Thursday, 3 March 2016

Haunting moments in Nuneaton

      An early morning snowstorm had already taken many of us by surprise, and various pernicious lurgies (great name for a band?) had already knocked a couple of regulars out. So even though many regulars were missing, it was refreshing to see the hall relatively full for the March session of Nuneaton Folk Club last night.
    It was cold outside and not exactly sub-tropical inside as the night finally began. I'd been reading a newly published book beforehand, about the history of Nuneaton pubs. I won't spoil it for anyone interested, but The Crown features prominently, and is by all accounts haunted. This might explain the frequent temperature changes, the instruments playing hard to get sometimes, and the butterflies which have landed on performers' faces during midwinter. Or it might not.
      There were certainly a few Gremlins about as once again there were a few minor logistical problems, but the unflappable and rapidly acclimatising Matt Mallen Allen steadily steered a hybrid combination of leads, DI boxes, mikes and accessories into full and glorious action. One more month and we'll have to stop referring to Matt as “new.”
      The running order was fluent before, up to and during the performance, which is always a little challenging for an organiser. We started, only a little late with Nunc. We did "All The Good Times" (appropriate) and " Cold, Haily Windy Night." 
      Then, as advertised, we had  Paul Moore returning, having passed  a late fitness check.  Paul had found our animal magnetism too hard to resist, and he did one of his songs and a Steve Earle number. It was his birthday too, and he didn't tell us. Naughty boy. 
    I was really juggling to fit everyone in, and so it all got a bit random after that as John Kearney, Brian Phillips, Maria Barham and Dan Gascoigne all followed on to the stage. The order may have been a bit erratic but the quality never dipped below outstanding as one would expect from these accomplished musicians.
What are we going to do about Maria?
      Parts of the first half had a slightly manic air of 'Ello 'Ello about it. John Kearney's Hawaiian shirt set the tone and there was a resonant clang as I clouted a mike with a music stand. I got another round of applause as I dropped a decent looking DI box on the floor. Performers appeared as if by magic from behind one of Julian's massive rock cabs, where they had earlier stowed their guitars.
John Kearney in holiday mood
     It's like a panto!” I shouted to a lively audience. “ Oh no it isn't!” they retorted merrily and without breaking stride. “ Where's Brian Phillips?” I quipped waggishly, turning my back on him, lurking behind that giant speaker. " He's behind you!” the audience shouted back delightedly, as he approached, on cue.
         It fell to Thrup'nny Bits to precede a first half set from our Featured Guests, Raintown Seers. The TB's performed a capella in the round (semi circle actually) on the floor,scorning the stage and the P.A. System. They were in good voice, and as we were back on schedule, they managed to sneak three in. One for each bit, as it were.
Thrup'nny Bits. (We think Gareth might have nodded off,at this point). 
       Raintown Seers, from all parts of the compass in the Derbyshire/Cheshire borders, brought us songs of Sex, Death, Tragedy,Woe and Wichita. (I think it's near Buxton). A pleasing combination of base,guitar, banjo, mandolin and cultured vocals. We happily sank, drowned, got hung and fell off mountains as they drew an epic first half to a close.
The Seers at work
         The treats did not end there. Flossie and I fulfilled a life's ambition as part 2 got under way by hijacking Kevin Dempsey into backing us on “Bring It On Home.” ( Kev was rubbish, but we were really rather good). Then the maestro himself blew everyone away with three songs. Culminating in his startlingly good “ All For You.” Jaws fell open around the room, and several guitarists resolved to pack it up there and then. The Poltergoose was hard at work as Kevin added to all the other tricks he does in this showstopper by tuning up and down without breaking rhythm. Only ever seen Hendrix do that before.
Nunc and Kevin Dempsey. Bringing It All On Home.
     Then it was time for The Raintowns to finish the evening off with a longer second set. This included an interesting arrangement of "The Diamond, " and an angry tirade at fishing quotas via “ The Boat.” As an encore, they did a fine version of Glen Campbell's “Wichita Lineman.”
     We had one or two distinguished visitors in last night, all of whom seemed interested in the diversity of performers on view. Folk Monthly's Helena Gates joined us, and was interested in how clubs like ours (and Bedworth/Atherstone) manage to put on such a high standard. I told her it was because we all work so co-operatively together. (I think she bought it). And it was lovely to see some of Linda Dickson's family joining us. Linda's days of performing alas are long gone. What a beautiful voice she had, solo and in Pennyroyal.
       It was a good night all round. The Crown's Bar below was newly decorated and very busy. Mac Awe got a gig, The 'Seers got an encore and George Van Ristell won the raffle. Not all of it, obviously:Brian Phillips carted away a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. ( This is Nuneaton-we don't have any rubbish round here). Des and the TB's sold loads of CDs. There were more chairs than we've ever had before (courtesy of Simon Winterman) and so everyone who wanted to sit down could do so. Best of all, when we all finally got outside, it had stopped raining. Result. 

Footnote: Warwick Folk Festivals' Fliers displayed, as requested. We pride ourselves on being an all-Inclusive Folk Club.