Another weekend, another festival, same old tent.
We can’t seem to stop going to festivals this summer, members of the team, individually and collectively, gracing as many fields as our dreams can hold, over the course of the summer. With nary a thought for genre, bring ’em on, say we. This one, Shrewsbury, over the bank holiday weekend, is a relative old timer, present at this site since 2006, with an earlier life ahead it, at Bridgenorth, for an additional 9 years.
Nominally folk, like many with that word in the title, it takes a broad and deep interpretation of the genre, encompassing a whole lot without. Having said, there is always a strong representation for the purist, especially if fleet of foot, with a thriving dance tent, chocka with ceilidh bands and callers, many enthusuasts never leaving for the musical performqance stages. And there are workshops aplenty, for the budding musician, and more morris sides than you knew ever still existed. Wanna sing? The Berwick Bar remains the site for never ending rounds of sessions, singers and players communing to do their stuff, with many a performer leaving the mainstage to slot straight in to a circle of strangers and keep the show going.
This years highlights include many ATB favourites, such as Talisk, Elephant Sessions and Blue Rose Code, with the higher echelons including perennial festival staples like Oysterband and Billy Bragg. Oysterband always guarantee a blast here, not least as frontman John Jones, is one of the patrons of Shrewsbury FF, and this year continues the temporary return of original bass and cello man, Chopper, aka Ray Cooper. (Adrian Oxaal, his replacement on the cello, is busy in his “other” band, James.)
The other patron is Steve Knightley, who is making a couple of solo appearances, whilst his bandmate, Phil Beer, gets match ready for Show of Hands farewell to touring, next year. This writer looks particularly forward to Jiggy, the “Indo-Celtic soundsystem”, if you will, from Ireland, UK americana outfit, Hanging Stars, and to Leveret, in both concert and dance band guise. As ever, there will be others that will become new favourites.
Essential details: Shrewsbury Folk Festival online