LEGENDARY British folk rockers Fairport Convention have announced dates for their Winter 2024 tour, with a gig at Liverpool's Tung Auditorium one for the diary of every Merseyside folkie.

This year's customary WinTour sees the chaps in fine form, coming hot off the heels of a more intimate, stripped back acoustic excursion throughout England, Scotland and Wales this past Autumn.

Stuffing their set with a mix of long-established Fairport favourites, and some surprises from albums old and new, both devoted fans and new converts can expect a show just as electrifying - and just as delightful - as ever with the added bonus of a return to the drum stool for long time member Dave Mattacks.

"Our winter tour has become a tradition and we've done it for years and years," said Fairport bassist Dave Pegg, who spoke to the Globe from his home in France. 

"The reason we started it all those years ago was because no one else was dumb enough to be out on the road at that time so technicians and van hire was so inexpensive we benefitted! 

"Everything has changed now of course but we still love doing it - we were last out on the road in October when we played as a four piece without drums. It was the first time we've foe it for years - we recorded ten of the shows for a CD and hopefully that will be out in time for the tour."

Formed in 1967 by guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol, bassist Ashley Hutchings and drummer Shaun Frater, Fairport Convention would later add singer Sandy Denny and fiddler Dave Swarbrick to their line up as they moved towards a remarkable sound which reinvented British folk music with its blending of the traditional and electric on a succession of classic albums.

Pegg would join the band in 1969 and today he is the longest-serving member of the line up alongside Nichol and the returning Mattacks.

"I think it's the same for all musicians," he said. "It's not working or the dreaded job - it's something in your blood and it's such a joy to play an instrument and to be able to still do it when you're 76! It still makes me really happy to get out on the stage and play, especially being the bassist because it's not the kind of instrument you play on your own.

"I'm very lucky that Fairport still have a good following and the fans still come out and support us."

Pegg built up an incredibly strong playing partnership with Mattacks over the years with the pair becoming an in-demand session duo playing on albums by the likes of Nick Drake and John Martyn.

"Dave was in the band when I joined and I've been there ever since," said Pegg. "He lives in Boston now and is coming over to do our tour and then he goes out with Feasts of Fiddle and then he'll be playing with Richard Thompson.

"It's fantastic to have him back - it's instant - we don't have to think about what we do - it's automatic and it's always been like that between Dave and myself. We played so much together in the 70s and played together on so many other artist's albums.

"Nick Drake's Bryter Later is my favourite album of all the ones I played on but Dave and I also played on John Martyn's Solid Air and loads of Ralph McTell albums, lots of Sandy's albums and lots of Richard's albums. The only competition was Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson from Fotheringay - if they weren't available it would be Dave and myself and vice versa!

"You build up an instant ability to not have to rehearse that much and you don't get in each other's way. It's great for me and it's great for the band - he won't re-join because he says he's got the record for leaving and coming back because he's done it three times!"

Wirral Globe: Fairport ConventionFairport Convention (Image: Mike Ainscoe - At The Barrier)

Mattacks isn't the only Fairport member to come and go with regular reunions at the band's annual Cropredy Festival becoming a feature over the years.

"It's always been a great bunch of mates in Fairport," said Dave. "There have been a lot of people in Fairport Convention over the years but we've had a pretty consistent line up now for 18 years apart from Gerry Conway who left a few years ago due to ill health. Playing the drums is a very physical thing, not that I'd know because I'm probably the world's worst drummer!"

When you've been in a band for over 50 years keeping things fresh is still important for Pegg who doesn't want Fairport to simply wallow in nostalgia. 

"We play old stuff - thinks like Matty Groves and Meet on the Ledge - but we do recent material as well and we've got such a back catalogue and repertoire that it's sometimes difficult to choose what songs to play.

"We're playing a couple on this tour which we haven't played for ten years and it's like starting again. It's great fun and a lot of it will be new for Dave on drums too - we've never been the kind of band to rest on our laurels and our idea of going out to tread on the boards is to entertain people and not just get up there and play the material. It's a fun evening for us and hopefully the audience as well."

Looking back to 50 years ago, Pegg remembers happy times in 1974 with Denny re-joining alongside Trevor Lucas and American guitarist Jerry Donahue, but worldwide success remained elusive. 

"We were doing a lot that year when Sandy came back," he said. "That was a great Fairport line up and a really good band. We did an awful lot of gigs in America where we were trying to make it. We had a lot of support from A&M records over there and Island Records over here but it just never happened - we just never had a song that was radio-orientated. We toured America so many times supporting bands like Traffic which was great fun. Played with Jethro Tull for 15 years and once in America I got to play in the opening band and the headliners. We were playing to 15,000 people every night." 

Wirral Globe:

Pegg grew up in Birmingham and featured in a number of beat bands in the mid-60s. During this period he played with Robert Plant and one band, The Way of Life, featured drummer John Bonham - later both went to form Led Zeppelin.

"Robert thinks I was in his band, The Band of Joy, but I never was," laughed Pegg. "John, Robert, myself and Kevin Gammon who later went on to play with Robert, all got together one night in the pub and we had all these plans about a band but it never materialised.

"You had the Spencer Davis Group with Steve Winwood at the time and he was just the biggest hero for Brummies. He'd literally just left school and you wouldn't believe how good he was at the age of 17. He was a big influence on us all. 

"You had The Moody Blues and The Move with Roy Wood - Birmingham was just a fantastic place with great bands who went on to make it. You were always trying to get in a band from London though, you'd always go off and do auditions for bands there - eventually I got the gig with Fairport and that was my big break and chance to get out of Birmingham."

Pegg first saw Fairport in the aftermath of the tragic car crash in May 1969 which killed 19-year-old band member Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklyn, Richard Thompson's girlfriend.

"I was blown away and thought 'I'd love to play with this band'," he said. "I got a call from Dave Swarbrick asking me to go down for an audition because Ashley and Sandy were leaving. My first album with the band was Full House and we still open with the opening track, Walk Awhile."

Pegg has been one of the chief organisers of Fairport's annual festival at Cropredy in Oxfordshire which has now grown to three day event attracting 20,000 fans each August. 

"It started in the late 1970s as a reunion festival and it's just grown and grown with the support of the village," he added. "We're very proud of it. It's not simply a folk festival anymore - this year we've got Rick Wakeman and Tony Christie - he's such a fantastic singer. We've had people like Alice Cooper and Brian Wilson and even Petula Clarke when she was 81 playing her first ever festival! 

"We hope to put something for everyone on the bill and the young bands are unbelievable. We get a lot of recommendations from our younger fans and sometimes I watch them thinking 'they're so bloody good'. When I think what we were like at their age...We make the mistake of booking really good bands and then we've got to follow them!" 

Fairport Convention

Saturday, February 10 2024

Tung Auditorium, Liverpool

More Information HERE
Tickets HERE