I've been home for three years, but on occasion people will still ask if I miss living in England. I usually say "No - Canada is awesome, but I do miss pizza fiorentina (no olives) from Pizza Express and the Oysterband's annual Big Session Festival in Leicester."
Well this weekend, the Oysterband came to me! (cue more blurry photos...)
Oysterband falls under in that elite group of bands whose songs I know all the words too and who I've seen live more times than I can remember. How do you describe them? I usually go with celtic-english-folk-rock. And really, y'all know who they are because they are the writers and original performers of "When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down", covered by Great Big Sea.
I can't remember how I got so into Oysterband. I do know that they've been around for 30 years, thus I am sad I've only been a fan for five. They were at folk fest in 2005, and I saw them at a session but missed their mainstage show (regrets I have but few, and they were touring with James O'Grady that year and I do love that English piper!). I think I went to Big Session 2006 mostly because Seth Lakeman (who was the golden boy of English folk that year) was playing and I vaguely remember liking Oysterband back in Edmonton, plus my friend lived in town and any excuse to get out of the rat race of London deserved a bus ticket.
What's the best thing about the Big Session Festival? Oysterband puts it together, which means they get to close two nights in a row. And after two amazing concerts in 2006, I became an Oysterband convert. I saw them again at the 2007 Big Session (where James O'Grady made an appearance, and actually sat beside me on a hill while he ate his lunch!), then once more in the UK, back home in 2008, and this summer at folk fest (which was awesome, and I pronounced them my #1 of 2009 - link includes photos).
And this weekend they were back playing Festival Place in Sherwood Park.
And yes, it was significantly awesome. They even said so themselves on their myspace blog.
They were in fine form, even poor Ian Telfer (the fiddler) who came out on crutches because his leg was in a cast - apparently he jumped off a stage in Denmark. The lead singer, John Jones, is almost but not quite in the Gord Downie league of emotive stagemanship, and as usual Alan Prosser (guitar) and new(ish) drummer Dil Davies did their best to pump up the crowd. My favourite member though, is Ray "Chopper" Cooper, who looks like a cross between Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn and Jim Cuddy (and we all know how I feel about Jim Cuddy, actually, I'm pretty sure I called Chopper the English Jim Cuddy on facebook once...). Not only does he play bass guitar and harmonica (two lovely instruments in my book), but he also cello dances, and carried his cello around the stage even though it must be awkward and heavy).
Regardless, Oysterband is awesome live. I tapped my foot and slapped my hand on my knee and sang and danced in my chair for the entire evening. Then, for the last song, they unplugged, moved to the front of the stage (except the poor fiddler), and sang "Put Out The Lights" to the crowd without microphones. And then we all joined in and it was magically. Take a look at footage from another show on this tour:
I will always go see Oysterband when they roll into Alberta. And one day I reckon I'll make it back to the Big Session Festival in Leicester. Until then, I'll always have the memories of past concerts, handily assembled onto this 25th Anniversary edition DVD, thus I'll leave you with a classic, awesome, gooder of an Oysterband moment...
You can find Oysterband at:
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