Lunar Festival

With solar power juicing the Main Stage it was becoming increasingly apparent that hydro would a more probable, though unwelcome, alternative give the appearance of a river in the main arena sometime during Sunday evening. Just alongside the ‘Riverman Bar’ tent, actually. And, how they chortled at the irony of that. You have to praise the four day & night campers because it was damnably wet and brass-monkey cold. A sunny Monday made up for it though. The setting, at Umberslade Farm, whose collaboration and involvement with the event was crucial, was a delight. The drive down the tree-lined avenue, beneath the elliptical arched railway with dangling logo crescent moon was enchanting. So, here’s some snap-shots of the weekend’s events at Lunar Festival 2012.

We jump to an overcast late Saturday morning in the ‘Riverman Bar’ where a somewhat delicate brained Ben Calvert opens his laconic set of dreamy musings and laconic vignettes. For those in the know, he sang a gentle number referencing the Kings Heath monkey-man (news on him anyone, word was he’d been badly beaten-up?) As with many artist he featured a Nick Drake cover, ‘Clothes of Sand’ Drake’s grave being but half a mile from the site. Over the weekend it was fascinating to hear how many alternative guitar tunings artists adopted with most of them graciously conceding they hadn’t a clue how Drake actually did it.

Lunar Festival

On Main Stage Joe Topping’s poignant, anecdotal meanderings and apposite social observations chimed to his dexterous picking on resonator slide guitar with a voice that damned the rain to dare show its face. (For the enthusiasts who know their Davy Graham and Leo Kottke, you’ll get the idea). His Nick Drake cover of choice was the haunting ‘From The Morning’. A poignant hush was left hanging in the air. Boat To Row bristled with their youthful exuberance and annoyingly brilliant musicianship with fiddles, French horns and banjo all a-jig with Celtic hoe-down happiness. Singer, Michael King soloed with magisterial guitar playing on Drake’s ‘Fly’. King and bassist Ben then legged it over to the ‘Riverman Bar’ as backing band to Andy Oliveri whose confessional lyricism and little symphonies of fragile melody endeared him as all that’s fine with the contemporary Folk scene. Quite how Goodnight Lenin had the energy to stay awake, let alone blast the Main Stage away we’d best not dwell on! John Fell and crew had been working ludicrously long hours setting-up and coordinating the festival. Sunday punters persevered despite the evil weather but many camper families had to call it a day. What kind of a day specifically is unprintable. As are my feelings about missing the likes of Scott Matthews, Fionn Regan and numerous others.

Lunar Festival

It’s a happy sunny Monday lunch-time that sees the impossibly young and talented harmony girl duo, Cannon Street take to the Main Stage. Nervous as hell but with poised confidence they beguiled an oh so short half hour with their crystal pitched harmonies and engaging counterpoint, insightful lyrics and perceptive imagery. Story is they were stewards at last years’ MOFO and blagged their way backstage for an un-refuseable on-the-spot audition.

Glaswegian band, Two Wings, let fly with their distinctive three part harmonies, Celtic beat and chilled-out psychedelic Folk. Some devilishly cool Richard Thompson/Peter Green/Carlos Santana guitars and ghostly whispers of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s tortured soul. Intriguing stuff.

Lunar Festival

A straw strewn soggy soaked Riverman Bar welcomed for Four Quartets (aka Rob Sharples, who is haunted by an on-line doppleganger namesake Karaoke performer). And, any artist who can present an impassioned short set in wellies and include ‘hoisted with your own petard’ (Hamlet) in his lyrics is worthy of further perusal. Charming Drake cover with ‘A Place To Be’.

The Bonfire Radicals brought their infectious barn-storming medieval troubadour mayhem where English Folk is seduced by Arabic tonality and Balkan-Billy meets Swedish Polka. That about covers it. They did the Drake with ‘Know’ to a sort of pizzicato raga swing. Enchanting.

Lunar Festival

Back at Riverman, Chris Tye & Band challenged fate by singing ‘Blue Blue Sun’ which as a form of lullaby could’ve been on ‘Pet Sounds’. Chris Tye has been one of the most under-rated artists to gig the Birmingham scene these past years and you can ameliorate this neglectful criminality by getting your ears round his newly released EP ‘Matchbox Stand’. ‘Poor Boy’ was their chosen Nick Drake cover done to a deliciously groovy salsa.

Lunar Festival

Dan Whitehouse’s pedal-steel guitar, double-bass and Cajun beat-box gentle reflective folk charmed the cooling night as did the Brodie Jackson & The Arbour’s magical use of cello and tuned bell-plates – see one and you’ll want one. Try their deliciously contrarily titled album ‘Bitter Lullabies’. Their Nick Drake cover was an evocative ‘Way To Blue’. Old Dance School chased the Sun below the horizon with their furious fiddles, tumultuous trumpets and raucous recorders in contrast to an earlier lazy-day smooth soothing jazz-lite set from Rachel Semanni.

Lunar Festival

Wafts of Hawkwinds’s solar winds billowing the sails of Wooden Shjips with Tindersticks space-drones reaching the campfire could only mean it’s time for Golden Glass’ retro psychedelic grooves.

Lunar Festival

Closing the Main Stage Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s church-mouse breathy whispers and unaffected modesty charmed the faithful and as an extra bonus a firework display erupted over Tanworth village. It’s late, it’s damnably cold but nothing to dampen The Dirty Old Folkers closing the festival with their inimitable Punk/Folk lunacy, cabaret protest, dancing with Death and fiddling with a panda.

A great weekend, marred in part by atrocious weather. Perhaps Four nights might have been a bit too much for some to contemplate with Moseley Funk coming at the end of the month. Credit for all involved and it’s worthy of note that many acts played for just beer-vouchers and a nettle samosa.

Lunar Festival

Lunar Festival review and photos by John Kennedy

3 Responses to “Lunar Festival @ Tanworth-In-Arden, UK – Jubilee Weekend, 1st – 4th June 2012”

  1. Gig Reviews | Gig Photography | Interviews | Competitions from Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Admiral Fallow + The Chris Tye Band + One Sixth Of Tommy @ The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 31st May 2012 Says:

    […] numbers from the afore-mentioned EP. No doubt honing them (as if needed!) ready for the weekend’s Lunar Festival gig. ‘New York’ lead in with a plaintive minor-key bass line complimented by a subtle C&W […]

  2. David Jenkins-Handy Says:

    As a drenched endurance camper at the Lunar festival (we camped Friday to Monday, only leaving at the very end)I would add that the line up was glorious: interesting, varied and innovative. Opening with charming eccentricities on Friday night, the festival fulfilled every expectation: unfortunately, this included the weather. Other outstanding acts included Bridie Jackson and arbour, who provided haunting, plangent, notes filled with delightful melancholy sweetness, while the playful astringent lyrics of Telling the Bees were generously pithy and crammed with wit and intelligence.

  3. John Kennedy Says:

    Dear David, your comments are most apposite. As a fair-weather festival wuss your long weekend stoicism puts me to shame! Yes, Bridie Jackson’s set was captivating and the album is a utter treat.

    There were many still clearing the site well in to Tuesday afternoon. Let’s hope the event carries on next year. Photographer, Richard Shakespeare has posted many wonderful snaps, I think they maybe on Flicker and his Facebook site. Well worth looking in to. Praying for clement weather at Green Man this August!


    John Kennedy.

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