Thursday, 2 February 2017

A sound event

      We pulled out all the stops to ensure that last night was another very successful one for Nuneaton Folk Club. When I got back, I wrote on the  Facebook Group Page "Humbled by the attendance, (on a filthy night) ,the audience singing, the behind-the-scenes hard work and the sheer excellence of performers all combining to make Feb 1st at NFC truly memorable. It seemed the Fates were conspiring to put obstacles in our way at times, leading up the event. But They were utterly thwarted."   
      I am going to leave paying tribute to the artistes until last. No reflection on the quality of performance, but because firstly, I want to thank all the volunteers who put in time before, during and afterwards. Without their input  the evening would not have gone ahead at all. That it  it did so is down to them.
      Since NFC began we have been blessed by talented Sound  technicians. Why have a P.A. and a desk at all? Because it is a big room, with a decent stage and we often get a big turnout. The majority of performers are well versed to playing acoustically,unsupported by amplification. However, given those circumstances, a P.A. enhances audience appreciation if those right at the back can hear as well as those at the front. 
     How do I know? Audience members tell me this during and after each Folk night. Tom Veasey stepped in to assist at the start of 2015,when the sound was a little ragged. He stabilised the experience,both for audiences and for musicians.Unsurprisingly,Tom eventually secured a job with Disney,travelling the world on their ships. Our loss, their gain
Tom Veasey at the desk
.     When Tom left us, Matt Mallen-Allen followed him. Another capable young man recommended by Tom.  Matt's unflappable nature, calmness in a crisis and an ear for good music immediately endeared him to everyone. He also invested in the club, buying (like me),his own additional gear to supplement what was already available.When he was not free to mix he took steps to ensure that a capable deputy like Liam Johnson could step in. Liam's debut remains legendary. On the night, everything was thrown at him yet he followed the example of Tom and Matt,calmly piloting the evening to a successful conclusion before confessing he had only ever mixed music at home previously. Nuneaton is fortunate to be able to unearth intelligent young men like these.
Matt and Liam at another desk
          It is no surprise that Matt has recently secured himself a full time job with Barclays. Hours are long and he has to commute so the usual 6pm start at the Crown on the first Wednesday of every month is no longer possible. This left us a dilemma to say the least. Previously when Liam Matt or Tom were not available, we  relied on the good nature of  pub Guv'nor Julian or other Folk Club Organisers like Phil Benson and Malc Gurnham from Atherstone and Bedworth respectively.  
     It was clear that with Matt still keen but unable to commit to being there all the time, we were going to need a rethink. Which is why on Tuesday 31st January with the full support of Julian, (and also that of Simon Winterman who runs drama workshops in the NFC room Tuesdays), several of us gathered at about 9.30pm  to see what we could do to keep the P.A. facility running. 
        To cut a long story short, we got all the gear out,set it up,and tested it. So far so good. But taking this forward for me is like asking me to fine tune the valve clearances on a Dodge Hemi.  Even though we had the old Black Parrot Seaside amp and speakers forming part of the set-up, Matt's technical breakdown was over my head. Dave Smart was nodding though, and  agreed to give it a go. We left everything set up. Turned it all off, locked up and went home.   Last night, Dave Smart took the helm, and lived up to his name. Well known to Tom and Matt (he is literally,The Godfather!), I think it is fair to say that, despite being a great fan of Folk Music, a Cropredy veteran and a musician, his knowledge of setting up and driving a Sound system was (like mine) centred around standing on a stage and asking for a bit more reverb.              
          When I got back there last night, to my surprise, I had remembered enough  to get it all powered back up again by 7pm. I even ran a Sound check and had all the house lights on! When Dave joined us, he slipped into the driving seat and sat at the controls like Spock at the dashboard of Starship Enterprise. It was the difference between Stig and Mr. Bean. Away we went. 
      When I was up on stage second half, I could see him rocking away at the desk, singing along with all the songs and flipping the sliders like a good 'un. Welcome, Dave! And when everyone had all gone home, Matt,Dave and myself were all there to break the equipment down. Julian will store it securely on site until 28th February when we will go through the same exercise. Will it work a second time? We shall see. I certainly hope so. 
       Finally, a thank you also to people like Michael Luntley, David Henderson and Chris Wright, all of whom have also offered previously to lend input and expertise. When you see and hear an event like last night,as a newcomer (we had at least ten audience members new to NFC and Folk Music yesterday), it might look easy to get all that working. It isn't. Gentlemen, I salute you. 
          Onto the night itself. Maria Barham ,our advertised Guest is always an  attraction. Her appearance always puts a few extra on the door. She has appeared at NFC several times. Bags of energy and commitment she exemplifies all that is good about local artistes. A talented singer and songwriter, she is no diva. An honest performer who will entertain the crowd and then stay behind to help take empty glasses back to the bar. She turns up even when she knows she is not singing, to support all the local clubs and artistes. 
Maria shows where the exits are during a previous NFC appearance
      So I was gutted to hear fairly late on, that she was too poorly to appear. And I  did hear just how poorly she actually was,when she 'phoned me up. She has been laid low for a while now by the pernicious bug attacking throats and respiratory systems. We were still hoping she might make it, but by Tuesday I could tell how bad  she was. Out of the question for her to risk permanent damage and ill health.  We'll see if we can squeeze her back onto the roster later in the year. The show must go on. I tried a few other NFC regulars,but none were available. It rapidly became clear that the headline guests the next day would be Nunc. Fortunately I had gathered together a fine back-up cast of support singers and musicians. John Kearney had a chance to open for us and he did not disappoint. He even got his harmonica frame out for " I wanted to be Bob Dylan"  and treated the audience to "Jolly Boys," which got them singing early.
John Kearney wanted to be Bob Dylan
The Wright Brothers, Max and Chris, next took up the baton. Or rather guitar and banjo with some whistle added. No aviation jokes from me as their spot flew by. (Sorry!)

Straight outa Kittyhawk. The Wright Brothers
           Bob Brooker had got the better of the public transport system this time,and he gave us three songs accompanied by some fine instrumental work. His version of Kate Rusby's "Wild Geese" was requested (by me) and duly performed. Bob himself has been a little poorly,and missed us last month, but rose to the occasion yesterday. 
Bob Brooker
          Paul Moore, like John Kearney, Sue Sanders, Dragonhead, K.C. Jones, John Neal The Wright Brothers, Simon and Sally-Ann Veasey and a host of others, is one of a pool of Nuneaton-based musicians we have called upon in the past. Paul was drafted in late, after an impressive debut  as one of the Friends of Sly Old Dogs last Sunday night. NFC audiences have seen him before solo, duetting with Simon Veasey and appearing only last month, in Blues Monkey.  He played three accomplished songs. Excellent stuff. 
Paul Moore 
        Last month we had five acts making their debuts. Continuing that theme, and still mining the rich vein of talent found at The Twisted Barrel Open Mic sessions in Coventry, I persuaded Izzie Derry to come along last night. Like Paper Circus (who wowed the crowd last month).I had first seen her at Fargos.  Izzie is only eighteen and probably thinks I make a bit too much of that, but it is lovely to see youngsters joining in with us grizzled old fogeys to entertain people. Long may it continue. She looks as sweet as apple pie but when she opens up and lets that voice rip, she has  remarkable projection. 
Izzie Derry
      She too had been under attack from The Lurgy,but got the punters singing along with a Bob Dylan song before introducing one of her own, " Walking." This has become a bit of an earworm for me. (Cheers,Izzie!).  You can see the video on the NFC Facebook page, and hear it on next Mondays "Anker Folk" on Anker Radio. On the (very high) notes she goes for in the chorus,her throat turned to sandpaper and her voice went awol. It came back for "Big Yellow Taxi" and then, as it tried to sneak off again,the audience empathised and sang,not just the chorus but the entire song along with her. Brilliant. A deserved ovation. We'll definitely get her back soon. 
         Des Patalong then provided a vivid contrast between the young and beautiful and er...the mature and er..interesting. Great Uncle Des,often mistaken for Womble in chief Bulgaria, warhorse of many a singalong and Festival, shared some collectors' items from his own burgeoning repertoire. His Neo Liberal anthem was apt indeed,and like the shanty he finished with, it got everyone singing. 
Des Patalong
            Bringing the first half to a close, we saw the welcome return of Glyn Finch. It is Glyn who selflessly runs the Twisted Barrel Open Mic Sessions, cajoling a conveyor belt of diverse acts into drowning the noisy hubbub of drinkers on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month. He has a remarkable stage presence and is a damn fine guitar player. As soon as people knew he was returning, they pre-requested his unique rendition of the " Pink Panther Theme." A pyrotechnic series of licks tucks and tricks, accompanied by wittily observed gestures and grimaces. It is pure magic. 
Glyn Finch
           After the Interval and The Raffle draw, there was nothing for it but for Nunc to take us home. Wonderful singing from the audience throughout:in a couple of numbers they sang not only the choruses but all the verses as well. I think we are getting somewhere with this.
Don't worry. It's Nunc
Without going into detail-here's the Set List:
Twas on an April Morning
Black Jack David
Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy
After The Goldrush 
Down Where The Drunkards Roll
All Gotta Die Some day 
When I Get To The Border 
Angel From Montgomery 
Bring it On Home to Me
Weather With You 
Don't Worry/Irish Rover 

       Next Month-March 1st specifically and health permitting(!!)-we have the wonderful Kevin Dempsey as our Guest. Already booked in to play floor spots we have Paper Circus, Brian Phillips and another debut from a Leicestershire three-piece, Whale.