Beginning in 2012 the Wickham Festival has gradually established itself with notable names like, The Proclaimers, KT Tunstall, James Blunt, and 10CC, gracing the stages. Although the four-day event primarily pulls from the world of folk music organizers have shown a willingness to blur the lines towards rock and pop on occasion.

Music News spend the weekend at the festival taking in the sights and more importantly the sounds of the event to bring you the biggest moments and the hidden gems.

Saturday night’s main event saw Frank Turner take to the stage.

While the Englishman is yet to have a smash hit on the singles chart, that’s not for lack of hard work and quality. The songwriter has played well over 2000 shows, which includes headlining both the o2 and Wembley Arena.

Along with his band The Sleeping Souls, Turner’s set proves he has all the makings of a world-renowned star. The music is primarily well-crafted rock and pop. Plenty of the set’s tunes come with an upbeat outlook and a desire to make the world that little bit better. Add in some catchy sing-along moments, and opportunities to rock out, and you have a compelling package.

As the singer rolls out songs like ‘Blackout’, ‘1933’, and ‘Don’t Worry’ the avid crowd laps up every second.
Compelling melodies, with fun and relatable lyrics, are topped off by a showman.

Hailing from Meonstoke, just a few miles from the venue, the show essentially served as a hometown return. Turner revelled in his role as hometown hero, jumping around the stage, diving off the stage into the crowd, as well as dancing among the faithful.

The front man also enjoyed pulling his crowd’s strings. Fear not, he used his powers for good, exalting them to be considerate of others, getting them to dance around in a circle and raise their hands on a key line or two.

The 37-year-old displayed a confident at ease air. He belted out his songs with a strong and warm vocal performance, as well as happily shooting the breeze with his band.

The topic of conversation focused on Frank’s impending wedding, and more concerningly for the singer his first dance. Safe to say, some of his moves leave a little to be desired.

While a fun-loving musician is all well and good, the concert experience can still be made or broken on its set. Fortunately, it did not disappoint.

‘Don’t Worry’ is a pleasant pick-me-up about not fearing doubt, ‘Little Changes’ strives to make things better one small step at a time, while ‘Be More Kind’ requests what the title suggests.

The Wickham Festival may be known for its folk offering, but Frank Turner busts the genre divide for a rocking experience.

Another man to rock the South coast was Kiefer Sutherland. Perhaps best known for his star turn as TV action hero Jack Bauer on 24, the actor is taking strides into the music business.

Currently on his second album the Canadian only warrants the penultimate slot on the event’s second stage. If that makes Sutherland one of Wickham’s best-kept secrets, then his Americana focused set will surely have blown that out of the water in double quick time.

In just over an hour the audience was left with little doubt as to the musician’s evident qualities. His early LPs have worked within the genres of, country, blues, and rock.

As you might expect the set list followed in that vein, with songs referencing cheating hearts, condemned men Penning missives to lost loves, a first-time experience in a rowdy bar, and a faded pair of blue jeans.

Sutherland’s gravelly tones suit the material well. He carried off, sarcastic anger during a cover of Patty Loveless’ ‘Blame It on Your Heart’, warmth on the tender hearted ‘Blue Jeans’, and the rambunctious spirit of ’This Is How It’s Done’.

While the session undoubtably proved a hit with the crowd there were one or two irksome setbacks.
Numbers like ‘Honey Bee’ showcase a throaty guitar opening, while the booming drum really added to the experience on ‘All She Wrote’. Although, the instruments do the job melodically, they plagued the performer’s vocals.

The drums were the chief culprits, thudding and crashing away in a fair amount of the set. It’s not bad enough to take away from Sutherland’s solid performance or to ruin the show’s fun. As usual though it’s the lyrics that lose out when the mix is off.

Even as the 54-year-old addresses the crowd his words were not always clear. The setup was okay for following the themes of songs and conversations, but some nuance was lost. It’s frustrating because simply turning instruments down and turning the singer up would have surely done the trick.

Even so, the concert demonstrates why the movie star is a worthy addition to the music biz.

For those craving music offerings more steeped in traditional folk than pop rock or country, the festival catered for them in abundance as well.

As the likes of Treacherous Orchestra and Will Pound & Eddy Jay, impressed with their engaging instrumental sets, others like Dervish stood out with their vocal display. Lead singer Cathy Jordan proved particularly noteworthy, as at one point she appeared to sing entirely in Irish.

As an art form the folk genre has been no stranger to using a social and political voice. The weekends proceedings reflected this with several artists using performances to wax lyrical about the need for social change and the ills of the current system.

There were however none more outspoken or unsubtle as Robb Johnson and Grace Petrie. Despite being two separate acts, they covered broadly similar not to mention controversial themes.

Between the two of them they took aim against, Boris Johnson, a poorly run government, and the monarchy. Whether you find their material edifying will likely come down to your side of the political fence.
Whatever side you sit on though there is something refreshing about hearing blunt protest songs that wear its heart on the sleeve.

Overall, the weekend at the Wickham Festival proved to be an enjoyable experience. While the weekends’ early sessions catered for more traditional forms of folk, the evening’s fair blurred the lines a little more as it headed towards the mainstream.

Picture credit: Paul Brett

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