Live Music + Gig Reviews

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention: Day 3 @ Cropredy, Oxfordshire

13 August 2005

It was only the sterling efforts of all the performers that prevented the entire Saturday being washed out completely by incessant rain, wind and cold. Mercifully, the ground under our feet didn’t turn to mud. Richard Digance‘s time, comprising music, comedy and poetry was unscathed by the weather, so the Countdown man did an admirable job in waking everybody up for one final day of music, ending with Fairport Convention’s performance that evening.

As has been documented previously, Cropredy opens itself to diversity more and more each year. Jah Wobble on Thursday indicated this, with confirmation of the trend coming with T and Latouche on Saturday. Their reggae-fusion and ska influenced music brought some much-needed sunny happiness to the afternoon, for it was with them performing that the heavens opened. I am happy to say these guys defeated the rain, with their Caribbean grooves and dynamic stage presence encouraging people to open their umbrellas and stay put, rather than disappear for shelter in a nearby merchandise tent.

After this slice of Jamaica, (via T and Latouche’s native Manchester), came Uiscedwr. With fiddles and bodrhans dominating their sound, this young trio were made for Cropredy. They did suffer though from the fact that with the rain persisting, their less energetic show was not as engaging as the band they followed. Polite applause came forth, but it is a shame their obvious talent and virtuoso playing could not be afforded the recognition it deserved due to our frustration with the weather. Reggae is easier to dance to.

No doubt with their amps up to eleven, The Hamsters attempted to blast us out of our somnolence with uncompromising blues-rock, including admirable impressions of Hey Joe, Voodoo Child and All Along The Watchtower. The Hamsters seem to have a huge following, and it looked like most of them were here, but it is difficult to take them seriously with so much posturing and guitar noodling. Great fun though and fabulous musicians, if you like that sort of thing. Admittedly, they were the kick up the ass the festival needed on this drab day. We must thank them for it.

A favourite of Fairport Convention and Radio 2, Beth Nielsen Chapman performed just before Fairport themselves. She writes achingly beautiful songs and performs them with a spellbinding voice, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and more in keeping with the surroundings, also Sandy Denny. Her talent for witty repartee was also showcased. We even got a grand sing-a-long when she performed This Kiss, her most successful song. Hopefully we might see her back at Cropredy before too long.

She joined Fairport for their encore rendition of Meet On The Ledge, along with Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings and many others. The three and a half hours of them before this just zoomed by, as the aging legends remain a compelling live attraction. Their fine musicianship endures, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that mandolin player, fiddler and chief songwriter Chris Leslie has become the driving force and creative hub of the outfit. He also possesses a clear, crisp voice to complement Simon Nicol’s deeper tones. Fairport’s performance was pretty much flawless.

Cropredy this year has been different, somehow. While the music has been great, there was a definite atmosphere not really in keeping with the reputation for friendliness and comradeship the event has fostered in the past. This manifested itself in there being many announcements about thefts from tents, a slightly edgy attitude from festival stewards, and the fact that whilst Fairport were on a fight broke out in the audience next to me. Whilst these things would be standard at many other festivals, Cropredy has always been unique due to its family appeal and sense of safety. It is a blessing that the festival is continuing, but lets hope it retains the spirit the event was originally founded on. If there is one thing it can always rely on though, it is a supreme line-up capable of astounding music.

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