Friday, 10 November 2017

If Music be The Food of Love....

Thursday Night at Tump Folk in The City of Culture
       People who follow this Blog will know how fond I am of The Tump and of The Humber Hotel. The area holds a place in my heart for, as a kid growing up in Northfield Road, I spent many illicit hours on the giant grey railway bridge there, choking on the loco exhausts and watching freight trains shunting Gosford Green Goods Depot down below. 
View from Humber Avenue 1957
          My dad and my Uncle Bill once worked opposite in long-demolished  Rootes complex.  In July 1971 whilst  working for the Coventry's  Parks Department, I spent my last night as a single man in there, thanks to  my fellow gardeners organising  a monumental Staggie after finishing work. 
           I've had some very enjoyable nights in various Tump venues,but last night was a doozy. I've sung there  solo and with both Black Parrot Seaside and Nunc.  Last night ranks for me in the same category as Rod Felton's Memorial Concert, when that big room, the car park and the surrounding streets were overflowing. It wasn't quite that busy,but there was a decent audience a fantastic vibe and the musical content last night was outstanding.
        Like the previous  night  at Bedworth Folk Club, it was a late call that saw John Kearney and myself aka " two thirds of Nunc-minus the Pretty One," warming the audience up for the sheer brilliance that followed.   
Three thirds of Nunc at Warwick. I really can't see this "Pretty One" thing

        It was a night of fractions. ( I'm still trying to work a few variables out). There were parts of Honky Tonk Rose there and most of The Rude Mechanicals Band. The situation was further complicated by the versatile Jools Street who played in both! And Mr.Kearney with that rich Cork accent of yours you really must be careful how you say "two thirds." Otherwise it sounds like we are a pair of...oh well. Just try saying it..
               With a bit of a Shakespearean theme advertised,  John and I eschewed some of the heavier themes covered by the average Nunc set list and  went for Comedy. No ceremonial codpieces, but I hope The Bard of Avon would have enjoyed "Albert Balls," "The Odeon" and " Di Di The Ice Cream Man." Being vulgar yet faintly amusing,with farting horses and visual jokes,in a Falstaffian Way,I think Will might have approved.  According to my running order,thoughtfully written out in green crayon by The Boss (Karen Orgill),we thought we had finished then, bang on time with our Irish Reggae number "Don't Worry/Irish Rover."  
         I began then to introduce the next act-Honky Tonk Rose. Turned out though, that Horace had nipped out for a wee or a fag or both  and thinking very quickly we began the undeserved and unscripted bonus of a Nuncian encore with "Vigilante Man." To our delight, we were joined on stage progressively, by various members of HTR as they became available. Just..WOW!    
Jools, Malc, Rich and Horace.    Honky Tonk Rose 
        Horace Panter- "Sir Horace Gentleman," once of The Specials was part of HTR, slapping and spanking a mean bass every bit as effectively as you would expect of a legend. I confess,despite me having several Specials albums and DVDs, I'd never seen them live. The closest we got was one 1970's night at The Bear Inn (aka Craven Arms) in the High Street. There, after a particularly whacky BPS gig, a very drunk Roddy Radiation offered to join us, as he felt "his current band" were "going nowhere." (!!!) The rest as they say, is history. Though much later, I did also bump into Neol Davis a few times on the Folk Circuit. JK of course, being JK had seen The Specials several times. He was very excited by sharing a stage. (technically a floor area) with one of them. I'd also heard of Rick Medlock. Our ex-drummer,Vance,rated him very highly. I think I'd seen him a few times in the 1970s but we've all changed a lot in appearance since those days. 
        Horace had explained to me beforehand  how Country was his prime area of interest nowadays and boy did they give it some welly. A very enjoyable and robust forty minutes or so of top class material. Horace, Malc Evans and Rick Medlock were joined by Jools Street on fiddle and together they made a very full and attractive sound. And they finished right on time too. 10/10. An Organiser's dream.
        I'd done some background research on the RMB's. I knew previously of Wes Finch's work as a musician a writer and a shaper of ideas. I knew the band were currently mining a very innovative lode, that of setting poetry and prose to a contemporary framework. Primarily Shakespeare. But not exclusively. John Masefield and reluctant Coventrian Philip Larkin also got a name check last night too. ( Don't get me started on Larkin ). 
        Their line-up of Jools (violin), Katrin Gilbert (viola), John Parker (double bass)  and Wes Finch (vocals and guitar)  was ably suited to this kind of mood music. There were only 4/5ths of them,percussionist Ben Haines being unavailable. Even so, they offered us a memorable conclusion to an epic first half. 
Wes Finch and The Rude Mechcanicals
       Replenished by the best Thwaites's Bomber I have ever tasted,we were soon under way again for a second half. John Kearney, inspired by the sheer culture on show and fortified by a pot of tea, had been creative during the break, composing an introduction in verse. Then off The Mechanicals went again. Nothing mechanical or rude about any of it. We were treated to more of some of Wes's own songs this half. Some were astonishingly good-he'll be on Anker Folk before Christmas I promise, as I hoovered up what CD's I could find! That's my weekend playlist sorted!  
And in Black and White they look even artier
           After a heady encore from the RM's Karen had suggested (thank you Karen!) that as a finale John and I might like to lead the Ships Company in a full on jam of a current Nunc favourite, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". And we really were. In Heaven. The audience sang beautifully and with both bands providing the instrumentation, we had two verses of divine playing before bringing the evening to a glorious conclusion. Oh to have recorded that! 
Rude Honky Nunc Mechanicals on the Finale 
        I don't have any problems with Shakespeare. At school I had to study the texts of Twelfth Night ,Othello and Anthony and Cleopatra and once played Casca in a stage production of Julius Caesar (typecasting).  At College in London I followed a very hands-on course in English Speech and Drama. Involving more close scrutiny,this time of Hamlet and The Sonnets plus a hand in directing Romeo and Juliet. (I know.... Dark Horse,eh?) 
      Nor do I have any problems with Country Music and the whole Prairies of crossover music which anyone broadminded enough to see it can embrace in a Folk venue. On "Anker Folk" John Goodman and I have unashamedly spun tracks by Staid Cleeves, Rosanne Cash,Joe Ely, Foy Vance and Lyle Lovett, to name but a few. Nunc cover songs by Kacey Chambers, John Prine, Neil Young and Tom Petty. 
     In my experience the more eclectic night an organiser can put on the better-it breaks down prejudices and puts bums on seats. And last night was no exception. How sad though, that as my home town awaits the outcome of its City of Culture bid, the local rag has shunned Folk Clubs like mine and The Tump now for the last three years. pretending that, if they exclude it from advertising and bar reportage of it, it will just go away. We can all go instead to watch Kasabian or Mumford and Sons at The NEC.  For this,on the fringe of the City Centre was vibrant, dynamic, home-grown grass roots culture:Performing Arts on your very doorstep. Had you but known about it......