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Southsea Folk Festival 2009
A Review Of The Festival 2001
A Review Of The Festival 2002
A Review Of The Festival 2003
A Review Of The Festival 2004
A Review Of The Festival 2005
A Review Of The Festival 2006
A Review Of The Festival 2007
A Review Of The Festival 2008
A Review Of The Festival 2009


The Second Southsea Folk And Roots Festival
South Parade Pier
August 26 - 1 Sept 2002

Here is a review of 2002 written by the spider himself.

Southsea Folk & Roots Festival 2002 A Review

What a long strange trip it's been, as The Grateful Dead once put it....

This year's festival more than doubled the days of last year's Festival, with three days and seven evenings of music, including two days of dance.

August Bank Holiday Monday was blues day. During the day Claude Bourbon, Andy Broad's Rhythm Kings, and Apicella appeared, each performing a couple of very different sets apiece. Claude gave us a great set of acoustic blues, with his trademark footstomping and joyous whoops thrown in for good measure augmenting a breathtaking virtuosity on the guitar. The Rhythm Kings, fronted by Andy Broad, (who also worked his socks off all week as a festival steward) gave us a fine set of Chicago blues, whilst Apicella's good time happy blues kept the smiles on the faces of the afficianados and the curious who had ventured onto the Pier.

The blues workshops, hosted by members of The Bill Thomas Band, suffered a set back when special guest Johnny Mars, who was to have hosted the harmonica workshop, didn't show up due to personal reasons. However, "Texas" Bill Thomas, who was hosting the guitar workshop is no slouch on the harmonica, and performed a "double shift" in the workshop, ensuring that no-one went home without learning something! The Bill Thomas Band also performed a stunning set in the evening in The Gaiety Bar. In the Albert Tavern that night Andrew Perry stepped in to the breach to cover for The Radio Ramblers, who broke up shortly after the Festival programme was printed! Andrew did a lovely set of "new country" material, complemented T.J . Holandes' classy and well chosen set of country style songs. Pete Quin's voice and guitar work just gets better and better, and his songs are crafted in a wonderfully mellow style. After a prologed absence from the folk scene it's great to see him back in harness again, this man deserves to be heard "Second Time Around" , to quote the title of one of his recent self penned CD's.

Local Celtic heroes Reaver's Rant appeared in the Pyramids that night, with their usual following providing an enthusiastic audience, and performed a set as high on quality and energy as we've come to expect of them.

Tuesday was billed as "Late night mayhem!" And so it was, when The Amazing Mr. Smith opened the proceedings for top of the bill John Otway. It's hard to describe The Amazing Mr Smith's act... I'll try - how about Buddy Holly on acid meets Magnus Pyke and they decide to make a whole selection of musical instruments from condoms and the contents of a recycling bin? Get the picture? I thought not - forget it, you'll just have to go and see the man for yourself. Even the delightfully eccentric John Otway sat through Mr Smith's act in total disbelief muttering "How on earth am I going to follow that?" But follow it he did, with his old hit and the one destined to be the new hit- it charted at number nine in October! A wonderully crazy night. Otway is back at South Parade Pier on February 14th with his band for a Valentines Night Massacre, which should be great fun.

Worker's Playtime were at the Pyramids, with Denis, Francis, Nick and Tony in great form. The band have broken up now, they did their last two gigs at the City Bar in Portsmouth in October. They'll be missed.

Wednesday found Ron Trueman-Border opening for Ralph McTell. Not many performers could have pulled it off so well as Ron, the man is a superb singer songwriter, and Ralph himself was very complimentary to Ron after the show. Ralph performed one long set of excellent material, which was very well received (including the obligatory "Streets Of London") and afterwards spent time chatting to the audience and signing autographs much to everyone's delight.

The Werewolves of London did a set of country blues material in the Pyramids Centre that night which I heard was very enjoyable, as is to be expected from any band featuring Tony Farinha and Laurie McVay.

The Bullfrog Blues Club hosted their usual Thursday night event; the fabulous Aynsley Lister Band pulled out all the stops. Aynsley's a great favourite in the Portsmouth area, which was evident from a excellent turnout. Aynsley's forging ahead in the blues world, and is now touring regularly on the Continent and in the U.S.A. . This young powerhouse guitarist and singer songwriter just oozes talent, and the Southsea audience loved him.

Folk rock was catered for at The Pyramids Centre when The Carla Hendricks Band performed the whole of Fairport Convention's classic "Liege & Lief" - a bold choice which by all accounts went down very well. Special guest Dan Ogus, who was also stewarding the week's events, did a set including some Richard Thompson material, the perfect accompaniment to a night of Fairport's music!

Friday kicked off in the Gaiety, when Sussex based celtic band Legacy performed the storming set we've come to expect of them. Clare Sanders' flute was perfectly underpinned by the fiddle prowess of Tim Cotterell, and held together by the powerhouse rhythm section of Paul Burgess on guitar and Mal Simms on bodhran. Legacy have been playing and recording in Ireland during the past year, and their material and performance gets stronger and more vital every time I see them. I first saw Mary Jane support Blue Horses at The Brook at Southampton, and they held their own admirably in such exalted company. Their psychedelic roots often bubbled to the surface during their performance, to the delight of the audience. In particular, Jo Quinn has a delightful stage presence and a voice to match. Singer songwriter and multi instumentalist Jon Brindley, Wigan's finest, performed an excellent set, the highlight for me being what I would say was the definitive version of "The Spanish Lady". We're lucky that Jon often makes the trek down to the deep south, so if you see this man advertised as appearing at your local folk club don't miss him!

Friday night Festival goers were spoilt for choice, as next door in the Albert Tavern Pete Quin, Rattling Blue and Karl Dallas all performed. Rattling Blue are well known around the cafe bars of London, an intriguing and eclectic outfit headed by the band's songwriter Simon Stewart. Their Dylanesesque ("Desire" period!) songs are perfectly complemented by songs that just cry out to be heard in some smokey bar on the left bank of the Seine. Pete Quin performed his second excellent set of the Festival, and Karl Dallas, the "grand old man" of folk & rock journalism performed a mixture of conversation, songs, poems and stories, including some original material.

Two Doghouses appeared in the Pyramids that evening, unfortunately the management of the Pyramids Centre moved Friday's late night festival club to the back bar from the "Frog On The Front" in order to promote a karoake night at the eleventh hour, but as we weren't paying for the venue we weren't in much of a a position to argue! Festival favourites Chunky & Badger 's Doghouse appeared after another Doghouse, which Chunky & Badger described in "Folk On Tap" as "a heavy blues rock band with a leather clad following" . Unusual for a folk festival? Well... as it was to be a late night Festival club, we didn't need the Pyramids until after the Pier events had finished. The Pyramids management weren't willing to open the bar late at night and remain closed before, so Doghouse-the-rock-band were asked to do a gig. Although it was never intended to be a folk event, Doghouse-the-rock-band and many of their entourage are, despite appearances, keen folkies, and avid followers of Father Jack and John Otway in particular, and attended many of the folk Festival events as paying customers! Anyway, that's by the by, and I'm told both Doghouses delivered enjoyable sets, Doghouse-the-rock-band telling me next day how much they'd enjoyed Chunky-and-Badger's-Doghouse set!

Saturday saw the second daytime event, when Karl Dallas and Pete Quin appeared once more, together with The Greenhill Boys, J.C. and Angelina Grimshaw, Hard Times String Band and Emily Slade.

The Greenhill Boys are a bluegrass band from Sussex, and very good they are too. A perfect foil for the Hard Times String Band, a similar but different style of music. Many people confuse the two styles, but when you hear them together, the nuances are much easier to pick up. The highlight for me was Andy James of Hard Times String Band giving the first outing of his homemade mountain banjo, which he made from a 99p tin of Lidl's biscuits and an old guitar neck. Sweet!

I first heard J.C. & Angelina Grimshaw perform at the Isle Of Wight Folk & Roots Festival this year, and is was obvious to me that they had to be be booked for Southsea. Another band that are difficult to pigeonhole, but isn't that always the strength of a good band? They played blues, jazz, ballads, Cajun, Mexican and Hawaiian tunes, traditional Irish and English reels, with J.C. playing on guitars, slide and mandolin whilst Angelina's smokey voice wrapped itself eloquently around every song. Emily Slade rounded off proceedings in her usual inimitable style, this was her second year at the Festival, and later in the evening she opened for Show Of Hands in The Gaiety. with another wonderful set. Panic set in when we learned that Phil Beer's vehicle had borken down in Dorset , and was anxiously waiting for the A.A. to turn out. He was sure he wouldn't be there by soundcheck time, and it was doubtful whether he's get there by showtime. And he had the Show Of Hands P.A. with him.....Hero of the hour was Pete Quin, who stepped into the breach by setting up his own P.A in the Gaiety, which he'd used in the Albert that afternoon. The gods were smiling on us, and Phil turned up minutes before showtime, and what a show! There's nothing left to say about Phil & Steve, all the superlatives have been used. A magical night.

Sunday afternoon in The Albert saw another great afternoon's entertainment. Ben Williams' set was an absolute eye opener, I'd seen him perform at Littlehampton on a couple of occasions, but his performance at Southsea was a delight. It's like that old story of Robert Johnson going down to the crossroads to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for the gift of becoming a superb guitar player. After seeing Ben at Southsea I'm convinced that the crossroads is just off the Bognor bypass.....

Shep Woolley did a very enjoyable set, even throwing in a couple of Bob Dylan songs to keep me happy! Described quite accurately as " a young Fairport", Arlen pulled a brilliant set out of the bag, belying their years. No wonder they've been in demand for festivals this year, playing the Larmer Tree and The Isle Of Wight, as well as having their CD played over the P.A. as interval music at Cropredy! They're off to the south of France in November to perform at a festival near St. Tropez. Watch this band, they're going places.

Father Jack were ...Father Jack! What can I say in all modestly as I'm in this band? Well, I could say that the whole ethic of the band is to give the audience as much pleasure as we feel when we play - it's a fun band. The Pogues with slightly less slurred vocals is probably the best description. What I can say is that the musicianship in the band is consistently high (spoken like a true spoons player...), and so is the drink level, and as long as the audience drink as much as we do we all all have a good time!

Colvin Quarmby have been busy this year, as members of The Phil Beer Band and in their own right. They did a great set at Cropredy this year in a pub garden outside the main festival arena that kept many people (including me) away from the main arena until after their set finished! They were the perfect band to finish of the the day's event at Southsea, front man Nick Quarmby's enthusiasm and sense of fun is truly infectious, and the song lyrics are witty and incisive. It's impossible to watch this band without a grin splitting your face from ear to ear. Hopefully 2003 will be the year they catapult into the big time.

There were folk workshops on Sunday afternoon too, given by Clare (flute), Mal (bodhran) & Tim (fiddle) from Legacy, who were joined by Ben Paley (guitar). After the workshops they gave a short early evening concert, which was unfortunately not as well attended as it could have been, as many people were preparing themselves for the grand finale of the Festival, Norma Waterson & Martin Carthy at The Square Tower.

The Square Tower is a wonderful place to perform a concert. It's not usually used for music events, just the occasional wedding, but it just cries out to be used for acoustic music. It holds just a hundred people, and is a big stone structure which is part of the old sea wall defences of Old Portsmouth. The concert was billed as totally unamplified, and had sold out well in advance. I was pleasantly surprised when Chris Parkinson, the virtuoso box player, turned up with Martin & Norma to play the concert. And what a concert it was. The acoustic and the surroundings were absolutely spot on, the vocals soared and Martin's guitar and Chris' box shone through. The highlight for me was Norma's version of The Grateful Dead's "Black Muddy River" - The Dead's Bob Weir was right - "listening to Norma Waterson is like being dipped in warm chocolate".

The last two events of the Festival at the Pier and The Pyramids were chaotic to say the least. Just before I'd rushed off for the Norma Waterson & Martin Carthy concert at The Square Tower I was concerned that Pronghorn, the main band for the Pier event that evening, hadn't turned up - with less than 40 minutes to go before the public were let in. A phone call to a band member's mobile promised they were on their way, but when I asked them how they were going to find time to set up their P.A I was told that they wanted me to supply one, contrary to what had been previously arranged. They were reminded in no uncertain terms of what the arrangements had been, and reluctantly admitted that they had in fact got a P.A. with them. I rushed off to The Square Tower, leaving Lord Gnome, my trusty right hand man, to liaise with them on their arrival. Chunky & Badger were to be supporting Pronghorn, and afterwards their support slot they were due to move on to the Pyramids to play the late spot. After the Square Tower concert, I settled Martin, Norma and Chris Parkinson into an Indian restaurant and shot off to see Chunky and Badger at the Pyramids. On my arrival I found that the bar had closed - despite the management's assurance that we could have the bar open until midnight. Naturally the chaps were unhappy. Many people who had come to see Chunky and Badger, who were following North Atlantic Drift's inaugural gig, had asked for their money back and drifted off. Not an ideal state of affairs at all! However, the most surprising news was Chunky & Badger telling me that Pronghorn had refused to let them use their P.A. during their earlier support slot at the Pier! I'd turned my mobile off during the Square Tower concert (obviously) and when I turned it back on again found a series of messages from Lord Gnome asking me to urgently return to The Pier. When I got there I found Pronghorn moaning that they wanted more money and weren't leaving until they got it. . They'd been booked on a generous "door split" arrangement, and still weren't happy with their cut, although it was as promised, and a fairly reasonable wage. I asked them why they wouldn't let Chunky & Badger use thier P.A. and was told "No, they didn't want to use it". By now I was heartliy sick of the whole conversation, so I thrust some more money in their mitts, telling that's the best I could do, and they left. Apparently they performed a blindingly good set, but I'm afraid you won't find Pronghorn playing Southsea Folk & Roots Festival next year - or any year for that matter. Chunky and Badger however, will always be welcome! The lesson to be learned is "A good attitude wins every time".

The Festival was also well served by free fringe events not run by the Festival, there were folk and blues sessions and impromptu gigs in local pubs by both Festival performers and others who justed wanted to share in the experience!

The Association of Portsmouth Traditional Dance Teams arranged a great two days of dance along the seafront. Alton Morris, Arrowhead Morris, Boghoppers and Bushbeaters, Chequered Flag, Devil's Jumps clog group, Hobo’s Morris, Island Cloggies, Jacqueline Jukes School of Irish Dancing, Knickerbocker Glory, Mary Rose and Royal George, Mayflower Morris, New Forest Medlars, Quayside Cloggies, Red Stags Morris, Sarum Morris, Southsea Reel Club, Southern Lights, Southsea Belles, Spank The Planks, Tricolex Morris and Wickham Morris were all sceduled to dance over the weekend, but unfortunately a couple of the sides had to drop out for various reasons.

On the whole, the Festival was a success, and we escaped without too much stress! However lessons have been learned, and the Festival will be a little more compact next year, over fewer days with fewer venues, but maintaining the quality of the acts. Watch this space! Sincere thanks are due to the stewards who did it for the love of the music (and the occasionasl dodgy sandwich or warm can of beer or cider) and the commitee, who all worked exceptionally hard, especially in their efforts to keep me "clear focussed all around", to quote Bob Dylan. See you next year!

John Roberts


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