The mood was great as I entered the site at Wolverton Manor, with quaint little food vans, and a double decker vegetarian bus on one side, the main stage straight ahead and the acoustic beer tent to the left.
The day started with Grizzled Skipper on the mainstage. Grizzled Skipper are a 3 piece band consisting of a banjo, double bass and female lead on acoustic guitar. They started their set slowly easing people into the day, with some beautiful soft vocals complimented well with male harmonies. They picked up the pace as more people trickled in with some fast plucking on the banjo for some real thigh slapping hoe-down type fun.
Inside the beer tent things were also off to a flying start with Double Hitch performing some olde worlde folk. Kerry Scriver’s voice filled the beer tent as she & Tina Goode sang their hearts out in harmony. Vince Scriver & James Goode played banjo along side them, with James occasionally switching to traditional Irish Bodhran. They played with precision and great pace, slowing things down at times with Kerry switching to flute for a mystical starting tune that built triumphantly into a well crafted upbeat instrumental number. The ‘Road to Dublin’ saw people clapping along and little ones dancing as Kerry & Tina maintained fantastic breath control through the very speedy song. Made up of eight men in a fine selection of brightly coloured, checkered shirts and fancy waistcoats, Brightstone Barnacles followed them on stage. A great accompaniment to a cloudy cider or local ale, singing a wide range of harmonies and lots of “Hey Hoe’s!” They brought out a guitar and banjo for an original song about Freshwater Bay, though the majority of the set was sung acapella.
Outside things had stepped away from the traditional a bit, with the JC Grimshaw Band. Described to me as “funky folk” there are not many better ways to describe them. They combined Jazz, with folk and blues, some parts even had a Latino feel to it. The double bass was really deep while violins added an extra layer to their sound. They wowed the crowd which by now was nearly full.
Laurie Mcvay & the Highrollers took to the mainstage next, Laurie’s got a true bluesy voice, perfect for the songs they performed. They got people up and dancing with some jazzy numbers thrown in. Harmonica playing, fancy keyboard parts and detailed guitar riffs from Andy Charles made this a great all round performance.
As the sun continued to shine and the wind calmed, Claydon Connor took to the mainstage. He sang clearly and with good tone as kiddies ran about with bubbles filling the air. The band were great with the guitarist picking and sliding up and down the strings with ease. The lyrics were catchy and harmonica was smooth, was real good mood easy to listen to music very appropriate for the time of day. They performed some songs of Claydons newest album including ‘We could have it all’ which started slow building throughout with the full band.
Outside the beer tent the Moonshine Border Morris Dancers we’re performing. All wearing black fitted jackets, top hats & feathers with some blue green and purples. They danced around as their band, including someone dressed in what I refer to as a “swamp monster”, accompanied them.
Inside was a real acoustic delight with 3 piece Red Squirrel performing old style takes on “country and blues ‘n’ stuff” entwined with a bit of gypsy jazz. Traditional ‘twangy’ blues notes and lovely whimsical violin solos resonated around the tent.
Nick Cane followed with a mix of covers and originals filling the space as if he were a whole band. He was followed by the extremely talented Paul Armfield, performing well written and well sung originals.
Things changed pace as the Camerata Chamber Choir comprising of a 16 people of mixed ages, singing in perfect four part harmony took to the main stage. A big change from the average band you watch at a festival. They were well rehearsed and perfectly in time performing with no slip ups.
Special guest Dave Kelly followed them opening with Robert Johnson song ‘Crossroad blues.’ His set was incredible and a real pleasure to watch. He kept the audience interested between songs providing a background to each tune. Dave played a mixture of originals including ‘Passing Through’ written in 1970 and ‘Family & Friends’ which is his second oldest recorded track. Covers included a beautiful rendition of Otis Redding ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ which he slowed right down and really made his own. Dave encouraged singing along, in his last track ending on an upbeat number featuring some of the best guitar picking & sliding I’ve seen!
Next up was rhythm ‘n blues band the Moonshiners, with festival organiser Tim Hollis on bass and brother Dave on guitar and vocals. An upbeat and lively sax solo jazzed up the set making you want to dance. This was backed up by an incredible guitar solo for some proper rock n roll infused blues. Dave stepped up with the harmonica on a few songs filling every corner of the field with sound. Neat percussion and bass kept everyone in time as they slowed the pace down for a few numbers. The Moonshiners played a fantastic cover of BB King’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’ as a wonderful tribute to “The King.”
A slow and mystical start from the Nightwatchman inside the beer tent had people leaning in listening intently. Quiet and discreet percussion was accompanied by melancholy violin and a light guitar riff. The lead vocalists voice had a deep roundness to it, and at times reminded me of Paul Weller (wild wood.) The bass guitar slotted into the ensemble without taking over. It was the quietest audience I’ve ever seen as the band drew everyone in with surreal and underground folk sounds.
It was full tempo again outside as the Grimaldi band from Kidderminster performed with tight vocal harmonies. Unusually, the lead singer although male, lead the higher notes with female backing singer harmonising with the lower notes. They dedicated their second song ‘Sun on the hill’ to the sunny Isle of Wight. This song started with flute, and was twinkly and light, a real feel good song. For an acoustic set they filled the space well and could well have been a full band! They encouraged jigging as they finished their set with Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl.’
Unfortunately I had to leave at this point due to the awkward bus timetable, but the sound of harmonicas and bluesy guitar slides from Blues Anonymous followed me all the way to the bus stop. It was a brilliant day, hats off to the organisers! Looking forward to next year already.
Written by Hannah Nash