You may get a lacklustre performance from artists who have been on an unforgiving road for too long. Alternatively, when the tour has gone well, the band may rip the place up. I can only assume that Show of Hands have enjoyed their autumnal travels, because they fairly shredded Centre Stage on Saturday night. Shortly before the start, the "House Full" signs went up outside, and stayed there until the last encore was done. Kicking off with "Haunt You" from the new album, "Wake The Union", Steve, Phil and Miranda delivered a crowd-pleasing set that featured many new songs and lots of old favourites. Of the new material, "Stop Copying Me", "Katrina" and "Cruel River" all deserve inclusion on future setlists, and "Coming Home/Bonny Light Horseman" left few dry-eyed. Classic songs like "Country Life" and "Cousin Jack" benefited from additional words, which surprised some who were enjoying the singalong but didn't put them off joining in.
|Phil, Steve and Miranda|
Steve Knightley revealed the character he adopts when cold-called by utility companies and ambulance-chasing solicitors, to much hilarity. A word of advice to those in the cold-calling business - if you find yourself talking to a West Country farmer who is wonderfully free of the ravages of intelligence and welcomes your call, end it as soon as you can. It's Steve, and if you stay on the line he will make you so frustrated you'll burst into tears. And he will have won. Again.
|Steve Knightley: phoney farmer|
As did Show of Hands on Saturday night. That they were enjoying themselves was apparent. That their audience were enjoying them was obvious. And when it came to the singing of "Roots"... well, if the lid of Centre Stage burst up into the cold night air at the mass shout of "It's my flag too, and I want it back!" I wouldn't be a bit surprised. After fourteen songs, they left the stage and the house lights came up. The applauding crowd didn't move. Two encores later - "Now You Know" and "King Of The World" - and that was it. If the organisers of the Great British Folk Festival have more than half a brain cell (and I know that they have many to call on), Show of Hands will be back very soon.
- Audio interview with Phil Beer: FolkCast Blast 005
Merry Hell (review: Phil)
While Babba, Mark and Jenny and about 85% of the rest of the GBFF crowd squeezed into Centre Stage to see Show Of Hands, Jo and I had an appointment with some old friends that we'd never met before.
Hey, it's a long story, but several decades ago and in another life I was the music editor of a North West England newspaper and often ran stories about a band from Wigan called The Tansads. Despite loving their records, however, I never managed to see them play live. They disbanded well before the end of the last century and that seemed to be that.
Then I heard about Merry Hell. Featuring the core of the Tansands in the shape of The Kettle brothers three, Merry Hell mix indie rock, pop and folk (in that order) to produce a brilliantly bouncy sound that's full of energy, power and passion. Rock provides the banging backbeat, pop produces memorable melodies and singalong choruses, and folk chips in with the lyrics which are sharp, smart and witty observations of life in all its guises.
"I miss you like a World Cup penalty, the disappointed crowd looking back at me..." croons Andrew Kettle - head back, voice like a finely-tuned buzz saw - before the gloriously tuneful Virginia Kettle (wife of guitarist brother John) joins in with the refrain: "Here it comes... one more day without you" as brother Bob's mandolin chirrups cheekily over the solid bass, drums and keyboards backing. The song is One More Day, and man it's brilliant!
Virginia, disconcertingly dressed as though she's just come from her day job as a bank clerk (she's actually a museum guide in Chester), strums an acoustic guitar and commands the audience to "Bury me naked, I want to go out the way I came in...". The song is called Bury Me Naked, it's the title track of their next album, it's coming in Spring 2013 and it features a certain Dave Swarbrick guesting on one track. Bury you naked? Well, you'll have to slip off that pinstriped jacket first, love...
Both Andrew and Virginia Kettle are strong, distinctive singers - and each gets their solo songs in the spotlight - but it's the combination of their voices that is the Merry Hell trademark. It's a most exquisite mix - his a powerful, strident, musical salute; hers sweetly soaring above before blasting through with jaw-dropping eloquence and bravura. Wow!
Then they reached into their old band's back catalogue and - BANG! - it was the early 90s all over again and it's almost like Maggie never left No 10. Ahem...
Songs like Iron Man and Up The Shirkers are mighty, and had me on my feet saluting the ceiling with a pumping fist. Are you allowed to do that at a folk festival? You are here - get in!
But while they can rock out they can also be smoother than a moleskin G-string on fabulous folkie charmers like Lean On Me Love ("When boredom fills your kitchen sink/and the world is standing at the brink/when the bars are closed and you need a drink/lean on me love") and intimate Rosanna's Song. Then they are off into the massive The War Between Ourselves and the room is rocking again.
I saw Gordon Giltrap watching intently, and he later Tweeted appreciatively of their stage presence, good fun and good songs, before casually offering to be another guest on a future record! Nice one, GG.
Merry Hell are Lancashire's answer to The Saw Doctors or The Levellers ... and the answer is: "Alreet? Cop This!"
GG walks on stage to anticipatory applause and with a big smile on his face. And why not? Here are a couple of thousand people ready to hang on the bend of every finger.
|Gordon Giltrap at GBFF - enthralling|
|Gordon's supporting cast|
- Audio interview with Gordon Giltrap: FolkCast Blast 002