Another spring, another Warthog Promotion’s Fairport Convention gig.
The Lowdham leg of the band’s spring tour has now become a tradition. That said, the band have enviable canon, which, largely thanks to Chris Leslie’s song writing, is constantly growing. Thus, each Lowdham visit provides a different menu.
For this show the stage was bedecked with banners for Fairport’s annual music festival, the Cropredy Convention, in August and for Dave Pegg’s recently released memoir, Off the Pegg. Fiddle player Ric Sanders jokingly remarked, ‘The kind of book that once you put it down it’s hard to pick up again!’
One audience member pointed out that he had bought an LP, The History of Fairport Convention (perhaps a premature title!) in the mid-70s and by that time there had been dozens of members of the band. The current line-up of Leslie (multi-instrumentalist and vocals), Pegg (bass and vocals), Simon Nicol (guitar and vocals), Sanders (fiddle) and Gerry Conway (drums and percussion) has been stable fixture for some decades, however. For this gig Conway had pared back his normal drum set up to a synthesised drum, Cajon and a variety of percussion instruments.
Newer songs included Shuffle and Go, about an Oxford Teddy Boy, DIY themed Devil’s Work, and Moondust and Solitude. Leslie confided that as a boy he had an interest in the Apollo missions and Moondust had formed from his vision of astronaut Michael Collins orbiting the moon whilst Armstrong and Aldrin made their landing. Leslie also introduced My Love is in America a story of a young, courting Irish couple who both left their home country to find work. He to England and her to America. Written from the man’s perspective, it is a story unresolved. ‘I’ll leave you to make up your minds how it ends,’ challenged Leslie.
Nicol shared that they always aim to play something from the seminal Liege and Lief album. To this end, the atmospheric Crazy Man Michael made a welcome return to the set, as did Ralph McTell’s Girl from The Hiring Fair, much to the delight of Mike Hoare, chief Warthog. The rest of the repertoire spanned the Fairport career with mentions of folk luminaries such as Richard Thompson, Dave Swarbrick, Sandy Denny and Julie Matthews.
Mid show, Sanders delivered a short stand up comedy interlude featuring one-liners on stair lifts, Donald Trump and funerals. Tim Vine would have been proud! At the end of his stint Sanders introduced Jonah’s Oak, an instrumental which celebrates a famous tree in the Cropredy field with plaques in memory of folks who had associations with Cropredy. There are ashes of some spread beneath the Oak.
‘This is our now legendary 19 verse but two chord finish,’ announced Nicol, before launching into Matty Groves. An encore of Thompson’s Meet on the Ledge in memory of passed friends broth the evening to a close.
‘We’ll hopefully see you again next year,’ was Fairport’s comment. I’m sure we will.