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A Tale of Two Festivals....

This wasn't the original plan. Months ago, I'd booked a ticket on the recommendation of Kirsten and Lorraine to see the Treacherous Orchestra in Bury. Some friends of mine were also playing the same day at the Holmfirth Folk Festival, but obviously I couldn't be in two places at the same time! However, when I realised that, due to the times involved for both events, I could call at the Holmfirth Folk Festival and catch both Roger Davies and The Rainey Street Band, and still have time to get over to Bury, I thought, why not, let's do it!

They were both on at Holmfirth Parish Church, and with Roger starting around 4.15, I left home before 3 thinking I'd have plenty of time to park up and have a leisurely wander around the place first. Wrong. Holmfirth was rammed, with the sunny weather no doubt having an influence, and after a 15 minute wait to get through the lights in the centre, I ended up parking near Compo's Cafe on the road to Greenfield! So a bit of a trek back down to the village, I grabbed a quick pint at the Nook where there was music playing, a barbecue grilling, and a lovely atmosphere.

I got to the Parish Church where Roger Davies had just started, and he performed a great set which went down well with a decent-sized audience. I have been following him for over 10 years, from when he was a hesitant performer in such illustrious places as The Tipp Inn in Brighouse. One thing never in doubt though even then was Roger's ability to pen a great song. And over the years he has grafted, first locally, then spreading out further across the country, and then earlier this year he was support act for the legendary Fairport Convention on their nationwide tour. He sings of 'Brighouse on a Saturday Night', about the paintings of my old art teacher, Peter Brook, and 'Percy Shaw', the Halifax character who invented Cats Eyes. But despite his last album being called 'The Yorkshire Songwriter', his songs have a much wider appeal. If you like a good tune, a good chorus, and a good story, then it doesn't matter whether you're in Bradford or Bristol. And, what's more, he's a thoroughly nice chap as well.  

Next up were The Rainey Street Band, of whom, regular readers will know, I am a great supporter. Unfortunately though, putting a Bluegrass and Americana band on at a folk festival at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, straight after Roger Davies who was in his natural environment, was not the best piece of scheduling. A microphone problem in the first tune, 'Whisky', didn't help. The band's remaining tracks were as good as ever, it was just somewhat incongruous seeing them performing to a backdrop featuring an altar, cross, and hymn numbers! 

I left the lads as they lit up a post-gig cigarette and I headed back up the hill to the car. The traffic and crowds had thinned out, and I set off without any trouble over the Isle of Skye road across the Pennines. I got to Bury about 45 minutes later, checked into the Premier Inn and headed out into town.

The Treacherous Orchestra had originally been due to play at the Met, but had been moved to the Elizabethan Suite in the Town Hall as refurbishment was taking place. However, I was pleased to find the Automatic Bar, which is part of the same building, to be open. I opted for a pint of Irwell Works Costa Del Salford, which was spot on. I dined here too, very nice it was, good value, and there were very few empty tables when I left about 8. I headed around the corner, to the Clarence, and tried a pint of Silver Street Session, brewed on the premises, which I have to say was disappointing.

The Town Hall is a couple of minutes away from the Premier Inn, so quite handy! There was real ale on in the entrance, Silver Street Session it was, and better than the Clarence! The gig was part of the Big Whistle Festival, dedicated to all things tin whistle, and indeed there was an impressive selection on sale. Not tempted, I moved into the main hall which was of a reasonable size with a bar down the side but with no real ale.

Now if you are thinking by now that the Treacherous Orchestra are merely a group of Scottish whistle players, think again! Yes, in Ross Ainslie and their hyperactive frontman, Ali Hutton, they have 2 excellent exponents, but that is only part of the story. They exploded on to the stage, all 12 of them, with Ali running up and down the place, and with them an impressive array of instruments - guitars, bass, accordian, drums, fiddles, bodhran, keyboard and bagpipes. And can they play them.

They build an amazing wall of sound, all instrumental, all written by themselves but with their roots in traditional tunes. The bagpipes inevitably prompt comparison with the Peatbog Faeries, and like them they get the feet moving, but whilst the Peatbogs veer towards electro and ambient, TO are much rockier. Indeed, with their tattoos, black clothing, chains, etc, they look more like a metal band, and if you looked at the cover of their most recent album, 'Grind', that's what you would think they were. They also come over as such a good set of lads, they are all laughing and joking with each other as they play, and their enthusiasm rubs off the audience.

The crowd were loving it, the band were loving it, Ali a non-stop figure, running from one band member to the next, when an alarm sounded. No, it wasn't the band, it was a fire alarm! We all had to go outside, wait on the steps, where the band mingled with the crowd, joking, posing for selfies and keeping us all amused. A fire engine turned up to much cheering, and after 20 minutes or so we were allowed back in. False alarm, no problem, except the real ale bar staff had done a runner!

The band picked up where they'd left off, and left to a tumultuous applause after another 40 minutes or so, which included a couple of times when Ali and Innes the fiddler leapt into the audience mid-song! They were excellent, a very varied audience loved it, and I would urge you to track them down whatever music you like as they will not disappoint.

I wandered over to the the Two Tubs, probably Bury's oldest pub, and calmed down with a good pint of Wainwright. A few of the concert goers I'd been talking to followed, as did some of the band, and there was an excellent atmosphere.

I headed back to the hotel. I'd enjoyed my visit to two festivals....


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