Inaugural Stratford FabFest a great success

The first Stratford FabFest, a two-day festival of  folk music, beer and craft stalls and a drum workshop, took part in the gardens of The Old Tramway Inn in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire last weekend. Tori Rushton a Stratford cellist and host of the Stratford Folk Club, had put in a lot of work to organise this event together to get the line-up of 22 acts. Local Ford Dealership Arden Garages had kindly agreed to sponsor the event.
The line-up of some of the very best folk bands in the country, included our two headliners Meet On The Ledge and The Jigantics, both of whom have been playing gigs and festivals all over the UK and Europe. Other bands/groups/soloists included Daisy Chain Quartet, Paris Georgia, The Redhills, Simon Kemp and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.
Between the acts on stage we were entertained by the beer tent with ensemble All Strings and Things.
The hosts, The Old Tramway Inn, ran a beer festival, featuring ales from local breweries and guest beers from all over the UK, along with a BBQ.
After last-minute preparations and marquee raising on the Friday afternoon, the site was ready for the hoped for large crowds, which turned out to be around 1800+ over the two days of music and entertainment.
The MC for the weekend David Stephens introduced Leicester duo Grace and the Roots who kicked off the Saturday entertainment with their dub-folk sound of guitarist and singer Grace Roots and cellist bass player Lawrence Brown, A folk band marooned in the city, GMR incorporate a world of electronics – with pitch-shifters, loops, drones, and dub-sirens – alongside acoustic instruments such as recorder and tribal kick-drum. They played several songs including “Won’t You”, “Positive Thinking”, “The Greatest Thing” and “People at War.
Leon Gormley from the Midlands performed original songs and music on guitar and cittern. These included “Little Child” (dedicated to his two daughters), “Safe Sails” and “Dodge the Bullet” about his dog. He has recently supported BBC Folk Award winner Emily Portman.
Now the sound changed with the local Stratford duo of The Melancholy Brothers with their folk sound with guitars and harmonies, with songs of their own including “If you were also Right” and “The Rhythym of the Words”.
The day continued with several more acts including Ed Hanfrey et al, Chris Wright, Greenman Rising and Jonathan Fletcher, before Do David gave the first of his Drum workshops (we were to see Bo perform later on stage with Daisy Chain Quartet).
Next up were Supine Orchestra the Coventry-based duo of Rich Sykes and Joel Kendrick. They entertained the ever-growing crowd with their distinctive style, which was lyrically superb with a laconic edge.
Then up on stage came Warwickshire band The Redhills with their Folk/Rock sounds and mix and electric guitars and fiddle. They entertained the crowds with “Mining Song” which had links to Ilmington Morris men, and then some Anglo/Irish tunes “Zanders Jig”, “Bread and Cheese” and “All Haste to the Wedding”
Next on stage was Coventry based singer/songwriter Paris Georgia whose musical journey began at the age of 15 when she joined a local talent showcase, and became hooked immediately. Now 20 years of age, Paris has already sung at The Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena (twice). She gave us several songs impassionately sung, supported by her guitar, including the Dixie Chicks tune “Travelling Soldier”, the well-known Dollie Parton song “Jolene”, her own song “Prince” (from her new EP) and the Guns & Roses song “Sweet Child of Mine”. She included some of her own songs “Jemima”, “If I Die Young” and “Stay”.
Then up on stage came the local Stratford group The Jigantics. The band members played, and on occasions swapped, a whole range of musical instruments, fiddle, mandolin, slide and acoustic guitars, with stunning five part harmonies. Their songs included “Summer is Rising” a drinking song “Broken Heart”, the song “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow” from the Coen Brother’s film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” featuring George Clooney. Then we moved onto a Chuck Berry number “Thirteen Questions”, and then “Gone Away” and “The Valley”. Then we had a reggae tune “Walking Down the Road”, “Outon the Road” from Australian Roots singer Jeff Lang. The final portion included a Blues song “It’s Me” and a Cajan song “If She was a Woman or a Man”.
They finished the Saturday night off to a tee with the audience really enjoying the unique songs.
After the overnight rain the clouds cleared for a hot and sunny Sunday and the crowds were entertained with another range of excellent singers/groups including acoustic singer and guitarist Tom Prickett, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, whose intoxicating finger picking guitar technique and warm vocals wowed the crowds. He played an interesting mix of original material and both mellow and lively cover songs.
Also appearing was The Zeb Project an acoustic band comprising Ben Brierley – vocals, acoustic guitar and mandolin; Crispin Brierley – percussion and flutes; Neil Jones – bass; and Jon Maybey – acoustic guitar and mandolin. They played mostly original material with a few covers thrown into the mix.
The afternoon also saw folk/blues singer-songwriter Miranda Amess (based in Manchester), with her sound of bluesy folk-pop, with a jazz twist.
Next up was Malarkie a trio consisting of the Mahandra on hand drums, Larry on violin and singer/songwriter Jackie on vocals. They played lively acoustic music, with an international feel with mostly the bands own catchy songs with a sprinkle of covers.
Next Matthew and the sound team had a major job of setting up for the Warwickshire based 17 piece Simon Kemp Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. They also included two guest singers and included Mahindra on percussion (from previous group Malarkie).
Simon Kemp conducted and played piano/harmonica with exuberance with the band playing a range of songs including “Try Try Try”, Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”, Love hits you Like a Train”, “Love is an Ocean” and “Got My Mojo Working”. Guest singers also joined with “Rock This Town”
Then we had organisers band Daisy Chain Quartet on stage with Jon Bird on guitar/vocals, Tori Rushton on Cello and Linzi Whiting on guitar/vocals. They were joined on drums by Bo Davies.
They gave their normal exciting set of songs including “WhoYou are (Take you Home)”, “Crash Test Dummy Me”, “Shine”, “Chain Me (light in your Eyes)”. After wild applause for the band they played for an encore “You are Beautiful”
Then we came to the last band of the weekend and Sunday’s headliners Stratford’s Meet on the Ledge who have spent 22 years honing their reputation as one of the most powerful, entertaining folk/roots bands in the business. Their arrangements of traditional folk classics and breathtaking original songs have taken them to the top of the bill at countless festivals, including the Warwick Folk Festival.
They entertained the appreciative audience with several songs including “Love of a Soldier”, “Spanish Ships” which was about the local fishing fleets struggling with the influx of boats from Spain and “Fine Norwegian Way”
The full event image set can be found on Flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/widerviewphoto/sets/72157653793616814
Tori Rushton thanked all the bands, volunteers and Old Tramway Inn staff for all their help in making this an amazing 1st Stratford Folk and Beer Festival (FabFest), and it is now looking forward to the 2nd event in 2016.
 

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