Fave Things Recordings
The Blyth Power Ashes 2010 Gigs
Reviews Wasted UK 2006
'If Not Now - When?' Lyrics & Notes
Welcome to a new year and a new blog. Firstly, let's tie-up the loose ends from where we left off with the last blog posted at the beginning of December 2015. On 02/12/2015 I recorded a video in Belper, Derbyshire during a week of the UK bombing Syria. As the air-strikes started, I revisited an old song called Q. And Children? A. And Children as like many others, I felt powerless as the government moved closer to an all-out invasion. The song is posted on both my YouTube channel and Facebook websites should you wish to take a look.
Also at the beginning of December, we had a great weekend at Butlins, Skegness - our 6th visit! - for The Great British Folk Festival (though our 3rd time of attending the folk fest) running from 4th until the 6th. After a straightforward journey with no hold-ups - which is always a bonus when travelling on a Friday afternoon - we were settled in our chalet and eagerly awaiting our first meal as well as the first band. So, after chilli, rice, salad, bread rolls and a pudding of course, oh, and a few pennies spent on the arcade machines, the music started. The highlight of the night was Billy Bragg who was on superb form. Engaging, entertaining and playing most of his set solo, played a 'greatest hits' for anyone familiar with his songs. From his first song of A Lover Sings to the encores of A New England and Between The Wars, Billy chatted, sang and told stories to an audience who embraced his own particular style of folk songs and social comment and those who didn't (which weren't the majority given the packed room he played to) could go elsewhere and watch Eliza Carthy. I saw a song by her as she was on my 'bucket-list' of artists I'd like to see but haven't yet. And I would have watched more had she not clashed with Bill's set but I'm glad I instead witnessed a glorious set including The Milkman Of Human Kindness, The Warmest Room, Never Buy The Sun, Levi Stubbs Tears, Power In A Union, England Half English, Greetings To The New Brunette, No One Knows Nothing Anymore, Handyman Blues, Sexuality and as mentioned, the stirring Between The Wars. It's just a shame that during a week when the UK starts the process of going to war and the current government constantly attacks the most vulnerable in society, our folk music tradition of singing and speaking out about the wrongs in the world around us stayed awkwardly silent for most part. The future of folk music may well be in safe hands with the young upcoming folkists embracing trad song and dance in abundance. The good looking youth with their floral patterned dresses and music school training will bring folk music to the next generation for sure. But where is the fire in the belly? It was left to two of the older generation with Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson to remind us how folk music can be challenging, be a voice of dissent and of the dispossessed. In Skegness town the following morning, talking with someone about the night before, she tells me she enjoyed Eliza Carthy. I tells her I enjoyed Billy Bragg to which she replies that she did consider going to see him but thought he might have been a bit political! Well, yes! In the sense that he talked and sang about the world around him. However, it wasn't tubthumping propaganda from start to finish but rather a performer who over 30 years has travelled the life of a folk (punk) troubadour and in doing so, attempts to share what he sees in the hope that we collectively can make things better together. Solidarity is the keyword with a Billy Bragg performance and long may he continue to strike a chord. I'm not sure I've ever seen a larger crowd of people waiting to meet Billy, chat with him, get an autograph or a picture and his time spent with everyone wanting meet him was lovely to watch. A mention must go to CC Smugglers too who followed Billy Bragg with their energetic performance of roots music and much more! ... Saturday was actually my 25th anniversary of playing my first gig! So, to celebrate, I watched others do it better than I! Also, we had a look around the town of Skegness in some of the windiest weather I've experienced there and played the arcade machines again of course! It was my first time of seeing such acts as The Moulettes, The Unthanks, Coco & the Butterfields and Magna Carta amongst others but it was Tom Robinson who stole the show - as well as the weekend - with his performance. The last time I'd seen Tom live was in 1993 and he was just as good as I'd remembered with his back catalogue of fantastic songs. A generation who may only know him from being a presenter on BBC6 music radio heard Tom (performing as a trio) sing Up Against The Wall, Grey Cortina, War Baby, Martin, Glad To Be Gay, 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Atmospherics and Spain and some great sounding songs from his new album! Stood at the front of the stage singing along to Glad To Be Gay whilst clutching the rainbow coloured cuddly My Little Pony I'd won from an arcade machine just before going into the venue wasn't the usual sight for some trad folkies maybe but Tom was the highlight of the weekend for me and I'm sure he made many new fans as well as pleasing the older ones! I also enjoyed The Legendary Blues Folk band (featuring Jerry Donahue from Fotheringay and members of The Blue Swamp Band) who were stepping in at short notice for a cancellation. Their catchy blues songs and delivery was perfect for a Saturday lunchtime and I'd have liked to have caught more of their set than I did... Sunday started with another big breakfast and a couple of games of snooker before our last day of music. There was some good music by acts I'd not seen before including Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, Tradarr, The Band From County Hell before the first act of the day to really impress with Ric Sanders Trio. Ric may be more known as the fiddle player of Fairport Convention but it was a totally different act as he and his trio played some great blues songs. I really enjoyed them and you can't help but do so when an act on stage features the ever enthusiastic Ric and his fine playing. Fotheringay followed Ric with another Fairport connection in that it was the band Sandy Denny formed in 1970 after she left Fairport Convention. It was a short-lived band and Sandy died of course and so has Trevor Lucas so the three remaining members (Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway) along with PJ Wright from The Dylan Project, Kathryn Roberts and Sally Barker have reformed Fotheringay with some real attention to the sound and song writing style of Sandy herself. Whilst not being familiar with their songs as much as I am with Fairport, I'm sure Sandy Denny would have been proud of their return some 45 years later and a touch of real quality to end our lovely weekend.
We enjoyed an absolutely fabulous night on 11/12/2015 in Chesterfield, in the town's library theatre no less (the last time I was there was for an audience with Dennis Skinner!) for the amazing Anthony John Clarke and Dave Pegg. Since I first saw AJ at a festival and fell in love with his work and he ended up being the highlight of my weekend, I've been to see him whenever possible since. He's since become a good friend i'm honoured to say too! I have even had the pleasure of playing a few songs before he shows audiences what else can be done with acoustic instruments. He's one of those artists that I learn so much from - and there are a few I can tell you - He has songwriting skills, playing abilities and an ear for a good tune, all in abundance. However, just as important, he's engaging and entertaining when sharing those songs live. He makes it seem effortless when you know he's worked really hard to achieve that. Last night was a master class for me again, with the jokes and banter between AJ and Dave, the quality of the songs and the rapport that Dave and he has when they play together. With Fairport Convention's bass legend Dave flitting between acoustic bass, mandolin and electric guitar complimenting Anthony John's songs and delivery, it was another great set. The Broken Years, Between Midnight and Blue, Tuesday Night Is Always Karaoke, An Acquaintance Of Mine, The Boot Fair, In Perfect Harmony, Walking On Sunday, The Impossible Song, Spray A Little Perfume, An Irishman In Paris and many more of those songs that I love. With local act Ashgate Calling kicking the evening off with their energetic jigs and reels - and with the sax and clarinet giving them a sound not unlike Moving Hearts - it set the tone well and they returned for the encore of AJ and Peggy to round the night off on Pitlochry and its ending refrain of You Take The High Road. A lovely night amongst good friends. If you like folk or acoustic music, try and catch Anthony John Clarke and Dave Pegg if they're appearing within reach for you, they're a superb night out.
The night after on 12/12/2015 was a performance by myself and my last of the year - and my 3rd of 5 monthly performances booked at The Queen's Head, Belper. This time I was the support act to poet, ranter, musician, activist and writer Attila The Stockbroker. I've seen Attila many times over the years since I first saw him in 1991 and have been lucky enough to be the opening act for him or share a billing at a festival on a few occasions previously and so this time in Belper was my 7th with him in some form or other. I kicked off the evening to a nice sized crowd in the pub that had filled soon after the doors opened and I enjoyed playing my half hour set very much. A couple of songs have crept into the set from way back after sadly becoming relevant again. The previously mentioned song in the opening of this blog, Q. And Children? A. And Children was one of them. It possibly made for some of my set being a little samey for part of it as I've used that chord structure on another song since and yet I played them both last night! However, lyrically they are very different songs and I have tried to adjust the tune and tempo of the songs so they're not too similar I hope! They are my more 'topical' songs that can drift in and out of the set and I hope one day to not feel the need to perform them at all. My full set was Don't Believe The Type, Fitzwilliam, Parliament Pays Tribute To Baroness Thatcher, The Seagull And The Skinhead, Seeking Asylum, Q. And Children? A. And Children and The Uncollected. Attila The Stockbroker then followed with two sets full of inspiring, funny, angry, intelligent and engaging songs and poems. Verses and anecdotes, stories and songs - all flitting between the humorous and the sad and always brilliantly written and performed. New songs about what is happening in the world around us today as well as readings from his recently published autobiography, Arguments Yard. I don't think I've seen Attila as good as he currently is. He's a performer and a writer at the top of his game and his autobiography has given him both a new lease of life when performing as well as new material whilst on the journey writing it. From Corbyn Supporters From Hell to Price Harry's Knob and from Farageland to Never Forget. Every line of every poem, rant, song or reading seemed carefully considered and again I found myself watching an act and learning so much from both the material and the delivery by the artist. There was also some great advice regarding what us men should do if we are experiencing a few problems down below - all told by Attila whilst half the room winced and took a sharp intake of breath as he described the procedures he'd had to endure. Before ending the story with his gratitude and continued fight and support of the NHS throughout his health scares and ordeals. Thanks to Attila for a great performance, to Pete for lovely sound and lights, to Mike for helping to make it happen and to Dick of The Queen's Head too. Thanks to all who came along and supported the night and in doing so, helped make it happen too, to everyone who took an interest in my songs, those that bought CDs and to Kev, Faye, John, Pam, Dave, Jonathan, Marilyn and Colin for the support also. It was an inspiring night for sure.
Christmas 2015 came and went though much of it passed me by at some speed as I worked through most of it in my day job in the NHS. Around 8 o'clock in the evening on Xmas day while visiting a patient, a neighbour commented to a colleague with myself that we must be on 'quadruple money' for working on such a day. That saddened me. Not because people assume that I get paid such amounts of money for any unsociable, weekend or bank holiday hours I work as part of my weekly allocation but because being in the very definite working class area where we was at the time, to be treated with mistrust or such cynicism means that the mainstream media run by the likes of The Sun are getting their lies and inaccurate opinions across to those who are themselves being attacked by the government. Murdoch's Tory supporting rag and their ilk are being believed enough for working class people to be more weary of an NHS worker on their street than they would an MP or a banker! God forbid that anyone should think Labour's Jeremy Corbyn's ideas are anything other than absurd outdated pie-in-the-sky claptrap. So, when did caring or looking after each other become outdated? Let's start standing shoulder to shoulder to look after each other and protect the vulnerable in our society...
The end of December saw the sad death of legendary rocker Lemmy from Motorhead. He'd been in ill health for much of this last year but just days after his 70th birthday on Christmas Day and a couple of days after learning he had a very aggressive cancer, he passed away. Considering his age and his lifestyle, if we are to believe that is how he lived his life, he didn't actually do too bad to live to the age he did! I saw Motorhead live just the once, in October 1997 at Nottingham Rock City. I'm glad I saw them. RIP Ian Lemmy Kilmister. We also said farewell to Dozy of Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich, Paco of Inner Terrestrials and ex Conflict, John Renbourn, Andy King ex Everton FC, Howard Kendall ex Everton FC and Daevid Allen of Gong in 2015.
I can now look back at the culture of 2015 and reflect on the fabulous year it sometimes was for all things creative and/or musical. My favourites were as follows:
Live: I was very lucky in 2015 to see some great gigs and performances and I was lucky to cross a few artists off my 'bucket-list' of bands I hope to see that I haven't already!... My favourites were Fairport Convention (Chesterfield), Bob Fox (Belper), Donovan (Nottingham), Chron Gen (Derby), Anthony John Clarke & Dave Pegg (Belper & Chesterfield), Andy T (Belper), Steve Ignorant's Slice Of Life (Belper), Sweet (Sheffield), The Rubettes (Sheffield), Attila The Stockbroker (Belper) and I also enjoyed Sleaford Mods (Derby), Robb Johnson & The Irregulars (Lancaster), Robb Johnson (Brighton), John Forrester (Brighton), Pink Fairies (Derby), The Open Road (Derby), Fear Insight (Derby), The Enemy (Sutton In Ashfield), Steve Ignorant with Paranoid Visions (Sutton In Ashfield), The Bad Fishermen (Belper twice!), Secret Affair (Derby), The Reverends (Derby), The Defects (Derby), Kill Pretty (Derby), Department S (Derby), Penetration (Derby), Mud 2 and some great weekenders such as Festival of the 60's, Skegness including The Cufflinks, The Searchers, Marty Wilde, The Merseybeats, Vanity Fare, Marmalade, The Dakotas and The Easybeats etc... Get On With It weekender in Brighton featuring great performances from Zounds & Mark Astronaut, Anthrax, Hagar The Womb, Eastfield, Lost Cherrees, Interrobang?!, Rubella Ballet, Blyth Power, Pete Fender, Andy T, Pog etc... AWOD North festival, Derby featuring Conflict, The Cravats, Icons Of Filth and Lost Cherrees...The Great British Folk Festival, Skegness featuring Tom Robinson, Billy Bragg, Ric Sanders Trio and Fotheringay etc and Brassed Off play at Derby Theatre. An Audience with Dennis Skinner MP (Chesterfield) and Jeremy Corbyn's speech (Derby, as part of his Labour leadership campaign)!
Listening: Fairport Convention - Myths & Heroes, Anthony John Clarke - Beyond Karaoke, John Jones - Never Stop Moving, Attila The Stockbroker - Live At The Greys, Pentration - Key Markets, Flowers In The Dustbin - I'm An Artist Your Rules Don't Apply, Danbert Nobacon - To Be Or Not To Be?, Tom Robinson - Only The Now, Carol Hodge - Mess Ephemera were my faves and I also enjoyed Resistance 77 - No Escape, Sleaford Mods - Key Markets, Steve Tilston - Truth To Tell, Bob Fox on BBC Radio 2 Folk Show as well as songs/albums by Ratbag, Anthrax, Machine Head, Motorhead, Pink Fairies, Pog, Chron Gen, Secret Affair, Wrecks, Matchbox and Interrobang?!
Books/Reading: Not Just Bits Of Paper book, R2 magazine, Nature's Home RSPB magazine.
Watching: The Second Best Marigold Hotel film, Far From The Madding Crowd film, The Lady In The Van film, Springwatch 2015, Springwatch Easter 2015, Winterwatch 2015, Michael Sheen's Valleys Rebellion, Tales From The Tour Bus, Steve Tilston on The One Show, Sleaford Mods on Later With Jools Holland and Top Of The Pops 1980 repeats including The Pretenders, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Stiff Little Fingers, Blondie, The Beat, Barbara Dickson, Squeeze, The Undertones, Cockney Rejects, Bad Manners, Jona Lewie (with a young Kirsty MacColl!), The Ruts, UK Subs, Status Quo, Showaddywaddy, Adam & The Ants and The Selecter!
Social activities!: Derventio Brewery Tour, Derby and 2 holidays in Trusthorpe, Lincolnshire.
On a personal level, 2015 had a sad start. After an initial celebratory beginning for my granddaughter's 3rd birthday with all the hopes and dreams for her future life - just days later I was mourning the sad loss of my Uncle John. 2014 hadn't been my favourite year but 2015 with all my hopes of improvement had taken a turn for the worse so early in January. April saw me return to Derby's Crematorium for a second time in the year for Patrick, the brother of my sister-in-law. RIP to five of my fish throughout the year too... We had a general election in May. I don't always vote, preferring the attitude that it's what we do 365 days a year that counts, not putting a X against the best from a bad bunch every 5 years. I did vote on this occasion though, to try and get rid of the right wing self-servative old boys' network. I voted Labour (but didn't inhale) nationally and Green locally. The Tories were re-elected anyway though the vote changes nothing - The struggle continues... I changed my day job from a predominantly evenings and weekends in a care/social services type role to return to the NHS in a quite different job and hopefully this will see a return to a better work/life balance...
Regarding my musical output, I can look back on 2015 and say a huge thank you to
all those who have shown me such lovely support. Some of these people will be
close friends and family who are always there for me and they know who they are.
Others may not be aware just how much they have helped along the way. By having
a listen to my songs, providing me with some feedback or some encouragement. Or
maybe just taking the time to watch my set whilst waiting to see a band further
up the bill at a concert! Thanks to everyone and anyone who in anyway has helped
by putting me on, putting me up or by simply putting up with me! It doesn't
matter how big or small the gesture - the support, encouragement, love and
friendship which I am sometimes rewarded by 'singing a few songs' is always so
very much appreciated. So, thank you one and all.
Juggling the gigs, songwriting, recording or rehearsing alongside my full-time day job has made for less gigs at times in recent years. I would on occasion play my set early in the evening and then quickly pack-up and drive off to my 'other' job afterwards! I don't enjoy doing this as I don't get to meet up with friends, chat with anyone for any length of time who may be interested in my songs or relax and enjoy the other acts. It is why it has been easier to play more local (to me!) Derbyshire events at times. I have other commitments and interests of course also, not least helping to look after my granddaughter with my wife at weekends and it all leads to less time (and energy!) for other stuff sometimes but the time spent with our grand daughter has been rewarding in its own ways (check out the 'extra' track at the end of my CD for proof of my inspiration) which I wouldn't change for the world... Also, fighting for a better world sometimes doesn't involve holding a guitar either! I did however, change my day job at the end of August and so far, things are looking better for being able to plan ahead more and I am working less weekends and no actual night shifts anymore. This means (as I start to plan) that 2016 will hopefully be a more musically active one for me. My online shop continues at www.etsy.com/shop/chrisbutlersongs for anyone wanting to purchase my If Not Now, When? CD and it is available from my gigs too of course. (Four Dogs Music distribution/mail order stock the CD too and some band merchandise stalls, venues, distributions and Derbyshire independent record shops from time to time also)...
So, looking back on my gigs of 2015, I was able to return to one of my favourite places to play when I performed at The Yorkshire House, Lancaster in February along with Robb Johnson & The Irregulars and The Lab Rats. It was great to see my Lancaster friends again, the hospitality is always second to none, it was great to see Robb and the band again and the 'after gig' house party gig with The Lab Rats which was still in full swing after I'd left to drive home was great fun! It was the last time I saw Sally, one of the Lancaster folks who make my visits so special with their friendship and support and I was saddened when hearing she passed away in 2015...I played in Brighton for the first time in March and played twice in one day again! First at The Prince Albert as part of Robb Johnson & the Irregulars' Here Goes Nothing album launch gig before hot-footing it a few yards over to The Green Door Store for my set as part of the Get On With It! weekender alongside TV Smith, Rubella Ballet, Blyth Power, Andy T, Pete Fender and Tracey Curtis amongst others... I played five gigs in Belper, Derbyshire during the year. Two of them were birthday celebrations at The Old King's Head (where I'd not played before) in April and July for members of The Bad Fishermen band. The other three Belper gigs were at my regular venue of The Queen's Head. They were all fabulous nights as gigs at The Queen's Head always are and also featured Anthony John Clarke & Dave Pegg in October, Steve Ignorant's Slice Of Life and Andy T in November and my last gig of the year with Attila The Stockbroker in December. The Slice Of Life evening was our most successful so far in terms of audience numbers I have been told. But this varies on how many tickets we decide to make available with our capacity being around 50 depending on whether we make it a mainly standing or seated event and so we can't compare one concert (and it's seating plan or ticket number) with another... I played in the fabulous setting of Norbury Manor near Ashbourne, Derbyshire in May. A 15th century Elizabethan National Trust property was a lovely setting to play a few songs as part of my friends' Peter and Michael's wedding celebrations. It was a real honour to be a small part of their special occasion... I played twice in Derby, in May at The Sitwell Tavern for my first appearance there as part of a charity punk gig for Children First Derby charity along with noisy punk rock bands Blatoidea, The Enemy, Sods Law, Fear Insight and Mayhem Freak. I also played at The Hairy Dog, Derby as part of the Another Winter Of Discontent - North festival. It was possibly my best gig ever due to sharing a bill with the likes of Conflict, Icons Of Filth, The Cravats and Lost Cherrees and a career highlight came when I was joined by Conflict's Paul on acoustic bass to accompany me on my rendition of the band's Mighty & Superior song to close my set... I played at a punk night for my first ever visit to Corby at The Zombie Hut venue based at the town's rugby ground and sadly, the venue has since stopped having gigs which is a shame as it was a great venue. The other acts on the night I played were Cretin 77 (who have since split-up sadly!), Trioxin Cherry, B-Movie Britz, Rather Raccoon and Mr Hat (who have also split-up!)...
As well as the gigs, there were some recordings made too. Nothing professionally recorded in studios though as my If Not Now, When? CD is still available and there's only so much room to store boxes of CDs in my house! However, I did record songs to post on my YouTube channel and Facebook websites. Usually due to a topical reason with the song written, recorded or posted on the internet whilst something is happening in the news. They are usually unrehearsed/demo versions with the priority being to make the song available for people to hear rather than any need for polished, 'studio quality' versions. Mighty & Superior (Conflict), Don't Believe The Type, The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore (Jean Ritchie), Quick! Run! There's A Lion Escaped And He's Heading For The Dentist!, Seeking Asylum and Q. And Children? A. And Children were the songs recorded and posted.
I made a guest appearance on the Manchester based ALLFM Radio Under The Pavement show again in July. It's always great fun to visit the show, chat with the presenters and perform a few songs in the studio. Regular listeners to the show may occasionally hear my 'jingle' I recorded for the them too!... Songs from If Not Now, When? were played on a couple of other radio shows too; Parliament Pays Tribute To Baroness Thatcher was featured on The Spinning Man internet radio show No. 226 in January. The show's compiler and DJ is none other than The Shend of The Cravats!... My song The Seagull And The Skinhead was played on Halifax based Phoenix FM's Punk & Disorderly show in April...
Other projects worth a mention were a book featuring recollections from the punk movement during the 1980's and included a couple of contributions from myself. I wrote the pieces 'GBH/Ausgang September 1984' and 'Punk Rock Saved My Life' for the book Not Just Bits Of Paper, edited by Gregory Bull and Mickey 'Penguin' and it was published in February 2015... There was also a feature/interview in the July/August issue of R2 magazine. It was a real honour to be included in the acclaimed and respected colourful and glossy folk and roots magazine having been an avid reader of it myself since its first fanzine like issue (called Rock 'n' Reel) in the 1980's...
I hit the ground running in 2016 on 09/01/2016 with a fantastic night to start my gigs for the year. It was another brilliant night at The Queen's Head, Belper again with a stellar cast to both bring in a new year of optimism, music and mischief making and at the same time, have another knees-up for fellow Queen's Head organiser Mike and the significant birthday he celebrated on New Year's Eve. The first act of the evening, Sue MacFarlane took to the stage to play for half an hour as the room filled up nicely and Sue was on very fine form. She has a lovely voice and chose her songs well to gain a great reception from the audience. Ending her set with Eddi Reader's Perfect, I took to the stage next almost 'speed dating' like with another two acts to follow and an audience hoping not to tick the box of the funny looking bald bloke for a next date... I have made sure that I have performed a different set at each of my recent Belper performances. It might not be the exact same audience every time but some will have come to more than one of the gigs hopefully! (It's nice when people do come back again of course!) and to keep things interesting for me (and Pete working the PA!), it's been important to me to vary my set. My October 2015 set (supporting Anthony John Clarke and Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention) was The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore, Seeking Asylum, Don't Believe The Type, The Uncollected, Fitzwilliam and The Seagull & The Skinhead. For my performance in November with Steve Ignorant's Slice Of Life and Andy T & Band I put Grandpa Still Hates The Tories and Parliament Pays Tribute To Baroness Thatcher in the set. In December I was back at The Queen's Head to play with Attila The Stockbroker and Q. And Children? A. And Children made it into my set. So, to make sure at least one song in the set was different again, I added The Times They Are A-Short-Changin' to my set. My full set on this occasion was The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore (which I was reminded of after Sue played a Johnny Cash song), Don't Believe The Type, The Seagull And The Skinhead, Fitzwilliam, The Times They Are A-Short-Changin' (which I have a tendency to wheel out at the end/beginning of a year. My attempt at a Christmas song that ended up a New Year song and like so many songs ended up an anti-Tory song! So, I like to think the moral of the song is that being anti Tory is for life, not just for Christmas...), Parliament Pays Tribute To Baroness Thatcher and The Uncollected. After my set was Headsticks performing as a duo with acoustic guitar and vocals/harmonica. It was my second time of sharing a bill with them and it's no surprise that they continue to make new friends every time they perform. The songwriting quality was brought to the fore with the stripped down acoustic versions of their songs and they lost none of their power with Andrew's passionate delivery. A band that goes from strength to strength. With cakes on the tables to help Mike belatedly celebrate his birthday and a lovely crowd enjoying the music, the headline act of Blyth Power (also playing as an acoustic duo) took to the stage. My connections with Blyth Power go back nearly as far my earliest gigs. Out of the bands I've seen live the most times, Blyth Power come a close second to Chumbawamba. I first saw them in 1990 at The Princess Charlotte in Leicester. By 1992 I was sharing a gig with them (along with Steve Ignorant and his puppet show and Intense Degree) for the first time having already played a gig with Wob, their then guitarist. I have played many supports to them since (21 now to be precise) as well as playing 10 gigs with Joseph Porter playing solo, 6 with his Red Wedding duo with Steven Cooper and once with his Mad Dogs & Englishmen trio (Joseph along with Gary and Glenn Miller of The Whisky Priests), I've also played at their own festival The Blyth Power Ashes on numerous occasions and have to thank them for the support they have shown to me over the years. Long before the Rebellion Festival had an Acoustic stage, punk gigs in the 1990's weren't the easiest place for an acoustic performer to sing his or her songs! A mere glimpse of an acoustic guitar would send many punks straight to the bar though Blyth Power were always generous with their support slots, their encouragement and their enthusiasm as I slowly (albeit painfully so at times) found my own style, confidence and have learnt so much along the way. I'm still learning now if truth be told, I watch people perform who are a lot better than myself all the time and I constantly learn so much from others. The night eventually ended with an audience still wanting more as Joseph and Annie entertained the appreciative and welcoming crowd. And on the night that the funeral of Motorhead's legendary rocker Lemmy was being streamed live on the internet for those who wished to see it, Annie out-rocked the hellraiser by performing two gigs in one day (having played in Harrogate earlier in the afternoon) with a fractured collar-bone! Many thanks to all who made the night possible, to Mike, Peter, Michael, Headsticks duo, Joseph and Annie, Sue and William, everyone who came along and supported the night, all those who had a listen to my songs and came up to chat and to Pete, Rachel, Allan, Mat, Aston, Kevin, Angie and Nick and Beth amongst others. Thanks also to the generosity of The Queen's Head audience that we were able to raise £120 on the night for Belper food bank and homeless support.
I was saddened to read that Roy Harris had passed away in February. Roy was a fabulous old folk singer and storyteller that could keep an audience captivated with his tales and knowledge of the origins of folksongs. I saw him perform in 1996 at a folk festival in Belper at the Old King's Head pub and he performed seated in the venue as if he was one of the pub's regulars, welcoming and inclusive and making our history both interesting and entertaining with his songs and tales. Forget the new breed of today's young folk musicians with their music school training and floral print dresses, this is the type of folk musician where the inspiration still lies for me...
My next performance on 19/02/2016 was another in Belper at The Queen's Head so my accidental 'residency' at The Queen's Head venue continued for my 5th gig there in as many months! It was my 83rd performance in Belper (including some recording work) and my 48th at The Queen's Head! It's possible that if I make 50, I might get a free pint! To be honest, I rarely take any money from my performances at the venue, I do it to help the venue and the town and to help create some live music at the venue. It's my local venue that I've played at, attended, promoted, organised and helped out at in any way I can. It's not uncommon for me and the rest of the collective to be cleaning the tables, putting out chairs, setting up the bar or moving equipment early in the evening before the doors open - and that's just on the nights when I've been purely 'booked to perform'! The money taken on the door at any of the events that I am involved with always goes firstly to the bands that have travelled any distance to get to the venue. And on the nights we get a profit (after the agreed fees and expenses are all covered), then a deserving cause usually benefits... I was the opening act before my dear friend and comrade Robb Johnson which is always both a pleasure to share a stage with him as well as an education and master class by the guv'nor. His songwriting skills, welcoming performance style and engaging storytelling in song makes for watching a master at work. And I hope I continue to learn from watching Robb every time I am lucky enough to do so. In fact, he is one of the performers I have seen the most times, currently coming in at joint 5th for live acts I've seen the most times with 20 times since first seeing Robb with Pip Collings in Leicester in 1992. I have seen Robb play in many different formats - as a solo act, the duo with Pip, a trio with Miranda Sykes and Saskia Tomkins, with his full electric band the Irregulars and with The Bandana Collective. And on this occasion, Robb was joined for a few songs by Mark Whyatt on melodeon and bodhran. I've now shared a stage myself with Robb on 13 occasions too (including two with his full band and one with The Bandana Collective) With two more dear friends, Nick and Blanche from Lancaster making the trek to provide leaflets and information on behalf of Punks Against Domestic Abuse, it made for a lovely night catching up with great people. Whilst PADA is maybe aimed more at the punk community - and me and Robb are more old folkies these days! - it was great to be able to support their aims in educating, providing information and signposting anyone with the info they can provide. We had a small collection for them also so thank you to anyone who gave their spare change before making their way home. I performed my short set of songs to as always, a lovely and appreciative audience at The Queen's Head. Not our biggest audience in recent times but a lovely one all the same. Keeping up the intention to play at least one song which hasn't featured in any of my last four visits to hopefully keep it interesting for any audience members who have been to all the gigs - Or if only for the sake of Pete the sound man who has had to put up with my regular appearances! I again dropped a different song into the set with a very old song (inspired to include with the support from PADA on the night) which hadn't been performed since around 2002! The song called Making Things Easier For Each Other echoes the sentiments of the PADA group I hope. My full set was Grandpa Still Hates The Tories, Don't Believe The Type, The Seagull And The Skinhead, Making Things Easier For Each Other, Fitzwilliam and The Uncollected. Thanks to everyone who had a listen and/or gave some really nice comments afterwards. Robb of course followed by treating those present to how a singer and guitar player can really captivate an audience. Playing two sets with an interval, his first set was some of his older songs from the back catalogue to help promote his recently released box set CD collection of older songs. His second set included some more recent songs and RJ favourites with added melodeon or bodhran on selected songs which made for a great sound and musical accompaniment provided by Mark Whyatt. Mark's a fine musician and singer/songwriter in his own right and he once played on a bill of singer/songwriters previously at The Queen's Head in 2007 along with Tracey Curtis, Phil Doleman, Jessi Adams of Eastfield and myself. Robb played many great songs throughout his two sets and it was lovely to hear such songs as Invisible People, Changing The Guard, Be Reasonable, Hands Off Of My Friends and 6B Go Swimming as well as some more recent songs such as Bring Down The Moon, Alice Annie Wheeldon (which just has to be performed when in Derbyshire. A true and not as widely known story as it should be of Derby woman Alice. She's a real hero for anyone fighting for a better and more peaceful world), Here Goes Nothing, Bob Crow and Autumn Song as well as plenty of others to make us laugh, cry, angry and above all, send us home with hope. A hope for a better world and the solidarity that we have for each other in our everyday struggles. I also got a lovely mention in the song The Magic Tonight that made me night! Thanks to all those who made the night happen, to Robb and Mark, to Pete, Mike, Michael, Keith and Chrissy, to Nick and Blanche, Pete and Hilary, Chris, Gaz, Belper News and everyone who supported the night. I was saddened the following day to learn of the passing of Poison Girls singer, Vi Subversa. The band was a huge influence and inspiration on my teenage self. Not just regarding music and politics but as a young lad trying to make sense of the world around me, of relationships and how we treat each other as people. Vi with her personal take on anarchism, feminism and equality helped a young and not-so-worldly wise lad like myself understand a lot of things. I'm glad I saw the band live at Vi's 60th birthday gig in 1995 at London's Astoria 2 venue. RIP Vi...
On 26/02/2016, I went to a concert in a local village pub to see the fabulous Headsticks. Any band that can take their folk/punk/rock/blues/social comment into a small village pub and have the locals tapping their feet, singing along and agreeing with singer Andrew's intelligent and heartfelt lyrics is something special. Even the Tory on the front row was won over! With no stage and the audience having to go out of the pub and round to a side door to access the toilets due to a drum kit in front of the toilets entrance, you know it's going to be an intimate gig! The pub;The King William in Milford, Derbyshire reminded me of The Dog & Partridge venue in Marchington, Staffordshire where I once played a Sunday afternoon/early evening gig. A lovely venue where the locals support all genres and make the artists feel welcome, whether they are used to some balding, spectacled acoustic singer songwriter shouting alternative viewpoints at them or not. On the eve of Headsticks releasing a new CD, the audience were treated to two sets from the band playing all the songs from both their new CD (out the following week) and their fantastic debut. With the new songs sounding rocky, catchy and as one of the band commented 'incendiary'! 2016 looks like being a great year for Headsticks.... I walked home with my friend afterwards (and a good walk it was too and after 8 miles I'd walked in Derbyshire earlier that day) full of hope and inspiration from those wonderful songs of love, life and the hope for a better world.
On that note - take care and stay free,
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(c) Chris Butler 2016
visitors since March 2004