Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter Pt III: National Folk festival

NFF flags
The NFF has a very different vibe to the Woodford Folk Festival. I guess one minor difference is that I don't travel 2 days to get to it (I ride my bike for 5 minutes), so it feels sort of familiar. The other major difference is the type of music played. It's a lot more traditional, and there's a lot less quirkiness. It's a lot of fun, but I could quite happily miss it and do something else (like Rowany). The reason I don't is that I have beloved family members who live a long way away who have a regular stall at the Festival, so we treat Easter as a bit of a family get-together.

This year I didn't really make an effort, just used the times when I was there to put my feet up and relax. Unfortunately gigs only go for about 3/4 hour, so by the time I start to settle in and the nerves stop twanging, it's time to get up and move again.


1. Jigzag, and anything Liz Frencham did. She is amazing. She seemed to be part of everything, and the last time I caught her (helping the lovely Brett Robin Wood) was I think her 26th appearance on stage in 4 days. Luckily she's very talented and a delight to listen to, otherwise everyone would have been heartily sick of her.

2. The Queen Tribute competition. This is at least 25 folky bands doing Queen covers (in 5 heats) and then a magnificent finale where a winner is chosen. A few years ago they did one for Stairway to Heaven (which was a bit boring because it's been done before), then they had a Dylan one, then Abba, and now Queen. This is Coolgrass, a bluegrass band, doing their best (unfortunately I've just forgotten the song they covered! Argh.) The winner ended up being a version of I want to Break Free by Voicepopfoible, complete with vacuuming in drag and a segue of Ice's appropriation of Pressure. The other contenders were excellent too, including Jigzag, Mal Webb, Felowship of the Strings and the Canberra Celtic Pipe Band. it really is a great way to get a taste of who is at the Festival.

3. Another sampler of festival talent was the Joni Mitchell showcase. Lots of people doing Joni Mitchell covers. I'd forgotten how much I love her writing. It's inspired me to find my old records (or were they cassettes?).

Unfortunately a low point was Martin Pearson's new incarnation, Martin Pearson and the MP3s. I love Martin's talent, which ranges from (and these are my own mental categories) Eyes Open Stuff (his comedy and spoken word gigs) and Eyes Closed Stuff (much of his Never the Twain singing), but the MP3s just didn't do it for me. From the name I was expecting something a bit contemporary, but it was Martin and two mates (guitar and harmonica) up on stage belting out a few numbers by Dylan and co. The harmonica was too dominant, Martin was too submissive to the harmonica, and the guitar was just there. It was the sort of stuff people play in their loungerooms after a good dinner party, but nothing to excite the crowd. I feel awful writing this, Martin, but if I had to give you a report card on this, it would say 'Disappointing: have seen you do better'.

On a lighter note, the NFF always has a children's parade at the end. Some naughty person painted a placard and then gave it to my nearly-11 y-o nephew to carry in the parade. Here it is:
bush at the NFF
Heh. He didn't really understand the first bit, but he was savvy to the second, so he carried it happily. Luckily his (and BB's Recently-Retired-Anglican-Minister-) parents have a jolly sense of humour. Laugh? Oh how we roared.

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