As the heat of the day started to dissipate in the late afternoon/early evening, York’s Little Festival of Live Music, kicked off it’s second year of free, family-friendly events in a marquee in Parliament Street. This first evening had an overriding theme of folk and Americana.
Cat’s Nose, a late replacement for Sarah Dean, were already on stage when I arrived, the start of their set being less-than-enhanced by a young girl in the audience playing a recorder. Badly. Still, her parents didn’t seem to mind. With Antonio Curiale switching between fiddle and viola and Tom Gill on guitar, they provided the crowd with an instrumental set comprising a mix of lively jig-type tunes and slower, richer numbers, along with something with more a medieval feel when Antonio switched to some sort of lute. It was a pleasant enough start, I’m slightly ashamed to admit, I missed a bit of it through chatting with the festival organiser.
Having bumped into a couple of friends, and inadvertently standing about as far away from the stage as I could get, King Courgette also didn’t get my full attention, despite some interesting sights as they filled the stage and warmed up – in particular, one member seemed to be practising with a piece of wrought iron-work, pieces of wood and a big stick with a boot attached to it. Their set, with song titles lost somewhere in the crowd noise, started with a Bluegrass sounding, banjo-led track and was broken up by guest appearances by and songs from Nashville friends Jeni and Billy, complete with examples of flat foot dancing, which were well received by the crowd. Cajun music mixed with a Blues/Country mix and a Waltz written for a little girl’s fourth birthday (she danced in front of the stage while it was performed). The set was lively, the bits between the songs energetic and enthusiastic (perhaps slightly too much so) even of most of what was said was hard to make out from where I was standing. My favourite song of the set was, in fact, one from the Americans – If I Ever Get Ten Dollars, a catchy “hobo” song that rounded off the set.
By the time John Storey took to the stage, I was in a better position to watch and listen which, given how quiet his set was, was a good job. Hailing from Harrogate, he announced himself as representing the more folky side of things, setting his stall out with I Don’t Do Any Radiohead, a song which served to explain exactly what is it he does, and doesn’t. Exhibiting a confident, dry sense of humour between songs he distinguished himself from some other acoustic acts by peppering his set with, in his words, novelty songs, which were lighter and verged on the humorous. These included a requiem to the disappearing red telephone boxes that were, apparently, designed by his wife’s great uncle and Farewell Fish And Chips, about the change in eating habits John has seen during his lifetime and which had a sting in its tail for a certain fast food outlet. Earlier in the set, Free And Easy Days had reminded me of Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London and the McTell comparisons continued with If You’d Been At Woodstock, a gentle song inspired by Joan Baez, and The Lost Village, a sad lament for the disappearing vibrancy of Yorkshire villages. Quieter songs such as A Love So Free and the sweet Dear Molly were counterpointed by the much livelier set-ender Ewan MacColl And Me, which had the audience clapping along. This was a very nice set, spoiled only by a supermarket delivery lorry idling at traffic lights just outside the marquee. And there’s not many gigs you can say that about.
The rocky Americana of Mulholland, a band I have wanted to see for a while, rounded out the evening. Two original songs, Come On Back and Summertime, were mixed with covers from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty and The Doobie Brothers. I didn’t recognise any of them and not since the days that we used to watch Hazzard County have I thought that I need to investigate this sort of music more. I have no idea how Mulholland’s versions of songs such as Slow Train, Meet Me In The Morning or Like A Hurricane compare to the originals but I definitely enjoyed them. Even more impressive, though, was how the soundman did his job, producing a mix that, despite the music being played in a marquee that was open to the air, was better than more than a few indoor gigs I have been to. Even better were guest appearances by Sam Griffiths on Idiot Wind, My My Hey Hey, My Back Pages and Refugee. A few people have mentioned this local singer/songwriter to me but this is the first time I have seen him perform and he was brilliant, with strong, incredibly Dylanesque vocals but with a hint of somebody else who I couldn’t quite pick out. Mulholland’s set was very well received by the audience, with one guy apparently guessing the majority of songs before their introductions had ended. “Go on as long as you want,” came one shout from the crowd. “Who’s getting breakfast in?” quipped back frontman Stan Smith. At the end of the set, the crowd shouted for more and got Summertime as a very appropriate encore.