Updated: 27 Aug 2007
Part 1 - First leg - 7 - 9 August
Cropredy Festival, Cropredy, Saturday 11 August 2007
What do those naughty Witchwooders get up to when they think they're out of sight .. check out Ali's Witchwood gallery.....
I Only Want My Love to Grow In You
Burning For Me
Out In The Cold/Round And Round
The River/Down By The Sea
Drum solo/Hero And Heroine
I thought I'd nip in and get the award for the 1st review of the Chaps at Cropredy.
Sadly I only heard "Hero and Heroine" on some kind person's mobile phone: suffice to say the guys were rocking.
Out of this galaxy
Sorry, still reeling - will let a better Word-Smith than me give you the detail, gosh, golly, WOW.
Photo by Dick Greener - more pics from Dick.
Phew! I've had a bath. I'm almost human again. Well, at least as much as I ever was. Judi may well be disappointed to hear that there was no mud at Cropredy, but the sanitation was a little primitive.
Firstly, couldn't write a review of Cropredy without huge thanks to Lynne and Pete Madeley, who provided the most fabulous banner. It went with us wherever we went, especially during our missionary work when the Witchwood meet was invaded by a Fairport meet. Lynne and Pete sorely missed. Look forward to meeting them at some other gig in the near future.
Major thanks also due to tour manager, Nigel, who did a sterling job organising we rabble. Huge thanks as well to Heather and Eileen for breakfast, and also to Dick for keeping us entertained with his guitar between acts.
Just prior to The Concert I suffered from a serious case of empathy with the band. The previous night there had been a beautiful rendition of Liege and Lief, and they were following Iain Matthews, an ex member of Fairport, (went on to form Matthews' Southern Comfort), who had also gone down extremely well. Major nerves as to how well the boys would go down with the folkies.
Not one to normally take any notice of symbolism, but a dragonfly flew up from the recently flooded fields, and flew across the stage. A clear omen that all would be well.
The compere introducing the guys was the victim of a case of Chinese whispers. Presumably someone had told someone else that this was the first time that the Strawbs had ever played at Cropredy, but by the time the message was announced it had changed to, "Can you believe that this is the first time these guys have played in this country? They've played America, Canada, and all around Europe but they've never played in this country till now."
I don't need to tell you how good the guys were. There aren't words to describe it. The Fairport public address system is phenomenal. A superb sound system, so suited to the guys. The balance was perfect. The weather was the sort of thing that sends Sun newspaper columnists scrabbling for their thesaurus. The guys put everything in to it, and boy, did the audience love them.
The crowd reaction to the Strawbs was unbelievable. It was clear from the guys' faces that not even in their wildest dreams had they anticipated anything like this. The best part was during the introduction to "Round And Round". The audience broke out into a spontaneous clap (slow slow quick quick slow rhythm) in time with the music. Looked as if the Strawbs had never seen anything like it. After nearly collapsing with laughter DL joined in the clap till he had to start playing.
DC introduced "Cold Steel" by saying that Dave Pegg had put up a sign saying "No banjos after five o'clock." His response to that was "B*llox". (Glad, also, to say that despite the fact that this was a family occasion, with kids present, DC made no attempt to clean up "Out In The Cold").
During Autumn Nigel tried to organise a mass swaying. The sway was quite localised to the Witchwood area, but Rod noticed, and laughed.
The main purpose of the Deal and Putney concerts had been to allow them to work out the timing as they had an hour and a quarter allocated to them at Cropredy. What they hadn't anticipated were the long periods of applause between songs. It threw their plans out slightly, so they had to finish after "Hero And Heroine" and sadly there was no time for the encore ("The Life Auction"). The applause at the end was tumultuous, and the compere who was trying to say that there was no time for an encore was drowned out. Aware that there might have been a riot, he brought the guys back on stage to take a bow.
After the concert we all suffered from a serious case of empathy with the band. We all felt their elation and relief. This hadn't just been a success, it had been a landslide victory. If there had been a roof , the Strawbs would have blown it away. I suspect that after such a reception, the boys are likely to be regulars at Cropredy.
Agents Lindsay, BadgeMan, AliWebMaster, Bradley & Bradley settled into strategic positions for this mission. Conditions were good, and everything appeared in position for the usual good time.
"Strawberry Targets" positioned themselves on stage and kicked off with "Lay Down". What came next, should have been expected, but was still a fabulous surprise. From the first acappella word, the audience were caught in the Strawbs Web, they could not get away. At the same time the guys were surprised – yes surprised - at the reaction of the audience. How do I describe it – I have no idea. All day, various performers tried to get audience participation to not much success. [Other perhaps than Richard Digance who organised the lunchtime Cropredy crowd into the biggest Morris team in history, to the tune of "Two Little Boys" - you had to be therer - DG] This time the crowd could not hold back, whether the guys wanted it or not, the delighted mob had to show their appreciation come hell or high water!
Each period of applause went on for ages and were punctuated with whoops and whistles of delight. Many of the songs, the audience joined in with the chorus. The most amazing thing was the bridge between "Out In The Cold" and "Round And Round" – the audience started to clap the pulse of the link, it was so overwhelming that even DL joined in! Finally at the end of the set, the demand for an encore was so great, the MC could not make himself heard. As the roadies were diligently changing the stage for the next event, the boys could not come back and play, so they came back, -minus a Chas :o( - and took a bow to a roaring, cheering crowd. It was phenomenal, it was breath taking, it was wonderful to see your heroes appreciated by 19,999 other people. What a day.
Photo by Dick Greener - more pics from Dick.
I had to while away an extremly boring coach/another coach/tube/another tube/train journey back from Banbury (but thanks a million for the lift from Cropredy Ali and the cashew nut paella Nigel). Anyway, whilst whiling (no MP3 player, mobile phone battery dead, excuses excuses etc.) I'm afraid got into "post gig" poetry mode. Heather must definitely accept some blame for lending me the pen before we left though.
(to the tune of "I Only Want My Love To Grow In You")
We roasted in the sunshine
And soon forgot the rain
Some drank a little lager
They said it eased their pain
But what's a chronic backache
When Strawbs are stor-ming Fairport's annual doooo
We had a lot of kindness
Like Heather's rolls and teas
Some had not been camping
For oh so many years
But Ali's tent was spacious
With mattresses and cu-shions scattered toooo
We cheered loud throughout
As Strawbs stunned Cropredy
Some had a little pogo
While thousands clapped the beat
When it was sadly over
And we could hardly stand
In our old-fashioned way, we gibbered "thank you" to the baaand
We had the joy of going
And what a gig we saw
I've seen Pete Bradley's photos
And felt the buzz some more
We spent all of our money
On cheesy chips and spicy nachos toooo
We all queued up to use the dodgy loooos
(To fade). (Please)
I can't even think of coming down enough to sleep yet, so shall attempt to bore myself to sleep by uploading my own Cropredy photos into the Witchwood files too (no jumps there though). Pete - you can bore me as much as you like with more photos!
The band played phenomenally at Deal and Putney too of course - shame there were some sound problems at Deal - I did hear things that were obviously not right but I was so blown away by how on fire the band was it didnt really detract from watching the performance for me. Putney was fantastic as ever - another packed crowd jumping and singing along to practically everything (thank you Roy and friend, my left earhole has recovered nicely now).
I was too young to see the Strawbs in 1974 (oh yes I was!). A mildly spotty 14 year old, hanging round our local record shop waiting for the next Strawbs release to come in. So it's been a deferred pleasure to really get to grips with the "Hero And Heroine" band.
I recall another field, back in 1998 at the Chiswick 30th anniversary, listening from the back (OK near the bar) to a near miss of this line-up (without the magisterial Mr Hawken, but with Adam Wakeman doing good stuff in his place) and thinking, wow the energy level has just lifted quite a few notches.
I travelled to Canada/America to see "the real thing" the first time round in 2004, and got to see this line up intact for the first time - a great pleasure indeed.
And in the intervening years we've been lucky enough to see this line-up stride the boards on a number of occasions, in this country and overseas.
But I genuinely feel I've not "seen" the band in all its glory until this Saturday at Cropredy, playing to an audience of 20,000 or so - the size of which they richly deserve - with all the power and musicianship they've marshalled over the years, all coming to a head for this fantastic show, played out on a PA system which was truly capable of doing them justice.
The gods were smiling on Cropredy generally weather-wise, with brilliant sunshine throughout (not even the rain god himself, Richard Thompson, could work his wicked magic). Less enjoyable was the two hours it took us to get from the M40 junction to the car park field, a distance of only a few miles; not that the organisers could do much about that! And then the wait for nearly an hour whilst the queue to exchange tickets for armbands (which I think they could and should have done something about, as they must have known the volume of weekend tickets that they'd sold as the sold out signs went up a week or more before the show) which meant that we heard rather than saw Wishbone Ash. (It's chilling to think that had things gone the original plan, that would have been Strawbs' set I was missing ....)
Thanks to Ali, Nigel and Lindsay, Pete and Calli, who, despite the intense heat, had stalwartly guarded the spot since Digance's opening set at 12.00, we Witchwooders had pole position for the show - pressed up against the front barrier, with the newly designed Witchwood banner (thanks to Lynne Madeley) hanging over the front so the boys could see it. The stage crew wheeled on the various platforms with John's keyboard rig and Rod's drums onto the stage, Cousins Cronk and Lambert plugged in the various instruments and, after a sadly misinformed announcement from Danny Thompson (this line-up have played in the UK before - in 1974 and several times since 2004 - just not at Cropredy, an omission about to be rectified), we were away.
"Lay Down" with its acapella kick-off had the audience singing along from the start (cunning that man Cousins, putting the hit at the front of the show ...); as did the other "hit that got away" "I Only Want My Love". A knowledgeable cheer greeted the opening chords of "New World", with Cousins' voice over strummed twelve string were soon joined by the thrashing power of mellotron, electric guitar, drums and bass, in perfect time. For me one of the highlights (though it's hard to pick out tracks as the whole thing was pretty fantastic). And following on, "Burning For Me" was at times delicate, at times hugely powerful, a splendid tour de force for DC's vocals and Lambert's guitar.
The "acoustic set within a set" followed, Lambert switching to acoustic, Cousins to banjo. Opening with "Cold Steel", which continues to get as good a reaction as some of the older classic songs, Hawken adding keyboards to fill out the sound. A change of pace for "Witchwood", the keyboards added an eerie howl to the proceedings, with Coombes' minimalist percussion giving it a mediaeval feel - don't think I heard anything else quite like it over the three days. And finally "Benedictus", with Cousins picking up the dulcimer, and playing that splendid fuzz lead break, which I've missed over the last few years, when other tricks have been tried in its place.
On to the epics: "Autumn" with its doomy keyboard and bass intro, seagull noises from Lambert, followed by the poetry of the "Deep Summer's Sleep" section, and the feelgood "The Winter Long" to which there was certainly some swaying going on at the stage front. The crashing chords at the end drew huge applause. "Ghosts" whilst starting out all intricate and arranged, when it moved into the loud middle section, certainly gave Lambert the opportunity to show off the power of his playing and vocals as well as his demonic glare and pointing finger.
"Out In The Cold/Round And Round" gave rise to the most unusual reaction: as the Moog started the complex figure at the beginning of "Round And Round", I spotted three male fans, close to the front but closer to the centre of the stage, pick up the rhythm with clapping, which soon spread via the Witchwooders to various other parts of the field. DL told me afterwards that this was sometimes done in the US, but wasn't always in time; leave it to a bunch of folk fans to get clapping in perfect time. It added an unique flavour to the show - Rod Coombes was grinning broadly to find his role as percussionist usurped, as were the others, and DL joined in the clapping until it was time for him to play. A huge reaction to this song, probably the least "folk" track they play - which just goes to show that Cropredy certainly ain't just a folk festival.
A further epic to follow - the acoustically tinged "The River", with some tasty cymbal work (no drums) from Rod, and nice mellotron noises from Mr H, leading into the blistering "Down By The Sea" with solos aplenty from DL. With "Heartbreaker" and "The Life Auction" being victims of time restrictions, "Here And Heroine" was the last number and a cracking finale it was too, after the brief drum solo from Rod which time allowed. (Shame we didn't know Fairport would get on stage quarter of an hour early and run out of songs before the allotted time or things might have been different.) As it was, to appease those shouting for more whilst the stage was being cleared, the band were brought out to take a bow (sans Chas, sadly).
Realise that I've got this far and not mentioned that Chas's new Dean bass really brings out the bass part, allowing us to hear the fluidity of his excellent playing and the huge contribution he makes to Strawbs' music with more clarity; nor have I commented on Rod's new drum kit, which, alomst impossibly makes his drumming sound even better than ever. And finally, not to be outdone, Dave's new 12-string was just splendid for this material and this event.
The reaction of the crowd was very strong indeed - throughout the field as well as in the scrum at the front, I'm told by those who were elsewhere. For me, probably the best show I've ever seen them play, and delivered to a huge and extremely receptive crowd. Many turned out for the signing session afterwards, coming from many countries for this event. Hopefully many more will be with Strawbs in the future, now that they know from experience what is on offer from this extraordinary band.
Other highlights of the festival for me (I'm a big Cropredy fan, and though obviously Strawbs were number one attraction for me this year, I'd still have been here at Fairport's 40th - and probably next year as well ...):
After many years of wanting to go to the Cropredy festival and never making the effort, when I saw that the Strawbs were on there was was no stopping me and my wife this time. I was glad I booked when I did as the festival was sold out for the first time in advance. I found out later that it normally sells out on the day, I like to think that it sold out early because the Strawbs were on.
When we arrived in the car park at Cropredy we met a local man, he was so nice he walked with us to show us the way. The local people appear to have a great sense of pride about the festival, he and his family had been to all three days. My first impressions as we walked into the site was that how big it is, there were tents and caravans for as far as the eye could see, and you then begin to realise how well organised it all is. From the AA road signs, the number of stalls selling anything and everything, food from all around the world, Jewellery, Clothing and music, and of course the many beer tents, and all around the site were marker flags of all different colours that were waving impressively in the gently breeze on this hot and sunny summers day.
We had just missed Richard Digance, but what followed was a superb array of artists of the highest calibre. An Irish Corrs sounding band called GiveWay had just started, surely stars of the future, followed by The Bucket Boys that featured guitar legend Tim Renwick and an excellent lead singer Rick Worthy. Then followed Ian Matthews an accomplished singer song writer who has an excellent voice and his own unique style. Then came 'the creme de la creme' - the amazing Strawbs with their equally legendary guitarist Dave Lambert. The Strawbs after many years of playing to smaller audiences were back where they belong, playing to 20,000 people just like some of the gigs they used to play in the seventies on their American tours.
The Strawbs were so up for, but they were so innocent about what was to come; that being the amazing but deserved audience reaction. The Strawbs were just about to blow every other artist off the stage, even Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell and Fairport Convention that followed them. They did not come to Cropredy to do that but it was a fact they did. When the show had finished there was disbelief at not letting the Strawbs do an encore, the stage presenter had to get the victorious boys back on just to take a bow just to appease the crowd. And to see the look of utter delight on the faces of the Strawbs will be a lasting one, they were so happy at the crowds reaction, I felt proud and priveliged to be standing and watching, I have waited years to see my band getting this kind of response in front of such a massive audience.
What was so extra special about the concert was that there were several younger men behind us who were singing the words to all the songs. I said after the show how impressed I was to be in such good company, and one of them said that he had waited twenty years to see the Strawbs at Cropredy. And during the concert I overheard one of them say that he just had "a glimpse of heaven", he was so happy.
The Strawbs were so majestically brilliant, it was the best and undoubtably the most memorable live performance I have ever seen them play, and Dave Cousins singing was incredible. The song choice was very well selected it had a mix of the folk numbers as well as the heavy rock numbers. And what was so amazing was Rod Coombes drum solo that led superbly into "Hero And Heroine" and the band really rocked. And to see Dave Cousins jumping up and down at one stage, a man in his early sixties sent the audience around me into aloud cheer for such passionate exuberance, what a fabulous ending. As I now understand it "The Life Auction" would have been the encore, although this would have been great, to me "Hero" was the way to end it.
After the show the Strawbs generated a great deal of interest as there was a huge queue for an autograph signing session. We left Cropredy feeling uplifted not just by the Strawbs performance but also by being at one of the best organised events I have ever been to, we even walked back to our car with the country lane lit by temporary floodlights, what a great day.
TWICE the accomplishment for the Strawbs guys because not only did they get a huge crowd reaction, but the other bands DIDN'T. It's not like this crowd was so enthusiastic about all the music. In fact as far as I could tell, the Strawbs set was the only one which had all the people in the "back forty" far end of the field (who seem to be there for milling around and socialising, not trying to get close to the music) all facing forward at rapt attention and clapping.
Congrats to the band, they should be very proud. Special kudos to Paul for the sound---which was crisp and clean and BIG--- absolutely perfect!
I have two photos which look like they might be reasonably clear, of the crowd in long view and during the arms-up "Round And Round" intro. Yes the band members are specks in the distance, but it does give some idea of the scope of the field. Will post them as soon as I upload pics from the camera.
Photo by Alison Brown - more Strawbs pics from Ali.
First, I must apologise that this is my first review for a live Strawbs Gig!!! There have been so many before, Hammersmith Odeon in the 70's, The Venue in Victoria and so many pubs and clubs around West London, before chasing the boys across the country over the last 7-8 years.
I first heard rumours that the band would be playing Cropredy around Christmas last year. My favourite band, in front of 20,000, at my favourite festival, only a mile from my home? Could music get any better?
Then at Bilston earlier this year while speaking to Neil on the merchandise stand Cropredy came up. 'Can you help us?' he asked. 'Yes, anything I can do' was my first reply, 'can store gear at my place, whatever you want'. 'No, don't need that, will you help on stage?' I did think about it for a while – not long – about a couple of milli seconds. 'Yes!'
Suddenly its early August, the fields at Cropredy are drying out after being flooded in the late July storms. Tuesday evening before the festival and Tom from the US has arrived to stay over and come to Putney with us for the gig that evening. Will be meeting friends and enjoying the music as well as finding out exactly what was needed and what I was expected to do.
Wednesday – Last day at work drags, when I'm finished go up to the site and get my wristband sorted, pick up Tom and Dorie, then back home to sort out bedding for Tom's camper van, then off to the village pub for dinner and beer – first of a few over the weekend.
Thursday morning – the car is loaded with camping gear etc – I know it's only a mile from home – but its part of the fun – and we get to use our home for showers etc each morning as well!!!! Meet up with friends down the hill, only 16 cars in our convey this year and join the queue to get on site, only 45 mins wait – better than the 3 hours some had to wait to do 4 miles from M40 to the site.
Tent is up and time to wander round and see what goodies are on offer.
As 4 o'clock nears we head for the field and settle into our seats. The sun is beating down and everywhere there are smiling faces and friends. The day passes listening to the music, including Seth Lakeman, wandering around the stalls, bumping into friends and chatting. I make a couple of visits backstage to see who is about – no prima Donna's here – all just normal human beings there to enjoy the festival.
Friday brings more of the same. I bump into DC backstage looking a little worn, having suffered a 5 hour trip with delays on the M20 and M25 on his way up from the Kent Coast.
I indulge in a little self promotion for my new band giving CD's to various artists, you never know Steve Knightly or Chris While may invite me to co write their next classic! Well, we can all dream.
Then back out onto the field for Viva Santana, Show of Hands, Liege & Leif and Richard Thompson. Can the music get any better? – Oh yes!
Saturday dawns bright and warm – very warm – again. I know the timetable in my head, where to be, at what time, with what gear. Have managed to get a backstage car pass so my gear is close to hand when needed, As I drive into the artists field I see DL and family trying to sort their way in. A quick chat and we continue in convoy to the backstage compound – I smile at the security guy on the gate, wave a bit of paper and tell him where I'm going – and the same for the car behind and we are in – sorted!
The music has just started so I join with the Witchwooder's for Richard Digance – I was part of the biggest Morris Dance troop in the world swinging my hankie and singing 2 Little Boys!
A quick bite to eat and race down to village to see my old band play at the Brasenose. Catch a couple of tracks then race back to help with the set-up.
As Ian Mathews played we start setting up back stage. Rod's drums and John's keyboards were built up on rolling risers, ready to be wheeled out into position during the changeover.
Dave Lambert likes his amp raised up so a suitable stand was found.
We worked on the premise that, if we could cover anything that could possibly go wrong, we would.
John Hawken has enough keyboards and buttons to drive the Space Shuttle so if he could not find the right buttons to make a noise it was his own fault! Rod Coombes has so many lovely drums and cymbals around him and if any of them broke it his own fault for hitting them too hard!
So that left us with the stringed instruments. Chas had 2 basses with him so in the very unlikely event of a string breaking it was just a quick change of instrument.
Neil had brought his Les Paul as a spare for DL, so that covered Mr Lambert's electric. That left the acoustic guitars. I brought along my own 6 and 12 strings as cover for both Dave's.
Should a string break the guitar would be swapped for the spare so the set could continue while the broken string was replaced backstage. We even had a spare slide and Ebow for DL in case a battery gave up or he dropped it over the front of the stage!
Ian Mathews finished and we had about 15 minutes to complete the change over before the scheduled start at 5pm. Think we just about made it! The MC did his bit – incorrectly – then the boys started. From the first few notes of "Lay Down" the crowd were captivated. At the end of each song the applause got longer and louder. I was looking out into the crowd, beyond the die hard stand-up's at the front. Way up the field people were standing up clapping and dancing along. The sound on stage was terrific and reports from the field after were very good. The looks on the boys' faces said it all – they were loving it and the crowd were as well.
"Cold Steel" finished and it was my big turn – walk forward to the centre of the stage – don't trip over any of the cables - pick up the stool and position it behind DC. Then back off stage left. Thought I heard a cheer as I walked off – was it for me?
A couple more songs then back out to collect the stool. The grin and wink from DL as I passed him said it all. A quick check with Rod that he was ok for water and back to the side of the stage. Ric Sanders from Fairport appears smiles and comments how well the boys are going down.
"Round And Round" was amazing, from the stage the clapping from the audience started at the front but was soon coming from all over the field, we could see people standing at the back hands over their heads clapping in time.
I grabbed a couple of shots on my phone – had left my camera with Jo and then stood at the edge of the stage enjoying the moment. Then it was all over! The final chords of "Hero And Heroine" died down and then the roar started. And it went on and on, the calls for more, the clapping and cheering. The boys returned for a well deserved bow and the crew descended to start the change-over. It was finished.
The gear was taken off stage and sorted, hands were shaken, backs patted and photos taken. There were lots of smiles. Nothing had gone wrong so none of our back-ups were needed. If we had not had them there – who knows? Sure there's a song title there somewhere!
The signing session went on for nearly an hour – that says something as well.
So, my final thoughts and memories? Well I would have been at the festival anyway – Strawbs or not, but to be there on stage was something I never though would happen. Round and Round – the crowd was amazing! The final applause and calls for more???
And, during the setup, I stood on the Cropredy stage, tuned both my guitars and strummed a few chords, in front of 20,000 people. Nobody heard me as they weren't plugged in, so can I say I've played Cropredy – I like to think so.
Many thanks to Dave, Dave, Chas, Rod and John. It was a great privilege to be asked to help you. Not forgetting the backstage boys Neil, Paul, etc.
Same time next year???
Photo by Kevin West - from the stage!
Well, what can I say? We went to Cropredy partly to see some friends, partly to introduce our 2 & 3 year olds to the joys of the festie experience and partly to check out this renowned gig for the first time. And at the back of my mind was the thought that it might be fun to see he Strawbs, 30-odd years after hearing Hero And Heroine one Saturday afternoon on the Alan Freeman show (I taped it on my old Grundig TK30). I didn't think I'd actually get a chance to ever hear it.
So there we are, cooking in the sun, having to avoid the beer thinking the gig was good, but could do with a bit of late afternoon oomph - and then out of nowhere I hear the note-perfect lycra-tight vocal intro to "Lay Down". My attention was grabbed immediately and it was pretty clear that everyone else's was too.
I won't claim to know all the songs - but when even my wife (who is 5'3" tall and hates standing at gigs) says "Strap on the kids and let's get down the front" then you know its something special. So it was on with the papooses and shimmy in to stage centre, just in time for "Benedictus" I think. And was that a dulcimer solo I heard? [Yes - DG] I've played a few things in my time but electric dulcimer - outstanding!
The kids had never seen anything like this before and frankly I didn't know what they'd make of it particularly the noise levels. But they absolutely loved it, jigging around on our shoulders and clapping with glee. Still, conscious of the fact that even my ears were beginning to feel the volume, we had to beat a retreat.
Then, just as we got back up the hill, "Hero & Heroine" kicks in and a stormer it was. A perfect finish.
It's not often you see a gig of that quality, so good you're still smiling two days later. Outstanding.
Heard the band play at Cropredy and was knocked out. Absolutely fantastic music - which sounded as current and relevant as if it had been written yesterday. The whole festival was great and there were other highlights but, for me, the Strawbs were in a class of their own. THANK YOU
Please play Cardiff whenever you get a chance.
My name is Front Row Nic and I am a Fairport fan, I go to Cropredy every year. I always stand right at the front with my son Fred and our front row friends. We are a bit childlike - but you have to be to stand there all day - year in, year out.
I wish to make a formal apology to everyone concerned with The Strawbs... I completely dismissed this band. I hated 'Part of the Union' and I "imagined" the band would sound like Lindisfarne. I was terribly wrong. I am sorry. The band were amazing at Cropredy and the Witchwood people to my left were lovely.
Thank you Strawbs for giving a new dimension to my listening.
The Strawbs were one of my main highlights from Cropredy this year. Having seen them in Ilfracombe earlier in the year, I knew how great their set was and was really looking forward to it. They certainly didn't disappoint! It was pure bliss sitting in the sun listening to such fantastic music. "Lay Down" was a brilliant start and got everyone in the mood. My favourites though were "Round And Round" - I just LOVE Dave Cousins speaking bit in this, "Hero And Heroine" and the beautiful "Witchwood". The only thing extra I would have liked was for them to play "The Hangman And The Papist" which is my all-time favourite track!
Dave's voice was perfection as always and is definitely in my top five list of most amazing vocalists! All in all it was a great set and it was a shame that they weren't allowed to do an encore especially as Fairport then went on to run out of songs!
(For my full Cropredy review look at
Photo by Jean Francois from Toulouse
With loads of lovely reviews tumbling in from far and wide I sort of got a little behind in writing mine. If truth be known I have started one of the mini tour starting at Putney, got to Deal then thought blow it – I'll short circuit it all for now and go to the Saturday of the festival show and in the beautiful Oxfordshire country side with no sign of any trees with leg irons on anywhere in sight.
But first, let me take you to the night before and like all good Witchwooder's waiting for their next day treat we were early to bed – now was it 2.30, 2.45 or 3.00. Certainly there was no bright light in the sky at the appointed hour except for a stray shooting star flashing across the sky from the expected shower.
Reveille came in waves the next morn, although for some it seemed they had drifted out in the dark, got rising damp in their trousers whilst others snored contentedly and peacefully on. Fortunately another bright blue sky greeted us – today we had to look our best, Lindsay came out in her lovely new Strawbs 2007 t-shirt and then waded in to the cold water bucket to refresh.
Today had to run to schedule - our recognisance and planning had told us that if we were to get a place in the front of the stage with Lynne's lovely banner proclaiming our place we had to be gone early from our tents. First stop after kind invitation it was off to Heather's van, for a cuppa and sarnie had a bit of a sing along to Dick's strumming with percussion provided by various sized and filled bottles of water by the mousse boys and girls rhythm section from Bilston extravaganza the year before.
The Sergeant Major screamed half way through Beat the retreat " it's time to be gone" and like all good troops we would be marching on full stomachs, ready for the front of stage battle ahead. Grabbed our belongings and trundled over the canal bridge tiptoed quietly past the "McBastards" encampment – they are quite infamous at the festival it seems, so we didn't want to upset them this day.
Although the gate was not to be opened until 11.00, by now it was 10.45 and a large queue had already started. Time for an advance party mission and Lindsay and I set off a great speed and found ourselves within 10 yards of the gate. This would mean that with a bit of luck, we would be one of the first 200 in. All that was needed then, was a sprint of Olympic style proportions covering the last 100 metres or so to the stage.
The gate creaked once or twice as if to tease our expectation and then as it finally opened it was every man or woman for themselves as the mad dash began. Let's just say I was quicker than most ( travelling light and with shorts on so looked the part) beat all those carrying arm chairs and rugs etc. by many a country mile. By 2012 with a few more festivals under my belt I should be in tip top condition, either that, or over the top.
So I reached a vacant position at the stage, quickly stripping off all I could as well as dumping loads of water bottles to bag the space for the others that were following on behind. The plan had worked – the spot was claimed and it was not long before Dick , Pete, Calli and Ali joined Lindsay and me and we found a wonderful place to hang the banner, spread our arms and wait for reinforcements. Countless texts and phone calls to others alerted them to our position and soon our band of happy campers were joined by Neil and Sue and many others we know and took time to make friends with a number of others who were also enjoying the front row.
So the wait had started - a rota of one off rest stayed put whilst we stocked up with water, because gosh it was hot. But one advantage of being that close to the stage was that by 12.30 we were in the area shaded by the height of the stage.
Mr Digance came on at midday and entertained us all very well - but though he thought he had a huge "morris" going on but really it was the rest of the crowd acknowledging their surrender with white handkerchiefs that our front row plan had gone superbly to plan, with our capture of that strategic place. Next up were Giveaway and with their vocal harmonies a little time to relax, close your eyes and take in the ambience of the festival and then contemplate a mornings work well done.
So the afternoon moved forever onwards, The Bucket Boys, and Ian Matthews did their bits which we appreciated, but down there in the front row the excitement was mounting all the time as we chatted with old friends and new and waiting for the guys to come and do their stuff. During this time we caught individual glimpses of the band at the back of the stage – we counted them as they passed by and counted them all back in. One fear during the weekend was that someone in the band might suffer the traffic chaos that we had encountered when we arrived on the Thursday afternoon, but they had drawn their plans very well too !
During the draw and football results, after Ian Matthews, (amid a temporary wailing by Lindsay at another loss) but she was soon able to forget that as the trolleys rolled onto the stage, with all the equipment including John's box of tricks - a mighty impressive array. Some one during this interlude some bright decided it would be a good idea to go and gather refreshment ready for the show and coming walked straight past Jean from the States but well armed with buckets loads of Guinness and other things that seemed mighty good, well that'll do as my excuse for now!
The opening sounds of "Lay Down" brought an instant reaction from the crowd and many started to surge forward packing tightly in to the stage area and it was not long before many started singing along, such was their enjoyment of this opening. Once the applause died down for that and having caught audience attention it was straight into the next song "I Only Want …." without any customary introductions owing to the pressure on time.
The set rolled on with more and more impetus and one of our fears that an equipment failure might cause a blight on proceedings were disappearing and in the hour and a half I am pleased to report, not a lead fell out of place. "Witchwood" and "Benedictus" gave us a chance to slow down but on the latter the chorus was being sung so lustily by the gathered hordes, it felt like a massive church choir venting their feeling of love for the world. Then back into the resounding second half and finish where everything built to a crescendo and had many screaming for more and more and more.
At one time during the set Lindsay and I happened to look at Dave L at the other end of the stage and as we looked, he looked our way and a big beaming smile came across his face. Whether he caught us looking at him we will never know - it may have been us, it may have been the banner or even the rest of the crowd catching his eye, but that moment said it all about what was happening around. This was a very special day.
Ah yes, but all too soon it was over and the much demanded encore never came, but to placate the crowd, the compere with his wisdom asked them all back on stage for a bow. The applause that greeted that arrival went on and on – a successful show now over we wended our way to the bar after fighting our way through the queue that was there for their signing of all sort of merchandise, which went way up the hill and down again. We were all feeling good at the impact the band had obviously made when people kept coming up noticed our t-shirts and told us what a great set it had been – that feeling was re-created the next morning when we surfaced still in those shirts and those camping in the next tent to our gathering said "they had not heard the band before but they were brilliant" – they had just been blown away by the band's appearance.
So the Strawbs came they conquered that mighty place, won many new fans young and old and I am pleased to report on top of that, the Witchwood party can report on a success or two of their own. Like managing to put our tents up and not having them fall down during any of the days.
Photo by Gary Hall - "the best band of the weekend."