I was glad of the chance to get back to THE FAMOUS OLD BARREL in Exmouth, Devon, once again for one of their regular Monday ‘Open Mic Nights’. This is, of course, where anyone can turn up and put their name on the list to play a couple of songs – either their own work, or covers (anything goes really). The last time I was there, in September last year, my old friend ROB WHEATON and I played a couple of covers: I did Peter Green’s ‘Merry-go-Round’; and Rob did The Stones’ ‘Wild Horses’; then he did a couple of his own excellent songs. This time though, I planned to do two of the blues songs that I’d written recently. We spent some time during the afternoon at Rob’s place practicing my songs, and he agreed to play lead guitar on them for me. I listened to his informed opinion of my work, and tweaked the songs accordingly to make them more effective.
We arrived at The Old Barrel just as the organiser, MALCOLM HORTON, was setting up the gear for the night’s activities. I’d met him last time, and we had a brief chat. After a sound-check, he and his band-mates kicked-off the evening with a couple of his own psychedelic/ progressive rock pieces, including ‘Flying Through The Universe’, which I’d heard last time and really liked. Both of his songs were very good – if a little lengthy (but that’s prog-rock for you; and I love it!)
Our old friend Big Mac and his missus turned up at around this time too. Mac is a big music fan and it was great to see him and his wife turn up to support us – haven’t seen them for donkey’s yonks! Cheers, you two – most appreciated!
As I’d expressed a desire to Malcolm to go on early; Rob and I were up next. I started our little set off with my tongue-in-cheek song lamenting middle-age and shift-work: ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues!’. Next I played my mellow 12-bar blues song ’40 Years;40 Days;40 Nights’, which is about a friend of mine who joined Facebook deliberately to track down his teenage sweetheart from the 70s! This was the first time I’d played these songs publicly, but in spite of making a few little mistakes, they seemed to go down quite well. Rob’s improvised lead guitar work was very good too. Thanks, mate!
I left the stage then, but Rob stayed up to do two of his own songs solo: ‘The Essex Song’, about growing up in Dagenham; and a fairly new one of his, the thoughtful ‘Tomorrow’s World’ in which he compares the vision of the future as seen in 1978, to the realities of today. His performance and presentation of his own songs was very good as usual. They went down well.
Several good and varied acts followed. Regular performer MARTIN WELLER was up next, and played a set including ‘Gobshite’ – a song which he tailored to the forthcoming Euro elections! Next was a talented young lady called LUCY who played acoustic guitar with a jazzy feel and sung in a Maria Carey vocal style. I’d seen her last time I was at The Barrel. A very good boy/girl duo followed called GABRIEL AND HANNAH, but we unfortunately had to leave before they’d finished their set. Rob had seen them before locally and had been impressed. At least one other act was waiting in the wings to go on as we departed, but we sadly never saw him perform.
A minor complaint is that we didn’t think that the sound was quite mixed correctly, although I’m not a sound engineer! I remember we had this trouble last time too. On stage I could hear Rob’s guitar better than mine; and we thought it was too loud, and distorted, in the public area. Still, it was a great night nonetheless, and I debuted my two new blues songs. Musicians get a free pint of beer too – can’t be bad!
Big thanks to Malcolm Horton; and to the hard-working bar-staff.
Cheers! Phil The Music Quill