Monday, September 22, 2014

Here be Dragonnes...

“The good news is…” Shev greets us at his front door “…at least there’ll be a bit more room in the car”. The season of promotion for his album Songs from the Last Chance Saloon which began in the bright spring sunshine of the acoustic stage at The International Workers' Day Festival in May, has wend and wound its way through the Felixstowe Carnival Fringe, The Secret Garden Party, the Grandma’s Porch Sessions, the BBC, Ipswich Music Day, FolkEast, not to mention TJS’s impromptu appearance at The Grand Old Opry* during his fortnight sojourn around the open mics and showcase nights of Nashville, and is now gathering its autumn skirts closer and wrapping a cosy muffler around her neck with a concluding performance at Acorn Fayre, a boutique festival in the wild Northampton heartlands. Tiny Diva, our vocal co-pilot, percussionist and latterly stunt bassist has had to call off with an unspecified condition, but one with which we are advised that close proximity within a moving vehicle would be inadvisable. Fortunately, along for the ride on this occasion is album-complementing flautist and singer La Mulley, ready to add a couple of harmonies when required but principally to add her haunting aerophonics as per the CD.   
We are approaching Cambridge Services (when the story of the beat scene of the early twenty first century is written, this will be our mythic Blue Boar) as Shev is telling me how he came to sell one of his albums in Minnesota, of all places. “We’re playlisted on Radio Heartland” he begins. “Some guy is driving down Interstate 94, he’s coming through the Twin Cities, it's night time, he’s got the radio on and he hears Nobody. ‘I like that’ he thinks to himself, and so he gets home – he’s not from St. Paul, he’s just passing through – and he gets on the internet, he looks me up, he finds out where the label is and he mails us, wants a CD. By the time we’ve put on the postage and the customs stuff it’s pretty expensive, but he wants the thing, the physical object. We asked him where he heard the album and that’s what he told us”. We are both impressed by the tenacity of the man who heard something on the radio and was so very determined to track it down. We pull into the services. I fill up with diesel. “I’ll get this” he says.

As we travel further on up the road we have a quick recap of the situation. Helen was due to pick a third harmony to complement Jules’s vocal but since we are currently deprived of her talents generally and Clare Torry-esque signature feature in Faith in Myself specifically, Shev suggests that this might create the opportunity for a flute solo instead. “Oh, and since she isn’t going to be taking the main harmonies you might as well do those as well. Think of it as having been down in the programme to play spear carrier and turning up to the theatre to find that you’re now principal boy". There is the slightest of pauses from the back seat. “Do you think we could listen to the album through one more time?” Helen says.

Upon arrival Tony is quickly appraised of what I meant by ‘a boutique festival’. I had sold it to him on the premise that although a bijou affair, the audience would be principally comprise bloggers and forumistas, and so what they lacked in numbers they would more than be making up for in terms of vociferousness. Maybe using the word ‘festival’ had been mildly misleading. Perhaps ‘showcase’ might have been a better word. “I’m beginning to think I may have oversold this to you” I confess. “Ya think?” he replies, Gobi-dry. “Did you keep the receipt for the diesel?” I ask. There is the subtlest gesture of assent, his visage a picture worth a good half dozen choice words. “It’s not a big college town” I reassure him. Come show time however, buoyed by the free bar, the company and the prospect of a complimentary barbecue to follow, game faces are on. Badinage is batted forth, the obligatory promotional plugs are delivered and (I shouldn’t be surprised) La Mulley plays a blinder – emoting and purring her way through the set like she’d been singing these songs her whole summer. “It’s amazing how you all fit together” remarks a post-gig admirer. “It is. It really is” I agree.
Heading south again after supper we review the day’s doings. “I’d estimate that one in ten of those people there today bought a CD” Tony says to me. “Extrapolating from those numbers, imagine if we’d played Glastonbury!” 


*To be fair, he was on a tourist tour, but he did get to play Your Cheatin’ Heart onstage during a photo opportunity.  

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