Friday, September 12, 2008

Train Kept A-Rollin’

A combination of some of our favourite things this week as we in Songs from The Blue House entertained not only delusions of our own grandeur, but the radio-friendly listening public of East Anglia and beyond, and a disused railway station full of ale drinkers. We were pleased this week to be guests of Cambridge’s Sue Marchant, doyenne of the eastern region’s evening BBC radio network, and a deeply charming woman who makes the plate-spinning chaos of live radio seem effortless - not an easy thing to do when you have a live phone-in, a traffic report and half a dozen-or-so musicians clamouring for your attention all at the same time. We did a couple of songs, chipped in with a few witty remarks and generally tried our best to be both entertaining and informative, which I understand is the BBC’s remit. Sue was very kind about our music, we got some good feedback from the great listening public and we had a very nice post-show chat over a couple of pints and a red wine in the pub round the corner afterwards. “How is the single doing?” she asked on air. “We have absolutely no idea” replied Our Glorious Leader truthfully. As befits the members of a close-knit country-folk-bluegrass-pop autonomous collective, TT, Gib and I listened to Genesis on the way to the studio and Jane’s Addiction on the way back.
Another night, another show and we lugged our collective metaphorical suitcases to another hall – this time the Chappel rail museum in posh north Essex, where bass player and reformed trainspotter Gibbon was happy to be setting up amidst a veritable cornucopia of rail-related ephemera in what looked like the old booking office, now filled with cask upon cask of foaming ale and several hundred thirsty beer drinkers. So moved was he that he made one of his rare forays to the vocal mic ‘tween songs. “When I go, I want to be run over by a steam train” he said solemnly. “I’d be chuffed to bits…” Chastened by our previous Searchers-related beer-fest brouhaha we were not overly happy to hear the familiar cry “play something we know!” half way through the first set. Our Glorious Leader seemed to have the measure of the situation, however. “No” he said, quite simply. Mostly though, we encountered light hearted banter, and it was pleasing to see a succession of folk helping themselves to flyers and leaflets, all the better to acquaint themselves with our artistic oeuvre from the comfort of their own home computers (one would hope) when they weren’t being distracted by the need for more beer and a frightening array of warning notices from the London and North Eastern Railway. At half time we even sold a couple of CDs to a nice chap who’d already made up his mind about our worth. The Fragrant and Charming La Mulley was sadly on the receiving end of a rather more serious “play something we know” diatribe in the break, which was what probably, when OGL introduced our rendition of ‘the hit’ by saying that we were going to play something that the crowd would have heard before, lead her to announce that we were going to play the whole of the first set again (and at that point someone cheered). The rousing closing section of set two was enlivened (as ever) by some post-ironic foot-on-the-monitor antics during which OGL and myself were joined by Turny Winn, on scintillating form and clearly having a good time, and also very patiently enjoying (sic) the by now-traditional “Can you hear the banjo? Yes, sorry about that” routine. For some reason I ended the show lying down. This may have been partially due to the sterling service provided by regular camp follower Miss Diane, whose remarkable capacity for spotting and replacing a dwindling pint of Brewer’s Gold (other award-winning golden ales are available) earned my gravest and most sincere thanks, and I expect also contributed toward the appearance of some Pete Townsend-style windmilling during ‘Flags’, a couple of scissor kicks, and a Vegas-style hand-held mic foray into the audience at one point during the second half, as well as an onstage discussion with La Mulley as to who was filthier – Barbara Good or Margot Leadbetter. And why not? There’s no business like the business of show.

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