Indigo Girls

20 July
RNCM

It has been a while since Indigo Girls visited the UK, and the news of this tour has caused a happy furore. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been performing and recording for decades, and their fan base covers at least three generations.

This time, the folk-rock duo haven’t come alone but are accompanied by Lucy Wainwright Roche, who opens for them and sings alongside them on several songs. Lucy is sweet and funny, chattering about her life on the road and her renowned siblings Rufus and Martha. Her songs have an ethereal feel, often mixing a pure, innocent sound with dark lyrics.

Indigo Girls take the stage to yells of applause. Confident and charismatic, Ray and Saliers play their way through a carefully chosen set of songs spanning their long career, from the 80s right up to their 2015 album, One Lost Day. They mix fast with slow, raucous with reflective, rock with bluegrass with folk. They each juggle multiple acoustic guitars as well as demonstrating their prowess on electric guitar, mandolin and banjo. Highlights include the bouncy fun of ‘Heartache for Everyone’, quiet classic ‘Love’s Recovery’ and the haunting ‘War Rugs’.

The peak of emotion is reached when Amy, Emily and Lucy combine their voices on ‘Spread the Pain Around’, transforming a simple, sad song into an epic moment of power and solidarity. Saliers also treats us to ‘Train Inside’, a track from her upcoming solo album, Murmuration Nation. There are plenty of friendly anecdotes: we learn about Emily’s adventures in Sainsbury’s and Lucy’s fascination with Come Dine With Me. They finish with a trio of hits, ‘Kid Fears’, ‘Galileo’ and ‘Closer to Fine’, leaving on a high. It is a triumphant and joyful return to the UK. Let us hope they come back again soon.

Elizabeth Gibson

Photos inset by Elizabeth Gibson.

Beat-Herder Festival

14-16 July
The Ribble Valley

Located in the undulating climes of rural Lancashire, Beat-Herder is far removed from the ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ of Jack Pout’s Sunday afternoon call-and-response cover of Jimmy Reed’s blues ditty. But Beat-Herdershire, as they’ve affectionately named it, is a creative city in its own right for the annual long weekend of fancy dress, fancier stage designs and fantastic festivities.

Many from Manchester made the short trip north, whether for revelry or renditions. Among the latter were Pareidolia, whose ripping sax leads and sublime version of Moloko’s ‘Sing It Back’ confirmed their place among Manchester’s ever-growing outward-looking jazz armoury. Henge’s emphatic deliveries of intergalactic peace messages were synonymous with Age of Glass’s untethered freakout.

Mr Scruff, accompanied by his long-time sidekick, MC Kwasi, also supplied easy-listening like Sunday afternoon, feeling “free as the feet of a bee”. His may have been a hungover audience, but that room to groove was a blessing.

Covers were in high supply, including by US hip hop imports Kelis and Sugarhill Gang, who both paid homage the Eurythmics, among others. The former’s milkshake brought everyone to the yard, even if some of her DJ’s mixing tasted iffy. The Dutty Moonshine Big Band channelled UK garage to an engrossing harp-led ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’. Even sheltering from Saturday afternoon precipitation rewarded an encounter with Fandjango’s party-starting folk/jazz/blues mashes. Hit reworkings reigned from Eminem to Beyonce; Aladdin to Offspring.

Trentemøller’s main stage faithful suffered the wrong end of Saturday’s downpours, but fellow headliner Jon Hopkins’ typically lush production lit up the woodlands. Elsewhere, the teen twinthesisers Let’s Eat Grandma balanced playground claps with slo-mo sax, while Romare’s ambienteering used similar outlets, with added flute for precision in minimalism.

A rare act of bad vibes saw one punter’s misjudged paparazzi-style interview with an unimpressed volunteer litter-picker. Otherwise, the spirit and camaraderie has done well to last into its 12th instalment, free from corporate ads or overzealous security.

Ian Pennington

Photos by Megan Collett. Inset: Mr Scruff. Background; Beat-Herder main stage.