Festival Review: Cambridge Folk Festival 2015


A year on from celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2014, the Cambridge Folk Festival returned once more to Cherry Hinton Hall over the first weekend in August, and provided the 12,000 plus attendees with a weekend full of fantastic acts.

The Cambridge Folk Festival has been a permanent mainstay of the British festival season since 1965, and is as much a British institution as Glastonbury. Over the years, the festival has bourn witness to performances from Paul Simon, Bert Jansch and Nick Lowe, to more recent successful artists Laura Marling, Richard Hawley and Jake Bugg. This year, the festival attracted The Proclaimers, Wilko Johnson, Joan Baez and the Unthanks to name but a few of the acts, and can surely go down as another success for this great celebration of the folk tradition.

Arriving to the site early Friday morning, Thank Folk for That managed to catch the MOJO magazine interview with Frank Turner in the Club Tent. Over the course of an hour, Frank spoke about his career trajectory and his upcoming album, Positive Songs for Negative People, and displayed the characteristics which have seen him make the leap into the popular ‘mainstream’. One of the best performances of the weekend was given by Italian band Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, whose blend of violins, accordions and drums create music which, in folklore, was designed to act as a deterrent to the deadly Tarantula spider. The 7 piece were outstanding, and thrived in this setting.

The festival site, located in picturesque park grounds, was given added grandeur with the sunshine, and Friday afternoon was spent relaxing by the duck pond, listening to the sounds of artists playing in the Den over the course of several hours. A sojourn back into the main area saw TFFT enjoy Wilko Johnson’s celebratory set, inspiring sing-a-longs and hand-clapping from the ardent faithful, who were probably happy to see Wilko at the festival in any capacity after his recent battles with Cancer. Curiously positioned inbetween Wilko Johnson and Nick Mulvey, Frank Turner & Matt Nasir played an acoustic set encompassing tracks from Frank’s back catalogue, as well as new singles The Next Storm and Get Better. Frank Turner can never be accused of not giving his all, and spent his hour switching from shouty-punk proclamations (Plain Sailing Weather) to trying his hand at the traditional folk song of Barbara Allen, encompassing all demographics of the festival. An unbridled success.

It fell to The Proclaimers to end proceedings on Friday night. Playing a celebratory set, including Sunshine on Leith, Misty Blue, Letter from America and, as ever, the ubiquitous hit …500 Miles, the brothers seemed in good spirits, and sent the audience home happy.

Onto Saturday, and to Skinny Lister, who played a thunderous set over at Stage 2, which saw crowdsurfing with a double bass, a flagon of beer being passed around the crowd, and shanties and sing-a-longs aplenty.  It is a travesty that this band are not more well known, as they could easily have headlined this festival with the size of the crowd they attracted, and the fantastic quality of their songs, which see-sawed between the rousing nature of Raise a Wreck to the more quiet, traditional-leaning Bonny Away. Expect these to be playing the much bigger Stage 1 at next years festival.

Equally good, but a lot quieter, were Stornoway, making their first return to the festival since 2009, and showcasing tracks from their latest LP Bonxie. Dedicating Fuel Up to a stage invading rabbit at a gig the week before, and playing an acoustic cover of The Only Way is Up, the Oxfordshire quartet’s 45 minute slot flew by, leaving the audience satisfied, but wanting to hear more.  To close the day, TFFT caught Joan Baez’s performance over at a very crowded Stage 1, as she played staple ‘folk’ songs such as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and House of the Rising Sun, interspersed between tales from her illustrious career in music, Her voice, whilst huskier than perhaps 40 years ago, has retained its delicate lilt, and provided a welcome mellow conclusion to another great day at the festival.

Joe Sweeting


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