I had a familiar but strange feeling as I loaded my guitars and the rest of the gear into the back of the car to make the long journey down the A1 to The Kontra Roots Club near Northampton. It was my first gig in almost two years and my first solo gig in about a decade. Nervous? ... just a little! Excited? ... absolutely! It's been a long time coming and a lot has changed but then again a lot hasn't. The old routine soon kicked in, have I packed everything, what have I forgotten, what's the post code, how's the car, what's the traffic like, any roadworks, what time is the soundcheck, etc, etc ,etc. It was actually a three and a half hour drive that turned out to be just under six but it didn't matter as first night nerves meant I set off ridiculously early and got there in good time.
This meant I was able to relax, do a bit playing and shake off any tiredness from six hours behind the wheel ... well not quite as I did stop a couple of times for a sandwich and a cup of tea from the same flask I've had for years! I actually don't mind a long drive as long as it doesn't affect my playing when I go on stage which sometimes it can .. hard liquor and loads of drugs don't seem to help either! The gig was a triple bill and the re-opening of the club after the pandemic which hopefully, is at least now contained and 'live' music can be back for good. Kevin Buxton is the promoter with Geoff Bland as always doing a great job on the desk and the rest of the team just creating a lovely atmosphere. The venue is an upstairs room in Earls Barton Working Men's Club but some candles, subtle lighting and appropriate background music between the acts and you would be forgiven for thinking you were back in the 1960's in some kind of hippy shack! Thankfully this is all a far cry from my early days experience learning my trade in Working Men's clubs around the north east where I was always only ever referred to as 'the turn' and God help me if my performance cut into the time set aside for the raffle and the bingo!
I recognised a few people in the audience (the power of a good mailing list) and it was great to have a couple of my sisters, Helena and Irena, turn up, making the trip over from the northwest. A complete surprise was some friends from Birmingham, Nick and Jasmine, also braving the Friday evening traffic to come and give me a bit of support. The night kicked off with Stevie Jones doing a short set, I'm told he has a band who are pretty good too. Carterdolby followed as the first part of the triple bill, a male and female duo doing a mix of original stuff and other things with some nice guitar playing and harmonies. I have to admit that by this time it was becoming a bit difficult to concentrate as I was to be next on!
For a first solo outing I really wasn't sure what to play, I had some new tunes I wanted to try out, along with some new arrangements to some of the older stuff and I wanted to do a couple of songs from the JINSKI duo days, basically quite a lot to fit in. Oh and I forgot to mention the piano, something I want to bring in as a regular part of the set as I get back to doing more gigs across the country. I only finally settled on what I was going to do the day before but I also kept a couple of things up my sleeve in case of emergencies. I'm happy to say I needn't have worried too much because as soon as I started playing I could feel myself relaxing and just really enjoying the gig. All the songs went down well and I sold a load of CD's, all in all ... quite marvellous!
Finally a quick word about the closing act Chris Conway and Dan Britton, some really nice original songs featuring piano, guitar, whistle and lovely harmonies, you can check them out here Big thanks to Chris by the way for the loan of his piano, it saved dragging even more gear along. Hope to share the stage again with you guys, even if it means travelling down to Devon! Dan will appreciate that comment. Oh and Chris, all gigs would be considered but I think I'll leave the wedding functions for you to do on your own!
So that was it, a successful first venture back into the world of 'live' music. All that remained was for me to pack the car and head back up the motorway, which fuelled by post show adrenaline, tea, sandwiches and The Beatles blasting out on the car stereo, was a piece of cake. Rolled into bed about half three, not a bad day's work all things considered. Can't wait for the next gig wherever it is!
'Good in The World' was a song commissioned by Dry Water Arts as part of their Arts Council funded KIN project. They are based in the small town of Amble on the north east coast in Northumberland. The piece took lyrical inspiration from participants in Dry Water Arts Dementia Positive programmes and vocal assistance from The Amble Harbour Lights Choir. Read this blog to find out a little more about how the song came about and those who contributed to it.
Steve set up his YouTube channel sometime ago but has only recently begun to add to it. The content will be expanded in the coming months. You can expect a combination of some 'live' performance clips, promo videos and conversations. If you click the subscribe button (free of charge, of course) on the YouTube channel page then you will be notified every time some new content is added to the channel. For a link to the channel and a few insights into the video making process, take a couple of minutes to read the blog post.
A while back in May 2016 when the world was a very different place, I was asked to work on and pull together a recording for the London Branch of the Northern Ireland Supporters Club. They were about to make their way over to Paris to support their football team in the upcoming European Championships...