Sunday morning writes

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Sunday morning writes, as I term these sketches, have played an important roll as snapshots back to the past as I roll on in years: the memory often has to be triggered into life these days. Once triggered though the sounds, atmosphere and the resulting emotions easily flood back.

As I look at the snowy landscape I can relive, in the true spirit of re-runs in other entertainment media, the opening music event to 2012. The 4th of February saw the snow fall on this Saturday night, the temperature dropped — but only outside the Scout & Guide Hall in Audlem. Inside the gigged rocked! For the handful of people that made it out on the one winter's night of 2012 — they had a ball.

The Wash

From the minute local band The Wash (pictured above) enticed you in with 'She's my religion', the temperature started to rise. With the main lights down, stage lights up, the Hall becomes transformed, front man Wayne Capper cut a formidable image through the laser lit haze, his unique vocal style drove through the band's set.

This band, which features local musicians, the Marshalls, anchoring the rhythm section, has really evolved in 2012 featuring in gigs around the northwest's music scene.

Modern Alarms.

One of the rising bands on the Manchester scene also played that night. With no introductions the stage erupted with Modern Alarms. (seen here in the first photo above) anthemic 'Voodoo dancing monkey man', ask anyone who has witnessed this live in Audlem, it's a floor filler.

The band is tight, technically and emotionally, no doubt about the influences of Manchester bands that underlies Modern Alarms. sound, it's the added energy driven from their lyrics that metamorphosis front man Dom, creating memorable performances, whether an audience of one or thousands, this band performs and never fails to engage.

I recall I wrote "I'm not sure that this is reminiscent of one of those points in history, such as the legendary Sex Pistols gig at Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in June 1976: one of the most influential gigs of all time. Hundreds of people have claimed: "I was there." Given an estimated 35 — 45 people that night, but if ever it does, I will say "I was there".
Look out for Modern Alarms.

Lord C & Reubadubs

Thursday nights in Audlem, usually at the Lord Combermere, (nice pub, good ale and food, Landlord's a decent chap but the Landlady takes the votes), is one place where you will often find your vibrant local live music scene in full swing.

That's if you venture out from your abodes, as many do, but for those that give in to the warmth of central heating and the box, you're missing a great night out!

The Lord C venue has started to reach celeb status in outreaches like Manchester's Northern Quarter, where I've seen the posters! Indeed, folk are making their way to join in with the local music scene to see acts that vary from the likes of Inspiral Carpets' Tom Hingly with his Thames Valley Delta Blues to Folk and Country inspired, highly entertaining, Tap the Keg from near-by Shropshire.

Ruben Palin

One of the key factors in making this work, other than the Landlord's enthusiasm for live music and ultimate investment, was Reubadub promotions, Ruben Palin. However, in 2012 the call of the surf, and the beauty of the Pembrokeshire coastline with its beaches and rugged cliff tops, cosy hamlets and a pace of life that allows you to enjoy your surroundings enticed the Palins. Though still retaining a base here in Audlem, Reuben & Jane headed for their South Wales haven.

Manchester was the music scene that Reuben enjoyed and shared with us through Reubadub Promotions. Both Reuben and Jane were instrumental in fetching some of the best singer songwriters and bands to the Village.

Audlem Festival and Oxjam

Cheshire

Thursday nights at the Lord Combermere saw many of the acts, as did the Audlem Festival and Oxjam. The likes of Taylor and the Mason, Modern Alarms. The Travelling Band will forever be the band that Reub worked hard, indeed stalked, to get to play in Audlem. Jon Gomm, before Stephen Fry's 'WOW' twitter and the amazing Gideon Conn: The Rainband — one of the best bands I have witnessed — ever! Rook and the Ravens to name a few.

Throughout 2012 we witnessed week after week of some of the best talent around, featuring along with the likes of local legend Jim Kirkpatrick, ever present 'Gunners' Gunstone on keys, and Alisdair Grant MacKenzie who has played with everyone including Ocean Colour Scene.

The Folkwits — Dave Nettleton and Kel Brammer, the many variations of Heidi Peaches Browne along with the very talented Jack Marshall, who in his own right released his Blue Moon Video featuring Kirsty Marshall. The individual lyrical sound of Elly Kingdon now resident on the scene.

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I recall even the Duffey Boys blowing the dust off their guitars, Blue Cafe, Alg Halliwell & Val Warner revamping the line up with local players that included Sevi G, Paul Taylor, Sally Keighley, inspiration and my fellow co-writer from the Rootless Vagabonds Mike Waldron and myself.

Young bands

We saw local young bands playing with the likes of Callum Palin, Ronan Haughey and Anna Vaughan in various guises, as well as established musicians Toby and Naomi Newman performing at the Methodist Production as well in line ups at the Lord C.

Vocalist Francis Hughes and Audlem Voices, local folk legends Dave Martin and John Hardy leading the way, including the local local Folk session that has now moved to the Bridge, and the evergreen Rose Constandine's Itchy Feet. I'm sure I will have sadly missed out some of the many local contributions to this vibrant music scene.

Thursdays at the Lord C are really special and your love of live music keeps it all going, along with music at the Shroppie Fly, The Bridge, the Chillinights, Blue Cafe nights, and one off events like the Party in the Park.

Moments

I often refer to 'Moments' when I write about live music. In essence these are pure emotion as something special evolves during a set, a collaboration, an inspired cover, often something new and creative that will never be replicated anywhere else outside of that set.

I have enjoyed many over the years, The Travelling Band playing purely acoustic at Whelans in Dublin, along with their performance at the Lord C. The Dunwell Brothers when the power died at Audlem mid song just carrying on playing acoustic with superb harmonies, likewise Gideon Conn as he walked through the audience with just his guitar and biting lyrics, where you felt out of your comfort zone and at the same time a part of something special. Reef playing live at Triumph Live — awesome, The Reads at Telfords, (anywhere really — that sound just pulls you in), Taylor & Mason playing in a Yurt on a beach at a wedding in Wales.

David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' was a 'moment, as we say, a version played live as part of the encore to Phil Maddocks' set at the Lord C. Phil Maddocks, a singer songwriter from down Congleton way. The 'moment' came following Phil's masterful version of Marvin Gaye's 'Ain't that peculiar', with Bayes on bass and McKenzie on bass clarinet, Phil moved into the 'Let's dance'. Bayes retired from the stage and Alisdair switched to sax and the magic began. From the clean acoustic guitar to Maddocks' vocal, the scene was set — if the Bowie track was about to be owned at this moment, the sax nailed it.

This is what Live Music is about for me — this line up of musicians was a one-off, the choice of track, voted for by the audience, was far from usual for this style of acoustic set.

"So Who this year?..."

Taylor and the Mason will definitely find the spot, an acoustic duo from the North West, singer-songwriters Sally Mason and Becky Taylor. They have been gigging and pedalling their own brand of folky-acoustic-pop style of music for about two years.

The Lord C Audlem was visited by Taylor and the Mason, harmonies that would do justice to the Puppini Sisters or the Andrews Sisters (for those old enough, and them that appreciate vocal harmonies, you'll know what I mean).

A Friday in the Methodist Church, Pollyanna song firmly fixed in my head and rightly so. You could not ignore the wonderful acting, and clever production that created a memorable performance. Musically, the talented Newmans, Naomi and Toby produced and orchestrated their self-penned tunes and lyrics with a choral performance of note. The Choirs voices really creating a West End style musical right here in Audlem.

A Saturday night saw a trip to the O2 Academy in Manchester to see Leeds band the Kaiser Chiefs. The band hit the music headlines in 2005 with their first album Employment. There was no let up in their performance on this 25 date tour in 29 days.

One mention for Stoke band All the Young watch out for them, energetic, tight and a big sound really set the stage.

Nikki Rouse

Shropshire's Nikki Rouse. I'm not sure whether or not I'm just easily pleased: I walk out of my back door, something like 200 metres to the Lord Combermere where, usually on a Thursday night I can hear live music, and share good company. Well, Nikki Rous, amazing voice, with a distinctive style, entertaining and who trained as a classical singer. With just a guitar, a voice and a presence delivered a mix of self-penned material with some interesting covers before sharing her soul through her own song writing. Clearly a talented individual with a growing fan base, she really delivered a powerful vocal performance at the Lord C.

Guitar George

Cheshire

"I don't know any other way to perform but by giving it my all" George Borowski commented as he finished his opening number. That was evident by the looks and smiles on the faces that surrounded me. That was a powerful indication of the performance that was to follow.

George, take the opening of what I shall call 'it's a myth'. "Who's come along tonight to see and hear Guitar George" Borowski asked, before it could be answered he sang out 'It's a myth", "it's the truth" Poyzer sang back which created the impromptu pantomime routine, as George and the audience bantered back and forth "It's a myth", "it's the truth" in various turns as George himself mixed the responses.

Still playing the rocky rift that accompanied this George regaled the story of Guitar George. During the late 70s George's band, The Out, played as a resident support slot to a number of the great and good bands emerging at that time.

On one of those evenings Mark Knopfler's Dire Straits took to the stage. It was after this performance that Mark Knopfler approached George and complemented him on his guitar. To which George offered him the old guitar as long as he promised to use it and not have it as a trophy on the wall.

George recalled "Knopfler said, that's a great guitar sound you've got. How come you don't play solos?" "The thing is, I can't really play solos, I just play chords." Borowski replied. So inspired, Knopfler wrote a song called Sultans Of Swing: "You check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords: Mind he's strictly rhythm he doesn't want to make it cry or sing; And an old guitar is all he can afford; When he gets up under the lights to play his thing"

Alex Hulme

Music Festival 2011 Alex Hulme at Hoc's.

Alex Hulme's performance, for those that have yet to witness it, is one of complexity, mixing his use of unusual tunings, inspired by the likes of Nick Drake, Fionn Regan and Foy Vance — with realtime multilayered looping of guitars and vocals (it has to be seen to be believed). Alex creates immediate pop songs with catchy melodies and rich folk guitar.
 
This is one hard working singer — songwriter, compared to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard.

Richie Syrett, a talented singer songwriter whose distinctive signature sound of typically melodic ragged style makes a grateful nod to a number of influences, was also a welcome change of pace and style.

Garron Frith, a singer/songwriter who can write lyrics and perform and you just know its a matter of time, with lady luck alongside, before he gets his break.

The Rainband

The Rainband at the Lord Combermere

One band for 2012 for me was The Rainband. Martin Finnigan is an extraordinary person, fronting a great band, through an extraordinary and emotional year for them all, our paths crossed many times, from the Lord C, Triumph Live and Manchester and following their exploits in Italy. Supporting a cause for a young, engaging Italian motorcyclist who lost his life in 2011, Marco Simoncelli.

On the same day Manchester City had beaten Manchester United 6-1, halfway across the world in a MotoGp race Marco lost his life. Significance for a City supporter as Finny and a United fan as myself? I had watched the MotoGp earlier in the day unlike Finny who arrived home after the match to the news of Simoncelli's death.

Both of us felt little relevance for the result in our own way's that day, but it inspired Finny to write a song that was later adopted to support the Simoncelli Foundation set up by Marco's family — 'Rise Again'. That song has travelled the world as did a signed fender in support of the foundation and raised significant funds that will go to good use. I had met Simoncelli a year earlier in 2011 at the Mugello GP, sat in the race paddock and though significantly younger than me, was taken by his openness to the extent it was like I'd known him all his life such was the man.

The Folkwits

Music Festival 2012 The Folkwits

to my local pub to watch local musicians Kel Brammer and Dave Nettleton playing at the Lord C. I buy a drink or two, I meet friends and I get to listen to one of the most talked about acts from Nantwich Jazz and Blues weekend, The Folkwits.

I witnessed a performance that was more amazing, entertaining and involving than you thought possible for a pub gig. Such harmonies, controlled playing, and a more heartfelt performance could you want to witness, it was sensational.

The Folkwits hit another level, and for one who has seen them from day one, the level of performance if you had seen it on Jools Holland you'd rush to your laptop to download the album from iTunes! Seriously brilliant, and you did not have to watch it on your telly, the downside for those that missed it is that it's not on catchup, but just ask anyone who was there, you'd wish you had been.

Blues Boy Dan

Remember how Jim Kirkpatrick captivated audiences with his great guitar playing and magic with the blues at an early age, well say hello to Blues Boy Dan. Blues Boy Dan, a young talent, came on a wave of top reviews, having started out playing guitar at 13, Dan's career has gone from strength to strength supporting the likes of Paul Jones, Dave Kelly and The Blues Band. 

Bagpipe and Hurdy Gurdy Day

Who can forget the 15th Audlem Bagpipe and Hurdy Gurdy Day at the Bridge Inn. Always a fascinating afternoon of musical bewilderment, a mixture of what can only be described as folk roots and beyond.

And many more

Music festival 2011 Poyzer, Fluff & Farrell

The likes of Darren Poyzer, Roydan Styles, Kevin Farrell, Nick Bayes, Rook and the Ravens, Tap the Keg, to name a few, also graced Audlem with their talent, live and for nothing more than walking in to your local. Don't get me wrong here, I am just amazed that given the level of the quality of talent that play here we do not see more people attending the events.

Audlem Festival

Audlem Music & Arts Festival 2012 did fetch people out. A fantastic event that saw its 11th year, and is still free thanks to local sponsorship, with some eighty odd acts lined up which included a Poetry Slam on the opening Thursday, along with a mix of music styles and something for everyone's taste.

It always caters for variety in the musical genres and styles, all ages, new artists and established artists. Many performers play the large festivals and stages around the world, and love coming here to play.

The magic of the event is that it reflects the village, a friendly open atmosphere for all ages, perfect for families and friends to get together for an entertaining five days last year thanks to the Queen's Jubilee.

Who can forget the performance by the Bar steward sons of Val Doonican at the Bridge, or Louis Barrabas and the bedlam six at the Lord C, Jeremiah Ferrari, Matrix Club Remix (or who ever they ended up being called!) so many great acts, over 86, over 5 days, over indulged!

Well, you can look for a repeat at the up coming Audlem Music and Arts Festival at the end of May in 2013. No wrist bands or entrance fees, just you, your family and friends.

Nantwich Jazz & Blues

Nantwich Jazz and Blues over the Easter weekend. Full of top quality artists, as well as grass roots performers, as long as you buy a ticket and a wristband to see them. I'm not adverse to paying to see the artists, and as a 'musician', I like the fact that you get paid for performing, but you cannot help drawing parallels at times.

My main day at Nantwich was the Sunday, local performers were playing, and I took the opportunity to take to the streets of Nantwich and sample the atmosphere. The weather was OK and there were people about, but it lacked any atmosphere I felt.

The music was good, a lot predictable, but hey it is the Jazz and Blues, what would you expect to hear.

Personally I feel that the Nantwich festival has, following previous years, been more about queuing up outside popular pubs, more for the 'being seen' and having a drink value, than to see the artists performing. There are pockets where it retains its original values and the music takes precedence, but not the festival it used to be.

What I did take away, were some of the cracking performances I witnessed, and reports of performances I couldn't get to, about local bands from Audlem. Heidi Browne and Jack Marshall performed a few sets over the weekend, and I listened to audiences waxing lyrical about them, and 'how they were so pleased to get to see them again', they certainly left their mark.

The Wash, rocked the Union with a very tight set, and Gambler absolutely rocked the White Horse. The Folkwits stole the audience at their gig in the Crown ballroom. I know because so many people told me, to the extent that I thought I was actually there.

However, I left early Sunday evening and wended my way back to the village and the Shroppie Fly, mainly to see Heavy Weather. Bearing in mind that this was Jim Kirkpatrick's third gig of the day, and umpteenth of the weekend, it had to be the best.

A fairly light crowd it would be fair to say, saw Jim perform with with his band. An absolute stunning set, relaxed, but tight, the 'rehearsals' earlier in the day culminated in a stunning performance at the Shroppie Fly.

It was a free performance I would gladly have paid my Jazz and Blues £6.00 wristband fee for. I left having enjoyed a good, no, a great gig, with a good group of friends less than half a mile from home.

Theatre

... it was just a matter of time... 30 years.... since Daystar Theatre took to performing live theatre along the canals and waterways and latterly Rural theatre venues, and never before in Audlem. For probably one of the best known performance acts from the Village that was extraordinary.
 
Not that Daystar don't have a local fan base, indeed they do, with many familiar faces turning up at the numerous venues across the length and breadth of the nation.

The Scout and Guide Hall did its transformation act to provide an intimate cabaret style of Rural theatre and the venue for Daystar Theatre, and their production of '... a 'matter of time', performed to a sell out audience.

Quality

The quality of bands and artists here in the Village is one thing, I have also had the good fortune to see and hear a lot of artists over the last few decades of all areas of musical styles, and 2012 just added a few more revelations.

In all though for 2012, I say that Rook and the Ravens are up there with the ones I listen too, and that includes a lot of major artists. The Travelling Band, The Dunwells, The Reads, The Folkwits, Heavy Weather etc have really shown that we don't have to rely on the music industry to put out the bands we should listen to when they want us to.

In many cases it's already out there on your doorstep, in Audlem. Why not forget the diet and add some food for your soul in 2013.