Woodford Folk Festival – Day #4 – Monday, December 30, 2013
By Brian Wise
You have to wonder about the burden carried by the children of famous musicians, especially when they are as famous and influential as Bob Marley. Despite the fact that he has been nominated for a Grammy for his own work the biggest reception that 38-year old Julian Marley received was for his father’s songs.
‘Rastaman Vibration,’ ‘Is This Love’ and Get Up Stand Up’ remain as popular and recognisable as ever and it is understandable that Julian would user them as a reference point. He does have his own appealing songs – with much the same social message as his father’s songs – but as in the Joni Mitchell tribute the other night, it is hard to stand next to greatness. Nevertheless, Marley and his crack band provided some great reggae grooves under a leaden sky that threatened to pour but only drizzled.
If you had to order the perfect day here at the Woodford Folk Festival it would be exactly as it was today: overcast and cooler (only 29C). Just like ACL Fest in Austin, Texas, the clouds are your friends.
The afternoon saw entertaining sets from Canadian Mo’ Kenney and Australian Darren Hanlon in the Bazaar tent with the former proving quite charming and the latter reeling out some songs that were on a par with some of Paul Kelly’s work.
In the Grande circus tent GANGajang proved that to sustain a career you only really need one big hit and it also helps if it was the music to a television ad. I doubt if any of the audience knew the names of the band members, apart from maybe drummer Graham ‘Buzz’ Bidstrup (ex-Angels) but that did not matter because they were holding out for that one big hit and, when ‘Out On The Patio’ arrived everyone sang along. By this point the band had proven to have a batch of other rather superior catchy pop rock songs that created a good vibe. Front man Mark Callaghan even walked out into the audience after asking, ‘Does anyone remember the ’80s?’ The audience obviously did!I
I got to see a full set of Clare Bowditch with her 11-piece band, as opposed to the abbreviated version of the night before. I presume that one of the benefits of a booking at a festival like Woodford is that someone like Bowditch can actually afford to take the band out because I would imagine it would be way too expensive to tour. With the horn section and three backing singers it sounded superb. I need to check out the Royal Jelly Dixieland Band from which the horn section is drawn.
As Bowditch explained that her music had never been played on commercial radio and that festivals like this helped keep her career alive it occurred to me that, like a lot of musicians and bands here, she is one great song away from huge success.
You would have to think that was true of Jordie Lane, who launched his latest EP Not Built To Last (for a Queensland audience), later in the day in the Concert tent. Last year Lane played Gram Parsons in a stage musical and he now lives in Los Angeles, having written songs for an album in the room Parsons dies in at the Joshua Tree Inn (a little too obsessive maybe). So Lane certainly has the stage presence and charisma and some excellent songs. On the strength of the EP’s material it seems that a forthcoming album could be the big one for him.
One of the bonuses of the festival is that you get to see artists more than once and, for me, I just had to see Sam Amidon again.There was a huge crowd in the Concert tent for the Comedy Debate before Amidon’s show and I had thought they were drawn by the prospect of seeing Beth Orton guest with Amidon. I was wrong, most were there for the comedy (which was hilarious) and I lost a bet that cost me a slice of vegetarian pizza (last of the big gamblers).
Amidon’s show is never less than intriguing and Orton was a terrific guest who stayed for at least four songs. Together they did a fabulous version of Big Star’s ‘Thirteen’. It was magical as was his version of the song ‘Pretty Saro.’
Amidon also did a version of ‘Streets of Derry,’ (also on his latest album Bright Sunny South) as he said inspired by hearing it on an Andy Irvine album. It was brilliant. (Irvine is here also).
Amidon then launched into what he called an ‘Irish jig’ but in his own inimitable style that took it in strange directions. So far it is hard to go past Amidon as the highlight of the festival so far.