Cambridge Folk Festival

I’m back from the Cambridge Folk Festival. It was the first one I’d been to. I enjoyed it.

 went on Friday. I’d booked the day off work with the thought that I might go, but didn’t in the end. A combination of being busy at work and staying up late to read various books had left me a bit broken, so I just had a quiet day at home.

By Saturday I judged that my beard had grown out sufficiently to blend in with the other festival-goers. We got there just in time for Bellowhead‘s set. They’re a big band doing folk stuff with a lot of other influences, from jazz to disco. They were technically good (according to 

, who can apparently tell whether violinists have been classically trained by looking at them) and made the crowd laugh with their disco sea shanty.

We popped into the Club tent to hear Lisa Knapp. She can sing, but the mixing was painfully bad, so we went and found some chilli from the food stalls instead.

We finished that just in time to meet up with

 and squeeze back into the edge of the main tent for a view of Kate Rusby from a distance (Graham has some great pictures taken with his paparazzi-grade long lens). Turns out she’s from the Wright ancestral seat of Barnsley, so she scored points for that alone. She chatted amiably with the audience and sang beautifully.

After Kate Rusby was done, we made a dash for the front in anticipation of Joan Baez’s set. That meant we had great view of Fanfare Ciocarlia, a Romanian brass band who tore into their gypsy tunes with verve (you could tell it was going to be interesting when the stage hands laid out towels for the band members to wipe themselves with). The audience responded with whooping, clapping and as much dancing as we could manage in the confined space. In the middle of their set, Baez appeared from the wings and danced a bit with the slightly bemused Romanians, who didn’t know who she was.

Finally, it was time for Baez to come on. Amazing music, whether accompanied by her excellent band, playing her guitar alone, or acappella. She’s a trooper who, she implied in her comments, sees as much need for her activism now as in the 1960s. She attacked President Bush in Dylan’s With God on our Side and Elvis Costello’s The Scarlet Tide. She also put in some of her best known stuff, according to

, who loved Diamonds and Rust. She finished with Imagine, which I usually can’t stand (it’s a bit of a dirge, and it’s a “wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice” sort of song). This time, there was a lump in my throat as she got the crowd to sing along. Nothing could top that, so then we went home.

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