Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Festival: Ard, Farryl, Wendy, Digby, Steve & more

The third annual Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Music Festival features stars like Ard Matthews, Steve Newman, Farryl Purkiss, Wendy Oldfield, Andrew James, Digby and the Lullaby, Guy Buttery and Nibs van der Spuy – all on the Kirstenbosch stage.

Cape Town Folk Acoustic - Farryl Purkiss
This article by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Weekend Argus” of 10 February 2013.
After launching at the CTICC three years ago, continuing over two nights at The Fugard Theatre, the Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Festival has become an important fixture on the city’s annual music calendar – and a haven for a style of music that remains popular even as other genres wax and wane. The festival features a unique format: each artist has eight minutes to play two songs, and then a new musician comes onto the stage. It makes for an attention-grabbing showcase of talent, and allows for a mix of stalwarts, legends and newcomers. Festival founder and director Gavin Minter explains.
“When we did the festival last winter at The Fugard, Philip Le Roux (curator of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens) was in the audience. They loved the concept, and the format of each artist having two songs, and approached to do it in 2013 on the Old Mutual Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset stage,” says Minter. “It’s an exciting place for the third installment of the festival – for the audience and for the artists. People who love folk music and acoustic music get to hear a great line-up, and the artists get to play a great stage.”
The third annual Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Music Festival features Ard Matthews (Just Jinjer), Steve Newman (Tananas), Farryl Purkiss (ex Durban), Wendy Oldfield (on tour from the Garden Route), Robin Auld (returning from the UK), Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery (touring from Durban) and newcomers like busking-born lap-tapper Tombstone Pete, slide-guitar duo Andrew James and the Steady Tiger and newcomer indie singer-songwriters Digby and The Lullaby (ex DieselVanilla). But how does the festival select its artists?
“Someone joked that it’s ‘the festival working formula: a couple of ballies, a couple of middleweights and a couple of newcomers’,” says Minter. “We’ll always have some stalwarts – people like Steve Newman or Robin Auld or Wendy Oldfield; some artists with wider commercial appeal, like Ard and Farryl; and a chance for some newcomers. To mix it up like that makes it interesting for the audience. Then you look at the pace of the show: you know this artist will have a more subdued set; this one will need some listening; someone like Robin or Wendy will pick it up in their eight minutes. You look at the pace of the show, and build it that way.”
A show billed as “folk” and as “acoustic” has attached to either term a history and a tradition of the genres, and the outdoor festival they have enjoyed as they developed. Minter notes that audiences come to the Folk ‘n Acoustic Music Festival with respect for the music.
“They’re there to pay attention to the acts they really want to see, as well as to spend time with their friends and family,” says Minter. “Each artist has people who really want to listen to them – long-standing fans of Steve Newman, or people who can’t wait for a chance to hear Nibs and Guy playing their new album together, or Farryl’s fans, who don’t often get to see him in South Africa. They’ve pre-booked, and they’re there to listen, and that makes a great space for musicians to play.”
The Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Festival also offers an opportunity for acts to perform on the Kirstenbosch stage that would, otherwise, be unlikely to get that chance – or to get it again.
“Unless you’re a Freshlyground or a Goldfish or a new pop or rock sensation that can bring in a good few thousand fans, then you’re unlikely to get booked for the Summer Sunset series,” says Minter. “Eight or ten years ago, when the Sunday concerts were smaller, then you’d get Steve Newman or the Aquarian Quartet or one of those groups, but times have changed and the formats of the shows have moved on. This is a really nice way for someone like, say, Tombstone Pete to play that stage, and for a whole lot of people to hear it. This is a festival where everyone, individually and collectively, is of a standard to grace that stage.”
Some highlights of Sunday’s concert include: the first local airing of new material by Farryl Purkiss of songs off his new album, “Home” which was produced by Kieran Kelly (who produced Sufjan Stevens and Angus & Julia Stone), and a chance to hear Durban master guitarists and songwriters Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery performing material off their debut duo album “In The Shade Of The Wild Fig“.
“I think everyone on the bill has something very special – not that I’m speaking down to anyone not on the bill,” says Minter. “There’s maybe not a sea, but there’s certainly a very healthy lake of acoustic and folk and singer-songwriter musicians in Cape Town at the moment – and probably one or two of those could even draw more people. So I listen to all the acts I can and, when I put them on, I hope other people get what it is that I hear. I’m a complete fan of Digby and The Lullaby. I don’t know a better singer in the style in South Africa – anyone who’s heard Joni Mitchell or Rickie Lee Jones will get it. Or Andrew James – they’ve been in other bands, but this outfit is new, and I’m in complete awe of this exceptional talent. People coming to a folk festival will have some kind of history with the music, or what folk and acoustic is. We hope they’ll hear things they know and like, as well as finding some new gems.”
The Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Festival is on Sunday 10 February at the Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts (Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Rhodes Drive, Newlands, gates 4pm; concert runs from 5.15pm to 7pm; details and tickets at 021-7998783/8620, and Also diarise 26 July 2013 for the winter session of the Cape Town Folk ‘n Acoustic Festival.
This article by Evan Milton first appeared in the Cape Argus “Weekend Argus” of 10 February 2013.