01 August 2014 (gig)
25 August 2014
Twenty five years on from my first Cambridge Folk Festival and twenty two since my last, I thought that their 50th anniversary was the perfect time to return. And even after all the time, it felt very familiar; the layout and the intimate atmosphere almost unchanged – one of the most welcoming, chilled out festivals on the circuit.
After getting a lift from the parking area with kind chaps from Molotov jukebox, I felt we should repay the favour by getting along to see the show, and we were not alone. Tent overflowing the singer reminded me of south American gypsy Lily Allen at her early insightful best scatting with a twist of Amy Winehouse dedicating a song “to all my ex boyfriends if your in the room”.
Angus on trumpet was masterful, as were violin, bass, guitar and drums, the 6-piece clearly enjoying the up-tempo vibe, encouraging the crowd to dance along filling the stage with an extra 3-piece brass section.
On the main stage Sinead O’Connor wowed the audience with a classic selection of tunes which highlighted a voice that hasn’t lost its capacity to tear at the heart-strings.
Ezio opened day two of the three-day event exactly twenty five years on from the first time I caught them in the Club Tent here. They still have it and although major label success eluded them with the resurgence of the country/folk scene there is still time; the new tracks just as inspiring as the old.
Back in the Club Tent David Bromberg & Larry Cambell provided a dose of real jovial country bluegrass while in The Den Moore Boss Rutter rearranged traditional English folk tunes giving them their own unique jazzed up slant.
The Shires provided welcome shelter from the sudden downpour in The Den. Their brand of country folk sounded a little too polished and Americanized to me, with ‘Made in England’ almost a spoof offering but I’m sure big things beckon in the US.
They were followed by Seamus Fogarty who entertained the tent with a funny and touching song about his lost yellow t-shirt then The Goat Roper Rodeo Band 3-peice who provided some welcome cosmic country blues.
Back in the Club Tent Simon Aldridge and Luke Jackson both pulled in a crowd with Luke’s 'Heart Of Stone' a welcome new addition to his set.
Fresh from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Julie Fowlis and her band drew a huge crowd at the main stage – always thrilled to hear the queen of folk quietly take her throne with a set that mixes traditional and contemporary folk, Gaelic and English. Not a lot of new material but it still felt fresh - her rendition of The Beatles ‘Blackbird’ being a favourite of mine.
The main difference from my last visit twenty two years earlier were the sea of camping chairs that took up every available spot, staggering in its depth and breath with the crowd of all ages looking comfortable in their chosen stations.
Van Morrison brought the festival to a close. Wearing his classic hat and sunglasses he took to the stage and with minimal chat opened proceedings with ‘Don't Go’. Still in fine voice, and blowing the sax as hard as ever ‘Moondance’ and ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ were my classic favourites.
Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’ and ‘Gloria’ closed an extremely enjoyable 50th Cambridge Folk Festival. It’s still as entertaining as it ever was, and with a 10,000 site capacity it still retains the village like intimacy that eludes other events with a very friendly welcoming crowd. The camping and facilities all over the site also deserve praise with toilet paper and towels ever present at every stop, a festival first for me. I’m going to make a point of visiting a little more often in future. Here’s to the next 50 years, I may well be reserving my camping chair for the next big landmark birthday.