It’s been whispered in quite a few corners and crevices that, just maybe, Cropredy 2023 was the best yet. We didn’t get 2022’s record-breaking weather, but in every other respect, Cropredy 2023 was a true-blue classic, with career-busting performances from the likes of Toyah and Robert Fripp, Fisherman’s Friends, Solstice and The Young ‘Uns. Anyone who’s read our review (here) will realise what a great event it really was.
While our fantasy line up contained the likes of Steven Wilson, Big Big Train, Public Service Broadcasting and Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets we were blown away by Merry Hell, Joshua Burnell, Peat & Diesel, Morganway, Beans On Toast; and Easy Star All-Stars while Strawbs played their last ever show with Dave Cousins. And that’s before we even get to think about the festival’s headliners – Nile Rodgers & Chic, 10cc and, of course, Fairport themselves.
As thoughts start to turn towards the weekend of 8th, 9th and 10th August 2024, here’s our set of new ideas.…
Wishbone Ash are actually the first band that this particular writer ever saw play live – back in 1971, I think it was… That may be a long time ago, but the sublime, melodic rock that is Wishbone Ash’s stock-in-trade is timeless. They’re not new to Cropredy – they played as blistering Thursday evening set back in 2007 and their signature twin-lead guitar attack had the audience baying for more. I can’t have been the only person to have dug out my battered copy of Argus the moment I got home. After an absence if 17 years it’s surely time, once again, for another pull on the wishbone…
Can you imagine a little space ritual coursing across the field on Thursday or Friday night. Fruit salad lights, lasers and a throbbing pulse belted out by Dave Brock, Magnus Martin and Richard Chadwick along with whoever else they can bring along -fingers crossed it could be Arthur Brown after his amazing support slot we witnessed in Manchester earlier this year.
They have enough classic material in a huge catalogue, much of which is rooted in a period in which the Fairport/Cropredy crowd will be very familiar. Even with fifty plus years under their belts, new music still pours from these giants of Space Rock; Hawkwind is the gift that keeps on giving.
The return in 2022 after the 2016 ‘That’s All Folks’ tour. Never say never indeed and Bellowhead have some form at Cropredy. They made their first appearance as Friday night headliners back in 2010 and shook a field still reeling from a stunning set by Little Feat to its very roots. They were back again in 2012 for a Thursday night spot, and they were incendiary. Bellowhead’s brand of bombastic orchestral folk is the perfect festival tonic, and it’s a nailed-on guarantee that they’d lift the entire population to state of heady ecstacy.
True, Bellowhead supposedly called it a day after their 2016 tour, but last autumn they were back, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their seminal Broadside album – and, in our opinion, they were better than ever; their shows in Portsmouth, Harrogate, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester had our scribes howling in delight! OK – they were careful to insist that the reunion was for one tour only, but surely Messrs Boden, Spiers, Kirkpatrick, Sweeney, McShane et al couldn’t say “No” to a return to the Cropredy stage, could they? No tour in 2023, but a selection of festivals for 2024? There’s the seed sown. We can guarantee that they’d be lustily welcomed if they did…
How about a bit of something nice and sleazy for one night in the field? A band we saw last on an Alice Cooper support bill, so there’s one link already with Cropredy past. A band too with a bunch of hits likely to resonate with the vast majority of Cropred-ites; you know the ones, No More Heroes, Go Buddy Go, Golden Brown, Walk On By, etc – many more than you can think! It might only be Jean Jacques still hanging in there from the original band, but we know the current can still pump it out. Like Gomez, seasoned pros, yet as the meninblack might be approaching the twilight of a long and successful career, perhaps a landmark appearance at Cropredy might add to a fitting closure.
It’s still early, but we have absolute confidence that, when At The Barrier gets around to listing our team’s albums of the year, one of the pole positions will be occupied by Carla Fuchs and her delightful album, Songbird. For those of you who may be unaware (and I don’t imagine that’s many of you) Songbird is inspired by the discovery of a bunch of lyrics, written by the late, great, Sandy Denny that never made it as far as the recording studio.
At the behest of Sandy’s daughter, Georgia Rose Lucas, Carla wrote tunes to go with the lyrics, added a couple of similarly-structured songs of her own and the result was Songbird, an album that brings the spirit of Sandy vividly back to life. The Songbird album was premiered when Carla appeared at this year’s Brasenose Fringe and we remarked then, that an appearance on the main stage was surely a foregone conclusion. And, who knows – perhaps Carla could also secure a guest slot with Fairport during their Saturday night headlining spot to perform a few of those delightful no-longer-lost songs with a full band backing. Here’s hoping!
2023 has been quite a year for Teddy Thompson. My Love of Country, his collection of reworked country classics is a drop-dead cert to feature on our list of albums of the year and, even as we write, he’s wowing audiences up and down the eastern seaboard of the US with his live performances of that timeless material. We love a spot of C&W at Cropredy and who better to slake that particular need than Mr Thompson Jnr. And – here’s an interesting thought: Perhaps Teddy’s presence at Cropredy could be the spark for a Thompson family on-stage reunion? Wouldn’t it be great if he be joined by his old man, sister Kamila and even, delight of delights, mother Linda? Family, the 2014 album that Teddy curated is an enduring favourite and it would be wonderful to hear a few songs from that particular venture being performed live at Cropredy.
Gomez had the rare accolade of being a ‘new’ band featured on the front of MOJO Magazine (issue 61 – Dec 1998). It is not often you see a then new band on the front of MOJO. They were also Mercury Music Prize winners for their brilliant debut album, Bring It On. The field in 1998 included Pulp, Massive Attack, Eliza Carthy, Robbie Williams and The Verve.
Anyway, Gomez are seasoned pros. They have played major festivals around the world and have a stellar back catalogue to please any crowd. Add in to that that they are a brilliant band, and Tom Gray of the band is a founder member of the Broken Record campaign which aims to seek fairer pay for musicians and writers from streaming platforms.
Turin Brakes were superb in 2022 as indie veterans; Gomez would surely have the same effect. A brilliant band who would be a great addition to the bill.
Check out their full performance from KEXP from 2018.
We’re big, big fans of Brighton band Barbara, here at At The Barrier. Their 2022 mini-album, Mildly Entertaining was a revelation of the quirky, bright, clever-pop variety and since then the band, built around brothers and principal songwriters John and Henry Tydeman, have gone from strength to strength, securing support slots with the likes of The Divine Comedy and Haircut 100, wowing their increasing fanbase on their jaunts around the country (see our review of Barbara’s 2022 show at Manchester’s Gulliver’s here) and following Mildly Entertaining with a clutch of equally enthralling and entertaining singles such as Pretty Straight Guy, Enduring Love and Waiting Outside Alone. Barbara’s heroes are The Divine Comedy and, unsurprising, Neil Hannon’s band have been an enduring influence on Barbara’s music. Close observers will also detect traces of Sparks, Stackridge and 10cc in their songs and they’d be the perfect tonic to bring a hefty dose of joy to Friday or Saturday afternoon.
But don’t just take our word for it – get a taste of what Barbara-world is all about, and read what a selection of this up-and-coming band’s high-profile admirers have had to say here:
We like our sea shanties at Cropredy, as Fisherman’s Friends ably demonstrated this year. At The Barrier came across Pyrates – Anglo-Dutch purveyors of all things nautical – when the ship’s skipper, Dave Gallows, sent us a copy of the band’s live album, Five Years at Sea, to review. We loved it! Many Cropredy regulars will be familiar with the band’s material as they storm through versions of such well-known songs as Gentleman Soldier, The Irish Rover, The Old Dun Cow and South Australia. Pyrates are a festival fixture at many venues across Eurpope – and for good reason – they’re a fearsome live act. Just the thing to get the Cropredy field up on its feet a-heaving and a-hauling away.
THE LONGEST JOHNS
And talking of shanties…Here’s a band who we’ll likely be catching on tour in the early part of 2024 so they’ll be in ship shape come the start of August. In Jonathan ‘JD’ Darley, they have a dead ringer for Louis Theroux, leading the way on a set of (mainly) rousing songs about sailing and drinking, there may well be some sort of bar as one of the stage props along with a beer barrel masquerading as some sort of ‘percussion’ instrument which might just come in handy when they sing Beer Is Great. They might just be right at home at Cropredy.
HANNAH SANDERS AND BEN SAVAGE
Fairport’s support for their 2023 Winter Tour didn’t make the bill for the 2023 festival, although the did guest with Fairport during their Saturday evening slot, joining the band for a wonderful psych/folk take of Reynardine. We raved over Ben’s fantastic acoustic guitar and Hannah’s angelic vocals, as they took the classic and well-known song to new level.. And, the good new is – there’s so much more where the inspiration for that brief cameo came from.
The duo’s most recent album, Ink Of The Rosy Morning, unquestionably one of our albums of 2022, is crammed with their adaptations of – mainly traditional – songs that will, quite simply, take your breath away. And, Hannah and Ben are no mean songwriters themselves, as songs like Selkie Song, A Thousand New Moons and A-Life A Lie can readily testify. Oh, and if there are any fears that an acoustic duo can hold the attention of 20,000 people in an open field – throw them out of the window. This pair can hold an audience in the palms of their hands – we know – we’ve seen them do it.
Yes, Gong! Are they still going? You bet! Pothead pixie-dom might have evolved from the days of the flying teapot, but now herded and led by the ubiquitous Kavus Torabi (Daevid Allen approved and Hillage sanctioned no less) – they’re a force that carries the spirit of Gong with aplomb. Despite carrying the label of ‘no original members’ they’ve not let that douse the fire with which they burn.
Having shown their mettle both onstage and on The Universe Also Collapses album, by the end of 2023, they’ll have a new record under their belts, another tour ticked off and be in prime form to bring something weird and wonderful to the Cropredy table.
Bit o’ bagpipes to go with yer shanties? A band who can lull with the singer songwriter talents of Alec Dalgleish or who can whip up a frightening Braveheart storm like when they kick into the Ginger Grouse Jigs. Twin guitars for Wishbone Ash and twin bagpipes from Skerryvore – there could be a theme thing going on. A guaranteed great night out. They’ve been at Cropredy before but we’d love to see them back.
Tucked away on an early Sunday afternoon spot at the Rhythm and Blues Festival Seafoam Green were clearly underrated and too low on the bill. But their uplifting brand of music, particularly noticed on their album Martin’s Garden would charm the festival audience in a similar way that Merry Hell did in 2023.
There have been a few instances of Frank Zappa’s music being performed at Cropredy. In 2008, The Muffin Men performed on a very soggy afternoon (after Legend – the Bob Marley tribute). They also performed in 2005 with Jimmy Carl Black. He was slated for the 2008 performance but was ill. He died in November 2008.
Pygmy Twylyte are the finest purveyors of Frank Zappa’s music (aside from The Zappa Band – who are regularly playing in the US). We saw Pygmy Twylyte in Manchester earlier in 2023. To say they are adept at the intricacies of Frank’s music is an understatement. With a fine blend of hits and slightly deeper cuts, they blew the crowd away. Some of the arrangements are their own; a commodity that they have with such a big and talented band. Frank Zappa’s music is an acquired taste, but a set of Zappa’s music will always pique most people’s interest.
So – there’s our thoughts. We’re pretty sure that each of the above acts would be a good fit for the Cropredy bill. You may, or may not agree – and we’re certain that you’ve all got suggestions of your own – and, if you have, why not share them with us? We’re always open to ideas!