Folk Music

Folk Music: It’s back and it’s big, but is it what we need?

Impact catches up with some of the most prominent Folk musicians in the scene right now to see what it’s all about and to see if it really is “what we all need.”

Johnny Flynn @ Bodega Social, 22 October

According to Johnny Flynn he’s part of an emergent, ever-growing scene known as “Folk ‘n’ Roll”. I’d be inclined to agree with him – as sharing the zeitgeist limelight with him are such increasingly popular acts as Mumford & Sons, and Noah & the Whale. The latter have even stolen Flynn’s sister away for their tour. “They pay better,” he jokes. Although Flynn is socially quite awkward, live he is something special. The Bodega Social is crammed full of people dying to see him play. “Tunnels” opens the set and the crowd reacts instantly with people swaying along in appreciation.
After the first song, Flynn welcomes his band The Sussex Wit on stage with him. The band is comprised of his old school friends. Flynn told Impact that he started solo, with just his lowly guitar, but invited his friends to join him when he started making it in the industry.

As a treat for the audience, ‘Sally’ makes a very rare live appearance. He also shows his versatility when he showcases a new song in which he swaps his guitar for a violin. On stage, Flynn and his band often change instruments, moving around the stage through the night. Although he has so far only released one album, A Larum, Flynn has already been likened to a Desire-era Bob Dylan – coincidentally, one of his favourite albums, and he seemed obviously chuffed with our compliment.
Although shy on stage (and during interviews!) Flynn interacts with the crowd during a technical glitch forcing him to cut short his set, at just under an hour. Yet no one complains, showing the serene atmosphere this new genre has invokes in the crowd. Flynn is louder live than on record. His voice is less whispery, yet it loses none of its appeal. Highlights included ‘Shore to Shore’ with Flynn and his drummer sharing vocals, and ‘Hong Kong Cemetery’ with many musical instruments used including a trumpet and even the wall as a drum! Its eerie quality was even more exposed live.

Typically saving the crowd favourites for the penultimate song and encore, ‘Tickle Me Pink’ and ‘The Box’ end the night in a euphoric climax with people actually beginning to dance along. Flynn is obviously buzzing from the atmosphere and the crowd reciprocates.

Most people’s assumption of Folk would not be Johnny Flynn. But this somewhat ‘lost’ genre is very much alive and ready to change your opinion, given the chance. The future of “Folk ‘n’ Roll” is looking very good from where I’m standing (i.e., next to the man himself). Here’s hoping he’s not as shy in future.

Rebecca Gazey


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