Festival Q&A: Jaywalkers

The Chester folk and bluegrass three piece, who play Beverley Folk Festival (16-18 June), remind us of the rule of Ws when packing for a festival

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Who else are you excited to see? 
Definitely looking forward to watching Lau again. They were one of our first ever big folk influences and we have loved them ever since we saw them in about 2007 at our local folk festival in Chester. They headlined the Sunday evening concert and we were so enraptured by their set, we couldn’t believe an hour had passed when they finished. We felt sure they had only done 20 minutes. But, alas, no, we had loved it so much their set had just flown by. It’s been a few years since we’ve had chance to watch them live, but have kept up with all of their record releases and are really looking forward to seeing them in action again.

What’s your best festival memory?
At Broadstairs Folk Week in 2009 we were camping next to some friends of ours – a band called Tyde who aren’t touring any more. We’d both had a full day of gigs around the town and as we sat outside our tents late at night having a drink, the sky lit up with shooting stars from a passing meteor shower. We lay back on the sodden grass and watched for about an hour – a lovely setting with good company to enjoy one of nature’s finest spectacles.

What are your festival essentials?
All of the Ws – wellies, water and wet wipes.

How does playing a festival differ from playing your own gig?

There are two sides to this answer. Firstly, you actually get to meet up with other musicians and bands that you haven’t seen for ages. During October to May, when you’re just touring on your own, you sort of forget that there are other bands out there doing the same thing and experiencing the same touring life you are. You become quite isolated from your peers when it’s just your band in the tour van (or Honda Jazz in our case). Yet, on the other hand, it can be a lot harder to get your music heard at a festival. At your own gig, you know you have that audience to yourself. They’ve come to see you and they’ll stick with you (mostly) for the whole of the evening. But, at a festival, people wander in and out of gigs a lot more freely. You might only have their attention for two songs before they decide whether or not to stick it out for the rest of your set. A wrong chord or dodgy crackle down the PA or bad song choice can lead to half of your audience wandering off to the other stage to see what’s happening there. On top of that, 10 minutes after you’ve finished your set, the next band has started up and you’re easily forgotten about if you’ve not been up to standard. The pressure’s on at festivals to get it right, but if you’re successful you can reach a much bigger audience who will then, hopefully, come and see you on tour later in the year when you’re on your own.

What’s your favourite part of playing a festival?

We love the fact that you get one set to show off your best and entertain as much as you can. Get your best 40-ish minutes of material together and hope that there’s an audience there ready to listen. With a festival slot, there’s no fillers, no experiments. It’s your best set you can play on that particular day.

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