On the 10th September saw the inaugural Under The Apple Tree roots festival held in the beautiful setting of Cadogan Hall in London. This is a brilliant setting for acoustic/roots/country bands as it presents a stunning backdrop, perfect sight lines and acoustics.
An expertly crafted line up produced an exotic and eclectic mix of established artists. The festival had a strong family feeling with much of the heavy lifting and design undertaken by Bob Harris and his family. In fact his son ran the Foyer Stage introducing acts that had done sessions in the UTAT studio in Bobs country house. Bob’s wife expertly pulled together the back stage/artist roster to ensure that we had access to artists and everything ran to time. The mixture of performances ensured that the educated audience were never bored.
The festival started with a performance by Catherine McGrath who crafted a number of strong tracks, delicate guitar work and feeling and her set was well received. Then through a number of established acts Dan Betteridge, Chris Difford who managed balance well stories from his writing life, squeeze references in a punchy session, Lewis & Leigh that provided delicate harmonies and stagecraft, through to Judith Owen. There’s really not a lot that hasn’t been said about Judith Owen already. She’s written with or performed with the great and good of the folk world, writes touching, funny and witty lyrics and offers a huge stage presence. A hypnotic performance with her orchestra ensured that everyone remained entranced. Her husband (Harry Sheerer) was in the audience and there was some confident banter on stage about his views of her writing. ‘He says that I write from a viewpoint that the glass is half empty and smashed’.
Moving through the roster and performances and from Andrew Combs and Scott Matthews who both set the bar high as they went through samples of their work in short but strong sets, towards the headline support and headliners.
Ward Thomas have been pioneered by Bob since he saw them. At only 22 Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas have become one of an exclusive group of artists that have a number one album. More pertinent is that they are a British country band in the sharp end of driving sales in a genre which wasn’t fashionable, but they, like other band The Shires make it so. They write their own songs which are though felt powerful yet they mix this with a carefully crafted performance. Without doubt WT are the real deal and have got success by putting in the leg work and travelling from club to club. Clearly they have now outgrown the small venues and will be packing out larger arenas next time they hit the road. On stage they redefine fun and the tight young band drive the performance.
Patty Griffin is an institution. She drives raw emotions with a hard hitting lyric line. As a headliner, she was captivating and yet had an ability to relate personal stories with the audience talking pies and the menopause!
I’d also mention sets from Small Town Jones, Lake Poets, Blair Dunlop (who is one to watch) Balsamo Deighton and Dexeter each of which where brilliantly entertaining in difference ways. This is only a blog and others will write reviews!
There is no doubt that each act have been friends with Bob and marked his family choice for those best suited to provide a balanced line up. I can only imagine that this festival should grow. Ward Thomas on a separate page (why? because I can!)