I thought it would be worthwhile to update you all on my various travels this past month or so. We have entered festival season so my days have been filled in country fields, avoiding the sun and eating world cuisine from the back of trailers.
Up first was a repeat performance at Wallingford’s Rugfest. I have played the festival once before with The Lucky Strikes and we were excited to be playing it again. The festival is set in the grounds of the Rugby club and once you have swung off the M25 and the other motorways you enter a labyrinth of country lanes where chocolate box villages nestle at various crossroads. We arrived late in the day which meant we didn’t suffer the tedium that sometimes settles in to festival shows; just hanging around waiting to go on.
We are on second to last and when our time comes we set up and play out. Last year we managed to get everybody waltzing in the rain but this year it’s hot and the sun is still shining, even though it is heading west for the day. It’s a good gig and afterwards we stand side stage as a man in leather trousers sets off a firework behind a truck for the last band’s entrance. We drink beer and watch the blooms of red and gold. Backstage there is a sofa and there’s graffiti on the arm proclaiming ‘Jackie Leven sat here- Legend’. I played with Jackie only once in a pub in Leytonstone. He was a warm man and I’d like to think that he could see those fireworks from up above.
29th June welcomed my local festival, the Leigh Folk Festival and I was honoured to be part of it again this year. On that Friday I joined Michael Chapman and Jason Steel, both lovely, lovely men to play a special night of music. The venue was the Leigh Methodist Church which stands almost on the marsh itself. I have known the church for so long but had never been inside. What first took me when I entered was the stain glass window of a cockle fisherman untangling his nets on the beach. It was glorious. It was truly a special gig and an attentive audience.
The rest of the weekend was a manic itinerary of seeing some good friends and new acquaintances play. In no particular order I saw great sets from Micky Denny, Crafting for Foes, Oli Howard, Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers, the Delta Jacks, Troubadour Rose, The Reverend Casey and Alisdair Roberts. It makes you feel truly alive to know so many great musicians and to call them friends. I took to the stage at 7.30pm on the Sunday with The Strikes. A good few technical difficulties but when you’re playing with brothers, it’s not that bad a deal. Long live the Leigh Folk Festival!
Me and The Strikes’ piano player, Dave, drove up to North Wales last weekend to play the Ymuno Festival. A small festival of five hundred, it was one of the best festival gigs we have played. Well worth the nine hours driving! It was a sublime drive, talking about life and music and moving on. The band are due back in the studio in early August and we’re excited to be working on new material.
We eventually hit Colwyn Bay around lunch time and are in awe of the beautiful sea. We head up through the mountains and past a spooky village populated by scarecrow cyclists and hangmen. We keep driving. We meet the rest of the boys at the festival and our erstwhile fiddler Simon who has travelled from Halifax. Simon is a legend and a master brewer. Our good friend Neil McSweeney played the previous night and he is wearing his hangover well when we meet up. We do the gig, pack away and then me, Dave and Neil film an impromptu interview for the festival organisers before we part ways, heading back home tired and hungry for bed.