Review: Brass Monkey’s triumphant show at Stainsby Festival

Brass Monkey plahying at Stainsby Festival
Brass Monkey plahying at Stainsby Festival

Folk royalty sparkled like jewels in the crown of this weekend’s Stainsby Festival.

Legends such as Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick comprising two-thirds of Brass Monkey, Dick Gaughan and Robin Williamson wowed the crowds with their accomplished playing and story-telling.

Fred Thelonious Baker playing at Stainsby Festival

Fred Thelonious Baker playing at Stainsby Festival

Capturing Brass Monkey for the 47th festival was a coup, as the band are on their farewell tour after 33 years of making music together.

Recovery from a hernia operation prevented Martin Carthy from singing and he spent the concert sitting down playing guitar. However, old habits die hard and Martin couldn’t resist mouthing the words to The Maid of Australia.

Vocal duties were in the experienced hands of John Kirkpatrick and a fine job he did too, John’s superlative talents as an accordionist were matched by drummer Martin Brinsford, the only man in the world who can play harmonica and tambourine at the same time, and the brass section of Paul Archibald, Shane Brennan and Roger McWilliams.

Brass Monkey brought a sense of majesty to their performance with glittering gems such as The Old Grenadier which was played in tribute to late member Howard Evans and is played by the Army for the Queen’s birthday, The King’s Hunt which was written by John Bull and a tune written for Queen Anne’s 38th birthday in 1702,

Dick Gaughan playing at Stainsby Festival

Dick Gaughan playing at Stainsby Festival

A lone reveller marching up and down in front of the stage during the finale, pausing to salute John and Martin confirmed that we truly were in the presence of folk royalty.

Earlier in the evening, a standing ovation greeted the baron of bass guitar Fred Thelonius Baker who held the crowd in the Hat Block marquee enthralled by the sounds he coaxed out of his instrument. From “chicken-picking” to jumping on his “pedals of bass destruction” this was a first-class performance from a Derbyshire-born maestro at the top of his game and must surely rate as a highlight of this year’s festival.

Unfortunately Fred’s set clashed with that of the Dick Gaughan in the main marquee but I returned just in time to hear the legend’s signature song Geronimo’s Cadillac which is always is a joy to listen to.

One of the difficulties with reviewing Stainsby Festival is that you can’t be in two places at once and it’s always a tough choice to know where to park yourself. This year I managed to check out The Third Thing tent, an intimate space with little lights twinkling through the black canvas which covers the roof. There I caught an interesting presentation about the decline of the region’s coal industry, complete with recollections about growing up in a mining community and the wounds that will never heal in families where scabs broke through picket lines during the miners strike.

Saturday night ended with a return to the Hat Block bar where the younger crowd were going mental to the folk electronica sounds of Jasper In The Company of Others. Their cheers could still be heard as I hit the road leading back to the car park in the top field, which is the first time I’ve ever heard this in many years of covering the festival.

Stainsby Festival concludes this evening (Sunday, July 19) with performances from Dragonsfly Band, The Lost Padres and George Borowski.