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Cambridge Festival 28th-31st July 2005
Friday Festival Diary

Hats, shirts and fun in the sun... we bring you our insiders' guide to the Cambridge Folk Festival 2005

Cambridge Festival Diary
Big Ade and his shirt Someone up there must surely be a music fan. Despite a forecast prophesying storms and locusts, the threatening clouds moved away to let the sun shine in. By lunchtime the festival site at Cherry Hinton was a riot of coloured shirts, skirts and the ubiquitous funny hats.

Hayseed Dixie, the hillbilly tribute to AC/DC, launch the afternoon's proceedings with their heavy metal classic covers. With dungarees a deep shade of bluegrass they have the crowd on their feet with a red-hot duelling-banjo-style version of Ace of Spades. Out in the crowd, Big Ade is definitely a fan, hailing from Stoke-on-Trent via New Orleans where he acquired an amazing shirt festooned with accordions - one of the many Cambridge regulars who are raring to enjoy the fun in the sun. The Hayseed harmonies on Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls ooze over the site and Don Wayne Reno's lead banjo has all the Appalachian nuances that Brian May missed out.
Kathryn Tickell Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell has just arrived to chat with Mike Harding about her history with Cambridge Festival. She is no newcomer, having visited many years ago when she was classed as the youngster in the band. Now she says '… it's Granny Kathryn and her boys'. While she leaves to prepare for her late afternoon spot on the main stage, a wander around the shadier parts of the site reveal K T Tunstall mid conversation with Mark Radcliffe. She explains that this is not her first visit to the Festival either having provided vocal support to the Klezmer hip-hop band Oi Va Voi two years ago. Now solo she's an overnight success after a stunning appearance on Later with Jools Holland and a hit album to her name. She's due to take the stage later in the day, but in the meantime she much in demand, squeezing in interviews backstage and jetting off business class to Australia after her performance today.

The Chester Romans The crowds are still pouring onto the site wearing more and more inventive headgear. Two guys from Chester stand guard by the burger van and I ask if there's any significance to the Roman connection. "No, it's just so that we can find our mates in the crowd!" The site seems even more vibrant then ever, with enormous inflatable decorations adorning the two huge stage canopies, but a rather droopy one near the beer tent - a message for the over-indulgers, perhaps?

The Cat Empire from Australia hit the main stage with a blast of latin rhythms, Cuban soul and gypsy flair. Fusion was never so good. Harry J Angus' triple-tongues the trumpet with a rasp to rival any decent mariachi outfit. It can be heard from the Mexican food Winnebago trailer where the beaming staff groove while doling out the jalapenos and sour cream. The Cats give way to The Bills, an exuberant Vancouver Island band with a totally different take on traditional tunes from around the world. Their lush vocal arrangements could even give our own Coope Boyes and Simpson something to ponder on. After a great set, the stage was then handed over to 'Granny' Kathryn Tickell and her band of very talented young men, which includes her brother Peter Tickell on fiddle along with Julian Sutton and Ian Stevenson. They drive straight into a set of wonderfully diverse traditional tunes, many from the north east of England and many with thought-provoking names. Weasel of Colterscleuch, The Stool of Repentance and Herd on the Hill are arranged by Kathryn. Peter and Julian with help from friend Joss Clapp, lately of the band Tarras, are certainly names to wonder at.

KT Tunstall with Mark Radcliffe The music just never stops, but that's why were here after all … a rousing hour of The Unusual Suspects follows. A who's who of the collective folk output of Scotland including Corrina Hewat, Aidan O'Rourke, Catriona MacDonald, Eilidh Shaw - in total a twenty-two piece line-up. It's tempting to think there's more on stage than in the audience, but a glance around confirms record attendance so far. A sea of happy faces gyrates and bops along. But then, finding a gap in her hectic schedule, superstar K T Tunstall hits the main stage. She opened with Another Place to Fall, Miniature Disasters and The Other Side of the World from her debut album, employing her trademark Akai Headrush delay pedal, which records and plays back to create rhythms, to brilliant effect, The crowd knows every word. An eloquent raconteur, she praises Cambridge Festival between numbers as " …the best!" and berates all those who didn't come because they thought it would be "… all folk music." Taking the pace down she announces Under the Weather, again off her album, as a little folky number. Her four-piece band, with a surprisingly exotic cello and trumpet, provide beautifully understated backing. But by the time she hits her signature song Black Horse and The Cherry Tree, a powerful trouser-flapping bass and drums have kicked in to stir things up. "Woo-hoo, woo-hoo, hoo" chorus the frontline. She carries on with a slick but soulful set finally thanking the crowd saying "It's been such a joy!"

By now the sun is sinking low but everyone's spirits are rising. Scottish brothers Craig and Charlie Reid, better known as The Proclaimers, turn up backstage. Their rise to fame stretches over almost two decades and there's a lot of music industry chums to gossip with and about.

Mavis Staples There's a buzz going round as the soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples is due to appear. People are rushing to get a good place and as the Stax diva and her band ooze soul into the twilight. Classics like The Circle is Unbroken and The Band's The Weight have all the power and drama you'd expect from someone Prince once called 'the epitome of soul". She even gives us a little history lesson. Coming from a very large family, her father was one of the last to be named and the store Sears and Roebuck was the inspiratio - Roebuck 'Pops' Staples. Believe it or not. Sister Yvonne Staples provides backing vocals and the band pound out a get-down-and-dirty slice of funk and blues. One in the eye for those who stopped home and missed it.

To round off the Friday evening, The Reid twins burst out with their anthemic Letter From America, almost drowned out by the chorus yelled back at them from the front of house. Their performance is as fresh and bouncy as their fans, many of whom would still walk five hundred miles more to see them again.

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Who did you enjoy the most this year?

Christy Moore
KT Tunstall
The Duhks
Old Crow Medicine Show


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