Keeping music live . . . . at any cost

I’m all for supporting live music and getting out to as many gigs as I can, but clearly there are people much¬† hardier that I who will go to any lengths to ensure they don’t stay in and will even venture to the pub sing around or those small village Folk Clubs mainly aimed at local people.

Now I’m not knocking them and long may they reign and I admire those people who are not afraid to just get up and sing and play, regardless of whether they can sing or play! Though I have had some unusual experiences on turning up at an “alien” folk club.

OK on this one occasion I did have an ulterior motive for going to see the headline act, Clive Gregson as he was due to play over at our Buckingham venue and I thought I’d drum up some more support. On going into this empty pub in a village, not too far from where I live, I was directed to go up a narrow flight of stairs to the room above, I was greeted at the doorway of this 20ft by 15ft room and was asked if I had a ticket. Wanting to buy one on the door the chap, speaking to someone hidden out of view, said “he’s doesn’t have a ticket, should we let him in?” clearly responding to a nod or gesture I was told “you look a nice chap we’ll let you in”. With the exception of three old people sitting in the front row, the guy on the door and the now visible organiser, I was the only person there. Now I normally like to stand but clearly I would stand out in this crowd so I sat on the back row near the window.

I watched as people started arriving and obviously all know each other as they made their usual greetings, checking the table for the raffle prizes, I seem to recollect, a box of Milk Tray, an own brand tin of biscuits from Tesco’s and I’m sure a bottle of Blue Nun which I might have already won a week earlier but left under the chair of another local club. Then I noticed this older woman, carrying a torch, hovering around me, I gave a courteous smile at which point she mentioned that, she usually sits where I’m sitting, she has to sit there because the lights sometimes go out and she has the torch! I’m sure she also said something about the room being haunted but I got up and moved to another row of seat down the side of the room, after first making sure I wasn’t taking up anybody else’s space.

After this the rest of the evening wasn’t too bad, though having to sit and listen to a few locals singing or playing instruments to a varying degree of success, the guy sitting in front of me constantly leaning right back in his chair and nearly ending up in my lap, hearing Clive Gregson making a fun of my home town and much to the amusement of the locals, the lights keep flickering and seeing the woman poised anxiously with her torch, but no sign of the ghost, and despite no more than 20 people attending I still didn’t win the raffle. So I guess I won’t be going back there regularly but this doesn’t mean these type of clubs should not continue or thrive, if this area of live music brings joy to others and helps keep a community spirit alive then there is nothing wrong with that.

I only bring up this story now after receiving an e-mail from a friend who not only goes to weirder places than this, he actually fits in, below is his experience of another village club but names and places removed, mainly to save his embarrassment for going there in the first place.

I went to a packed out Club in ????? last night where others were watching and videoing the various acts and for only £2 we got:

the bloke who runs the place messing up some reels which he “hadn’t finished learning yet”. And it showed!

his next door but one neighbour, inspired by the Folk Awards to learn two Donovan numbers. He made Donovan sound good.

a woman who admitted to not being able to play the piano playing the said piano while murdering an Emily Smith song.

she then became part of a trio and did the Jackie Oates part on Keys of Canterbury. Aaaargh!

a grungy kid who is auditioning for X Factor this weekend.

a woman who had brought a full size harp with one broken string along (!!!!!!!!!) in the hope of getting a floor spot. She’d had two lessons so far and was still learning. She’d obviously not finished learning the second number.

the mad grinning couple I once came across at ????? folk club.

5 bearded old blokes in knitted sweaters singing sea shanties!!!!

At least two other blokes had turned up with guitars and music stands but there wasn’t time for them. Nor for me – the bloke who runs the show spotted me writing out a shopping list for Tesco and assumed I was writing out my set list!!!!!

After all this “entertainment”, we got the main act at 10.25pm. His set started off with a song about infertility, followed by one about a stillborn child, then a suicide song…………….

By the time it had all finished, the pub was closed and all the lights in the village had been switched off.

Definitely a memorable night out. The Stables will be positively boring by comparison tonight.

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