Review: Little Festival Of Live Music, day one

Impassioned yet controlled… David Ward Maclean
26 Sep 2013 @ 8.52 pm
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Impassioned yet controlled… David Ward Maclean
Impassioned yet controlled… David Ward Maclean

Review: York’s Little Festival Of Live Music: Day One
Venue: Parliament Street, York, September 24

In the heart of York’s bustling food and drink festival, the live entertainment is supporting the charity IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services), with the first evening of York’s three-day Little Festival of Live Music kicked off by local singer-songwriter David Ward Maclean.

To describe the audience’s reception as warm is to say the least, with an attentive hush stealing over the crowd gathered under the Fountain Marquee. Not only is Maclean an expert in his own style, his impassioned yet controlled voice make it easy to get lost in the songs in the same way you did the first time you heard them.

He breathed fresh, finger-picked life into the music of Bob Dylan, Elton John and John Martyn.

The only negative comment I can think of is that he didn’t try to impress the audience with his own songwriting ability, which is well-known to many members of York’s music community. Though the reason for this became slightly more obvious as the evening progressed and other artists unfortunately began to lose the audience’s previously rapt attention.

Joel Sarakula was, to me, an unrecognised name on the bill, but with a charming set-up of a keyboard on his lap and subtle blues-style voice winning over a fair majority of the crowd straight after Maclean’s performance. He initially showed great promise.

A singer-songwriter from Sydney with an electro-pop style reminiscent of MGMT, his set started with a charming yet melancholy appeal. It was then that I became aware of audience members shifting in their seats, as the lack of a band became more and more obvious with an absence of dynamics in the songs, one keyboard setting being overused and some strenuous lyrics invading what could be some otherwise-pleasant pop.

Overall, Sarakula was probably not right for the festival, but either studio recordings or live shows with a band could produce something intriguing.

After Sarakula came a full band, The Stolen Embers. A complete change from the previous act’s quirky electro-pop, they played well-rehearsed, yet slightly monotonous rock-by-numbers which lacked vigour, despite the lead singer’s attempts at physical activity on a cramped stage.

The two guitarists seemed to soak up some of the atmosphere by performing just in front of the rest of the band on the floor, and in this sense it has to be admitted the Stolen Embers provided perfectly apt food-and-drink entertainment.

To finish the evening, Mulholland, an array of folk-rock instruments and hats, took to the stage to play Bob Dylan songs interspersed with the likes of Tom Petty and Lynyrd Skynyrd covers.

With an imitation of some of Dylan’s Seventies live shows, for example Before the Flood and Hard Rain, Mulholland seem to be York’s very own version of The Byrds, with impressive harmonies and instrumentation – though often losing the meaning behind some of the greatest songs ever written.

Although it’s easy to appreciate the songs in their most basic format, their magic is lost when performed by being literally read off the page and ignoring the powerful lyrical content in the songs, which distracts Dylan-ites like myself.

Overall, the evening was enjoyed by both passers-by and those who stayed for every act. Buckets and tins raising money for IDAS were noisily filled, and the festival in the heart of York was illuminated by the live music, serving as a fulfilling portion of the food and drink festival.


  • There are two more evenings of live music for the same good cause: on Friday, September 27 and Saturday September 28, both from 5pm in the Fountain Marquee. More details here
  • For more music stories, click here