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AAA Music | 22 August 2019

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Folk in a Field 2019 – Live Review

| On 21, Jul 2019

Friday 5th – Sunday 7th July, Norfolk

A new festival for us of which friends told us about, saying “it’s lovely with a great vibe and it’s on your doorstep” so we booked! We got to the site mid-afternoon with plenty of time to spare and wander around the site. It was literally 5 minutes’ walk from one end to the other and looked intimate for the 1000 or so punters visiting. There was a food court, stalls, a holistic hub area and a small area with an upside-down boat (Boat Stage) where open mics and workshops took place. The site had beautiful woods to wander around and cool down under the summer sun along with the bar with fabulous local real ales and cider.

The evening music started with 3 bands on the line-up at 8pm. First were Fishclaw who could be described as dark folk and they almost drifted into ambient/gothic/prog at times. Refreshing folk but not in a traditional sense! The Willows on next, recently championed by BBC Radio 2, they gave a confident and exciting live set with great tunes. Headline band for this first night was The Noble Jacks with a sometimes-noisy folk sound with electric guitar, violin to the fore and bass backing everything up. They really stomped things up to make the crowd dance and have a wild party.

Day 2 started off at the unique Boat Stage where we observe a guitar workshop hosted by members of the talented Jigantics band. There are more than a handful of “students” and it all sounded good as was the Dulcimer workshop in the main arena area later on. It’s a busy day on the main stage with some 10 artists playing from Noon to Midnight and we start off gently with singer-songwriter Katie Spencer with just her and a guitar lulling the mainly seated audience. The gentle rain did not detract from her warm acoustic sounds.

The colourful Anto Morra ups the ante with his take on Punk Folk and he’s a cross between Billy Bragg and The Pogues and just has a guitar and harmonica to accompany himself. Willowspin are next and we have a ceilidh! By the end their set most of the audience was participating…..particularly fun was “The Horses Brawl” with the dancers randomly dancing through the modest early afternoon crowd. Blues Situation throw the folksiness of the occasion out with their spirited take on good time blues with a driving rhythm, booming bass and enough guitar solos to sink the titanic!

Chad Mason is next singing songs just his acoustic guitar and harmonica and is a good performer as well as festival compere! Back to the folk then with the wonderfully titled Bristol-based The Railway Sleepers and their raggle-taggle gypsy folk tunes and altogether up-tempo sound to wake the crowd. Next were one of my most anticipated bands to see as Morganway took to the stage….they sounded great (as did all the bands thanks to the spot-on sound and vision crew), with their classic rock crossed with Americana sound. SJ Mortimer has a fantastic voice and that backed with a tight band, with strong songs makes them a real tip for the top for stadium size arenas! I really enjoyed their set and for now they are perfect for festivals this size. My favourite songs were ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Frozen in My Time’ together with the rocking ‘Let Me Go’. One to definitely watch!

Early evening on day 2 and Solana take to the stage with their more complex sounding fusion-folk, combining jazz and Latin influences into the mix and really engaging to watch. Following them are the madness of Mr Tea and the Minions (another band from Bristol) who play Balkan influenced ska, dub and folk. That with crazy knees-up dancing and a non-stop fast paced show really got the crowd bouncing up and down and having a great time! The final band adorn the stage with a multitude of folk instruments along with Marshall amps and a number of electric guitars – Black Water County come on stage with a great look, dreadlocks abundant and are ready to folk rock the crowd. They sang about beer and getting drunk and having a rollicking good time with powerful riff-laden songs such as the punk-folk of ‘Under Skies of Black and Blue’ and ‘Rise and Fall’. This with a great version of ‘The Irish Rover’ and a couple of Flogging Molly songs I can’t remember the titles of, rounded off a brilliant day of massive talent and overall good fun.

Day 3 is Sunday and 8 bands to take in today and it’s a less high-octane brand of folk inspired bands and artists taking to the stage. We stopped off to see the Ukulele, Harmonica and Guitar jam at the gazebo near the bar and it was quite a sight! Starting proceedings on the main stage was Minature Universe, a husband and wife (Blake and Rosie) duo creating improvised ambient soundscapes (a little like Icelandic band Amiina). A nice eclectic start! Zingaro Blue are next up who sing local tales mainly centered on and around the East Anglian Coast. The music is Gypsy Folk based with the odd piece of rock guitar and jazz elements.

Dan Walsh is up next singing songs along with his banjo and harmonica. He is a fabulous Banjo player and had bags of energy with his unique style of playing. Multi-instrumentalists The Jigantics take to the stage and are one of those bands with a plethora of different instruments which they seamlessly swap over between nearly every song. They did a Steve Earle cover and also a Tom Waits cover which I was surprised and thrilled with. Their original material is excellent too and I see many different genres to their music but no particular one. 

A Capella is next in the form of Sound Tradition, a four piece singing unaccompanied, lovely harmonies and historic folk songs. Local band Bruther Will are next singing raucous and lively folk songs in the manner of The Pogues. They are both energetic and funny and great for a Sunday afternoon pick-me-up. The penultimate band is Summerwood who sing the songs Irish Natonal Treasure – Turlough O’Carolan  composed. The arrangements and interpretations of these songs are lovely. Last but not least we have LongShoreDrift which is a band made up of the Organizer, Luke Horncastle on bodhran and cajon; Stage Manager Tim Chipping on acoustic guitar and singing and also Ewan Chipping on mandola etc. They have a good humoured and contemporary set which ends the festival in a great spirit and the same vibe it started with.

I shall certainly be coming back to Folk in a Field next year as it is so refreshing to have no security needed, a trusting crowd and no barriers to the stage and for having fun in a relaxed, respected and friendly atmosphere which is how all festivals should strive to be like. In one word this festival was Fantastic!

Nige Nudds