Venue: The Musician
Location: 42 Crafton St. West (off Clyde St.) Leicester England LE1 2DE
📝 Pat Says
It’s almost Christmas. In function rooms across the nation bosses are leering at their employees’ wives. Identikit shopping centres across the land are open late to squeeze the last few drops of disposable from the desperate. This Christmas it’s gonna be different. This Christmas it’s gonna be OK. Oh, Frankie, Frankie.
I have flu; proper chest-full-of- immovable-green-filth flu. I have had flu for the past three gigs and I have it now. For my dinner tonight I have enjoyed a bag of Mini-Cheddars and some Guinness flavoured potato crisps. I have a pint of Amstel, the remains of my spliff, three cigarettes and one pound seventy pence in change. Inside the club Kevin Hewick, barefoot and resplendent in his immaculate Nehru suit, is delivering a series of songs of astonishing intensity to an audience of about ten people.
Time’s running out. The money’s running out.
You had a good time, now the money’s running out.
This is where it has all been leading. Let’s hit it.
The Musician in Leicester is a lovely venue. A proper, open-every-night live music venue that hosts acts from the West Coast of America as easily as it hosts local talent. Managed by the charming Chris with the indomitable Malcolm at the controls, it is clean, professional and altogether lovely. Chairs and tables, complete with candles. Excellent, professional PA system. Nice dressing room. Soap in the bathrooms. It’s a class joint.
To be honest, the only reason they are entertaining me and my pals the Venus Fly Trap is because Leicester legend Kevin Hewick has asked them to, but such is the pleasant vibe about the place that this is clearly good enough for Malcolm and everybody else and they treat us very kindly indeed. Malcolm later tells me that, back in his Leicester days, Liam Dullaghan of “New Barcelona” fame was a regular, yea even unto the point of spending the occasional night sleeping on the stage.
Beautiful, purpose-built music club though it be, nobody could mistake the Musician for a place that benefits from a bustling central location. As Alex from the Fly Trap put it, it’s a “destination venue”. You’re not getting any casual walk-up here. This particular Thursday, two grim weeks before Christmas, people have not chosen to make the Musician their destination.
None of this bothers Kevin. Airily pointing out to the few brave listeners that “I haven’t been here for...oooooh...two or three days”, he sets off into an astonishing set of tunes. At one point, as this huge, imposing presence intones a dark and rumbling “Yeeeeeeeeah!” a phrase forms spontaneous and uninvited in my mind: “Folk Clubs of the Cretaceous.” It does not feel like taking the piss. In fact, it feels entirely correct and slightly awesome.
He might be on home turf. He might be going on first on a slow Thursday night in his local hang-out. It doesn’t matter. Kevin gives it everything, burns like Alan Vega and ends up, a fifty-something man with an acoustic guitar, sounding a lot like Nirvana at the top of their game. Follow that!
Tonight I have come with my electric Gretsch and my home-cooked beats. After witnessing Micky Greaney’s astonishing solo acoustic performance on Friday night in Birmingham, I cannot bring myself even to attempt anything in the singer-songwriter line tonight. It’s all been done, better than I could have ever imagined. You should try to hear Micky’s new song “Playlist”, you really should.
There was a moment back at the Oxford gig where, at the bilious conclusion of “Shirley Maclaine”, the poor, overloaded speakers started to vibrate in a rhythm quite different to that which I was generating with my right hand. It sounded like some absurd “acoustic” version of Suicide. Tonight I have a version of their song “Che” on my set list. I have the use of Andy Denton’s Marshall combo and (thanks to the generosity of Tim Harries) a bunch of analogue pedals that go one, two, three louder. Tonight I want to give it some; go down in flames and shit. Yeah.
It doesn’t really happen that way. With some mumbled remarks about the Heat Death of the Universe, I set the little MP3 player off and we’re into a fairly competent but hardly inspiring “Shame About You”. The perverse disco beat of “Che” starts up and I get to mess with the Bigsby a little bit but, with the best will in the world, it all comes out a bit Dave Gilmour down the pub of a Sunday lunchtime.
It’s dark up here. I can’t see the audience. For reasons which seem opaque even at only a few days’ distance I choose to continue with “Wildlife”, a six minute, three chord dirge about dead people. Conceived in the aftermath of seeing John Cale perform “Paris 1919” with an orchestra, it aspires to a certain detatched stateliness; though, to be fair, it would also be possible to see it as a giant waste of everybody’s time. It goes all right, though and now I’m firing up for the Turkish remix of Buffalo Sniper. This gives me the opportunity to explore how Andy’s Marshall responds to demands for feedback and I am delighted to discover that it responds very nicely indeed. Well, I say “nicely”...
As the feedback dies away, the familiar, shuffling beat of “Shakey” starts to run and I manage a half-decent version of that particular six minute, three chord dirge as well. Next, I’m expecting the intro to Southern Mark Smith (complete with sampled Max Eider). Instead I listen, appalled, as the sound of a wheezing Casio issues from the PA. It is the sound of Mister Blagdon!
Mister Blagdon, so local legend has it, was murdered and “walled-up” about a hundred and fifty years ago in the house where I used to live. One day in the nineteen-nineties he manifested via the medium of the Casio keyboard in my living room and committed to tape four small and diseased musical offerings, one of which, his...uh...personal take on Beethoven’s “death march” , is currently dripping like sonic mucus from the PA system. I turn to the MP3 player to discover that I have somehow programmed this into my set list. I have, in fact, somehow confused it with a ten second silence.
Mister Blagdon duly evicted, I perform a fairly undistinguished version of “Southern Mark Smith”. And there it is. We are on the very precipice: just one more song to go. It is, as The King liked to say, now or never. The voice of William Burroughs croaks ominously over a fat, syrupy synthesiser pad, the Indian wedding tabla loops fall into place and here we go into “Solar Core”. If I have anything left to offer, here comes my last chance. It goes all right, as it happens, sparky and vicious, with plenty of that there feedback. For the first time I actually start to make the kind of noise I had been wanting to make all night. Let’s face it, I should really have started here.
I’ve not gone down in flames but I’ve not disgraced myself either. As I’m packing away my kit, Malcolm the sound man tells me that I have “some good material”.
In due course the Fly Trap take to the stage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them quite this good before. Very tough, very crunchy; and I can’t help but notice that Andy has eagerly taken up the Feedback Challenge.
The evening winds down very pleasantly. A kind man buys me a pint. We make an uneventful journey back to NN1, where I am deposited upon my doorstep.
My engagement book is completely empty. So is my bank account. I’m 55 years old and I have no more idea of what my immediate future might hold than a teenager who’s just walked out of school for the last time. Where, oh where, do we go from here?
Hang on Mr Fish, please hang on...we need you and your music...!!!