Day four of the 2018 Folk Festival was set to be another scorcher with both the gloriously sunny weather, and the music line-up. Irish Mythen kicked off on Stage One, her musical perfomance punctuated by some absorbing story-telling and craic which had also entertained the crowd during her performance on Stage Two on Saturday.
My day of reviewing from the pit began with Irishman Daoiri Farrell, a singer and musician who I had first met back in 2015 on the folk circuit in Ireland, and was a must as a subject for my lens. Blessed with the perfect folk voice, Farrell didn’t disappoint, opening with a beautiful ballad, The Creggan White Hare, which told the story of a hare who “always gets away”.
After this virtuoso performance, he was joined by Blackie O’Connell on pipes and Robbie Walsh on bodhran, the trio playing a couple more traditional reels before Walsh set off on a mezmerising bodhran number. With his custom built drum rested on his knee and ear tilted towards it, he gave an amazing show of dexterity. The timbre he achieved from this instrument was just stunning, the crowd listening intently, until the moment it dawned on them that Walsh had broken into a rhythmic performance of When the Saints Go Marching In - they just had to join in with the words.
The trio were just some of many artists who gave impromptu performances during the day. Their wonderful warm nature drew the crowds around the MOJO tent as they played, and where afterwards, they happily chatted and signed their records.
Also giving an impromptu performance were the darlings of the Saturday stage, Darlingside. A four-person indie folk band from Boston MA, they drew the crowds to the main bar, where a bonus perfomance of their beautiful harmonies brought out a rash of goosebumps on a scorching hot summer day. Following their appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival, there will be many people after tickets for their gigs in Edinburgh, Manchester and London at the end of October, and I will certainly be one of them.
Back into my yo-yo world of photography from the pit, I concentrated on Stage One, where a gloriously colourful and musically enjoyable group of ladies from down-under, known as All Our Exes Live in Texas commented on the unbelieveable weather that England was experiencing. They weren’t the only visiting artists to make reference to the unexpected British summer either. Following the rain of the 2017 festival, the organisers couldn’t have dreamed of better conditions for 2018, even if it did make it hand-sweatingly difficult for me to keep grip on the camera during our usual three song shoot per session. Thankfully, we were able to retreat to the relative cool of the press area where we could listen and enjoy the rest of the set while processing our images.
As the afternoon progressed, a soft breeze began to waft in, and we were treated to a session from Yorkshire lass, Kate Rusby. Sometimes called the Barnsley Nightingale, her gentle voice got everyone into a relaxed mood for the evening. Billed as Kate Rusby and Friends, this Cam-Folk-Fest-favourite certainly filled the stage with some choice musicians. Among them was Eddi Reader, Lori Watson and flute player Michael McGoldrick. Rusby, dressed in a bedazzling star-spangled little number, commented that Reader was also dressed in a sparkly outfit, as they dueted with a song appropriate to the festive season.
However, the festive season was far from everyone’s mind on one of the hottest days of the year but the performance was enjoyed by everyone none the less. Rusby was happy to tell the stories of her music, including The Maiden’s Lament whch she had found in a dusty suitcase while clearing an aunt and uncle’s house. It is these asides which endear performers to the audience, and also made them happy to gently sing along with, Blooming Heather as she was joined by Reader, Watson and friends for this classic folk song.
The evening continued with a great perfomance by Janis Ian, her wit and her voice as clear as ever. “I’m 67” said Ian, the crowd breaking into applause. “Don’t applaud, there is nothing I can do about it” she responded.
She was able to draw applause for both her music and the home truths, which resonated with all those gathered to watch her. Just before Grammy award winner John Prine came onto stage for the penultimate session on the 2018 Stage One, Rhiannon Giddens appeared to thank everyone for the opportunity she had had in being guest curator at this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival. Following that interlude, Prine gave a sharp performance, and with our shoot session restricted to just two songs, it gave us the opportunity to dash across to Stage Two, my first visit of the day, to catch some great traditional banjo playing from Damien O’Kane and Ron Block.
With this uplifting beat still resonating from Stage Two, it was back to Stage One for the finale. This was set to be loud and showy, and it certainly was. All the way from the Isle of Skye, the instrumental celtic fusion band, Peatbog Faeries ensured that everyone who had squeezed into the tent was ‘getting with it’ as well as those outside watching on the big screen. To match this upbeat tempo, there was a dramatic change to the stage lighting compared to all the previous sessions. Gone was bright and cheerful, in came gloomy and fast, a challenge to all of us down below who were after ‘that’ shot. However, did it add to the atmosphere? Oh yes!
As we left our three-and-a-bit shoot session (yes, we sneaked a bit extra!) we were all wiping our brows from this scorcher of a festival saying, “Wow, see you next year!”