The rest of it is broadly true however, as the stripped-down, streamlined, go-faster-striped Songs from The Blue House line up reflect happily on our good fortune in being able to enjoy a balmy late spring evening in a pub garden, if not the material rewards from our craft to actually make a habit of it. We are gathered at The Peacock in Chelsworth, as Friend of The Blue House 'Big Paul', the landlord, has invited us to perform at his pub as he is both a fan of the group specifically and the whole acoustic folk-country-rock-based genre generally. Being the flexibly-manned autonomous collective-cum-benevolent dictatorship that we are, a glance round the table reveals that we are missing regulars Fiddly Richard and Tony ‘TT’ Turrell, and Nick ‘Sticky Wicket’ Zala also has a prior engagement, and thus we are missing quite a lot of melody banks, the shortage of which we have planned to counter in terms of our performance by installing occasional batterista Reado at the back and trusting that the driving primal rhythms he generates will be enough to beguile our adoring public so’s that they don’t notice we are a man or two down.
Similar plans are being mooted for a future occasion, where a Pete Frame-like family tree of possibilities is being engendered to cover for Mr. Gibbon’s enforced absence on bass for a gig, depending on who can do what to whom at which stage in the proceedings and whether that’ll clash with their own plans for the day. When people ask what the line up of the band is, it is not unknown for flow charts to be employed to explain what could possibly happen. La Mulley has spiritedly entered into the spirit of things by changing into her scarlet silk dress and TMOTDAFM** strappy wedges, which counterpoint nicely the relative rough-hewn charm of the rest of the group, and we launch into our first, ordinarily fiddle-centric, number of the evening.
This goes surprisingly well, all things considered – Turny Winn is initially caught out a little by the extended room for manoeuvre that the absence of the usual soloists affords, but covers with considerable aplomb, and stretches out into the spaces in the arrangements he is now afforded like a well-fed cat on a warm shed roof. It turns out that without the signature fiddling style but with a rhythm section we are a pretty tight country-rock group. Not in the way of the latter-day church of the Eagles dollar, but not so far away from the rough Laurel Canyon country bands that spawned them, which is something I’m more than happy to share a pigeonhole with.
By half time we have relaxed comfortably into our personas, and also steadfastly into our bar tab, pre-allocated driving duties notwithstanding. The easy-going nature of the gig means that we have a pretty late start to the second set, but also that we don’t have to put up with any tortuous requests for songs we don’t know as it’s pretty clear that (to paraphrase William Golding) nobody knows anything anyway. La Mulley clings ever more dreamily to her mic stand stage right, part Dweller on the Threshold*** and part Explorer as we go momentarily off-roading with a ragged version of Fairport Convention’s Rosie to close the show – it’s our host’s favourite ever song, so it seems only fair to let him sing the second verse (it’s in “the wrong key”, natch) before the evening winds down with a first for us – a short performance of freeform beat poetry inspired, we are told, by our performance that very evening – the nature of our proto-punk do-what-we-want-and-damn-the-torpedoes approach has apparently re-stirred the anarchist spirit within one of our assembled audience and he is moved to verse.
It’s not really what we were expecting as the last time I played here the evening kicked off with an overbite**** of local youngsters streaming out of the side door of the pub with the very vocal lament that the bar had “No farking champagne!” (tonight Gibbon got in enough trouble for drinking a Guinness, so I don’t know how they though they were going to get away with that sort of attitude in a real ale pub for long) and it is a touching tribute. Spring is here, and with it the beer festival season is drawing itself up to its full height and waiting for the sun. I’m an urbanite by residence, and a power pop man by inclination, but when summer’s here you’re gonna find me, out in the country.
*Actually originally written by Tim Brooke-Taylor, trivia buffs.
**The first six characters stand for “Take me out to dinner and…” – my acronym, she’s not that kind of girl.
****I may have been struggling to find the appropriate collective noun here.
That potential stadium-filling set list in full; Antibike / Beartown Road / Big Dipper / On The Contrary/ Ophelia / Song III / Breakin' These Rocks / Happy Day / Her / In My Arms / Kings and gods / Bless My Broken Heart / Don't Ever Let It Go / Not That Kind of Girl / Then There Was Sunshine / Song V / Special Kind of Love / Risk / Come On #2 / Rosie