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Digging Deeper Into Ely Folk Festival

I've been to Ely loads of times with Gogs now, but I think this year has to have been the best one I've done with them. The side seems to have somewhat mellowed in the past few years and they're all a bit more laid back about dance outs. This has got to be a good thing as it's much more fun without everyone stressing around you.

Called another procession for Gogs, which I thought went ok, but I'm not sure the rest of the side agrees with me on that one. My general thoughts were to spot where the largest congregations of the audience were along the route and, as long as the side in front weren't too far away at that point, do the figures there. After all, the whole point of the procession is for the dance sides to display themselves to the audience (ok, that didn't quite come out as I meant it, but I'll leave it there anyway just to inflict you with the mental image). However, given the amount of complaints they gave me afterwards, Gogs don't want to do it like that. Oh well *shrugs*, might be better if I don't do another one then.

Other than that it went quite well, we had 2 good spots, one outside the Cathedral and one on the High Street, which got us reasonable audiences. I often wonder if they could find a better spot then outside the Oliver Cromwell house though, as there never seems to be any audience when we've danced there, but I suppose they need a certain number of spots to accomodate all the teams and can't have them all in the city centre. The last spot got a bit disorganised because of the packing up of the market and the fact that it had been moved earlier in the day as it was supposed to be in the middle of a main road (clearly the organisers must have got a bit fed up of all the faff of dealing with Morris Dancers)! However, that basically just meant the last spot finished early, so it wasn't much of a problem.

A few of us stayed for the evening concerts afterwards. Given the number of years we've been going, it seems strange that we haven't all done this before (Helen and Ruth have, but generally people go up for the day and come back). Very tempted to see about going up for the whole weekend next year and camp even if we only dance on the Saturday again.

The acts:

Adam Brown & Alan MacLeod - A melodeon and guitar/bodhran duo type thing, who were scarily talented given how young they were. Think the guy on the melodeon must have had extra fingers. It will be interesting to see where they.

Something Nasty in the Woodshed - There's something very pleasing about the combination of electric guitar, mandolin and bagpipes. These guys pulled off the scottish folk-rock thing amazingly well and were one of the best acts of the evening.

Strange Folk - Not sure I'd actually describe them as folk, but I think of all the acts I saw all evening these were my favourite. They were more of a rock band with folk vocals really. It was like taking the vocal style of the likes of Maddy Prior and Sandy Denny with added angst (there's actually someone else she reminds me of, but I can't think who) and placing a harder guitar backing behind them. Other than that they weren't particularly original, although they did play amazingly well. However, I found the combination worked so well, I definitely be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

Edward II - I'm normally a big fan of music that melds different styles together especially if it involves changing between them suddenly, so you'd be forgiven for thinking a folk-reggae outfit would be right up my street (even if I'm not a huge fan of reggae in it's pure unadulterated form). However, I listened the first three songs by this lot and was quite unimpressed. They seemed to switch between the 2 styles quite a lot, but there didn't seem to be a lot of blurring of the boundaries within them and although I like sudden changes in style, these didn't seem to be done very smoothly. That said everyone else seemed to like them, so they can't be all that bad if you like that sort of thing. I just got a bit bored with them, so ran off to see what was in the other tent.

Quicksilver - These were a folk musical comic duo type thing. I came along and they were singing about doing yodling as a duet and taking it in turns to sing the pitch changes to keep it up. Any band that makes me laugh within a few seconds of hearing them has to be good. Even without the comedy of their songs they would have been worth seeing for the guitar playing alone.

While & Matthews - Another duo, this time female vocalists with very powerful voices. They didn't do anything particularly original (before we ran off to see the Peatbog Fairies), but they were perfectly listenable.

Peatbog Faeries - A wonderful blend of rock, dance and Scottish folk. One of the most original acts we saw all evening. Some of the people who'd seen them before said they weren't as good as they have been this time and I can see that they could have benefitted from a bit more power and drive. However, they were still amazing.

Generally a good line-up. It seems a shame I've never thought to look at what happens at Ely in the evenings before, but at least I had it suggested to me this time.

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