Forty years after their second album, Moseley Folk Festival headliners Jethro Tull promise an acoustic treat, says Dave Freak.
The fourth Moseley Folk Festival promises to be the best ever – even beating last year’s event which included sold-out performances by Jose Gonzales, Seth Lakeman and Morcheeba.
Between September 4 and 6 festival-goers will be treated to headline performances from Jethro Tull, Beth Orton and Saint Etienne, with the likes of Cara Dillon, Jim Moray, Woomble/ Drever/ McCusker and Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and, after a 35-year absence, cult folk band Comus also on the bill.
As well as the music in Moseley Park there will be an array of food and drink, a healing and workshop area and live performances in the pubs of Moseley.
Sunday headliners Jethro Tull are one of the UK’s most enduring acts.
Born out of the British blues explosion of the mid-late 1960s and named after the 18th century agriculturist, Jethro Tull soon rivalled Led Zeppelin, Elton John and The Rolling Stones as one of the biggest live acts in the world.
Fronted by the charismatic Ian Anderson, the Fife-born musician was famed for his then crazed onstage persona. With long unkempt hair, beard and staring eyes, he typically stood perched on one leg while playing a flute – not an instrument typically associated with rock!
“I was exploring ways of getting across to an audience,” says Anderson of his stage character. “It was an extension of my personality – partly who you are and who you think might interest the paying punter.”
While their contemporaries embraced the indulgences of the ’70s to become bloated musical caricatures of themselves, Jethro Tull paved a trail through folk, prog’, jazz, synth rock, classical and even world music. As a result, their back catalogue is understandably diverse, although for Anderson, there’s a very distinct thread running through all 30-plus Tull albums.
“The common thread for me is acoustic music,” he says. “All my life I’ve been inspired by acoustic folk blues – Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters’ acoustic period, and jazz which, with sax and drums, people don’t think of as acoustic music.
“I’m the unplugged guy in a rock band,” he continues. “That’s always been my thing. I like the sound… I get more attracted to flute or acoustic guitar, there’s something organic about the sound, it’s not processed like electric music. Jethro Tull is two-thirds rock, one third acoustic or songs with acoustic sections.”
Having released their debut album, This Was, in 1968, the band marked 2008’s 40th birthday with a series of shows celebrating their entire career. And while this year marks the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Birmingham guitarist Martin Barre into the Tull fold, Anderson is eager not to simply rest solely on past glories.
“You are aware of all that stuff,” he says of the anniversaries. “And you are aware of sliding into nostalgia but what I want to do is bring in new challenges. You have to challenge yourself, learn something you didn’t know last week.”
Despite this, Anderson confesses their Moseley Folk Festival headline set will have a certain nostalgic element.
“Anniversaries can become a bit of a sideshow, although it is 40 years since Stand Up so we will be acknowledging that by including some songs from the album live,” he says, adding that pulling together a balanced set-list that touches on all Tull’s various phases remains a challenge.
“It’s interesting to get everything into a set list – songs from all through our career and new material. When you play a festival, you have to stick with mainstream stuff, but we try and introduce things that would not be familiar for audiences, to keep things varied.”
* MOSELEY FOLK FESTIVAL LINE-UP
The Pastels & Tenniscoats
El Perro Del Mar
Rose Elinor Dougall
The Fancy Toys
The Music Lovers
Kris Drever, John McCusker & Roddy Woomble
Demon Barber Roadshow
Beth Jeans Houghton
Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick
Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds
Nancy Kerr and James Fagan