The sun was falling like a yellow beach ball as the crowds thronged to the 6X tent. Mr Love and Justice, a Swindon-based band, were already on stage. Their attractive mix of strong harmonies, skilled playing and easy banter with the audience helped to get everyone in the festival mood.
Friday - Wangford & Meuross, Eliza Carthy, Mystery Juice
The audience were already receptive and welcoming when Hank Wangford and Reg Meuross offered to "reach out and take you down to the world of country music… to sing you some really miserable songs."
|Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers|
The crowd wore this oxymoron cloak in a happily miserable way, as Hank and Reg played songs with lovely titles such as: "While you're cheating on me, I'm praying for you" a tale of misery, jealousy and murder with its punch line 'She saw the cliff, but just too late'. Or a cheerful ditty about alcoholism called: "There stands the glass", through to "Walk out backwards, so I think you're coming home". It was easy to go with the flow of Hank's tragic-comic chop-logic, so when he said, "We feel a good weekend in the air already, so we don't need to wish you a good weekend," it just felt right.
Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers almost rounded off Friday night. Their lively set was well-received with Eliza's fantastic prowess as a singer and fiddle player it was easy to see why she is so well-respected in the music world.
Mystery Juice provided a high energy romp for anyone with enough energy after the frenetic dancing to Eliza Carthy's set. Their Sparks-like deadpan stage presence contrasted strongly with the power and force of their playing. The crowd went mad as Friday night ended.
Saturday - Waterboys, Altan, Baka Beyond
Saturday saw the Doghouse Skiffle Band bring their anarchic antics to the 6X stage. Their lively music had the crowd on their feet as well as tapping them. A treat.
Gretchen Peters delighted the audience with her songs. A visitor to this country, for the past 10 years, it is not hard to see why the crowd loved this - one of Nashville’s best contemporary songwriters and her band.
By the time Waterson Carthy took the stage, joined by their daughter Eliza, the 6X tent was packed. Outside the beach ball sun had been replaced by cooling tropical rains and people thronged under umbrellas to listen to folk music at its best. They sounded like they'd been playing together all of their lives but then of course they had. The audience were amazed by their virtuoso performance.
In another tent Mary Flower showed us why she has a well-earned reputation as a superb exponent of the blues. Her impeccable guitar playing, and excellent singing, made it easy to see why she gracefully accepted the compliment paid her by a blues player, "You play guitar just like a man." Songs such as "Black Rat" with her super guitar work, made it easy to see why.
By the time Dana Gillespie and her London Blues Band took the stage, the audience were in the mood for blues. Dana's powerful voice, and her band's superb accompaniment had people up and dancing.
|The John E Vistic Experience|
Karine Polwart's sound check was a great intro to her set. Karine's voice is strong, and her warm introductions and chat to the audience gave her songs warmth. The fusion of rich bass and Karine's guitar provided a superbly-textured backdrop to her singing.
The rains had been replaced by the sun as Altan took to the stage. The band had not played at the festival for 20 years. The audience seemed to have missed them, for the warmth of their reception was equalled only by the pace and skill of their playing. Jigs followed reels and the crowd came alive. More and more people flocked to Altan's playing whilst elsewhere there was even more fun to be had. The John E Vistic Experience took 'cool' to a new level with its Elvis-meets-Johnny Depp-looking lead singer and fabulously varied band, which even included a brass section. It's always worth visiting the smaller stages for great acts like this.
The Zig a Zag Cajun band had young and older people alike up on their feet and moving to their irresistible rhythms. The 6X tent was besieged by crowds.
Meanwhile, as the Waterboys took to the stage, it was easy to see why they have achieved such popularity. Mike Scott's vocals hit their target with a vengeance, as they played classics such a 'The Glastonbury Song' and 'Whole of the Moon'. The audience loved it and even made the band stay to perform longer. Mike modestly thanked the crowds and said how honoured he was to share the stage with such great performers as Waterson Carthy and Altan.
By the end of the evening, the die-hard dancers had decamped to continue bouncing about to Baka Beyond and the totally exhausted had returned to their tents.
Sunday - Wailing Jennies, Rachel Unthan
Keith Christmas greeted arrivers to Sunday's show with his skilled and superb guitar playing. Many just sat in the sunshine outside the JCB Stage and marveled at his skillful technique. Last Night's Fun had the 6X tent filling up as the crowd warmed to the interesting trio. Chris Sherburn's humour contrasted beautifully with Nick Scott – a deadpan sidekick to rival Peter Cook or Ernie Wise.
Their set consisted of the most fantastic guitar, uillean pipe and concertina playing I have heard in a long time. The crowd were teased for being in a post-Sunday lunch mind set as activity gave way to awe at the band’s stupendous musicianship.
The Wailing Jennies provided their audience with a lovely set, their songs combining excellent musicianship with flair and humour. A very talented trio from Winnipeg. They were followed by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. The young ladies’ dresses and voices were arresting. The audience just lapped it up. Undiluted talent!
Meanwhile on the JCB stage the Buffalo Gals delivered a string band package which its audience found unbeatable. As temperatures soared to imitate a Louisiana night, the step-dancing accompaniment to this Appalachian music pushed the temperature even higher!
The Merv Grist Players were there again to put Radstock and its personalities on the map once more. Their 'Boy Racer' effectively satirized the prevailing hot-hatch , boy-racer culture, aided by a reverse baseball-cap-wearing imp who hurled his MacDonalds packaging into the audience to wails of delight and laughter.
Back at the 6X tent, Show of Hands put in a welcome appearance, getting everyone on their feet and effectively filling the entire ten. After just five minutes it seemed as if the assembled masses were all singing along, "Away, away- we'll haul away Jo", the chorus challenging the band’s sound system for decibel output.
By the time they played "Santiago" everyone was singing along. No-one minded in the least when the band who were being filmed for a documentary called "Roots" requested that the audience sing along again, as the band repeated its encore three times for the benefit of the cameraman.
An inflatable yellow beachball sun was bounced around the audience, imitating its larger counterpart which was slowly descending outside.
Suzanne Vega stared her set with 'Marlena on the Wall' . The audience loved her. Songs such as 'Luka' and 'Solitaire' drew a positive response from the crowd who enjoyed her performance.
For me it was a fitting end to another fun festival. As my daughter and her friends made their way back to the car, their question, "That was great fun. Can we come here next year?" didn't need answering.