Sunday, 27 February 2011

Busy Mashers + Who is taking The Wingman place on Stage at The Beer Festival

Well, The Masher has had another fine music week.  

The week started with a trip across to Barnsley, my first visit to their Trades Club venue, and a nice cosy room it is to, with most importantly easy and instant access to the bar.  

I arrived as the instrumental learners session, held before the main Club, was in full swing.  Great to see so many potential new folk fiddle players emerging, yet most of the faces were strangely familiar.   If you're a novice player then why not get yourself down to the Barnsley Club.

The Mashers have always found Barnsley one of the most welcoming Clubs, encouraging all types of acoustic music, from the traditional through to jazz and blues.  So it was great to meet up with so many old friends, it being my first visit since Myke. 

My main reason for popping across though was to have a listen to Cath and Andy, collectively known as It’sAcoustica, a duo who never fail to impress, with their collection of self-penned,  with the odd cover song roots based music.  

Once again one could not fail to be impressed by their technical musicianship, as they played through a set made up of favourite songs from their CDs, including their new CD “Here We Are” a review of which can be found on the David Kidman page HERE

Regular readers of the Blog will know that this trip really represented The Mashers first adhoc outing to a Club outside of his comfort zone for sometime, and I have to say, that while strange travelling solo it was an enjoyable evening.

Enjoyable and warm.
I emphasis the warm as I’ve been getting a few emails from Club goers moaning about the temperature of many meeting rooms for Folk Clubs during the cold snap.   As one person said, one does not expect to have sit in Club with overcoat and woolly hat on trying to keep warm enough to make a contribution.  

I know Land Lords are currently finding it tough, but to economise by not heating rooms that are being used by Folk Clubs might be a short sighted, as especially musicians who need some feeling in their fingers to play might not be inclined to visit again until the summer (assuming we have one this year) kicks in.  

Friday found  The Masher playing at a Party held to jointly celebrate the sixtieth birthday of our good friend and regular Folkie Sue Sutherland and the Wedding of her daughter Heather to Martin during the week, and what a celebration it was.   

It was a mix and match night with acoustic music being sandwiched between the normal celebration cheese music.   Good to see that so many Folkies could remember how to do the time warp………  

Paul Pearson, Tina McKevitt, Sylvie and Pheobe put on a fine show of all that is best about the folk scene, supplemented by a typical Masher contribution who was aided and abetted by the dancing of Sue for Drink Down The Moon and a young trainee tambourine playing Masher Dan for Bloody Rotten Audience.

You'll find photographs of the evening HERE soon.

And then on Saturday night, I was at last able to get into The Bridge to witness first hand the phenomena that has become a Papa Legbas night.  

This month’s theme was Pirates, and the motley crew that made up The Bridge patronage for the evening all seemed to be up for the night. 

Good to have a chat with so many old mates as well. 

The music?  Big sounds to some great songs, both covers and self penned, and delivered in a relaxed and entertaining way. 

It was good to listen to a short set during the interval from Trev who’s interpretation of songs is unusual but positively delivered.  

I’m hoping to catch Papa Legbas in the bigger setting of the Beer Festival this week.  It will be interesting to hear them do their stuff in a venue where the sound can ring out. 

And so the week ahead dominated for The Mashers by the Rotherham Beer and Folk Festival at Magna.    We’re making two appearances.  On Wednesday on the 4th Stage in The Main Hall and on Thursday in the Café Bar.  If you’re coming along to the Region’s premier Real Ale Festival, pop in and give us a wave.  You'll find everything you need to know about the Festival HERE

And so you might be wondering who is going to take up the extra noise wing man.  Well, it’s Keith Masher (Mr Keith Nicklin).  The very same musician who for eighteen months played in a corner of The Monkwood allowing Dickie Masher to build up his confidence with the material and concept of The Mashers.  Strangely we never did play a proper Gig together, so to play two in one week  will be great fun. 

Keith is not in the best of health but I’ve managed to drag him screaming out of retirement and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.

On other matters.  It had completely passed me bye, but now I’m up to speed let’s give it the old one two.   While some will be celebrating Royal Weddings and May Day Bank Holidays, why not get yourself down to Magna where there is an outstanding line up of some of the classic Blues Bands at The Yorkshire Blues Festival.  You can find all the details HERE and take it from me it’s well worth checking out.
If you’re a fan of the Blues then you might like to also check out Rudi’s Blues Pages on the internet, where you’ll find lots of new places to listen to live music that Rudi is opening up.   HERE

Another great new Web Site is one that has been launched by our old friends The Troubadors, you’ll find lots music and some videos of the boys doing their stuff.  You’ll need to go HERE

And of course there’s plenty more going on as we move into March.  You can check out the listings HERE

The South Yorkshire, Princess Royal listings can be found HERE

And don’t forget it’s Nellie Folk at The Bridge on Monday.  The Mashers will be practicing down the hall and may put their heads around the corner.
So whatever you’re doing this week, have great fun and keep it live.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Taking The Gospel to Hull and ummmm Rawmarsh!

What a lovely week The Masher has had.  

The week started with that lovely feeling one gets when an unexpected booking comes in.  In this particular case two for the price of one, and for an event that I had thought had once again ignored The Mashers application, The Rotherham Beer and Music Festival, which this year, for the first time, is to be held at Magna.  Dates 2nd to 5th March.   The Mashers are playing a Main Hall stage on 2nd and the more intimate Café stage on the 3rd.   Details HERE
He says the Mashers, it’s more likely going to have to be The Masher, as poor Phill is working late and Southern Masher Gary cannot organise a two day break at such short notice.
I’m sure I’ll sort something out for two entertaining evenings though. 

Of course these types of Gigs where the bigger sound would be an advantage highlight the need to try and find that second Masher.  So if you know of primarily an instrumentalist who might enjoy playing my sort of material then please send them in my direction. 

Thursday found me heading down a very slow M18 towards Hull.  It may have been slow going but well worth the trip.  The event was the Stripped@The Wellington evening, a twice monthly gathering of consulting acoustic musicians.  

Joining me on the Bill for the evening were The Devil Valley Lodge and old friends in music Cracktown.  

It was, to say the least, an outrageously mad line up…………… 
Not heard of The Devil Valley Lodge?  A duo made up of banjo (JP) and his happy bass player.   They are very much in what I would call the Cracktown mould, in that their lyrics are brilliant, and in fact one might say it’s performance poetry with a musical accompaniment.   They are fairly new to the scene and are still working very hard on the instrumentalisation so don’t expect too much on that level, but you’ll just love the outright full on lyrics.  I’ve taken the liberty of putting their three track demo disc onto the Acoustic Rotherham FREE download page HERE – there’s a sample there as well if you can’t be bothered to download the full three tracks.

But it was good to see Silver Fox and The King Rat in their own Hull environment, and they were in brilliant form to, an hour flew by – Silver Fox’s off the wall rants complimented by some completely off the wall songs, or is it suppose to be the other way around.   More Cracktown HERE

And The Masher set was well received to, even if he says so himself.   

Seriously, the audience were just fantastic, attentive and receptive, and the atmosphere in The Wellington, a Real Ale Pub was simply brilliant. 

So guys, The Masher had a brilliant time and hopes to be asked back again at sometime in the future. 

Photographs from the night can be found HERE

Friday brought something completely different.  Kids Not Cuts Music at The Star on the home territory of Rawmarsh.  

A strange sort of evening this as it was hard to establish exactly how many people were in for the music.  

Unfortunately there had been a Wake in the Pub on the afternoon, and many of the mourners were making a full day of it, while there was of course the usual Friday night revellers out and about.  And then of course there were a few in just for the music, making for a strange sort of atmosphere and collection of people. 

The purpose of the event was to try and highlight the effects of the Coalition’s austerity cuts will have and is already having upon our young people.  Unfortunately the speakers fought against the odds to get their messages across – but hey – someone might have been listening. 

But this was the Big Society in action, ironically against the Big Society. 

Setting the ball rolling was Little Robots, a super ukulele based acoustic trio although I believe there is more of them singing and playing their own blues sounding songs.   Brilliant sound, brilliant musicianship.  You can check them out HERE on their Myspace page.   Note to self, must invite them to do an Acoustic Rotherham event. 

The amplifiers were nicely warmed up by Creaking Bones, a local band playing some super rock covers.  

Into the acoustic hour with The Masher and Kev Cadman (The Rogues) thrashing out their totally different sort of music.   But at this stage the audience were all looking a little mystified.
On a personal level the set simply amplified the difference one finds in the types of audience. 

I’ve been lucky this year with some fantastic audiences all responding positively to The Masher songs, so it’s useful every now again to face total indifference…………..   the politico’s in the audience seemed to enjoy it, but overall I think indifference was the word.  

But even the more accomplished Kev had the same problem –  and even playing The Mashers guitar did not seem to break through the general turn off to the acoustic sound. 

The big sound of Highway Child soon filled The Star with noise again.  Brilliant stuff, although I had to miss a bit of their set.  But nice sound boys, you can check them out HERE

Playing their own stuff came Chinatown.  A Band of youngsters, and it was good to listen to some original stuff.  Well done lads.  They are into the next round of the Unsigned Competition and one could see why.  Instrumentally very much together, and at times brilliant vocals, although it would be fair to say that as the singer matures it’s going to sound even better.  Go HERE to find out more, give them a listen and a vote. 

Wrapping the night up and in superb  form were View From S62, Rawmarsh’s own.    Brilliant set, performed in difficult circumstances, cramped to an audience that were surprised in many cases to see them on.  I have to say that in this pub environment there are Bands around that generate such a charged atmosphere.  What’s more they were really enjoying themselves.   You can find out more HERE.   They’ve Gigs coming up at The Queens and The Rawmarsh Trades and Labour Club over March so make the effort to check them out. 

So well done Martin Hickman for organising the event.   Pictures can be found HERE

If one or two people were touched by the message of the evening then fantastic – however one feels that much more has to be done.  The attack on especially our young people by this Government appears to be relentless.  

Don’t forget the big March on 26th March – this marks, I’m told the start of the fight back.  Let’s hope it has as much affect as the Egyptian demonstration, although this week’s Private Eye stand out stat says a lot – “250,000 the number of Egyptians that brought down a Government  /  1,000,000 the number who marched against the War in London which Blair completely ignored.  Says a lot about our democracy. 

Of course our democracy is all up for grabs as the Coalition showed it’s clear divisions as the AV Referendum debate kicked off.  It’s going to be a rough ride folks so hold onto your hats on that one. 

And back to the music.  It’s sad to have to report yet another Folk Festival closing it’s doors because of lack of funds.  The Oxford Festival has cancelled out.  Details HERE.   

Once again I voice my feeling that this is yet another Festival that has simply got too big for it’s own good and become over ambitious to the detriment of the local Folk Music scene.  I’m sure that they could have put something on using local artists, but no, the whole thing has to go because the big ego names could not be featured as advanced ticket sales were so poor. 

Let’s be clear.  With so many Folk Festivals, and with almost the same names featuring, people are going to be selective, what’s more with the uncertain economic climate people are not going to commit sometimes hundreds of pounds in advance.    

I really hope that Folkies of Oxford will sort something out and take the music to the people – maybe for free.

There’s loads going on this week………………..  you can find all the listings HERE
I’ll be trying to pop across to Barnsley on Monday night to see Acoustica, looking forward to that one.  

Incidentally, Acoustica’s new CD Here We Are is reviewed by David Kidman on his pages, and as we’re talking Barnsley, you’ll also find new to the Review page a super review of Ray Padgett’s double CD English Traditionalist Songs.   HERE

The good news is that viewing of the Web Site has generally gone up as I’ve sorted out the problems caused when Myspace changed all their RSS settings – or rather stripped them out.   We’re still well within the top million Worldwide Web Sites views, which incidentally is well ahead of most Festival and other music sites.  So thanks. 

If you’ve got your own Web Site or News Letter please give a mention.

You’ll also find a new link added to the News page within the Diary Box.  It’s a useful site that provides local traffic reports which you might find handy when planning your trips to Festivals or visiting Folk Clubs outside of your immediate locality.   You can check it out direct HERE   The link has also been added to the Driving School page.

It’s mid February and my general cry for Driving School pupils goes out.  A run of Winter Test passes + the loss of students due to hour reductions at work or loss of job entirely means that I’m running short of pupils, so if you know of anyone in the Rotherham / east Sheffield / Dearne Valley area wanting driving lessons please pass on my number  07507588964.   Thanks.  The Driving School page is HERE

That’s it for this week folks.  Whatever you’re doing this week keep it “gangster” as Cracktown would say, or more normally, have fun and keep it live.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Thornberry Report / Awards / The Price of Malteasers + reviews and the News

I suppose this week’s big acoustic event was without doubt the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.  Joke!!

And this year the BBC managed to make it not a lot different to previous years, with the Folk establishment winning out yet again – and I think that just about says everything that needs to be said.  

It was the overall presentation of the event, if event is the word, which turned me off.  Folk music is supposed to be living music, this was sterile lacking any sort of warmth, and back slapping all round for what I read somewhere was the Folk elite. 

Sorry, I didn’t get it myself. 

As many people know I’m not really one for the clever production of music, I prefer it live, real and truly entertaining, but for the folks who enjoy clinical playing in the concert environment, the BBC Awards was for them. 

To be honest I have to agree with a few of the other critics of the show, namely that in terms of technique and entertainment one can find better in many of the Folk Clubs that meet any day of the week. 
This year I even had a problem with the Life Time Achievement.  Donavon.   Don’t get me wrong, in his time absolutely brilliant, and his songs still trigger brilliant music memories for me.  But a Life time achievement award?   This for a guy who disappeared for more years than I care to remember, and has only comparatively recently come out of hiding to do a few revival tours or support his daughter.  

And that cringing story he insists on telling whenever he is interviewed about teaching his guitar technique to The Beatles and claiming to have had a heavy influence upon The White Album, which apparently we can all hear, sends me running for the hills and the life of a recluse myself.
And once again no award for The Rawmarsh Masher, surely a mistake made somewhere in the corridors of the BBC.  Perhaps you can understand my heavy criticism now!!

If you want to check on this year’s prize winners head to the BBC page HERE  

So let’s turn to a more local event.  The Thornberry Benefit Concert.  It sort of dominated my week with final admin. Stuff and general publicity having to be done.  

Whether it was for the cause or for the promise of the excellent musical treat on offer I was not disappointed by the amazing turn out on Friday night.  Thank you one and all for the support and for making it a very special night.

There are audiences and audiences.   From the word GO on Friday, the audience were spectacular, and for the performers this makes it very special, you were not just attentive, but you joined in with the performance and that’s what makes it so special and why without exception you made it a special night for the artists. 

Once the real music got underway, once The Rawmarsh Masher had vacated the stage we were treated to some outstanding performances from Ray Hearne and surprise guest Ciaran, Tina McKevitt and Matt Hegarty who also put a lot of work into getting the show on the road, and rousing finale from Toein’ In The Dark. 

And let’s not forget the reason for all the fun.  To raise money for the Thornberry Animal Sanctuary.  £420 was raised in total, from entry fee, raffle and the generous sponsorship by Ziggy’s Workhouse Gym and Supplements.  

For an event organised at short notice a standout sum of money I think. 

Below I publish in full the Email I received from Andy the Thornberry spokesman on the night.

 Just want to thank you and all those involved in organising or performing at last nights gig.
 As I said I really did not know what to expect as I was a folk concert virgin! I really did not expect to enjoy the night as much as I did.
 Although the money raised through your (and others) efforts is very welcome and needed at the sanctuary, this is almost secondary to getting the message of what Thornberry is and does across to as many people as possible. One or two people last night were asking why we are in the financial crisis that we are. There is no single reason for this, but if anyone is interested, please feel free to pass on my personal address ( and I will happily explain!
 On behalf of the animals of South Yorkshire (and often beyond) please accept out gratitude for last night, and pass these thanks onto everyone concerned.
 We would have liked to have supported the gig next week at The Star, but unfortunately I am working a night shift so am unable to attend. However, you will see me and my wife again at future events!
Many many thanks

Given I was not handed any brown envelopes full of cash on the night a full slideshow from the concert can be found HERE

And of course my thanks go to all the little helpers who ran around for me doing all sorts of tasks from shifting my gear on the night to selling tickets to coming up with basic idea for the concert in the first place. 

And of course all the artists are in action over the coming weeks and months at various venues you can find listings HERE

The Rawmarsh Mashers next outing is in Hull on Thursday night, and then back on home soil in Rawmarsh at The Star, Rawmarsh, for the Kids Not Cuts Campaign, the token folkie amongst  the massed rock Bands of South Yorkshire, performing on two stages.  A tip don’t miss out on a great finale to Friday with The Vie From S62 performing, for rock in the raw it’s not to be missed.   

As Mr Clark reminded us, kindly I thought, the cuts have not even began to bite yet, it’s like a death by one hundred cuts.  First came the hike in VAT, with it’s knock on affects, and one else notice how Sainsbury’s Local Shops in particular have cashed in on that one – the price of their confectionary in particular needs to be seen to be disbelieved!!!  Example, Maltesers Big Bag (not the family size) on sale in other local shops for 75p and 80p – were available in Sainsbury’s for 85p there post VAT price 92p!!!  Unbelievable!!! 

More seriously of course the Organisations providing help and support to all disadvantaged groups in our Communities are having to face up to huge cuts in their budgets, which may not be so bad if were not for the fact that as the unemployment figures rise we’re all going to need these self-same support groups.  Oh well – we can I’m sure rely upon the Big Society, whatever that means. 

Which I suppose is why I got dragged out on Saturday night by Masher.    

First stop was Rotherham Trades Club where a large turn out were treated to a not so spectacular show band.  It’s that time of year where Club Land is full of Acts working on their performance for the Summer season somewhere.  This was one such act and their play list provided typical holiday fodder.  Their name The Other Three reflected my impression, as they seemed to have missing components to the band – vocals, keyboard and guitar with heavy back tracked support just looked odd to me. 

But enough. 

We then moved on to The Bridge, where Florin were in residence for the night, with some of their friends, including Mark Hearne (brother of Ray) replacing a sick Velvet Pause, and an impressive short set from a young lady that I as per usual failed to catch the name of.
Florin, originally a duo of Rob and Bob appear to be growing, Martin now joins them on bass on a regular basis while Jono joined them for their second set on bongo, and if that reminds you of a Lantern’s line up, you would be right. 

The repertoire is very much influenced by Bob, and is very similar to the music made by The Lanterns, but now with the brilliant mandolin playing of Rob enhancing the overall sound, and of course the brilliant vocal harmonies that were such a feature of The Lanterns. 

I have to say that the mandolin goes a long way to killing my personal problem with The Lanterns namely technically excellent in all areas yet somehow failing to hit the spot for me. 

The numbers I was able to listen to through a packed downstairs Bridge Bar had me tapping my feet a plenty. 

The technicalities of sound engineering is always a problem for a band needing a subtle blending of instruments and voices and The Bridge downstairs bar is not the easiest of venues to set sound.  

So two great nights of music at The Bridge.   Well done Ben. 

We finished our night by heading to Rawmarsh Trades and Labour Club.  Just a word here to wish the current Club Secretary Paul Stead all the very best as he fights serious illness which will prevent him from retaining his duties at the Club.  We wish you all the very best mate. 

Heroes were this week’s Band.   A show band based in Sheffield playing popular hit covers from Bands old and new, more old than new. 

Great Party entertainment.  

Oh, and there’s that word again, “entertainment”.  

It’s a concept that we all need to be aware of during these financially austere times.
But I’m not going to bore this week with such a lecture……………   and entertained The Rawmarsh Masher will be this week , with his visit to The Wellington in Hull to play alongside old friends Cracktown and on Friday of course, it’s Kids Not Cuts at The Star.

There’s plenty else going on this week, on Monday (14th) that slick lover Paul Pearson will be in full action at Barnsley and the following week (21st) they have Cath and Andy together known as Acoustica.  Two great nights there. 

And also on Monday fans of the sensational Phillip Hartley can stand outside of his sell out event and try to listen to him crooning the young lovers enjoying their special dinner. 

On Tuesday 15th there’s Valentine Special meeting of the Myke Barritt Wandering Minstrel’s Club at The Cross Key’s Handsworth.  

For other listings go HERE

So whatever you’re doing this week have fun and keep it live.  

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hard Times, Another Folk Club Disappears

We’ll start this week with the sad demise of the Dearne Valley Folk Club.  

OK it was a relatively new Club on the scene, meeting in the foyer of the posh Park Inn Hotel built as part of the Manvers re-development.   It was like all new Clubs slowly establishing itself as a monthly Club with floor spots supporting an extended set from a guest artist.  Being a monthly Club, dare I say it was not helped by a two month break for the Christmas season. 

A change of Management plus squeezed trading margins meant that the Club no longer fitted the Hotel’s profile.  

Worse, this was the second of Charlie Barker’s The Partnership Clubs to have been closed within three months, the bi-weekly Friday Folk at The Venue having been pulled towards the end of last year.  Interestingly the gap at The Venue left by Friday Folk was filled very quickly by the Wortley Folk Club. 

Charlie issued the following statement:  

"It is with regret Dearne Valley Folk has gone to join the great folk club in the sky and can no longer continue at the Park Inn Rotherham as of 03/02/11.
We are sorry to announce that the forthcoming events booked up to September 2011 are cancelled, but would like to thank our audience, floor spotters and special guests for the support since the launch in 2010.
Thanks to the staff at the Park Inn Rotherham for the fun times we spent at the venue.
Onwards and upwards!
See you around – Charlie & John"

Venue sponsored Clubs, e.g. Clubs that rely upon the venue to put up the money to run the Club do leave themselves open to Management / policy changes, and of course when profits drop it’s the low return investments that are going to pay the price. 

I’ve been there myself so I know the problem well. 

The fact of the matter is that few venues can afford to Sponsor Clubs, and most venues expect Folk Clubs to be free and in some cases actually pay for the use of a venue.   

One Land Lord said to me recently that Folk Clubs do not generate enough revenue, not even when they are packed.  The suggestion was that the nice Folkies simply do not drink enough pints………. And of course that’s because many travel to venues in cars, and those who walk often need a clear head to play their tunes or sing their songs.  So a Club dragging in twenty people is worth only around thirty pints maximum, meaning that the Club hardly pays for the heating of the room, let alone staff. 

Unfortunately most Folk Clubs have allowed themselves to become a group of consenting friends meeting at regular intervals to sing their songs.  While small groups allow singers more air time they also have the effect of making it more difficult for new blood to join the Club, although most Clubs would emphasise just how friendly and welcoming they are to new blood.  Unfortunately, that’s often a perception not shared by the stranger in the camp. 

The fact is that all the evidence suggests that most “folkies” simply do not want to come outside of their comfort zones.  They have their favourite Clubs and events and to expose themselves to anything new, unless within their own comfort zone appears to be a step too far.  A nightmare for New Club promoters.

And times are tough.  A trip out to a Club or event is no longer a cheap night out, especially by the time that petrol and a couple of pints have been taken into consideration, so Clubs outside of the mainstream areas are not going to be accessible as they once were. 

For artists not on the Festival lists or already booked into Clubs 2011 is going to be hard year.  Club Organisers I’ve spoken to talk of record amounts of Emails and Demo CDs coming their way as acts seek bookings.  Let’s be honest, most Clubs will have already sorted out their entire 2011 Diary so if an act is seeking to put a Tour together it’s going to be hard work indeed. 

A lesson might learnt from the 2010 Artisan Reunion Tour, which was set and arranged way back in the Summer of 2009, and they are an established act.

But there are some opportunities out there, yet artists will have to be prepared to work hard to uncover them, and that means investing time and money in yourselves.  Demo discs, Emails etc, are not enough, you have to get out and about, you have to network, and that means lots of frustrating evenings waiting to be called as a floor spot, and talking to people.  

ENOUGH depressing stuff. 

This past week The Masher has been recharging his battery ready for a busy little period coming up starting with the Thornberry Animal Sanctuary Benefit Concert on Friday 11th February.    Full details and tickets for the event can be found HERE.  You can also buy tickets at the Bridge or from little helpers dotted around various Folk Clubs.  Should be a fantastic evening of music. 

The Masher then heads to The Wellington in Hull, Thursday 17th February for Stripped Night, where the stage will be shared with Cracktown and another act.  And on the 18th February The Masher will be part of the Anti Cuts Campaign Fund Raiser at The Star, Rawmarsh, full details on the listings page HERE.

However I did get out on Saturday night, and to The Bridge where the pub really rocked to the rockabilly sounds of The Slingshots.  The Bridge was packed throughout the evening, and even I after a hard day on the road (all together ooohhhhhh) found himself surprised when checking the time to find it was 12:30am when the Band forced it’s way off stage.  I’m sure they will be back again soon as they are certainly entertaining and Masters of their genre. 

Now there’s a word that some of us could use – entertaining – it’s the value added so much needed in these grim days.

I think we’re all feeling the pinch, and it made me laugh when listening to the Coalition spokesmen rallying folks and assuring us that the National Economy’s zero growth had nothing to do with the cuts as the cuts have not yet taken affect.  Well that’s good news indeed, what?!!  So if we think it’s bad now, what is going to happen once people start to actually lose their jobs?   

So many of the specialist support groups are going to come under huge financial pressure, as they face budget cuts of at least 50% in this coming year alone.  Rotherham CAB have already issued redundancy notices to their staff and invited them to apply for what jobs will remain.   And I believe this is going on throughout the Rotherham Council Departments.  

Just a word about this reapplying for your own job malarkey.   What a way to stop Staff from vocalising their opposition – what a control tool for Management?   And of course that is exactly what it is designed to do, disunite the workforce and set worker against worker.  Who can blame the people going through this process for not being frightened, especially if they have families and mortgages to support.  

But Unite we must which is why I would urge those who can to get to The Star in Rawmarsh on Friday 18th February where there will be some great rock music, View From S62 headlining from around 11:00pm.  

Not a lot of changes on the Web Site this week, a few more pages updated but that’s as far as it goes.  This coming week I hope to have some new Reviews from David Kidman on line and I will have sorted out a slight technical problem that has presented itself on The Masher’s Influences page. 

The good news is that we had a record number of hits on the site this past week.  Keeping putting the word out there.  

But whatever you’re doing this week, have fun and keep it live.   The February page has it all listed, and I hope above all to see you at The Bridge on Friday evening.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

All The Chat from Acoustic Rotherham 10 + The Masher Out and About!!! Read On

What a fantastic week I’ve had, musically speaking that is. 

It’s been great fun.

But first let’s look at the Parish Notices.  

A mention for the Howden Jones Concert at The Little Theatre, Doncaster on 4th February, well worth checking out along with some other excellent music coming up in February.   Check it all out with Links to all the details HERE on our listings page. 

And lest we forget, have you got your tickets for the Thornberry Benefit Concert being held on the 11th February.  Tickets are………….   Selling…………   and quite fast, much to my amazement.  Those who know The Bridge will be aware that space will make it quite cosy, so be sure of your spot and to save £1 on the “On The Door Price” buy or reserve your ticket NOW.   Check out the full details HERE

After that The Rawmarsh Masher is heading to Hull to educate the good folks in The Wellington.  Having a steady diet of Cracktown, they are somewhat short on a bit of culture.  That’s the 17th and on the 18th The Masher will again be in action, this time as the token Folk Act, on a Political Anti Cuts  Benefit Bill at The Star, Rawmarsh.  Also check out the Rawfusion Festival being arranged by Rotherham’s Dicken’s Bar which is featuring acts at The Star, and People’s Centre Rawmarsh as well as at their Town Centre home base.  See the Mashers News Page HERE or the Diary page HERE for full details.

And of course there’s all the regular stuff going on as well.
Just one change to the Web Site this week.  The Rawmarsh Mashers Influences page has undergone a big face lift.  For those who enjoy vintage Folk you’ll find a load of interesting tracks to listen to, well worth having a play around in the Page.  It’s HERE

So to the past week.
The monthly Nellie Folk get together at The Bridge was as usual fun packed.  I have to admit to being a little confused, not difficult, as it seems that The Red Choir were having an extended session down stairs while the Nellie Folk were meeting upstairs.   Good to see all the usual suspects out plus a few visitors from the North of the County, including good friend of Acoustic Rotherham, David Kidman.  There was a strong Scottish theme to the evening given the proximity to Burns Night. 

On Burns Night itself the Tuesday it was off to the depths of Sheffield, according to the way that the Sat Nav took me, and the Red House for the Myke Barritt Music Trust Meeting of the Roving Minstrels.  A Folk Club that meets monthly in a different venue. 

A splendid evening of music, and a super attendance.  In fact attendances in 2011 have generally been up wherever I’ve gone, nothing to do with The Masher, everything to do with the snow in December having sent everyone stir crazy I think.  And good to see some new faces.
One again Scottish songs dominated the evening with a couple of oddities coming from The Masher and even our Barry contributed a few poems.  All great stuff, and all in a spirit that I know that Myke would whole heartedly be at one with.  

If you’ve not experienced the Wandering Minstrels yet, check out The Cross keys gathering on the 15th February.  

Having had a relaxed Wednesday evening, a rather nervous Rawmarsh Masher set off for Henry Boon’s, Wakefield, for an Acoustic Evening hosted good friends in music the fantastic Troubadors.  

Why nervous?  Well this was my first outing as a solo act outside of my normal comfort zone.  And even the drive to the venue was just a little strange with only the Sat Nav for company.  If it were just those two factors alone, that might have been OK, but to be sharing the evening with three other super Yorkshire Bands made it all just a little more knee trembling, The Troubadors hosting, The Backyard Buskers and Garron Frith.

Of course it was my job to kick the evening off and without the aid of beer, having very cleverly left my wallet at home, I launched into my set with The Gates of Hell.  

Confidence was not at it’s highest as the song ended, having missed the first four B Minor chords (those that know me will be aware that it is not one of my favourite chords) and the rather incredulous looks from the audience as the last chord rang out.  It got better though, well  it could only get better from that start, with My Old Guitar and Rich Man’s Paradise bringing the audience on side.  The set was completed with, Three Nights, Dance On The Grave Of Mrs Thatcher, Ordinary Man and of course Bloody Rotten Audience.  

In fact by the end of the set, along with the banter / chat, I was quietly pleased with myself.   So we head into the February rush of spots high on confidence.  

It was good to have a chat with The Backyard Buskers, and like a bolt of lightning the conversation gave me the inkling of an idea for changes to the way that I’ve been operating the Acoustic Rotherham events.  A bit more thought, and I think we might have a goer.

And Garron Firth!!  Not seen him yet?  Well, take my advice and if he’s playing near you make the time to go and have a listen.  A little in the James Blunt mould, his songs are crafted masterly, and each one sounds different, a bonus I find when listening to some singer song writers. 

The Backyard Buskers are always good value with their roots harmonies and super range of instruments.  They’ve added some new songs to the rep since I last saw them in action, and it all made for an entertaining half an hour. 

And The Troubadors, I hear you cry!!  Simply brilliant.  Here’s a Band that works exceptionally hard, playing many places simply for the fun of it.  These guys love playing, and very loudly.  Hat’s off to Steve and the boys, my sort of Band.

And so to the event of the week – Acoustic Rotherham 10. 

A Slideshow of photographs from the event can be found HERE

The Acoustic Rotherham events never cease to amaze me for the sheer depth of the talent in the Yorkshire Region, nor the distance people are prepared to travel to play 25 minutes at The Queens, Rawmarsh.  

This Quarter we had artists from as far afield as Peterborough, via Birmingham, to the South and Scarborough to the North and all points between. 

It’s a pity that the audience numbers, especially for the start of the events appear to have vanished, filling up for a few hours between 2:30 and 5:00pm, only to dwindle away again. 
Two things are going on.  First of course travelling artists are arriving and leaving according to the distances they need to travel, indeed some even manage to fit in other playing commitments.  The listening audience tend to go into music overload.   

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really seriously considering cutting back on the time so that it runs from 2:00pm until 6:00pm maximum, which means of course that we will only be able to give time to eight acts rather than the twelve plus we tend to currently squeeze into the afternoon.  
At this point it’s worth re-stating that while the events carry the words “Hiring Fair” in the title, as far as attendance is concerned they are words that are a little of an exaggeration.  But let me remind you exactly what happens.   

First of course there is the Acoustic Rotherham Web Site, which is still generating around 1,000 hits per week, around 200 being New visitors.  People are currently driven there via this News Blog and the regular News Emails sent out twice a week, along with other more general references on various National and International sites.  We currently hit 200 + via the Fanreach facility and now that they have linked into Myspace a further 3,000 + (I’ve noticed significant increases in activity since the Myspace link has been active).

In addition to this the local media is circulated with E Packs – basically all the information contained on the Web Page and a Pack of tracks relevant to that Quarters performers.  Now the local media other than The South Yorkshire Times, has not been supportive of the Acoustic Rotherham events, mainly because they are under the miss-understanding that we are making money!!!!!

Finally, 45 local Theatrical Agents are circulated with the packs.  Unfortunately acoustic music, no matter how fantastic the standard is not really their thing.  Apparently, and I have this from some of them, the sound is simply not big enough for the shows they put on or the venues that they work with.   What a load of b*******  that is!!!   But hey, their closed minds are simply another challenge we all face. 

But the most important part of an Acoustic Rotherham afternoon is of course the Networking that goes on between artists, many of whom run their own Clubs or sessions.  And for the acts prepared to work the room, if you know what I mean, benefits can be had. 
But – perhaps the time has come, before we go the way of the Loftus Hiring Fair, to re-focus the Acoustic Rotherham events.   

The cuts being made by National Government and being passed onto Local Government are beginning to take effect.  Organisations working with specialist groups like, animals, or those people with learning difficulties, or young people in general are finding that their budgets are being cut wholesale.  Cuts as deep as 50% or more are not uncommon for the fiscal year 2011 – 12.  

Already this year I’ve been asked to play at or organise several Benefit / fund raising events, and I think before the year is out many other such invitations will be made. 

It’s no accident perhaps, that the most successful Acoustic Rotherham in terms of publicity was the one that followed Myke’s and I run in with the BNP, therefore we might do acts even more justice if we focus our events upon a deserving cause.  Thank you to Jane of The Backyard Buskers for sowing the seed in my mind. 

As yet I’m not sure how it would all work, but we might for example look for a minimum donation from the non - playing audience and invite the receiving Organisation to sell their T shirts etc….. .  The knock on affect  might be that we get a wider audience for our artists by involving a third Party in the general publicity of Acoustic Rotherham events. 

At the moment I do not see many draw backs to this slightly new approach, but I’m sure you have, so let me know what you think, after all many of you (100+ now) have experienced an Acoustic Rotherham.   

And so to Acoustic Rotherham 10.

Started of course with The Masher warm up played out to the hardy souls who turned in early for the event.   Dare I say that they missed a treat?   Yes!!

Phil Sinclaire was the first the main core of acts to perform.  Never an easy slot, but I thought he did an excellent job with his self-penned songs demonstrating the fantastic talent.  Keep up the good work Phil and we hope to see you again in the future.  It’s well worth checking out Phil’s tunes on his various Web Sites from Myspace to Reverbnation. 

Next up was Glenn Coggin, all the way from Scarborough.  The Mashers had the pleasure of hearing Glenn on one of trips to Loftus, and it was great to meet up again.  Glenn is very popular on the Scarborough and North Eastern music scene and it’s easy to see why, with the gentle stylish delivery of his well-crafted songs. 
Glenn is looking to set up a tour for himself in June of this year so if there is anyone out there who would fancy having Glenn along to their Folk Club then please contact him direct via his Web Site.  

Steve Hicks and Lynn Goldbourn then delighted us with what was universally accepted by everyone at Acoustic Rotherham 10 as being one of the stand out sets of the afternoon.  Lynn’s brilliant vocals being superbly complimented by the masterful guitar technique of Steve.  And the craft does not end with the delivery, as the rep ranged from traditional Folk to more contemporary numbers, all set by an amazing instrumental from Steve entitled Stairway To Mozart.  

Steve is a clever chap not only playing a range of instruments, but also building the guitars himself. 

They too are looking to play the South Yorkshire area more – and I’m sure that with performances like that the invitations will not be long in pouring in. 

Making a return to Acoustic Rotherham came The Troubadors, and despite the limitations of The Mashers sound system they turned on another of their high octane performances.  “Their loud” said one regular, his foot tapping away to the music that just makes you want to dance.   I’ve a lot of time this ensemble, for not are they very together when it comes to the delivery of the music, but they are prepared to work hard, as I said earlier in this Blog.  So well done lads and you’re always welcome at Acoustic Rotherham. 

And what a contrast, for after the heavy beats of the Troubadors came the soft gentle sounds of singer song writer  Holly Taymar, accompanied by Chris on Glockenspiel and banjo.  Another of the stand out sets for me this, with Holly’s wonderful voice fitting her songs so well.  Here’s another artist working very hard to make her mark on the Regional music scene.  If you’ve not had her at your Club yet then go on, make contact. 

Then, a real treat for everyone.  Acoustic Rotherham tries to encourage young musicians whenever it can so when Jill Brierley contacted me and asked if her son Dylan could play for us we were than happy to let him come and show off his music.  

 Dylan Brierley produced an outstanding mature set, comprising mostly of his own songs, punctuated with the odd cover.  Song writing of such maturity from one so long is rare, and fairly made those of us with limited talent and at the wrong end of the age range fell very sorry for ourselves.  

Without a doubt Dylan is going to go far, especially with his amazing support team, and it was good to see that he knew exactly how to work the room and make a lot of new friends. 

Another familiar face followed.  Kev out of The Rogues, and solo as Short Supply - but this time with his new musical collaboration with Laura, collectively known as Meadowland.   Their set was a collection of harmonic roots covers, and harmony was the key word their voices interacting together wonderfully.   We’ll be watching the development of this duo and wish them both every success.   And I know there are some self-penned songs in the offing very soon, keep an eye on their Myspace / Reverbnation page. 

Ask anyone in the know and they will tell you that some of the most difficult songs to play and sing are those written by the comic genius Jake Thackray.  And if they don’t I will as I have tried on several occasions to include Jake Songs in Masher sets in the past. 
 John Watterson, otherwise known as The Fake Jake, certainly has it cracked though.  He has somehow managed to master Jake’s very individual guitar technique and the reproduction of the voice superb.   

Fantastic to hear the songs again, along with a couple that I don’t think I had heard before. 
John is another hard worker, in fact squeezing two sets into the afternoon with a Gig in his home City of York before heading down the A1 to Rawmarsh.   

From Peterborough, via Birmingham came Andrew Cream, another song writer demonstrating fantastic promise.   He describes himself as being sort of Acoustic Punk – but personally I felt that his songs were a little more cultured than that description might suggest.   A super set delivered at not the best of the time slots.  So a big thank you Andrew for taking the time to come to Rawmarsh. 

Cultured voice, cultured guitar playing marked another of the stand out sets of the afternoon, this one from Ian Roberts.  I’ve seen Ian in action once before where he held The Bridge Spring Festival in awe of his musical craftsmanship, and his performance on Sunday afternoon did not disappoint.  This is a guy who should be seen more in the Clubs and Festivals of South Yorkshire.  

And only just making it, having spent the weekend in Church, he said, rather than the Fleshpots of Robin Hood Bay, came the Misk Hills Mountain Rambler with his unique well observed songs.   It’s always good to see Al making his way down from Mansfield and he’ll always be welcome at Acoustic Rotherham events. 

And that was our afternoon.  A cracker I think. All the pictures on a slowshow HERE

And that was the Masher’s week. 

Just a reminder that it’s Play On at the Fat Cat this coming Friday the 4th February, while I’ve completely updated the South Yorkshire Folk Page HERE with his fantastic Spring Programme at the Princess Alexander.  

With that I shall now pass out.