Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What the folk was all that...?

My regular, long-suffering readers will know of my recent conversion to the fabulous world of the ukulele so it was with great excitement and anticipation that I said 'yes' to my first gig, you know playing in front of real people who had even paid money for the privilege. It was at a local Folk Festival on a cold rainy night and my partners in crime were not keen to go but I used my powers of persuasion and a bit of the old JuJu on them until they relented. To be honest, it was only the promise of free food and soft drinks that was calling me. With no bar, the others were not so fussed.

Now I wasn't expecting Glastonbury, in fact, I don't know what I was expecting. What I wasn't prepared for was to find myself in the middle of what seemed like an episode of The Vicar of Dibley.

We set off from home, me, my two ukulele Homegirls, Hannah and Helen, Hannah's niece, Sarah, fresh from the heady world of advertising in London, and a bag full of beer to get through the evening.

Things started to go wrong when we got there, a 40 minute drive from home, and opened the boot.

'Where's my uke?' asked Hannah.

We did that rummaging around in an empty boot thing, even though there was no way her concert sized ukulele in its flash green crocodile skin case could be hidden under my wellies.

'It's not here,' I said, stating the obvious. Instead of the flash green crocodile case, there was a green carrier bag full of beer.

'I must of thought 'green' and just assumed I had my uke,' said Hannah. At least we know where her priorities lie!

So, there we were, all ready for the gig but minus a uke. Having ascertained that no-one had a spare, we called in the cavalry, in the shape of Hannah's husband, who agreed to bring her uke over, risking, as it turned out, maybe not life but definitely limb.

The festival was in hall of a pretty little village. We walked in, expecting a crowd of people rocking out to some good ole folk sounds. What we found was just good ole folk.. average age 103 and a half, plenty of hearing aids in sight, and all sitting down at tables where they had brought their own nibbles. They were the sort of people that had nibbles. On the stage were two middle aged women and a man playing a guitar who couldn't pronounce his Rs (the man, not the guitar!). They were clearly not professionals. My heart sank. Had we really dragged ourselves all this way in the rain for this? Sarah stood, pressed against the door, looking ready to bolt at any minute, a look of mute shock on her face. I think I can safely say she had never experienced anything like this.

We made our way over to our band mates, squashed in the corner with the remnants of a tray of sandwiches. That was obviously the 'free food' and all that was left was a curled up tuna sandwich. I have strong feelings about tuna sandwiches, none of which are good. We sat politely listening to the people on stage. I developed a terrible fit of the giggles, while Hannah gave me the evil eye and mouthed 'this is all your fault.' At first I thought it was just me but gradually I realised that the rest of the group were equally unimpressed with both the set up and the quality of the entertainment.

After a rousing rendition of 'All Around My Hat', a song that makes me want to drink bleach, complete with green willow around said hats, they left the stage, much to our relief.  I mimed slashing my wrists to Hannah. Sarah was still pressed up against the door, wondering if she had stumbled into some sort of parallel universe while Helen busied herself with ensuring that everyone had sufficient beer to drown their sorrows. I heartily wished that I wasn't teetotal.

Next up was a man with 'a bit of a bad chest'. His opening song was unaccompanied (although he was holding a guitar). It was about the Somerset Coal Canal. I pretended to hang myself with my scarf while Hannah mouthed 'I'll never forgive you.'

We decided to try and liven the place up a bit but the he was followed Hinge and Bracket on violin (slightly out of tune) and accordion. They played a medley of songs from around the UK, missing out Wales because they won the Six Nations.Well don't ask me, that's just what they said. I didn't really have them down as rugby fans to be honest. I had hoped, after 5 years living in France, never to hear another accordion again.  I suggested we left and went to the pub.

At this point, Hannah's husband limped in, clothes muddied, but her uke safe in his hands. Now we all love Steve, but really, how does someone manage to shut their shoelaces in their front door then tumble down the front steps, landing in an undignified heap, only to then get clouted on the head by a very hard ukulele case? Early claims of a broken ankle mercifully proved false.

Things looked up slightly (and for me briefly) with the arrival on stage of a band called Folklaw. After one song, I thought 'Against the Law' might be a better name.

They consisted of two ridiculously tall men, one with a ponytail playing a union jack fiddle, the other, a rather natty looking guitar, which I'm hoping, bearing in mind their half-hearted set of protest songs, came from a sustainable source. They apparently sing all over Europe and the US, although I suspect it's actually just on street corners with a hat in front of them.

The Ponytailed One was the lead singer. He sang through his teeth in a manner slightly reminiscent of Prince Charles on acid. I felt the urge to punch him.  The guitarist had delusions of Jimmy Hendrix. I'm sorry, but you just can't rock out to folk songs and any attempt to do so just makes you look silly. Almost as silly as the song about selling off the forests with a very embarrassing air punch to a cry of 'hey, hey.' I was sitting on my hands at this stage and wondering if there was any chance of a hit of a Class A drug. When the UnPonytailed One appeared with a Bodhran that he clearly couldn't play, I started making my scarf into a noose. I will be honest and say that my homegirls loved them (but then they had been drinking) and we did try to get into the spirit of things but the spirit of things in that part of the world seemed to be listening politely and quietly with a bit of a two finger patter at the end.  Our neighbouring tables seemed unimpressed with our vocal harmonies. Have you ever been eye-balled by a pensioner with a hearing aid? It's freaky!

We were due to close the show at around 11pm. though I'm fairly sure most of the assembled audience would have nodded off long before then, and I was seriously worried about what torture the second half  would bring, but in an act of mercy, which left me thanking God in all his various incarnations, they moved us to the beginning of the second half as someone was ill.

We don't really do many folk numbers to be honest. The joy of playing the ukulele is that you can be ironic. We play The Undertones, Abba, The Zutons, people like that, so our set was all about energy rather than shipping canals.  I think we woke them up. We opened with Sit Down by James, which in fact turned out to be a quite appropriate as when several members of the audience got up to show their appreciation, they were told to sit down and be quiet, then followed with a dash of Mamma Mia,  a soupcon of Bonnie Tyler (It's a Heartache) complete with cheesy narration from George, a zhuzh of  Teenage Kicks and a liberal dollop of Elbow's One Day Like This. Holy Cow! Desert was a medley of Rudy by The Specials mashed up with Blondie's The Tide is High. People were whooping and hollering - in the brief moment before being eyeballed by a whole series of pensioners.

It was huge fun but with closing time at the pub fast approaching, we decided to make a dash for it, rather than re-enter DibleyWorld with its nibbles and hearing aids.  The rest of the band had come by minibus and had to sit it out, poor buggers!

No, Folklaw...just no!


Curry Queen said...

That made me laugh and laugh! All Around My Hat also makes me want to self-harm, it's truly dreadful, especially as people always put on a horrible, whiny nasal voice when they sing it...

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