Music & Art at Underneath The Stars Festival 2018

Yorkshire’s premier Music and Art festival, Underneath the Stars, returned for this year’s fifth edition at a brand new venue in the stunning rolling-hills of Cinderhill Farm, Cawthorne, with an exciting mix of musical delight, workshops, and lots of arts, crafts, and food stalls. Not falling into the trap of many other festivals, Kate Rusby and her family, who are the force behind Underneath the Stars are letting it grow organically and keeping true to its roots, a fantastic community- and family-oriented weekend.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

What makes Underneath the Stars such a special and beautiful festival is the friendly and relaxed atmosphere coupled with perfectly balanced entertainment of music from lunchtime to midnight on two alternating stages and a wide range of workshops. Having two stages with staggered stage times is a fantastic way to run such a well-contained event as it avoids annoying clashes of must-see acts. The well stocked bars and the wonderful Yorkshire summer weather made the time fly by when skipping a band.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

When arriving at the site, stewards from the local community greeted you with waves and big grins. It is this feeling of being part of the festival family that attracts people to come back year after year. The festival has a real community feel with lots of activities for the young ones. It was “family friendly” to the point that I was considering having kids myself just to return with them in years to come (a suggestion that I kept to myself). Instead of overbearing security, stewards and festival goers watched out for each other and made sure that the weekend was a complete success.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

The festival featured an array of fantastic acts from around the world but a handful really caught our attention. It was not all music though, and the activities tent saw early-morning Tai Chi practice as well as Ukulele and Whistle workshops, clog and swing dancing lessons and an ever-entertaining Ceilidh.

I See Rivers at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

I See Rivers (Gunnar Mallon)

The fifth edition of Underneath The Stars was kicked off by Norwegian-trio I See Rivers with their unique blend of captivating ‘float folk’ before singer-songwriter Jack Harris took to the Planet Stage, where he quickly captivated the audience with his mixture of stand-up comedy and humour-laden songs.

Jack Harris at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Jack Harris (Gunnar Mallon)

Pitou at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Pitou (Gunnar Mallon)

Dutch-born Pitou performed a mix of down-tempo folk-soul and catchy folk-pop songs on the Little Stars stage, which provided a more intimate setting allowing people to sit and lie down and let the music wash over them.

Underneath the Stars Festival (All copyright by Black Market Photography. For usage, please contact gunnar.mallon@gmail.com)

Kate and Sal (Gunnar Mallon)

One of the lovely features of the festival was the wonderful balance between music, art, and general entertainment, such as the consequent extremely funny and well-devised chat between organiser and Barnsley-born folk singer Kate Rusby and her best friend Sal, taking the audience on a tour down memory lane. Although the whistle was not by any stretch of the imagination Sal’s forte, she joined Rusby for a couple of songs with Rusby’s band to everyone’s amusement, Kate and Sal included.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Next on stage was one of my personal highlights of the festival, Grace Petrie, with her effortlessly charming ability to wrap serious socio-critical themes into tangible music. Protest-singer Petrie’s lyrics captivate young and older generations alike, making the audience face political issues without sugar coating – a definite must-see!

Grace Petrie at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Grace Petrie (Gunnar Mallon)

Estbel at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Estbel (Gunnar Mallon)

Continuing with the international theme of the festival, multinational Estbel took to the stage with their gentle yet faster-paced folk. The name Estbel is the amalgamation of the band members’ nationalities, with two Estonian ‘nightingales’ and two brothers from Belgium.

A little out of place at the up to this point rather restrained folk festival, Glaswegian Fat Suit brought a magical fusion of jazz, funk, and groove to the stage that made it near impossible to not bob one’s head along and utter the occasional ‘nice’ or ‘groovy’. Fat Suit were a pure treat and a sign that Scottish Jazz, in the vain of Ian Carr’s Nucleus, is alive and very much kicking.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

It was now time for one of the main acts, in the form of folk, country and rock heavyweight, and Grammy Award winner, Steve Earle and the Dukes. It didn’t take long for Earle and the Dukes to get people up on their feet and dancing along to the energetic country-rock that Earle is so well known for. All musicians were in top form and the set was definitely a highlight of the festival.

Steve Earle and the Dukes at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Steve Earle and the Dukes (Gunnar Mallon)

Friday was concluded with Rock’n’Roll and Rhythm and Blues band Howlin Ric & The Rocketeers. Reminiscent of Eddie Cochran, the Leeds-based band surely turned things up to 11 and smashed it with a high-energy rockabilly set.

Saturday kicked off in style with the hypnotically soulful sounds of Kizzy Crawford before the highly-acclaimed Barnsley Youth Choir filled the Big Planet tent on yet another wonderful day of inspiring music and sunshine.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Throughout the weekend, Underneath The Stars 2018, saw a line-up of internationally-renowned artists, and Sheffield-based Melrose Quartet soon showed why they were named patrons of the Whitby Folk week in 2017 with their engaging and perfectly harmonised folk sound.

Andy Kershaw at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Andy Kershaw (Gunnar Mallon)

It was time to take the foot of the music pedal next and listen to the stories behind the big gigs. Foreign correspondent, journalist, and music enthusiast Andy Kershaw presented his one-man audio-visual show about some of the biggest shows he had organised throughout his career. Kershaw presented the stories in his usual jovial and light-hearted manner and joked that on that day in the Yorkshire countryside his nose blowing went electric.

With one musical star chasing the next, the swinging and melancholic folk vibes or Martha Tilston were followed by energetic county bluegrass banjo playing by Damien O’Kane and Ron Block with band. Acclaimed as one of the best banjo players in the Irish music scene, O’Kane is a member of Kate Rusby’s band and later performed with her.

Midnight Skyracer at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Midnight Skyracer (Gunnar Mallon)

One of my personal highlights of the weekend was all-female Midnight Skyracers, who brought driving bouncy bluegrass to the Little Lights stage. Not only are the five highly gifted musicians, but their joy of playing together translated into infectious good mood, making it impossible not to dance along or at least tap one’s foot. Midnight Skyracer are playing festivals up and down the country this summer and not to be missed!

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Acoustic folk and electronica trio Lau, flying the rainbow flag, brought a refreshing new take on traditional folk music gripping the audience and leaving everyone wondering which musical direction the next song was going to take. Following Lau, highly sought-after composer and musician John Metcalfe, who has worked with some of music’s biggest names, was next to entertain the adoring folk enthusiasts that seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves throughout the weekend.

Lau at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Lau(Gunnar Mallon)

The second day of the festival was rounded off by the ever-hilarious famous Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, which was on top form with their usual playful antics and perfectly harmonious play. Manchester’s swinging folk-hop good-mood Honeyfeet saw revellers off into the night with their soulful gritty songs about eating people and infidelity. If you get a chance to see Honeyfeet, take it with both hands, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

With the splendid sunny Yorkshire weather not disappointing everybody was in a great mood to enjoy the southern-gothic Americana vibes of Tennessee’s own Amythyst Kiah. Following on the theme of combining different art forms with music, local best-selling author, Joanne Harris, presented a multimedia show of original music and storytelling with The Storytime Band.

Joanne Harris at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Joanne Harris (Gunnar Mallon)

From the magical work of Joanne Harris, the audience was transported into the Asturian countryside by duo L-R who reinterpreted traditional Asturian music in a truly captivating reverb-heavy surfabilly fashion. Young English folk singer Jack Rutter and exciting duo Stables brought the folk element back to Underneath the Stars before Maya Youssef transported the packed Planets Stage far away to Syria with her majestic Qanun playing.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Award-winning Scottish singer and violinist Lori Watson continued on taking the audience through a musical tour around the world with her enchanting interpretation of Scottish folk songs. Without any overlap between musicians at the festival, it was easy to schedule the day, and the next act was one not to miss.

Yves Lambert at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Yves Lambert (Gunnar Mallon)

All the way from Quebec, the legendary Yves Lambert Trio got the crowd onto their feet to dance along to energetic French-Canadian bluesy bluegrass folk tunes. Like so many artists over the weekend, the sheer joy of performing was evident and as Lambert was head-banging away while playing the diatonic button accordion, the energy was mirrored by the audience.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards from the US calmed things down a little following the wild set by the Yves Lambert Trio. It was now time for one of the main headliner and the performer most people had come to see. The large Planets tent was packed at this point with no seats left empty and families spreading blankets in front of the stage to enjoy the show with their kids. To thunderous applause and shouts Kate Rusby and her band took to the stage with her endearing smile.

Kate Rusby at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Kate Rusby at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Kate Rusby at Underneath The Stars (Gunnar Mallon)

Kate Rusby (Gunnar Mallon)

Rusby’s mesmerising and disarming voice, love for music, and appreciation of fellow musician and the crowd made her set a very special one. Joking with the audience between songs it was clear that she was enjoying herself as much as everybody else in attendance. Rusby’s set was a true celebration of gentle, disarming, and charming folk music.

Following Rusby’s packed performance, the festival came to a close with The Californian Feetwarmers from Los Angeles performing their fun and witty interpretation old Americana jazz classics.

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

Underneath the Stars Festival (Gunnar Mallon)

This year’s festival, like the previous ones, was a very special weekend of music, art, entertainment, and community-focussed fun. Bring on Underneath The Stars 2019!

Review and Photography of Underneath The Stars Festival 2018 on 20 July to 22 July 2018 by Gunnar Mallon.

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