The Folk Festival as it happens – latest news, reviews and gossip
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The three blonde Swedish sisters of Baskery were on their best behaviour the first two nights of the festival before they twigged on Saturday that sober professionalism is not the whole Shetland Folk Festival experience. They were still in full party mode in the British Legion this afternoon, swilling back the Guinness while regaling us with a drinking song dedicated to the winos of the Stockholm suburb where they grew up.
These girls whip up a delicious “killbilly” maelstrom, sounding at times not unlike a rocket-fuelled version of folk festival darlings Madison Violet.
Greta is a one-woman band on drums and harmonica and slide banjo with heavy metal distortion all at the same time while guitar-playing kid sister Sunniva was still feeling frisky enough to leap onto Greta’s bass drum like Freddie Mercury for added rock ‘n’ roll effect. “Makes the Dixie Chicks look like wimps!” says Priscilla, a yacht sailor from Maryland who has had the Shetland Folk Festival dates stamped in her diary for a few years now.
The all-nighters were taking their toll on young Irish trad band Morga with button accordionist Barry Brady a bit bleary in the spotlights after no sleep at all last night. But boy, are they loving their first Shetland adventure.
Last up were the wonderful Bodega with Shetlander Ross Couper on fiddle for a blistering set of tunes and great songs delivered with a panache to rival that of festival supergroup LAU. They have matured musically since their last visit and surely destined for great things.
So after all the stress with volcanoes and planes, it turns out that it is ferries that are causing the festival a few logistical challenges – especially Burravoe – but we rose to the challenge and a fantastic concert was had. In Whalsay’s case, the artistes’ bus broke down on the ferry on the way back from the concert – thankfully there was a henny party’s bus that could be stolen to transport artistes back to Lerwick and the session continued.
A gold medal to Ewen Thompson for fixing Nadine’s double bass from the Foghorn Stringband which was damaged on their flight over from the States (see earlier post).
A fantastic night was had by all at Friday night’s Inter-Tunety – the first ever musical Inter County event between Shetland and Orkney. Both Team Shetland (Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag) and Team Orkney (The Chair) put in blinders of performances – fighting to retain or regain Fair Isle. After a cheer off, the winners of leg one were declared Orkney who were obviously at a distinct advantage due to having a Shetlander in the band – Andrew Gifford (who was declared man of the match and presented with a Fair Isle ganzy).
As of Monday, Fair Isle will become Chair Isle – until the second leg can be arranged and the outcome is fully decided. (Sorry if this comes as a surprise to Fair Isle residents!)
This just in from the Folk Festival committee:
It’s too big a party to miss! Just to let folks know that the Burravoe concert is going ahead tonight as planned. The visiting artistes have left Lerwick earlier and are fired up for a great night. For people who have bought tickets that are not residents of Yell, please be advised that there will be a foot passenger only service at Toft leaving at approximately 4, 5 and 6pm into Ulsta. There will then be a Robertson’s shuttle bus from the Ulsta terminal in Yell to the Burravoe Hall for those who have bought tickets. There will be a foot passenger only service leaving Ulsta at midnight but Folk Festival artistes and crew have priority and are pre booked.
However, it is proposed that there will be an EXTRA foot passenger only ferry leaving Ulsta at 11.30 with a bus leaving from the Hall at 11.15 sharp for concert goers who are returning to the Shetland mainland and need to meet this ferry.
For those who are looking to take cars out of Yell, there will be a ferry leaving Ulsta for Vidlin at 00.45 but there will be limited availability as Festival vehicles have priority booking.
For those who would like to use the foot passenger service to Toft but have cars in Vidlin, SIC Ferries Dept have proposed to organise a bus from Toft to Vidlin.
For information on any bookings, please contact the SIC Ferries booking office on (01957) 722 259 or voicebank on (01595) 743972.
Punters were invited into the weird and wonderful world of Inge Thomson for the Shetland launch of her debut Shipwrecks & Static album at the festival club this afternoon.
She treated the audience to two tracks from the 12-track CD, which is full of endearingly eccentric touches, accompanied by accordion and a loop box to feed back her own woozy vocals, creating an atmosphere of relaxed ambience. She also dusted off Is It The Sea, the track she wrote a couple of years back for top American singer-songwriter Bonnie “Prince’” Billy.
On a side note, during the Foghorn String Band’s performance at Clickimin last night, double bassist Nadine Landy made special thanks to the Shetland luthier who came to the rescue after her prized instrument’s neck snapped during the flight over from Portland (before adding that she and the band will be found wherever there is Magners cider for the remainder of the weekend).
Thursday night’s extra concert at Clickimin – a new addition to the programme this year – saw an eclectic line-up as the festival got up and running. Standouts on the night, to this correspondent’s ears, were adventurous folk trio LAU and exponents of unadulterated American bluegrass the Foghorn String Band.
Proceedings were opened by guitar/button box combo Ian Carr and Simon Thoumine, returning to the festival 19 years after their original appearance. The pair featured on the television show Shetland Sessions back then (you can see a retro clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFMXWpF-JD0). Despite not playing together for many years – save for some practice sessions on the boat north on Wednesday – they put on a good show and were well-received.
The pace was then enlivened by LAU – who include among their number Kris Drever, a favourite among some in the Shetland Times newsroom. Their at-times frantic, adventurous and discordant rhythms rely on the sensational and unique way in which Martin Green attacks his accordion. He also provided some wry, topography-related humour and apologised for the band’s predilection for landing themselves in a “sonic nightmare”. Which is nonsense, of course. Stewarts, written by Green in tribute to his in-laws from Fair Isle, is as adventurous an eight minutes of contemporary folk music as has been written in recent years.
After the interval, Bryan Gear – accompanied on piano by Violet Tulloch – delivered his usual elegant suites of reels, jigs and slow airs drawn variously from here, Ireland, Cape Breton and elsewhere. He majors in elegant, consummately delivered slow waltzes with a set from France proving particularly arresting.
Some in the audience weren’t quite sure what to make of the next act, Indian/German outfit Ahimsa. They consist of two percussionists, a two-pronged violin and the electric guitar of Matthias Muller, whose ponytail and moustache give him at least a passing resemblance to former England goalkeeper David Seaman. The galloping percussion and inter-band mimicry on a series of extended jams was certainly interesting in places, if not quite as captivating as it was intended to be.
Closing the night were Portland’s five-piece Foghorn String Band – consisting of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, double bass and vocals – and their intoxicating brand of old-time Mid-Western string band music. In time-honoured fashion, the group all crowded around a solitary microphone and reeled off a series of high-octane tunes and songs drawn primarily from the Appalachian mountains to the evident delight of the audience, drawing the odd whoop and holler here and there to provide a suitable finish to the evening’s proceedings.
First up after the opening concert were The Singing Kettle, the slick, professional children’s entertainers who also happen to be very adept at getting the adults to join in too! It was a full house, this one, at Clickimin at teatime yesterday.
Cilla Fisher, Artie Trezise, Kevin MacLeod and Gary Coupland put on a fun, engaging show that made everyone feel at home and encouraged lots of participation. Some lucky ones were invited up on to the stage to sing along. Perhaps inevitably, they ended with the immortal You Canna Shove Your Granny Off a Bus.
It lasted for an hour, the perfect length for young ones. The good news is they are coming back in October with their themed Pirate Show.
After all the preparations and sleepless nights on the part of the organisers, made restless by the prospect of bands’ travel plans being disrupted by the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland which cleared in plenty of time, the 30th Shetland Folk Festival kicked off earlier today with the customary opening concert.
If Shetland culture is embodied in anybody, it is in Mary Blance and she performed the metaphorical curtain-raising at Islesburgh.
Committee member Mhari Pottinger said: “It’s absolutely brilliant to have the 30th Folk Festival under way. All artists and instruments are here and I can’t wait for the party to begin.”
Shetland Times staff and contributors will be blogging here throughout the weekend, offering up short reviews, stories and bits o’ bruck to give a flavour of this milestone event. Feel free to join in by emailing email@example.com or texting 07873 258123.