An absolutely blinding line up awaited patrons of the third Eden Session of 2012. The much heralded Folk Session was one that stood out from the first announcement, and the quality of acts that have been announced since have just added to that. It was the first chance to see the much talked about vocal trio The Staves, a band we’ve been banging on about since the inception of Clean Slate Music. The only disappointment of the day aside from the weather came early on as due to coming on a bit later than billed we missed Dodgy on the Biotik stage, as it would have conflicted with proceedings in the main arena.
The sun was shining as The Staves opened up the main stage. The three sisters from Watford looking completely at ease on stage as they began to weave their spell on those who had made it down early to take full advantage of their ticket. For the most part the girls relied solely on their voices and a simple acoustic guitar played by Jessica, with Camilla pitching in on the ukulele. Their voices are so incredible that the crowd were all attentive, a rare feat for the first band on the bill. The set was made up in large parts from their three EP releases and it was a delight to hear ‘The Motherlode’, ‘Mexico’, ‘Facing West’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Wisely and Slow’. It was the new songs that made me sit up the most as ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’ exposed a new dynamic in the girls vocals, the trademark harmonies were present throughout but there was a more cutting edge with traces of vitriol to the solo parts. Finishing a wonderful set on another newbie ‘Winter Trees’ The Staves departed to a warm round of applause.
Until they were announced as part of the days festivities, I hadn’t heard the name Mull Historical Society for nearly a decade. Colin Macintyre and company rattled through a lively set full of upbeat folk-pop numbers and friendly banter. Macintyre’s vocals at times seemed a bit stretched and wavering, but the crowd now well into getting suitably inebriated of a Sunday afternoon didn’t seem to notice and the band were sent on their way with a very appreciative round of applause. Highlights of the set included the timeless ‘Watching Xanadu’ and ‘The Final Arreas’.
In my humble opinion Seth Lakeman was on way too early and should have quite comfortably enjoyed second billing on the day. Like the trooper he is Seth rolled up 3rd with his regular cohorts storming through a mostly high-octane folkacoaster (get it!) with hits from his ever-growing back catalogue. A nice treat for long-term fans was the return to the fold of Bellowhead axeman Benji Kirkpatrick for a quick song. The only time the pace dropped was for the new material off ‘Tales From The Barrelhouse’ ‘More Than Money’ and ‘The Blacksmith’s Prayer’. Aside from that the set read as a dream for Lakeman fans including favourites like ‘Kitty ‘Race To Be King’, ‘The Hurlers’, ‘Lady Of The Sea’ and a cracking solo performance of ‘Kitty Jay’. Like last year when Seth performed on the Biotik stage during the Primal Scream gig, it looks like he might just have stolen the show again.
Bellowhead were set with the hardest task of all in following Lakeman, John Spiers and his merry band of Folkateers set about facing that challenge head on. There’s a lot of them in Bellowhead, it’s incredible to see them perform, not only are they amazingly tight, but they are great to watch. There’s always something going on on-stage, be it fake fights in the string section or a bit of nicely coordinated ‘River Dancing’. This all helped to keep the pace lively and the audience interacting. I’m not overly familiar with Bellowhead material, but fan favourite ‘New York Girls’ was sung back to the by the majority of the crowd.
It may have been because they were on after two incredibly lively acts, but I found Stornoway a little underwhelming. They’ve always been one of those bands that whenever I’ve heard them on the wireless I’ve really enjoyed what they do, but it’s never been enough to pick up their album. In doing a bit of listening prior to the gig I thought to myself then that they’d have been better off following The Staves rather than Bellowhead, and this was realised as aside from their obvious fans, there seemed to be a lot of people making bar trips and toilet breaks in their set. As nothing much was happening on stage and you could hear them no matter where you were this seemed like a decent idea. It’s not that they weren’t good, but I don’t think people were ready for the comedown in pace, and then to be ramped back up for tonight’s head-liner. Their biggest hit ‘Zorbing’ still went down an absolute treat. The rain also began to teem down when they took the stage. This ruffled a few feathers and hampered those who had obviously come to relax on the banking and enjoy the music.
What happened between Stornoway finished and Frank Turner started was unexpected, and it may have been because the rain was now settled in for the duration, but it seemed as if the arena emptied almost by half. This might have been because people were bunching together a bit more or some heading off early as it was a Sunday, but I’ve never seen any crowd leave before the headline act before.
Hats off to Mr Frank Turner, he could be seen side stage for every act, watching intently. Some head-liners would swan in at the last possible moment, so as the Americans say mad props to you sir!
Frank Turner’s not your archetypal head-line act. He’s more an anti-star than anything, building his fanbase rather strangely on hard work and more importantly his music. He hasn’t enjoyed massive chart success, you won’t often find him on the main stage at the big festivals, but almost every person left at Eden sang back to him as if he were one of our own. His acoustic folk bordering on Pogues style just not as Irish is full of patriotism, tales of yesteryear and passion. The perfect recipe for a Folk day if ever I saw one. Frank’s surprisingly chatty on stage and quick to thank all of the acts that have gone before him. Singing tunes from his most recent album ‘England Keep My Bones’ as well as his back catalogue stand out efforts included ‘I Still Believe’ a haunting solo a cappella version of ‘English Curse’, ‘love, Ire and Song’ and closing his set on a raucous rendition ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’. Turner left all he had on that stage, as I’m sure he does every night. Roll on November when he returns to play Hall For Cornwall in Truro.