We assembled around 7-ish for our sound-checks; Katy Carr arrived resplendent in a polka-dot suit and cloche hat just as I was singing 'Hot buttered toast and chipmunks to roast' (was I subconsciously thinking about the extraordinary phenomenon of the chipmunks on the beach at Fuerteventura, I wonder?). Thankfully, I got it right later on.
Katy's ukelele dates from 1915 and it's a sweet little instrument, in looks and sound. She told me she's bought seven ukes in the last six weeks and has also acquired a grand piano. Instruments are collecting around her as though she is a musical magnet.
She loved the venue and was bowled over by Acton Bell. 'Isn't she sweet!' she whispered.
Acton Belle was excited: the tables had little bowls in the middle filled with those gingerish German biscuits, and there was a lucky dip. I donated a Suburban Pastoral
album and spent the evening worrying in case I won it back (all the performers were given raffle tickets, or dip tickets, I suppose they were)
Alex Dunachie was the M.C. and he sang a folksong with three puppets on sticks, and then I was on.
Lovely! The audience was ready to sing along right from the start and as Acton Bell joined me for Waltzing Away from Winter
, they all bellowed along merrily. I would have had an encore but decided that there wasn't time. Why? asked the audience. My other song is 40 minutes long, I replied, and settled back to watch Trees and the Slipway
, a line of three men on guitar, bass and big tinky-tonk keyboard with inbuilt Abba rhythms (Katy is ace at spotting these things).
They were great, all singing together and clearly enjoying their brew of Doors/Underground/T-Rexish (plus the aforementioned Abba) pop music. 'Hmm yes we must write some more songs', said Steve, the guitarist after they'd finished the three songs they knew. Crashpad Winter
(wooo! sang the audience along with them) was my favourite song, obviously cunningly adapted lyrics-wise for the evening's theme.
Jacob got up to do a couple of songs, a slick fingerpicker, and then Acton Bell performed Herman's Hermits'
the ay ay ay ay ay
song- what's it called? the audience loved it and joined in all the way through, and Mud
's Gonna Be Lonely This Christmas (
which Katy and myself helped out with on vocals and late uke solo) the Bolton way: beautifully sung and simply and directly played on guitar.
After the prize draw, which was quite exciting as these things always are, Katy played a set of 1940s songs on the ukelele, managing to sound like a vintage recording (how does she do that with her voice? She's a genius) and then played Violetta
on another tinky-tonk keyboard whose keys fell off sporadically. She went down a storm.
The last band- I can't remember their name but I will find out and tell you- was two blokes, one on guitar and one on bass. They were excellent musicians and I coveted the guitarist's curly white lead. The sound man told me it was a Vox
one so I'm going lead-hunting after Christmas.
Their songs were so funny the bass player was laughing his head off all the way through; luckily, he was laughing in time with the music and didn't miss a note.
One was about white leather trousers, and then they did Wall
by Pink Floyd
, which was a pet hate of mine at the time (ghastly fake Cockney accents) and remains so to this day, so I opted out of the singalong without bearing a lifelong grudge against the band.
I loved their song about magpies, especially the confusion: 'How many magpies can you see from your nest, human? I mean... how many humans can you see from your nest, magpie?'
It was home time, but they hadn't been asked for the encore which they were determined to play, and they plugged in the tinky-tonk Casio keyboard and sang...'On the first day of Christmas my magpie gave to me, one egg in an egg tree', and so on.
By this time the bass player was laughing so much his teeth almost fell out, and I must say I am a sucker for people who laugh at their own jokes as this is a fault I share, sometimes laughing so much at the thought of the punchline that I become incapable of finishing the joke and getting there. So this of course was riveting, and it was a very humorous end to the evening.
Finally a bunch of us stood on stage and sang Silent Night
, which the guys from the last band sang in a jolly and competitive spirit. the guitarist from the last band had won Suburban Pastoral
which was a big relief.
It had been a wonderful evening, merry and Christmassy from the start, the Perseverance decorated not only by fat rolls of red tinsel but also by our our smiles.
I look forward to more shows there in the New Year!