Unlike many of the other bloggers I can't sing or play an instrument and I don't present or promote shows. I'm that third part of an interdependent triangle; my contribution is to sit in the audience and clap. I remember seeing the great Scottish duo Mairearad Green and Annie Massie at a festival a few years back and they thanked the audience for being there. After all, if we weren't “it would have been an awfully long way to drive for a rehearsal”.
I love live music so I need musicians to listen to. The musicians need venues to play in and platforms to get their music heard. Somehow it all sort of works but at the level I like it I can't just be a passive receiver of other people's effort. We, as the audience, have our role if there is to be a future for independent artists and that is through supporting the performers we like by buying the CDs and tickets, pledging on the album campaigns and visiting the venues.
Living where I do, about 25 miles north of central London, the only problem I have with venues is that I'm spoiled for choice. On one spectacularly well organized occasion I ended up with four tickets for three gigs – on the same night. Within an easy hour's journey from home there are seven excellent folk clubs and any number of small venues to visit for a good evening out. It isn't just the music either as I have to eat as well, so many wonderful little restaurants and bars have been found over the years, which also manages to avoid visits to the burger chains. Uxbridge Folk Club has a lovely Chinese buffet just across the road, whilst Epping normally means Thai. Not far from The Islington, a decent pub venue, I discovered a Georgian restaurant selling very simple, home cooked food at wooden tables; it you like pickled vegetables it's the place for you.
Then there's the beer. Real beer and proper food are essential to the evening and, in London, we've more micro- and craft breweries than you can shake a stick at. When it all comes together then happiness is not far away and one place where this happens more often than not is The Green Note in Camden Town. This is probably my favourite place of all. There's great music every night of the week and it's certainly cosy. The main room takes sixty-five and the basement gets busy with twenty. If you want a seat you need to be queuing outside before the doors open. Despite its size everyone who is everyone has played there and if they haven't it's probably still on their bucket list. They do great vegan food, the spinach and chickpea filo wrap is a personal favourite, and there's a very good organic lager. What more could you want?
So, what's to look forward to in July? One that has really caught my eye is at The Green Note on the 18th, an exciting bill of Emily Mae Winters, Kitty Macfarlane and Kirsty Merryn.
Of course July is also the month the festivals really start to kick in and there are two fairly local to me. Folk by the Oak is a one-day festival held in the historic grounds of Hatfield House, where you might find yourself lucky enough to be sitting under same oak Elizabeth was when she was told she was now Queen Elizabeth 1st in 1558. There's a great line-up this year with Show of Hands, Kate Rusby and The Levellers on the main stage and plenty of good acts including Sam Kelly and the Lost Boys on the acorn stage.
Unfortunately, I'm going to miss both of those events as I'll be in Outer Mongolia, but I will manage to get one festival in whilst I'm there. Naadam is more about horse riding, archery and wrestling than music but hopefully there will be some throat singing on show as well.
I'm back in time for probably the biggest folk festival of all. Cambridge runs from Thursday to Sunday and is always worth a visit. Friday to Sunday there are five stages ranging from the huge main marquee to The Living Room holding maybe 20 people. With up to 12,000 visitors a day it can get a bit overwhelming but the festival site is in the beautiful grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall so it's always possible to find a bit of peace and quite if you need a break and, with continuous music for twelve hours a day, that's sometime the case. The Thursday evening opener is a lovely warm up. With just two stages and maybe a couple of thousand people it has a really laid back feel. I'll tell you about Cambridge in the next blog if Neil King doesn't get there first.
I'll be back from Cambridge just in time to drop off the rucksack and have a shower before ending the month with a real bang. I'll be heading to The Green Note again for an excellent double bill of Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby with Oka Vanga.
That will be a night for the guitar lovers.