Monday, 4 June 2018

The Big Weekend (Part One)

       Well it was for us,anyway. The Bigger weekend (last week),Coventry had welcomed Paloma Faith, Stereophonics,Snow Patrol, UB 40,The Selector,Liam Gallagher and many more to The War Memorial Park. This weekend there were to be artistes of even greater stature and quality (ahem!) on view for free in the city centre.  
      The Stones were also on at The Ricoh Saturday night, backed by The Specials but more importantly, we had back to back gigs on Saturday and Sunday. That's  a pretty big fish for us. Appearing currently under the banner of DrunkMonkey, a 6-7 piece collaboration involving personnel from three bands: Dragonhead, Nunc and Blues Monkey. When will we come out of the closet and formalise this arrangement as a proper band in its own right? Good question. 
      Having accepted these respective invitations way back,we found (to our initial horror) that Nunc's key instrumentalist and engine room,John Kearney,would actually absent for both dates. Planning on sunning himself in Languedoc instead. Nonetheless he (and the rest of the co-operative) insisted that the show(s) must go on so we got to work rearranging  and rehearsing the Nunc repertoire, adding in some new material as well. All aimed at retaining that pioneering mix of mash-ups and segues of popular and traditional music that has become a bit of a Nunc trademark. Along with daft shirts and other quirky items of attire.  
     On Saturday afternoon, outside the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, right in the heart of Coventry we provided part of the entertainment for the MotoFest event. In Coventry.  My home town. The Motor City. This was  part of a CovFolk initiative, aimed at bringing Folk and Roots music closer to the public's attention. A two day event featuring Dave Fry,Kevin Dempsey,Daisybell (great name!),Dr.Bennett,Kristy Gallagher,and many more.
                  The city centre was awash with beautiful cars (old and new) and the crowds were simply massive. The Herbert Stage was set up facing Jordan Well-opposite a bar which used to be the Godiva pub. A place where many decades ago I had fronted Black Parrot Seaside (then a rock line-up) downstairs in the old "Dive Bar." Musically in fact, a very nostalgic area for me, having also gigged in Drapers,The Golden Cross,The Lanch,(now Coventry University),The Colin Campbell,The Craven Arms and many other central music venues within walking distance.
      Pete Willow, Rob Halligan et al had put a lot of hard work into the MotoFest music event. They even arranged for magnificent weather on both days. The Herbert area was a delightful spot, elevated above the road and with a lovely cafeteria come coffee bar facing one side. The proximity of Drapers and its mini Beer Festival did not pass without notice,either. 
       The crowds and traffic jams caused a few problems. A few who had planned to catch our set had to give up and turn back-unable to park anywhere near! We assembled in Drapers (rude not to) and then moved back across to the performance area in time to catch Maria Barham's act. Once under way ourselves,time passed quickly,we were well received and we even got an encore. This was "Knocking On Heaven's Door" which we'd never done previously without JK taking lead vocals. So I led on them instead,and the audience seemed to approve.  
      Dr Bennett followed us-Sarah Bennett and Dan Gascoigne. Their guitar work was as impressive as ever,and their arrangements remain thoughtful and challenging. And they played my favourite, their version of Anjii. Daisybell followed them, as polished and rehearsed as ever,although they did get the giggles over one song that appeared to be a variation on what they had rehearsed. Lovely harmonies and arrangements and harmonies, as always, from The 'Belles.
It was good to catch up with some old friends during the afternoon-Neil Parker,Lawrence Lam and Steve Smelt for example.

         Once we had grabbed a bite to eat and a beer, we returned to see the Outdoor Ceilidh Band well under way and getting up a fine head of steam with some Country Dancing outside The Herbert. Still the muscle cars drifted past,mostly revving up in the Key of G fortunately. A few of us drifted on to The Twisted Barrel then, for I had a bus to catch from Sky Blue Way. And that, my friends is true rock and roll. Not a Tour Bus, but a humble De Courcey.