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!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Can't Get No Satisfaction...

Sorry for the lengthy gap between posts. Unfortunately life threw me some curved balls which temporarily crushed my creative spirit. Nothing I'm going in to here. I'm not one for airing my laundry, dirty or otherwise, in public. But I'm back now.

The Boy has just paid (for just paid, read I have just paid) for his ticket for Glastonbury, the lucky bugger. I so want to go. The line up is awesome, with some of my favourite bands; The Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons, Elvis Costello (last saw him in the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells when dinosaurs walked the earth), Rufus Wainright, The Lumineers, Two Door Cinema Club, Newton Faulkner, Penguin CafĂ©, Kenny Rogers (joke!), the list goes one and on. For a brief moment, I was nearly in the line up. Yes, really. Our ukulele club very nearly had a place on a stage at the back between the toilets and the ice cream van which is reserved for local bands. Unfortunately, when push came to shove, Mr Eavis wasn't prepared to provide the 30 day tickets that we would have needed. Swines! As if they don't make enough money out of the £205 ticket price. That's £205 plus a booking fee and a transaction fee which stick another £16 on top of it. If you were to break down the cost of seeing all the bands individually, it represents good value for money, but blimey, it's still an awful lot.

This morning, the papers are full of righteous indignation over the cost of tickets to see The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. People paid up to £300 for tickets that gave them access to a reserved area. Unfortunately, what the organisers forgot to mention was that people who bought the cheapest tickets, and cheapest is £95,  more than some people spend on feeding a family of four for a week, would also have access to the same area. Bit of a rip off.  I wouldn't be bothering to waste my time on them, even if I did have a ticket. 95 quid to stand in a publicly owned park and watch a bunch of old codgers who don't even pay tax in the UK. They should be doing the concert for free to thank all the poor fans they have shafted in recent years and the country that gave them fame and fortune but to which they contribute nothing.  Apparently they often show up in bars in the US and do impromptu jams. Clearly they don't think their British fans are worth it.
The Stones, incidentally, are headlining Glasto this year. Quite an achievement for a bunch of 70 year old men.

£300 to see this bunch of pensioners? You're having a larf!

I saw them over 20 years ago on their Voodoo Lounge tour. We had free tickets as a friend was working as transport manager for the tour.  All I can say is thank god they were free. Then in their 50s, the quality of their vocals was questionable and the dad-dancing was just embarrassing.  We had passes to the aftershow party as well but they had all gone home for a restorative mug of cocoa and a lie down. Anyone who saw Sir Macca wail and trill through the Queen's Jubilee concert and the Olympic ceremony knows that at some stage in your life the voice goes. Sir Mick has never been a great vocalist but even 20 years ago, he was rubbish. So more fool these idiots who have parted with so much money to see a bunch of incontinent geriatrics warble and strut around a stage. I'd rather have a nice cup of tea myself.

Bleugh! Pretty much how I feel
about the tax-avoiding Creaking Drones