The Zutons provide a rock edge to Cambridge's Folk Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival 2009 review

published: Tue 11th Aug 2009


Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 8DW, England MAP
£104 for full weekend
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

Cambridge has a very full programme of workshops for budding musicians as well as activities to keep the kids occupied in the morning while groggy parents blow off the cobwebs. We didn't quite make it to the fiddle or juggling workshops, but did arrive in time for the opening of Stage 1 at midday. A small crowd had already assembled behind the crush barriers at the marquee's entrance and they listened attentively to the safety announcement. The barriers are removed and the crowd rush forward as if at the first day of Harrods' sale to claim territorial rights to their favourite position. A Cambridge tradition apparently.

First up on Stage 1 today are the Quebecois trio Genticorum making their first appearance at Cambridge. They tell us they have been enjoying the festival bar's Old Rosie Cider and describe their music as being "Cajun mixed with a bit of brown sauce and real ale". This is a very apt description as much of their material has a familiar English folk feel to it, though they soon quash this with the driving rhythm of their Quebecois songs.

The Shee
All female The Shee have made an effort this morning and are beautifully turned out in colour co-ordinated outfits. Their set includes a mix of original songs and covers such as the jaunty Tom Payne's 'Bones' and even some clog dancing from accordionist Amy Thatcher-Piano.

Edward II
Edward II's appearance is one that has been much anticipated this year, as they haven't played together for about 10 years. They offer a unique brand of folk reggae fusion, though for me the reggae is often too much too the fore and the throbbing bass is a bit overpowering in this mid afternoon slot.

The Waterson Family
The Waterson Family are more of a direct connection to the Cambridge of earlier years, in fact Mike and Norma Waterson performed at the first ever festival. It was a poignant moment to see Norma being helped on to the stage and using a stick. Her legs may be weaker but her distinctive voice is as strong as ever. Just the few phrases she sings by way of a sound check raise the hairs on the back of my neck. The nice piece line-up belt out mostly traditional songs a capella to give us the weekend's most compelling performance so far.

Buffy Sainte-Marie takes us across the Atlantic to the sounds of the North American plains with her first native backing singers and possibly the festival's first mouthbow performance. Her solo encore of the 45 year old anti-war song 'Universal Soldier' was a moving reminder that the world still has a lot to learn about pointless military conflicts.

Bellowhead look as amazing as they sound with their sharp pinstriped suits, silk ties and Fedora hats. This is definitely not style over substance though, as their big folk orchestra sound has the joint jumping, Jon Boden acting as their deranged band leader. This is as much a piece of theatre as a musical performance and is breathtaking in its audacious originality.

The Zutons are an interesting choice for a folk festival, even one as eclectic as Cambridge and a few eyebrows were raised when the booking was announced. The background of a £618,000 loss from last year's festival due to the collapse of the ticketing agency may have influenced the organisers to book a bankable act to ensure ticket sales this year. Whatever the reasons, the indie popsters from Liverpool make no concessions to the hard core folkies and run through their set of hits in a rocking style. There's not much musicianship in the class of some of this afternoon's earlier acts, but that's not really what The Zutons are about.
The Zutons
review by: Douglas Coulter

photos by: Douglas Coulter

Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August 2009
Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB1 8DW, England MAP
£104 for full weekend
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

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