Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2011 – Day 3

Today is the big day.  For me, not because Fairport Convention are playing later but because Richard Digance is playing first!

Got everyone up early and cooked breakfast, Lizzie came to join us for breakfast for the first time and we all made sure that we were in the queue for the field before the gates opened for the first time this weekend.  Such is the increase in excitement on the last day that even though we were much earlier than we had been yet, we still had a bit of trouble getting a decent spot but got ourselves settled in well before Richard Digance came on stage.  Today is chilly so I have borrowed a woolly hat from Dave which makes me look a little like Steve Zissou!

Richard Digance
Richard was excellent as ever.  With a new album to promote, he did a lot more singing than he usually does which was a nice change.  A nice mix of comedy and some more serious songs.  Got to sing the 1000 years song again with the Michaelangelo chorus “Ceilings, stop painting bloody ceilings” which is always hilarious to those who have been before.  There was an excellent new song about celebrities “Who is Peter Andre?”  More seriously he sang again the song which had its debut last year at Cropredy comparing the England football team to our soldiers in Afghanistan and debating which are more worthy to “play for England”, makes me cry every time.

The traditional Morris ending was a bit odd this year and incorporated some “modern” dance moves which you’d have to be at least 40 years old to remember doing in the first place.  Still it had everyone down the front dancing along like maniacs before we got to get the handkerchiefs out and prance around like idiots pretending to be morris dancers.

We are not sure if Richard got engaged on stage as he told us that he had been dared by his daughter to get married and asked us whether we thought it was a good idea.  It seems that most of us said yes and he agreed.

As usual an excellent warm up and preparation for the rest of the afternoon.

The Shee
The Shee were another highlight of the festival for me.  An all female 6 piece band with lots of traditional instruments, including mandolin, fiddle, accordion and harp and some excellent singing.  Highlights included clog dancing and some super-fast and very long Gaelic singing apparently about huge trousers!  You’ve got to love a woman who plays the accordion and clog dances (although unfortunately not at the same time).

Another band whose albums are now on my wish list!

Blockheads were predictably loud and noisy.  Far too fast paced for the time of day and given the relatively calm and soothing acts who had been on before them. From the programme, it looks like they may have previously been scheduled to be on before Lau as although the running order shows the slot they actually played, the detail later on lists them later.

They were pretty dull, a feeling perhaps enhanced by the fact that we have seen them before.  Lots of other people there seemed to enjoy them though.

Lau were pretty good.  The fact that they have been described as “Quite frankly the best band in the world right now” gave them an unattainable target to aim for which unsurprisingly they did not attain.  They were very good though.  3 guys playing traditional folk tunes on traditional instruments but who are also able to rock it up a bit for some numbers too. The heavier stuff also made use of the traditional instruments which was nice and kept interest where other bands may have wandered off into generic loud rock which soon gets dull.

Lau were followed by the traditional Saturday afternoon announcements of the raffle winners and the sport (i.e football) results.  There appear to be about a million raffle winners this year and each ticket seems to have 2 numbers and a name on it making it seem like reading them out will go on until the end of the world.  Then we had to endure the football scores which every one seems so excited about.  However we did get to learn that England are now the number 1 cricket team in the world after beating India again!

Are from Ireland and played some excellent rock music.  Like Seasick Steve they seemed to have brought their own fan club along who were crammed up against the front of the stage chanting all through the performance! Unlike a number of other bands who have played rock music at this festival this year and in the past, Horslips managed to be loud and raucous without degenerating into just being noisy.  Their songs were well made and easy to follow even when being fast and loud.  Got everyone wound up and excited in time for the next act which got everyone bored and depressed (see below) another example of odd ordering of the bands this year.

Badly Drawn Boy
After Horslips, Lizzie and I had gone back to the camp site to leave some of our stuff so that we didn’t have to struggle through the crowds carrying chairs etc later so we missed part of the beginning of this set.  Since the entrance to the arena is right near the front of the stage I went quite close to the stage and listened to a few songs and got some good pictures.  I enjoyed a few of the songs and then headed back to where we had our seats.

Unfortunately by the time Lizzie got back, he had started complaining about how bad his guitar sounded and kept starting songs and then giving up and playing something else.  He even told us that he wasn’t going to play a certain song as we weren’t enthusiastic enough about it!  Eventually we were glad that he finished and no one called for an encore.  However, he “remembered” that he had a piano on stage he hadn’t played yet and came back on anyway without being invited to play another song!

In the interval before Fairport came on, we took the opportunity to wear some silly hats and pull stupid faces at each other.

Fairport Convention
As is traditional (it is their festival after all) Fairport Convention closed the festival by playing the headline slot on Saturday.  Taking a whole 3 hour slot from 9pm until midnight, greedy buggers! To be honest, apart from the first time when I saw them back in 2007, Fairport have always been a little disappointing following the mostly excellent bands who play during the rest of the festival.

This year was no exception really, they played a few of their classic songs well but nothing that you could really sing along with or dance to.  They then played the entire of their Babbacombe Lee album which took 50 minutes and was kind of interesting as I had only heard a few of the songs before but really it is the kind of thing you want to listen to in a warm cosy living room not stood in a cold dark field in rural Oxfordshire!

After they had finished with the tale of the man they could not kill, they went back to more traditional Cropredy closing songs playing Who Knows Where the Time Goes, The Ballad of Matty Groves and of course Meet on the Ledge. These songs really emphasise to me what I think is missing from Fairport’s current line up: a female vocalist.  Album recordings of these with the late Sandy Denny singing I find intensely moving and (I think in 2007) when Fairport have previously performed them with a guest female vocalist they have been exceptional live.

There are such a wealth of excellent musicians at this festival every year and I think it is disappointing that more use is not made of them in guest appearances.  They always get as many people on stage as possible for the climactic Meet on the Ledge but very rarely do they seem permitted to do any more than sway about and provide backing vocals or occasionally play guitar or fiddle.

Anyway, we all had a good time singing along and dancing to the last few songs and then it was all over and time to head back to the boat.

Plans were made to rise relatively early in the morning to get a head start on all the other people trying to take their boats along the canal as Lizzie and I really wanted to go on the traditional boat trip and also get back to Nottingham in the early evening.

Come back soon for pics of our lovely trip along the canal on Sunday.


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