Interviews and Reviews
Review: Trowbridge Village Pump Festival 2008
James Mackenzie Marshall
Read our review and view a gallery of photos of the 35th Trowbridge Village Pump Festival which took place at Stowford Manor Farm over 24-27 July 2008.
It was fitting that the sun was high in the sky, and a band called Allan Yn Y Fan were on the main 6X stage giving it plenty.
One of their opening songs, a ballad entitled 'Girl on a Rock' told the tale of a young girl in a picture sitting on a rock when she'd been a child. Now an 80 year-old woman, the song tells how you could know from looking at the picture that the girl would grow up "into an amazing woman".
The Trowbridge Village Pump Festival was the inspiration of the late Alan Briers. At this, the 35th Pump Festival, as old friends and new arrivals converged onto a series of fields in a hidden valley in Wiltshire, you had the feeling that this could grow into an amazing festival!
Alan Yn Y Fan’s set was did Wales proud, and when the Irish Cara Dillon stepped onto stage you knew that our Celtic relatives are what make Britain great! Her superb, pure vocals blended with excellent piano, guitar, flute and Irish pipe accompaniment.
Her husband, Sam Lakeman accompanied her throughout on piano and guitar beautifully, and the songs were plaintive and superbly delivered.
Over on Horizon Stage 3, Snortin' Dogs played a seamless set of blues that had everyone rocking. The excellent vocals were matched by flawless harmonica playing and gutsy guitar work. Truly great fun for all lucky enough to be there!
At the same time at Henry’s IPA Stage, Spill the Whiskey had people of all ages dancing in the aisles. Excellent playing was matched by calling that is second to none – even novices at celidgh footwork looked like practiced masters!
By the time the Battlefield Band brought their Scottish blend of folk to the 6X tent you had the feeling that the audience weren't going to leave without wearing out some of their shoe leather on the dance floor.
The band’s excellent set meant that the oldies in the hall could catch their breath as tuneful ballads such as 'Hear the Winds Blow' let us sit and imagine stormy scenes north of the border before getting up again to dance to reels and jigs galore.
Alan Reid's version of Burns' 'My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose' was treated to a melody dating from the 18th century, and one not known by many of the audience.
Alasdair White from the Island of Lewes played demon fiddle, but was equalled by piper Mike Katz and other band members, producing a truly great set.
The Oysterband opened with the moody and atmospheric 'Take You With Me Over the Water' and the audience were up for the journey!
Devoted fans and younger ones alike filled the 6X tent with their dancing as the temperature soared even higher. 'You Can't be Good Without Me' saw the audience clapping in time with the band and loving every minute of the evening.
The Oysterband were exceptional, and ended the first night in the big tent with style. Elsewhere on the Horizon Stage 3, the superbly-named Yup Knuckle and the Baskets delivered a rip-roaring ending to the evening, with their exuberant and infectious blend of Ska/reggae/folk.
I loved their theatricals and the way in which every madcap moment seemed gauged to enhance audience enthusiasm. Super stuff, and it sure did work the magic on the swirling throng.
Friday night kicked off with a vengeance at Stage 2, as the excellent Breabach kept the audience amazed at Donal Brown and Calum MacCrimmons' superb piping.
No wonder that their guitarist, Ewan Robertson won the much coveted prize of BBC’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year. With tunes entitled, 'Kilter's Mad Delight' and 'Bonnie Bessie Morgan' it was easy to see how their star may well rise quickly.
Meanwhile on the Horizon Stage. Michael J. Sheehy was wowing a growing crowd with his band’s blend of blues and rock.
Six Day Riot put out a loud blend of electric rock which kept the audience on their feet.
When Show of Hands returned to the 6X stage, it felt a different kind of festival to everyone. Steve Knightley and Phil Beer paid a moving tribute to the Pump Festival’s creator, Alan Briars, saying "Alan Briars. If you're up there somewhere, thanks for organizing this festival!"
Show of Hands superb set revealed once again why they are such a popular pull with festival goers. Songs such as 'The Keys to Canterbury' and 'The Dive' left the audience in no doubt that the positive energy and light in their music will keep the spirit of Alan’s festival alive for many years to come.
Over at Horizon Stage 3, Leon Hunt and NTE produced music that was easy on the ear, but that also had the hypnotic ability to get your feet moving. A superb banjo player, Leon led a professional group of musicians through some amazing sounds. Unforgettable!
When Little Feat took to the stage at 9.30 that night most 50-something members of the audience were coming close to an epiphany. For years Little Feat songs have loop taped in most people’s consciousness as emblematic songs from the seventies.
When Bill Payne, Paul Barrere, Shaun Murphy and Sam Clayton played 'Roll Me Another One Like the One That You Rolled Me Before' no person can have been unmoved.
Listening to their superb musicianship was like consuming a cordon bleu meal made by a dozen master chefs. Every course was different and all left a delightful delicious aftertaste like only the best fare can!
Over at Henry’s Stage, 2 Zambula put us all through our paces as we shook and shimmied bones and muscle we don’t normally pay attention to. The temperature soared and when the audience cried for an encore and said that they wanted a song that went on for a long time,
The Peatbog Faeries
Zambula delivered a 15 minute workout which had even my 14-year-old daughter and her friends gasping for mercy. Great stuff.
Elsewhere at the 6X stage it was the same. The Peatbog Faeries delivered an amazing set. The lovely mix of funk, folk and brass carried the audience along like novice surfers during a wave fest. One after the other the breakers of funky folk crashed over the crowd forcing all to their feet time and time again.
Peter Morrison’s piping was reminiscent of the late, legendary Gordon Duncan; and Adam Sutherland’s fiddling and Tom Salter’s guitar was equal to it.
With the Wayward Boys superb brass backing and Graeme Stafford on keyboard and Iain Copeland on drums their set was well-paced to keep everyone dancing till the last.
Revellers who did not make it back to their tent might have been waylaid by the fantastic Tragic Roundabout or Max Pashm. Both bands had dancers overflowing from Stage 3 onto the children’s play area as the dancing got serious. Lively and raucous – I think so!
Post-lunch arrivals to Saturday's Pump Festival were greeted by the ever-popular Vin Garbutt if they chanced to catch his early afternoon set. Wit and charm, as well as some jolly good singing and guitar playing were dished out in equal measure.
For those who needed a 'good taste fix' there was Twerton’s answer to Elvis Presley, Bill Smarme, whose wicked ways ( "a healthy balanced diet is a Snickers bar before and after meals") and natural jollity make him a hard act to miss.
Back at the 6X Tent, Baraka proved unstoppable as they got even people sitting at the back up on their feet and dancing, against their better judgement and luncheon plans.
Great percussion and some fine saxophone playing and guitar work made them the pick-me-up revelers from Friday night’s excesses needed to get back into the party mood.
On Henry’s Stage 2, Jackie Leven dominated proceedings with his excellent guitar accompaniment to his beautifully-written and performed songs. His Germanic-version of 'I've Been Everywhere' raised a smile, and when Leon Hunt appeared on stage with some of his band you couldn't help but feel privileged to witness such excellent musicianship.
Helele kept the African vibe going in Horizon stage 3, their music enticing arrivals to sample Alphonse Daudet Touna’s Senegalese Marimba playing. Stunning! I met friends who got way-laid by the music’s alluring powers and missed legendary Richard Thompson.
His set , containing classics such as 'I Crawl Back', 'Dad’s Going to Kill Me', (a new and passionate song about Baghdad and Britain’s involvement there) and the classic 'Bright Lights Tonight'. An amazing performer!
Those lucky enough to have stayed in Henry’s Stage 2 were treated to a wonderful set (more a celebration of everything that is great about British Folk Music) by the Demon Barbers.
Damien Barber was joined by the wonderful Bryony Griffith, Will Hamson, Lee Sykes and accordian maestro, Ben Griffith, and a cast of six excellent dancers. Their mix of traditional folk songs and superb dancing was a joy to behold, and the audience watched, rapt as they performed their superb set.
Back in the 6X tent, Fiamma Fumana kept people on their feet with their eclectic mix of modern and ancient music.
Great piping and tributes to musicians from around the world, including the late, great Martin Bennett, who said that it was "important to keep pushing boundaries." Much hand-clapping and stomping.
The evening ended on the 6X stage with the inspiring and overwhelming sound and stage presence of Alabama 3. The older generation were warned to retreat to their tents. Parents were told to "lock up daughters".
The impressive entrance of the Brixton-based band was the introduction to a sweaty session of organized theatricals and anarchy. Playing such classics as 'The Night They Nearly Got Busted', and 'We Don’t Dance to Techno Anymore', they also delivered the theme tune to The Sopranos - 'I Woke Up One Morning'.
The sound of their encore, 'Sweet Home Alabama' was still ringing in the audiences’ ears as they woke up on Sunday morning.
Sunday and local hero, Andrew Bazeley ("some call me Bacon Roll Bazeley, other Blind Drunk Bazeley") played blues like he’d grown up on Beasley Street. Arriving at the 6X tent, and another local hero, Fred Wedlock entertained the audience with his amusing of the classic 'I'm Heaving on a Jet Plane'.
John Tams and Barry Cooper kept the crowd amused with their songs, wit and repartee. Their 'Lay Me Low' had almost everyone singing along.
Jokes about a friend of theirs who said of himself "I've been drop-kicked by Jesus through the goal posts of life" kept the audience smiling in the shade as it got hotter outside in the sun.
Over on Stage 2, Ken Nichol and Phil Cool did an excellent job of entertaining everyone. Ken Nichol's keen ear for a good song meant that songs about holidays on Stornaway engendered a positive response from the audience. Phil Cool's superb eye and ear for imitation of our jaded leaders and heroes meant that no-one was safe. He described himself as a voiceologist and a faceologist.
A really good laugh was had by all!
Over on Horizon Stage 3, Paul Bradley sung improvised folk songs – amazing and stunning to see and hear!
Later Andy Fairweather-Low demonstrated how he had become an invaluable member of many great rock bands in the sixties and seventies right up to the present day.
He has fantastic ability as a guitarist and showcased the best of what he can do on stage. 'Coming On Down The Line' and other classic numbers confirmed his place in the line-up of all-time great guitarists.
Flaky Jake proved good fun and excellent musicianship can go hand in hand, as they delighted relaxed revelers with their sound.
Over on the 6X stage the Hard Travellers started to warm up the audience as the heavens opened up outside the tent’s protective covering.
Their blend of rhythm and blues got people onto their feet, Zoot Money’s keyboard playing, was matched by the performance of the rest of the band. Ending with Woody Guthrie's 'This Train', the band really got the audience rocking.
By the time that Don McLean got on stage the audience were ready to dance the night away. Don McLean's classics, such as 'Vincent' and 'Tunnels of Time' demonstrated not only his great skill as a songwriter, but also the timeless quality of his music.
'And I Love You So' and 'Magdalene Lane' were superb, and by the time 'American Pie' wafted across the hall the entire audience were on their feet.
An amazing artist and a night to remember.
Over on Stage 3, it was the same story. The John E Vistic Experience gathered a host of new (attractive, young and female) fans for the winsome drop-dead gorgeous frontman of this brilliant band.
Their sound was amazing, and they claimed the evening as theirs with a great set of songs which proved irresistible. To die for was the guitar work, and the smile on the bass guitarist’s face proved to anyone who doubted it that the right music can bring you the point of ecstasy!
When the Zen Hussies took to the stage, they had an audience like putty in their hands. Their beautiful brassy sound did not let them slip out of their clutches. Like a sack of greased ferrets, bodies swayed and slip-slided the night away in goodly style!
Cinders did go the Ball, and the crowd had a ball as well, as boogie-woogie beats ensured that no-one would forget which muscles they had used the night before.
With band members getting down with the crowd, and audience members getting up on to stage to sing, a party atmosphere left no-one in any doubt that this had been first-class partying.
Tributes were paid again to the festival’s founder, Alan Briars, who I'm sure would have approved of everything wholeheartedly.
Same time, same place next year? Wild horses wouldn’t stop me!
last updated: 31/07/2008 at 12:27