According to Tennyson “In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Maybe I'm getting on a bit but my thoughts these days turn more to getting on the road to see music and April gave me lots of chances. It's on of those change months when everything looks fresh and there's an optimism in the air. Buds break on the trees, the grass starts to green up and if you're lucky enough to see the sun it has a bit of warmth in it. I'm also fortunate to live in a place where spring makes for some beautiful countryside and constantly changing views, which turns the journey a part of the day.
Early April, and the first fine day we seem to have had this year, saw Amy Goddard launch her EP “Down In The Mine” in the small village of North Boarhunt in Hampshire, which is a county of downs, wooded valleys and chalk streams. The drive was pretty, shared with friends, and a fortunate combination of Mr Google and a satnav allowed us to discover probably the best Indian restaurant I've ever visited in a small town with a Georgian market square. It was already a great day and the music hadn't even started. Amy's launch was a delight; a village hall filled with friends and family became as much a party as a concert. The support acts were local, incredibly good, and showed what a depth of talent there is on the folk scene. Amy two sets involved plenty of tragedy and disaster, as would be expected given the topic, but it certainly wasn't a gloomy evening and the drive home was made easier with so many happy memories to store away.
A week later and I was heading for Dorset, probably my favourite part of England. The drive takes you through the New Forest, with gorse blooming, and into the heart of Thomas Hardy's Wessex. History and landscape combine and that's what Ninebarrow reflect so well in their songs. The event was the launch of their latest album “The Waters and The Wild”, to a sell-out and enthusiastic home crowd in Poole. Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere combine beautiful harmony and musicianship in songs that can have some quite dark themes, such as shipwrecks or witch hangings, but the again music never sounds gloomy mainly due to their charm and sparkling presentation. Once more meeting up with people you don't see that often all added to it.
My final gig was only an hour away, but far enough and to a new venue so it counted as a trip. It was another village hall, a converted Victorian schoolhouse that's recently been renovated into a really good venue. It isn't just for music but it will become part of a community. The artists on the night were Iona Lane and Kate Howden. Iona was unable to play guitar because of a touch of tendonitis, which could well have cause some manufactured band to pull out of the show but what made this one special was that we had two real musicians who've learnt their trade. They worked up a set where they could accompany each other, or sing a capella, and it became one of those performances where the synergy between the two created something new. The audience were spellbound.
I enjoy my trips away but there are two I won't be making this year. The Shepley Spring Festival has pulled its horns in to put on a much smaller one day event and the Beverley Folk Festival has been unable to guarantee funding so has been cancelled, although the fringe events will still go ahead. Whether you're planning a road trip or just popping down to your local bar get out there and do it; the performing arts are delicate flowers so we either care for them or lose them.