Working Class Music Festival
The New Picket, Jordan Street
19th-21st September 2008
Friday’s performance reviewed by
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
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.