Tuesday, 2 December 2008
To a gig at the Zebra Bar last night. I happened on Thea Gilmore in 2001 when 'Rules for Jokers' came out, and we haven't stopped playing her since, and K sings her spine-tingling ' 'I'm Gonna Haunt You'.
The audiences here are sedate, respectful and perhaps not the easiest to warm up. Joan Coffey had that job and did it well, ranging from sweet-voiced colleen to someone who could round up sheep. Her well-structured lyrics seize you with a strange sense of deja vu; 'Sometime' is still going round in my head.
Thea's own set was just....superb; the sort of gig you never forget. That makes you glad you've been standing for three and a half hours, because a chair would have been a shackle. Supported by husband/producer Nigel Stonier (vocals, guitar, harmonica), who has written for the likes of Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne and Sandi Thorn and sung with Martha Wainwright, and by the multi-talented Fluff (vocals, violin, guitar), who has played with the Incredible String Band, Nick Harper, Waking the Witch and others, she held us hostage from start to finish, here the plangency of Nick Drake, there the soaring, spine-tingling purity of Sharleen Spitiri. We didn't want it to end.
But one thing I don't understand. Average age of the audience? Probably over 50. What's that about? Was there something better going on in this two-bit town on a Monday night? Were they all racing each other in nicked motors on the ring road? Popping Es in some techno house? Brains addled by their iPods? Doing their homework? Glued in front of Celebrity Makeover Academy Factor on Ice? Eating burgers? I wouldn't have classed this gig as folk, but even if it was, when I were a lad folk clubs attracted all ages. Everyone is into Roots Blues now. Well, Folk is our Roots; it's raw and unmixed, unplasticised, undigitised, un-Walshed and Cowelled; un Ken Bruced and Woolworthed; it's soul-food red in tooth and claw, vegetables with muck on them; love, lust, honour, courage, sorrow, grief... God save the singer-songwriters.
Oh, what's the point?