Thursday, 2 November 2017

A Haunting Evening

           According to  "Nuneaton Pubs," by local Author Peter Lee, The Crown has a reputation of being Haunted.  Those who know me well will know that  I neither "celebrate" nor "commemorate " that (literally) ghastly annual event Halloween. (And why). However, I live next door to a churchyard and have also had enough spiritual experiences in my lifetime not to dismiss entirely the unexplained or mysterious chains of events which  sometimes happen. I once remember one winter night there, making a comment about my dearly loved (but alas long departed) Mum on stage there, when a butterfly emerged and settled on my face. Hmm....
          Setting up another Club night first thing at lunchtime was straightforward,except that the Theatre Group who regularly use the room had helpfully covered up the back of the stage with black curtain. Not just pinned it, but stapled and screwed it to the wall. This meant that hanging up the NFC banner was notional. 
          The copies of Folk Monthly, usually so punctual,and always arriving well in time before our First Wednesdays, had disappeared,and had not arrived as usual by the time we had set off for Bond Street again. So our receipts were £15 down before we even started! 
        All was working when Dave Smart and I left it that afternoon. But when we returned later, the door to the room simply would not open. The bar staff swore it was unlocked but the two of us could not open it. The slight young barmaid floated upstairs and pushed it straight open. 
       Last night at The Crown, Nuneaton Folk Club was the night after Halloween. During the day the Gremlins and Glitches  became outright spooky as they accelerated. None of them spoiled the evening however. We had two typically magnificent sets from the prodigiously talented  Danny Pedler and Rosie Butler Hall as our Main Guests. A procession of floor singers, many making their debuts provided a diverse tapestry of styles and influences. We had some first time visitors who vowed they would come back next month, and although many familiar faces were absent, it was again standing room only. 
           Nunc opened with "Bring It On Home," followed it with "Down Where The Drunkards Roll" and finished with "Knocking On Heaven's Door." Which latter the audience sang beautifully. 
             Meanwhile, outside, down in the street below, on that bloody racetrack of a three way junction,where NFC follower Mick Stanley once lost an argument with a car,  Rob Oakey was battling with his own demons,having taken a prang on the corner en route to The Club. It is a sign of his determination that having parked up and chatted with The Constabulary,he made it upstairs in time, took a seat and (happily) won a tin of sweets in the raffle, later. 
            Next up,the first of our floor spots  and making an NFC debut was Angus Ellis. I'm sure he won't mind me saying that he's been to some dark places at times. Let's just say if he was a cat he'd be walking very carefully nowadays. But he's taken great steps to get back to where he once was, both in terms of guitar playing and songwriting. He did us a couple of his own compositions last night, and despite the batteries in his guitar playing up, we could hear him right at the back. He was quite restrained: our audience would have been surprised to see him playing a Fender Telecaster and ripping up The Anker Tavern earlier this month, duetting with John Kearney on "American Girl."  Versatile chap, Angus. 
Angus Ellis. He da Man. 

             Angus is a regular at The Fox at Attleborough. It has acoustic sessions every Monday night and has previously provided us with a regular source of musicians,notably Paul Moore,John Neal  and Simon Veasey. Last night was a positive invasion by the Fox Massive,however.  Wes Hall, for example. Wes is a regular  audience member at NFC sessions,but  stepped up from the floor last night  to make his debut, accompanied by Paul Moore.
Wes and Paul
              I'd seen the  JPs at a couple of local venues, and I liked what they did. Paul and Jane came under attack from various malign influences straight away.. you could almost see an invisible hand tugging at Paul's guitar lead and working it loose as they got into their stride during the first number. That same hand  was also having a go at blocking the signal from Jane's Ukulele,but they fought it off and were coming through loud and clear at the back. When you are on that big stage it is not always easy to hear yourself,but by their second song they had fought off the distractions. They looked (and sounded) the part. 
Jane and Paul. The J.P.'s doing themselves Justice.
               Jak and Maria have appeared at NFC in various guises-as members of Frayed Knot for example, or as a duo. Last night they sang us a couple of songs including a very thoughtfully arranged version of the John Hurley song, " Love of The Common People."  A lot of people think that Paul Young wrote this, but he simply adapted and popularised a version covered by many including The Everley Brothers, Bruce Springsteen and Stiff Little Fingers. It was a good choice. The audience sang the choruses well.
Jak and Maria

            Back then, to the Attleborough Posse, this time represented by John Neal. He  hosts the informal Monday night sessions in The Fox in a relaxed and  friendly manner, putting in his own contributions too. Including percussion (dusting a pair of brushes on his guitar case), or some very tasty harp fills.  It was far from his NFC debut last night. He gave us two of his own songs including the excellent "Lennon" with its evocative imagery.
             Bob Brooker can always be relied upon to provide us with good musicianship and pearls of wisdom laced with that dry Lincolnshire humour of his. Last night the gremlins had also been nibbling  at his DI lead however and the amplification of his Bouzouki came and went intermittently. Bob had told me earlier his hearing was a little down last night,( although he heard me .o.k when I bought him a pint beforehand). (Diet Coke-he was in training for an important Folk meeting tomorrow).  So stridently (and so well) does Bob play however, that right at the back we could still hear him. Bob cannily finished with a version of John Connolly's "Fiddler's Green" An old Folk Club favourite, with the audience returning the choruses right prettily. As they say. 
                We were running late, so shelving Malc Gurnham's cameo for the second half, Danny and Rosie stepped up and blew everyone away with their catchy,likable ,danceable music. They have a lovely stage presence:friendly,engaging,knowledgeable and not afraid to laugh at themselves. They played us a short taster set to take us up to the Interval,including two of my favourites, "Hares on A Mountain" and  " Smith's New Rant." 

           Second half under way and as we folded the Raffle tickets, Malc  "The Godfather of Folk" serenaded us with a Birthday tribute to Tom Paxton. Who is nearly as old as Malc is. He must have heard me doing that joke as he followed Paxton  up with " Teenager In Love." This bemused some of our younger audience members a little, as the Chorus singing was particularly strident in this. Two good choices by Malc (as you would expect) to prepare the audience for a full 45 minutes of Danny and Rosie.
Malc demonstrates what the well dressed teenager wore in 1922

              Really, you'd have to see them to appreciate how good they are. Their enthusiasm is infectious,and  their musicianship is undeniable. Rosie seems to float at times, her feet skipping along with the rise and fall of her fiddle playing. Danny coaxes all kinds of sounds ancient and modern from a variety of instruments. Feet are set tapping, heads nodding, their music just makes you want to forget the arthritis and get up and dance. 
           All too soon it was time to bring the house lights up and bid farewells. Dave Smart had been set numerous conundrums during the evening but once again battled through all the ethereal mishaps to provide us with a first class setting. Rob Oakey  was giving Bob Brooker a lift home. I do hope they both got back to Cov. safely.