FolkWorld Live Review 8/2000:
Already the first edition of the new European folk festival Folkwoods in Eindhoven in the Netherlands proofed that this will become a new major spot in the summer festival schedule. The organisation was brilliant, the festival site beautiful, the line up powerful - and even the weather (which was at quite a few festivals a major problem this summer) was excellent. All in all it was a wonderful weekend in the woods...
Folkwoods festival is definitely not a festival you can find by chance - you have to drive through several residential areas, then through some woodland, and then you finally arrive at the site, thinking there that it is just the right place for it - a beautiful park with very nice grass areas under trees - for campers just the perfect grounds, directly next to the festival terrain; and with very good camping facilities (and no surcharge for camping for festival visitors!).
On the festival terrain there are some stalls, four bars with quite a large selections of drinks, a restaurant and a snack corner (all serverd in/on real glasses/plates, no through away things). Then there are three music tents of different size (small one up to 200 listeners, medium up to 800 and the big one up to 2000). If you are staying at the campsite, you need not to leave the park the whole festival - you can feel very much at home there...
Let's come to the programme - on Friday there was programme only in the medium sized tent - it started at 7 p.m. with the Irish singer Sean Canning followed by French folk rock band Les Nomades and American singer songwriter Mike West together with Myshkin. We arrived only in time to see the final band of the evening, Swedish folk rock band Garmana. Garmana are quite a show, with their traditional melodies combined with modern grooves highlighted by the beautiful clear voice of Emma Härdelin - singing in a very innocent kind ancient songs of crime, murder, etc. A good start for a great party weekend.
Saturday was the main day of the festival featuring music highlights non stop from noon till late after midnight. You would have concerts always alternating in the two big tents - when a concert in the one tent finished, the next one started in the other tent. Only the encores overlapped with the next concert. So the audience had the possibility to swap tents in a one minute walk, non stop music the whole day long without missing many highlights - and if you didn't like the music in the big tent, you had the possibility to go to the third stage, or just give yourself a rest and sit in the 'pub garden'...
There were quite many personal highlights of the day: the three magic Swedish bands Triakel, Hoven Droven and Garmana (where else would you get the chance to see possibly the three best Swedish folk (rock) bands at one festival?), the Flemish top band Ambrozijn, German based band The Transsylvanians, playing ancient Hungarian music in hot and very danceable party style, the legendary Irish singer songwriter Andy Irvine, and the Scottish institution Battlefield Band.
Swedish trio Triakel was one of the first bands to play at this day. This band combines the instrumental talent of Hoven Droven's fiddler Kjell-Eric Ericsson and the Harmonium player Janne Strömsted and the breathtaking vocals of Garmana's singer Emma Härdelin. This group proves that pure traditions can send down shivers at your neck. The other two Swedish bands played later that day: Hoven Droven around tea time and Garmana again (as on Friday) late at night. Hoven Drovens live performance is quite a show - one of the best live bands around. They combine the Swedish traditions (especially the fiddle of Kjell-Eric) with a brass and a rhythm section - very effective...
Ambrozijn is for me one of the most interesting European folk music band at the moment. It features four Flemish musicians - three (mainly) instrumentalists, Wouter Vandenabeele on fiddle and viola, Wim Claeys on accordion and pipes and Tom Theuns on string instruments and the great singer (both in Flemish and French) Ludo Van Deau. Their music is very innovative, their sound powerful, their performance excellent - brilliant stuff!
The Transsylvanians are a very active live band - the musicians are always in motion, dancing over the stage, and a part of the audience is directly animated to dance along - although this time it was very hot in the tent. Hungarian songs and tunes backed by a rhythm section provide a good party atmosphere.
Next on in the other tent is the quiet Irish singer songwriter Andy Irvine, so there is a chance to cool down a bit again - dreaming along to the songs and listening to the stories they tell.
While Saturday was very much party time, with only a couple of quieter bands to calm down in between, Sunday presented a more quiet, yet very high profile music programme. Personal highlights include the magic voices of Laïs, German band Dereelium with their excellent traditional Irish music with some other influences (although they and their audience had to fight a bit against the heat in the tent...), the young English singer Kate Rusby, joined by Battlefield Band's fiddler and multi instrumentalist John McCusker at most of the songs, and the German Clarinettist Helmut Eisel with his band JEM.
Kate Rusby and John McCusker's relaxed concert and afterwards the Clarinet stories of Helmut Eisel were my personal festival final (although there were some more bands to come). It created the right mood to go home with lots of memories from the birth of an excellent new European mayor folk festival.
Just one small point of criticism: Musicians had sometimes problems to find the right place for a session. Especially on Saturday late night it was a problem - in the spiegeltent the sound of the main stage was just too loud, and then the session was also 'killed' 'early' (OK it was half past three - but some folk musicians like to have the possibility to have their session and their pint until early daylight... This is might be optimised for next year.
But this is just a small point - all in all it was a wonderful weekend, one of the definite highlights of the folk music year 2000. We will come back, and tell all our friends to come there as well - it's worth to go!
Photo Credit: Photos by The Mollis, all taken at Folkwoods Festival 2000:
(1) impression of Folkwoods' Festival ground, (2) Hoven Droven, (3) Triakel, (4) Wim Claeys of Ambrozijn, (5) Dereelium
Further infos available at: Folkwoods' homepage
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