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Rainy Day Music and SF at the BL

The Saturday before last we went to the London Feis Festival 2011, in Finsbury Park. The weather was looking to be quite bad as we set out: it had been oscillating between sun and rain all morning. Would we be drenched or sunburned? Or both? Only time would tell.

I had been hitting the festival website to try to find out who was on when, exactly. There was a page which said (and still does, a the time of writing), ‘Band and Stage Times: To be released on the day‘. I had taken that to mean, ‘… will be announced on the website on the day’. I did wonder about how much use that would be, considering many people would be getting on their way early in the morning, or the night before, and wouldn’t have had the chance to look at the website. Then again, everyone has a smartphone nowadays, right?

Anyway, it turned out that they meant, …. will be released at the festival.’ On the bus to Finsbury Park I searched Twitter for the expected #feis hashtag, wherein some nice person had tweeted pictures of the running order (I can’t find those pictures now, but no matter). It appeared we were missing The Undertones, but we would get there in time for The Waterboys.

As indeed we did. We set up base camp near the back and listened to ‘Be My Enemy’ (timely, as I recently read Christopher Brookmyre’s novel which borrows that title) ‘Fisherman’s Blues’, ‘… And a Bang on the Ear’, and of course, ‘The Whole of the Moon’. It was great to see them again. Well, hear them; we didn’t see much from the back, and there were no big screens like at most festivals these days.

A trip to the second stage saw us Nanci Griffith, closely followed by Shane McGowan. Always good to see he’s still hanging in there, and he was in excellent voice. I note that it’s an alarming four and half years since I last saw The Pogues.

Shane McGowan at the London Feis, 2011


Heard a bit of The Cranberries while queueing for toilet and bar. They were OK. Some Irish youngsters at the bar sang along with ‘Linger’ very sweetly.

Then back to the main stage for Christy Moore, food, and finally Dylan.

Bob Dylan at the London Feis, 2011


That’s him there in the white hat; can you tell?

It’s been a long wait for me. I know he’s been over here in the last few years, but somehow I’ve never managed to hear about the dates until it was too late. Here we were, then, finally in the distant presence of the great man himself.

And it was, as I expected, like listening to him doing cover versions of his own songs. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It was quite a ‘greatest hits’ kind of set, though, to my surprise. I had gained the impression that he mainly did newer songs these days, but there was a strong focus on Blood on the Tracks and Highway 61 Revisited. And you can’t go far wrong with those. Here’s a full set list.

The only possible singalong moment was the ‘How does it feel?’ lines in ‘Like Rolling Stone’, and it made me wonder: maybe he started doing such changed versions of his songs because he doesn’t like people singing along.

I thought this stall would do roaring trade, but the rain mostly stayed off.

Umbrella stall at the London Feis, 2011


Then Sunday was Out of this World, the Science Fiction thing at the British Library. ‘Science Fiction, but not as you know it’, was the tag line. In fact, it was pretty much exactly as i know it, but I guess I’m part of some sort of rarefied elite, or something (or ‘fans’ as we’re known).

Anyway, it was very good, though perhaps it’s limiting, being a library: much of the exhibition was books behind glass. Which is fine, but sometimes you’d like to pick them up and handle them.

There was a Tardis in a corner of the Time Travel section, and a robot that seemed to be modelled on HAL 9000.1

All in all, a pure dead brilliant weekend.


  1. I know it wasn’t a robot. 

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