Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cropredy 2016 Review - Day 2

I loved the way the whole village seemed to embrace the festival. There may be some objectors, but it's so well established that buying a house in the village must require accepting that there will be a lot of extra people around for a few days each year. The primary school and the church raise funds providing breakfasts for campers, and the pub clearly does rather well out of it too. Meanwhile in the arena field, there were lots of food stalls - including a few old friends from Greenbelt. I finally had a Goan fish curry.

We got on site in good time to find a decent spot to set up our seats and 12 hours of music followed in mainly sunshine. Anthony John Clarke (the festival compere) and Fairport veteran Dave Pegg got us underway, followed by talented piper from Edinburgh, Brìghde Chaimbeul, who recently won the BBC Radio 2 young folk award.

The excellent duo Sound of the Sirens followed, providing a more upbeat folk/rock set of songs which was definitely the highlight for me of the first half of the day. Great songs and energy well-performed. Lifesigns, a prog rock band, who have supported Marillion were on next. The musicianship was certainly there, but the music didn't grab me.

However, the next band were a real treat. To be a good 3-piece band needs everyone to pull their weight, and that was certainly the case with Wille and the Bandits, who may be familiar to Greenbelt regulars. Hard to pigeon-hole, they can play blues, folk-rock and even Latin-influenced music. There was some terrific guitar work, but none of it played on a 'conventional' electric guitar. Although effects were definitely in play, all guitar was played on an acoustic, or on a Weissenborn type lap slide guitar. I've never seen or heard anything quite like it, but the overall sound was very impressive.

Wille and the Bandits at Cropredy 2016
The problem with such a well-received quality set, is that someone has to follow it, and that job fell to Headspace. Sadly, it didn't go so well for them. Again, the instruments were played well, but their rock set just lacked something in its musicality and also rapport with the audience. It felt like they were just trying a bit too hard, and it ended up being counter-productive. The rather muted applause at the end of the set indicated to me that my friends and I were not alone in having that opinion. Maybe it was just the wrong setting and context for them.

All I can remember of Steeleye Span are their two hit singles from the 70s - Gaudete, and All Around My Hat. I do own a Christmas album by Maddy Prior, and I have always admired her voice, so I was intrigued to see if they could still deliver the goods. Although much more 'folky' than other bands in the line-up, they certainly showed their instrumental and vocal quality, and although Maddy Prior's voice sounds older, it still had that distinctive tone and clarity. I'm glad I got the chance to see them.

Day 2 ended with something I wasn't sure about - The Bootleg Beatles. It seemed a strange choice for Cropredy. Essentially it's a live set of Beatles classics performed by a quartet each playing the part of a member of the band. It was actually much more enjoyable and fun than I expected, with very good performances and arrangements both of the early era material which was played live, and also later tracks which never featured in live sets.

Bootleg Beatles setlist

Supporting musicians enabled an authentic sound for the more complex songs (eg the piccolo trumpet solo on Penny Lane). Obviously, it's not the same as really being there, but for those of us who couldn't, it gave a taste of how good those songs were live, and also what some of the later material might have felt like as part of a concert set. And, of course, most of us there knew all the words. It actually provided a lighter and fun conclusion to a day that had had patches which were pretty heavy going. I would never have chosen to go to a Bootleg Beatles gig, but I'm glad to have experienced one.

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