Fairport Convention have had much disruption and turbulence since they began in 1967. Despite only having released one single (which didn’t even make the top 20) and only one top 10 album; Fairport Convention have achieved cult status. Despite a turnover of musicians (twenty in total); Fairport Convention are a genuine, tightknit unit who have consistently shown superb and humble rapport with their fans. For example their annual festival, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention (near Banbury), now in its fortieth year continues to attract acts including: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls; The Waterboys and Seth Lakeman without corporate sponsorship. The roots of the name of this band are solid from when they first “convened” for rehearsals at a house named Fairport, the family home of Simon Nicol (who remains a member).
What made Fairport Conventions’ entrance so special and remind us of their humbleness was being introduced by and joining their support band The 4 of Us (two brothers from Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland on stage) to play one of The 4 of Us’ songs Going South with them. This is something seldom conceived as a concept and less rarely put into practice. It worked perfectly. How does an acclaimed band carry on from here? Play a well-known favourite to the fans to build up excitement and rapport. No. Fairport Convention played an unrecorded song called Shuffle and Go and mastered it as if it was their own five-decade-old classic.
The set was in two halves. The majority of the first half consisted of more recent tracks and recordings. The cross section of these folk songs, ballads and rockier tunes instantly demonstrated that Fairport Convention are more than their first four charted albums released during 1969 to 1971. The second part played earlier recordings from classic albums including Liege and Lief and Angel Delight where Fairport Convention also told several amusing jokes about buying presents such as wooden legs as stocking fillers and talked politics. The band then proceeded to play an instrumental called Bankruptured which has similarities to The Beatles Don’t Pass Me By from The White Album.
As many in the audience were fans of Fairport Convention since their inception; melancholy retrospectives were inevitable, but they were communicated in a deft mesmerising way that they could inspire younger fans to connect. For example, upon explaining the history of Dirty Linen, the last time they played the maximum speed version was at the Glastonbury festival in 1971. Upon hearing this new modified slower version, one could see how the arrangements influenced bands like The Levellers when the recorded songs like What You Know. Similarly, The Journeyman’s Grace from their 1971 album, Angel Delight sounded like a mellower and slightly slower version of McDermott’s 2 Hours vs Levellers The Damned Man’s Polka from their 2019 Besieged LP.
1969 was an important year for Fairport Convention in more ways than merely releasing Unhalfbricking; their first album to chart. Moondust and Solitude saluted Michael Collins’ often overlooked role in the 1969 moon landing. Whilst Fairport Conventions’ summer festival is not until August; fans felt the summer heat with Summer by the Cherwell. As well as songs about astronauts, Prince Albert (The Deserter), summer and politics; Fairport Convention played a song about Lord Franklin, well his wife Eleanor called Eleanor’s Dream. As well as connecting with Eleanor’s plight, one can also trace the early influences which helped develop Seth Lakeman’s’ sound.
Fairport Convention ended the set as they began; by playing an early classic Meet on the Ledge with The 4 of Us as well as all the other musicians who accompanied them across various tracks. It is very easy to see how Fairport Convention are as relevant now as they were since their conception in 1967. Over the last year alone, XS Noize has noted how Fairport Convention has influenced non-typical folk artists such as Gryff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Linda Em, and Ultimate Painting. It appears inevitable that this list will continue to grow.