Sark Folk Festival presents Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson and The Barley Dogs – The Fermain Tavern – 09/06/12

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson – Photo by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Guernsey

For their final Folkal Point night before the 2012 Sark Folk Festival the organisers pulled out all the stops in securing the return of one of the highlight acts of the 2011 festival.

Check out some of my photos from the gig on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

After their two storming sets at last year’s Sark Folk Festival I was immensely excited to head to The Fermain Tavern for the return to the Bailiwick of Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson.

Supporting them tonight were The Barley Dogs who’s unique brand of pub folk, which echoes the pub rock of 1970s London, but with traditional songs and original compositions filling the space filled by rhythm and blues in the 70s sub-genre, set the scene for the varied sounds to come.

As ever The Barley Dogs were immensely watchable with all five members bringing their own dynamic to the band to create a great sound.

Highlights from the set were the ever-present, traditional song Matty Groves, a couple of great instrumental tunes (reels or jigs, I admit I’m yet to learn the difference) and their own original songs, particularly The Bel Air Affair which alluded to the upcoming festival brilliantly.

It was during The Barley Dogs set, though, that something began to seem a bit amiss.

As I was getting into the very enjoyable performance and began stamping my foot and clapping along (in time as far as I could tell) I received a look from several members of a group sat in front of me as if I had walked up and spat in their drinks – but at this point I thought I’d put it down to them being taken by surprise and didn’t let it bother me.

The audience takes a seat – photo by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Guernsey

This was to change once Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson took to the stage, however, and as a few began to venture down to the front to dance (the customary place for dancing at gigs as far as I was aware) shouts came up from those sat at the tables in the venue calling for people to “Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up!”

While I appreciate some maybe wanted to sit, as the crowd was more mixed than almost any gig I’ve ever been too, it seemed while those dancing did their best to work with those sitting, the ones shouting the abuse wanted to have it their way or no way.

While some of the music on offer tonight was quiet and did require a good listen, a large amount was upbeat and danceable so to stop people responding to live music in this way seems frankly ridiculous to me and I just hope this attitude doesn’t mar this year’s festival (and people seem to think punks and metal heads are obnoxious!).

Anyway moving on and despite the audience issues Hat and Cara played an absolute blinder from the beginning to the end of their set.

Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson with The Barley Dogs – photo by Tom Girard, courtesy BBC Guernsey

Mixing Irish folk with bluegrass and roots music from around the world the duo made an immense sound for a two piece with electric and resonator guitars, a banjo, drum kit, flutes and whistles and even a wash board all adding to the fabulous cacophony over their hour and a bit long set.

Beyond the fabulous musicianship the thing that really struck me about Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson tonight, which hadn’t sunk in to the same degree at last year’s Sark Folk Festival, was their amazing vocal talent.

Cara displayed a strong, soulful yet at time delicate voice, which fitted excellently with their roots-y, blues-y style and hinted at an amazing jazz voice too, should she ever decide to give that a go.

Hat Fitz on the other hand displayed an amazing deep rumbling sound which combined his Australian roots with the feeling of the Appalachian mountain men who originated much of the Americana roots style that came from his guitar. This though was delivered with an astonishingly sweet tone to it, which made for a voice unlike any other I have heard.

By the end of the set, and despite the killjoys best attempts, Hat and Cara upped the ante even further and there was nothing to be done but dance and all the available areas in the Tavern were moving (while some remained stationary and stony faced) and with an encore featuring a guest appearance from Barley Dogs members Simon Harvey on violin, Paul Le Huray on cajon, James Le Huray on mandolin and Clem Brouard on double bass the music was the winner tonight.

It’s just a shame some can’t find a way to appreciate and accept other’s ways of sharing and expressing the joy of live music – I have heard it was problems like this that caused the decline of folk music, not just in Guernsey, in the past and I hope it doesn’t happen now as folk music, and its derivatives, are something that the world surely needs now in these times of political and economic strife and over commercialized TV talent shows to help show us where we come from and what honesty through music is all about.

Some extra Hat Fitz and Cara and Barley Dogs videos:

Guernsey Gigs were also on hand with their video camera:

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