Monday, 31 May 2010

The Great Yarmouth Beer Festival

Last night we helped out an old friend of Andy by playing for the Yarmouth Beer Festival. The venue was in the Priory Centre, so named because it is housed in a former priory founded less than fifty years after the Norman Conquest by Herbert de Losinga, Bishop of Norwich. While this made for a great atmosphere, the stone walls and very high ceiling made for a lousy sound. Sensibly, Andy turned off the reverb on the PA half way through the first number. The naturally occurring 'hall reverb' that companies like Yamaha and Lexicon have spent years perfecting was something we just had to live with.

As befitted a beer festival we played a lively mix of klezmer and up-tempo jazz with the occasional slow number (eg Pennies From Heaven) thrown in to give the dancers a rest and calm a crowd that was out for a good time.

Paul being away, we were joined by the much travelled Gary Rudd who has recently returned from India. He was en route from Lincolnshire to Suffolk so this fitted in very well. And again, we had the benefit of Hugh's accordion and trumpet.

We were well looked after. On arrival we were presented with a half pint glass each and a tokens to exchange for the wide range of beers and ciders exhibited. Both sides of the long hall were lined with barrels behind long bars. Having work to do I gravitated towards the weaker end of the spectrum but I made an exception for Loxely Ale, still not too strong at 4.2%, which I chose in honour of Robin Hood. I know that sounds daft but, when faced with such a vast array of possibilities (there were ninety beers and a few ciders to choose from), doing the first thing that comes into one's head often saves time.

Last night I thought Andy had drawn the short straw by electing to drive but this morning I'm not so sure. The whole point of a beer festival is to taste lots of different drinks and, in the absence of a spittoon, it is considered polite to swallow. I can only be thankful that there was too little time after the gig to indulge my curiosity further.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Summer Season Begins

Glorious weather for May with temperatures set to reach 26 in the shade in Norwich. The summer season has kicked off with Rose's charity plant sale on Friday evening followed by our first outdoor wedding of the year last night.

Every year my friend Rose has a charity plant and book sale and, having a garden worthy of the name for the first time in over twenty years, I took a keener interest in the array of seedlings than usual and Paul was quick off the mark with the purchase of a tray of pepper plants. But we were really there for the music and played up on the balcony overlooking the garden. Two sets; a mix of jazz and klezmer. Hugh's accordion lends atmosphere and fire to the latter while his trumpet is a fine addition to the jazz.

Last night we played a wedding with the towers of Wymondham Abbey behind us. A beautiful garden behind a house on the High Street, more origami than I've seen for a long time, wonderful food and even a hog roast for those of a carnivorous inclination.

We played two sets with some cameos from the guests in between. These included a set from the Pancakes - deadpan humour wrapped up in skiffle form. Very funny but sublimely understated - quintessentially English. There was also a lad of about 12 playing some rather fine jazz piano. And Henry, a former band-mate of Andy and Hugh and one of the guests at the wedding, sat in on drums for our second set. His unusual kit includes biscuit tins and an upturned sink and he plays the whole thing with soft-headed beaters. It gave the sound a real lift (I should say now that we don't let just anyone sit in) as evidenced by the enthusiasm of the dancers.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Jurnets last Friday

So the current finally made a gig together as a four-piece. Andy and me joined by Paul Fitzgerald on double bass and Hugh Stanners on the accordion. The picture is actually of the band before us (apart, that is, from Paul's back). Somehow I forgot to pass the camera to anyone before we went on. We played a short klezmer set, almost all new stuff, which was a little hairy at times. But it went down very well.

Jurnets, if not the oldest venue in the city of Norwich, is certainly situated in one of the oldest buildings and the crypt, in which the bar/club is to be found, dates back to the 1140s. A very special place to play. Incidentally, 11.40pm was the time we went on. And there was still a good crowd in spite of the great John Cale playing elsewhere in town that night.