Getting back to a festival after the absence of any last year did still feel strangely surreal, but there’s something about smaller to medium-sized festivals that still leaves you feeling less anxious. Moseley Folk and Arts managed to make you feel comforted in more ways than one. The unbelievably green site is beautiful for a start, an aesthetic tonic for the times we live in, and the Covid security on the way in and around the festival site was reassuring. The weather helped to be fair – while not exactly blistering, rain was a stranger and the sun did seem to come out at all the right moments. It not being a camping festival either and me not being a very good camper, there was something about being able to turn up having slept in a proper bed each night which was blissful.
There’s something nice about the type of festival which let you take an occasional break from the relentlessness of music – after all this is Moseley folk “and arts” – and the talky bits came courtesy of some terrific interviewees. Cold War Steve, the Twitter collage artist didn’t look anything like you’d expect him to but seemed like a lovely bloke, helped along by Joe Lycett being hugely entertaining; while Rich Hall was everything you expected him to be and came out with the most memorable line of the weekend, describing Michael Gove as having the face of an “owl trapped in a centrifuge”.
But it was the music of course which was the heart of the festival and it didn’t disappoint. The main stages being next to each other so you literally just had to turn your head by 15 degrees each time one act finished was a really effective way of ensuring you could enjoy as much music as possible without moving. Our Man in the Field, whose brand of dreamy Richmond Fontaine-ish americana has been connecting with UK audiences and beyond, played a near-perfect set; The Waterboys and The Wonderstuff both proved they were more than their hits and caused respective waves of excitement on that first night. Frank Turner on Saturday evening was accompanied by a mandolin player and genuinely, it just transformed some of his songs. Each time I see him I inch closer towards forgiveness for his political leanings, damn you Frank… And Passenger’s Sunday night set was as warm and engaging as he always is – a poet for our times. There were also some lovely sets from some familiar names to AUK readers including Native Harrow, Emily Barker and Katy Rose Bennett – not to forget the occasional bout of hay throwing which is a thing apparently.
It would be remiss to not mention how good the beer and food offering was, the former coming in tanks of half a gallon if you so chose, the only job being how to keep it cool in the sun – trick we found was to just drink it. As a festival to dip your toe back in, Moseley more than did the job – diverse enough to be interesting and familiar enough to be warming. Even without the international acts, mark it down as another must-see in your annual americana diaries – hopefully on a weekend which won’t clash with Maverick in future. Time is a cruel mistress.