Attila The StockbrokerChumbawamba, Attila The Stockbroker,
Alun Parry, Tracey Curtis

The Picket, Jordan Street
16th September 2009

Reviewed by Matt Ford

The final night of this year's Working Class Music Festival showcased four acts spanning the whole spectrum of the British folk scene. In musical categorisation, 'folk' is as broad a term as they come. At its heart, the genre is defined by its defiant and unshakeable fixation on the real issues which affect us all as we go about our lives, and this is the one element that united all of the acts, who each had something different to offer.

Opening the show was Tracey Curtis, with whom most of the audience seemed unfamiliar. Her songs were generally well-received, and delivered with a playful yet sincere tone. Curtis opened with 'I Won't Wear The Union Jack', a balanced, mid-paced critique of blind patriotism. This was the strongest of her songs, which meant that the rest of her never quite lived up to that initial promise. However, the quirky nature of her lyrics, coupled with her talent for constructing an often deceptively lighthearted melody ensured that Curtis was able to maintain the attention of her audience throughout the duration.

As ever, Alun Parry - the man who founded the festival - gave an impassioned performance, and encouraged audience participation fully. His set consisted largely of material from his latest release, 'We Can Make The World Stop', as well as older songs which are well-known to his fan base. Fittingly, his performance represented the essence of the festival very well. Parry has been called the 'voice of radical Liverpool', and though it seems a misjudgement to refer to him as the definitive voice - this surely undermines the hard work put in by numerous others - his songs of working class struggle certainly place him among the key figures in that category.

The most extraordinary act of the evening was, without doubt, Attila The Stockbroker. Spitting out literate, radical poetry with a lethal concoction of comedy and unapologetic anger, Attila performed most of his set without musical accompaniment. He did augment his pieces with a mandolin later on and, enjoyable though that was, it was barely needed. The sheer ferocity with which he delivered his lines was hypnotic and thrilling enough. With nearly thirty years of gigging experience behind him, Attila's newer work is characterised by a butally honest, sage-like wisdom, while his older material remains as relevant as ever.

Headlining the night, and bringing the festival to a close, was Yorkshire five-piece Chumbawamba. Known primarily for their huge 1997 hit 'Tubthumping', the band are now much more likely to break into a lilting a capella number than the anthemic punk-flavoured pop which made them briefly infamous. Opening with 'Add Me', an enjoyably twee satire on the absurdity of online social networking, this was a far cry from the band that soaked then-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott with water at the 1998 Brit Awards. In fact, they came across as remarkably relaxed and 'normal', chatting with audience members throughout their set. In one particularly noteworthy moment, the band even held a spontaneous conversation onstage midway through 'On eBay', a song which was stopped and then resumed some minutes later, after the banter had come to a natural conclusion. However, despite their apparent nonchalance, Chumbawamba have not lost their political bite. Paying tribute to the not-yet-deceased Margaret Thatcher with tongues firmly in cheek, the band have been through much controversy and shape-shifting since their formation in the early eightees, but they have remained true to the working class values which defined them from the beginning.

The Working Class Music Festival is dedicated solely to music with a radical social conscience, and from next year, it will be held every April in anticipation of the May Day celebrations. This year's event was a huge success, and bodes well for the Festival's future in 2010 and beyond.

For more information on these artists, visit the following websites:

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