Venue: The Folk House (Website)
Location: 40a Park Street Bristol England
Telephone: 0117 9262987
Safely back at Mooney's, we relax. Then comes a moment of disbelieving panic when Jon rings to say that his van has died. Two or three phone calls later, it turns out that the consummate professional has just let his bus run out of gas. Relieved, Bot and Mooney take him petrol, while we get the kit together for sound check.
Getting your equipment into Bristol's Folk House involves climbing about thirty steep concrete steps, making a U-turn and going back along a balcony some fifteen yards to the stage door. I do not envy Applecraft as they tote their enormous bass wardrobe up the stairs. Inside there is a big, wooden room with a very small vocal PA. On the walls are posters for a forthcoming show by Julie Felix. The big, wooden room is strewn with tastefully arranged chairs and tables. It makes me nervous. Bot is travelling down with Mooney. Steve, Kath and I load our stuff in, then, while The Craft essay a soundcheck, we head for the Hatchet Inn.
The Hatchet Inn claims to be one of the oldest surviving pubs in England, dating back to fifteen-something. It is certainly one of the hardest pubs to get into. We skirt around its exterior for some time without finding any door; then, as we round the beer garden (protected by hefty wrought iron railings), we find ourselves in a small urban wind tunnel. A short struggle up here and we gain entrance. We sit down to a peaceful bite to eat and a drink.
Back at the Folk House, the Craft are struggling with the classic "Big Room - Little PA" interface. Mike Crawford goes whizzing around Bristol at dizzying speeds to lay his hands on various items of kit. We mill about, quietly wondering whether we will even be able to attempt a set through the system that they have here. Eventually we get a soundcheck and eventually we even have a reasonable sound. Much patience all round and eventual satisfaction. Midway through our check the Langley brothers show up, but by the time we have got things right they are gone again. I set out towards the street to see if I can find them, but instead I run into Syd and Anna Meats up from Romsey, so then it's back to the bar for draft Budvar and pancake recipes (this last bit really floats MC Bot's boat).
Gerard Langley reappears, minus John, who's gone home for a nice night in. "He's not that sociable really," offers Gerard, not entirely convincingly. Gerard reveals to us that our soundman is his current bass player. Oh yes, and the bartender is his guitarist. Truly, we are all Gerard's ducks. The great Joe Allen stumbles by, bent on poetry-related mayhem. Gabriel and Joe (no relation) are up from Exeter. It's a nice vibration.
After a set of gospel dementia from a man whom I only know as Jesse (he is, to be fair, a rightly celebrated fixture on the Bristol scene and a phenomenally gifted guitar player), we get onstage at about a quarter to ten. The room is hardly heaving, but all the chairs are taken up and there is a reasonable crowd. The fact that they are sitting down in this nice, big wooden room is pretty disconcerting, mind. Stevie G later declares this the weirdest gig that he has ever done. "They just sort of sat there and looked at you." He's right. There's hardly a rocking atmosphere, and the lighting is pretty funny too. My equipment is working properly tonight, at least. We deliver our set (the same as last night) to a reasonable response, but nothing really catches fire. In a situation like this we miss Agent Wilson and his percussion. The set is all quite competent, but we can't really get any vibrations going, making our little noise in this big, wooden room. Still, I can't say that I didn't enjoy it, honking and blatting away up there. In some ways it was an improvement on Bath, but we missed having the people near us, leaping about.
By the way, while we're on the subject of weird gigs, might I just point out that it was Steve Gordon who, a few short years ago, booked us into a gig at a roller skating rink, where the audience came at you downhill at about fifteen miles per hour in an endless stream?
Once our kit is offstage and out of the way, a very portentous gentleman comes onstage and tells us all to shut up because now there's going to be a poet and she's going to be very good. I pack my kit bag in nervous silence, occasionally looking up to see if MC Bot has succumbed to the giggles yet. Kit safely stowed, we leave the punters to their culture and make a bee-line for the bar.
By now the place is filling up, and there are lots of good old faces to be seen. Angelo Bruschini is in the house; Paul Wigens (who plays in a band called Grand Drive with two Wilson brothers!) is here; Franco and Tony have turned up, saying nice things about our band; Pat Duff, late of Strangelove, is here, looking fantastic. Apparently he's been making a record with Alex Lee. Well, as ideas go, I'd say that was a good one. To be honest, there's that much of a party feeling going off that I don't see too much of Applecraft's set. What I do see sounds surprisingly good, given the technical situation, and goes down well. An easy home win for The Craft. "Wait till we get you at home," we taunt them.
At closing time we board the Chrysler. We have decided to head for NN1 directly tonight and wake up in our own beds. We navigate our way out of Bristol without any difficulty, and as we hit the M32 out of town, I notice that it is just past one in the morning. To the sounds of the Fun Loving Criminals and The Stranglers we speed effortlessly through the night, arriving back at my front door at a scarcely credible half-past-two. A quick bevvy and we're off to bed ready for tomorrow's gig.