Live Review: Cambridge Folk Festival 2016

Eliza Carthy 3Cambridge Folk Festival has always managed to offer something for everyone, with some of the most respected artists on the music scene, as well as new talent gracing the folk festival stages.

Jon Boden headlined stage two on the Thursday evening with a great flamboyant set. He’s already making waves on the scene with his new solo album which has received some excellent reviews. Boden has left a huge gap in the folk headliner category with the break-up of the mighty Bellowhead but it seems that someone is already looking at taking on the challenge of filling that spot. I bring you Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band, who took to the stage on late Sunday afternoon. Eliza is obviously well established in her own right and just like most of her band they are all seasoned musicians. They included Saul Rose, Sam Sweeney, Lucy Farrell and Beth Porter to name a few. The sound was immense and Eliza and the band played up to the crowd and left them wanting more – a fabulous set.

We were lucky enough to catch a few of the up and coming artist on The Den Stage, which has a great spot near the duck lake. You can take in the sun while listening to the lovely acoustic sets coming from within the tent. This year talent was nothing but exceptional. Heg & The Wolf Chorus, Cardboard Fox, the excellent Sound Of The Sirens and Singer/Songwriter Ösp from a small valley in the North of Iceland. Inspired by the vocals of Ella Fitzgerald, the stories of Joni Mitchell and by her own nordic folk roots, Ösp creates the most interested sounds and vocal melodies I’ve ever heard. We were also extremely pleased that we got to hear the beautiful guitar playing and vocal sounds of Nathan Ball, this young man is making waves on the music scene and since his Cambridge Folk Festival appearance he has now been play-listed by BBC Radio 1. The atmosphere throughout the festival was amazing, everyone was having a whale of a time. There were street performers and buskers around the site which made the festival come alive. We even manage to catch some of the most entertaining Ceilidh I’ve ever come across, played with the backing of a heavy metal rock styled band. You could see the excitement on all the faces of those taking part. It was a joy to watch.

With so many bands to see at this year’s festival, it was hard to choose which ones to cover. The Friday at Cambridge was a mixed bag. We started with The Micheal McGoldrick Band who played a really solid set, while also spending a lot of time at The Den Stage as mentioned earlier in the review. Glen Hansard was one I was eager to see. We had reviewed his excellent album at Artree a few months back and I was looking forward to seeing what sort of set-up and stage presence the man would have. Hansard delivered, such a full on sound with so much passion. It was one of my favourite set’s at the festival.

Closing Stage 1 on the Friday was the crazy and wonderfully colourful world of Gogol Bordello. I have never seen them live but was keen to see what all the fuss was about. The band were on form and stormed the stage at 100 miles per hour without so much as a breather before the front-man and one of the dancers climbed on their drum and started crowd-surfing, yes… crowd-surfing at Cambridge Folk Festival. Truly amazing!

Saturday and Sunday line-ups were just as strong and we had lots more hard choices to make throughout the day.

Kate RusbyStage 1 was host to some strong performances from folk royalty like Kate Rusby and John McCusker Band who delivered great sets and even drinking a cup of the finest Yorkshire Tea on-stage.
Afro Celt Sound System once again delivered an amazing set with the new album tracks proving to be hit with many of the Cambridge festival goers.

Irish Folk legend Christy Moore closed stage one that evening and delighted people by playing a classic track by the legendary Pink Floyd. Dedicated to the late great Syd Barrett, who resided in Cambridge for much of his life, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ was definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

Afro Celt Sound SystemOther sets that day included the great Megson who played the Club Tent earlier in the day and the wonderfully talented who also graced the stage early afternoon. We bumped into Belinda O’Hooley later on at the festival and she said she was really pleased with the set they did at the festival and that the workshop they did was a huge success. O’Hooley and Tidow have worked hard on the scene for many years and they a getting the recognition they truly deserve.

Saturday also saw the likes of Stick In The Wheel, Darlingside and Applewood Road all do some great sets on Stage 2, and Le Vent Du Nord putting in a storming set of traditional French Canadian tunes mixed with their own songs and melodies. We also managed to catch a live session that they were doing for Mark Radcliffe out by the wonderful surroundings of the duck pond. What a setting! This band do not venture over to our shores very often, so if you have the chance to catch them live then please do so – you will not be disappointed.

Sunday was a full on day for catching bands, Solas, Blazin’ Fiddles, This Is The Kit and the beautiful sounding Kelly Oliver all performed fine sets.

Sam LeeWe waited with anticipation for the next band to take the stage and they did with a dramatic performance and an eclectic mix of traditional and experiment folk tunes that were given life by the creative mind of Sam Lee – just beautiful!
Cash Box Kings were another great band that set the tone just right for the festival and Hot 8 Brass Band who closed Stage 2 were outstanding. Essentially a hip-hop funk brass band who have been performing in various forms for over 20 years. This band know how to get a crowd going!

Imelda May’s set was full on, rocking away with her new look. Imelda gave it everything from start to finish. Something different for the Cambridge audience.

Stage 1’s last band of the event were Irish folk and world music band Kila, an epic mix of traditional and world influences who kept the party going until late Sunday evening. They were even joined by Imelda May, who took to the stage and proceeded to play the bodhrán – a good player and clearly enjoying her time at the festival. What a fantastic finish to the event for 2016.

Cambridge Folk Festival has introduced us to so many great artists over the years through the Club Tent and The Den and has also put on some of the world’s finest musicians. Cambridge Folk Festival 2016 has yet again done us proud. We look forward to spending the time with you next year too!

https://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/folk-festival

Review & Photography by Adrian Holden