FolkWorld article by Michael Moll:

SUFfolk & beyond VI: Cowboys, a sheep & Flook
International Country Music Festival in Ipswich

PosterHow come that Flook and Last Night's Fun end up playing in front of a Cowboy audience? I suppose that this has been one of the most bizarre folk events I have been so far in this county. A SUFfolk & beyond view into the Folk Roots of America Day at Suffolk Showground, June 2003.

Up to that day, I have never felt inclined to visit a Country Music Festival. Yet the Folk Roots of America Day's evening concert did not feature country, but Celtic music, with Last Night's Fun and Flook - a good reason to make this a first time. To call a Celtic evening "Folk Roots of America Day" seems, from a folk perspective a good way not to attract oo many Celtic folk fans - if that was the plan, I suppose it worked out....

The evening concert was scheduled to start at 7 pm. We arrived at 7.30 at the Suffolk Showground, entering a huge car park with about five cars being parked. Several stewards guided us over the wide open fields, so that we would park close to those five cars. Somehow this did not seem to be a very busy festival evening...

This feeling was only confirmed when entering the showground site, passing on a track several deserted stalls selling all sorts of stuff, mainly in some way related to Cowboys and America. The whole site had a feeling of a ghost town, hardly any sign of life. At the end of the line of stalls, we found on the right hand a hot dog stall, on the other side the cattle building, out of which music sounded... it seemed that we had arrived...

On stage was Finnian McGurk, a singer and guitarist singing mainly the usual suspects of Irish ballads. In the audience, on bench-tables, some 30 people, making this cattle building a rather strange place to be in. Just a few weeks before this event, during the Suffolk Show (an agricultural show) this building was filled with cattle; today, the majority of people in the building had cowboy hats or even more weired clothes. Somehow I got the distinct impression of being in the wrong film.

Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley, photo by The MollisAfter a while, Finnian made space on stage for the next act - Last Night's Fun. Last Night's Fun are Chris Sherburn on concertina, Denny Bartley on guitar and loud voice, and Nick Scott on uilleann pipes. Their music is a mixture of Irish based tunes with a unique, at times unco-ordinated sounding, but always innovative approach, and songs, sung by Denny with a very distinct, strong voice (somebody referred to it as fog horn - maybe not even too far off, but it is great stuff!). All three are great instrumentalists, and Chris keeps the audience amused with his jokes. Quite a great live band.

When Last Night's Fun started their set, some of the cowboys directly jumped up and lined up for a line dance. The musicians amusedly watched their failing attempts to line-dance to the music. Chris: "Wow. You are the first people trying to dance to our music!"

I suppose the dancers might well have thought they knew why the band has this very name (there was line dancing the last night). Those few without cowboy outfit seemed to enjoy the music and the fun....

About half way through the evening, more and more people in increasingly strange costumes came out of the dark into the cattle building (had the ghost town inhabitants???) to have a look and a beer. If you made your way out for a wee, you had to pass a scary bunch of strangely dressed people - I imagined to see cowboys, a person incorporating a mix of Frankenstein and Frank Sinatra, people from the times of the American Civil War - if I have not dreamt this all up!

Ed & Baaarbara, photo by FlookAs the top band of the evening, one of FolkWorld's favourite bands, Flook played. Even though the acoustics of the cattle building were not perfect, the sound of Flook was as magic as ever. And Flook indeed still manage to get better each time you see them. Their blend of twin flutes, bodhran and guitar is simply unique; showcasing the talents of four of the very best musicians of the Celtic music scene. Somehow most of the cowboys seemed not really to appreciate this; most of them appeared already half way through the set.

This night, Flook had a very special support of Baaaaaarbara, the most vocal in the audience, who joined the band on stage. Especially Ed seemed to find a linking for the sheep! Flook's gig was definitely worth to brave the walk through the cowboys' ghost town - they played a terrific set, with plenty of music from their brill latest CD, (yes the one which was voted by FolkWorld's editors as best CD of 2002)!

One of the aims of the International Country Music Festival was to bridge between the different scenes of Folk and Country. I am not convinced how well that worked - most of the Country audience did not fully enjoy the evening (missing the line dancing opportunities), and those folkies that did make it to the concert, probably did not attend any of the country events over the weekend. Overall, the festival must have been a financial disaster, if all events were attended by so few people - and that even though the weather was excellent.

I saw this weekend a side of SUFfolk that I had not known before. I have not seen any cowboys in Ipswich since though...
There were plenty more summer events in Suffolk, several of them being reviewed in this FolkWorld issue:

Photo Credit:
(1) Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley in Gosport, at times when Denny still had hair..., photo by The Mollis
(2) Ed Boyd with Baaarbara, photo from Flook's photo album

Suffolk and beyond is a regular series about folk events, gossip and the impressions of a German folk fan living in England. The first three parts were:

Part V: A winter full of obstacles - 5 cm snow and other obstacles - and one concert: Claire Mann & Aaron Jones
Part IV: In search of the curiosities of life - Colum Sands in Wivenhoe, Flook in Colchester, Aly & Phil in Snape
Part III: English folk clubs - well hidden secrets - The Fraser Sisters and Tweed/Cutting/Harbron/vanEycken
Part II: Two in a bar etc.
- Plenty of old folkies for Christmas and the satire of a licening law prohibiting sessions and sing-alongs

Part I: English curiosities - Folk and Jazz garden chair display, proms and folk in a church

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