Woodfordia 2016/2017

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In honour of this year’s Woodford, I’m posting a Journal entry originally written on Jan 2nd 2017, anonymised.

I told A I wasn’t going. There was nothing particularly interesting in the line-up and I was looking forward to spend some time by myself and some time with her. But at B’s party (and C’s going away and D’s visit) C offered me a session musician ticket and I had to take it. It’d be the first time I’d get in at any festival as a musician. Sure, it’s a volunteering gig, but it also means I can make new connections that might help me getting similar or better gigs in the future. I bought my flight and told A, who was very disappointed. I apologised— but there was really no way I wouldn’t take a performer ticket for Woodford.

Woodford was nothing like last time. C’s guidance turned it into an unforgettable experience. We spent our days doing tai chi, yoga, dancing, seeing trad gigs and never once ran into any friction. Her darker moods hit us some times but never in a harsh way. The upside is far too good. I danced like I hadn’t danced in years—it’s like I was put in a time machine and reaquainted with my younger, more naive self. I think I value it more now. It was there all along, I just needed some encouragement.

Gig-wise my plan was to stick to trad. Andy Irvine, Sharon Shannon and FourWinds, maybe catch E and D’s gig. I was expecting Andy Irvine to be great, he was good, but somehow the energy wasn’t there. Maybe it was the blistering heat. From what I heard from F, his NYE gig wasn’t good either. Apparently he said something very political expecting a response, but got nothing, and things went sour after that. So much so when he was packing up he gave the audience the finger! It was so bad they had to call FourWinds to do CPR—F’s words—on the venue. We only got there when FourWinds were playing, so for us it was an amazing night of dancing and poetry. Sharon Shannon did not disappoint with amazing gigs back to back. Their show is very much a pop rock show with trad melodies, and she looked absolutely dreamy with her hair blowing in the wind made by the stage fans. They needed lots of them—coming from Ireland weather to 37 degrees Celsius has got to be very difficult. One of my disappointments with her gig was the lack of use of the bass buttons on her boxes, but that’s the trad Irish way.

My actual gig was just playing sessions, which sounds fairly easy. In practise it meant playing at least 5 hours every day, ending as late as 1 or 2am. I had lots of fun but it was hard to keep up—lots of veterans and many tunes I didn’t know. I didn’t start any sets for a few days to see what they played—and I’d stay I knew about 15%. The few tunes I started didn’t go that well. Some too fast (green mountain and monaghan twig), some too boring (cooley’s into drowsie maggie). Some were fantastic though—humours of tully crine, father kelly’s, what a blast. The slow session also went fairly well. One of the afternoons the slow Australian tunes session was on and the host was sick, so they asked me to teach an Australian tune. What a nightmare. I tried Last of the Litter, then Mirandum, then gave up. Some of the fiddle players had better options. Odd that I’d be asked to do that, of all people.

The opening and closing ceremonies were alright, but the closing ceremony, with its refugee undertones, felt far too self congratulatory. Happy beach people in one place, bombed boat people in the other. Somehow it was divine intervention that caused refugees—which I found very annoying. What was missing there was the happy beach people bombing the refugees first, then pretending to be nice people and welcoming (only a few skilled ones) back in. At least it would be more honest.

The fireworks were fantastic, and we went to bed early. Nothing like going to a festival and actually resting.