REVIEW: Bakewell festival strikes the right chord

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I WAS one of the lucky people who won tickets to Bakewell’s second acoustic music festival last weekend and vowed to say a grateful “thanks” to competition organisers at the Buxton Advertiser by compiling this review.

The whole festival site of main stage and the smaller acoustic tent would probably just about fit onto the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, but don’t think that this was a poor pretender - far from it. The talent displayed would not have been out of place at any of this nation’s grander festivals. Having said that, this was a fun and relaxed family event with musical matters taken seriously.

Friday night’s main stage highlight was Radio 2 favourite John Reilly. With strong melody and catchy riffs, John stepped up to the microphone over an hour early to cover for Roxanne Emery, believed to have been delayed on a motorway somewhere. Along with Canadian piano-player Lewis Nitikman, he kept the energy up with songs from his solo repertoire and from times when he fronted Sheffield-based band, Boy on a Dolphin.

The smaller acoustic stage was owned by chatty blues-playing growler Daniel Wright. With a lightness of touch and a rhythm that would keep an army of metronomes fully engaged, he charmed and challenged his way through covers and original material in equal music measure.

Saturday’s main stage entertainment kicked off for me with Fred’s House, an endearing foursome who had the appearance of Scooby-Doo’s mystery crew and the sound of The Magic Numbers. With an easy-on-the ear mix of adapted covers and original material they harmonised well to create a fresh folk-pop feel so popular that they were almost mobbed when invited to play again a few hours later in the acoustic tent.

Next-up were Derby duo The Re-Entrants: “Yes we’re men and yes these are ukuleles and yes this is our version of the Lady Gaga classic Poker Face!” Combining such larger than life characters and such small and often laughed-at instruments it was a real surprise that they mined both the belly-laughs and frenzied applause with skilled musicianship and gracefully crafted comedy routines.

These guys were seriously funny with a set ranging from an hilarious version of The Specials’ timely riot rant Ghost Town to the Osmonds’ standard Crazy Horses.

Irish charmer John McIvor was supposed to play with his backing band, The Tizzlettes, but as he explained they had turned up early and partaken of a few too many beers from the reasonably-priced real ale bar. Being the hardier of the band, he soldiered on alone through an uplifting set of original numbers from his forthcoming album. Smooth vocals and steady rhythms.

Singer/songwriter Karima Francis was intense, charming and at the same time bewildering. Why bewildering? Because her powerful voice could stop rampaging elephants in their tracks yet it came from a dainty frame and she was clearly having fun chatting sweetly between songs that were so mournful and heart-wrenching. She played soulful songs from her forthcoming album and accepted eBay-style cash auction offers from the audience for “some left-over copies” of her previous one. Good business and excellent music.

The remainder of Saturday night involved a dance-fest orchestrated by the vibrant Gypsy Fire and smooth headliners King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys.

David Carlisle