Review: Fairport's Cropredy Convention
You can lay on the finest food, the cleanest lavvies and the best bands in the land, but if Mother Earth decides she wants to open her heavens, there’s little you can do but to seek shelter.
This was the third festival I’ve been to this year and the third drenching. Let’s face it, this climate change malarkey has done for the great British music festival.
Of all the three, Cropredy, by far the wettest, was the most comfortable, and that’s a credit to Fairport Convention and the team who are now old hands at this sort of thing.
While the arena rapidly became a mud-bath, aluminium roads around the outside kept the flow of human traffic moving and the good-natured assembly of mature folkies and their families never let the conditions get the better of them.
If I could offer one piece of advice, that would be to provide more shelter next year as there was nowhere for the throng to hide once the rain started pelting down.
Cropredy’s a curious affair. Part village fete, part music festival. The whole vibe of the place is friendly and the number of kids proved it to be a family affair.
There’s only one stage and not too many acts, but each performer or band is picked to complement the sense of celebration.
This year, there was a definite sense of a younger audience being courted with Thursday night headliners Supergrass and Friday night’s Levellers slotting in easily alongside such seasoned old-stagers as Stackridge and Joe Brown.
Cropredy’s not about following fashion or the next big thing, it’s a very English celebration of song. Paul Brady on Friday and Julie Fowlis on Saturday provided riveting displays of interpretation and performance in two highly-charged performances.
Joe Brown, one of our original rockers, shared the stage with Dave Edmonds and was one of the weekend’s great successes. Touching on skiffle, rock’n’roll and goodtime boogie, they played enough hits to please everyone.
Legend, essentially a Bob Marley tribute band, may not have been able to tease the sun out but, with such a back catalogue to draw on, provided plenty of smiles and little skanky dance moments.
The Muffin Men were a hit too. Playing the songs of Frank Zappa is never an easy task, but these guys had the help of original Mother of Invention Jimmy Carl Black. Tackling everything from Zappa’s more complex compositions to his more dumb pop songs, they had a sure touch throughout.
Of course, Cropredy’s all about Fairport Convention and the band’s three-hour set on a Saturday night. This year they were simply magnificent, probably due to being able to stretch out on home turf.
Sandy Denny was obviously on everybody’s minds as Vicky Clayton and Chris While dipped into her songbook, most poignantly for a beautiful version of Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Sandy’s signature song.
Robert Plant made a surprise showing for the Battle of Evermore and Ashley Hutchings supplied the occasional trademark fluid bassline.
Saturday night at Cropredy is always a celebration of family, friends and a shared sense of pride.
Fairport Convention are very much the beloved institution, whether singing the trad classic Matty Groves or tackling Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past.
As the night drew to a close with a massed chorus of Meet On The Ledge, a palpable warm glow covered the band and audience.
It doesn’t get much better than that.