…..for the love of music

As a local solo acoustic musician I think we have a lot to thank Ed Sheeran for. It’s now seen as ok to be on stage just you and your guitar. If Ed can do it in front of however many people at St. James’ Park then it’s cool for us acoustic artists to be playing songs that are usually played by full bands on just our guitar and voice. And this seems to translate into a great reception around the bars (and care homes!) in the North East…. let me tell you about my week (with a thank you to Ed and his guitar – say what you want I can’t help but like him and his music)

It’s been an eventful week. I don’t think I’ve ever played as many gigs in one week! 6 over the course of 4 days (with a Two Wiseguys rehearsal on the fifth day!)

Wednesday caused me a bit of a chortle. I was at Osborne’s in Jesmond, a lovely bar to play. It’s a long night with 3 sets between 7 and 10 but the punters are always appreciative, singing along. But on this occasion it ended up being a little shorter….. Towards the end of my second set the bar manager approached me. “We don’t want you to play your third set at 9”. “Oh no!”, I said, “Why!? Is everything ok”, thinking I was going down like Bobby Crush on an oil rig (google it ;-)). “Ah no”, he said, “everything is fine but at 9 we are going to put Love Island on on the big screens so we need you not to be playing”. I paused thoughtfully. Now, as an acoustic solo artist the lowest point in any night is when some punter shouts out “oi mate can you play Wonderwall”. Almost without fail this happens every time and it’s tiresome. There you are pouring your heart out in song through carefully selected material and all the buggers want is Wonderwall. Now don’t get me wrong, in essence, it’s a good song, but goodness how flippin’ predictable. And having heard it crucified at many open mic and buskers nights it’s day has been and gone! So imagine me discovering that actually there is an even lower point!. Being ousted so that the pub can show Love Island! I mean come on! The bar manager was lovely about it and very apologetic. So I packed up early, got paid as though I’d done the whole night, and headed home early! Result!

Thursday was a double header! I played Popolo on the Quayside. Fairly early on in the set what I can only describe as a very attractive looking couple walked in and immediately started dancing. And I mean proper dancing. Like some kind of combination of salsa and tango. They were awesome and kept getting up for tune after tune having a great time getting down to the groove. It was definitely a ‘ten from Len!’ I then headed off to The Duke of Wellington, and being onto my second pint by this point I gave a rather heady half hour performance of some classic covers followed by the fabulous Holly Rees.

On Friday I was heading for the Shilling on the Quayside in Newcastle. What a hidden gem. In all the years I’ve been in and around Newcastle I have never ventured up the steps to this delightful dining pub. Beautiful architecture, tiled walls, period features (I think is the phrase!) and lovely staff and punters. I had a great night and it seemed like everyone else did too. It was a bit quiet due in part to the aforementioned Mr Sheeran playing close by.

Another double gig day presented itself on Saturday. And it was time to try out some new tunes and discover that a love of music is absolutely universal. I was playing my second gig in Glenholme which is a care home in Sunderland. The benefits of music for people with dementia are well researched and well documented and it’s great to be part of that. I’m just finding my feet with the right sort of music to play in this setting and today I tried out a few new ones – Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, Country Roads, and Sweet Caroline. They all went down an absolute storm. So I thought, “Let’s see what happens tonight?”. I was at Chaplins in Sunderland – a great pub for a Saturday night gig. I played the same three songs as part of my set and the reaction was exactly the same. Exuberant singing and applause. So as much as we might think being in a care home, being physically unwell, or having dementia makes things different this just shows that it doesn’t at all (but we knew that already – good to test it out in this small way though). I think the point here is, is that the love of music and the part of us that it taps into is the same for everybody. We might have our own personal preferences. I’m not mad keen on Johnny Cash for example. Which I said to the whole pub. “Hang on hang on”, said a very drunk woman at the bar, turning around. “You don’t like Johnny Cash”. “No not really I said”. “Well I might just come up there and take the mic off you and sing Burning Ring”, she said. I left it, but wanted to say, “I think you mean Ring of Fire love”…..

Also, when the singer says, “no, I don’t know any Train“, then accept it and don’t feel the need to ask for Train between each song after that for the rest of the gig! I refer the honourable lady to the answer I gave some moments ago……

Happy days! And ‘such fun’ as Miranda would say!

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