Newcastle Evolution Festival (Jumping Hot Club Stage)
The Evolution Music Festival on the banks of the River Tyne has been going in various guises for nearly 20 years now and while the musical fashions may change year by year on the main stages the one constant is the prime quality Roots Music that the Jumping Hot Club present every year.
Teesside’s nu-folk popstars, Cattle & Cane got the Festival off to a great start with a delightful dreamy lo-fi sound that mixed piano, violin and gorgeous harmonies. They were soon followed by The Good Lovelies from Toronto who lived up to their name with some very good and lovely Bluegrass tunes about the Trans-Canada Highway and the like while also slipping in a little known Gram Parsons tune; Juanita for good measure.
Next on stage was Karima Francis and her unfeasibly large Afro hair. The young lady from Blackpool went on to wow the crowded tent with a short set of intimate love songs.
The Circus tent was pretty full for the flamboyant Pete Molinari who sang an hour’s worth of sweet Country based songs that included a couple of pertinent anti-war songs; Lest We Forget and Anthem for a Doomed Youth which is a new song based on a Wilfred Owen WWI poem. It’s amazing the power that something as simple as one man and an acoustic guitar can project.
The Smoke Fairies wistful folk songs made them sound like a very English Cowboy Junkies and their 45 minute set was well received; as was the magnificently attired Australian C W Stoneking’s 1920’s style earthy Delta Blues which pleasantly surprised a lot of people.
At 9pm Billy Bragg received a hero’s welcome and went on to play a brilliant set of songs that criss-crossed his long career including his classics, Greetings to the New Brunette, A New England and Sexuality; none of which had aged one iota which is more than can be said for his over simplistic anti-Tory Socialist rants which the rest of us have grown out of.
Young Liverpudlian Country-Blues singer Delta Maid opened the show at 1pm on Sunday and those who missed her set missed a star in the making. Katie Foulkes (her real name) is the real deal and combines the best in British Folk with an Alt-Country attitude and a basket full of tip-top songs.
Katie was followed by BBC Folk Award winning Sam Carter who sings about very modern subjects in a Classic folk style and also plays a ‘mean guitar.’ I was feeling pretty smug by the time Sam finished his set, as there were still less than 100 people present; but those of us who had made the effort to get to the far side of Newcastle by public transport on a Sunday lunchtime had been very well rewarded as these two young musicians are the reason why I love Music Festivals. Plus they are heralding a new dawn in British Roots music which is all too easily overlooked.
Hurray for Riff Raff’s Gypsy flavoured New Orleans country Blues won them a host of new fans; as did folk rockers Ellen & the Escapades and Scottish folk singer James Yorkston but there was a total surprise as the sun was setting, that had people Twittering their friends about a band that had 3 or 4 generations dancing like dervishes. Mama Rosin are three guys from Switzerland who play Cajun music and they have to be seen and heard to be believed; they absolutely stole the show!
The guys were in the right place at the right time and began their set playing to about 200 people but by the time they finished the beer tents were empty and the main tent full beyond capacity and I could see people at the back jumping up and down to see what all of the fuss was about.
Headliners and current stars of the British Folk scene ; Bellowhead defy description as they play very English folk music but add in Brass band structures, polkas and possibly even some modern jazz and that’s only part of the story. There appeared to be at least a dozen people on stage playing an assortment of odd instruments including a tuba and some Northumbrian pipes and the cacophony they create is simply stunning and had the packed tent dancing well into the night.
Roll on the Sage Summertyne Festival in July.
(More photos at www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk)