Saturday, 17 October 2015

Keep My Seat Warm - I'm On My Way!

I also hate being early...
I once knew of a Methodist Minister who was habitually late. He became known as ‘The Late Revd Harry Walkley’. Traditionally at the end of Church meetings the Benediction is said: it became the standing joke the moment ‘the late Revd Harry Walkley’ walked into a meeting, late, for someone to pretend the meeting was ending by announcing the Benediction! 

There are those people, it seems, who are incapable of being on time and conversely, those for whom lateness is a cardinal sin. I live happily somewhere between the two. I hate being late and I also hate being early. I like to arrive on time.  However, with Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin I am in danger of getting the same reputation as the Late Revd Harry. For some reason, and I’m not sure quite why, the last two times I have seen them I have been late. Tonight, is no exception. I arrive part way through the first half and am greeted by ushers who will not let me in until there is applause. I end up waiting impatiently in the foyer.

It’s a good job they are one of the best duos around on the music scene at the moment. I hate to think how long I will have to wait if it wasn’t for the crowd enthusiastically eruptting into applause after each song! But I agitatedly pace around till finally I’m let in. On the previous two occasions, I’ve been let in, found a seat, settled down and just got comfortable only to hear Hannah announce the last song in the set… so frustrating, knowing that I had missed a wonderful series of songs.

Mud-drenched Brecon field...
Tonight I’m late to the King’s Place, a venue I haven’t been to before, just behind Kings Cross Station.  It’s a modern, chic, shiny wooden arts centre, clearly designed for all the modern, chic, shiny, middle class, middle aged Folksters who obviously feel at home being in such close proximity to the Guardian HQ! Oh, how far Folk music has come in the last few years, but I’m not sure its gentrification is conducive to the overall experience. I’ve seen Phillip and Hannah at their local Exmouth Festival, sitting on the grass drinking cheap beer in the sun of Manor Park, in the mud-drenched Brecon fields of the Green Man Festival, in the back room of the Kenlis Arms in Garstang with its signature cat-pee aroma, and all seemed the be the right sort of place to hear this delightful duo! It’s all a little too shiny and sanitised tonight to add anything to the atmosphere of the gig. (Plus in those other places I wouldn’t have been kept outside until they finished a song!)

Tonight is a night out with friends. I have the tickets, but whilst they were on time, I am not! Fortunately a phone call and the promise that I had the order number meant they could get in to witness the whole of the first half. Unfortunately unreserved seating means that by the time I finally get there we cannot sit together!

Atmospheric and ethereal, traditional folk with a trance vibe...
However, at the break it is worth the tension of having been on a diverted bus to see the joy in their faces as they start talking about the first half.  Over our interval drinks, disbelief turns to amazement in their faces as they describe seeing and hearing beatbox harmonica for the first time. Discovering brilliant new music is a very special thing. Sharing that with others is equally, if not more, special. I have already forgotten the fact I missed most of the first half because it is such a blessing to see the enjoyment and enthusiasm of my companions.

As I take my place in the auditorium for the second half I sit back totally relaxed and enjoy a sublime set. There is a natural musical chemistry between Phillip and Hannah and with each album their song writing is getting stronger. Hannah’s beautiful haunting folk voice is perfectly complemented by Phillip’s virtuoso dobro, harmonica and guitar. This gig is one of a series of launch gigs for their new album.  In ‘Watershed’ the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Duo of the Year have produced a classic, which they showcase with energy and brilliance alongside their staple live tracks.

The encore is their wonderful interpretation of ‘The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’. That seems to sum up everything about them as a duo: atmospheric and ethereal, traditional folk with a trance vibe that you can dance too and a musicianship that excels to produce an unforgettable climax to an evening of pure class.

Meeting up with my friends after the second half and they have bought the new album to give to other friends who ‘would have loved it tonight’! Sharing great music is infectious.  It’s been another great evening with Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin and my only regret is that I missed the first half! I will try harder next time and may even live with being early so I can savour a complete evening of their music – but if you go and see them and there is an empty seat next to you – keep it warm I’m on my way….

(Photos from their gig at Exmouth Festval May 2011)

Gig: 25 of 50
Date of Gig: Friday 2nd October 2015

King's Place

Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin

Running total of artists seen 53

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