Review: Cambridge Folk Festival Day Two, August 3, we see a man play the fiddle while standing atop the double bass

Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant

I would say Gordie MacKeeman, of Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, is a virtoso fiddle player, except I need a more exhilarating word than that. He doesn’t just play at lightning speed, he plays with the fiddle under his arm while he is doing a thundering step dance. He plays standing on top of a double bass, while the double bass is being played by someone else.

Gordie MacKeeman Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

Gordie MacKeeman Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant

I daresay he could play under water or falling out of the sky.

Rhythm is the word. This is surely the most cheerful music in the world. Most of it with an irresistable beat. But there was also The Maritime Lullaby, a sweet melody which he said was written for the people waiting at home when they toured. “Whenever you phone them, it’s always either too early or too late, they always seem to be sleeping.”

As if that wasn’t delight enough, on Friday afternoon I found my unheralded gem. It’s always the acts that don’t get a big build-up that make you feel especially clever to have discovered them. Actually they have already been discovered. They are playing at Cambridge Folk Festival, but it feels like you alone have found a secret.

We were outside The Den, an area for up and coming acts, looking for the tea tent when Bella Collins’ voice was so beautiful, we abandoned the tea idea and went in. Clever us.

First Aid Kit on stage. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

First Aid Kit on stage. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant


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A singer guitarist from Cardiff, Bella is a little bit reminiscent of Cleo Lane and has a little touch of Amy Winehouse, but when she sang John Martyn’s May You Never (lay your head down without a hand to hold) it was absolutely all her very own. She was mesmerisingly good.

She had packed out The Den, a tent done up like a sitting room with carpets and even a mock fireplace behind the stage, and there were as many people sitting on the grass outside enjoying her show.

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Peggy Seegar followed Gordie MacKeeman on the main stage on Friday afternoon. Now in her eighties, she sang at the first Cambridge Folk Festival in 1965. It was organised by a fireman, Ken Woollard, mainly from the phone box outside the fire station. Woollard booked Paul Simon and Paul Simon slept on the Woollards’ floor.

Over 50 years on, Peggy Seegar’s voice still has a lovely tone full of melody, and she is still protesting about things she thinks are wrong. She hasn’t given up on us.

First Aid Kit. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

First Aid Kit. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant

The Kinnaris Quintet, who had closed Thursday night, the festival’s opening night, by entrancing the Club Tent, brought their stupendous strings to Stage 2 on Friday and again delighted the crowd.

The evening on Stage One, the main stage, saw some big sounds: the Songhoy Blues, a powerful rock band from Mali and soul singer, St Paul and the Broken Bones. Paul Janeway looks a bit like Alan Carr and sounds a bit like Marvin Gaye. He was wearing a bright red suit and silver sparkly shoes and he could be heard a mile away.

But the biggest audience cheers of Friday night went to headliners, First Aid Kit. Their music has a magical atmosphere about it. Swedish sisters, singer-guitarists Johanna and Klara Soderberg, have a genious for harmony and with a backing band with trombone, drums and keyboard, it’s a sound that takes you places. One of their songs is called Fireworks and their compositions go up with the energy of rockets.

We loved them. You can’t keep your feet still, or your hips. It’s music to make you move.

Songhoy Blues. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

Songhoy Blues. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant

Kinnaris Quintet Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

Kinnaris Quintet Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Celia Bartlett

The crowd outside The Den at Cambridge Folk Festival, the couple in front at fast asleep

The crowd outside The Den at Cambridge Folk Festival, the couple in front at fast asleep - Credit: Archant

Peggy Seegar and her son Callum McColl. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography

Peggy Seegar and her son Callum McColl. Picture: Celia Bartlett Photography - Credit: Archant

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