Seth Lakeman makes folk cool. And, closing Ely’s
sun-drenched folk festival, his band was hot in every way.
One hit in, there is a cheer of pop-style recognition as the front row girls leap onto the sports-turf’s improvised mosh pit with the greyheads who remember the Summer of Love the first time around.
At this family-friendly weekend where artist and punter camp side by side and share the fun of the fares – merchandise, Cambridgeshire real ale; Caribbean, Northumbrian, Welsh food tents – Lakeman is the only act slightly removed by his fame.
Even the sublime Karine Polewart moves through the fairs smiling and chatting. But Lakeman’s is still an earthy kind of ‘pop’ – folk tales, sea ballads and Cornish miner elegies sung true, pitched above a foot-stomping fiddle somehow played at the same time and driven by a band who really know how to play.
Virtuosity worn lightly, and youthful zest were likewise hallmarks of the thunderous Saturday night set conjured from punk-frenzied Celtic-cum-classical crescendos of instrumental juggernaut by the veritable football team of talent that is Treacherous Orchestra, wielding Celtic strings like claymores, dressed as punks, Biggles, mourners and the Artful Dodger and with ferocious Scots voices yelling barely-comprehensible joyousness – ‘this is music to move around to.’
We were warned they would be very loud. They were.
On Sunday afternoon, singer-songwriter Lucy Ward, one of many Geordie voices, riveted a packed Marquee’s attention just as surely on her own, filling the stage with a larger-than-life personality and a heart to match.
And amid all the bottled-water waving youth, seasoned talents like John Tams’ Home Service, Adrian Nation State of the Union and Festival chairman Andy Wall reminded us these young hopefuls have honoured counter-cultural forebears.
Among the mediaeval tents, in sight of Ely Cathedral, we really did revisit the Summer of Love – only this time crime-free, drug-free, with responsible waste policies and better toilets.