overview

Big Session

published: Wed 4th Jul 2007

Friday 15th to Sunday 17th June 2007
De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester LE1 7RU, England MAP
£60 for w/e incl camping, day tickets also available
last updated: Wed 28th Feb 2007

The Big session, the tour that became a festival, returned once again to Leicester’s De Montfort Hall which has become it’s home for the last 3 years, and I decided it was time I checked it out. Also home to the much praised Summer Sundae Weekender it shares the same aspects of a weekend festival in a great city location combining the qualities and feel of an outdoor festival (utilising the grounds and gardens of the concert hall) with the excellent indoor facilities and comforts of the hall itself.

around the site

I arrive on Friday evening when the proceedings get underway, passing the strange sight of a field full of tents in the grounds of an adjacent college, to find the festival busy but reeling from a recent localized ‘power shower’ storm of the type that have become so familiar throughout June. Not sorry that I missed that particular show I am however sorry to have missed the first act of the weekend, 3 Daft Monkeys, but the upbeat charms of Uiscedwr on the marquee stage soon have me settled into the vibe of the fest. Like Summer Sundae the bands overlap between the outdoor stage and the indoor hall and that’s where I head to see the last half of singer songwriter Martin Stevenson’s set and get a mention from the man straight away for taking photographs (he’s right though, I won’t make much money out of them!).

The Mekons

Back in the marquee vintage band The Mekons completely ignore me and put all their effort into the job at hand of raising the tempo and injecting some punk power into the proceedings and they do so in the kind of good form you would expect from such a prolific band – I’m a convert. Alabama 3 may not be quite so prolific and I wondered what an ‘acoustic & unplugged’ A3 had to offer that I hadn’t seen a dozen times in the full version but they turn out to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Slower paced and quieter than usual (obviously), this was an opportunity for Larry Love and friends to bring the audience closer into their offbeat world and made for a highly entertaining and intimate performance and which held more laughs than the Full Monty – a treat.

Saturdays weather introduces more power-shower fun to the event and the DMH grounds keeper is spotted crying into his pint in the real ale tent as the green lawns slowly disappear under the trampling of muddy boots, but there’s plenty of cover and a cheerful atmosphere pervades as the afternoon passes by in a relaxing manner nattering to friends (mainly about the impending mudbath in Somerset the following weekend!) but I finally get in front of the stage for a polished performance from Show of Hands before sliding over to the marquee stage where the coy charms of Rachel Unthank and the Winterset win over the crowd. Back indoors the hall looks almost full upstairs and down for The Men They Couldn’t Hang who delivered a rousing performance worthy of the attention.

Show of Hands

Amongst all this fine vintage musicianship Tunng look like newcomers but they have a third album coming out and an interesting sound that catches my interest – I’d like to hear more from these. So far I’ve been largely ignoring a third stage – the Orange Tree stage – just sticking my nose in each time I visited the bar next door, but I decide to watch whoever is on there before Transglobal Underground take to the marquee stage. It turns out to be a band called Black Carrot, and, as is so often the case at festivals, it’s the random stuff you see that leaves a lasting mark – they defy a description from me but their website says that they ‘play fierce, abstract, improvised, experimental jazz/rock/folk music’ and I’m quite willing to go along with that!! See them if you get the chance.

Tunng

Final act of the day and a a chance to bounce around to the dance-roots-fusion sound of Transglobal Underground who I was keen to see again after seeing them at Off The Tracks last year and they didn’t disappoint – they’re on top form again. So ended the Saturday performances but there was no rush to leave, the bars stay open till past midnight giving a chance to catch up with friends for a drink before heading off into the night, as it should be.

Sunday consists of a short day of entertainments starting at midday and ending at 6pm but with 12 acts to go at is well worth the effort. Dan Donnelly entertained in the marquee, ripping sounds from his acoustic guitar that shouldn’t be there and mercilessly taking the mickey out of David Gray, and then indoors, led by Whapweasel, was a full participation ‘ceilidh’ with caller Gordon Potts calling the moves. Winners of the BBC 2006 best folk band award Flook are a completely excellent folk band who ooze with enjoyment of playing, and the following set by singer songwriter Rory Mcleod were worth the attendance on Sunday alone. Finally, the Oysterband took to the indoor stage for the second time this weekend but this time joined on stage by ‘friends’ Show of Hands and Rory Mcleod for a stirring finale to the weekend that sent the crowds away with smiles on their faces.

Oysterband with Rory McLeod & Show of Hands

Between them, the Oysterband and the organisation of De Montfort Hall have built a highly enjoyable festival that’s easy and comfortable even in the most inclement weather, and yet for such a family friendly ‘folk festival’ was not lacking in attitude. Thanks for having us...and sorry about the carpet.
review by: Phil Bull

photos by: Phil Bull

Friday 15th to Sunday 17th June 2007
De Montfort Hall, Granville Road, Leicester LE1 7RU, England MAP
£60 for w/e incl camping, day tickets also available
last updated: Wed 28th Feb 2007


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