Friday, August 27, 2010

Cornered!


Having not played much music recently, this week was a blast - two opportuinties to play and enjoy myself!

The first was on Monday night at a pub in Waltham Abbey. The acoustic evening is run by a nice guy called Keith and I surprised him by turning up to play - for the first time in about six months. I was on my own as my music partner now works in London and can't do weekday gigs, but I didn't mind.

But, there I was, in a rough (almost London) pub, on my own. OK, I know Keith, and a couple of other musicians to smile and wave at - but that was about it. However, the last time I had played I had briefly chatted to one of the bar's locals. A gentleman we shall call 'Mr F'. I remembered him from last time - a tough guy, probably about 60, with grey hair and a criminal record (he'd told me before that he'd been inside). He was a man no one messed with - he has a reputation.

He remembered me, and was the most charming, polite and careful companion for the evening. He didn't want me to sit on my own, asked me to join him at the bar along with Bear (who was a very tall and quite large guy). We chatted quite a bit, about different types of music and the like, very amiably.

Keith sang his songs, then one of the others got up with a cut finger so he karaoke-d his way through some pub standards. Another lad got up and sang my favourite 'Hey There Deliliah' as well as some other good standards. So, noisy, pubby type music - but when I got up to sing, I did my usual quiet folksy stuff. They listened. Keith said to me 'you want someone to hear you, whisper'. He was right.

At the end of the evening Mr F saw me out to the car, carried some of my gear for me and gave me a polite and friendly peck on the cheek goodnight. We'd had some interesting conversations where I'd learned a bit more about his life. He was a man who had lived violently - where survival was directly related to strength. But the interesting thing was I saw something different, I saw a man who looked back on his life and wished that he could have done it differently. Maybe I am wrong, but even if the hard nuts of Waltham Abbey are afraid of him, I felt completely safe.

Last night (Thursday) I played at the Corner House in Cambridge following a quick plea over Facebook. When I got there the pub was quiet, but soon two other performers arrived too (Meg and Mark). Oh, and about five other people in the pub including the barman, the sound engineer and his girlfriend. We three musicians chatted easily, all different but it was very amiable.

I was due to go on first at 8.30 but there was still hardly anyone there. Mark suggested that we wait a bit longer as he had some friends coming - which we did and they duly arrived. So I managed to perform my half hour spot to a slightly fuller room than I first feared. I nattered with Tim and Cheryl, two of Mark's friends, and then more of his friends came too - and earlier he'd moaned how no one came to see him. 'Can't be a prophet in your own land' I said, when he told us how he played to packed houses in Manchester and Liverpool.

My performance was, again, very folky - but I actually got them singing choruses! It was a lovely atmosphere, friendly and - due to the lack of huge numbers - quite intimate. After my performance Meg went on - she has a lovely voice and writes fun, quirky songs. After Meg was Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance. He engaged the audience with engaging casual chat, and sang some really nice songs.

So, all three of us were singer/songwriters with guitar. But the combination of the three styles was actually complementary - working excellently together. The audience were appreciative and the evening relaxed and pleasant.

I couldn't find Meg's myspace page, but you can hear Mark here: http://www.myspace.com/markellissolo

The Corner House is a nice venue - with a mix of clientele and nice food (I'm told) and a good place to play or listen to a variety of music. I certainly enjoyed my evening there.

(PS: photo is not taken at either of these two venues, but I didn't have any appropriate ones)
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