From London the folk world’s collective cry of ‘huh?’ could be heard when it was announced in early Spring that Supergrass would be the headlining act on the Thursday night at Cropredy.
Granted, they were local boys, and sure, Cropredy has ventured into the rockosphere before, and even had pop kings 10cc a couple of years ago. But indie-rock? Britpop? Fashionable clothes? Young(ish) people?
Gaz Coombes was true to form on the first count, not daring to comment on the fact he and his three band mates had so incongruously infiltrated the hall of traditional folk music, and staged a set that could have graced any of their tour dates this year. That said, he was never impolite and did indeed lead his band through Richard III, Pumping On Your Stereo and Caught By The Fuzz, among a couple of other Supergrass standards. They were pretty scintillating and attracted, incredibly, perhaps the largest crowd of any headliner throughout the weekend.
Their set was spoilt, however, by compere Geoff Hughes (Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances, to those with a penchant for unfathomably bad British sitcoms) demanding a second encore from them, when it was plain to all they had had their fill and left. There was never under any circumstances going to be an Alright here, thankfully, and though impersonal, Supergrass were an uncompromisingly cool addition to a line-up over the three days that, as every year, was as incestuous as it was obscure.
Earlier in the day, Whapweasel opened the festival in fine style. This accordion-led ensemble featured drinking songs, on-stage dancing and a good deal of not taking themselves, nor the folk traditions so lovingly treasured in this part of Oxfordshire, too seriously. In front man Saul Rose they have a talent as charismatic as any at the festival, and while they are not a band you’d bother spending money on, for the opening slot of this ever-mercurial event they were eminently suitable.
The rest of the first-day fare was distinctly underwhelming. Anthony John Clarke supported Fairport Convention on tour this year, and here they had him back today, chugging through his forgettable acoustic meanderings.
The Gathering, featuring ex-Fairport guitarist Jerry Donahue, were notable on account of the considerable vocal talent that is Donahue’s daughter Kristina and the drumming of ex-Jethro Tull man Clive Bunker. Otherwise their regional, parochial folk tales and infuriating insistence on shouting each band-member’s name before and after they took a solo did nothing for this reviewer whatsoever.
Still, another year at Cropredy is a joy. The village pubs are still there, as is the cricket club. Not a relevant event on the festival calendar? I Should Coco.
Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2008: Day 1 @ Cropredy, Oxfordshire