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Review: Leadenhall Market Americana Festival

July 11, 2010 Comments: 2
Rod Picott and Amanda Shires perform at the Leadenhall Market Americana Festival
Rod Picott and Amanda Shires perform at the Leadenhall Market Americana Festival

The idea sounded nice: a covered festival in the centre of London, 12 hours of high-class music in a historic and beautiful setting. The inaugural Leadenhall Market Americana Festival had a lot of promise. And indeed, in a sweltering London, the temperature inside the market was pleasantly cool, while still permitting shirtsleeves until its post-10 p.m. ending, and a relaxed audience held civilised gatherings around tables with plenty of beer and wine.
Nice venue, then. Pity about the sound.

Even deciphering what people were saying when they were speaking into the microphones was difficult; once they started singing and playing music it became little more than a blanket of sound. Whether the problem was due to the equipment, the mixing or simply the natural acoustics in the market, it turned a music festival into a summer party.
And that was a pity because the artists were of the right quality for the festival. Headliner Al Perkins turned up early to play with Last Train Home, who in return supplied him with bass player and drummer for his own performance. Brighton-based band Two Fingers of Firewater livened up the action in the evening, though they deserved a longer set. One of the highlights of the day was British singer-songwriter Andrea Glass, whose voice also overcame the acoustic issues better than many of the other artists.
Like the Maverick Festival last week, Leadenhall had to deal with some changes in the lineup following the cancellation of the Orbitsuns’ UK tour. The spaces were filled without problems, but changes to the schedule were not advertised, and several visitors complained that they had arrived hoping to see a particular artist only to find that that artist had already played.
And, on the subject of visitors, probably the biggest issue that the festival organisers will have to face if they want to repeat the event is getting the crowds in. They had enthusiastically offered a free CD to the first 1,000 people to book – the audience never exceeded 200. With its low profile and one-page website, a location that will only ever attract Londoners and the consequent danger that some of the audience might catch their favourite acts at the free concerts during the previous week rather than paying for the full-day event, the Leadenhall Market Americana Festival will have some thinking to do before next year.
Naomi Koppel

Leadenhall Festival

From the point of view of the Tour Manager of said Eric Brace and all elements of The East Nashville Revue, and compere of the event, knowing some of what was going on behind stage and having a unique perspective on what was going on out front too, I hope these observations are useful

I agree always annoying when the the schedule is changed at the last minute, and people arrive to late to see artists, I believe there were strong mitigating circumstances, the Orbitsuns' tragic circumstances being the most difficult of them, (in fairness Maverick Festival this year was if anything worse than Leadenhall for this and they have been going longer, file under shit happens!! I'd say) . Soundwise I agree too, more investment is needed in stage and sound, particularly for such a vaulted barn of a venue, however I thought the sound guys did really well with what they had to work with, and that vaulted barn of a venue had a unique charm of its own that will never offer a studio quality sound no matter how much money is thrown at it in PA watts, but was after all said and done a great place and a great way to spend the day.

I find it strange that an observation like "only London to draw from" should even be of consideration! Isn't there something like 8 million living in London? As someone who came from Inverness where the population is 60,000 and totals maybe 100,000 throughout The Highlands which is an area the size of Belgium, (10 times the size of London) who is used like all music fans up here to travelling in excess of 50 miles to see a good artist, accessibility shouldn't be a problem. I was delighted to find it relatively easy to get to the venue by road particularly at the weekend.

Having said that I'd say the turnout was maybe disappointing, but not bad for a first event. A new Festivals gestation period rule of thumb is generally regarded as being 5 years to get into profitability, next year Leadenhall should be targeting 800 people, and is achievable with the same level of artists, though a sponsor who might find the budget for a legitimate headliner might be co-productive for promoter and said sponsor, i.e. a John Prine or Emmylou would have done the deal.

However I would agree a dedicated website and digital network, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc etc, is very very necessary in these networking times. Perhaps some sort of radio input and maga/webzine sponsorship and media support would be a good idea. And that preferably should be starting to talk up next year already.

My promoter's eye had in the region of 350 people in attendance, (not official number I hasten to add) but this trained eye of an old promoter of nearly 30 years scanning heads and wondering why there aren't more people, is never too far out.

What was palatable from this first attempt, was the deep willingness of all involved to make this event a success, from the management of the wonderful Leadenhall Market, to Bernie Tuck (organiser) and his crew and on to the artists, who did two separate shows, one as a promo set to during the week to advertise the event and drive tickets sales in the City itself.

Whether this was a success and did turn astonished city gents into ticket sales, is for Bernie to weigh up, from my personal point of view I loved the fact that people were walking out of work and coming face to face with the best of roots music outside in the street. That and the fact I made friends with many people who were savvy and local enough to take in all the free music they could during the week and who were also legit enough music fans to know they needed to buy a ticket for The Saturday and turn up then to for it to happen again, in that regard alone it had the real feel of a Festival. If it's gonna get to five years and this element is maintained I predict that substantial elements of the city will be organising that meeting around who's going to be on at The Leadenhall Festival today and when. I wonder how much marketing was actually done around the city markets, maybe more reach into the busy-ness of the business district would pay some dividends too.

The most encouraging aspect of the entire weekend for me was just how strong the community aspect of this festival was, between the venue, the promoter, the audience, the market stalls and pubs and the artists, Finding this to be so prevalent in the middle of London's financial center was a revelation to this hillbilly who just never expected to find this sort of spirit in a city ever again never mind "The City".

So well done is what I'd say, with a real hope it happens again, maybe I can take a bus load from Inverness next time or sell a few tickets for easyJet for an Americana Away Day to London, I'll be there again for sure, if asked. I loved it.
Rob Ellen
Here is my videolog of the day:

"a location that will only ever attract Londoners"???

I'm not sure the location would only ever attract Londoners, Naomi. I travelled down on the train from Kettering in Northamptonshire and I'm sure others came from further afield. Admittedly the weekend engineering works on the tube made the journey a little longer but it was still one bus from St Pancras to a stop quite close by.

I do agree about the acoustics, though and there are a few other things I will be letting the organisers know about, all in the spirit of constructive criticism as I loved the idea and the feel of the day on Saturday.

Glad you liked Andrea, she's fab, eh?


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