The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble stayed on the stage for a further hour, wowing the crowd with their amazing arrangements of folk standards. Scottish supergroup Capercaille took over until sundown when Steve Hackett, formerly guitarist with Peter Gabriel era Genesis took to the stage with a sublime band including Nad Sylvan, who has an uncanny ability to sound like Gabriel. Another member, on bass and twelve string is Nick Begg – formerly of Kajagoogoo! Your reviewer wasn’t expecting much of this act before the show but by the end was crying tears of joy. They were truly on form and delivered Genesis works including I Know What I Like… and, amazingly, the whole half hour epic Supper’s Ready from the 1972 classic, Foxtrot. With power, aplomb, swaggering style and most importantly what seemed like astounding accuracy.

Closing proceedings on Thursday were The Waterboys from Ireland. What a job, following Steve Hackett. Mike Scott and his merry band succeeded, again with style and energy. About five thousand people at the front were dancing away to hits such as The Whole of the Moon, Raggle Taggle Gypsy and Glastonbury Song. Always a great live band, The Waterboys were a perfect choice for a Cropredy Thursday.

While the music starts at four and ends at eleven on Thursday, Friday and Saturday see a full twelve hours of music each, starting at twelve. Mischa MacPherson, Radio 2 Young Folk Musician of the Year opened the day with her Hebridean trio delivering gentle traditional Celtic music. Later, a young Swede called Benjamin Folke Thomas played an ear catching set of perfectly constructed Americana. The crowd loved the traditional folk sound of The Churchfitters, who design and play some pretty crazy instruments made out of saws and hubcaps. A very Cropredy sound that maybe reminds one that this is primarily a folk festival a bit too much. Manchester’s The Travelling Band were on their second outing to Cropredy with a solid set of country Americana, almost poppy in places.

Friday’s three big acts were an interesting hotch potch. First up The Wonder Stuff, Miles Hunt’s proud band of Midlanders. They played a loud knockabout set that delighted the crowd with The Size of a Cow. Next up were Cockney heroes Chas and Dave. Not my cup of tea but Cropredy often delivers songs that you never thought you’d hear live. Gertcha, anyone?

Closing the night were The Australian Pink Floyd Show. These guys (and girls) have been at it for decades and are so good David Gilmour asked them to play at his birthday party. Along with their light show, the set was outstanding and suffered only from absolutely torrential rain, which sadly drove some people back to their tents. I just got very wet indeed. I am a little confused as to why they include a bit of post Roger Waters Floyd in their set but, it’s their life…

Saturday at Cropredy is always opened by the evergreen folk club performer Richard Digance, who delivers an hour of good natured, witty and thought provoking songs accompanied by his acoustic guitar. This year he was joined by Fairport’s violinist Ric Sanders for a ballroom dance number – and got the crowd to waltz, literally. A great sight for sore eyes.

One of the weekend’s great surprises was next. Blackbeard’s Tea Party, hailing from York, are young people who manage to make roustabout folk sound a bit menacing. They have amazing energy and a really tight, exciting sound. Get yourself their debut album Whip Jamboree, it won’t disappoint!

Reg Meuross, described as a modern troubadour, calmed things down with a set of carefully penned songs sounding like the simultaneous product of Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton.

The Festival’s other great discovery followed – Tree Top Flyers are five young men who inhabit the late Sixties’ American West Coast! They sound a bit like classic Crosby Stills Nash and Young with Byrds and Eagles mixed in. They even played a simply fantastic cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary, another song I never thought I’d hear live. They have released their debut album The Mountain Move, too and I highly recommend that based on their live sound. I think they may go a very long way indeed.

Cara Dillon, the Irish singer, played a lovely summer afternoon set, while her husband Sam Lakeman warned the crowd of airline cancellations and an impending storm. Not what we wanted to hear!

Prog rock supremos Marillion were on next, without Fish, of course. Their singer since 1989, Steve Hogarth, certainly has the vocal chords and swagger to deliver. But they’ve written an awful lot of songs since Garden Party and so the only piece of their set your reviewer recognised was the somewhat saccharine Kayleigh. Even though they were the only act of the weekend afforded an encore, they chose, somewhat disappointingly, to use this spot for a rambling piece about the troubles in Palestine. Garden Party would have been far more appropriate.

Al Stewart, sixties singer songwriter played next, showcasing his big hit Year of the Cat and was joined on acoustic guitar by Tim Renwick, formerly of Mr Clapton’s band – he was good! Stewart has a strange mid Atlantic accent but was very affable and a different kind of introduction to the main act, Fairport Convention themselves.

Band leader Dave Pegg injured his hand this year so was “only” able to play a two hour set rather than the four or five they usually do! This year’s set was great, however, including crowd pleasers such as Red & Gold, the story of the civil war battle at Cropredy. Mostly, however, they played teasers from their forthcoming 2015 album. These songs are a diversion, they are experimenting with a much heavier proggier sound than in recent years. The album will be very interesting next Spring. The night closed, as it always does with Matty Groves and the friendship anthem Meet on the Ledge. Twenty thousand people went to camp very happily. Yes, twenty thousand! This year’s festival had sold out in advance. This is a lovely diverse festival just on your doorstep. Keep an eye on the band’s website for next year’s tickets, they will sell out again and are cheaper, not that this is a pricey festival anyway, the earlier they are bought.

 

Geoff Alun-Jones