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Gallery: Friday at the 2019 Cambridge Folk Festival

Graham Nash and Calexico and Iron & Wine rounded off a day of great - and "emotionally exhausting" - music.

Cambridge Folk Festival 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Folk Festival 2019. Picture: Keith Heppell

The sun was shining and folk fans were out in force at a Cherry Hinton Hall which was as crowded as I'd ever seen it.

After a face-to-face interview with Joey Burns backstage (more on that later), I headed over to the main stage to watch Jose Gonzalez, a Swedish-born singer-songwriter of Argentinian descent.

This was after eating and enjoying watching the organised group dancing going on over at Stage Two while Bedlam Ceilidh played some invigorating traditional Irish music.

Gonzalez's voice was beautiful and his acoustic guitar playing delicate and graceful - and some of his songs reminded me a little of Nick Drake

Mainly seated and alone during the first part of the performance, Gonzalez was later joined by two other musicians and then a flautist for the haunting The Forest.

Other highlights of his set included Crosses and a mournful and intriguing take on Kylie Minogue's Hand on Your Heart.

Whereas Jose Gonzalez didn't talk too much between songs - he tended to just thank the audience - the next artist on Stage One had quite a lot to say.

I had never seen the press area as packed as it was for Graham Nash, a two-time inductee into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of both the Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash).

A couple of songs in, Nash wondered out loud why he had never played the Cambridge Folk Festival before. "I was in an English band for God's sake!" he joked.

In between songs, which were mainly drawn from Crosby, Stills & Nash's extensive back catalogue, the 77-year-old told stories of the old days, explaining how an experience in British Columbia inspired Immigration Man and recalling how he came to write Just a Song Before I Go ("If I'd known it was going to be one of Crosby, Stills & Nash's most popular songs, I'd have written a better one!").

Nash, who looks great for his age and sounded in fine voice throughout, is a man very much of his era, talking of "smoking a large one" while recounting what he thought would be a day-long sailing trip off the coast of Fort Lauderdale (he and David Crosby ended up in San Francisco nine weeks later), and being "on acid" when he wrote Cathedral.

To further confirm his status as one of the big-name survivors of the 'baby boomer' generation, the star threw in an impassioned cover of The Beatles' A Day in the Life.

The crowd enthusiastically joined in on classic tunes such as Marrakesh Express (the story behind this song was given too), Stephen Stills' Love the One You're With, and the gorgeous Our House, which brought back memories of the Only Fools & Horses episode where the Trotters finally became millionaires.

Those who were seated rose to their feet to applaud at the end of the main set and at the end of a two-song encore consisting of Chicago and Teach Your Children, which has a strong country feel to it - pleasing this writer no end.

Nash said he'd like to come back and play the festival again. "What are you all doing this time next year?" he asked.

The last act of the day was Calexico and Iron & Wine, who were on stage a little later than billed due to Graham Nash's set overrunning.

It started well with the glorious Years to Burn, the title track of their new album, filling the tent with its warm melody and atmospheric trumpet, courtesy of Jacob Valenzuela.

Special mention must also go to Calexico's drummer John Convertino, who manages to create a unique and free-flowing sound from an instrument that is usually overlooked.

In the Reins and Father Mountain were pleasant too, but a few songs later I found myself craving one of Calexico's more upbeat, Mexican-influenced numbers.

When the talented and versatile Joey Burns then announced: "We want to unleash some badass accordion on you," that moment had come.

Flores y Tamales, sung by Valenzuela and taken from Calexico's 2018 album The Thread That Keeps Us, followed and it was catchy, danceable and one of my standout moments of the day.

Unfortunately thereafter, fans/hecklers kept almost goading Sam Beam (AKA Iron & Wine) constantly by shouting out and asking him questions such as, "What's your favourite Disney film?" ("They all have a beautiful place in my heart," he replied sarcastically).

After a while, Sam seemed to lose his way a bit, forgetting the lyrics to the last song of the evening (saying it had "too many words"), the supposed-to-be-serene Sixteen, Maybe Less.

As well as these 'fans', there were people around me who wouldn't stop talking. Why can't they just go out if they want to talk the whole time?!

Sam Beam also noted that the audience must be "emotionally exhausted" having listened to "so much great music" during the course of the day. He was probably right.

A few hours before the show, the Cambridge Independent chatted to Joey Burns, looking very relaxed in a striped shirt with the sleeves rolled up and brown hat.

"It's pretty amazing," he said of the festival. "John [Convertino] and I have been out walking around and it's just a beautiful setting - what a great mood and atmosphere.

"Everyone's really in good spirits and I've been sitting backstage, hanging out, calling my family back home, and then I was over hanging out with Sam of Iron & Wine and Jose Gonzalez talking about being dads!"

Joey Burns of Calexico, backstage at the 2019 Cambridge Folk Festival. Picture: Keith Heppell
Joey Burns of Calexico, backstage at the 2019 Cambridge Folk Festival. Picture: Keith Heppell

Joey added: "I'm so honoured to get to be part of this historical festival. We've played some folk festivals in Canada and around the world actually - and it's always really exciting to see which musicians from around the world show up.

"World Music is something that I really enjoy and I know that one of our label mates, Imarhan, are going to be here on Sunday night."

Read more

Happily mugged on Cambridge Folk Festival opening day

Cambridge Folk Festival 2019: Saturday review and interview with guest curator Nick Mulvey

Cambridge Folk Festival: Bright colours in dark times

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