Force Five on the Folk Scale

Trundling along Fellside Road in Whickham the other day, my thoughts turned to whimsy. That’s because I was following an elderly gentleman who felt that the advised 50 mph speed limit was likely to contravene God’s rules and crush human internal organs, and as a consequence, 28 miles every hour was a much safer option. And so he trundled, at 28 all the way, apparently in possession of all relevant limbs, but oblivious to the fact that he has a queue of traffic behind him which stretched from Whickham back to Byker.[1]

And so, as we trundled, my thoughts drifted from speed limits, to other scales of measurement.


How so?

Be welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

Monday saw the trio formation of FG as Hot Spotters of choice at Saltburn FC. This is held upstairs in The Marine Hotel, and it is a lovely welcoming club. There was a fair sprinkling of friendly faces and some lovely music.  Hosted by FG Acoustic Chums Mark and Amanda aka Stormcrow, this was a grand evening, a chance to catch up with pals and an extended spot for us – a chance to trot out some of the long songs and end up with a full power version of ‘Sundown’. Great fun; and our thanks to all. Special thanks to Mark who has a dead posh camera and kindly provided some of the attached photos.

Warning: the next paragraph contains needlessly gratuitous and puerile double-entendres.

It depends what you do with it; and, where you stick it. (Look, you were warned; can’t say you weren’t)

All this Frankie Howerd-ness relates to the fact that we have a new FG II track available for your collective delectation.

We have re-recorded ‘The Voice’ more in line with my original vision, and it uses two instrumenticals that will cause comment (they’ll cause a bloody riot) in some Folk Clubs. That’s because it uses the bass pedals – reasonable enough – there are two of us now and I want to fill the sound a bit somehow – plus it sounds great; and Shock-Horror-Probe-Expose – a keyboard.

Turning up at a folk night with a keyboard is like turning up with small rodent attached to your wriggly bits while wearing a T-Shirt proclaiming endless love for marsupials. However, we will try to play it live at some point soon.

For the moment, you can hear what we are up to here:

This weekend, we, once again resplendent in the trio formation (although alas, for the penultimate time) headed for the Winter Festival at Beamish Hall. We had secured, through the good offices of Jack Burness, a short spot in The Stables. I must admit, I didn’t know it was the Winter beer Festival, or that other revelations were to come…

Now, Acoustic Chums, you may not all be residents of the North East of the ol’ UK, but I’m sure that you can appreciate, that round these parts, January is a word redolent with climatic meaning. So playing outside The Stables was a bit of a shock. One mic, was another but Jonny Boyle[2], organiser, Good Egg and MC of this section of the event was a superstar and sorted out – somehow – a good sound for us. Good to play with itsAcoustica again too, we sang along happily to their lively set; it was *&^&%$$£^ cold though!

And so to scales of measurement…

It strikes me that there should be a rough scale, a rule of thumb, by which our musical clubs can be easily classified. A five (or ten) point scale, grading clubs on all the unimportant, cynical and ill-informed data seems to me to be called for; so, I welcome you all, Gentle Readers, to Folk Force Five otherwise to be known as the FG Scale.

This is roughly in ascending order of trad-ness, or to look at it another way, in descending order of survivability.

Folk Force 1

At these clubs it is almost obligatory to turn up with someone else’s wife, it is however mandatory to show up with a bunch of inebriated mates who will shout “Whooo” a lot while you sing a Metallica number badly on an acoustic guitar, then talk loudly through everyone else’s set. The clubs often feature the word “Busker” or “Open” in the club name, although there are many, many worthy exceptions to this observation – like all the ones we go to!

Folk Force Two

These clubs are an interesting hybrid of folk club, pub tent and beer fuelled survival course. There will be a range of acts and abilities, there will be a range of styles of music and there will probably be a riot just before the end. This is not the club to take your prized Taylor 816 but is the club to take your armour plated codpiece and someone else’s wife; there are no worthy exceptions to this observation. We have never been to one of these.

Folk Force Three

Generally typified by the presence of an MC and a PA. The latter stands for “Piggin’ Awful” Sound System. This will be driven by a gentleman or lady called, confusingly, The Sound Man. This means that person is deaf. There are two worthy exceptions to this observation. (The exceptions I have in mind are of course, Jacks’, The Comrades, Wilson’s Surround Sound System, Ashington, The Trap, Cramlington, The Purple Pair at Clennell and anywhere else I might have inadvertently forgotten to exclude from what is clearly a foul calumny.)

Folk Force Four

At this point, the scale starts to get a little hazy. This club has residents that consider themselves musicians. Most casual observers would not, but that is often the way. Singer Songwriters are worshipped as living Gods, and there will be more guitars at this place than people. There will be more colours of guitars than is reasonably necessary and there will probably be very few people, and certainly no audience[3]. There are worthy exceptions to this observation.

Folk Force Five

These clubs are readily identifiable as you will walk through the door and fall over a melodeon. There will be a session going on the corner, this will last for an hour and it will be hard to work out the end of one tune from the start of the next, although, inexplicably, everyone else seems to know. If you attempt to sing a song from within the last hundred years, that will be a Bad Thing. It is also a Bad Thing to admit to the sin of songwriting, but is good fun to ask where you plug in.

Naturally, we have never been to any of these places, don’t know of any, and have not drawn on any real or imaginary experiences. No musicians were harmed in the writing of this blog.

It's a sin...

And so as the elderly gentleman nears the far end of Fellside Road, I notice the mouth organ neck brace of Fate strangles of the Dylan wannbee of Destiny and proves that there is a natural justice in the world, I notice, it’s the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] This is unverifiable, as there is always a queue to get out of Byker.

[2] Jonny was indeed a grand lad – find out about him here:

[3] Unless you take someone else’s wife


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