Opinion

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2023 Headliners: Opinion

cropredy

Cropredy 2022 was, indeed, one of the hottest ever – in many respects. OK, we’d had a two-year enforced break as COVID wreaked its trail of destruction and, by the time 11/8/22 arrived, twenty thousand of us were straining at the leash and bursting with gratitude. Also, there was that weather… Record temperatures and glorious sunshine for the whole three days of the festival – it’s happened before, but not very often! But, really, Cropredy is, first and foremost, all about the music and, this year, the festival line-up was, by anybody’s reckoning, outstanding. The At The Barrier team was there en-masse and anyone who’s read our review (here) will realise that we had a great time. From Holy Moly and the Crackers on Thursday afternoon, right through to the final bars of Fairport’s Meet on the Ledge on Saturday night, the music was uniformly fantastic. And what inspired headliners! The Trevor Horn Band!! Clannad!! Turin Brakes!! Steve Hackett!! And that’s before we even get to Fairport, the festival’s resident Saturday night bill-toppers.

But that’s all in the past now. Cropredy ’22 is but a sweet, sweet memory and our thoughts must, by necessity, start to turn towards the weekend of 10th, 11th and 12 August 2023, when, God willing, we’ll all be back in THAT field once again for another heapin’ helpin’ of Fairport hospitality. We’re coming now to the time of year when the multitudes of Cropredy regulars start to speculate about who may possibly be gracing the festival stage when next year’s show Comes Round Again. The At The Barrier team has put its collective head together to come up with a few suggestions…

First, let’s consider a few ideas for possible headliners. You may think that there’s a varied level of wishful thinking in our list and the ideas do range from the believable to the realms of fantasy, but this is Cropredy that we’re talking about, and dreams have been known to come true…

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING

Public Service Broadcasting have a stellar back catalogue behind them and can really put on a show. Anyone that saw their The Race For Space tour will know what the band can offer, but on top of that, they have some amazing music. Their latest album, Bright Magic, moves away from heavy concepts (like space, mining disasters, the Titanic, WW2) but still has a solid aesthetic that would certainly play into the uniqueness of Cropredy. There will be a few people who knew what Turin Brakes would do this year, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that really knew the extent to which they would go over. Could PSB be that hit?

NEIL YOUNG

What?!? I hear you say? Surely Fairport would never be able to tempt Old Shakey to North Oxfordshire, let alone afford him! But who’d have ever thought that we’d see Alice Cooper on the Cropredy stage? Or Brian Wilson? And, speaking as someone who was entranced as God Only Knows drifted through the Oxfordshire air, courtesy of its author, I now believe that anything’s possible. And, just imagine: hearing Like A Hurricane in our field!

STEVEN WILSON

The ‘go-to guy’ for all your prog remasters…this would surely appeal to the swathes of proggers that frequent Cropredy. With a vast catalogue with Porcupine Tree and his own solo work in amongst various other collaborations and projects, Steven Wilson could surely cut his teeth as a festival headliner in Oxfordshire. His latest album, The Future Bites (our review here), was a high concept piece that was meant to be toured as such so that might be something that holds this choice back, but you can wish…

NICK MASON & SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS

Now we’re talking! Back in 2014, The Australian Pink Floyd played their Friday night headlining set as a rainstorm raged. And, do you know what? We hardly noticed the rain at all, and when we did, it was because it made the laser light show look so amazingly cosmic – so enraptured were we. We like our prog at Cropredy and a dose of Pink Floyd is definitely welcome. So, why not enjoy a taste of the real thing? Anyone who saw Nick’s Saucerful of Secrets deliver their selection of pre-Dark Side Floyd gems will know – they’re a Cropredy shoo-in.

BIG BIG TRAIN

There are lots of connections and omens for this to happen. Peggy is allegedly a fan and BBT is due a tour next year, why not add a festival appearance? Their 2018 Night Of The Prog Loreley live set has recently been released so they’re game for an outdoor event. Yes, they may be a bit ‘proggy’ but what would Cropredy be without a bit of prog, although BBT’s particular niche lies within their skill is storytelling through song. Intellectual prog you could call it with a library of work that includes the epic and the short and punchy and with their very own brass section and distinct Englishness, the case becomes even stronger.

The connections are many. Former member Rachel Hall played with A.J Clarke and Stackridge. Rachel’s replacement in BBT is Clare Lindley who also played with Stackridge and who can forget the late David Longdon (late lamented BBT singer whos posthumous solo album – Door One – is out now) and the collaboration with Judy Dyble? A new singer, a slightly tweaked new line up and BBT are primed to bring quality to a Cropredy lineup.

ROBERT PLANT & ALISON KRAUSS

Plenty know that Planty is a Cropredy regular. He’s made numerous memorable appearances on the stage – who could forget his first appearance as a Fairport guest in 1986, a favour he repeated in 1992, 1993 and 2008. And then there was that memorable Y2K Friday night bill-topping appearance with his band Priory Of Bryon. Also, even in the years that he doesn’t actually grace the stage, he’s often spotted tootling around the arena, having a drink at the bar or browsing in the record store. Isn’t it time we brought him back to celebrate his greatest collaboration since his Led Zeppelin glory days?

BOB DYLAN

You’re surely having a laugh, I hear you say… But consider this: His Bobster has often been heard to remark that he considers Fairport’s renditions of his more obscure material to be the best and most tuneful versions he’s ever heard. He’s known to hold Richard Thompson in high regard and, so rumour has it, he’s now a bosom buddy of our own Ashley Hutchings. How about a Bob Dylan show with a Richard Thompson-augmented Fairport as his backing band? They certainly know the songs, and I’d love to see postcards of the hanging on sale in the Merch Tent.

ELBOW & RICHARD HAWLEY DOUBLE BILL

Now here’s a band who knows how to deliver to a festival crowd. Glastonbury, Leeds, Olympic Games, etc, Elbow have done the lot. They have a raft of massive songs that are firmly in the conscience of the mainstream, and in Guy Garvey, they have one of the most charismatic singers around who can work a crowd. Even for the more casual fan, a bit like Trevor Horn in 2022, you’d be surprised how much of their music you know.

And why not put their pal Richard Hawley on before them – he can even make a guest appearance in the Elbow set if they do The Fix. Richard Hawley is a perennial veteran. His songs sound equally emotive in paired-down acoustic form or with a full band bringing the thunder behind him. He may have to curb his sometimes brusque straight talking though, you know what I mean?

LUCINDA WILLIAMS

The Queen of Americana would charm and exhilarate the Cropredy crowd, of that there’s no doubt. She has a big following amongst the regular attendees and her gritty, roots-based tunes would suit the festival vibe to a ‘T.’ Personally, I’d love to hear her car wheels on that gravel road that leads up to the festival site.

THE MANFREDS

I’ve been silently hoping that the Manfreds will, one day, be awarded a Cropredy headlining spot for several years now. Featuring Manfred Mann originals Paul Jones, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness plus former vocalist Mike D’Abo and drummer Rob Townsend (ex-Family), they take their audience back to sixties with their repertoire of classic Manfred Mann hits. We thoroughly enjoyed the human juke box sets by The Trevor Horn Band back in August and Jim Cregan in 2019. The Manfreds would give us more of the same, and they’d also show us what an accomplished set of musicians they’ve always been. If you fancy reliving a truly classic period in British popular music AND having the hairs on the back of your neck set alight when Paul Jones hits the crescendo in Do-Wah-Diddy, then The Manfreds are just what you need!

WILKO JOHNSON

What better way to end a Thursday or Friday Cropredy evening than by a blister-paced run through the greatest hits of Dr Feelgood? Wilko came back with a vengeance once he’d conquered his debilitating cancer scare of a few years back. He’s a true icon of English rock and his dervish-like guitar histrionics can still thrill a crowd to its very marrow. And – a genuine treat for all aspiring or frustrated bass players – he’d be certain to be accompanied by the one and only Norman Watt-Roy: Blockhead supremo.

Well – there’s a few ideas for potential headliners for next year’s festival. Maybe we’re dreaming in some cases – but, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true? One thing we do know is that, whichever acts are announced as next year’s headliners when the news starts to creep out early next year, a lot of thought will have gone into their selection and their appeal to the Cropredy crowd.

But it isn’t just the headliners that make Cropredy such a special event; as I’ve often remarked, my record collection is packed with albums by artists and bands that I first came across at Cropredy – the festival is a hotbed for exposing new, obscure or undervalued talent to a large and appreciative audience. And the search for new talent also happens to be our raison d’être here at At The Barrier. During the course of any year we come across hundreds of great acts and, we believe, it would be negligent of us if we didn’t suggest a few of our favourites that we reckon would fit perfectly on a Cropredy bill. So here are a few suggestions of performers we believe would go a storm at Cropredy.

TOP PICKS FOR THE BILL

The Young’Uns

The Teeside trio have been on the circuit for many years; their incomparable blend of great songs, banter, songs that hit the social spot and humour unbridled should make them a must for the Cropredy stage. In addition to this, they have a new album out in 2023 that will surely be another brilliant addition to their already superb discography. Their latest single, Three Dads Walking, is helping to raise awareness of suicide prevention and is taken from their new album, Tiny Notes (out March 2023).

Annie Keating

New Yorker Annie Keating is a big favourite of ours. She’s a poet, a visionary songwriter and a stonking performer who captures the essence of influences such as Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt and moulds them into her own signature style. Able to emote and to rock with equal intensity, Annie is, in so many ways, the perfect Cropredy act. Annie Keating and the Friday teatime spot are a match made in heaven! And, what’s more, she’s over this side of the pond regularly and her UK touring band are white-hot. By the way – don’t just take our word for it – Annie is championed, too, by none other than “Whispering” Bob Harris: Cropredy regular and Fairport confidant!

Maz O’Connor

Maz O’Connor has been a favourite of At The Barrier’s since we heard her Chosen Daughter album a few years back. The more acoustic ‘folky’ sound that Maz creates is wholly evocative. This year, she released another stunning record entitled What I Wanted. The album was a little bit of a diversion from the folky sound but Maz’s abulity to craft brilliant songs went nowhere. It will certainly be on our lists come the end of 2022. Read our review here.

The Magpie Arc or False Lights

A new shot of Folk Rock, False Lights has been sadly off the radar of late but Jim Moray and Sam Carter’s electric band has a couple of top albums under their belt and are due a reboot. Jim’s also on tour in 2023 (Love Folk Festival in Southport in Feb for starters) so a bit of a shake-up and fizzing valve amps wouldn’t go amiss as they rock up some trad material with Tom Moore and Archie Moss providing the fiddle/melodeon folk patches.

The Magpie Arc, with Martin Simpson, Findlay Napier and Nancy Kerr to the fore also has startled the scene, combining on some smart and classy takes on a range of folk, country and original numbers on a trio of EPs. Having recently seen them play at Manchester Folk Festival and with their debut album fresh out of the blocks, The Magpie Arc might ruffle a few feathers as Martin and Findlay don a pair of Gibson SGs, but ‘the Arc’ could cook up a fair old storm of an interlude to one afternoon.

Amelia Coburn

Amelia Coburn was really good in her showcase to delegates at the 2022 English Folk Expo. One of the emerging artists from the Artist Mentoring Programme that’s seen the likes of Jack Rutter and Katherine Priddy benefit greatly. Plus…who doesn’t like songs about cheese…especially when they’re built for a festival crowd under the sun.

Rusty Shackle

A six-piece folk/rock ensemble from Caldicott, Monmouthshire. We were thrilled earlier this year by their glorious 5th album – a fine collection of glorious, incendiary tunes. They’re guaranteed to get to crowd up and dancing and, if given the chance, they’d follow in the footsteps of Holy Moly And The Crackers in getting the festival off to a high-flying start.

The Lost Trades

The Lost Trades are a trio of musical artists who created one of our favourite records of 2021. The Bird, The Book & The Barrell (review here) has continually bothered the Folk Charts and the band would be perfect for a sun drenched afternoon in the field. We were honoured to have the band record a wonderful Cat Stevens cover version for our look back at classic albums of 1971. Cat Stevens is also an artist who has history with Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. Read The Lost Trades thoughts on Cat Stevens’ Teaser & The Firecat here as well!

Andy Fairweather Low

Perfect for the Thursday evening pre-headlining spot, Andy Fairweather Low and his wonderful band, The Low Riders would be guaranteed to keep the Cropredy party in full swing. With an eclectic setlist that mixes R&B standards from Andy’s earliest days as a touring musician, a selection soul-tinged classics such as La Booga Rooga and Spider Jiving from his mid-seventies heyday, a whole list of hits from his teen-idol days in Amen Corner and, of course, Wide Eyed and Legless, Andy and the band would hold the field in thrall. And it wouldn’t be the first time that he’d graced the Cropredy stage, either; any Cropredy “lifers” out there will no doubt recall the day, back in 1991, when he stepped up to front Fairport for versions of Mystery Train and, of course, Wide Eyed… We caught Andy and The Low Riders at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds earlier this year and, we can assure, they still cook. And some…

Annie Dressner

Since moving from her hometown of NYC to the UK eleven years ago, singer songwriter Annie Dressner has garnered rave reviews for her recordings and live performances. Having released three full length albums, Dressner has gone from strength to strength. Her straightforward lyrical style, sharp ear for wordplay and crisp, lilting vocals offer listeners a front row seat to her stories. Her music has drawn comparisons to an up-tempo Mazzy Star, an understated Jenny Lewis, Soccer Mommy & Phoebe Bridgers.

And as a long shot – Seth Lakeman for the ‘Saturday at noon’ slot

Here’s a new campaign. We love Richard Digance, bless him, but how good was Seth Lakeman opening the Saturday in 2022? He reckoned not to know about the white hankies, so we all taught him, quite appropriately as he played Change…how about some revolutionary changes in the tradition? On the other hand didn’t we witness an evolution not revolution. Plus, like 2022, he can always go on to another festival later so might do Crop on the cheap!

Cropredy 2023 takes place on August 10th, 11th and 12th.

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12 replies »

  1. Great piece of speculation guys….when can I get my ticket???? That would certainly be a line up to rival 2022. Can I add one of my fav bands mostly autumn??? The Enid are always worth seeing live. How about Mike and the mechanics to follow Hackett last year? ….and dare I say Peter Gabriel !?? Lindisfarne are still alive and kicking in some form..the list is endless really….I only wish stackridge we’re still playing!!! Thanks for the speculation. Keep up the good work….at the barrier.
    Final thought – yes doing Relayer…..and owner of a lonely heart ( unless Mike and the mechanics pay it 1st !!!!!!!)

  2. Some young(er) blood in the form of country rockers Hanging Stars or the noir and western of Curse of Lono would be good. And how about the evergreen splendour of The Men They Couldn’t Hang. And isn’t it about the Rockingbirds reconvened again.

  3. Thanks for some great headliner suggestions there, I’d love to see Nick Mason and Neil Young ( if he brought Crazy Horse ), but I think it’s about time Merry Hell graced the Cropredy Stage.

  4. Please please please with an extra please… invite the Slambovian Circus of Dreams back … they were and are and will be AWESOME !

  5. Some cracking suggestions here (and some improbable ones!)

    If no one has checked out Morganway for a slot on the stage then they must do so without further ado.I’d also suggest Jake Clemons Band (if his E Street Band commitments allow) and second Curse of Lono and The Magpie Arc. For a bit of raucous fun “Oh My God it’s the Church” take some beating.

    • Well, we can dream!! We’re aware of Morganway – another good shout along with Curse Of Lono. Glad you;re with us on The Magpie Arc. Hopefully, we might get one or two of our suggestions 🙂

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