Umberslade Farm, Tanworth in Arden
What a delight! 15 years on from when I were a local, here I was driving round the lanes that were the backdrop to an earlier life, taking my kids to the Children’s Farm based here, which is what it is the rest of the year. Arriving 3.30 on the friday, it took little time to build my tent and acclimatise. I had read it described as bijou, and it is: 1 main stage, at the bottom of the field, with a smaller stage in the delightful solar powered Bimble Inn, a marquee at the top. The usual falafel and vegan curry concessions, a massive bar run by local brewers Purity, and a craft events area, you know, make your own charcoal and rustle up a fuzzy felt pagan, that sort of stuff. Very much a “wyrd folk” vibe to it, with one wondering where all these people are the rest of the year. Very friendly, all ages from babes in arms to grey locked oldies. Friday’s music for me was kicked off by the Allah-Las, who seemed a little bemused by the scene in front of them, as if they had been transported back into the 17th century. But their guitars still worked, whipping up a very Light Years Stones style of retrorock. Then, who remembers Day of the Dead, Suspiria and all those 70s horror flicks, with cheesy rock soundtracks played by a group called Goblin? As in, who are Goblin? Well, they were here, utterly enjoyable nonsense, doomy and ornate keyboard heavy italian prog, arpeggios all over the place. Astonishing. From the ridiculous to the sublime? I have deliberately never let a note by the Fall sully my ears, intrigued by all the fuss. I could stand the competent punky metal music, it was Mark E I couldn’t. Looking decidedly unwell, with more microphones than the rest of the band put together, you’d think that one of them might have worked. After 20 minutes of him wandering about the stage, turning amplifiers up willy nilly, leering and gurning at where he thought the audience might be, not that I think he actually knew who or where he was. The crowd loved it so I had to make my excuses. Luckily, with the sun going down, and a bonfire burning behind me, Tinariwen came on the send us to our sleeping bags with the taste of Mr Smiths tongue a mere memory, their hypnotic saharan songs much more intoxicating than on record. A good night.
Unable to find the reputed 5 showers, and with the toilet blocks already redolent of a meat free diet, I took myself off to Solihull leisure centre for the necessary evils. On return the crowd had doubled or trebled, I now parking in a distant turnip field. Spending some time in the Bimble Inn, I caught the rather good Matthew Edwards and the Unfortunates followed by Mark Radcliffes Galleon Blast. I didn’t want to like this supposed vanity project, but I did, a lot, a troupe of elderly reprobates, seemingly press-ganged from a Cropredy bar at closing time, folk-rocking their way through bevy of pirate themed songs, all fiddles, accordions, mandolins and whistles, with the radio2 man proving quite a dab on the drums. Down on the main stage a young band with groovy parents, I guess, given the influences presented, started well and, for me, promptly fizzled out as they tried to maintain a hipness beyond their years. Syd Arthur, ho ho, their name. A glimpse of Mike Heron, the ISB man, proved a pleasant return to the past, shattered unfortunately by his chosen accompanists, Trembling Bells. Supposedly well thought of, I could find no joy in Lavinia Blackwalls shrill keening, nobody else I spoke to either.Much much better was the trio, My Brightest Diamond, centred around Sharon Wordens stunning vocal range and dynamic. The Pretty Things were on next, the immortal core of Phil May and Dick Taylor, 2 younger recruits as their rhythm section, and the extraordinarily Struwwelpeter headed Frank Holland on 2nd guitar and blistering mouth harp. Starting off with Big Boss Man, they played a blinder, acoustic blues segment included, and were the rockiest band of the weekend, and one of the best. How to top that? Actually easy, as it was Wilko Johnson, the stage his home, alongside the wonderful flying fingers of Norman Watt-Roy seamlessly slotting alongside Dylan Howes tremendous drumming. Live is the only way to witness this music, even the TV diluting and destroying the vitality of his performance, all good cheer and bonhomie, reflected back at him from the audience in waves. That was it for me, I was no good for more frolic, taking myself off for an early night.
I’d love to describe Sundays antics, but I had taken such a kicking from an earthy red that sense defined I took myself away home for a snooze, rather than risking a day of debauchery waiting for Julian Cope, not on till evening, I elected to take a chance and hope he might have disappointed me. (No doubt someone will now point out quite what a once in a lifetime he played. Never mind, can’t win em all, and I’ve got work tomorrow…..)
Wonderful. With the bill as eclectic as it was, all genres and sub-genres were present, mingling and moving in cheerful harmony. I wish the real world was a bit more like this.
It made me think..
I’d come again.