Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ascendant Band, Astronomical Beer

To a gig last week; a guy named Paul Dunton from Tunbridge Wells has established a series of candlelit soirees featuring local artists. This was the first to be held in Maidstone, upstairs in the local Pizza Express. Most of the musicians came from Tunbridge Wells, and may be familiar to Justme and Completely Alienne

Any showcase for local talent is worthwhile, and this was potentially a good venue. Unfortunately the twin emphases on food and music clashed. It was a distraction having waitresses clattering to and fro with orders, and the restaurant prices for drinks were prohibitive. With beer at £6.50 a pint and entry at £7 per head, a party of four could be £50 out of pocket before they'd sipped the first drink. Order a meal as well, as was clearly expected by the staff (we didn't, and we weren't alone), and you were into serious money. When we'd seen the price list we whipped straight back out to the pub next door and sank a quick pint before the first set, and then nursed an expensive bottle of cheap wine for the remaining three hours.

The evening opened with a 16 year old pianist/singer/songwriter, Annabel Durnford, who performed with grace and maturity. She was followed by the event organiser Paul Dunton and friends. Piano, violins, flute and cello delivered an unusual fusion of pop/rock ballad and chamber music. I'm not sure the room did them justice.

Third act was singer/songwriter Joanne Louise Parker. Her spare guitar technique placed the focus on a voice of bewitching tone and clarity, and she showed an almost celtic ability to sing on pitch without accompaniment (or 'a cappella' as it's poncily known down here). Perhaps there is a Free Church enclave in her native fens. Folk/blues flavoured, she is very good.

Headliners Cyrano came from Tunbridge Wells. They produced a consistently tight, studio-quality sound which belted around the room in a sustained, plangent attack. When I looked at the audience they were tapping and twitching as if they were wired in series, and women were dancing on the steel stairs to the mezzanine floor. Joe Ackerley's voice soars with plaintive purity, Karl B hammered away on lead guitar like an onanistic gnome, and bass and drums were balanced, punchy and harmonious. Cyrano are currently putting together their first album. Watch this band, because I reckon it will become a household name.


  1. Sounds a good night but like you I would have found the food a distraction - one or t'other for a night out but not at the same time. Unless it's jazz. For some reason listening to jazz and eating go together remarkably well.

  2. Can't beat going out and hearing good music. How enterprising of that chap to start these 'candlelight soirees'.Hope you get to some others - and take a picnic with you.

  3. what a cool night ya'll had, sugar! the resto would be wise to consider doing just an appetizer or starters menu, instead of a full one. i love the idea of giving local musicians a chance! xoxo

  4. I can't believe the self-indulgent prices they charged for drinks. Seems a good idea though, but the eating bit would have been a distraction as you say.

    Tickled by the imagery of an onanistic gnome. Must be a fishing rod substitute.

  5. I've come across Joanne Louise Parker before, and was pleasantly surprised. Should she ever travel to the frozen North, I would gladly pay to see her in person.

    Celtic in her approach.. I like that.. a lot.

  6. It was a good night Steve - at least after I'd had my pint. I'm sure you're right about jazz; something very laid back about it, and I hope to grow into it more after puberty.

    Fancy, it is enterprising of him. It does look as though culturally things are looking up here. After decades of nuclear winter, small green shoots of artistic talent are poking their tiny heads above the Mid Kent tarmac.

    Savannah, the starters idea is an excellent one. Especially whitebait (I've been known to repeat an order for whitebait for pudding).

    Madame DeF, I am a tight-wad when it comes to overpriced booze. I tidied up the onanistic gnome reference for the sensitivity of cultured ladies such as you. Anyway, it was a reference to the way he was sitting, not his height or no doubt bonny appearance.

    Jimmy Sir, you are clearly a well-travelled man, and one of taste. The best unaccompanied voice I ever heard was a lady who, when persuaded, sang a carol in the Gaelic each Christmas during the midnight mass in the Church of Scotland in Portree. The place was a hazard of candles. At that time, above the Communion Table, the face of the Lord had appeared in a patch of damp (he's been re-decorated since), and there was always a gentleman in the gallery who had partaken.

  7. I am flattered you think I might be with it enough to have come across any of them; sadly, I have not. I asked Attila who said she had heard of Cyrano (she was listening to Cerulean Blue by the way). I checked the link and like the sound of them though.

    Pizza E have always been a rip off with their beer prices - I like your solution.

  8. Sounds like a fun evening-apart from the price of the beer! Glad you liked the photos. It was a lovely service.
    Sarah x

  9. Portree huh? I wasn't a million miles away from that last month.

    We spend a few weekends a year in Dunvegan, doing nothing much but kicking back and maybe taking in a few books.

    A long drive from Glasgow, but well worth the trip.

  10. Sounds like my kind of night. We have a number of venues around my neighborhood that feature new music as well. Not sure about the prices, but we end up paying about five American for a beer as well.
    Best to go to the pub already buzzed up. :-)

  11. Completely - Whay good taste Attila has! There's another one coming soon.

    Sarah - I'm glad. I'd have liked to hear Dougal's reading/address.

    Jimmy - A good place to chill out. My family home for 30 or so years was near Struan, looking across at the Portree road. They have some good gigs in the Cellar Bar of the Dunvegan, although it's been a few years. Last band I saw there was a local one, Trudge Euphoria, which was excellent.

    Pearl - Five American used to seem quite good value to us. Not any more, alas! Go buzzed up? Good, good plan!

  12. You live in Tunbridge Wells, Bro? It's an attractive town, but I've been in Miss Pearl's town, Minneapolis, where you can eat ribs and drink beer and listen to R 'n B and still have change out of 10 dollars!

  13. I'm afraid those prices would spoil MY evening and I wouldn't go there more than once on principle!

    Glad you managed to enjoy it regardless BT.

  14. £6.50 for a pint of beer! So it's true what they say about the south of England.

  15. Sounds like a great night despite the prices... you are so on the pulse with new music brother- when can we hear some more of K's?

  16. I grew up in Gillingham (how I survived I'm still not sure) and felt Maidstone to be the height of sophistication when I was about twelve. Glad to hear it's still got something about it.

  17. Sounds a fantastic night out! I know what you mean about the food and the prices, seems you can't go anywhere these days without someone scalping you for something (which does not sit well within my Scot ancestry I can assure you).

  18. I prefer listening to music where you can have a picnic on a rug and drink your own wine. But I guess that isn't really feasible in Kent in February.

    It is good that someone went to the bother of organising the evening but perhaps a better venue next time - I've never been in a Pizza Express but it doesn't sound very appealing or atmospheric really.

    And I am far too tight to pay lots of money for indifferent food or wine.

    But the music part of it sounds lovely.

  19. Do you think Jimmy Bastard took the drive through the Rest & Thankful? Beautiful stretch of road and I'm due to write something about the Witch's Hat.

    You missed your calling, you know that don't ya?

  20. Gadjo, not quite Tunbridge Wells, but near enough. Miss Pearl's sounds a whole lot better.

    Laura, I feel that way a bit. There are other venues, and it would take a lot of band to get me there again.

    Can Bass, everything they say about the South East is true unless it involves me, in which case it's a scurrilous fabrication.

    Daisy, I use it like a pacemaker. K has done a new one. Not on YouTube because it needs a video, but you can get a preview (prehear?)on her MySpace at

    Eryl, Hi. We both did our early growing up under matchuing statues of General Gordon, only with a few thousand miles between them. Alwyas felt Rochester had more action than Maidstone. Gillingham...well, you have a point! Just going to visit yours now.

    Amanda, it's not that were mean, is it? Just that we hate waste.

    RB, Oddly enough, this was in an upstairs, galleried room that, blacked-out and candlelit, did have atmosphere. But I like drinking on a rug too (there's nowhere to fall over).

    EV, I imagine he knows Rest and Be Thankful like the back of his hand. Good luck with the article!

  21. Aah, pizza express has always been massively overpriced. Really nice pizza though!

  22. Eryl has a point - I grew up in Chatham and thought Maidstone was exotic too. It was that trip down Bluebell Hill on the No 1 bus!

  23. I agree that food and music don't mix... but then, not being a drinker anymore, I'd happily ban beer at most gigs too. I just go for the music, man... and at £6.50 a pint, I'm glad I'm teetotal!

  24. Hey You, Award at my place


  25. Queen Mab - It is. Nice I mean, not expensive. Although it is expensive, too.

    Completely - Not the 100, 101 or 333 then? You must have passed the SS many times - her Dad ran the Post Office Stores on Blue Bell Hill.

    Riol - At £6.50 a pint I became teetotal as well (every man has his price).

    Fancy - Thank you so much. (It looked so good that I ate it, but I feel most honoured).

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