Having wisely taken Tuesday off work to further acclimatise from field-life, perhaps heading up to Eastwood for an open mic night was a bit foolish with work in the morning. Especially as I’d still got two blog posts to write about Farmer Phil’s to go as well, but well, I can’t say that I regret taking the opportunity to eke out my time off work a little bit further and enjoy yet more quality music in the confines of The Wellington Inn up in Eastwood.
A quick blast up the M1 saw me arrive at the pub in pretty good time – resisting the lure of popping in to Ikea for meatballs or Dime bars (alright, Daim if you insist, strange Swedish furniture peddlers!). Sam Jones was the host, and he’d got Mark Jones (aka Sam’s Dad), Spud and Nick Parker to play sets before he took to the stage himself. It was just too tempting a proposition to pass up!
Settled in with a very rock and roll lime and soda, it was great to sit and have a natter with Nick whilst Chris of Roots Acoustic fame got his PA set up. They were waiting on Mark to finish up a guitar lesson to arrive and open up the set – in the meantime we were accosted by football themed scratchcards, I think somebody called Kev won – in the absence of a team I liked I went for Leicester since I live in Leicestershire!
Mark Jones (aka Sam’s Dad) was on first – he launched straight into Dire Straits’ The Man’s Too Strong before treating us to an original track Stalker Row – inspired by a certain type of gig goer. Mark’s a tremendous guitarist (to my listening at least, I’m no expert – but he must be pretty good to be a teacher) and his bluesy vocals sounded great! Mark Knopfler’s Privateering was next – meanwhile Nick and I had hijacked Suzy’s phone and was busy sending confusing text messages to Paige.
San Francisco Bay Blues was up next followed by another Knopfler number in Marbletown and then he finished up with Malted Milk – I think that might be a Robert Johnson song that’s probably more contemporarily famous with Eric Clapton’s version. It was good to hear songs I might not otherwise have placed (there was some frantic googling of lyrics taking place at my table to identify them!).
Spud is a very different prospect, irreverent to the extreme, raucous and fun – he kicked off with I’m On Fire then a song about his faltering experiences with Tinder which raised a few laughs (and cringes!) in the assembled crowd. The DHP Song has actually hit the local promoters radar – it remains to be seen whether it will do him any favours or not! My Friend Christopher was dedicated to Chris Barlow, the tireless organiser of Roots Acoustic nights like this.
Next up was a dedication to Sam, I’m going to pretend it’s called Don’t Think Twice but I’m not sure. A cover of Beans On Toast’s The Chicken Song was made all the more entertaining by his dedicating the last verse to the vegetarian/vegan he identified in the crowd (albeit one wearing a leather jacket!), I’m not sure she knew what was going on! Billy Bragg’s To Have and To Have Not was up next – and the inevitable and necessary finale of Chocolate Biscuit with Sam on guitar and Spud taking on a rapper poise.
I must admit it was Nick Parker playing that tipped the scale for me heading up on a midweek – we don’t get to see him that often in this neck of the woods, so opportunities must be grasped when they present themselves. He’d been agonising over a set list – whether to go for originals (my strong recommendation!) or covers, thankfully he went for the former – having been studiously constructing a set list from a dog-eared exercise book.
He kicked off with Airport – a song about people watching, I love his observational humour about a chat he thinks he’s having with a yuppy who it turns out is talking to his wife on hands free – ending in a harsh self-assessment momentarily before realising he’s looking at himself in a mirror. Never Been To Dublin was up next, dedicated to a group of ladies claiming to be from the Emerald Isle in the corner, although they later laid claim to another country so who knows?
An Open Letter To My Human was next – it was here I noticed Nick was playing with his eyes closed. His songs were going down really well with the locals, always heartening – midweek in Eastwood is a pretty lively night! Down With The Youth kept the laughs coming, rather than his dog lambasting his songwriting prowess this time it’s his son having a pop at his fashion choices during charity shop shopping missions.
The idea of doing a Facebook live video struck as he played Terry and June, it’s Ella’s favourite (and countless other friends) so it had quite a few views. The German Song didn’t get quite such an enthusiastic singalong away from our table in the absence of the cue cards to hold up – amusingly in the middle of his set he was asked to take part in the second football scratch card, and duly obliged. Bry won that one, the lucky sod!
An encore was called for, and time permitted it, so the lament to the slightly-older nightclub goer I’m Getting Too Old For This I just Wanna Be In Bed struck a chord with me, to be honest most nightclubs left me feeling like that ever since I went to them, ha – and on a more practical level I really ought to have been in bed by this point preparing for the painful post-festival return to work the following day (although I was thoroughly enjoying myself, so sod it!).
Then host Sam Jones was up – he started with Rocky Winding Road and then The Place That I Call Home. Next was a song he’d written for Spud, who’d yet to learn it – it sounds like a belter though, The Truth Hits The Ground it was called I think. A cover of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi was next – a great version, I don’t think I’ve heard Sam play that before. Steve McQueen came up next which is a bloody awesome song.
When he said he was playing the song his Mum insisted on him putting in sets I did another Facebook live video – Bee’s Wing is a bloody beautiful song, I love Mad Dog Mcrea’s version of it, but Sam is pretty close on it too. A surprise was up next, Grace Lee was invited on stage to perform a stunning version of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon with Sam on guitar – Grace is definitely one to watch out for, what a voice!
As Sam is playing a wedding at the weekend he took the opportunity to practice some numbers he had planned – or, well, one – David Gray’s The One I Love was actually pretty enjoyable, I’m not sure I’d normally listen to David Gray! Next up was his own song Dirt followed by another bromance-like dedication to Spud, I’m not sure what the song was called, quickly followed by Bob Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe.
Spud was back up on vocals for a cover of Will Varley’s King For A King – mid-song confessing he’d now missed his bus home (Sam’s battery had died on his guitar so he’d borrowed Spud’s) – as he was on my way home I offered him a lift, bless him! Johnny Cash’s Big River was next then Sam’s own track Come Down Kid. We coaxed a couple more out of him – the first I missed the name of but had lyrics ‘Take me over the bay’, finally finishing up with There’s Nothing Left For You Here.
Splendid evening – it’s great to see Chris’ nights getting good crowds, midweeks can be tricky for me and presumably many others too. Goodbyes were goodbyed to everyone and I was off home via dropping off Spud and picking up loads of fishing tips on the way – who knew that bread or dog biscuits are effective bait to lure carp? I certainly didn’t! A fun way to cling on to that festival feeling a little bit longer!