The ‘need to know’…

  • Festival name: Woodburner at the Yoke
  • Location: Yoke Farm, Upper Hill, Hereford.
  • Setting: Rough woodland and soft fields.
  • Transport: Train to Hereford/Leominster and then buses, taxis or lifts if you have a lovely friend and/or some surplus booze. But, I hear in the future there may be organised minibuses so watch this space.
  • Facilities: Compost loos, Water (from a bore hole on the farm all UV filtered and cool), bar, coffee spot, food pit.
  • Layout: The site is spread up a hill, making you work a little for your music. But believe me the slight breathlessness is worth it.
  • Nibbly bugs: Yes. I would recommend a mild bug repellent or maybe a heavy duty one if you are particularly tasty.

The journey down to the Yolk was a pretty long and expensive one, mainly because I left train tickets to the last possible minute – something I would advise against for future festivalgoers. Instead, get in early – it’s so much cheaper. But as the festival was free this year, I only had to pay for booze, so it wasn’t too great of a blow for my purse! It was an evening of new folk music from emerging and established artists mixed in with venison, jamming by the campfire, all led by two toddlers (don’t worry, their parents were in the vicinity!) and enough local brews and distilled ‘juices’ to make even the most “hip” of pubs green with envy.

But now for the important bit – the music.

Line-up:

Ailsa Tully

Saiko/psycho Betty

Benji Tranter

Theo Bard

Jimmy Greyburn

Apple Of My Eye

(There may have been other small music spots, but I couldn’t resist remaining within easy reach of the gin stand – delicious stuff provided by Brecon

The music got going just before sunset with cellist Ailsa Tully. Ailsa manipulates her cello in a manner I have never seen before. It’s gorgeous and moves this inherently classical instrument firmly out of its comfort zone. Her style is strong and at points guttural, contrasting beautifully with the open and organic sounds of her vocals. A quality mirrored in our surroundings, it was like bathing in sound. Her first EP ‘The Charm of Human Error’ was released in 2014 and last year saw the release of her second ‘Notions’. Her music is absolutely essential listening – certainly one to watch in a new generation of emerging musicians challenging and stretching existing perceptions of genre.

Space-age folk jazz bursts into the roundhouse with Saiko/psycho Betty (there was amusing mention of a Japanese grandma contributing to the name). Other-worldly sounds filled the small space to bursting point, with reverberations that, along with the hissing of an engaged snare drum, created an almost tangible physical experience. These guys are so hot off the press that they don’t even have a Facebook page! So I can’t be sure of their name – or even, at this stage, their members. A real rarity. But Saiko/psycho Betty are well worth keeping your eyes peeled for. Seriously saucy sounds.

After a brief interlude, and a gin or two, Benji Tranter was announced. He performed some of the set from his on-going Launderette Tour (July 2016), maybe coming to a launderette near you (if you’re really lucky). He also threw in a song with a more serious tone, just to prove to us he could do serious. Benji’s style is unique and delightful to experience, certain to tickle your funny bone. What’s more, this year he will be gracing the Edinburgh Fringe. The preview is on 31st July at the London Theatre, well worth catching if you can’t make the trip to Scotland this summer and fancy a musical giggle. Easy on the eye. 

One of the festival’s masterminds was Theo Bard, creator and curator of Woodburner, a regular folk night in London. His simple but meaningful lyrics really hit the spot with occasional Reggae-esque rhythms. I found myself, along with others, swaying gently to the beat and indulging in some rather outlandish dancing. Especially to ‘Same Same but Different’, a song that gently reminds us that though we may appear different at the surface, we are all the same. An important message increasingly applicable today. Soothing listening.

Jimmy Greyburn and The Medlars, London based folk group, were next to take the stage. Comprised of Jimmy Greyburn (Banjo, Lead Vocals), Suzie McCarthy (Violin, Vocals), Rowan Tinker (Mandolin, Vocals), Charlie Egan (Drums) and Lucie Trémoliéres (Cello) on this occasion, though they have been known to appear as an eight-piece band. A relatively new arrangement, having only formed in the last year or so, but this close-knit group are playful with each other and the audience on stage. Their tunes progressed through an emotional range, from the politically thought-provoking to making you want to dance your socks off.

Last but not least were Apple of My Eye, the surprise spot. It was very much ‘will they, wont they’, until around 8pm. But, this London-based folk band, grown mostly out of Bristol, are always worth the wait. Slimmed down to travel size – four instead of the usual seven members – they slotted seamlessly into the cosy roundhouse losing none of their charm and musicality. They popped out tunes from their latest album On Stranger Tides (2014) that just beg to be danced to, along with a cheeky little taster from their upcoming album The Beast Below, which will be released on 19th September (2016) mixed in amongst the  “golden oldies” from their debut album Devils (2012). A near faultless balance of energy and calm to end an enchanting night of music in the woodland.

This festival is definitely one to watch and get down to in upcoming years, maybe even becoming a fixture on the folk-festival circuit. With a relaxed and familial atmosphere, delicious food, coffee and baked goodies (supplied by Coffee and Crumb) and great music to boot. Well, what more could you really ask for? Maybe a hot tub? We shall have to see what’s in store…

Links to artists’ sites:

Ailsa Tully – http://www.ailsatully.co.uk/

Benji Tranter – https://benjitranter.bandcamp.com/

Theo Bard – http://www.theobard.com/

Jimmy Greyburn and The Medlars – https://jimmygrayburnmusic.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/jimmy-grayburn-the-medlars/

Apple of My Eye – http://www.applesinlondon.com/

Coffee and Crumb (those cookies were scrumptious!) – http://www.coffeeandcrumb.co.uk/

Penderyn Distillery (that gin!) – http://www.ginfoundry.com/gin/brecon-gin/#