Welcome, dear readers, to the September Blog from Hillbilly Boogie.
Menacing surf-noir with skiffling eastern rock’n’roll from a parallel universe’…. These words were penned in respect of a fabulous outfit from Glasgow called The Strange Blue Dreams. As I said during Hillbilly Boogie when playing some of their tracks, I have no idea how reviewers come up with this wonderfully florid prose so I shall paraphrase the KISS acronym and Keep It Simple (Stu)!
Before we go any further, here is ‘Reverberatin’ Love’ from The Strange Blue Dreams.
Again, during a recent program, I was reminiscing about spending time hanging out in record shops – and one in particular.
When I was a lad, I was despatched 300 miles from North Wales to Dover to go to school (sometimes I think my folks were trying to tell me something!). The school ethos was that, if you were not picked to play for one of the school sports teams then you should stand on the sideline with the wind hurtling unimpeded off The Channel (generally in the rain) and cheer on your schoolmates. Fortunately, I had a mate (more, a kindred spirit) who, if we weren’t in the team, was as enthusiastic as me to walk down the hill into Dover and go to John Scrace’s record shop.
Given that we were two (perhaps slightly precocious) teenagers in the 60’s from a military school with regulatory, and fearsome, short back & sides haircuts I continue to marvel at, and be grateful for, the patience shown by the older (very hairy & hippy) customers in John Scrace’s. My friend and I would read the music press and reviews from the broadsheet newspapers that were allowed at school and then we would try and listen to as much music by those featured in the articles. I remember listening to Kevin Ayres’ Joy Of A Toy – for us, the more ‘out there’ the better though I should confess that my young ears were not ready for Rahsaan Roland Kirk! I also recall an excited ball of hair dashing in one Saturday and asking ‘Is it here?’ and, being told that “it” was here, he blurted ‘I can’t wait to get home, put it on!’ and so, I first heard Uilleann pipes and the names of Finbar and Eddie Furey.
After leaving school, and getting more hair of my own, hanging round in the record shops (or the huge record stall in the covered market in Wrexham) remained a genuine pleasure – chatting with fellow music lovers (especially if they had an eclectic taste) and finally deciding on purchases and wandering off home.
The point of this ramble? I am grateful that I was able to read and learn about music and musicians with someone who was as enthusiastic as me and that we were both able (and allowed) to hang out safely with older fellas (who in reality were probably only in their early 20’s) and expand our musical horizons even further and never hear the words ‘push off, kid’.
My wide-ranging musical taste started much earlier than boarding school though. My dad
used to go to auctions and he would come back with boxes of records that were a mixture of 78’s and 33⅓ records. From these I went from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (not keen), Winifred Atwell (which I played on a wind-up gramophone) and recordings of a Gamelan Orchestra that captivated me. Not to mention a Jim Reeves record (Sincerely Yours) where he spoke and played a snippet of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Little did that chubby kid know that one day he would get to meet and make acquaintance with A.P. Carter’s grandson and visit Mount Vernon in Maces Spring.
Last week we visited our favourite venue: The South Holland Centre in Spalding. We went to see 3hattrio who had returned to the UK after making a triumphant appearance at Celtic Connections earlier in the year. I am grateful to Hal, Greg and Eli for permitting me to take some photographs during their concert.
So what makes The South Holland Centre so special?
Their program is always varied, the music events are always of a high calibre, the ticket prices are reasonable and the facilities in and around the South Holland Centre are very good. But it’s more than that.
The South Holland Centre seems to have a very loyal audience. Two concerts spring to mind - 3hattio and Hillfolk Noir who, I think it is fair to say, are a little ‘left field’ yet the theatre was filled. Speaking with fellow audience members, some have said that – even if they are not overly familiar with an artist – they will turn up because of the reputation that the venue has built.
Now that’s the key, isn’t it? A venue that has worked hard to build (and then maintain) a reputation that will encourage audiences back – even if some of the audience are ‘taking a punt’.
In the past year we have seen shows/concerts in small venues where the music is good yet there seems to be little attention paid by the promoter to either the music, the musicians or the audience. When the bands have played, they have played their hearts out but it has been hard not to feel that the musicians (and their audience) deserved better. We have also been to concerts by similar artists in small venues where concerts are consistently sold out and audience members recognise the efforts made by the promoters for performers and audiences alike…and they keep coming back.
Getting rear-ends on seats is the perennial problem for promoters and there are no easy answers but unless audiences feel that their money was well-spent they will not return – another venue on the tour (even if it is further away) will get the sale. So will we be going back to the South Holland Centre? Going to 3hattrio I had two further concerts booked and by time we left, I had bought tickets for another and another one will be attended in 2018 when tickets are available…..I promised not to say who….you will have to keep an eye on their website !
Let me leave you with ‘Flight’ by 3hattrio…
See you soon….as ever, Be Good!