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Moonbeams March Weekend

The Bell Hotel Driffield
Saturday 5 March 2016

If you arrive a little late for an event, in this case a day late, then you're usually reminded of what you missed the night before by those who have already sampled the beer, tested the huge variety of whiskeys, slept it off and then pretty much settled themselves into the swing of things. The Moonbeams March Weekend was pretty much in full-flow by the time I arrived at the Bell Hotel in Driffield this afternoon, just in time to catch the young Hull singer-songwriter Kate Spencer, whose midday set was just the thing to help me get settled in at this ungodly hour of almost twenty hours late. Katie seems to pop up a lot these days, a young musician who appears to be passionate about her music yet continues to maintain an unassuming, almost diffident stage presence. Selecting from a steadily growing repertoire of self-penned songs, some quite teeny, like Incense Skin for instance, Katie relaxed into her set, seemingly equally at home with her own songs, the odd cover, in this afternoon's case John Martyn's Couldn't Love You More, as well as the occasional instrumental, including the almost ambient Wyndham Hill-styled Warehouse One.

This was a promising start to the day at this year's Moonbeams March Weekend, which had already previously featured appearances by The Alligators, Flossie Malavialle, Edwina Hayes, Andy Stones and Nick Rooke. Whilst singaround sessions were to be found in the main bar area throughout the weekend, which would often see some of the main guests popping in for a sing and play, the dining area had been virtually taken over by various art projects, bringing another aspect to the event, which included the involvement of younger people demonstrating their artistic endeavours. 

Pete and Polly Bolton, known for their work in the popular local band Whiskey Dogs, presented a relaxed family affair type of set, featuring songs that one imagines the father and daughter have played around the house for years. Woody Guthrie songs, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark songs, the sort of Americana that appears to run through the veins of at least two generations of the East Yorkshire-based Bolton family. Whilst Pete selected songs from his vast repertoire of Old Timey material, accompanying himself on both guitar and banjo, Polly contributed some fine mandolin playing as well as those all-important harmony vocals.

With Leila Cooper at the helm of things throughout the weekend, an organiser who works tirelessly to bring great music to the area, the efforts of regular Moonbeams supporters didn't go unnoticed, such as Andy Atkinson and Martin Pierson, who MC'd both the Town Hall stage and the Maple Room stage respectively, as well as Gerry and Ani McNeice, who both likewise looked after the sound. Other artists performing throughout the day included Orkney's Brian Cromarty and Douglas Montgomery, otherwise known as Saltfishforty, Chris While and Julie Matthews, local singer-songwriter Andy Stones, York-based Dave Keegan and Simon Snaize, who wafted in at the eleventh hour as well as the all-female six-piece folk outfit Raven, a band that broke the festival record for the most instruments on stage, including accordion, flute, whistle, guitar, bass, keyboard, ukulele, bongos, djembi, wind stick and assorted shakers, with one or two of the members swapping places throughout the set to spice it up a bit. Spice Girls for a more seasoned audience perhaps?

Freshly relocated back to their home turf after some time in the Lake District, husband and wife team Phil and Jessica Simpson took to the Maple Room stage to headline tonight's concert. With Phil playing guitar and Jessica taking her usual stance, which involves hugging an autoharp, the duo provided a fine set that included such songs as Jessica's own Molly of the Tyne, Iris Dement's Our Town and Dar Williams' Iowa, before closing with the Bob Dylan song It Ain't Me Babe.

It has to be said that Holy Moly and the Crackers really did exceed all expectations after illness almost scuppered their appearance at the festival tonight. Ruth Patterson, an integral part of the band's sound, was suffering from a chest infection but was prepared to soldier on regardless with a stellar performance. Once their opening song Bluebell Wood was in full flow, the band relaxed into one of their usual high-energy performances which was just right for a Moonbeams event. 

Billed as a winter event on the Moonbeams calendar, the weekend served to put most of the regular visitors in the mood for the annual Moonbeams Summer Festival, which takes place at the Wold Top Brewery on the East Yorkshire Wolds near Hunmanby in July. Once again the festival boasts a highly respectable line-up this year featuring The Treacherous Orchestra, Rura, Hope and Social, The Young'Uns, Coco and the Butterfields and many more. I guess if I can get my own act together, there's every chance I might just turn up on time to that one!

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky