I have just returned from the Cambridge Folk Festival, as those who follow me on Twitter will be all too aware.
I went with some reluctance and a few preconceptions. I don’t particularly like traditional folk. The event would be full of people with beards and sandals, chugging back real ale and singing “hey nonny nay”. And that’s just the women.
Daughter and the chief executive went with me, both being into folk. The Boy remained at home with his rap CDs.
I was quite wrong. I have written here before how folk has become fashionable among many young people. It has to do with its perceived authenticity, and how it seems set aside from a mainstream music industry that they know is greedy and manipulative. It is also cheap and easy to make.
Many of the performers, then, were staggeringly young, highly talented and energetic. You had to be moved by their enthusiasm, including one fiddle quartet who had come all the way from the Orkneys. Much of the actual folk was taking place at fringe venues, sometimes impromptu. On the main stage, the acts were pretty mainstream and would not look out of place at any other music festival.
Wilko Johnson, still mercifully with us, Frank Turner, Nick Mulvey, Joan Armatrading. Even Joan Baez, now 75 and a living legend. And a Northumbrian act called The Unthanks, who combined some ECM-style modal jazz with harmony vocals. And, er, a bit of clog dancing. And performed King Crimson’s “Starless And Bible Black”. Dad’s record collection, surely?
The audience were in the main middle class and middle aged. Nice people, with whom you could strike up a casual conversation without difficulty. An awful lot of drinking, mainly ale, but only one seriously out of order. A youngish girl being helped by solicitous security people.
The odd spliff, especially after dark. But virtually no one smoking cigarettes. Goes with the demographic, I suppose.
An annual event for us, then. As with other festivals, you have to book before you know who is on, but with the range available there you can safely buy unseen.