The gig hunt in Dorset continues in a working men’s club, government grant supported night club, an arts centre, a community centre, a pub and even a barn at a vineyard in the Dorset countryside.
Amid the generally dark, miserable and quite isolating end to the unimaginably awful 2020 I have kept up my search for some live music. With five totally barren months of the year, 27 gigs I had booked getting cancelled but mainly rearranged, several twice – to 2021 or even 2022 – it is quite a relief to have found anything to go to in the last few months. The November restrictions were particularly miserable I thought, with even innovative socially distanced gigs having to be scrapped, or just being scrapped. Prospects for January and February are in many ways bleaker. I feel for the artists, especially those just starting out.
The wait for our vaccines is on. With the way that is being rolled out maybe Cliff Richard could get a show on the road. Otherwise even medium sized event are scuppered.
Keep it small; keep it local, and we might get somewhere. I’d also try and support events where so many hurdles are overcome by organisers and performers to get a safe gig on.
This round up records the live performances I got to from the end of October to the end of December, with snaps from my pocket zoom camera and phone. A time for remaining seated, table service, masks, keeping socially distanced and time where being a solo singer songwriter is an easier way of getting a show on.
Wimborne Folk Club 30.10.20
We thought we would have a look at this. A local folk club – a regular evening in the café of a community centre in Wimborne, East Dorset – home of the annual folk festival that takes over the town. I’d like to think I could pop along to a relaxed evening like this for ever…there were some very mature and no doubt experienced gig goers in here..all with some stories I’ll bet.
Someone called Chloe stood in to warm up for a truly folky Antoine and Owena, followed by Paul Openshaw with more poetic and humourous verses to finish.
Ironed Maiden at Parkstone Trades and Labour Club 31.10.20
Support band were Cock Eyed Squid, a local band I’d seek out again. A rocky set that included a bit of Bon Jovi; ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries – nice one; Free’s ‘Wishing Well’; ‘Breaking the Law’ by Judas Priest – bot heard that for a while – and the first Iron Maiden number of the night, a poignant ‘Wasted Years’….wasted months anyway.
Then Ironed Maiden. This was the third time I’d seen this excellent, energetic support band, all in 2020. This was a livelier and better attended gig than the last one here. This was gigging in the last chance saloon before a miserable, and in hindsight quite pointless, November lockdown. You could feel that the curtain was coming down. The beee was flowing.
I noted in particular ‘2 minutes to Midnight’; ‘The Trooper’; ‘Flight of Icarus’; ‘Children of the Damned’….. the epic ‘Ancient Mariner’; ‘666’, the very rock’n’roll story of ’22 Acacia Avenue’ and that first big single, the one I bought back then, ‘Running Free’. All songs I’d been playing in the ‘pre-gig revision’ in the weeks beforehand.
This was well focused revision as it was billed as one of a depleted string of ‘Live After Death’ album gigs. A bit of life before a deadly November at least.
Hard to stay sitting, despite Covid restrictions. This short clip illustrates the enthusiasm, and nostalgia, shared on Halloween 2020 before we plunged into a dark and lonely November, hiding in our homes.
Matt Cardle at The Madding Crowd, Bournemouth 5.12.20
From heavy metal tribute band to multi-million selling X Factor star. Quite a switch eh. By the end of November I was up for anything and having recently been to The Madding Crowd the Covid safe setting is a good option in the circumstances – my top venue choice of the Covid era.
With several support acts, as has been the case with other recent gigs here, this gives a full evening of entertainment and a legally possible drink without compulsory food. It was almost normal. It started promptly after 6pm so we missed all but the last two song of Ellie Evans.
The club is just right for an up close and personal solo singer songwriter act, which what we had tonight. Beth De Bacci was next. On the keyboard, beautiful voice so clear in the attentive hush.
Next was Joe Dolman from Leamington Spa, apparently invited down by Matt Cardle. He was brilliant, gripping the room with his voice, guitar and keyboard. I was quite astounded really as I hadn’t expected to enjoy the performances tonight as much as I did. My wife Sally was moved to order his CD EP during the act as the merch selling wasn’t practical at the gig. He played a Radio 2 gig in Hyde Park as early as 2014 but one to watch still for the future.
Matt Cardle rounded off a very complete evening’s entertainment, with a selection plucked from his repertoire – joined by a buddy on guitar for some variety later in the set. This guy is a hugely successful artist and half the audience were clearly die hard fans carried with him since his X Factor win ten years ago, just about to the day. Great to see someone like this close up although I can’t pretend to know his material.
Live and Unheard at Poole Lighthouse 10.11.20
The December Live and Unheard session brought three more new acts to Poole Lighthouse, as with last month was in the banked theatre instead of the smaller studio, to allow for social distancing. These sessions are a real treat with the auditorium allowing a bigger gig feel for bands and audience.
Duo Chaos from Order to start, with about five songs. Lesina’s voice complimented by some intricate guitar from Will Kelly, with some elaborate effects – a bit of full on Hendrix reverb at times and softer moments reminding me of The Durutti Column.
Sophie Griffiths next – from Brentwood Essex – young with oodles of style and personality for her age, backed by a band, which from what she said may not always be the case. Well worth a look to see what develops here. She has her own songs and threw in ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ for some familiarity.
Some great backing vocals.
The final band was the rather oddly named We Are Robot. I was expecting some electro Kraftwerk pretenders but they are a proficient and experienced rock pop band with a folky feel from the two acoustic guitars – reminded me of The Thrills at times. They included guest piano from Matt Black who organises these Live and Unheard sessions.
The two front men played off each other well in between songs. Their masked bassist Vijay has played with some big acts but I haven’t sussed out who from Internet digging.
‘A Ghost’ by Travis was one of the highlights in a set of mainly original songs and then to finish: a crowd pleasing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. I wasn’t expecting that from a band called ‘We Are Robot’.
Another Live and Unheard winner.
On 18 December, with 2020 disappearing in gloom, we drove out to The Langham Wine Estate at Crawthorne, just north east of Dorchester, where food and drink is served in an outside barn, with some heaters, blankets and coats on and some live music. That night we got to see Nina Garcia with fiddle, her original songs and covers in cheery festive atmosphere, surrounded by hay bales.
Just one more live opportunity to round off the extraordinary 2020… Matt Black playing at The Blue Boar pub in Poole on New Year’s Eve. That will be gig number 28 for me this year, having managed to see 61 different artists. The gig bookings pile up for 2021 but at the same time the early part of the year is clearing week by week, with distant 2022 bookings emerging.
I find it hard to envisage a ‘normal’, even medium sized, gig before at least June 2021. It seems that the Government with plough on with the notion that shutting pubs and venues is a solution to increasing Covid cases, whatever safety measures are in place. I’m not even convinced I’ll get to the socially distanced Sleeper gig – in Clapham in March – the way things are going. I’d be staggered if any of the usual festivals get off the ground…. but I shall keep on looking and hoping. Bring on the vaccines.😷🤞