Cheltenham Review

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Wychwood Friday Review

The Roving Crows

There was no easing in to this year’s festival, with Cheltenham folk favourites The Roving Crows showcasing their latest album, Bacchanalia, on the main stage. ‘The idea is to dance around the puddles,’ said frontman Paul O’Neill. Folk would be an understatement, more folk-rock jazzed up by a fiery trumpet and a sweet-searing fiddle. Fiddle player Caitlin Barrett won the Irish music Award’s Top Fiddle player, announced to the audience by O’Neill, followed by ‘not boasting or anything.’ On tracks where the fiddle is allowed to dominate you can hear every fine note cutting through its acoustic accompaniment– a bewitching sound. This was best shown in The White Petticoat, an artfully crafted track starting with a simple and gentle guitar base, laid over with sleek fiddle notes. A trumpet comes in halfway through and the fiddle really takes off. The sound builds into a finale that shakes the mud from your boots. Dirty Habits details the alcohol and party fuelled lifestyle of bass player Joe. We see another side to the band’s joyful energy with the track Brother, a sorrowful and beautiful song that lets Caitlin’s vocals shine. The Roving Crows were a fantastic start to the festival, and given that two years before they started festival life on the BBC Introducing stage just a hundred metres away, a perfect band to start the festival.

The Roving Crows: Paul O’Neill, lead vocals and guitarist; Caitlin Barret, fiddle and vocals; Greg Wilson-Copp, trumpet; Tim Tolhurst, drums; Joe, bass.

Next up on the main stage were the Cuban Brothers, but before that there was a chance to be tempted into the unpredictable cuisines of Wychwood: Mexican fajitas, Japanese noodles, the Chai Cafe, the Shisha Tent, a Welsh van, gourmet burgers, the Cocktail Lounge. Plus all the free yogurts you can eat from the Alpro tent. You definitely won’t get bored ay Wychwood.

The Cuban Brothers performed up to their reputation and beyond, with frequent cases of stripping off,  frenzied bouts of dancing, impromptu bursts of jazz and the necessity of saying ‘straight over the kids’ heads,’ after every remark. These guys are festival giants, with giant personalities to suit. Highlights include  Miguel Montavoni climbing down the speakers ‘like a cat’, and Archerio’s roller skate dancing. As for the music: high energy beats that range from rock to rap, but with their stage presence the show was more of an overall entertainment package– energy that spilled onto every member of the crowd, latin breakdancing and comedy that would make the most broad-minded festival goer turn to whoever’s next to them and ask ‘did they really just say that.’

The Cuban Brothers: Miguel Montavoni; Archerio, and Kengo-San.

For something cosier I headed over to the UOG’s Pomme stage in the wind battered Seaside tent, where the Cadbury Sisters fought off the heavy drums and lure of The Damned from the main stage. ‘The Damned? I guess their allowed to be loud then,’ says one of the trio. The harmonious sound of the girls’ smooth vocals is as powerful as any rock band. Their voices ebb and flow around their lilting melodies with a warmth that makes you feel as if you’ve stumbled across something natural. There’s a purity to their voices that captures you from the first note, sits you down, and shows you what music can do. Anyone who came across the unsigned sisters by chance that night would be glad they did. Catch them on their Cheltenham to Bristol tour on the 18th-30th of June.

The Cadbury Sisters: Jessica; Mary and Lucy.

Now to the Big Top for Alajandro Toledo and The Magic Tombolinos, a bewitching Argentinean cross-genre band. Despite the performance being thwarted by mic issues (at first it was hard to tell why they kept pointing to themselves and shaking their heads), the Magic Tombolinos shook the rain from the Top with their thumping energy. Most tracks were saxophone led with a heavy drum beat– guaranteed to get people moving and leave your ears ringing. Their captivating sound leaves you with the frustrating question of genre. It’s gypsy (probably) and Middle Easter (perhaps) Argentinean (of course) with elements of jazz riffs and leather trousers. It’s a unique bit of everything. Whatever the definition you can’t avoid being charmed by the sound.

The Magic Tombolinos: Alejandro Toledo, sax and vocals; Nuno Brito, drums; Maurizio Pala, Accordian; Michele Montolli, double bass; Davide Lufrano Chaves, Guitar.

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