Year of the Fox…
I’m going to tackle Jonny Wallis’ EP launch night as a separate blog post I think – because well, an EP launch is a big deal and whilst he utilised the night-before-Rockstock to use the same venue, it was a separate and significant event in its own right, so should be treated as such in blog terms I think! We’d arrived on site early evening near enough straight from work for me via a quick trip home to get changed, packed and a quick vehicle change – so by the time the music was starting we’d already been having a great time!
With a few folk already on site (and clearly had been for a while!) we were summoned over to Ian and Lynne’s van (Eleanor) for an impromptu jam – with Jamie in attendance it wasn’t long before tequila slammers were produced. All in all, a thoroughly lovely way to ease into the evening – this wasn’t technically part of the festival, but an EP release night for the excellent Jonny Wallis – he’d got Stevie Simpson and Brian Stone to provide support slots for what promised to be a splendid warm-up for the festival proper.
Rather than have an outdoor/tented acoustic stage for the festival this year, the recently cleared former snooker room had been appropriated and used to create an amazing intimate space. This was where Jonny’s launch was taking place, from our point of view in The Star Copiers it was of intense interest to us too as we would be playing in there on the Saturday night, a great space and it was great to see plenty of people had managed to get to the site early in order to support the launch and enjoy a bonus night of excellent entertainment.
Stevie ‘One Bloke One Mandolin’ Simpson started the music off – I’m not very good at knowing his song titles, and he doesn’t always announce them. I love his gravelly bluesy voice with the bright mandolin tones cutting through as he sings his folkish countryish songs – part way through the set Tina took me on a quick tour of the main hall, not open yet until the festival got under way. It’s a great space regardless, but adorned with wall hangings and a spectacular feasting table this year carried on the wonderful theme from the outside space into the room.
Back with Stevie and Slaughter was followed up with his take on Levellers’ Red Sun Burns – of course, a song that he tackled for the amazing Bostin’ Days project. It’s tremendously well suited to Steve’s voice, so different from Mark Chadwick and bringing out a really different dimension to the song. The next song was apparently about the Arctic Convoy, the only one I managed to pick out the title of was The Gallows Song – it was a superb set though, such a bonus he was able to make a last minute trip to cover the extra support slot. Also Stevie has a bloody lovely dog called Archie.
Brian Stone was next up on stage, he kicked in with Jack of all Trades, then slotted in a new song – always exciting, it was themeatically very compatible with Gaz Brookfield observing that all the best songs have already been written, I’m not sure that’s necessarily true but of course every musician inevitably borrows ideas from pre-existing compositions, and long may it continue! Plus Gaz kinda owes Brian one for appropriating his Life Begins at 50 line anyway! Ward the Pirate gave us a chance to do ‘the dance’ – always a fun time to be had by all!
Quiet Anarchist was next – a fond and charming tribute to Brian’s subtly rebellious father, which is incredibly catchy. A different and poignant parental tribute followed with Did She Know, the frankly lovely and moving song Brian wrote about his mother – it’s an emotional listen and I can only imagine that increasing exponentially to perform – to my ears he’s really beefed up the ending of the song though to give it more of a resilient and celebratory feel. I checked with Karen and she seemed to think he’d definitely added more oomph to the end of the song!
Another new song was next – talking about lying politicians, a very topical subject (then again, when isn’t it, I suppose?). I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s called Sold Short. Then more new stuff – It’s Down To Us has a catchy feel to it – with such a slug of new material to try out could that portent an album in the works? Let’s hope so! I suppose winter might be when typically summer-heavy performers could get a bit of writing done! He finished up with a raucous singalong of Why Is All The Rum Gone with the traditional hipflask being passed around the crowd. A fun set!
Then it was time for the man of the evening, Jonny Wallis hit the stage looking a bit nervous at first – but once he kicked in with Hard Sun his unease evaporated and he looked and sounded very at ease with his surroundings. Next he dipped into the Newcranes back catalogue with Back in the Old Country. I’m always really annoyed I never knew about the Newcranes when they were active, as I really like them! The next song involved something about being locked up – I’m not going to guess at the title as I’ve proven absolutely rubbish at that in the past, haha!
We had a bit of a break to sing Happy Birthday to Maggie, Jonny’s mum who’d come to watch the performance. He followed this up with a cover of Billy Bragg’s To Have and To Have Not – an empassioned song, and an appropriately passionate performance to do it justice. A song from Thatcher on Acid was next which I didn’t catch the title of. Jonny had been getting quite a bit of heckling about singing Julie throughout the night – he finally succumbed whilst getting Brian up on stage to provide the guitar whilst he took the vocals. It must be a bit annoying to be so associated with one song (that’s not your own) but he does such a great job of it!
Galway Girl was up next (the proper one, not the Ed Sheeran one!) before we wound our way around to where he’d play through his EP – he opted to stick to the order on the CD (which you should get), so kicked off with Light the Darkness, finger picking, strumming – great vocals, it’s a song that works just as well live as it does recorded, dedicated to Kiara who was in the crowd watching. Then it was Crime of Rights – much bouncier, fast almost chanted lyrics showing Jonny isn’t just about melody he can do rapid-fire too – very well indeed.
Social Divide carries on the political theme seamlessly before the mood was altered for Goodnight Lullaby – Jonny wrote this song as a memorial for his father, it’s a beautifully moving song – and I know it’s a tough one for him to perform live. He absolutely nailed it. A really moving few minutes. Next was OFSTED – accompanied with a rant about the subject matter, it’s a very fitting assessment of the plight of the education system and the poor folk who are still trying to provide a suitable education for our young folk inspite of the powers that be.
Of course an encore was both inevitable and loudly demanded – Jonny enlisted an increasingly inebriated Brian back to the stage and we were treated to The Riverflow and finally Oh You New York Girls (Can’t You Dance the Polka) brought a thorougly fun evening to a close. We speculated the attached Indian takeaway might still be open, but alas it wasn’t so we ended the evening with a Pot Noodle in the van whilst it sounded like outside the party was carrying on by the firepit nearby – but sleep was definitely on our agenda so we stayed put in the surprisingly warm van and got some shuteye.