GIG REVIEW: Strawberry Fair 2006

BLAZING hot sunshine, over-priced food, the odd fight and of course hundreds of live bands, all for free and in a field in Cambridgeshire. There s no denying that this year s Strawberry Fair festival lived up to expectations. Arriving at Midsummer Common,

BLAZING hot sunshine, over-priced food, the odd fight and of course hundreds of live bands, all for free and in a field in Cambridgeshire.

There's no denying that this year's Strawberry Fair festival lived up to expectations. Arriving at Midsummer Common, it was difficult to know where to start. More packed than previous years, possibly because of the stunning weather we were treated to, a carnival and welcoming atmosphere settled with the hustle and bustle of such a huge crowd.

Heading straight to the acoustic tent for a quick break from the demanding festivities, I manage to catch hotly tipped out-of-towners Flipron.

Although not acoustic, despite what the billing suggested, the laid back grooves and subtle changes in time signatures were perfectly suited to the occasion, and certainly a band worth looking out for in the future.


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Next up was local hero Jimbob, whose Billy Bragg-esque storytelling and stripped-down, understated guitar work was positively received by the home crowd. Via a quick trip to the circus tent to watch a puppet show (excellent, I might add) I find myself watching London band Kyrb Grinder on the main stage. With award winning drummer Johanne James fronting the band, his elaborate drumming, although perhaps a little self indulgent, reminded the audience why he was voted the 2006 Classic Rock Society Drummer of the Year. Good musicianship, tight playing, appreciated by hundreds.

Back to local bands next, with Houston 500's boisterous rock keeping the tempo and temperature high, before one of the most hyped bands in Cambridgeshire, Freelove and The Good Plant took to the stage. A strong line-up featuring nine members including cello and violin alongside the standard guitars, drums, piano, and bass, Freelove are hard work to take in.

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Changing genres at an uncomfortable rate; from world music to metal, to jazz to Indian, the disappointing sound quality didn't do them any favours. Although I heard some people describing them as pretentious, the intricacy of this fascinating band perhaps deserves more attention with the help of a more balanced, indoor, PA system.

Emma York, a personal favourite, with her human beatbox brother Galactica, took to the stage to a warm response. A delicate singer-songwriter, but with enough substance to hold her own in front of a large audience, York's progression as a songwriter is an encouraging one for the local music scene as her new material clearly demonstrates.

Sadly, her set was cut short early due to a fight in the crowd, and although the police were extremely quick to clear any danger, it was seemed suitable for the next act to start.

That band was Opaque, Peterborough's quirky pop rascals with a niche for the perfect pop song. Splendid throughout, the band's inventive performance fronted by the ever excellent Moony is a constant treat and bigger things must be around the corner. Guest bassist James Chadwick, having already performed earlier in the day with a set of his own material in the acoustic tent, only added to the joy. Heading back to catch the end of the Broken Family Band's set in the acoustic tent where they were headlining, I left the festival to go to the after show party at The Loft for more musical treats. As always with the Strawberry Fair, I'm concerned as to what and who I have missed, but having this much entertainment for free on our doorsteps reminds me of how good the Cambridge music scene can be.

RICHARD PAUL

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