Bernie Marsden Acoustic Band at The (new) Radcliffe Centre, Buckingham

It’s always a great pleasure to see Bernie Marsden live in concert, founder member of Whitesnake and Buckingham boy. So seeing he was due to play two nights at the newly renovated Radcliffe Centre in Buckingham I thought I should go along. So OK I also wanted to be a little nosey and see what work has been done at the venue.

Soon as you walk in you can see straight way some of the changes, with the auditorium entrance now to the left, virtually via the old kitchen door, now leading you to some fixed and tiered seating. By all account the capacity numbers have gone for it’s original 180 down to 150, this maybe the result of the very plush comfortable, though high backed seating. It’s best to point out now that The owners, University of Buckingham, have had the major say in the renovation, requiring it primarily as a lecture theatre, so the wide seat also contain small writing tables for the students.

The original Stage has been removed so this is now on the level, the horrible big screen that was originally there has now been replaced by an even worse white screen, that’s even bigger and thicker, taking up too much stage space. Why even for a lectures did anybody believe this was necessary, surely some one could have found a screen that would roll away when not required and installed a black / curtain back drop for performances, the white back ground is so off putting. They have managed to improve the lighting with a couple of fixed lighting rigs in the ceiling, bathing the stage in coloured and white lighting, which it a plus point.

There was no bar facilities on the night, and it’s difficult to say where a bar can now be situated as the foyer, although bigger, has no ideal recess for a bar to be set up, though they did offer light refreshments at the interval.

So what of the music I hear you cry, well as can be expected Bernie was and always will be a true professional and has some great musicians around him, including Guy Fletcher, fiddle player for Little Johnny England and Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar. This was his acoustic band but they still manage to make a great noise. The music they play should appeal to most people, from folk, rock and blues, from the Whitesnake back catologue to Rory Gallagher, he really can do no wrong and why some of the major festivals have not picked up on them is beyond me, this is a band that when they want can make you want to get up and dance, though unfortunately not in the Radcliffe. He also introduced, Bedford based blues singer Cherry Lee Mewis to the stage for a couple of numbers, someone who can also hold an audience and belt out a good song too.

So a great opening night, with a few reservations as a performance space, though I really hope to see more live music being played here, this is still a lovely venue which I hope is not totally set aside for University use, Buckingham needs a good concert area and I’m sure the University will also need the revenue this could bring.

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Davy Jones (The Monkees) 1945 – 2012

Sad news to read that Manchester born singer / actor Davy Jones died today of a heart attack aged 66. Forever remembered as being part of the US group the Monkees, who’s creation for tv in 1966 was set to rival The Beatles for a short period, with 9 top 40 in the UK as well as the US.

Davy started his acting career as Ena Sharples’s grandson in Granada tv soap Coronation Street and also appeared in BBC’s Z Cars, before deciding to leaving the acting to train as a jockey. Though he soon returned to stage acting in production of Oliver! in the West End before taking it to Broadway which in turn lead him to audition for The Monkees.

Last year he joined two of the band’s original members – Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork for a reunited tour playing a series of gigs.

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Taking the Pledge – Jess Morgan

I’m taking the Pledge, no I’m not giving up drinking, that would be just too silly. This Pledge is a worthwhile one and I happy to join.

As is a growing trend in music, musicians are having to go it alone, devoid of record label support, they are finding their best avenue of support is direct with the fans to help finance their music project in advance. This is not just the domain of new artists but established ones too. The likes of The Libertines, Ian McCulloch, Reef and Kirsty McGee are to name but a few who have to go there own way.

On this occasion my Pledge is with Jess Morgan, listen to her Folk Radio Session I mentioned earlier in this blog. Her new CD “Aye Me” is due out in March and as of today she’s managed to reach 75% of her target.

This is not just a case of promising to buy the album or download, she is also putting up on offer some special “goodies” including art prints, posters, tote bags and t-shirts, all designed by Jess and all come with a free download of the album, she’s also offering house gigs around the UK and Europe to lucky bidders

All details can be found here Pledge Muisc Jess Morgan

Also check out her tour dates coming up and a few occasions for you to catch her in our area, including Cambridge Folk Club on 23rd March, the album launch tour on 30th March at Bedford Esquires as support for Paper Aeroplanes at Stage 2 of The Stables in Milton Keynes on 20th May and Ely Folk Festival 14th July

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BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012

Last night was the annual extravaganza that is the BBC Radio 2 folk awards. This year it has moved from its normal home in London to Salford in Manchester.

Although this was not being shown live on terrestrial television there was still the expectation of being able to watch this either via the website or the red button on your digital television. Well it seems that the gremlins had hit the BBC at the wrong moment and there was no streaming from their site or on my Virgin Media cable box, though for some reason it was available via Freeview.

The first thing that struck me while watching this was how sparse the front few rows were of the Lowry Theatre, whether these seats were held for VIPs or by paying punters who didn’t want to brave the cold night air, I guess we’ll never know.

The evening was hosted by Mike Harding and Julie Fowlis and got off to the great musical start in the company of The Martin Simpson Band. This point on should make my first confession, I’m not really a fan of sitting through awards ceremonies, and often find sitting through long speeches a little bit tiresome, so thank heavens for super smart animals on BBC 1.

Back to Martin Simpson I should say he will be playing in various guises at Cambridge Junction 25th April, Raunds Festival in Nothampton 6th May, Hitchin Folk Club 9th September, Cambridge, St Pauls Church 15th September, Great Knight Folk Club Northampton 18th September.

So to the awards themselves and I will try also try and mention if you will get a chance to see them live in the area, though always check the artists web sites for details.

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The Webb Sisters – Tingewick Village Hall 3rd February

3rd February was certainly a cold night in Tingwick with temperatures dropping down to minus 5, still the heating was on full in the village hall to greet the 100+ people who braved the elements for what would be a wonderful night of music in the company of The Webb Sisters.

In support we welcomed back one of our favourite singers Rebecca De Winter, who is no stranger to Empty Rooms, having first played support for Diana Jones in her original band Tinker Jack, she then returned in 2010 in one of her first gigs in the new set up and in support of The Eve Selis Band. Ever versatile tonight she played as a duo along with percussionist Dan, admitting this was the very first time playing in this combination, they breezed through their 30 minute set with ease, the mixture of Rebecca’s accomplished piano playing and vocal style with the subtle playing from Dan on Tabla, tom tom and cymbal really worked. Playing a selection of songs from the new CD, Rebecca was confidently at ease with the attentive audience, many of whom had probably seen her for the first time, even finding time to make light of a less than flattering comment about one of her song in an otherwise favourable review of her album, though this did not stop her singing the same said song. She finished the set with their first major video hit Shy Bride, which is worth checking out on You Tube (or earlier on in this blog for that matter) I’ve said it before, do check out her CD Rebecca De Winter . . . and other tales.

After a 20 minute break, to allow the audience to brave the night air for a short walk across the road to the pub to replenish their glasses, Mike, the promoter, introduced The Webb Sisters by declared his undying love for them, while admitting before booking them he wasn’t to familiar with their work . . . I think he might have got away with that confession.

Having already played London’s O2 Arena along with friend Leonard Cohen, who coined the name The “sublime” Webb Sisters, we were very pleased that they had no problem playing a Village Hall in rural Buckinghamshire, all be it a now legendary venue. So with just, harp, guitar, mandolin and the most exquisite vocal you could wish to hear, Hattie and Charley played majority of the songs from their current CD Savages as well as some form their previous albums. Inevitably talk would get around to Mr Cohen and their world tour along side him, especially when they introduced his composition “If it be your will” and although a lot of the audience came to see them on the strength of their performance with him, just as many were there on their merit alone and indeed why not.

Playing for just over and hour and 20 minutes, the time did seem to fly and such was the warmth of the girls presence on stage I doubt anybody noticed that the heating was switched off at half time. And a special mention does need to go to the Village Hall or Scout Hut to give it it’s proper title. Although this is just a regular wooden village hall, which from the outside may be a bit of a shock to some of the visiting musicians, there is no doubt there is something special about the acoustics here and this is underlined more when artists feel confident enough to turn off the PA, turn on the lights and join the audience for the final few songs, which is where these intimate venues win over on even the modest 400 seated ones and musicians can shine. Clearly the Webb Sisters had no problems here, choosing to end the evening with a version of Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Heart Like Wheel, which got the response from one gentleman leaving that, their rendition was so moving to bring him to tear at the same time a feeling of elation to be part of such a special night, I sure others would wholeheartedly agree.

I’m sure there will be the lure of the larger venues to play in the future, but we hope we will be able to invite The Webb Sisters back to one of our smaller venues, at least one more time, these girls are always welcome.

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Tiny Ruins in session with Bob Harris and tour

Just updating the web site for Empty Room Promotion and adding Tiny Ruins a support slot in May and I thought I’d better just give them a listen.

Tiny Ruins is a project of Bristol-born, New Zealand-raised musician and songwriter Hollie Fullbrook. It grew from her writing the music for theatre shows in Wellington, her intimate live performances of often strange and hypnotic songs began to gain in recognition and critical acclaim which lead to her being asked to support Alasdair Roberts in Sydney, May 2010.

The first CD Some Were Meant For Sea, which was recorded in Australia, produced by J Walker, who along with Hollie added piano, cello, violin, accordion, bells and percussion to the live guitar and vocal takes. This was released in New Zealand and Australia between May and July 2011 and was quoted in the New Zealand Herald “From time to time an album comes along that stops you in your tracks and demands you to listen. Tiny Ruins’ Some Were Meant For Sea is one such record”.

Championed in the UK by Digital radio’s BBC 6 and later with BBC Radio 2 the album got it’s UK release in December 2011.

Currently in the UK at The Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Tiny Ruins will also be in session on The Bob Harris Sunday Show on 5th February with a short tour during February, before a return later in the year as support for The Handsome Family. so double reason not to miss this show.

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Lanterns on the Lake – The Junction Cambridge 13th January

I’m pleased I took the decision to drive up to Cambridge last night, despite the sub zero temperatures, to see Lanterns on the Lake, at the Sold Out Junction 2. The 6 piece band from Newcastle took turns in playing the varied instruments, percussions, keyboards, harmonium and even using the violin bow to play the lead guitar (which seems to be a common thing now as the support for the evening, Cambridge’s Fuzzy Lights did the same thing) though there was also a proper violinist to put the a bow to a far better use and add to the whole aim of creating an atmospheric wall of sound to accompany the Hazels lovely lead vocals.

This was not only the first time I had seen the band but really heard any of their music too, though I’m sure, judging by the reaction of the audience, their favourite tunes were well received, including the song “A Kingdom” and the one song I did recognise “You’re Almost There”

I did read an earlier review where someone commented there was a lack of interaction with the audience and although tonight it was kept to a minimum or the talking was done during the applause, I’m sure this will come with time and confidence. Hazel did respond the fact someone managed to crush a plastic beer glass at just the right part of the song and later a to a spontaneous whoop from the otherwise well behaved crowd. So for me it is nice when there is some chat from the band members but it’s not always necessary, in fact I’ve been to gigs where I wish some of the artists would just shut up and sing.

At the end of their hour and twenty minute set they opted not to go through the usual routine of going off to rapturous applause only to come back for the encore, instead just quietly saying, “that was our last song and now this is the encore” ending with the acoustic “Not going back to the harbour”. The only problem with this philosophy was the audience still wanted more, though the person on lights was in tune with the band and put the house lights on the calm them down.

So yes this did appeal to my eclectic taste in music and they seemed pleased with the response of the audience to just want to sit and listen. So I’d be happy to see them again, though I suspect next time they are in Cambridge it’ll probably be on the larger main stage of The Junction, so check them out now in the smaller venue.

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Empty Room Promotions on Facebook

There is a good excuse for the lack of updates here, well I’m sure there is but I can’t think of one for the moment. At least I’ve been kept a little busy on other tasks.

Empty Rooms Promotions, probably the finest purveyors of live music in the area, has decided to drag itself, kicking, screaming and shouting like a little school girl, into the 21st century, yes that’s totally bypassing the 20th century all together.

So we’ve decided to set up a Facebook fan page to help spread the word of the amazing live music we have on offer in 2012 in both Buckingham and Oxford, even the London Olympic would struggle to better this line up.

Ruth Moody, The Webb Sister (Sold Out), Danny and the Champions of the World, Brigitte DeMeyer with Will Kimbrough, Richmond Fontaine Duo, The Willie Nile Band, Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express, Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones, Kevin Welch, The Handsome Family and that only take us up to May!

We are so good to you, there is now no excuse to stay in at all and you can show your appreciation by giving us a “Like” here and of course buying all your tickets here

We look forward to seeing you at most of these gig and we do it because we care about your musical wellbeing.

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It’s New Years Day


Once again, it says it all really

It’s New Years Day – Carole King

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It’s New Years Eve

Well there’s not much more to say really,

New Years Eve by Boo Hewerdine

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