Venue: The Labour Club (Website)
Event: Acoustic Allstars
Location: 95-97 Charles St Northampton England NN1 3BG
For Friday 6th February we can offer:
plus further guests to be announced.
Not bad for nothing...
Joe Woolley is first up. I've seen Joe a few times before. I really like what he does, but he freaks me out because of his extraordinary resemblance to the young Kevin Ayers. A tall, skinny, cheeky white bloke singing the blues, Joe charms the audience from the start. He's borrowed Curtis' guitar too, so for the first time he doesn't have to worry about keeping the instrument near the microphone, on account of it's already plugged into the PA direct. The result is easily the best sound I have heard Joe have. Splendid stuff. No fighting or anything. Marvellous.
Then it's time for Fat Bloke Karaoke. I have my Burns in my lap and my DAT player by my side. I'm all set to screw shit up royally. Soon there will be howls of "Judas" from the acoustic music fans. Soon the management will be asking "Is that all he does?"
In fact, just for a moment, it appears that I may not even be going to get that far. The DAT takes an alarmingly long time to roll, but when it does I'm off on a wing and a prayer and a Fun Lovin' Criminals sample. I play: Out Of Touch Radio Saigon A new song, which is currently - and terrifyingly - called "Brian Wilson" Scarlett and Indian Summer. Despite the fact that the new tune is a complete and utter dirge, it all goes down remarkably well. I make a few screw-ups on the guitar, but nothing too ghastly. I think that Fat Bloke Karaoke may be around for a while to come. Oh, it's not really called Fat Bloke Karaoke. It's called "Pat Fish". For the moment anyway. You know, I rather like Fat Bloke Karaoke. With the fat bloke duly unplugged comes the first appearance of Ghost Train. Steve Gordon, Ian Anderson and Kathy Schaer park themselves on stools on the stage. The gentlemen have acoustic guitars, the lady a big old acoustic bass. There is not so much as a microphone anywhere near them. "We're Ghost Train, and we play acoustic music," says softly-spoken Steve, and it begins to dawn on the punters that if they want to catch any of this stuff they had better shut the feck up. Wonderfully, after a little shooshing, the crowded club really does fall silent as Ghost Train open up with a beautifully authentic western swing instrumental. The room watches entranced as Kath sings a lonesome prairie sort of cowboy song, another perky wee instrumental flashes by and they are gone, to thunderous applause. Lovely music, properly played. And it's free to get in, for Heaven's sakes.
Steve later told me that he hadn't realised quite how quiet the band were going to sound in a club situation. Nothing that a couple of well-placed overhead mics won't fix next time.
As the Budvar flowed, Curtis E. Johnson picked up a guitar in public for the first time in an age. Picking deliberately through every nuance of the spicey little minor chord sequence, he opened up with The Harlem Hamfats classic "Weed Smoker's Dream". Rough and tough, we couldn't get enough. We got Big Jake, we got that tune about mining in outer space, we got a sublime version of "Breathe", we got a rare and precious version of the Boris Yeltsin song, we got songs about repression in Guatemala and we got songs about Cullen Skink. Best of all, we got a completely unexpected and utterly riveting rendition of Brian Eno's "The Fat Lady Of Limbourg". Unforgettable!
So that was my first attempt at Acoustic Allstars. Nobody got hurt, everybody got paid. Tidy. The next one will be on Friday 5th March at the Labour Club once again, and I'll pass on details of the bill when it's finalised. Until then, thanks to all at the Labour Club, to Andy Skank, to all the artists and to all the people who came and listened. We love you.