Fairport Convention: Camp and Furnace, Liverpool

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Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention

As Fairport Convention play to a mesmerised Camp and Furnace, Getintothis’ Mark Greenwood soaks up the mystical atmosphere – and the cider.

It’s been a busy week for Getintothis, dominated by a sojourn down to London to the grimiest of venues for a heavy dose of deep psych-rock accompanied with the traditional paradigms of dirt and glamour afforded to those who travel with contemporary rock bands. Disengaging from the Metropole in the early hours of a Saturday we’re confronted with the long road up North, bypassing a host of modern allotments precariously developed into towns and mini-cities that populate pastoral patches stretching between the Thames and the Mersey.

Stopping off at the oasis of a service station our driver slows down so we can observe a gang of rabbits bouncing around on the edge of a fragile wood. Miraculously, two large stags also appear on the edge of a grassy knoll, their antlers silhouetted in the ghostly landscape of an all-night garage. Mesmerised by their sublime and dramatic appearance, we stop the van and watch in silence for some time.

In 1936, the writer Walter Benjamin described a modern era where the art of storytelling had become devoid, usurped by a dramatic influx and rapid distribution of information in the early twentieth century. Moreover, he asserts that the rise of information is incompatible with storytelling, contributing to the diminished efficacy of the storyteller. Getintothis might argue then that the folk tradition aims to re-address this balance, with groups like Fairport Convention seeking, over their long history, to preserve the motifs of magic, mysticism and our relationships to animal familiars that embellish popular folklore.

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention

Stepping into Camp, within the post-industrial simulacra of Camp and Furnace, Getintothis are transported into a kind of synthetic forest, accompanied by the aromas of burning wood and sweet cider and confronted with a host of celebrated elders. The band effortlessly indulge in a series of jigs and ballads, intricately framed and embroidered with baroque harmonies, awkward rhythms and majestic musicianship.

Check what other musical delights lay in store for Liverpool, in our 2016 calendar

A range of instruments, acoustic and electric, weave together explicit sceneries to accompany the retelling of legends and myths passed down through an ancient oral tradition. It’s a long set, that is received warmly by the Camp and Furnace crowd, who sit in cosy clusters on wooden benches arranged in a kind of ‘Oktoberfest’ formation. The sound is excellent, with an array of instruments, old and new, shining brightly in the echoes of the former industrial site, without feedback and the bottom end ‘woolyness’ that sometimes spoils the Camp experience.

There’s a lot of playful banter and a hilarious rendition of Steeleye Span’s Gaudette that lists an overtly bourgeois menu of starters and accompaniments. A lot of the material is garnered from the latest Myths and Heroes album which is fair enough, considering the band are actual Fairport veterans rather than assimilated session musicians brought together for a predictable ‘juke box’ concert; the songs are played with passion and pride.

Numbers such as Matty Groves and the noble eeriness of Meet on the Ledge hit the sweet spot, with many audience members weeping into their pints despite any unfair aspersions of ‘corporate’ folk. While not as politically edgy as some of their contemporary peers, Fairport Convention still assert a communicative vehicle, capable of sharing narratives and myths that haunt mysterious Arcadian ideals veiled in the mists of a banal modern dystopia. Pass the cider please.

Photos by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody

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