Review: Richard Hawley, Josh Ritter
Venue: Pocktoberfest, the Old Railway Station, Sunday, October 27
The gentle fairy lights that lined the entry to the Old Station in Pocklington seemed to prepare you for a comforting rather than challenging Sunday night. The wafting smell of hand pulled ale added to this cozy community set up.
This seemed set to be a night of medicinal music, the type where you let the pedal steel guitar anaesthetise you against those murky Sunday night feelings.
What actually happened was far more arresting.
Pocktoberfest, now in its tenth year has established itself as one of Yorkshire’s leading music events, attracting more than 1,600 people this year.
Taking place over two days, the top billings this year were Josh Ritter and Richard Hawley. Visitors also flock to Pock for the dizzying varieties of ale on offer, the name of the event being a riff on the famous autumnal, German beer festival.
There is an element of discord in this – and the demographics of alternative music lover and ale aficionado were exposed as being quite different.
Whilst requesting “the palest ale possible” the kindly barman asked if I was here “for the music or the beer”. I was bemused.
Undoubtedly alcohol can inform enjoyment of music immensely, and beer festivals may be well be the happiest places on earth. But who really cares about the depth of a dark ale from Hackney when you have Richard Hawley performing a blistering set?
Clearly some, as there emerged a mildly caustic divide between the ale and music fans. Unfortunately some of the softer moments of Josh Ritter’s Americana soaked set were rather lost due to the constant hum and beer swilling at the back of the hall.
Yet this was the night that news broke of Lou Reed’s death and it was up to Ritter to tell the crowd. Calling Reed an inspiration before sliding into a suitably delicate rendition of Pale Blue Eyes, the crowd was muzzled; except for a few searching their iPhones for verification.
Electric: Richard Hawley
Sheffield’s most revered son, Richard Hawley, took to the stage declaring that Pocklington has book-ended his recent tour, adding that it holds a special place in his heart. He seemed genuine.
Opening with the coruscating and murderous Standing at the Sky’s Edge (the title track of his 2012 Mercury nominated album) any background drones were flattened.
The setlist took its lead from this electric album, which marks a departure from Hawley’s traditional, late 1950s style, making for a moody, engaging atmosphere. Not quite the twinkly guitars generally expected at this sort of event.
Highlights included Don’t Stare at the Sun and Seek It although he also played older classics. Tonight The Streets Are Ours his love-letter to Sheffield, which combines Phil Spector style beats with Springsteen-esque lyrics, was well received as ever.
Before he said goodnight to Pocklington and temporarily to performing (he announced he’s taking a year’s break) Hawley also paid tribute to Lou Reed with an encore performance of I’m Waiting for The Man so accomplished it was hard to believe it was a last minute addition to the set.
And with that he was gone, saying he might “see us at the bar”. And of course that was the time to indulge in the craft beers, after experiencing Hawley’s genius.
Pocktoberfest needs to have a more cohesive identity. It doesn’t seem quite right that many were lounging at the back of the hall, sampling various specialty ales whilst Hawley was stunning others just a few feet ahead. If the organisers didn’t book such special acts, this issue would rankle less.
The gimmicks aren’t necessary with quality such as Hawley.