Mad Ferret festival: live review

Mad Ferret festival in Preston
live review
July 2011

featuring loads of singer songwriters who are not crap!

Mad Ferret in Preston is arguably one of the best small music venues in the North-West outside of Manchester with its reputation of hosting various small but extremely talented artists being its main advantage, including last Sunday’s show with New York’s anti-folk troubadour, Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard.

Despite this being his headline gig, he performed earlier on in the day as he was due to be playing IndieTracks Festival that evening. At 1pm, the balding musician and his three piece band appeared onstage. The crowd, albeit on the small side, watched with anticipation as Lewis starts to tell anecdotes of his gigs in New York, including one Jeff Buckley tribute gig in which he used his comic book drawings as a presentation to translate Buckley’s unusual and nonsensical lyrics. Quite literally he presented his drawings of ‘warm blankets’, ‘black beauties’ and ‘mojo pins’ to the amusement of the crowd.

Breaking into his first track, he mumbled in his monotonous Lou Reed style. The tracks themselves were as punky as The Velvet Underground but with Moldy Peaches and Adam Green anti-folk wit and humour. Lyrically the man is a clear talent and incredibly literate, but surprisingly, despite his minimalist style, he winded out some fantastic guitar arpeggios and left the crowd stunned at the end of his set. Intelligence was evidently a key part of his performance and to end his set he performed the history of the French Revolution in limerick style leaving the audience giggling like small school children. Unfortunately his set was on the short side but there were four other artists supporting after the show.

Washington Irving, a young folk-rock band from Scotland followed. It was a decent effort from a young group of teenagers and a crowd which were not best pleased, and cut down to at least a quarter of its original attendance. The band were worth watching with an interesting energy and presence onstage but didn’t manage to impress the crowd following Jeffrey Lewis.

Louis Barabbas

Louis Barrabas at Mad Ferrett Festival preston

the perfect Victorian bridge builder or modern folk singer...Louis Barrabas photo: John RObb

was the man up next. This man is someone you wouldn’t forget you met, with his obscenely long beard and his dirty clothes, he really could only be a folk musician. He walked onstage politely, waved at a girl in the audience and smiled. Suddenly, he bounced with energy and screamed and growled into the mic. The people who were chatting around the bar stopped and stared at the man dancing and prancing around onstage whilst screaming his bluesy vocals into the mic. His vocals were strong and raspy and he dominated the room whilst dancing around the whole room for a solid 30 or 40 minutes. This man was a wonderful performer and will certainly be enertaining the bars and small venues around the North-West for a long time yet. I for one cannot wait to see this man perform again.
Having already seen the great performer and musician, Gideon Conn at Friends Of Mine earlier this year, I knew that his set would be the highlight of my day. During the previous acts, he’d spent his time drawing sketches of the other acts performing and handing them the drawings at the end. Gideon appeared onstage at about 4pm and smiled at his audience in his unusual awkward way. He kicked it off with his most famous track, ‘I Want You Around’ singing joyfully and bending his legs slightly to the beat. The crowd took and instant liking to the man on stage and clapped along to the tales he told through his songs. ‘The Man Who Sells Fish’ left the audience in tears laughing as he bluntly discussed the smells and sights of his story. Gideon Conn is an unusual artist but is someone with flair, someone with something unusual, he can captivate people with his demeanour and presence. I can’t quite place it, but this man has it. He has something special.

This day at Mad Ferret was surprising as well as wonderful. The venue and atmosphere was as always comfortable and thoroughly enjoyable. It takes a lot to get four artists to impress one after the other all afternoon. Full credit goes to the organisers and the performers involved and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for more events in the future.


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