Set in the suburbs of Birmingham, Moseley Folk Festival reels in the top names of folk and increasingly more genres. The first day of the festival offered big names including The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Jimi Goodwin of The Doves alongside a collection of Brum’s finest mixed in with some worldwide acts.
Bringing back the spirit of Nico was Julie Byrne. Joining Birmingham from the other side of the Atlantic, she brought along sweet-sounding vocals with delicately played melodies that fused together creating a charming and warming introduction for the singer.
Set up on a white, plastic garden chair armed with a calming cup of peppermint tea and his trusty 12-string acoustic, Thurston Moore completely detached himself from his grungy alternative rock ego we all know him for thanks to Sonic Youth and his most recent team up with My Bloody Valentine. Fronted with a music stand holding his lyrics, it wasn’t long till he let out an admittance he’s not cool enough to be able to remember his lyrics but when the strumming of the intricate riffs and melodies began you couldn’t help but forgive him. He played a strictly acoustic set which at first saw the Sonic Youth fans up front disappointed but with the setlist comprised of material spanning his whole back catalogue, tracks never heard before live and some soon to be released songs off his upcoming album The Best Day he was soon forgiven.
You may have heard of Stornoway but have you heard of some of the member’s Zulu Maskandi style side project? Count Drachma covered classic folk songs adding some psychedelic lifts and not forgetting the replacement of Zulu lyrics; the Steadman brothers got people up and moving and brought a bit of sunshine for the rainy day in Birmingham.
Before the wait for the legend that is Johnny Marr, Brum’s own Midnight Bonfires headlined the Lunar Stage. Mixing folk with some classic rock and roll, they got people getting up off the comfort of the picnic blankets and moving towards the stages in front of them. With unexpected high pitched vocals initially shocking the crowd, their energetic and bouncing riffs left everyone in high anticipation for the headliner of the night.
He’s done The Smiths, he’s done The Cribs, he’s done Modest Mouse, he’s done about everything so what else is there for Johnny Marr than to do things solo? He’s one cool guy but he knows it, shouts of “Johnny fuckin’ Marr” got him winking and giving the crowd thumbs up even after one song. It only takes him to the second song to get the Smiths hits rolling with ‘Panic’ and the mention of panic on the streets of Birmingham was the final straw for the relatively still crowd which finally started moving along with the guitarist. Tracks off the forthcoming album Playland like ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Playland’ went down a storm despite some initial Marr/crowd banter which nearly ended in “some B-side for you all” after being laughed at for saying his new album was great – “do you really want me to say it’s crap for you? Yeah my new albums coming out and it’s going to be crap.” Marr prowled around the stage impressing everyone in front of him with his extensive slick solos, swift riffs and charming vocals. The initial set flew by with the mix up of his own solo tracks, some big Smiths hits and even a New Order cover thrown in.
Compère of the day, Janice Long stepped on stage after a hasty goodbye from Marr and evoked the cries for more which resulted in the return of the best guitarist ever. Initially alone, he began the intro of ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ drew the arms of the crowd into the air swaying along and cries of the renown lyrics overshadowed the music on stage. The closer of the first day of the festival was a religious experience. Tales of his times in the suburbs of Manchester led to the arrival of The Cult’s Billy Duffy who had never before played a show with Johnny in England so Birmingham, we did well. Quickly they both broke out into shouts of the hardy Clash’s ‘I Fought The Law’ not leaving anyone out with joining in with the cries of the words. The set ended with the big one. ‘How Soon Is Now?’ was the clincher. Still with Duffy on stage, the whole park erupted into heartfelt screams of “I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does” leaving Marr fully immersed in everyone’s love for him. He is the performer and entertainer. Saying goodbye with a shout of “Johnny fuckin’ Marr”, a couple of winks and a bow alongside Duffy, he headed off leaving everyone broken and fully in love with Johnny Marr and The Smiths once again.