When 2018 rolled around, As I do every year I agreed with myself that it would rival if not exceed 2017 and the start of the year, with a little more belief in myself has began better than I could have ever imagined. Amongst other aims including more travel, musically, my aim was to get out gigging more and sharing my words and music…. and what a time to do it. Halifax is in the process of getting back to where it belongs, returning to its former glory as one of the major players in the new music scene and as a definite competitor for a date on the tour schedule’s of the up and coming and I have been lucky enough to be a part of it.
Independent Venue Week ran from Monday, January 29th to Sunday, February 4th and from the smallest Independent venue in the country, The Grayston Unity bar to the Long Established Hebden Bridge Trades Club there was a lot of action in the area. Although I am focusing on IVW, its worth noting the kind of gigs that Halifax has been hosting in order to be back permanently on the musical map.
Since opening in May 2016 Grayston Unity has has continued where the doghouse left off, championing up and coming world-wide artists along with home-grown talent in the countries smallest independent music venue. The likes of Ivan Campo who are gaining a lot of traction with their consistently brilliant albums have made The Grayston a regular place to play and with Jeffrey Lewis on the horizon in April, the low key, high profile gigs keep coming….and as it happens as I write this in the Grayston, journalists from the guardian are interviewing Micheal in the other room.
The Lantern had its launch night on Friday November 10th 2018 with The Avalanche Party party and 3 days later by close of business on Monday night (13th), John Bramwell and Martha Reeves had also graced the stage and things have continued in a similar, high quality vein from there. It’s reputation of bringing top-quality gigs to Halifax town centre has become massive in a mere 3 months and week on week the next big gig is always a talking point among music fans.
I received a Facebook message out of the blue on January 23rd, offering an opportunity of the kind that I had been waiting for for a while, a support slot for an artist that I respected and that was gigging leagues above me. It was an offer support Barry Hyde of The Futureheads at The Lantern that weekend, typically I had a prior commitment but if I was to go in the direction that I wanted to I had to start being a little more selfish and grabbing hold of opportunities like this with both hands.
On the day of the gig, a nervous side to me kicked in. A Feeling that was rare for me due to me gigging very regularly, but this was different. I had been punting for gigs like this for a while and now it was here, A gig where I would be performing for someone else’s fans, who had not come to see me yet were expecting a certain level of performance. This led to me giving a performance I can look back on and say was my best and was memorable in a variety of ways.
Firstly the sound engineer there was brilliant to work with and very grounded, a statement that may seem quite obvious, but after being a gigging musician for a lot of years, is like a god-send, especially at a gig that I am anxious about. Although I am as polite and un-demanding as an artist can be, he was still a pleasure to work with.
The main thing that sticks with me from this gig is the attentiveness and appreciation of the audience to what was a set of my original material and I’m guessing material that they had never heard before, the one thing that means the upmost to me and most songwriters when gigging. The specific moment that this hit me was as I was playing ‘Just Like Me You Feel Alone’, My slowest and most spacious ballad, you could hear a pin drop. I could hear the deep space of silence in the milliseconds between each time I picked a string on the guitar and it felt amazing, everyone focussing on the words and hopefully the meaning behind them. This coupled with the amount this specific gig meant to me to be involved gave such a profound feeling, It was a ‘so this is how it feels’ moment… Amazing. The rest of the set all went to plan and had a brilliant reaction from the crowd. Thank you to the Lantern, the staff and anyone who was there on the night who may end up reading this.. it meant a lot to me. Also specific thanks to Paul Harvey for coming along to support on the night and his ongoing encouragement and respect for my music.
And so a week later and my favourite place to play… The Grayston Unity.
On a monthly basis, on the last Wednesday of the month, I host an Open Mic at Grayston at which local songwriters and musicians come along to hone their writing/performance skills and to experience playing in this unique bar. Regulars include: David Gaunt – a songwriter I massively respect, whose style I would put alongside the likes of Paul Heaton; Micheal Shaw and Phil Greenwood – local folk musicians, members of ‘The Boothtown Rats’ mixing their own songs with traditional folk; Ed Jandzio – who writes and plays his own brand of up-beat indie music. All of whom performed at this particular open mic and went down a storm!
For the final day of Independent Venue Week we decided to do an open mic on the Sunday, early afternoon, before the regular 4pm gig. The regulars to the open mic arrived and we set up around a busy Sunday crowd. The night before Nadine Shah (check out her album Holiday Destination Easily one of the best albums of 2017) had played at The Hebden Bridge Trades Club and as we were about to get going she arrived with a group of locals who had ‘abducted’ her and brought her to join in the festivities. Above she is sat front and centre on the floor watching me perform and below a shot of her while performing (with my guitar), how days can change very rapidly.
Due to the reaction to the particular song of mine focussed on in the previous gig, I decided to play it again and with a similar reaction made all the better by the fact that I was playing it to an artist that I massively respected sat listening intently, on the floor inches in front of me.. wow. When Nadine played the room fell silent as it knew it was in the presence of a class-act and she did not disappoint. She played 3 songs, all of which showed her engaging approach, great wordplay and sweet vocal range. On top of being a brilliant performer she was a also a very warm and genuine woman who I had the pleasure to watch in such an intimate venue and speak at length with about her journey. Again, an experience never to be forgotten.
So there it is, 2018 started with a band and a couple of gigs that I never saw coming and that added to my already burning appetite for getting out and sharing my music, long may it continue.
Here is my song mentioned through this blog ‘Just Like Me You Feel Alone’ ……
Another local blog by blogger Chris Dyson about the independent venues around Halifax focusing on the music and real ale.
…and the Halifax Courier’s take on the open mic at The Grayston Unity Bar.
Thanks again for reading.