Festival No. 6 marked the end of the festival season. Following an arduous drive through the rambling hills of Wales, I arrived home, stowed my yellow sunflower wellies and began to reflect over the highs and lows of the seasons's performances. Here's a little account of the various festivals I've played this year, with my recommendations for next year...
I started the festival season with the town-based music festivals. Living in the countryside, you wouldn't expect there to be as many good local festivals as there are! My first gig was at Nantwich Jazz and Blues Festival in March, playing at the Civic Hall. I was supporting The Wonderstuff in their duo with fiddler/Geisha-punk Erica Nockalls. The gig was lovely, red velvet curtains and hundreds seated at candle-lit tables. I played as a full band with my brother Joe on djembe and moving onto steel drum for 'Seahorse', my Dad on bass and accordion and John Gunstone on the keys. Although neither of the acts were Jazz or Blues, a good time was had by all. I got a very nice review which you can read here. The festival happens every year and there is music in most of the pubs throughout the weekend with a wrist band for £6. I saw a couple of good bands over the weekend. There are also ticketed events such as the gig at the Civic which will cost around £15. Well worth a visit.
Next up was Audlem Music and Arts Festival which has been running for almost 15 years now and has gained a great reputation. Also in Cheshire, the festival is entirely funded by donations and local efforts. Unlike many festivals, they pay the artists and the sound men are always really good. I was indoors in the evening which was a bit on the noisy side for my subtler numbers, so next year I'm hoping for a slot on the outdoor stage with its nice sparkly backlit canopy. Some highlights for me were Jeremiah Farari, a Reggae band from Manchester and a female singer-songwriter called Nathalie McCool. The entire festival is free and based around the three village pubs. I highly recommend going next May bank holiday! They now have a dedicated campsite too, for those who live too far to commute.
Thirdly was Congleton Jazz and Blues festival, which I loved so much, I wrote a blog on! I didn't get to see much of the festival, but similarly to Audlem Music and Arts Festival, it is pretty much all free entry. There are a few more venues and I was luck enough to be placed at the super trendy 'Electric Picture House', a former cinema turned arts community. Great venue. Check out the events they put on....
Now for the real festivals ( the ones with the mud, the sneezing the portaloos, the wet wipes and illegal substances. I don't usually go in for these types of festivals as I have the world's worst hayfever and hate getting muddy. Last year's Solfest was fun admittedly, but I am much keener for seated venues. After doing a spot at an open mic night in Worcestershire I was invited to play Bewdley's 'Hopfest' which was a great day. Really well attended and we played main stage. Their home made clay oven pizzas were amazing and there was good facilities as it's a campsite all year round. Later in August I played a brand new festival based near Bridgnorth called Hilton Festival. The setting was absolutely beautiful and they had a really wide variety of bands on, including some major names for such a small boutique festivals. They put on all sorts of events at the site each year including vintage rallies. Next was Fordhall Farm Festival based on a co-operatively owned organic farm in North Shropshire. The site is always great, with real ales a plenty and serves as a good reminder that Shropshire has a lot of talented originals artists on offer.
Earlier this year I began working with Canadian singer-songwriter Ashley Fayth, singing harmonies and putting some fiddle parts/flute to her music. We firstly performed at Kendal Calling on the Chai Wallah stage. I'd never been to this festival, nor the Lake District and I must say the approach to the site was amazing, driving through the hills. The location is also a deer park so as we drove through to the entrance we were watched by thousands of Bambis, which was pretty cool. Kendal Calling is a really magical festival, they really put a lot of effort into the theatricality of the whole thing. Whilst our indoor stage was great after a night of turbulent rain and storms which had soaked us through, later in the afternoon as I wandered around, there was a magical forest stage which I loved. In September I was also asked to guest with her and the band at Festival No. 6 at the mystical Portmeirion, where we got to perform at the beautiful romanesque piazza to an audience on deck chairs! Of all the festivals this year, this location was my favourite.
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