Liverpool Working Class Music Festival

The New Picket, Jordan Street
19th-21st September 2008

Friday’s performance reviewed by Sandra Gibson

This weekend event had the declared intention ‘to ensure Liverpool’s working people are represented culturally in Liverpool’s European City of Culture year’ and at the cost of £25 for three nights was well within most budgets. The musicians involved presented an impressive line-up: Young Kof, Alun Parry (acoustic), Attila The Stockbroker, Leon Rosselson, Dick Gaughan [Friday]; Claire Mooney, Aidan Jolly Band, The Prelude, The Alun Parry Band, The Men They Couldn’t Hang [Saturday]; Al Baker, Chanje Kunda, Tracey Curtis, Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey [Sunday].

The Friday evening began with Young Kof bringing the bite and rhythmic energy of rap to challenging effect. This scouse artist with plenty to say breaks free from the hip hop stereotype portrayed by so many wealthy rap artists. He played the audience superbly, and won over a largely folky audience with a mix of natural charm and great music. His song dedicated to Anthony Walker, 'Where Did We Go Wrong?' was genuinely moving. A great performer and one who deserves to get to the top of his ladder, for all of our sakes.

Alun Parry - performing as well as organising and compering - was next with his customary blend of humour, compassionate observation and passionate political commitment to those who have no voice. It was a tightly performed set with the audience joining in and all too soon over in my opinion. His songs are bound to be sung in pubs for years to come. If pubs survive, that is. I’m sure Alun Parry was as touched by the fact that the performers were all appreciative of the organisational efforts he had made in setting up this festival as he was by the audience response to his songs.

Attila The Stockbroker, whose passion for Brighton and Hove Albion formed as big a part of his public persona as his poetry, grabbed the audience by the throat with his relentless, uncompromising take on contemporary foibles. His insistent attitude was like the Ancient Mariner on speed and one feared he might spit and pogo from the stage at any moment. Edgy.

Leon Rosselson provided an apparent contrast – or so one presumed. This slightly built and gentle troubadour was surely not the person the Daily Telegraph had in mind when they described him as ‘possibly the world’s most accomplished mischief maker’ was he? Well any misconceptions the uninitiated might have concerning this artist soon bit the dust as his performance gained momentum. The intellect responded to the whimsicality of his social and political observations and his clever story-telling which never became merely didactic but the heart was captivated by the quiet, immoveable conviction to humanity that was at the core of his performance. I haven’t felt so emotional for a very long time.

The evening ended with Dick Gaughan – someone you’d definitely want on your side in any situation where persuasive power on any level was the issue. This impressively physical man delivered songs of brutal deeds with rigorous confidence and a passion for justice, his good-humoured, excoriating allusions to historical events bursting the bubble of cosy misconception. Although his voice did not lend itself easily to melodiousness, there was extraordinary, moving tenderness.

Apart from the first act, the age profile of these performers was not young, but what characterised them all and gave their music potency and vitality was passionate allegiance to a viewpoint that does not celebrate the supremacy of ego, fame and greed. It is heartening to realise that the oral tradition of the story-teller, expressing the hopes and fears of the ordinary human being, fighting petty-mindedness, lies and tyranny through the power of performance and conviction and humour, lives on.

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