Steve Winwood concludes a great start to the Festival

Fairport's Cropredy Convention 2009 review

published: Thu 20th Aug 2009

around the festival site

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009

Traffic chaos on previous opening mornings as people compete for their favourite spots in one of the seven camping fields was eased this year by introduction of a One Way system through the village although there was inevitably an amount of jockeying for position. Again the advertised opening time of 9am seems to have been more of a guideline.

By midday most of those here for the duration are encamped. The first act, a band of local teenage rock girls called Harlequinn, is not on until 4pm but many have made their way to the arena and set up their forward base. The sun shining and the gentle breeze blowing sounds of music from the village across the site which mix with the pings of mobile phones, zipping of tents and hubbub of voices and barking of dogs to create that Festival sound. After a familiarising myself with the layout of the site and being unwilling to sit in the arena drinking in the sun for several hours I head into the village to check out the those sounds.

around the festival site
There are two outside bars set up at the Brasenose Arms and a pub band set up on lorry trailer. Festival goers mix with villagers and visitors here where no wristbands are required. After a beer in the Brasenose it's through St Mary's Churchyard to the Red Lion which like the Brasenose has a full itinerary of entertainment and several busy bars. Enjoying the atmosphere in the courtyard you almost forget that there is a Festival going on a few hundred meters away, but a waft of fiddle reminds me what I am actually doing here.

By the time I return to the arena 4Square have taken to the stage the seated crowd extends from the stage past the sound tower to a firebreak boundary which has been painted on the ground – a sensible precaution given the amount of flammable furniture and drunken hippies here. This young four piece play a lively traditional folk sound which is cutting through the sun and beer to keep the crowds attention. Their drummer Dan Day has an unusual octagonal drum which makes a mighty sound. The band engage well with the crowd, invitations to join in are enthusiastically taken up during a series of interesting sets with names such as Fiddle Castro and Les the Coconut –named after the bands ex-mascot. The band are young but their sound has maturity and depth demonstrated by a spine tingling rendition of the Richard Thomson classic Farewell, Farewell. A final flurry featuring clog dancing by fiddle player Nicola Lyons completes a well pitched performance of 'music made out of sunshine'. Looking forward to seeing this band again at Towersey Folk Festival.

A quick turn around by the stage crew sees a different generation of performers welcomed to the stage Ken Nicol & Phil Cool. By now its early evening and crowd settled in throughout the field are looking hungrily at the food stalls. Ken and Phil are up against it with guitar melodies not making much impact. After a few songs together Phil Cool leaves Ken to demonstrate his accomplished playing skills, then Ken gives way to Phil. Phil Cool was big on TV back in the early 90s with his funny face comedian act but tells us that Cropredy is his biggest audience for this new venture. His act is described as musically dyslexic – putting other people's words to other people's music – he does impressions of George Formby and Bryan Ferry singing Bob Dylan, Salman Rushdie doing Cat Stevens and finishes with a George Bush parody featuring Ken Nicol as Don Rumsfeld. The show seems to be largely lost on the Festival who want more from their teatime entertainment.

As the sun starts to set the peace of twilight is shattered by the arrival of the Buzzcocks, Pete Shelley opens the set with a shout of "Let's get on with Punk Rocking it" and they set about doing just that. The sound is great - loud, clear and punchy and the band are making a fantastic show of it. The big screen and some good camerawork is adding to their performance, the enthusiasm showing on these guys faces comes across to the whole audience. Having been Punk Rocking it for the best part of thirty years they look sharp and show no sign of their sound losing its edge. Their set is delivered at breakneck speed, before the last number's reverb has faded the next is struck up. All the greats are given an airing – Boredom, What do I Get, Oh Shit, Ever Fallen in Love plus others too numerous to mention. Climaxing appropriately with Orgasm Addict this set was frenetic, possibly all sounded the same, perhaps was too loud but certainly did Punk Rock it.

Frenetic is not the adjective to describe the Steve Winwood show. He comes on after dark to a rapturous welcome and sets about demonstrating the musical ability and distinctively soulful voice that have kept him on top of his game for forty years. Not being familiar with his material I am taken by his skills and those of his band during the frequent virtuoso solos. After a while these solos do get a shade waring. By the time we've had another four minute percussion solo extravaganza gaps are starting to appear in the assembled throng. Some people have not heeded the request to take down their shelters in daylight and are now attempting to unpop their pop up tents drunk in the dark.

Bizarrely Winwood seems to be the perfect soundtrack to this activity. After two hours of all those who are going to leave have left and those of us who remain are treated to some quality tunes. Higher Love gets us singing and this time the blinding guitar solo gets the reaction those before seemed to miss. The act finishes with a terrific version of Gimme Some Lovin' which makes it worth holding out to the end. Sitting in the darkened arena finishing the last Wadsworth Beer its worth reflecting what a gorgeous day of weather it's been and a great start to the Festival.
review by: Ian Wright

photos by: Ian Wright

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th August 2009
Cropredy, nr. Banbury, Oxfordshire., OX17 1OO, England MAP
£82 for the weekend; camping £30; kids under 12 go free
last updated: Fri 10th Jul 2009


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