A box of mixed confections…

“Life”, said Forrest Gump famously, “is like a box of chocolates”.

Equally well known, is the follow up line “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

Less well known perhaps, is the last line, which ended up on the cutting room floor “Unless you look at them little pictures under the lid”.

This week our chocolates have held a few surprises, some nice, others simply surprises. Acoustic Chums too have fumbled in life’s bag of Revels and drawn out some soft centres which, on the whole, should never have been in the bag – they certainly weren’t written on the wrapper.

So, Gentle Reader, let us, hand in hand, skip lightly down to the Sweet Shop of Acoustic Music and see what’s written under the lid.

Be Welcome, and read on…

This week one of our tastiest treats was at an evening organised by Acoustic Chum John ‘The Power’ Jeffrey. He simply got a room sorted out and asked a few Acoustic Chums to drop in and have an evening of round the room musical goodness. So it was that a few of us turned up and did exactly that, many exploring the bottom layer of Acoustic Chocolate, just to see what centres lay in store. Longtime chums jiva, who in fairness should send their box of choc back to the maker with a stiff complaint – THAT wasn’t on the lid – were a welcome treat, laying down several of their famous messhuggah-tinkle grooves to an appreciative room. Jim Wigfield (Soft center with nuts) gave a few of his self penned highly original songs, Trev and Renata[1], found some local confections to please the audience with and of course, Mr. Power himself showed that he has lost none of his joi-de-plunk and produced some very well done songs. Full Circle, that is Paulene and Ian Young also delved into the box and found some praline delights to lay before us. Ant Wilson played a grand selection using, to my interested ear, what looked like a baby Taylor – I should’ve asked Jimmy and Val, not only could they have told me the model, they could probably tell me the serial number and the colour of the luthiers boxers. I believe a local prog-folk-experimental-fusion duo also attended but they probably just lowered the tone.

The photographs are hand tinted by the Wrinkly Wroadies. They have finally grasped how digital photography works now that I have explained that it is simply magic.

Earlier, we had another surprise centre, delivered to us by the Great Confectioner in the Sky. We’d been booked at Horden Methodist Chapel, for what we took to be a church do. Certainly the venue was in the Church, and a lovely building it was too, but the good worthies of Horden had simply organized a gig round FG, and thrown it open to the community. We had a large room, filled with punters curious (presumably) as to what the show was all about. A couple of hours later they left, (presumably) the wiser and (hopefully) the happier.

They certainly should have, as we had an excellent night – people sang, laughed and generally made all the “I am having a good time” noises that we could have wished. We’re going back next year, thanks to all the organisers as it was a great night.

I have been known to chunter on a bit within the pages of this blog, often (but by no means exclusively – no-one is a better chunterer-onnerer than I) about gigs and attendances. We’ve certainly had our best year ever and part of the definition of best is ‘learning’. And sometimes that can be expanded to ‘learning what not to do’.

We had a gig at Fuse media Centre on Friday, the third I think we’ve had there. The Fuse cannot be faulted – the venue is fantastic, the main theater is absolutely brilliant. The staff are great, supportive and helpful. The facilities are really good and so the list goes on. It has however got one time flaw – which the staff cheerfully acknowledge – which is that it is in the wrong place.

Originally constructed to help the school next door deliver high end media courses, it struggled when the course (and the associated funding) were pulled soon after opening, and became a community resource. Sadly, although very near to the school, it isn’t near the heart of the community, requiring a long walk or car journey to get there. With the other delights offered by the fleshpots of Prudhoe nearer to hand, it is not surprising that the good Burghers of Prudhoe take their custom to a more convenient elsewhere.

However some folks did turn up and we had a good show – but it would have been so much better had the place been filled – it is another regrettable instance of use or lose it, which in this instance looks like having an inevitable outcome.

But we do hope not.

In other news this week I notice that it is time for the election.

Yes, The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs committee is up for re-election, as is the post of Chairman.

Chairman Dave has been at the helm now since the sixties and has developed an iron grip on folk club policy, which is re-enforced and encouraged by a specially made pair of blinkers so he can’t see what is going on around him. In most cases, Dave has been elected un-opposed over the years. Maybe the job he was doing was respected and appreciated by all, maybe no-one felt they could do it better, maybe no-one knew there was an election – Dave often found it easier simply not to tell people – it was so much quicker. However, this year, a copy of the club rules has been found behind the cistern in the gents where it has been for safe keeping these last twenty years. Upon (very careful – it’s a bit soggy) perusal, it seems there should be a free and open election every year to vote in a new committee or approve the old one.

Dave has got competition.

Little Sid, known as a reformer, a rebel, a revolutionary for change – has put himself forward to stand against Dave.

Sid, now in his early nineties, is a firebrand. He wants new blood, new music, new faces in the club. As long as they don’t do anything noisy, or use them guitars, or sing songs they’ve written themselves, Little Sid is all for it.

Sid is on the left wing.

Dave wants no truck with change. Things are all right as they are. Things don’t need to change. The club will be fine and next years guest list should be the same as this years.

Again.

Dave is on the right wing.

What no-one has noticed, among the seismic and titanic battle that has erupted between these two giants of the local folk scene, is that sitting quietly in the corner is young Fiona[2]. She plays the pipes, rather nicely if you like the sound of a sack contain seven fluffy puppies being prodded with a selection of hot knitting needles, has been quietly observing the opportunity. She and her partner, have an interest in music. They have travelled. Last year they went to Sunderland and saw new acts, heard new sounds, had their eyes opened to the possibilities that lie beyond the melodeon and whistle horizon.

And they liked it.

If she stands, she may not win. Actually she won’t win, Dave will, but that’s by-the-by[3], but if there is no clear majority she may hold the balance of power.

Maybe she should stand on the Hot Puppies Platform and see what happens?

And so as the wind of change blows through the folk scene only to be defeated by the air-freshener of conservatism, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] New CD available now. It’s Happy, so it can’t be folk.

[2] Fiona is in her mid forties, which is why, in club terms, she is young.

[3] The election scrutineer is Dave’s neighbour Gerry Mandering.

Ah, there you are…

Right, now you’ve turned up, I can begin. Next week, please could you tune in a bit earlier – I have to hang around on the Internet for ages waiting you know.

What delights await you InStore this week?

Well, we have the usual round up of things what we did, some rumination on things what we might do, and, rather unusually I feel, a set of apparently disconnected ramblings, which may eventually turn out to have a tenuous connection to our wonderful world of Acoustic Music.

Or not.

Who knows?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

And you Gentle Reader, are astute[1]. You will know that a great deal of what we are asked to consume in the name of musical entertainment is rehashed, reworked, and occasionally, regurgitated from older, usually better, ideas. I have been watching (with at least one eye) a couple of music shows during the past week. Some deal with the ‘new’ shiny stars of the scene, and at least one was basically recut episodes of ‘Top of the Pops’ (sans Mr Savile, curiously). To my completely open, balanced and entirely unjuandiced ears[2] the ‘new’ stuff, despite clamouring for my attention by being ostensibly ‘Acoustic’, was a glossy production of the stuff you can hear in any folk club, any week, anywhere. Just to rub salt into it, the stuff you might hear in the folk club might be better.

The TOTP episode showed some, then outrageous, now rather camp, cavortings, but the music was original, fresh and seemed to have life. Sadly, I knew all the words too.

So. The question is; is there anything out there that is new, original, but still listenable to?

Or has it all been done before?

This week, or ‘Previously on Fool’s Gold’; we have been out to play a bit.

And it was a little bit of a Damascan week for me too.

If you are not wholly up to speed with your Biblical references, (some of you live in far flung parts of the former Empire, where life is still primitive and make Sunderland look like a cultural city… oh, apparently it is). It happened like this…

One day Saint Paul (although at that point he wasn’t a Saint, or called Paul – and that’s just the start) was on his way to Damascus. The buses were off so he was on his cuddy. For reasons that involve a great deal of philosophical debate, no little faith and the suspension of reality, he ended up falling off his horse and, in a blinding flash of light, God (for it was She) was revealed unto him[3] and he converted on the spot from his Naughty Roman, Anti-Christian ways and went to live upside down on a cross.

So a Damascan moment is one of great change is it?

Well, I think I had one of them this week.

We played an Old Folks Home, we played a Folk Club, and previously we played a couple of our performance shows.

The problem is, that I have always placed great store on the Folk Club gigs. I have regarded them as the way forward and the goal for which to aim. However, this Nirvana has been challenged by the other gigs. To be perfectly honest we really enjoy the Care Homes, we have a tremendous time doing our Presentation Shows (I must think of a better name than that – it doesn’t sound very ‘zappy’). As we played the club, we worked with a small audience in a slightly chilly room. I suddenly fell off my cuddy and saw the light.

The other shows are easily as much fun.

If not…

Now, where’s me cross?

One highlight of the week was a chomping session with the PowerHouse of top folk-rock beat combo ‘Man with the Stick’[4]. David Pratt, the man who wields the stick, tub-thumper extraordinaire, (and a man who has no fear of numbers greater than, hang on; one, two, three, ohhh, hang on; had it before… ) visited Chez Gold and brought his carer Chrissie along too. I must say, that this musical community of ours makes for some great evenings with friends, spent, over a bottle or two, with some grub, chewing the musical fat and generally putting all aspects of the musical world to rights. We had a really great evening.

We met up with Chris Milner this week too. Apart from enjoying his music again, we’re delighted to announce that in addition to the Stanley show on June 20th Chris will do us the honours by opening the show at Newbiggin Maritime Centre on 10th April. This will be a ‘Beat the Drum’ show. Presentation show? Nah, I need a better name.

Pics this week, of course are through the lenses of the Wrinkly Wroadies support crew. You can’t get helpers like them; really you can’t.

There was a programme on the view screen this week; it concerned itself with the rise of Country Music. Much was made of the old-timers, a-sittin’ on the porch and a-playin’ on that thar geetaaaar.

The odd dosie was do-ed, there was a bit of “eeeh”, and a little “hahhh”-ing went on, all of which was mighty fine. When it came to the Poke Salad, I thought it a little odd, but; each to his own, just watch out for the horseradish.

The message I took away from the show was the sheer standard of musicianship. Apparent Hillibillies, with fewer teeth than shoes, seemingly effortlessly played banjo licks that defied Newtonian Physics. There was some early footage of Les Paul who was playing stuff that would surely confound the heavy metal WiddleMeister of today.

It just goes to show;

  1. one should never judge by appearances or ill-informed preconceptions
  2. there’s nowt new under the sun.[5]

And so, as the hands of time crawl lazily across the sky of possibility and the small black cloud of fate rains heavily on the mobile phone reader with no coat.

Which shows that unprotected text is quite dangerous.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] At least, some of you are a Stute. I know that at least a few of you are completely Stuteless

[2] …and The Pope is a Catholic. At least most of the Pope is a Catholic. Bits of the Pope probably go to Synagogue. Or Tescos.

[3] No, not like that. For goodness sake, grow up.

[4] Me neither.

[5] As I write, the National Lottery Draw is on (afore the News) and listening to the Perfect Toothpaste Band (or whatever she’s called) There is indeed, Nowt New under The Sun. She finished at almost the same time as the backing track.

Pulchritude?

The internet, tha’knaas, is not a local institution. Contrary to popular belief, the internet does not run out at Consett[1]. It extends even further south than Loftus, it even goes to France[2].

In this spirit, we are delighted to welcome Gentle Readers from further afield than the local club circuit. To our regular Indonesian chums:

Salam kepada sahabat akustik kami di Indonesia. Terima kasih telah membaca!

As for the rest of you; be bidden Welcome Gentle Readers, and read on…

I noticed last week that Acoustic Chum Graeme Carroll, recently returned from a small altercation with Cancer, has picked up his mandolin and a resurgent Brother Crow are back again starting with a local gig. This is officially Good News (apart from the bit about the mandolin, obviously) and we wish him, and partner in rhyme Andy the very best back on the road.

After an interesting weekend spent battling the forces of nature and Insurance Companies we are back to the business of music. Incidentally – and don’t tell anyone I told you this – I have discovered that it is possible to reason with the forces of nature.

Insurance companies have a different view of the world to real people, it seems that a water leak is my fault, my problem, I deserve it and it’s simply the richly deserved visitation of justice on a sinner.

Yes  possibly; but a sinner with a bloody policy. And that’s Sinner Sir to you.

So the music then?

Various irons in the fire for new giggery and possible new places to play. We are investigating local libraries – and that was our idea first, if you go and nick it, I’ll thcweem and thcweem until I’m thick.[3] We also have interest from some community venues about a show we are putting together. Shall I tell you all now… no, but it may well be called ‘Stories with Strings Attached’, which should be enough to give you a jolly good idea. Hope we will hear this coming week what is going to happen with that.

And so we this week for new destinations. Not all that far, only across to Ovingham, which is the bit where God forgot to cry ‘Stop!’ and over ran a bit, thus creating a small sleepy village right in the middle of a conurbation.

More or less.

The Old Bridge Inn is, appropriately enough, at the end of a single track bridge that links Prudhoe with, conveniently, Ovingham. There has been a folk evening here for a while, we gather, but they have been lucky enough for us not to have heard of them. Until now that is – we had a very pleasant, relaxed evening singaround and were proud on our first visit to be asked to finish the night off, which Acoustic Chums will know, we are well capable of, having closed many  a folk club permanently.

If you do decide to pay a visit, it’s well worth getting there a minute or two early, firstly to find the secret car park behind the pub, and secondly to get a seat in the comfortable back room. This really was a nice night and I’m sure we will return soon. Well done hosts ‘Canny Craic’.

The following evening (Thursday – do keep up), and another new place to play. The Acoustic Room is a great venue in a small (and somewhat warm, courtesy of a real range) room in The Low Lights Tavern, right down near the waatah near to the Fish Quay. Run by a lovely gentleman by the name of Jed, this is a great place to play. Tonight there was a guest, Eddie Walker who performed a great set of ragtime blues, for want of a better description. Nice stories, nice room, great music, a short sets from a couple of fantastic instrumentalists by the name of Doonan, and of course a few from your very own FG. Grand night.

I have been approached by several Gentle Readers recently, all anxious with pulchritude, to discuss the matter of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club. This has been safe enough, as they have been in possession of a current Pulch licence, granted by a sober magistrate, and anyway, most pulchs these days are of much smaller bore than the old ones, unlike their owners. They have been anxious to discuss the fact that they believe TKH&WLFC to be some synonym, a code; a mask if you will, for a Folk Club that cannot be named – The Club with No Name?

This made me smile, I must admit. It brought to my mind the vision of a folk club populated entirely by unshaven blokes in big hats and ponchos, sitting round tables each clutching a banjo.

No cigars mind.

English Public Houses have long since banned such disgraceful, evil, health injurious items from their premises. Bless ‘em; the little tinkers still get those banjos in somehow.

But it isn’t: TKH&WLFC is indeed the correct name, and how could it be otherwise? The pub name is on the sign.

And where is it?

It’s outside in the car park where all Pubs have their sign.

Several Acoustic Chums have applied (apparently-what would I know?) for gigs at TKH&WLFC. There is quite a long waiting list, as the Committee have to meet and dissect all applications. Actually they have been known to dissect artists too, but that, as they say, is another story. These conclaves take place every few weeks, and the lads will let the successful applicants know.[4]

There should be a blow by blow report of last weeks Stormcrow gig, but once again it will have to wait. That’s because our inside informer suffered a relapse and is back in rehab, and so we have to interview some people who were at the gig.

Who are we going to interview?

The survivors.

This week we have bumped into several Acoustic Chums, some we haven’t seen for ages, then oddly, twice running at different clubs. Take Jim Wigfield[5].

We hadn’t met for quite a while, and as stated, met again almost the next night. We exchanged greetings and tales, and it occurred to me that there must, somewhere, be a secret society of folkies, who meet at clubs; membership of which will establish one with the other as a fellow traveller on the road to acoustic enlightenment. The Dark Brotherhood of The Song would have many secret hand signs, usually made when the other member isn’t looking, and those inducted into The Brotherhood would be allowed to wear all black, sit silently in the corner and get away with longer introductions than anyone else.

Ring any bells?

The process of induction, but not acceptance, is a long apprenticeship of being ignored week after week, until one magical Monday evening, The Chairman greets the successful candidate publicly by name as they enter. This is the sign.

Next week, you watch.

They’ll be wearing black.

Next week, the blog should contain a pull out and keep free gift (and as such; therefore worthless), one which could build, week by week into a wonderful publication which you will want to keep and treasure.

Probably.

What it is – is for next week, along with The Stormcrow gig review and more of our doings.

So as the first time visitor to the folk club of fate produces the winning raffle ticket of joy and thus comes to understand the true nature of being hated, and the last chorus of comradeship of the night fades into silence and the barman removes the earplugs of justice and finally smiles, I notice it’s the end of this blog.

Until next week, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] No, it’s hope that runs out at Consett.

[2] Which was invented by God or someone in a similar line of work, as a place to keep the French.

[3] …and I can, you know.

[4] ‘Lads’ is a catch-all term. There are two lady members of the committee; the real trick is the identification process. And don’t go hoping that beards will give you a clue either.

[5] Please insert own joke here.