Castlefest review: Friday

For introduction post and Thursday round-up click here


Friday was the first day of the festival itself. My mother and I got up early and walked towards the unknown (i.e. a shuttle bus) and waited. The queues of people waiting by Hillegom station must have been quite the sight! Although I would have liked to have camped, as planned, the atmosphere on these shuttle buses was lovely and we were also lucky enough to have drivers who felt like putting on music for most of the journeys… got to get into the mood, right?
The first act I was lucky enough to see was Lisa Cuthbert. I first got into Lisa’s music last year when I accidentally ended up listening to a small part of her set and found it truly beautiful and rather haunting. She has the most stunning voice with true emotional qualities. Her subject matter, and songs, are stunning too. Her CD, Paramour, is a concept album centred around the theme of the Magdalene Laundries which were religious run institutions in Ireland in which fallen women lived in awful conditions. I won’t go into her music too much at the moment but will probably review Paramour at some point and would urge you to get it because it’s a wonderful album.

Lisa’s set this year included several sections in which she played solo and also played with a new band. Despite the fact they have only been playing together since December, if my memory serves, they worked together really well. It’s exciting to see the project growing and developing. That said, I’m pleased that the set still does contain some of the stripped back sound that I really did fall in love with.

The highlight of this set for me was hearing my favourite, Gartan Mothers Lullaby, played live. It’s such a simple, bittersweet sounding piece that truly does show off Lisa’s emotional and vocal range.

After the set (which was spent mostly hiding in the shade) I went over to the merchandise stand to see if I could get my scrapbook drawing signed. This was the first time of meeting Lisa, and also her drummer, and it really must be said that she was lovely. She spent a lot of time with everyone talking about her music, life in general, and really bothered to make everyone feel special. And she did sign my drawing so I was pleased with that too!

After that great start, my mother and I gravitated towards the Forest Stage where Shantalla were playing. Indeed, my mother was supposed to go and see them and not Lisa Cuthbert but, hearing Lisa’s performance while ‘dropping me off’  the mother decided she wanted to stay too. We were lucky that we managed to catch the end of Shantalla’s set and therefore got the best of both worlds.

Shantalla are a band that I vaguely know, and know that they’re good, but don’t really listen to. I did, however, really enjoy the part of their set that I managed to catch! I think it’s really worth commenting upon the lead singer, Helen Flaherty, who, not only has a lovely voice, but has a real joyous energy on stage and brought a lot to the overall atmosphere.

After a brief detour to catch a few minutes of The Moon and the Nightspirit (too many set clashes!) it was back to the Forest Stage for Folk Noir. Although I really do like Folk Noir, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really manage to see all of their set as I had to go and sit down part way through it. One year I will be healthy 😉

The parts that I did see brought all that I expect from that group, beautiful music with a somewhat nostalgic tone along with a presentation that is professional but not too stiff. There’s something great about seeing this group perform live in that it rather feels that you are watching a group of talented individuals jamming together rather than a polished performance. There’s that kind of intimate feeling and, perhaps, that is what makes this group stand out.

I’m really looking forward to the prospect of a CD release from the current Folk Noir line up as opposed to the early EP which is wonderful but simply not enough! I don’t know if there’s one in the works but it was mentioned last year so fingers crossed!

We then moved to one of the other stages to sit in the shade and listen to the next band on our itinerary, La Horde. Now, if you know La Horde you will know that there is no way you want to sit down and listen to them because they are a real party band. I honestly don’t know how to describe
them as a band, or their music, other than feel good crazy stuff. From the expected tunes, played in unexpected ways, to tunes you wouldn’t really expect at this kind of festival (I like to move it, for example), their sets are fun and unusual! I know there was one set that was planned to be a pyjama party, complete with pillow fight, and also, I’ve heard, a ‘wall of hugs’.

After a bit of a break (listening to Euzen from a distance, and also catching the very end of Rastaban’s set) it was time for Scrum. Now, last year, I was really disappointed by Scrum’s set. I really do like their music and felt that, surely, this was because the sound tech was messed up. That said, I wasn’t expecting too much this time, just in case. However, Scrum did live up to my original high expectations this time (re-enforcing my idea that it was the tech not them causing problems before).

Scrum play a mixture of traditional celtic folk tunes, with a rocky twist, and original pieces in that style. This results in a high energy, high impact performance. This is another band that is really easy to connect with as an audience. Although their musical performance is of a high and polished quality, there is an openness about their stage presentation that makes them seem as though they’ve just jumped up there for a laugh as opposed to being serious professionals. To be honest, with this genre with all its earthiness, you need to have that kind of attitude on stage. They were also lovely guys and signed my scrapbook painting even though I believe it caused some confusion as people couldn’t work out quite what it was!

After Scrum, it was time for The Dolmen who are a band from Weymouth. Despite the fact I lived just down the road from there until a few months back I have only managed to go to their shows in mainland Europe. If any of my English friends are reading this, go see them, okay?

This late night set was full of people who really wanted to dance and have a wonderful time and with The Dolmen’s music it was an easy thing to do! Although I was alone for this set I was approached by a fair number of people either to chat or to dance so thank you to anyone who absorbed me into their groups for a time. I think this was one of the most fun and friendly crowds of the festival so, for me, it’s one of my highlights for sure and a brilliant way to round off day one!

I have a lot more photos on my facebook page, and Saturday’s review can be read here!


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