Wednesday, March 17, 2010

“Always pick the best bandana…”

As the dog days of winter shake the dew off their skirts and turn into bright spring mornings, a young man’s fancy turns to the Festival Season – a moveable feast traditionally bookended for us in Songs from The Blue House by Helstock at the start of the term and Acorn Fayre at the end. Betwixt and between we have a few shows already lined up, we’ve already declined at least one, one and we shall wait and see what providence and provenance comes up with regarding the rest.
We are enormously pleased and privileged to be invited back to Acorn Fayre again (for details, see blogs passim), but our immediate thoughts turn to this weekend’s Helstock, where we return once more to The Steamboat in sunny downtown Ipswich for an evening of fun, frolics, light-hearted jollity, good company, fine dining and excessive consumption of good strong ale. This year we have a line up to appeal to the Fifty Quid Guy within all of us, with a slew of covers turns, a couple of surprises and, unusually for us, a weekend date for the Moot.
In explaining to one of the people we’ve corralled into playing for us what the evening is about I usually embark on a lengthy explanation of how we initially started by having a birthday party one year for the Fragrant and Charming Helen Mulley at which a few people got up and played and then decided to do it again the next year, and the next, before Gibbon adroitly steps in and confirms that the whole thing is basically an excuse for me to spend as much time on stage during the course of the evening as possible, and with my participation in three of the five scheduled turns, I do have to say that he has a point. The slightly off-kilter nature of the evening means that this year I will be taking the opportunity to experiment slightly and will be going electric with the previously all-acoustic SftBH and hoping to provoke catcalls of “Judas!” from stunned audience members before Our Glorious Leader goes off to find an axe somewhere with which to cut the power cables. To be fair, that’s pretty much his standard response when he sees me wielding an electric guitar anyway, and so there’s no real sea-change in attitudes there. Later on he himself will be taking to the boards as part of The Rainy Day Women and continuing the Dylan theme by covering some of the Bard of Duluth’s finest moments, which are not expected to contain renditions of either ‘Mozambique’ or ‘Wiggle Wiggle’, although as the old folks are apparently prone to say, c’est la vie; you never can tell.
I myself have been tangled up in Bruce, attempting to garner support and sympathy toward an idea I had to start a loose collective of musicians willing to go out and perform a classic album in its entirety a couple of times before dusting ourselves down and moving on to the next one. The first project to be undertaken has been Springsteen’s seminal Born to Run (or “That’s pretty much ‘Bat Out of Hell’ isn’t it?” as winsome young keyboard player Adam would have it as he patiently works his way through ‘Thunder Road’ on piano). Chief co-conspirator Tony ‘Shev’ Shevlin (there are no prizes for commenting on the exegesis of his moniker, by the way) and I managed to pretty much nail down three songs as a trial run, roping in Frisky Pat from the now-sadly defunct Picturehouse on drums, Adam, and stalwart bass player Gibbon before spending last week trying to track down a saxophone player with the necessary gravitas to fill the role of The Big Man. After a few wrong turns and blind alleys we managed to persuade a very kind man called Steve to dep for us, who turned up with a sheaf of dots and squiggles on paper and a mildly concerned attitude which, certainly for me, brought to mind the early Songs from The Blue House days of persuading Fiddly that what he really needed in his life were a couple of non-reading guitar players whose idea of writing an arrangement was to hum things, play a couple of chords on the guitar and then go to the bar. Steve ran through the set a few times, crossed out and scribbled a few dots and pronounced himself willing to take on the challenge. “This Springsteen bloke” he enquired affably “…much of a following has he?” Having learned most of the horn parts off a bewildering selection of thirty five years-worth of clips of versions available on YouTube he had only one major concern. “You’re not going to run across the stage and kiss me, are you?” he asked.

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