Review: A storm and stormin’ start to Cromer’s Folk on the Pier Festival

Folk on the Pier 2014. The Willows.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Folk on the Pier 2014. The Willows. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Friday, May 9, 2014
6:57 PM

The wind did blow and the rain did pour – the rolling waves did crash and roar.

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Jez Lowe.Jez Lowe.

Not the start to an old English folk song but the unseasonal welcome at the start, this afternoon, of the annual Cromer Folk on the Pier festival.

Music fans struggled against an off-sea gale to reach the pier theatre – the venue this weekend for a host of folk-rock, roots and good-time acts.

The pier itself was still showing signs damage from last winter’s storms but it was business as usual for the festival – the 16th masterminded by Scott Butler.

Concert headliners Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies, and singer-songwriter Roger Davies, both kicked things off in strong “northern style”.

Lowe and his band performed a very engaging set – mixing serious and light-hearted songs about life in the North-East.

Taking On Men, and Black Trade, both from the 2006 “Ballad of the Big Ships” BBC radio ballad, recalled the heyday and decline of the shipbuilding industry.

The early Lowe song Cursed Be The Caller told of the miners’ early morning alarm call, and the Ex-Pitmen’s Potholing Pub Quiz Team painted an amusing picture of life after coalmine closures.

With his three band members playing Northumbrian small-pipes, keyboards, whistle, fiddle, mandolin and fretless bass between them, guitarist Lowe had a rich musical accompaniment for his lyrics.

There was a real “get up and dance” feel to Barnstorming, about North-East dance band musician Jack Armstrong and the band was in excellent form for the poignant encore Coal Town Days.

West Yorkshire life was revealed to a welcoming “southern audience” by singer-songwriter Roger Davies.

Tongue-in-cheek tributes to Brighouse and Huddersfield proved especially popular and the questionable ode to drinking, The Beer Belly Blues, suggested that up t’North pub names include The Kangaroo and The Didgeridoo.

On a more serious note Davies’ tribute to the dead of World War One struck a chord with many and his opener Into The Sun cheered all with a bit of reggae included.

Festival opening band The Willows, from Cambridge, quickly dispelled memories of the weather outside with quality vocals and musicianship for a good set of Americana and original material – mostly with a dark edge.

Roseville Fair was a personal favourite for me and intriguing was Johnny Watson – about a couple whose relationship literally goes up in smoke.

As well as concerts at the end of the pier, there is plenty of festival fringe entertainment to be enjoyed, mostly for free, at other venues around Cromer.

Brian Gaudet

■ Keep visiting this website over the weekend for more festival reviews.

■ See www.folkonthepier.co.uk

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