The Folk Festival has never been shy about concerts in out-of-the-way locations, but Friday afternoon’s gig aboard the tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl raised the bar.
The sun was shining as a massive crowd boarded the 98m training vessel for a unique acoustic concert on the main deck.
The risk of holding an outdoor concert seemed to have paid off. While the concert could have
been moved below-decks in the event of poor weather, this would have drastically reduced
the audience numbers, and significantly affected the atmosphere. However, despite a slight
chill, the day could not have been better suited.
The first band was Italian country blues trio Veronica and the Red Wine Serenaders.
Washboard and kazoo in hand, Veronica and her band commanded attention with a short set that ranged from bluegrass to gypsy jazz-inspired numbers.
The light-hearted tone of the music suited the carnival atmosphere that had sprung up ideally.
The crowd clapped and sang-along merrily, fully into the swing of things, as Veronica and
co entertained the deck with a friendly ease.
“The next one is a song about the rain,” Veronica said. “Do you know anything about the rain
in Shetland? It doesn’t seem so today!”
One hair raising moment came when the strap on Veronica’s ukulele came loose, sending
the instrument to the deck with a sickening clatter. A gasp ran round the deck as Veronica
retrieved her ukulele, turning it round to show a nasty-looking crack on the back.
Undaunted,the band continued apace, and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
During the fairly-long intervals, many attendees took the opportunity to sample the
Norwegian soups being served by the vessel’s crew.
The Seafood soup was a popular choice, a creamy dish with fish and mussels, the delicious smell of which wafted all over the ship. The Storm soup offered heartier fare – a traditional sailor’s meal of meat and veg broth that was absolutely wonderful, especially when washed down with a refreshing can of Norwegian pilsner, Hansa.
The second act was local four-piece band Tyunes, whose set of jaunty, traditional music
kept the party spirit going. The crowd were laughing and chatting away as Tyunes set a laid-
back tone, interspersing chilled-out numbers with toe-tapping dance pieces.
The third and final act was the eight-member-strong The Chair, an Orcadian ‘supergroup’ that
rapidly ran out of room on the deck, having to stand in a tight circle surrounded by keen
music fans. Their contemporary, funky folk was a real treat, keeping the audience happy and
enthused even as the cold breeze started to set in.
The ship’s crew were dancing behind the soup-stall as The Chair wrapped up the unusual and memorable gig with a smile and a well-deserved round of raucous applause.
Despite being so different in style, all the acts had one thing in common; they were just
playing good, entertaining music, in the spirit of fun rather than high-artistry. Much like the soup, the music was warming, nourishing and extremely good value.
All the bands played with a smile and a good tune, and that was precisely what was required for a bright, sunny day aboard a tall ship.
It would perhaps have been better if the intimacy of the sets hadn’t been continually invaded by various cameramen wandering up to and in-between the musicians as they played, as if there was a crossover episode between Shetland and Hornblower being filmed.
It was distracting for the audience, and looked like it was just as distracting for the musicians, too.
Nevertheless, the concert was nothing other than a triumph, bringing together music fans of
all ages for an afternoon of good music, good food and good company, in one of the
grandest and most memorable venues the Folk Festival has ever hosted.
As the concert ended, and people began to file down the gangplank, a number of satisfied
attendees debated whether this sort of concert would become a regular feature of the folk
festival. Here’s hoping.
By Alex Garrock-Wright