Nailing It For Duncan
It always amazes me that something you plan for months can then be over so quickly. We don’t get many opportunities to play together as a band – The Folded Arms. I live in south Manchester, Matt lives in Leicester, Jad in Hemel Hempstead, Kieran and Emma both in Blackpool, and Kate in Fleetwood, so the gig dates are not always suitable for everyone.
This last weekend I had managed to organise a number of gigs at Chorley Live, two solo gigs on the Friday and two band gigs the following evening. On this occasion Jad was in Florida, so was unable to join us. Kieran took time out from a narrowboat holiday in the south of England to take the train up for the evening and return to his idyll the following morning. Emma and Kate joined Kieran and Gary Whiteside (honorary non-playing band member and general adept ligger) in Kieran’s car for the journey over from the Fylde coast. And then there was Matt. Matt tells the story of his mad weekend separately, and mad it was for him. Utterly mad. It’s a mix of driving, fighting, playing, cheer leaders, and eating sausages.
Duncan had been hospitalised in the weeks leading up to the festival and sadly had to pull out, leaving two Friday solo gig spots and two Saturday band slots free at short notice. Matt kindly drove up to fill the Friday slots, but even he would have found it impossible to multitask his way through two lots of two simultaneous gigs in places several hundred yards apart, whether or not fortified by high quality sausages! Luckily I had ‘met’ another blues artiste via Twitter a few months previously, and he had just moved to Chorlton from Brighton a few weeks before. So Sam Jefferson pretended he was a band, filling the other two gig slots.
My Friday solo gigs were great fun. The first was in Goodies coffee shop, where I was occasionally accompanied by that loud choking noise that coffee machines seem to make as they finish dispensing, and a toilet cistern that occasionally resonated around my end of the room, once perfectly in time to the song I was singing at the time. My microphones had been positioned right next to the door to the only toilet in this small café, which meant that I twice had to turn my cittern to the side mid-song to allow through people who had been drinking too much coffee!
The second gig of the night took me to my new favourite shop. Grandad Jim’s sweet shop was founded in the nearby town of Leyland and now has a branch in Chorley. So my backdrop consisted of shelves full of all the kinds of sweets that rotted my teeth as a small boy, topped by a model railway on whose track Thomas the Tank Engine and one carriage (was it Annie or was it Clarabel?) repeatedly flew around my head. AND I got to play with a diminutive Elvis!
The following evening me and The Folded Arms had gigs one hour but just a hundred and fifty yards apart – at Chain Stitch and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on Market Street. Yes, they trusted me to play politically themed songs in a bank. The PA system at the first venue was not really suited to a good band sound, at least not from where I was standing on the stage. I could barely hear my cittern, although my vocals came across loud and clear. Essentially we had too much equipment for the PA, but out there in the audience we apparently sounded pretty good. We dropped two songs from the set, because it had taken longer than expected to set up, and we carried our now eight songs with us to RBS.
We arrived to find the Red Rosettes singing their hearts out to a packed audience with an eclectic mix of songs, all delivered in beautiful harmony. I don’t know how many women were in the chorus but we had to battle to the stage with our equipment through the throng, starting more or less on time. The PA was much better here and it helped us to deliver our brand of folk, folk rock, and progressive music, or however you want to label it. We played a mix of songs from Moorscape, Dry The Life and my imminent EP The Madness, plus a new song called The Judge and a new version of the title track of Moorscape with Emma and Kate nailing the lead vocals (even though Kate had developed a migraine half way through the first set, the stalwart!). Freed from singing I just played my cittern and at one point looked out into Market Street to witness almost everyone outside seemingly reel over drunk from the pub next door.
And then it was all over. We loaded the bus and I drove Matt and Sam back to Manchester ahead of Matt’s drive south the following morning, while Kieran drove the others back to Blackpool ahead of his Sunday train south. We get very little opportunity to rehearse together yet the gigs always seem to go well. Everyone stays relaxed and seems to know what to do, thoroughly enjoying performing together. For me it was a huge release from the last few weeks of Duncan’s hospital incarceration and the weeks of recovery ahead. He would have loved playing at Chorley Live and would have left the audience spellbound, but there will be plenty of other opportunities. A big thank you to Nigel Stewart, the Creative Network, and all the sound technicians and stewards in delivering two amazing nights of music in a true community its atmosphere!
The next gig for The Folded Arms is to open the Oxjam Calderdale Festival at 2pm on Sunday 29th October, when Jad will be back among us. Hebden Bridge here we come!