Friday, 13 November 2015

I have a list and a dream: One day roots music will follow real ale

A good list is always hard to beat...
The World Cup wall chart is a childhood delight I still enjoy today! It helps you keep track of how early England exit. The wisdom of cup competitions is that you never remember the beaten semi-finalists – with a wall chart you have far more chance! I was asked recently how many gigs had I been too in my life and how many artists I had ever seen live. I have no idea but resolved to trawl through my CD collection to create some kind of list – I needed a wall chart!  

I am keeping a list for my fifty fifty challenge. Each gig, when it is booked, is added to a numbered list so I know exactly how I am doing in this self-set challenge. As each blog is published, the gig is noted on the list as ‘blogged’. This has proved invaluable, as I have been able to track my progress. As people have enquired how I’m doing I’ve been able to tell them. I quickly fire off the number of gigs I have been too and also those that I have booked thus far. At different points in the year people have either looked worried or impressed with my progress and as I get nearer the end of the 12 months, people are genuinely believing that I will actually make 50 (gigs that is not my Birthday!).

I have had to make decisions about who to see and resist the urge to go mad and buy tickets all at once to ensure I succeed. The list has not only been very satisfying, as a good list is always hard to beat, but useful to keep me on track. Just as family and friends are beginning to believe that I will fulfil my challenge so I am feeling confident as I currently have the list that stands at 44.  So far I have been to 33 and 30 have been blogged about (you see I told you I could quickly fire off a number!).

So amidst all this planning it was wonderful to stumble upon an unlisted gig. With a week off work I headed to visit a friend who lives in Devon. I had just done 3 gigs in a week and I had a couple booked for the end of this week off, so this was a time to write some of the outstanding blogs, playing catch up before I got too far behind and started mixing up gigs as they merged into one in my memory! 

Lost in a lazy Sunday afternoon...
As we headed out on a sunny autumn Sunday afternoon we found a pub, The Teigh House, just outside Exeter. We actually stopped to see if they were showing the rugby semi-final! We walked in and to our delight saw five or six musicians setting up for a jam. We turned our backs on the rugby ordered a couple of pints of local real ale and sat at the bar to enjoy this unplanned gig.

As they were tuning, and it took a while as there were quite a few strings between them, the bartender told us it’s a monthly event. Finally, with all the strings in tune the jam began. This was music at its most democratic. Each musician took it in turns to choose a song and each member of the group got a chance for a solo verse in every song. Rather confusingly they chose each new song clockwise round the group but the solo verse travelled anti-clockwise!

There was not an ego amongst them, as they all seemed to enjoy playing music for the beauty of what is created when people get together and play variations of the same tune in the same key. After each song there was applause from those of us lost in a lazy Sunday afternoon of real ale and real music. The applause however did not seem important for our entertainers, as they discussed the next song, how it goes, and how it always gets mixed up with that other one – you know – oh what is it called… 

With the said guitar we were invited to share with them in their food...
After they had all chosen a song, the sandwiches appeared and the music stopped and my friend, who just happened to have his guitar in the car, asked if anyone could join in? They were delighted and as he reappeared with the said guitar we were invited to share with them in their food.

The second half started and again they democratically asked each in turn for a song suggestion including, my friend, the new-comer, who, it has to be said, was not treated as such, but only as the latest member of the jam. 

I can’t say I knew any of the songs but I loved the afternoon and heard some beautiful music. After the second round was complete there was a short break and conversations were had and instruments swapped - to be admired and played. Stories were also swapped of playing, of local music shops and local luthiers. As the third round began it was hard to imagine a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon and as my friend took a break, yours truly even picked up the guitar to join in. I didn’t know these people; they could have been teachers, insurance brokers, nurses, unemployed, retired, I had no idea, and they knew nothing about me. But the moment I joined in a song with them, it didn’t matter. We were making music together.

As the afternoon - now the early evening - came to an end, we realised we had totally forgotten about the rugby. Australia had won, but unlike our afternoon that was fairly predictable! As we finished another couple of pints of real ale it struck me that there is hope for grass roots music.

Years ago it wasn’t possible to find a pint of real ale anywhere. The only choice was between various mass produced beers from various large breweries. Today, in pubs up and down the country, you can’t move for real ale and craft beers. The general public has come to realise that gaseous, mediocre, tame mass produced beers are a far cry from carefully and caringly produced ale. One day the same will happen with music. The mass produced crap of the charts will be seen for what it is and real, grass roots music will be appreciated. A day when real music played by teachers, insurance brokers, nurses, unemployed, retired folk, and holiday makers is valued and loved as much, if not more than, the chart-topping music played by music industry puppets.

Speed down the country lane with stereo blaring...
Every other gig I have been too on my list I can relive a little by listening to the CD or download. Not today. And that matters not one jot! This afternoon has not been about being able to relive the moment. It was simply about the moment. The moment of music bringing people together, the moment in time when nothing else matters, the moment of a simple and pure delight in music. However, one day I’ll hear a bluegrass tune that was played today and I’ll instantly be back in that Devonshire pub that many people don’t even notice as they speed down the country lane with stereo blaring, and I’ll be reminded of real music and real ale, community and companionship, harmony and hope, solos and socialising. But what I won’t remember are the loosing semi-finalists – now where is that wall chart!

Gig: 31 of 50
Date of Gig: Sun. 25th October 2015

The Teigh House, Devon

Local People (plus a couple of holiday makers!)

Running total of artists seen 65

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