27 July 2023
After a short break, it was back to festivals. I have three in a row. The first is a four-day event at Cambridge. The Cambridge Folk Festival has been held annually since 1965 with a small Covid break. It is held at Cherry Hinto Hall, with extra camping at Coldham Common. I was going on my own, Rosemary did not want to participate, and I was allowed to go on my own. I would meet up with some uni friends for one day on Saturday.
I arrived at Coldhams common at 1.30 and was placed in the main camper van section. Previously I had been positioned along the hedge.
Once set up and ready to go, I headed off to catch the bus to Cherry Hinton Hall. The free bus services (well paid for in the ticket price) is fast and often. I soon arrived on site, refreshed myself with some beer and went to search for some music. I have created a list of bands to see, and those to avoid at all costs. This was done through creating a music play list on YouTube music, and the fabulous crowd populated site called Clash Finder. This allows you to rate the bands, find the clashes, and finally take notes of what you saw. It runs excellently on full screen Web browsers, and as a webapp from a shortcut on your mobile phone.
In the heart of summer, as the sun-kissed fields of Cambridge resonated with the harmony of tradition and innovation, one band stood out among the myriad musical talents that graced the stages of the renowned Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023. Hailing from Scotland’s rich folk heritage, Gnoss delivered a captivating performance on Stage 2 that left audiences both entranced and invigorated.
Gnoss, a quartet comprised of Aidan Moodie (vocals, guitar), Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin), Connor Sinclair (flute, whistles), and Craig Baxter (bodhrán, percussion), embody a youthful spirit deeply rooted in the folk traditions of their homeland. The band’s name, derived from the Scottish word for “a fleeting glimpse or glance,” serves as an apt metaphor for their music—a fleeting glimpse into the past, intertwined with a contemporary flair.
As they stepped onto Stage 2 at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Gnoss immediately forged a connection with their audience. The intricate interplay between fiddle and flute, guitar and mandolin, created a musical tapestry that transcended time and space. The band effortlessly bridged the gap between ancient ballads and original compositions, evoking a sense of nostalgia while also breathing new life into traditional melodies.
Gnoss’ performance was a testament to their deep respect for folk traditions. Their renditions of traditional tunes were imbued with a level of authenticity that showcased their reverence for the musical ancestors who came before them. Yet, it was their original compositions that truly demonstrated their prowess as contemporary folk musicians. The melodies and lyrics of these original pieces wove stories of love, loss, and the human experience, resonating with listeners on a profound level.
What set Gnoss apart was their ability to seamlessly blend tradition with innovation. The spirited rhythms of the bodhrán were juxtaposed against the intricate harmonies of the mandolin, creating a dynamic soundscape that defied categorization. The band’s vocals, delivered with an earnestness that reflected their connection to the lyrics, were punctuated by instrumental solos that showcased their technical prowess.
In an age where musical genres often become rigid boundaries, Gnoss stands as a shining example of the possibilities that arise when artists embrace both their cultural heritage and their creative instincts. Their performance at the Cambridge Folk Festival reminded us that music is a living, breathing entity that evolves with each new generation of musicians. It’s a reminder that the melodies of the past can find new homes in the hearts of those who carry them forward.
As the sun began to set and the stage lights bathed Gnoss in a warm glow, their final notes hung in the air, carrying with them a sense of camaraderie that united the performers and the audience. The applause that followed was not just a celebration of a remarkable performance, but a recognition of the power of music to transcend time and bring people together.
Gnoss left an indelible mark on the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023, their melodies echoing long after the final chords had faded. Their performance was a testament to the enduring magic of folk music—a genre that has the unique ability to transport us to bygone eras while inspiring us to forge new paths. And in this delicate balance between tradition and innovation, Gnoss found their place, reminding us that in the world of music, the past and the present are harmoniously entwined.
In a harmonious convergence of melodies and folkloric fusion, the band Symbio took the stage by storm not once, but twice at the revered Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023. This Swedish duo, comprising Johannes Geworkian Hellman on the enchanting hurdy-gurdy and LarsEmil Öjeberget wielding both the spirited accordion and the rhythmic kickbox, captivated audiences with their unparalleled artistry.
On Stage 2, under the open sky of musical camaraderie, Symbio’s ethereal tunes resonated through the festival grounds, weaving a tapestry of sounds that transcended borders and genres. The haunting yet uplifting notes of the hurdy-gurdy, masterfully handled by Hellman, blended seamlessly with the evocative tones of Öjeberget’s accordion, creating an atmosphere that transported listeners to a realm of pure sonic enchantment.
It was a warm summer evening in Cambridge, and the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. They had come to see one of the most exciting bands on the folk scene, Ibibio Sound Machine, who blended African and electronic elements into a unique and infectious sound. The band had been formed in London by producers Max Grunhard, Leon Brichard, and Benji Bouton, who were inspired by the golden era of West African funk and disco, as well as modern post-punk and electro. They had recruited singer Eno Williams, whose mother was from the Ibibio people of Nigeria, and whose lyrics were based on folk stories and proverbs from her heritage. The band also featured guitarist Alfred Bannerman, percussionist Afla Sackey, drummer Joseph Amoako, bassist Philip PK Ambrose, trombonist Tony Hayden, trumpeter Scott Baylis, and saxophonist Max Grunhard.
The band took the stage with a burst of energy, and launched into their first song, “Let’s Dance”, which was also their debut single released in 2014 on Soundway Records. The song was a catchy invitation to join the party, with a driving beat, funky horns, and Eno’s soaring vocals. The crowd responded with enthusiasm, clapping and dancing along. The band followed with more songs from their self-titled first album, such as “The Talking Fish”, “The Tortoise”, and “Woman of Substance”, which showcased their diverse influences and styles. The band also played songs from their second album, Uyai, which was released in 2017 on Merge Records. Uyai means “beauty” in Ibibio, and the album explored themes of empowerment, liberation, and identity. Some of the highlights were “Give Me a Reason”, a protest song about the Chibok girls’ abduction in Nigeria; “The Pot is On Fire”, a celebration of life and music; and “One That Lights Up”, a tribute to Eno’s mother.
The band’s performance was electrifying, and they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. They mixed traditional instruments like the talking drum and the ekwe with synthesizers and drum machines, creating a sound that was both familiar and futuristic. They also interacted with the audience, telling stories behind their songs, cracking jokes, and teaching them some words in Ibibio. The crowd loved it, and sang along with Eno when she taught them the chorus of “I Need You to Be Sweet Like Sugar”, a sweet love song from their latest album Electricity, which was released in 2022 and produced by Hot Chip5. The album was praised by critics for its bright, buoyant, and innovative sound.
The band ended their set with a bang, playing their hit song “Electricity”, which was also the title track of their new album. The song was a blast of pure joy, with a catchy hook, a groovy bass line, and a horn section that sounded like a brass band. The crowd went wild, jumping up and down, waving their hands in the air, and singing along with Eno. The band thanked the crowd for their support and left the stage to thunderous applause. They delivered an unforgettable show that left everyone feeling energized and happy. They had proven once again why they were one of the best bands on the folk scene today.