Bristol Folk Festival – St George’s, Bristol

Sunday 5th May, 2019

The finale of the Folk Festival was to be at my beloved St George’s – wonderful music in a wonderful setting. No matter how tired I was I was going to be there. There had been plenty else going on during the final day but with Sunday buses and the Bristol 10k I knew it would be impossible to get out and back again and being out all day and night was too exhausting a prospect so I had to pick only one session to attend. I plumped for St George’s in the evening as it is a venue I know and love. There was also the attraction of Kris Drever, one third of Lau, who I’d seen earlier this year and had been moved to tears by. Besides a Ceilidh with my dodgy knees wasn’t going to be a good idea!

Our night began with Thom Ashworth who in the tradition of folkies everywhere was a really chipper bloke who sang miserable songs! He plays acoustic bass, which was something a little different. He also used loop pedals to enhance the sound, another way of bringing a little modernity to trad folk. More overtly political than everything else I’d seen over the weekend, drawing parallels between the soldier’s laments of the past with his own compositions about how we will all be replaced by robots. Yes, his songs were really that cheery. I’m not sure that being the opening act on the last night was the right place for him, given who else was on the bill. I felt he would have been better suited somewhere else in the schedule, but otherwise he was worth a listen.

The flowing Orcadian tones of Kris Drever were our next treat. And a treat they were. I could listen to him talk, let alone sing, for hours in that beautiful lilting accent. His warmth and humour also endeared him to my heart, but mostly it was the beautiful, beautiful songs. The electric guitar came out for an instrumental traditional Orkney song, Unst Bridal March, and that made me weep. It was gorgeous. I was taken by surprise by how deeply Lau had made me feel in February, Kris on his own had the same effect. He was one of the best acts I saw all weekend. Please bring him, and Lau, back next year if you can.

I had also seen Cara Dillon before, last December and I had not had the best night. I’m a bit of a Grinch and it was a Christmas tour so I felt I owed Cara a fresh listen. She has an amazing voice, of that there is no doubt, but it really isn’t for me. She wouldn’t be out of place on daytime Radio 2 and I listen to the weird late-night bits of Radio’s 6 and 3. Cara’s voice is technically superb, but it wasn’t the balm to soothe or move my soul that I look for. I also found her husband, Sam (brother of Seth) Lakeman annoying. Cara is the billed headliner, why are you doing all the talking? Couple, argumentative ‘banter’ isn’t what I want to hear. I stayed through most of the set before giving up and heading out to the bus stop. I wish Cara Dillon well, but her music is not for me.

To the Executive Directors of Bristol Folk Festival and everyone else who was involved in bringing the Bristol Folk Festival back to life this year, a huge and hearty well done and thank you. It was worth all of your time and effort. The broad scope of artists you put on show that the folk scene is in rude health and safe hands for the future. I have discovered new gems and had a great time. There have been smiles, laughter and tears. What more could I have asked for? See you again in 2020!




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