To Mission Control: New Year Fantasy Concert

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Posted by Keith E Rice on 01/09/02 - 16:29:07
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Hi, Michael

As well as entertaining mysef (and, hopefully. others!),  I did have a purpose in putting the story together.

The idea behind the fantasy has been germinating since the early 90s. It gathered momentum when "DS/VS" was released and I realised that not a single ex-Airshipper other than Grace turned up for Papa John's benefit. Not even Peter Kaukonen -though he's credited on the sleeve - or Joey Covington.

It gathered further charge when no Airshippers at all turned up for Moby Grape's Skippy benefit(as far as I know - and I did search very hard for evidence that someone had turned up!)

So I wrote the fantasy and posted it (1-3 January, in case anyone missed it) to create some ideas of what could be feasible...with a lot of goodwill.

The original idea came from discovering Fairport Convention's annual Cropredy Festival in the early 90s.

(Darby fans note: "Genesis Hall" is from Fairport's third album, "UNHALFBRICKING".)

For those who don't know the story...

Having started off supposedly as "England's answer to Jefferson Airplane" in 67, they virtually invented British tradtional folk-rock a couple of years later.

Like the Airship, they were bedevilled by personnel changes - with some great performers passing through their ranks - Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Sandy Denny, Iain Matthews, Martin Lamble, Dave Swarbrick, Dave Pegg, Dave Matthews,Trevor Lucas, Jerry Donahue, Bruce Rowlands, etc, etc.

And like the Airship they were beset with arguments about musical direction and dominace - their fueding visionaries being most notably Thompson, Hutchings, Denny, Matthews, Swarbrick and Lucas.

In the wake of the punk movement and in face of declining revenues, Fairport were dropped from their label (Phonograph). Following a slot supporting Zeppelin at Knebworth in 79, Fairport flew home to play their annual village fete - their final gig.

The band - or most its members - had lived in the small Buckinghamshire village of Cropredy for several years. I suppose playing the annual village fete was a sort of thank-you to the village for putting up with them. However, increasingly Fairport took over the fete.

So many people turned up for the final Fairport gig that they decided to play the village fete again the following year.

In 80 they effectively took over the fete totally. The following year, their original singer Judy Dyble (Fairport's equivalent of Signe) turned up - as did original lead guiarist Richard Thompson (their Jorma - guitar brilliance, can't sing and snotty attitude).

As Thompson was almost a big a star in his own right as Faiport were, his appearance effectively set he seal of approval on the festival.

The following years saw numerous ex-Fairporters turn up - to guest. On special anniversaries - like the 25th and 30th - they have fielded almost complete earlier incarnations and played almost a chronological history of the band. (For the 35th this year, they are promising every ex-Fairporter still alive!)

They also invite other musical acquaintances to play with them during their set - eg, Julianne Regan, Robert Plant, Gary Brooker, Ian Anderson, Roy Wood, etc, etc.

Such was the success of the festival that Fairport started getting lucrative offers to play gigs around the time of the festival. Finally, in 85 they reformed officially.

The new line-up lacked the firestorm creativity of the 67-79 Fairport - and also its divisiveness! - but was highly-competent, long-lived and reputedly an altogether much nicer bunch of people to be around. Perhaps there's another parralel with the Starship here - swapping higher levels of creativity for greater stability?

Cropredy is now one Europe's most most important smaller festivals. If Fairport don't get any meanstream pop/rock press the rest of the year, Cropredy features in every media in the Summer. (It helps that Fairport are quite adventurous in who they put on lower down the bill.)

It has quite a relaxed family atmosphere - with lots of children around the site for the afternoon and early evening shows. (When the weather's good, you also get a smattering of nudies. I couldn't believe it my first year - my eyes were practically popping out of my head at the number of naked breasts on show!)

Aside from it benefitting Fairport, it also helps raise the profile of ex-members. In addition to Thompson's regular appearances, Hutchings, Matthews and Donahue all tend to bring their latest touring bands there on a frequent basis.

In between Cropreddies, some ex-Fairporters don't seem to have anything to do with either each other or the band,

So what's to stop the Airship doing something like Cropredy?

JA Inc could put it on - or maybe you/JS, with Tuna as special guests? Other obvious names to be on the bill could include CSN, the LaFlammes, Manzarek, Dan Hicks, Quicksilver and the Dead remnants.

Just think of the potential positive media attention JS and Tuna could get out of this.

They would only have to play a couple of numbers together and could then go back to hating each other for the rest of the year.

So what do you reckon, Michael?
"Cropredy in California!" - why not?

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