Don’t Dampen the Morris

It’s a hard, hard, hard, hard…
…haaaard raaaaaiiiiiiinnnssss …. gonna fall.

No, not Mr Zimmerman waxing at his lyrical best, more of an extraction from a recent weather forecast. But do we allow a touch of the impending Noah’s to get us down..?

Still, a little ray of literary sunshine pokes an impertinent beam through the lowering clouds of woe, and so, be bid Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on…

On Sunday Evening and with all important needs addressed, and all our reachable polishable bits nicely buffed, we in great harmony for South Shields Folk Club. We’d not been for a few months, so it was nice to see folks again for a natter and to see how they have settled into their new home at The Customs House in South Shields.

The room is a big one, and although they club could use the available PA, virtually everything is fully acoustic, instruments and vocals alike. This rather suits us as we tend to prefer it that way unless the room really is enormous. On this particular evening there were other visitors to swell the ranks of those gathered in acoustic worship there. The Monkseaton Morris Men arrived (by arrangement) not to do a guest night, but certainly a couple of chunky floor spots.

They were very good indeed.

Morris is not generally my cup of tea, bovril or even hot Marmite, but they were very, very entertaining, including a sort of Mummer play in their show, as well as an audience participation dance. They don’t half work hard those lads – and indeed in this instance, lasses[1].

One interesting diversion caught my eye during the evening.

Those ‘in the know’ will know that the protocol in some folk clubs is not to enter the room until a break between songs. During such a break, one of our merry Morris Dancers, discovering a thirst, sallied forth to the bar downstairs and on arriving back in the middle of a song, dutifully stood by the door…

…which automatically swung open with a loud attention-grabbing hiss to reveal a fully kitted out harlequin and slightly nonplussed Morris Man, complete with bells and beer filled paws, obliging him to creep back to his seat. Morris outfits are designed to facilitate many things, but surreptitious beer laden creeping is not one of them.

Once again thanks to The Wrinkly Wroadies for the photos.

So. Monday.
Dave the Bass, our erstwhile bass playing son (at least two others are available) is now in France ostensibly working. As part of the farewell activities this week we went to The Sage to see Colin Hay perform a solo set in Hall Two – easily my favourite venue of the moment. Now; we musicians, pro, amateur or merely awful, are at a natural advantage when it comes to going to a gig. That is because everyone else just goes to hear the music whereas we do that and much, much more.

We analyse the performance, spot the guitars, check out the pedals, look at the stage setup, carefully listen to the sound… in short we check out not just the show but how it is done.

So, how was it done?
Very well as you’d expect. The support act was Chris Trapper, an amiable Canadian who was entertaining and very good too. Simple songs, but well delivered with an engaging presentation – good voice too. Colin Hay is a bona fide star, with an impressive rock and pop history. In recent years he has been building an enviable reputation as a solo artist. He had one of the biggest pedal boards imaginable – at least for a solo acoustic guitar wielding musician. He used a lot of effects and tweaked and tuned incessantly – to my ear I couldn’t always tell the difference. He did do ‘Down Under’, a much reworked version which, given the lack of 80’s style rock band behind him, was understandable. Colin Hay is certainly accomplished and his evening is based as much on the stories as it is on the songs, we knew little of him, but Sage 2 was packed and he seemed to be held in reverential esteem by Mr and Mrs Joe Punter. A good night, excellent show and superb sound.

It comes to Friday and the thoughts of the working man turn to TV and beer. A sad indictment of the times.

Not so if you are in any way musically inclined as there are gigs aplenty to point your mush at. In this case, it was Acoustic Chums It’sAcoustica at The Central in Gateshead – possibly one of the very few triangular pubs left in the world today.

This gig was a sort of double header, initially Los Zimmos then itsAcoustica. Of course the fact that Andy and Catherine are both in Los Zimmos as well, it fell to Ronnie to provide the difference. An open secret that Ronnie has been unwell to the same degree that the Sun is a bit warm, he was greeted very warmly by a supportive crowd. First half was bluesy and Dylany, Andy demonstrating that he can, in fact play slide guitar rather well, and Ronnie, despite the best that the medical profession can hurl at him, was up for it and sang and blew blues harp with some gusto. Next Its Acoustica provided a sort of greatest hits set, interspersed with some of the forthcoming new songs – which sounded rather strong to me. Some new arrangements helped spice up the older material too. Again a good sound and a good atmosphere made for a very successful evening.

It should be noted that the management of The Central make a habit of appointing up and coming comedians as bar staff; here’s an example of a belter from Friday night:

Me: A pint of lager please

Barmaid: (quick as a flash) Certainly Sir, that’ll be £4.20

I should coco

In fact ‘Ace’ Higgins[2] had very kindly tipped me the wink that The Cluny2 had some availability for January and as a result we will be following ItsAcoustica onto the boards there in January. Sunday Jan 19th, with help from Chris Kelly this will be our first proper gig of 2014. £6 should secure access within at the door or, if you are in any way organised, £5 in advance (from us or the venue) will provide you with a promissory note at that vastly discounted rate.

Next week already promises much with visits to clubs on the cards, as well as rehearsing some new material and getting the next recording planned. Oh, and the little matter of Steeleye Span at The Sage on Wednesday. This should be a bit good, The Wintersmith tour has had good reviews, and we are looking forward to that one. Peter Knight leaves the band (again) at the end of the tour, so now is a good time to catch them.

And so as The Fiddler leaves the building and the House of Commons closes for the night, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] There are, of course many gags that it would be possible to attempt. But they were quite big them lads. As indeed, in this instance…

[2] Chief guitar wrangler in ItsAcoustica; you can tell – really, you can.


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