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.

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Neeeeeeeextttt!

Refurbishment, in my view implies a degree of improvement, making things better, quicker, faster, easier or just plain nicer. So with acoustic business of nature postal, we skipped into our local Post Office, a recent victim of refurbishment.

Neeeeeeeextttt!

The noise came from some distance away. It was clear that refurbishment had indeed taken place. The old glass cages where staff were kept had gone, to replaced by a large glazed box running the width of the building. The staff beyond resembled bored yet exotic aquatics, an illusion heightened by the fact that one improvement was the use of  that glass which is virtually soundproof, even when you put your mouth up to it and the assistant, on the other side, places her ear close to the shiny surface. The result is that you bellow your private business at full volume for the entertainment of other customers, while the assistant can hear a faint busy bee buzz on her side, but no words.

The reverse, of course, also applies.

There is, however a small non-glazed slot just about the counter, about three inches high, with a stainless steel tray under it.

As another improvement is the removal of those engaging little red numbers that lit up to tell which window to go to, the teller being now reduced to placing her gob on the counter, level with the slot and yelling.

Neeeeeeeextttt!

At least you do know which teller to attend; it’s the blue one.

And so with the theme of refurbishment established, be welcome Gentle Reader and read on.

It has finally happened. A putsch, a fragrant revolution, the velvet glove has closed its inexorable grip on the throat of Chairman Dave. Or to put it another way, he’s got the grand order of the E.

The Management of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs, home of our favourite Folk Club, disenchanted with empty rooms have decided that Dave is not, after all, the Chairman of their dreams, and invited him, in the kindest terms to b****r off.

The Landlord, let’s call him Chris, has taken over and rebadged the event.

Welcome one, welcome all to The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Open Acoustic Evening. (KWAKE)

This will be held, as is traditional, in the back room on a Thursday. Doors will open at 7.30 sharp, admission will be free to players, £1.50 to audience. There is no raffle, but there is soup. Each week has an open session for the first half of the night, the second half being a featured spot for 40 mins, then back to open session. At 6.00pm anyone who wants to use the room for lessons, sales, or music related activity is welcome to do so. Once a month there is a concert with a support and main act chosen from people who have played at the club, with visiting strolling minstrels as funds and timetables allow. There is no PA.

Chris has pencilled in a few club outings and events, barbecues outside in the summer, trips to nearby clubs and even a theatre showcase event.

Obviously this bloke knows nowt about Folk Clubs.

Should do well, then.

We have decided to take a bit of a rest from our relentless Folk Club visiting. I doubt that this will cause the great northern clubs too much distress, but it will save some time, petrol and a degree of vague depression may be lifted. We have been playing to all sorts of audiences, in all sorts of places, some big, some very small, but all enjoying and listening to our music. I’d rather play to one person who wanted to hear us than a room full of people waiting their turn and putting up with what we do until. Our 2014 diary is not bad, certainly better than ever before and we have a few plans to put on a couple of bigger shows next year. It feels like this is a better direction, and hurts less than bangin’ yer head against the wall.

This week two outings. One to the Oddfellows last Saturday (too late for the blog) and one at The Ballarat in North Shields, and two more dissimilar evenings would be hard to imagine. The Oddfellows, run and hosted by Acoustic Chums Trev and Renata is a bit different. A sort of folk club with T & R as hosts alternating with invited floor artists. The pub carries on around proceedings and is home to Mr Very Loud Punter, who is a particular admirer of the work of Ms C Athey, so much so he bellowed his conversation at his chums while standing a good two feet away from Christine[1].  The Oddfellows is in North Shields…

… as is The Ballarat, a former pub[2], now gallery and sometime venue. Karen and Mike are working hard to get the place going. This Thursday we played a full set, and attendance was, to be fair, poor. However, from those who did attend, we sold a surprising number of CD’s and made some useful contacts, plus the pleasure of the company of jiva[3] who turned up in welcome support. We hope to play there again soon, and wish them all good fortune.

And so as the blancmange of change settles on the custard of fortune and we discover that the just desserts of FG are actually quite tasty trifles, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] Hats off the Christine for not resorting to physical violence as a method of communicating her disapproval.

[2] And apparently a very interesting one. Interesting in the sense that one’s kneecaps may go awol.

[3] jiiiiiiiivaaaaahhhhhh

Royals and Stones

Let the royal trumpets sound
Brassy voices proudly sound
For its a blokey
That’s no jokey
A little princey, I’ll be bound.

More on that subject later, sort of.

But for now, Gentle Reader, Be Welcome and read on…

Sunday night and we with Dave The Bass for the WMC in Lanchester. Here can be found that rarest of animals, a bloke that tries to keep music going just because he likes it. Ian Tute I have hagiographed in these pages in the past, has for years tried to keep folk going in Lanchester. The WMC may be the last chance saloon, and attendence is a bit, well, low.

So we trotted merrily along, either to support or wield the misericorde .

So, Ian, Geoff and FG traded songs all evening long, just to ourselves and the assembled good worthies of the club. The Wrinkly Wroadies were in attendance – but that’s a bit like saying water is wet. To be quite honest, it was great fun, and a good chance to play and relax. Well done Mr Tute, says we. If you are in the area, why not support his efforts?

No more club playing for us this week, just lots of practicing with three new songs making their way vaguely setwards. And a biggish gig – that report’s further down. And we did sally forth twice in search of musical entertainment, and we found…

The Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead. Attracted initially by a great big sign that said ‘Free Gig’. Inside we found a large room, with a small peformance area and lots of chairs. Turns out that Music in the Museums is quite a big thing and that this one was a co presentation of music and art. Well, it is an Art Gallery. The music was courtesy of Austin Bradshaw and Bridie Jackson and The Arbour. The interesting thing for us was the size of the audience. 300 or so people were there, with a bar laid on and having a good time. Blimey, 300 is more than you could get in a pub back room. Interesting.

Then on Saturday evening over to North Shields so see Acoustic Chums Trev and Renata host an evening at The Oddfellows. A nice little pub, plenty of character and plenty of other acoustic chums in attendance[1] – see the piccies; including those showing Trev attempting to play every stringed instrument known to man!

Incidentally, the photos from Redcar Rocks, including the one of the ****ing legend[2], are coutsey of the Bucaneering Mr Hadlett, for fame known, both of imagery and various musicks.

I am not, in the way of it anti monarchy. I share with most people a vague disquiet when it comes to matters of privilege and cost, but ill will I bear them none.

I am however heartily pig sick of wall to wall dreck of something that happens rather a lot, with a fairly predictable outcome and resent being told that I am excited about it.

I am not, as it goes, excited about it.

However it did make me think about pointless press coverage….

Nicholas Witchell[3] and the satellite van have been outside the pub for some hours now, we can go over to him live for an update; what’s happening, Nick?

“Absolutely bugger all at the moment Steve. We are waiting here, outside the Kings Head and Washerwomans Legs, where, in a few short hours, a song will be sung. We don’t know exactly what sort of song it will be, or what key it will be in, but experts and press from all around the globe are congregating here to witness the  event, when, and if it happens. We have seen Dave the Chairman go in, and we think he will be spending a few hours, in the bar, getting bladdered, before, and it might be him who does it, the first song is sung.”

Friday.

And a first for FG. This was our first presentation to The University of the Third Age. Presentation because it wasn’t a concert, or at least, not just a concert. The U3A is a grand institution existing in branch form all over the Country, and for all I know beyond. The branch we performed for was Stanley and about 100 good worthies came from all over Stanley, and for all I know beyond.

There was the usual intro and chat and then the Raffle. It strikes me that the Boilers of Empire are stoked and fuelled by little old ladies with books of raffle tickets.

This does not mean that I advocate the immediate immolation of any Granny wielding a book of Raffle Tickets as this would seem at best, harsh. After all; it wasn’t too many years ago that the cry ‘Witch’ would see the entire community galloping to the village green dragging kindling and a stake, so maybe raffles are safer.

The U3A remit is that presentations must be broadly educational, so it was that we did a longish show, talking about the songs and the stories and people behind them as well as performing the songs. It was a really good session, great fun to do, with an interested and keen audience. It was rather hot though. Upstairs in The Lamplight Centre (afore it closes) and the temperature was just a bit hotter than that little spot just at the top of Pompeii in 79AD[4]. And for all I know, beyond.

Moses.

No, not that one, Moses Gibson, from just outside Winlaton; him – that one.

He got the job of climbing the mountain – more of a hill at the end of the Windy Fields really – and bringing back, on tablets of stone, the rules for what a folk song must be.

In stone mind, that meant no changing the rules, not without a chisel and some polyfilla.

History does not recall who was up the bl**dy mountain, but whoever it was must have been in charge of booking the acts, as the writ still holds sway to this very day. Moses collected the tablets, gave a receipt and trotted back down to his local club. Here his burden was relieved of him and he was given a half of best for his troubles. They are nothing if not generous in Winlaton.

So the stones, sorry, The Stones.

  1. Thou shalt not write a folk song lest it be about the sea.
  2. Or a maiden, maidens is ok.
  3. Come to think of it, so is mining and agriculture. Owt else is NBG.
  4. Hang about; anything with ‘Trooper’ in it is ok, and if the same line is sung twice, that’s ok too.
  5. May. That’s another thing. If it mentions May, it’s definitely a folk song.
  6. Pirates. Bugger, I nearly forgot about the Pirates. Yo-Ho-Ho and all that.
  7. It must be sung unaccompanied. No other music is allowed.
  8. Apart from guitars.
  9. Oh, and mandolins an’ that. Gob irons ‘n stuff and even a flute if you must. An’ whistles ‘n them funny drums y’have break yer wrist to hit. Them. And Banjos. Yes that surprised me too.
  10. But if you wrote it; no chance mate.

And on that bombshell, I notice that the chords of justice have caught up with the lyrics of timewasting, and justly a key change is in the air.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] Including Trev’s eldest, who was very good.

[2] See last ish – Ed

[3] …and we know what Chas thinks about him.

[4] Yes it was. I checked.