Karl Walker reviews last weekend's annual Fairport’s Cropredy Convention which first launched back in 1976
If you’re like me and the idea of a three-day music festival in 35C heat, camping in a shoebox-size tent in a sloping field is enough to drive you to washing the car of a weekend, then think again - Cropredy could be for you! Consider this: it’s only 35 minutes down the M40, there’s loads of delicious food, there’s a massive beer tent run by Hook Norton, the sunsets and moonrises are beautiful, everyone’s friendly and in a good mood (the stalwart festival stewards take a bow). You’ll see some hilarious stuff (one of The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican hairily crowd-surfing in a dinghy will hopefully find its way on to YouTube), and experience some unusual phenomena (shower gel being hotter than the hot shower, having been left in the car all day). And the toilets aren’t bad either; you really don’t have to try and hold it in for 72 hours. And the music? Well, that was great too.
It would be impossible to do justice to every act that performed, suffice to say I watched just about everything from 7.30pm Thursday to midnight Saturday with no regrets. OK, I found Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited a fairly tough listen but thousands didn’t and lapped up the progmeister’s technically explosive performance. I’ll willingly give Hackett 11 out of 10 for guitar ability, and myself full marks for endurance.
Everything else ticked all the right boxes for my ageing ears, from The Trevor Horn Band’s 80’s banger, hit-box extravaganza (faithful renditions of the Horn-produced Two Tribes and Relax absolutely went off) to the perfect sounds of Clannad as the sun set on Thursday evening when their music and the natural world seemed in harmony.
Newcomer Maddie Morris got things started on Friday and was as impressive in the early slot as seasoned festival folk star. Seth Lakeman was the following morning, both engaging performers who carried the crowd with them. Holy Moly and the Crackers delivered a barnstorming folk-ska-polka-pop-punk party-starting musical riot and you can expect to see them on many a future festival stage.
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams are not an east European troupe of sleepy acrobats but a mightily impressive blend of the Black Crowes and British ‘60s psychedelia while Rosalie Cunningham nailed the accessible side of prog with the sound of Wuthering Heights-era Kate Bush fronting Deep Purple. And it was better than that sounds.
Martyn Joseph ignited a fiery solo performance of classic, powerful storytelling, matched in intensity by Home Service’s devastating finale of their Sorrow/Babylon, while the aforementioned Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican proved music and comedy do mix when done right. Who’d have thought that changing the lyrics to some familiar songs while wearing lurid tanktops and wigs would be so funny. It is when done by this trio.