Sunday, 6 March 2011

Drowning in Beer...............

A slightly surreal week for The Mashers.  I suppose it all started last Sunday when I started to work on the set list we were to play through at the Beer Festival.  

Putting thirty songs together was no problem, yet when I had finished compiling the list of what I took for granted to be a classic Masher collection of songs I realised that poor Keith, who was standing in as wing man for the Gigs, would know no more than three of the songs.

It certainly demonstrates just how an act develops.  Was it just five years ago that Keith and I would sit in The Monkwood on a Monday night playing through classics from The Spinners / Dubliners /
What I now take for granted to be Masher set songs has moved considerably from those days, and I think demonstrates all too clearly the artistic input that Myke had in the development of The Mashers.   The strange thing is that the change happened almost seamlessly and certainly without conscious thought.  

So Monday night found Keith and myself once again playing together, but this time, in the small upstairs room of The Bridge.  A strange experience and one I certainly thought would never happen again.

Keith has not been in the best of health of late, and in fact has not played for well over a year, so it was really big of him to stand in at very late notice to play alongside me at The Rotherham Real Ale Festival. 

In the few hours we had available we ran through as many of the songs on the Play List as we could, bringing him up to date with the arrangements of the songs he was familiar with and introducing the songs he had never heard let alone played before. 

It was of course a Nellie Folk night on Monday.  My apologies to those who may have felt that Keith and I were ignoring you, but to get the work done we had to use the maximum amount of time available.  

And so to Magna and The Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival.

First impression of Magna as a venue, it’s huge.    The eight minute walk from main entrance to Main Hall testifies to that.   Worse, on getting there we discovered that the stage we were to play on had been decided against, and so we had to walk nearly all the way back again to find the Kelham Island Café Bar, which as it turned out was to be our home for the next two evenings.
It’s an artist thing.  We like to know what we are doing.  But unfortunately circumstances were such that, with cancelled acts and Stage changes, timings and etc. were all over the place.   So working on first in first up The Mashers kicked off the entertainment in the Kelham Island Café Bar.  

Despite our lack of practice time together I think we carried off a fair opening set to get the evenings music underway. 

Joining us on the Café stage were Eskimo Kissed! (Julie and Richard) who produced a fine set of their own songs intermixed with a few well arranged covers.  This is an act which gets stronger every time I get to see them, and there is a bounce and an energy to their performance which sells their songs to an audience brilliantly.  They’ve just released a Demo EP of three tracks which you can find on the Acoustic Rotherham pages HERE

Also due to appear was Florin.  Apparently there had been some sort of administrative misunderstanding and Florin turned out to be Bob Humphries doing a solo spot, which he performed brilliantly, of course.  A better technical singer and performer would be hard to find anywhere. 

And yes, having kicked it all off, The Mashers wound it all up for the day. 

I did catch a bit of Brothers of The Nghit in what I called the lobby Hall stage, who seemed to be in great form, the only trouble was that it was really very cold making standing around for any length of time uncomfortable.

The Café Bar was not too bad because of the heat coming from the fryers and Coffee dispensers, but it was still uncomfortable for people wanting to sit and listen for an entire set.
It was though fantastic to put some flesh to some of the faces of people who follow us or our mutual friends on Myspace or Facebook.  It’s nice when people take the trouble to introduce themselves and make themselves known. 

Keith and I were also overwhelmed by the very kind comments that were made about our performances on both days.  But great thanks has to go to Dave Homer for producing some fantastic sound in a  very difficult venue.  Well done Dave, I know I’m speaking for all the acts on Wednesday and Thursday when I say that your efforts were very much appreciated. 

On the Thursday we joined in the Café Bar by Bob Humphries, once again who produced two of his outstanding sets – or was Keith right, was the second set basically the same as the first?  Who cares, it sounded great.  

Working audiences that are migratory, e.g. on the move from one Brewer to another is never very easy, and for solo acts in particular where one can be a statue making noise it can often be very soul destroying, even for duos it can be hard.  Yet on Thursday, the key performer of the evening Ray Hearne gave us a Master Class in how to demand attention from your audience.  Producing one of the best sets I’ve seen Ray perform, and using his amazing voice and knowledge of the Steel Industry which he has put into song and verse, he captured the audience brilliantly.  

Ray has been a part of the Community Project that has produced a DVD called “Hearts Of Steel”.  The full launch is on Monday 14th March at The Civic Theatre.  I hope to be able to bring you more about this event during the week, may be in a separate News Blog Special.  Link to ticket booking and a bit of information can be found on the Diary Page HERE

Oh – the Mashers opened and closed the entertainment in the Bar once again.  Enjoyable stuff.

On the lobby stage I caught a set from Treebeard.  An amazing show they put on, with Chris changing hats at regular intervals adding a bit of colour, if it were really needed to this high energy band. 

It’s easy to see why Treebeard are so popular on the Festival circuit with their contemporary, traditional sounding songs, and musicianship.  Brilliant stuff.

Before leaving the Beer Festival entirely.  I think Rudi and Joe need a big vote of thanks for the work they put in to getting the entertainment together for the Festival.  I know exactly how difficult putting on these events can be, and I’ve not had to worry about getting four or five piece Bands on let alone get the staging and sound sorted.  Despite the panic they must have been feeling inside they both were as laid back and charming as can be, despite provocation and being let down by some acts.  Well done lads you did a fine job. 

I’m sure the mixture of music and the standard of performance has added to what the Organisers are saying has been a record year for attendance at the Beer Festival.
If the same level of planning goes into the Yorkshire Blues Festival, also at Magna, a three day event starting 30th April then punters and acts will be in for a treat.   You can find full details of the Blues Festival by following the link on our Home Page HERE    I’m told early ticket sales have been brisk, so fingers crossed that this will be another success for Rudi and Joe. 

Photographs from the Real Ale and Music Festival, mainly The Mashers and Treebeard (courtesy of  Paul Pearson)in action can be found HERE

A mention for my Saturday night trawl of the live music venues, and of course yet another headline night at The Bridge.  There was a good crowd in once again, despite Papa Legbus playing at the Beer Festival where many regulars had clearly gone.  

Headlining were Black Toad, fronted by Mick and Lyn, playing their rocking blues.  Lyn’s voice always sends a tingle down my spine, it’s so right for the songs they perform, and the band are clearly well practiced and together.  If you get a chance to see them don’t miss out.  

And a word for support act Will Padfield.  One of those rare acoustic solo artists who can make the sound of a band.   I hope Will will be putting himself out there a little bit more, he deserves wider recognition for both his own songs and his performance levels.   We hope to be able to feature a number of demo tracks for down load from Will very soon.

I also put my head around the corner of The Trades Club.  Oh dear.   Please explain to me why a band made up of Lead and Bass guitar + attractive female singer drums requires backing tracks.  It’s all just so obvious and well, to be quite honest the Lass could have performed just as well on her own.  Clue or tip of the week…………….  If you need to fill out sound with backing tracks then invest in a keyboard player, at least it’s not so obvious.  Well that’s my view.  I’m sure they will go down very well on the holiday coast though…… so who am I to criticise them eh?

And so The Masher comes to the end of his busy little period.  The diary lays strangely empty.   This was a trial little run for me to see if I really could start to enjoy myself again, and yes, I’ve had a great time playing gigs local and out and around Yorkshire.  So perhaps it’s time to once again to look to fill the diary up a bit more.  

I doubt that Keith will be joining me on a permanent basis.  As previously stated he’s not a well chap and the stress that inadvertently comes with a busy diary may be just a little too much for him, so I shall in the main be remaining solo unless someone approaches me who is serious about helping to develop The Mashers further.  

So if you’ve got a slot somewhere in your Club / Session Diary and you fancy a bit of flash slash folk from The Masher (it ain’t pretty) with a slight political edge here and there give me a call or send an Email.  You can find out how HERE

The Web Site, despite it’s rather ropey condition in some areas is still pulling in more and more viewers.  It’s not really working as a commercial vehicle in terms of CD sales though, we would need many more hits for that to happen.  However, the overall project is worth developing further and I shall be concentrating efforts on improving the bits of the site that people use most often, like the Free Demo section. 

Other things coming up.  Full details of the Darnall Datallers Writer’s Club in Association with the Myke Barritt Music Trust, Spring Festival can be found HERE   It really is a full and varied programme of activities and well worth checking out.  It runs from 14th March until 5th April. 

As I’ve given Ray a big write up this week I suppose brother Mark Hearne should also be given a special mention as we near his long awaited St Patrick’s tour of Wentworth.  On the 17th March, the day itself Mark will be performing at an open event at The George and Dragon, always a popular night, so get in early.  You will be treated to his now famous mix of traditional Irish songs interspersed with more popular contemporary numbers. 

For those who don’t like free, then you have a second chance of catching Mark’s show at The Rockingham the following night, where he will be performing at a special Irish Dinner .  Ticket information can be found on the Diary Page HERE

Finally I send out the plea.  If you’re a Facebook friend then please head to our Band Page HERE and click on the LIKE Button it does make a huge difference to our general standings and it would be much appreciated.  And I’m still finding one or two of you on Reverbnation HERE, so why not become a friend of The Mashers there to.

Whatever you’re doing this week then please have fun and keep it live.

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