Back in the day?

‘Back in the day’ is a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately – and caught myself using too. It’s a phrase used to mean many things, but often meaning “When things were new, fresh and generally a bit better”. Is that true? I mean I remember many things that were better, like the price of a pint and my hairstyle, but was everything really better, back in the day?

Some things certainly were; be Welcome Gentle Reader and read on…

It would be lovely, if I could to report that things at the new version of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club are going swimmingly. Well, it would be nice, but as I’ve never been, and don’t actually know where the pub is, I can only pass on such gossip as I have had time to fabricate. It seems that the re-instatement of Chairman Dave and a return to fundamental Folk Club principles has gone down very well with Dave and the Committee, and perhaps less so with some of the folks that turn up at the advertised singers nights.

There is a new system in place.

A list has appeared that wannabe singers must add their names to at the start of the evening. Merely getting there early and scribbling your name on the proffered A4 does not actually guarantee a spot. A large sign behind the desk proclaims that “Running Order and Acceptance is at the discretion of The Chairman” (to whit: Dave). Just to help anyone who has not yet got the message, there is also a smaller sign, on the table, by a bowl next to the sign-up list.

That sign just says: “Contributions”.

This Tuesday we went to the Candlelite at Newton Aycliffe. Many a swollen moon has burped through the heavens since last we set foot there. It was pretty much the same, welcoming and well populated. The club meets weekly in The Cricket Club in Newton Aycliffe, it’s always welcoming, floor spots available and regular guests. All the regulars were there, John Wrightson as ever, plus the regulars. Lacewing were visitors the same night as us, and where very good indeed. There was an extended spot at the end of the evening by the regulars in the form of a scratch band. Worth a visit.

Pictures courtesy of The Wrinkly Wroadies.

Do you remember the Folk Revival?

Me neither; way back then (or to be accurate, just after way back then) I was much more interested in Heavy Metal than folk; on the face of it, not only did the devil get all the best tunes, but also the best looking birds.

No contest.

However, as a stalwart of the college Folk Club[1], I was nonetheless aware of Steeleye Span, and acquainted with their albums – Rocket Cottage, Now We Are Six, Below the Salt… great days.

In fact back in the day, I even got to see them; and very fine they were, full of life, vigour vitality and energy.

…can you sense where this is heading yet?

Wednesday, and we by car for the Sage, accompanied by a bass playing son, in this instance Mark, the purpose of Steeleye Span to see. I am always impressed by the Sage as a venue (although I find Hall One a bit of a shed) and the latest Span album, The Wintersmith, is very good indeed, based on books by Mr T. Pratchett of Discworld. The sightlines were great, the stage set good, seats comfy and support act suitably dire, so it was with anticipation that we awaited the great Ms Prior, Mr Kemp, Mr Knight et elia. “Ladies and Gentlemen” boomed the house PA (how dare they, I thought) “welcome to the stage…(long pause….) Steeleye Span!”. Cue the grand hurrah from those members of the audience still capable of independent flipper movement, and on trouped the band. They looked, well, older, but so indeed do we all. They arrived at mics, and stood.

And stood.

And stood.

Bit of a drink, bit of a tune up, swig of the beer, water, more tuning, bit of waiting….


Eventually into the first song; grand music, but where were the vocals? Maddy Prior was so far down the mix as to be almost inaudible, and the volume overall very low indeed, robbed the show of any real punch – folk rock? I think not.

Musically, the band were great, a few issues with mix and volume, but the vocals? Not there Cyril. When we did get a bit from Maddy Prior creeping round the edges of the mix, there may have been an indication as to why, but as I am a Gentleman[2]

One highlight was the extended whistle solo. It went on for ages, a time made to seem much longer by the fact that although it was a D whistle it wasn’t quite the same D as the rest of the band were in. The rest of the band played valiantly on as if nothing were wrong; this was a bit like having root canal work done, while the dental nurse tries to take your mind off it by biting your ankles[3].

All in all a very interesting evening, grand to see them again, but also sad to realise that time standeth stilleth for no manneth (or womaneth neithereth).

Image in the gallery is from this tour, but not that gig.

Finally this week, we headed to Hexham to take part in Jimmy and Val’s[4] Songwriters Symposium. Never been to one of these before, so we wondered out to see what it was all about…

It was quite a fun evening. A few folks played songs for the comment and critique of the rest of the circle. We didn’t really get a critique as we had to move rooms at the end of our song; never have we cleared a room so quickly. Basically, it was down to numbers, the event was very well supported, with a fair sprinkling of Acoustic Chums, but much more importantly, new faces. Jimmy and Val are still shaping this group, but some of the areas for discussion, preparation, presentation etc seem as though they might be interesting to see what other people think.

And so as the eternal flame of hope has just been extinguished as a health and safety risk, and the trickling sands of time have been halted by sanitary operatives, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Ironically, I was on the committee!

[2] Yeah I know; I laughed too.

[3] And I cleaned that up…

[4] jivaaaaaaaaahhhh!


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