Boiling Wells AmphitheatreTurn left at the whole-food supermarket. Go down a long graffiti-adorned tunnel. Left again by the house with the huge and slightly optimistic Vote Corbyn poster. Along a dark, unlit tunnel. We are no longer in Bristol: we have slipped through into some folkie Narnia. The houses are designed for Hobbits. One one side of the road, Bristol's Only Glamping Site is having a Heavy Metal inspired party; on the other sidde the Boiling Wells City Farm Amphitheatre is hosting the new Outlandish Nights folk-venture. There is a shed selling organic pizzas (to the first 100 customers). Every five minutes a train whooshes past. People have brought their own booze. There are composting toilets, and bails of hay for
The atmosphere is distinctly clubbish. The MC, Sophie, who organized the event affair, kicks the evening off with a her own rendition of Maids When You're Young. There's a bit of a feminist to the whole show: the main act are described as being "three baddass women", the sound-engineer is a "a man, but not a massive wanker" and the evening is named after a song about a woman who pushed her abductor off a cliff. The show was sold out, and we were slightly bemused as to where everyone had come from. It wasn't the usual folk-crowd, Boiling Wells isn't well placed for walk-ups and the evening had not been aty all widely advertised.
The folk world feels like a family, if not a tribe. Tarren consists of Alex Garden (one half of the Drystones), Sid Goldsmith (one half of Sid and Jimmy) and Danny Pedle (who I couldn't initially place, but who I heard with Greg Russell at the Folkhouse before the Pestilence.) The other half of Sid and Jimmy (Jimmy) contributed some banjo to one of the Norfolk Broads' songs, and Bristol trad ballad singer Nick Hart did his unique folk bass thing. Tom Moore (of Moore Moss and Rutter) was also up on stage. I am pretty sure that non-wanker sound man Theo Passingham from Young Waters. This may in fact have been where the crowd came from: there were enough local and localish people on the stage that the auditorium was filled with their friends and friends of friends.
This was Tarren's first live show as a trio. They did what I would describe as ambient takes on traditional folk tunes and their own folkish compositions: a set of English hornpipes, a French inspired dance, an an exquisite slowed down Morris tune. They come together through swapping tunes virtually during lockdown but they are bound to become a regular thing. One of the joys of the last few folk-years has been watching Alex develop from an obviously talented young fiddler in the Priddy school band who clearly wanted to to be a Seth Lakeman into a very subtle and imaginative musician. Tunes kept fading out to strange, subtle rhythms and pulses on his violin. Sid's voice contributed an updated Rigs of the Time.
The Norfolk Broads are three badass women from Norfolk who met up in a choir and decided to form a trio, and who seem to be pleasantly gobsmacked that they are selling albums and appearing in shows. (Sid Goldsmith produced their first album.) They are occupying some of the same musical space as Lady Maisery and Said the Maiden: traditional material, sung straight, mostly unaccompanied with a quietly but emphatically feminist sensibility.
I had somehow assumed that they were going to be doing Norfolk folk songs (I assume there are some) but in fact they ranged widely around The Folk Tradition. There was a slight preference to songs about Badass Women, but I didn't feel the material was particularly rewritten or reclaimed. Pretty Peggy-O comes to a sticky end in Ferrario; and the judge refuses to spare the life of Geordie how ever much his lover (or is it his mother?) begs the judge. I noticed that Angeline the Baker had morphed into Angelina the Baker and become less, er, slavey than the one Sam Kelly sings. I was also unfamiliar with When I Was Young Girl I Used To Seek Pleasure, in which the person wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay is a lady rather than a trooper or a cowboy.
It was a full-on folkie set, full of people walking out one morning and encountering fair maids singing songs. There was nothing especially flashy about the arrangements, but every song was done perfectly and you could hear all the words. The gazebo was moved onto and off the stage several times, but the rain stayed away. The final chorus of Step It Up Mary (where the jury refuses to convict the badass woman who shot the man she was forced to marry against her will) accompanied by Sid, Jimmy, Nick, Tom and most of the audience almost managed to blot out the bass line from the party over the road and would have brought the house down and raised the roof had we not been in the open air.