Category Archives: Review

Live At Leeds Review

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Now in its 12th year, multi-venue inner city festival Live at Leeds once again brought an array of musical wonderment to the Northern metropolis on Saturday 5th May. With an abundance of genres and venues to choose from, we headed out to check out what this year’s offering had in store.

The Vaccines at Live At Leeds – photo credit Andrew Benge

Heir – 12pm – Leeds Beckett SU 2

We began our festival with local lads Heir. As usual, frontman Tom Hammond’s vocals are totally belting, and the indie-pop bunch pay like their lives depend on it. With catchy, 80s synth pop hooks and tender moments to boot, this Live at Leeds regulars go down an absolute treat as the opening act.

 

Martha Phillips – 2.45pm – The Wardrobe Bar

Next, we trek down to The Wardrobe for an acoustic set by Elephant Trees songstress Martha Phillips. Her eclectic mix of covers and original tracks captivates the entire room. Her version of Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman is exemplary, and her usage of loop pedals for harmonies brings something fresh and exciting to the plate. She is definitely one to watch in the future.

 

THE RPMs – 5pm – Too Many Blogs stage, Nation of Shopkeepers

Brighton boys THE RPMs completely blow the roof off of the swelteringly hot Nation of Shopkeepers. Their happy-go-lucky style is a perfect match for the slightly inebriated crowd, and frontman Jack Valero holds them in the palm of his hand, even enticing several people up to have a bit of a dance. Perfect mid-afternoon listening.

 

Cassia – 6.15pm – Dr Martens Stage, The Wardrobe

Calypso-flavoured rockers Cassia are up next at The Wardrobe, and their sultry surfer rock vibes are a match made in heaven with the exotic weather just metres outdoors. Hit single 100 Times Over generates a wonderful atmosphere in the room; wonderfully chilled out listening for such a beautiful sunny day!

 

The Magic Gang – 7.15pm – Leeds Festival Stage, O2 Academy

The last band we catch at Live at Leeds are The Magic Gang. We spend quite the while queuing outside the venue, to be finally let in (but only to the balcony area), where there were that many people all around the upper level, we could barely catch a glimpse of the group. Their set sounds absolutely fantastic nonetheless, with indie-pop riffs to boot, delighting the completely packed out crowd.

Overall, unfortunately Live at Leeds was more of a fizzle than a bang for us this year. I’m certain the incredibly warm weather didn’t help matters – venues were almost unbearable in the heat if they came close to reaching full capacity. Nevertheless, the acts we did catch played INCREDIBLY well, therefore that is not what is it fault, and it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly was missing. With all being said and done, Live at Leeds is a brilliant festival showcasing a perfect mix of new music and old favourites, and it’s one we hope sticks around for the foreseeable future.

Live Review: Interrobang, Voodoo Vali & Jamie Ferguson @ Jimmy’s, Manchester

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A rainy Monday night in Manchester brings a mixture of new talent and heritage to Jimmy’s. First up was solo guitarist Jamie Ferguson, bringing beautiful percussive acoustic guitar melodies. His set is thoroughly enjoyable; the balance between chat and track is just right, and the mix of humour and serious talking points adds to the ambient atmosphere. He announced mid-set that he has a headline show coming up at this very venue on the 2nd May, which is thoroughly impressive considering he’s the first on stage tonight.

Next up were local lads Voodoo Vali. Their dirty, funk/punk sound is a stark contrast to the soothing acoustic jams of Ferguson, but this simply showcases the eclectic offerings of Manchester Mid-Week Music Club, who hosted the gig. Their set was slightly plagued by a few technical issues (namely frontman Nathan Wilson breaking TWO strings, leading Interrobang’s Stephen Griffin to step in as the saviour and bestow a replacement). This didn’t, however, take away from the sheer energy and fantastic playing showcased by the trio.

Headliners Interrobang‽ were an absolute sight to behold. Their set began with lead singer Dunstan Bruce enters from the top of a staircase leading into the venue, speaking through a megaphone on his descent to the stage. Highlights of the performance included in Mad as Hell, in which Bruce left the stage once again and wandered around the crowd, shouting ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna’ take this, anymore,’ *cue massively bewildered looks from the crowd*.

Photo credit: Ruby Price

Similarly, in Breathe, where he held aloft a placard reading the lyrics ‘Unrest is progress, contentment, death,’ words which pretty much sum up the group and their ethos. The set is littered with euphonically pleasing sound loops, adding something unique and original to their already fascinating show.

Interrobang‽ are bring something incredibly refreshing to a music scene arguably oversaturated with people with nothing much to say; discussing topics of ageing and everything that comes with it, keeping relevant and simply wanting to make a difference, which as well as the music is more than enough to earn my respect.

Album Review: Interrobang (Self Titled)

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Hailing from a combination of both Brighton and Leeds, Interrobang consist of former Chumbawamba (of Tubthumbing fame) members, frontman Dunstan Bruce and drummer Harry Hamer. Joining forces to make a formidable trio with Stephen Griffin (ex-Regular Fries guitarist). Formed in 2012, the band have nurtured their current catalogue of music through a string of live performances. But now, they are set  to finally release their long-awaited 14-song-strong debut album. With lyrics littered with comic pop-culture references, heartfelt personal accounts and political commentary, it’s hard not to get invested in these short-lived masterpieces.

The album’s opener basically states the feelings of Bruce as plain as day; the spoken words resonate deeply with the listener, especially when he passionately states, “I’ve still got something to say, I don’t want to fade away.” Asking for A Friend is a kind of self-deprecating lament on feelings of turning 50, but rather than a mournful ballad, its humorous tone keeps the listener invested, as well as the storytelling skills which Bruce has mastered so eloquently on this record, which continue into protest anthems Are You Ready, People? and Mad as Hell.

As well as humour, tender moments are still predominantly featured, especially in Do You Remember, a sad tale focused on the loss of Bruce’s father, and him still trying to dissect their relationship. In addition, Based on A True Story finds the frontman considering his own mortality, stating that he’s “not scared to admit that he thinks of his own obituary.”

Hamer’s simple, punchy drum tracks keep the songs moving at a quick pace through the entirety of the album, and Griffin’s perfect, jangling Who-esque guitar tone strums the exact chords your ear wants to hear.

The offering ends with the wonderful, catchy Am I Invisible Yet? With a cheeky nod to The Who with the lyric, “more and more I’m talking about my generation.” A perfect conclusion to this rollercoaster ride of emotion.

Interrobang are offering themselves up as the voice of the lost era of punk, still ever-present in this fantastic 14-track smash, hopefully appealing to a new generation of kids who just want to say something, and ultimately make a difference in the world. 8/10

 

Catch interrobang?! on tour.

Check out their Facebook.

Visit their website.

Pre-order the album at: www.allthemadmen.co.uk

Album Review: Erasure – World Beyond

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Erasure are probably best known for their 80s heyday of flamboyant dance numbers, most notably their super-smash hit ‘A Little Respect’. But now, the synth pop duo, comprising of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke have taken their most recent album, 2017’s World Be Gone, and completely turned it on its head to release something completely experimental and different.

World Beyond sees the pair team up with Belgian post-classical musicians Echo Collective to give their usual 80s dance bops a new, eclectic edge which sounds eons apart from the original recordings of these tracks.

Harmonic strings and heartfelt delivery replaces their usual bravado-littered electro-pop sound. Nevertheless, Bell’s unmistakable vocals drag you back to the realisation that these are still Erasure’s original compositions.

The album’s lead single Still, It’s Not Over is a beautiful standout track on this offering; it could easily be the emotional crescendo of a west end musical and wouldn’t massively stand out from the rest of the soundtrack.

However, this unfortunately is also this album’s slight downfall – at times, it’s all a bit TOO dramatic. For those not particularly into the slow, ballad-esque lamenting style of music that comes across here, this will not be a pleasant listen. But, for those who can appreciate a classical reworking of an originally synth record, it will be a dream to the ears.

Some of the reworked tracks work better than others. The contributions of Echo Collective bring a new sparkle to before unnoticed gems. Songs like Be Careful What You Wish for and Love You to The Sky definitely benefit from the new emotive piano and strings melodies. Whereas A Bitter Parting becomes a little too akin to a jolly jamboree that could be sung on a trip out to sea.

Overall, in parts, World Beyond hits just the right sweet spot, and Erasure should be very proud that their decade spanning career still delivers, with new creativity for fans to enjoy. It’s clear that they’re still a hit, with their current tour sold out across every single date. Bell and Clarke should be so impressed with this most recent release. 6/10

 

Live Review: Bang Bang Romeo & The Wholls @ The Harley, Sheffield

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A packed-out Harley plays host to some of the hottest up and coming UK bands currently on the music scene on this icy Friday night, though the weather certainly doesn’t chill the atmosphere inside.

First up are Sheffield locals Idle Ross, their frontman looking slightly like an off-kilter Liam Gallagher tribute. Besides that, the group stress how honoured they are to be playing with the other bands on the line-up, which is very endearing, and warms the crowd to them almost immediately. Their sound is simplistic, but nevertheless enjoyable (think if Oasis and Arctic Monkeys made some kind of weird supergroup), and they get the crowd suitably warmed up.

Next on the stage are The Wholls. Frontman Tordy Cocchiarella is a breath of fresh air, dressed sharply in a suit jacket; his charming Bedford accent shining through every note he sings. It’s clear to see why The Wholls have received rave review after rave review – their live show is electric. Passion oozes from the stage; an absolute delight to witness.

The crowd gets particularly excitable during hits X21 and Roll Out, but it’s their cover of Gossip’s Standing in the Way of Control which generates the most energy in the set. Guitarist Santina Cocchiarella’s screaming guitar licks are perfectly suited to bassist Joe Stevenson and drummer Daniel De Feo’s airtight rhythm section; these guys are on a higher level than many of their alt-rock contemporaries, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on many festival line-ups this Summer.

Bang Bang Romeo are hard to sum up in a review, purely because they are nothing short of incredible. Lead singer Anastasia Walker is one of the best female rock vocalists of this new-age generation. As soon as she storms onto the stage in a blue fluffy jacket with accompanying stripes (which wouldn’t look out of place on a children’s TV show – in the best way possible), it’s clear that she and bandmates, Ross Cameron (guitar) and Richard Gartland (drums), mean business.

Much like The Wholls, the cover they chose to attempt was definitely the highlight of the night. Their slightly heavier version of Radiohead’s Creep is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with Anastasia’s vocal performance again capturing the attention of everyone in their room – hers is a voice that demands to be heard, and there’s no complaints to be heard from the bustling hordes in front of her.

As the night draws to a close, Bang Bang Romeo bring the slightly inebriated crowd practically to their knees, begging for an encore. They happily oblige with slow jam Johannesburg, which simply displays the pure variety they’re capable of with their genre-spanning repertoire.

This entire night showcases the sheer drive and determination of smaller bands having the ability to engage the attention of the masses. With Bang Bang Romeo heading to the states in the near future to record their debut album, and The Wholls embarking on a huge UK-wide tour in March, it just shows how hard work and having something unique and different can really make a difference.

Live Review: The Wandering Hearts @ Coffee House Sessions – 8.11.2017

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The Wandering Hearts, London’s rapidly-rising country-pop four piece, really do bring a new dynamic to their music in a live setting. The sound is stripped back, but not to the point of being dull. Tim provides a stomping pulse on his little kick drum while his rhythmic guitar gallops along, and the chime of Chess’ mandolin is sparse but effective.

The vocal harmonies which define the band’s signature sound are lush as ever. They rise and fall with the songs, building slowly before dropping away softly. The whole thing is very intimate, and the cottony vocals in particular feel like a cushion around your head, even in the noisy cafeteria where they performed their short-but-sweet set.

The country-pop genre may be full of sound-alikes, but the Wandering Hearts certainly bring something new to the table.

Stray Weather – Ever Endeavour Review

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When even the press release is unsure of how to describe the Leeds-based, four-piece Stray Weather, how am I supposed to describe their second EP, Ever Endeavour? Am I supposed to use ‘alternative alternative’ or ‘electopock’? I think it’s fair to say that Stray Weather are eclectic enough to defy description and it’s reflected in the four tracks found on Ever Endeavour.

Starting the EP is the lead single Oh Reflection. Built around a developing motif and the repeated phrase “oh reflection”, the song just builds and builds until lead vocalist Mikey Brown can only scream the words. It’s simple but powerful. It’s followed by What Would Your Mother Say? A fast paced, EDM barrage of questions over heavy instrumentation that somewhat reflects the nature of the lyrics Brown raps. It’s a hard hitting masterpiece broken up by moments of contrasting silence that emphasise the weight of the lyrics.

Fairytales slows things down with a piano melody and a sampled female vocal that screams “nothing between us” and touches on unrealistic expectations with mention of fairytale clichés – “I will seal our love forever with an enchanted magical ring” being a personal highlight.

There is a noticeable difference between Ever Endeavour and Stray Weather’s debut EP, Tragedy and it’s mostly signified by the way the lyrics and instrumentation appear to flow in tandem on the new release – explained by Tragedy being written when Stray Weather was a solo project conducted by Brown. There’s a more personable note to the lyrics that show a vulnerability whilst also offering a hand to those in need with the “I’m here and I’ll always listen” lines in the chorus to the final track, You’re Not Alone.

Listening to this EP just once isn’t enough to satisfy your mind so it’s a good job that it’s worth listening to all over again.

★★★★☆

 

Stream Ever Endeavour on Spotify
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Mallory Knox Review|Live at Sheffield Leadmill

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Written by Jamie Downie and Tom Dawes

Having played Download, Reading & Leeds, and Slam Dunk festival, and now touring their 3rd album Wired, this explosive rock five-piece are no newcomers to success. We got the pleasure of seeing the first of Mallory Knox’s sold out headline gigs on the tour.

 

On Saturday, March 25th, we headed down to Sheffield’s famous Leadmill. Fortunately for us, there was not just one great band on, but three! It was a sold out event with Fatherson, Lonely the Brave, and Mallory Knox headlining.

 

Scottish band Fatherson were the first on stage, and they started the night off brilliantly. Their mix of anthemic rock tunes and indie guitar tones sounded huge and the subtle vocal acrobatics effortlessly performed by singer Ross Leighton added a unique flare. Song after song, we were surprised by their high-quality song writing and fantastically tight rhythm section, especially that of drummer Greg Walkinshaw, who played remarkably perfectly throughout Fatherson’s set. Watch out for Fatherson in the future!

 

Then was Cambridge band Lonely the Brave. Their sound could be described as a tasty mix of massive Biffy Clyro-style choruses and catchy Snow Patrol-esque melodies and chord progressions. They played another great performance, and Lonely the Brave’s singer, David Jakes, another great vocalist, singing impressively high notes without so much as flinching. Their vibe was close to that of Fatherson but perhaps a touch darker and more post-hardcore compared to Fatherson’s indie sound.

 

Both support acts received very good receptions from the crowd, who were all firmly into them. However, miraculously, they saved their energy for the main event. Finally, Mallory Knox take to the stage, starting off with their lead single off of the new album, “Giving it Up”, quickly followed by “Ghost in the Mirror”, a fan favourite off of their second album “Asymmetry”. The rowdy Leadmill crowd are cramped together for this sold out show, yet still find the energy to dance, bounce, and mosh to a mixture of new songs like “California” and “Wired” and older classics like “Beggars” and “Wake Up”. Knox keep the crowd entertained throughout, however, to hype their new songs up. Bassist Sam Douglas often sings along with the crowd, albeit with some crazy facial expressions, while frontman Mikey Chapman belts out the singalong choruses and controls the crowd fantastically. The highlight of the night was 9 songs in, when Chapman got the crowd to get down low, only to bounce up like crazy to the incredibly catchy second single off of the new album, “Lucky Me”. After playing “Shout at the Moon”, arguably their most famous song due to radio airplay, they finished their main set with “Saviour”, a new song hoping for some good in the midst of many divisive political decisions over the past year. They soon returned for an encore, ending the night on a high with “Lighthouse” off of their first album and their new single “Better Off Without You”. The boys performed incredibly well, and the fans responded above and beyond. They had a right to chant “YORKSHIRE! YORKSHIRE!” at the top of their lungs throughout the set. As for the bands, all three are fantastic live, and we can guarantee that seeing them in the future will be worth every penny!

Circa Waves – Different Creatures Album Review

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Reviewed by Georgia Barlow

‘Different Creatures’ is definitely not the follow-up album you expect. From Circa Waves’ light-hearted indie-pop, they have rapidly developed in their genre. Much heavier, the first track ‘Wake Up’ is an instant showcase to their new direction, with fast paced beats and Slaves-like riffs.

Kieran Shudall, the frontman for Circa Waves had always talked about making something much more meaningful and different to their stereotypical ‘love’ issues, and this is wonderfully portrayed through their new album. Delving into the slightly more personal matters all the way to global ones, the play definitely explores more in depth themes.

Whilst it’s reported that they’re trying to bin-off their typical indie band riffs, I personally think they do a really good job of it. This album is mature, and the band themselves seem a lot more serious about their careers and genres implied.

The title track is unquestionably one you should read the lyrics for. The lines ‘Twenty thousand souls are sold tonight / Making us their home / And as you close your eyes again tonight / Remember where you are’ are beautifully poetic in displaying their opinion on such political matters as it undeniably is assumed to be about the current refugee crisis. In many cases, musicians are looked down upon for having a political opinion and a lot of supporters feel like they shouldn’t broadcast what that opinion is. However, I personally think that Circa Waves do this amazingly well in this track, as they disguise their thoughts through arpeggio riffs and incredibly produced vocals.

When the album does touch on the issues of love and relationships in songs such as ‘Fire that Burns’, it is done in such a lyrically stereotypical way but the music definitely compensates for this. The track is energetic and feisty, which isn’t what you expect for a song about such an overused topic. The lyrics ‘You call me a liar / You call me so innocent’ seem extremely relatable and clever in consideration to the audience they attract, with many of them being teenagers.

‘And you walk in the steps of the men that you grew up with / But maybe they’re better equipped at dealing with this’. These lyrics from the track ‘Out on My Own’ can definitely be interpreted in different ways from listener to listener. NME recently discussed that it was about male depression and anxiety which Shudall had witnessed amongst his friends. This unquestionably removes the ‘flimsy indie’ reputation and replaces it with an outlook much more mature and sincere.

Overall the album is undoubtedly worth a listen. Circa Waves came back stronger than anyone could’ve thought and they’re back with much more than their last album. If you’re into your heavier riffs and the more controversial side to lyric-writing then you’ll definitely appreciate this one.

★★★★☆

Fairport Convention Review|Live at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall

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Written by Nathan Berwick

It’s hard to write a legitimate review when the only reason you agreed to do it was for a free ticket to one of your favourite bands. It’s even harder when you’re told not to write good reviews because nobody hires “that guy”. Alas, here’s a review of one of my favourite bands and their incredible support. Introducing: Fairport Convention and Sally Barker (respectively).
Hastily penned notes hurriedly tapped into a cold, hard phone screen seems a harsh juxtaposition to Fairport’s classic sound. Pondering over the long-standing “Winter Tour” tradition I’d just witnessed while sat in the pub next door was a vain attempt to soften the “post-gig blues” amid the veritable no man’s land between venue curfew and the foreboding notion that was the last train back to Huddersfield.

I could sing Fairport’s praises indefinitely, whether we were to discuss their understated mastery of odd time signatures, Nicol’s hybrid-picked control over the guitar, Pegg’s weaving bass lines or Sanders’s astounding delay-laden fiddle. However, my distaste for stories that start with a teaser of the ending bleeds through and I must, ironically, begin at the beginning (of this night, at least).
Climbing the stairs into one of the most traditional “music hall” venues I’d ever set foot in, I was greeted by the steward with a crack of “Ah, the under 60s have arrived!”. Unfortunately, he was correct. The joys of Fairport Convention seem to have been lost on the younger generations (not for lack of trying on my part) but that didn’t matter. Taking seats, the mood washed the entire crowd without exception. There was excitement in the air. We were all there for the same reason.
Sally Barker’s opening E minor chord (also an open chord) begun her set as it meant to go on. A deep, dark, melancholy tonality almost wept from her guitar which, without encountering her previous material, left me unsure of the set’s direction. Her masterful vocal control and quality certainly reflected her successes with “The Voice”.

With the chord progression continuing to the C and D, as did her music cycle through tales of revenge, heartache, scorn and greed all succinctly packaged in the audience participation refrain of “talk, talk, talk about money” (with a descent to the major third in place of the minor, sure to warm even the heart of the coldest Prog Snob).
An unexpected guitar talent (the “unexpected” side of which being an unfortunate side effect of becoming a TV vocal presence), Sally’s songs were chordally intricate, displayed exciting use of fingerstyle, coupled with large dynamic range resultant of “Slap Bass” style attack in places.
Sally’s set ended with Fairport taking stage to join her for a rendition of her 21-year-old LCM student son’s piece I’m Not Whole. Not my favourite of her set however, but the agathokakological track was carried by Fairport Convention’s backing; giving the upbeat misery a life of its own driving well into Fairport’s staged coup.
Sally Barker was tremendous and, as she vacated the stage, I knew to eagerly expect her at later points in Fairport’s set; as is tradition on these cold nights of the winter tour.

Sally Barker is an act to see again, whether with Fotheringay or in her solo works.

Fairport Convention’s tour marks their 50th anniversary as a band, difficult to forget with their aptly titled 50:50 @ 50 album for sale during the show – containing an even split of live and studio material – marking the momentous occasion. Even more difficult to forget with their shameless, yet still tongue-in-cheek plugging of the release. A sad reflection of Fairport’s career under-the-radar. While mainstream success is not necessarily the goal, the band have amassed a faithful following throughout their tenure on the folk scene and the fan’s dedication is shown to be well placed by the quality of musicianship and songcraft on display. Though on their 50th birthday, these folk-rockers (or metalhead in the case of bassist Dave Pegg) are certainly not past their prime; merely different. This current lineup is Fairport Convention’s longest standing, and is a well-oiled machine as a result. It was wonderful to hear classics from throughout their career such as Genesis Hall, Matty Groves and Farewell, Farewell revisited standing side by side with their more recent material, the last of which had never been brought to stage during the era of the Liege and Leif album from which it hails. The spectacle was engaging for both the audience members in the “cheap seats” (such as myself) and the boxes above despite the shouts of “rattle your jewellery then” being made in jest by guitarist and singer Simon Nicol. The band’s light comedy between songs is something of a rarity in most contemporary pop or rock acts, and was a bonus of the evening. The band don’t take themselves too seriously and the interaction made the audience more comfortable and made the night akin to sharing a few beers and a song around the fire with some good friends rather than the potentially overbearing prospect of visiting a packed music hall to sit quietly and listen to a live act.

After taking a short interval, Fairport Convention returned for a second set (value for money) which led to the only downfall for the show. The first song of the band’s that I was ever introduced to (Lord Marlborough, the opening track of the 1971 album Angel Delight) was played over the PA during the interval, so I sat disappointed that I wouldn’t get to hear the track live, though a live version is included on the 50:50@50 album.
More of the same level of excellence was to come, along with a return of Sally Barker to accompany the band for a rendition of Rising For the Moon from the album of the same name; the last to feature vocalist Sandy Denny. The piece was excellent, remembering Denny’s vocal embellishments perfectly though the band’s updated sound made the song still relevant without being a rehash of old material. Portmeirion and The Girl From the Hiring Fair were other songs of note from the evening were Sander’s “Save our NHS” speech was met with a divided crowd from a self-proclaimed “hippie pacifist” and a pensive ballad of first loves that had the whole audience silent.

But the spell was soon broken. Ending with the aforementioned Matty Groves only to come on with an encore; though great, the set would have been finished perfectly there. The packed train home was awaiting me and the band were to move on to the next night: such is life on the road.

There we have it, Fairport Convention’s 50th anniversary show with Sally Barker. An amazing night, which can be continued for a full weekend at their Cropredy festival from between the 10th and 12th of August.

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