A.J. Walker

writerer

open mic

That's A First; Could Be A Last

That's A First; Could Be The Last
– A Story with Two Sebastians –


The footy season is indeed over, but last week saw a full on fixture pile up of my own. In a stunningly unusual week of performances I ended up playing three open mics in a week. Three! One or fewer is the norm. Last week started with my first visit to the Dispensary on Renshaw Street on Monday for the mic. I'd never seen it so didn't know what to expect in terms of its set up or who usually attended it. It was advertised as starting at 7pm, which seems an hour or so early – but it is what it is. I ended up heading down for about 8:30, I'd been at work in the day but was off the next day so the finishing time was neither here nor there. The mic stand and speaker was up the steps at the rear of the pub. There was no-one there at the time, but there was a guitar in the window resting. There were a few people sat up top (and a couple more down the stairs) and it wasn't clear who was running the night. At 8:30 it seemed early, but to be fair whoever had been playing could have been playing for an hour and half by that time – so a fag break or a quick stroll around the park would not have been too outlandish. I thought perhaps a fag break. No one moved towards the mic until I'd almost finished my pint, when a woman who'd been sat with some friends at the back came across to pick up the guitar.

The hostess turned out to be the singer, Muireann, from the excellent local band, Seafoam Green. It transpired that she was filling in for the guitarist from Seafood. She played a few songs whilst calling out for anyone who fancied giving it a go. I volunteered and two students (well, just graduated) cheered me on despite my declaration I was not
all that. It seemed a change was as good as a rest to them. And so I went up and played. It was a long set for me - SIX songs. That just about depletes and stretches my memory to destruction.

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Sebastian Blake

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Sebastian, Muireann and a guest slot from the dancing student (Bez, eat your heart out)


I played everything surprisingly unstressed and without many errors – which for me is a rarity. It seemed to go down pretty well. By the time I came off the mic a songwriter & guitarist who was passing through Liverpool from Leeds had arrived on the scene. He was next up. And he was brilliant. His name was Sebastian Blake and you can find him easily on Instagram. He put on a great show with his songs and was a thoroughly nice guy. Muireann, Sebastian, the students/graduates and I had a nice chinwag until closing. Oh, and I got a free pint for playing. Unfortunately just one for the whole stay at the mic and not one per song. Okay, maybe that's fortunately.

All in all an enjoyable evening.

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Playing a C in the Belvedere

Next up I returned to the Belvedere for the open mic for the first time since the first day of John Witherspoon's open mic stint. The mic is in a small upstairs room and during that first week there was a power cut. We all played on and it was realised that there was no need for the mics and amps so all the subsequent mics have been sans mic. It's still called an open mic, because if was just called an open it may get inundated by golfers – and it is far too small a pub to take all the trolleys.

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John turning off the music before Ollie played some

John played first, quickly followed by the brilliant Dan Bradley. And then another brilliant guy. Then another. I should really turn up first to these events so I'm not preceded by all these top players. I ended up being about the fifth person up. I actually did okay – and remembered all the words (and generally played the correct chords – or at least didn't lose myself if I did strum a wrong un'. I was working the next day, Friday (which is unusual for me), so I had to leave after just a few more. But I saw the bulk of the guys and gals; and it was another top night.

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Full on troubadour stance from John Witherspoon in the Angus

Then came Sunday; the third appearance of the week. It was good to support John again at the Angus, on Dale Street. It was only the second of their Sunday open mics and it is competing with the relatively large one at the Jacaranda (which I've never been to) and the general lack of knowledge that it is on: it takes a while for the news of regular events to filter through.

John was there when I arrived and, unlike the Belvedere on Thursday, I was the first to arrive, which meant I'd be the first up – after John's excellent troubadouring. He indicated that I should play three songs, and that if it was quiet I could go up again. This is how it went. In the background on the TV in pictures and occasionally with sound was the BBC coverage of Glastonbury. So as well as coming on after John I also followed Lorde and Jarvis Cocker.

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Mark Lacey (or Mark Sebastian D'Lacey)

In between the excellent, funny and charismatic, Mark Sebastian D'Lacey had arrived on the scene. He was brilliant. I think three appearances in a week is a lot: he was on his third of the day! Mark is a good mate of John's and they both enjoyed each others music muchly. As did I. I ended up going up for a second time to get my six songs in. Didn't play or sing as well as I had on the previous two days. Partly I think because the guitar was too prominent for me (after all my singing is a bit better than my strumming at the moment). Still, I am glad I made the effort to support both John and the Angus with this new fortnightly set up.

Oh and as well as playing three 'mics in a week it was bookended by appearances from two Sebastian's, what's the chance of that!?

Onwards and Upwards –
probably with a C, G and an A Minor; with just an occasional F for good measure.

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If Music Be The Food Of Love

The footy season is indeed now over but last week magical Anfield held another event: the Rolling Stones first Liverpool gig for nearly fifty years. When the tickets went on sale I briefly considered getting one. I mean an iconic band in a wonderful stadium. I'd previously watched one gig there, which was Paul McCartney in 2008 (the Capital of Culture gig). I'd done the same that time to by not getting a ticket when they first went on sale but really wishing I had as it approached. Then the day before the gig an acquaintance said he had a spare and I snaffled it up in super quick time. It did not disappoint. But I'd never seen Macca before and I've been lucky enough to see the Stones several times including the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, at Twickenham, and at Glastonbury, so I didn't have quite the same push to spend the one hundred pounds or so on a ticket. Still on the day I was kinda jealous of everyone going. You really can't beat a live music event - be it giants of history like them or newer or more intimate events.

Felice Brothers

So I decided that I'd get a ticket or two for gigs which would fill the need (and be cheaper than seeing the one band (or two if you counted the Bunnymen)). I quickly got on the case and over a couple of days got myself a ticket for the brilliant Felice Brothers, who are playing Leaf on Bold Street in a few weeks, and Frank Turner for later in the year (October). I'll keep my eye out for another gig or two and still come in below the cost of seeing Jagger, Richards and co. Notwithstanding that it did sound like it was a top night and everyone seems to have enjoyed Anfield that night and I do kinda wish I'd gone. Having the Felice Brothers and Frank to look forward to is pretty damn cool though.

Frank Tagain

Over the last couple of weeks I have not done a single open mic, which is rare since the return of them to the hostelries in Liverpool. And so it was that I decided to go to a new open mic night at the Angus who had announced they were to move their night to a Sunday and have it on a more regular basis (at least whilst the football season is in abeyance). John Witherspoon who I know from his hosting the mic at the Keystone (and now the Belvedere) is to be the new host but on this occasion he had to pass it on to another regular guitarist: Mike Blue. I pootled down to the Angus just before the start time at 8pm and found there was only one guy with a guitar already there; this turned out to be Mike. Shortly afterwards he got up to play and introduce the night asking if anyone for requests, saying he hoped some people would turn up to play soon. But town looked quiet everywhere as far as I could tell from my walk to the Angus - and from the people passing the windows of the bar. Quite a few people would be playing in the Jacaranda open mic which has been going for some time now. It'll take a few weeks of word of mouth for this new night to become more widely known (not everyone is on Social Media all the time - hard to believe I know). Eventually I let it be known that I could go up an play lest Mike end up playing the whole night as a gig and I went up and played three of my usual songs ('Oh My Sweet Carolina,' 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn, and 'Whiskey in my Whiskey' - the last one being the Felice Brothers who I'll see at Leaf). Then Mike returned. He hadn't seen me play before, so for a nice change he'd not been subject to the same songs week after week.

As the night moved on it became more apparent that other singers were unlikely to turn up, at least not in numbers, and Mike continued playing some great songs (largely requests from the audience) including a couple of great Neil Young covers. The couple in front of me then suggested it was my turn to go up again, probably to allow Mike a toilet break and opportunity to refuel and I duly did (I felt obliged) playing 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' and 'Splendid Isolation.' Mike continued and finally after he played a fine U2 cover I went up a third time and played my own U2 cover (albeit a trad song) 'Van Diemen's Land' and (half a version of) 'Somewhere Down the Road.' Mike played on till time was called and beyond - and that was that. We shook hands and chatted. Like John and Ali, Mike was an accomplished guitarist with a good voice and stage presence and was a thoroughly nice chap, it was a shame a few more (or even just one more!) people didn't go up to play.

Several people in the bar said they enjoyed my songs which was a) nice and b) made me wonder what they had been drinking.

I've a soft spot for the Angus (for it's music and its beer) and I really hope in the longer term the open mic will succeed, whether that is on a Sunday or another night. Ultimately it will always be a moveable feast due to football supporters being an important part of its clientele; and because of the regular professional gigs it hosts. It was good to get back to playing in front of people again and I won't leave it as long to the next time. Maybe even the Belvedere on Thursday?


Onwards and Upwards. And yes: Play On!


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My Return to the Sofar

My Return to the Sofar (and Another Fine Return)

I last went to a Sofar gig in September in a place called Slate. It featured the excellent Heavy North who have subsequently gone on to release a really rather wicked album. Get on it. But last week I got a ticket for my second event. For those that don't know the deal, the ticket is for £10 and you don't find out the location (other than the city) until 36 hours before – and you don't know who is playing until they get up on the stage (or their name is on their kit!).

Last week the venue was
One Fine Day on Old Hall Street. The venue itself is not currently permanently open, but is used for individual events and weddings etc. I'd never been to there before and it proved to be a nice place with good acoustics. It was really busy with not a seat left as far as I could see and I ended up sat at the front. I moved along to help a couple of later comers get nearer and sit together – and therefore I ended up in a nice padded seat instead of a plastic one. Win win.IMG_2860

The three acts of the night were all fab. Loved the local singer songwriter
Eleanor Nelly's stories and attitude – and her songs and singing was excellent. Taylor the Chapter, who wants to never be known as Gary, was solid. And finally the main act were a Wigan four piece called Stanleys. They looked so young to me, but so does everyone these days. There songs and assuredness were great. I've already spent some time listening to them on Spotify. They could definitely go on to be pretty successful if this performace was anything to go by. I believe they have already supported the Lathums, which is pretty impressive.

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The Stanleys played five songs:

'What's Been and Gone'
'Why Would I?'
'A Better Life'
'Look Back'
'Maybe'


Check them out on
Spotify, or better still get on down to see them when they're next playing near you.

The following day was the return of the Open Mic hosted by John Witherspoon. The
Belvedere pub had snaffled the gentleman and given him the opportunity to host the event following the recent demise of the Keystone. It was held in the upstairs room on the left. Despite the announcement on just being made earlier in the week the news had spread very well amongst all the regulars from just that short distance down the road.

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The beer was on.

Great to see so many turn up. It became a most memorable night when the entire area around this part of Liverpool was plunged into a power cut and the playing continued without the PA and under candle light. Moody stuff.

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The lights were on…

Guy2
… the lights were off.
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A Poignant Affair

Another Strange Thursday

After a strange night last Thursday and the a good, strange one last week it was time for another strange Thursday–and this one a very sad and poignant want. At the start of the week there came an announcement that had been mooted for a short while that the Keystone was to close down. The home of my almost weekly open mic nights out. Closing. Bloody hell. And although the announcement was only made on Tuesday it was not a 'heads up' it'll happen eventually, it was a 'it's closing this very week.' Bloody awful.

Really feel for all the great staff who are having to look to ply their trade elsewhere. Thankfully it appears that, at least some of them, have quickly found some work in other Liverpool city centre pubs and (at least one) in a new brewery tap–and another returning to another field that she hasn't worked in for a while. Sometimes an end is an opportunity. Good luck to them all of course.

Personally to me it is a sorry shame to lose one of my favourite pubs of the last year. Last year it burst onto the scene due to its great garden, when so many pubs in the city don't have them. It allowed them to open up when most pubs couldn't. I had many a nice afternoon and evening there either reading, or writing, or just chatting with the staff and the regulars (and sometimes very irregulars). I did my best to introduce it to friends and drinkers, whilst hoping it wouldn't become too popular with the wrong regulars. Then in November the open mic was started, hosted by John Witherspoon, and that quickly became one of the first things in my weekly diary (along with European footy nights in the Head of Steam or the Fly).

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I hadn't been playing my guitar that much in the last year. The whole MS thing was worrying earlier in the year when I couldn't even feel my fingers and wondered at one stage whether I'd ever pick up a guitar again. To go from hardly playing at all to playing in front of people at least twice a month was brilliant.


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With the demise of the venue I dare say I'll look into playing in other places. But I am certainly going to miss John and the regulars (and irregulars) who played at the Keystone. This last open mic I had plenty of songs to choose from. I thankfully didn't have to follow Ian Prowse again. I played three of my most regular songs: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' and 'Whiskey in my Whiskey.' I played the latter one for Ben who had requested it the previous week. He was deep in loud conversation with Si and didn't even notice I'd played–let alone notice I'd played his request (albeit a week late).

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There were lots of chatting with the staff and regulars who were all pretty surprised and depressed about the news. But I was glad I made the effort to go–even though I had to leave early as I was working the next day. Ho hum.

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My last strum through a C-F-G ditty for a while I dare say.

Onwards and Upwards.

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Does This Train Stop?

Not One Thing, Another

After a strange night last Thursday mixing a tiring week, not sure I was going to go to the open mic, and then difficult travel, this week I was always going to play. It was again affected by none running buses but I got there about 8:30pm this week. It ended with me playing and going up to play straight AFTER we'd been given four songs by Ian Prowse. Yes, people. The local legend that is Mr Prowse opened for me. Who'd have thunk it??

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John

John was hosting as usual and then a few newbies arrived to the evening including Ian. Flippin' heck. Obviously I'd have preferred to get on and off the stage early doors to relax, but I had to wait until our new arrivals played. There was a lot of "
this is from my new album," and "this was off my first album," going on from several of the players this week. I am not worthy.

Meanwhile in the conservatory there was a
Ladies That Beer event hosted by a couple of my colleagues. Beers were being drunk, and beers were being talked about. It was a busy night in the Key'.

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Liam Sweeney

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Ian Prowse

The Procrastinator
Your's Truly, aka The Procrastinator

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John Lindsay playing a new song

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Soft and cool, Ike

After far too long wondering when (or, at one stage, if) I was going to get on, I'd ummed and ahhd about whether to play some stuff I don't normally play, but as the evening lengthened I decided my only real option was to play the ones I know best - and not worry about peering through the gloom at written lyrics. As it was the nerves got to me a little (yes, I got nerves - even if the MS seems to hate them) and I misplayed some chord changes and played through a few times when I had a bit of a lyrical mind melt. Still, I got through it in the end and was happy to have played the same night as Ian and the others - even if I didn't entirely do myself justice.

John was happy to see my Procrastinator T-shirt again. He says he likes my T-shirts, which is odd as other than the two times I've worn this I've pretty much been lumberjack shirts all the way. It's like going back to glasses from wearing contacts, people soon forget you ever did anything else. Meanwhile I just forget whether the next chord is an A minor or an F. Or maybe a C.

The next time I play on the same stage as Ian I hope it will be at the Cavern where he hosts an Open Mic - but for none covers only. I better get writing a hit then. Meanwhile here is a classic from the gentleman, '
Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?'

Onwards and Upwards.










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Balinese Dancer

A Last Minute Call to the Balinese Dancr

After a strange and a bit of a tough day at work I was undecided whether to go to the regular Open Mic at the Keystone. I ended up home later than usual and a bit knackered. I hadn't seen anything saying the open mic was on for sure (even though it is pretty much always on) and contemplated staying in. When I looked on Instagram there was a message saying the open mic was on and hosted by John Witherspoon as usual. But there was a second photo - and when I looked at it, it was me playing last week with my Procrastinators T-shirt on. And to top it off they name checked me with; '
Guest appearance from our very very regular who DEFINITELY knows we are using his photo.' Well, no I didn't and at the time on the sofa I wasn't sure I was even leaving the house. But the message… I mean how could I not turn up?

So I got changed and went for the bus. It never came and so I had to wait for the next one which was over half an hour later. It was definitely not the best of days. In the end I was there about 9pm - and it was packed.

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I'd been playing some songs over the last week or so that I hadn't played before and had thought I may give them a go. When I went up to play I decided to give them both a go, but needed the reassurance of having the words in front go me. And so it was that I played one regular song and two new ones (if new means new to me playing live). And so my mini set list was:

'
Oh My Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams
'
110 in the Shade' - Chuck Prophet
'
Something You Ain't Got' - Cracker

I needed to play a regular song first to get into the swing of it. But I was very happy to have played some different stuff; albeit my usual favourite artists from albums recorded back in the day. It's always nice hearing some people saying they enjoy the words and to think that maybe I've introduced even a single person to the wonderful songwriting (and then when they hear the originals: the Guitar!) of Chuck Prophet (and Cracker). I've actually played three Chuck Prophet songs of the same album now; '
Somewhere Down the Road,' 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn,' and now '110 in the Shade.' There's loads of Chuck's albums on Spotify, which I can thoroughly recommend, however this particular album, 'Balinese Dancer,' is not on Spotify. So if you wanna check out the tracks then maybe buy the album (I know, a bit old school) or just have a look/listen on YouTube.

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I was definitely glad I made the effort in the end.

But don't ask me about getting home (yes, it was that kind of day again).


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Still Strummin'

Played at the open mics in the Keystone and Angus over the last couple of weeks. Great to carry on with it. But I do wonder whether I should do fewer and in the intervening weeks practice more - and maybe write some songs too. We shall see. It'll be a hard drug to give up.

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Strumming' at the Keystone a couple of weeks ago.

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Good to see Barry playing for the first time and the return of Sam Lee too. A nice evening all round.


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Cold weather on Wednesday night meant a smaller group of players than usual Meant the players who did turn up did a lot more than the usual three or four songs.I ended up playing eight songs. Eek!

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One of my favourite pics of me playing - the Angus.

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Another fab open mic at the Keystone


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Almost A Gig~ish

As is almost set in stone I went once again to the Keystone open mic. Recently there have always been 12-14 people playing which is incredible really. And to fit everyone in we are each limited to three songs each. This week though we seemed to be a few people down though there were still plenty of regulars and a newbie couple to the Keystone who just happened on the place (Visions of Albion). I suspect the regular carnage that is Liverpool on Paddy's Day probably put a few people of visiting town on the Day of the Green Pavement Pizza.

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Visions of Albion

DaveSinnot
Mr Sinnott doing his bluesy thing

As we were a few down everyone had there usual three songs then those still there went up and played another two each. So I played five songs. Yes, FIVE. That's almost a gig worth.

The songs were:

  • Oh My Sweet Carolina (obviously)
  • Take Me Down To The Infirmary (Cracker)
  • Landlocked Blues (Bright Eyes)
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (obviously)
  • Van Diemen's Land (hey, it was Paddy's Day)

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Words needed/not needed. No one told me to sort my hair out!

Guy1
Some Guy.

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I needed the lyrics in front of me to to Take Me Down and to Landlocked Blues. First time I've done that at the open mic. But they were new songs for me to play; so fair enough.

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Charley style photobombing.

Spent most the evening on the lovely session
Trappers Hat from Brimstage Brewery, then ended the evening with the epic Keystone IPA (just a schooner) from Chapter. So all in all a very good evening - and no pavement pizzas around this area of town. Huzzah!

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Great Live Music

Live music is great. I love it. And last week was fab for it. I ended up playing two open mics in one night on Thursday. I played in both the Head of Steam and the Keystone. Two of my favourite Liverpool pubs. It was good to do.

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Jack playing at the Head of Steam

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Playing at the Keystone

At the Jack's open mic at the Head of Steam I played four songs. I saw the to women that were sat next to me nodding away to my tunes which was nice. And they were periodically looking at their phones. When I spoke to them afterwards it turned out they were Polish and on their phones they were typing in the lyrics I was singing to find out whose songs I was singing. If I've introduced Chuck Prophet, Green on Red, and Ryan Adams to some more people my job on this world is done.

In the Keystone I played three of the same songs at
John Witherspoon's mic. There was no need for the people there to look up my songs as I play them there every week of course. It was great to be invited to John's full band gig at Jimmy's on the Saturday.

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John Witherspoon at Jimmys

It was a long day on Saturday as the Liverpool match at Brighton was at 12:30. It is far too early for any game. Watched it with a couple of mates at the Head of Steam - we won (0-2) and are still on the coattails of City. Then it was a question of filling my time with reading and what not before the evening gig. I made it in one piece and was very glad to have made it. John's band was great and he looked so in his element it was lovely to see. Definitely worth seeing him play if you get the chance. The support from the singer songwriter Thom Moorcroft was excellent too.

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John with his full band.

Live music is great innit?
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Not So Different Four

Played at the Keystone open mic again last week. John Witherspoon couldn't make it and the hosting responsibility was past on to Ali Horn (who normally hosts the open mic at the Angus). Didn't do three different songs this week. This week everyone did four songs though (while the cat's away)… played 'Splendid Isolation', 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn', and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested'.

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John may have been away but all the usual guys turned to play. Think there were about twelve or so who played (four) some tunes to us. It was fab.

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The Chapter 'Taller Than A House' and Neptune 'Forecast - Ernest' were great too. Top night all around. Guaranteed as ever.

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Been playing a few songs at home that I haven't played at open mic before which I may give a try out next time. We'll see.
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A Different Three

Enjoyed playing the open mic at the Keystone this week. And in a shocking turn up I played three different songs from my usual three. I noticed that at the last three open mics I've gone to, at the Keystone and the Angus, I'd played the same three songs: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn', and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested'.

So I ended up playing: '
Somewhere Down the Road' (Chuck Prophet), 'Down By the Water' (Decemberists), and 'Whiskey in my Whiskey' (Felice Brothers).

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Remembered nearly all the words and chords; with just a pause playing some extra chords in Down By The Water whilst I tried to remember the next verse. Who'd have thunk it. So maybe next time I'll play a different three again. That'd be nine different songs then: almost a gig's worth.

There were loads of great players/singers there once again. Not sure how many but it was in double figures. John Witherspoon hosts a really is a top night - guaranteed. Made up to see he's supporting Ian Prowse at one of his gigs. Boss news.

Rock on!
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Back at the Key

Great to reappear at the Keystone this week after a month or so of missing it (largely due to Liverpool playing multiple matches on Thursday nights). John was the hoster with the moster once again. Always a pleasure to talk to – and to listen to play his beautiful songs. We'd moved from the front room into the adjacent one between the stairs and the conservatory which worked really well. There were plenty of performers there again and so everyone had a maximum of three songs when up there.

I think I was about the fourth or fifth up. I'd purposely held on to my pint glass tightly to that point so that I didn't knock back too many before getting up – one glass too many and the risk of forgetting words or muddling up is greatly increased. Despite this I'd still had about four pints before getting up and was at risk of issues. But as it happened I performed three of my usual songs as good as I ever have (I think). The usual were:
'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' and (as requested by John) 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' – same as last week at the Angus.

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Really enjoyed playing and watching everyone – and the pints of Chapter Brewing 'Tenta Temos' and 'Mahog'un' – there was a fifty-fifty mix of regulars and newbies. A most enjoyable evening. Of course, I keep saying it but yet to do… I need to write a song or two to perform and/or do some new covers. It WILL happen. Honest.

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The Keystone Quartet at the Angus

Went to my first open mic for about a month yesterday in the Angus. I was off today to attend my first ever meeting with my MS Doctor (I'll write up something for that in the Health section), but it meant that I was able to go out last night for a song and a chinwag without worrying about work the next day – I'll have that problem today instead.

As I was walking up I bumped into one guy making his way up the road with a guitar. It turned out to be Guy who I have seen regularly at the Keystone open mic. When we got in we saw another couple of Keystone OM regulars. It appeared we were on an inadvertent gig tour - or at least an away day. In any case I would be missing the Keystone today anyway as Liverpool are once again on the TV with their match against Leicester in the Premier League.

The open mic was hosted as ever by
Ali Horn, who played a lovely trio of songs before opening it up to the floor. Two of the Keystone regulars went up first before me. I did my usual standard three songs: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn', and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested'. Went okay in the main (despite a few wrong chords). Then it was Guy up next to make the first four up on the night the entire Keystone Quartet. After that it was several guys and gals who I hadn't seen play before. As ever everyone was really good and the audience attentive (other than checking out the footy scores on FotMob).

Really enjoyed playing again after my month sabbatical. Will no doubt be back playing at the Keystone soon before too long – as long was it doesn't clash with the footy.

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Keystone Three (for me)

After missing John Witherspoon's open mic at the Keystone the week before I did make it last week again for my third appearance out of the four they've had. It was upstairs again and was very well attended with regulars from the previous weeks. I was second up thankfully and played three of my usual - Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (C Prophet), Oh My Sweet Carolina (R Adams), and Splendid Isolation (Zevon) - and unlike the previous time I did mess any of them up. Yippee! In fact it felt to me like it was the best I'd played them; at least three songs together anyway. Not saying it definitely was, but it felt all right to me nothwithstanding what it sounded like to everyone.

All the performers were fab - many doing their own songs - and the mood was great again. It's definitely becoming a week highlight.

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The Keystone had my favourite tipple on too - Jaipur from Thornbridge - so it was a doubly good night all around.

Won't make it next week as Liverpool are on the box (on a Thursday in the Premier League!) against Newcastle so I dare say I'll be in the Fly or Head of Steam watching that. Hopefully we'll beat them well to make up for missing the open mic. Don't know if there will be one the following week with it being so close to Xmas then (Dec 23rd) but if it is then I intend to be there.

Hopefully next year I'll get a few songs written and perform them here. Could happen.
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Keystone Two Twenty Three

Yesterday I made a later call to go to the open mic at the Keystone. This is just the second one, run by John Witherspoon, and only one week after the previous open mic too. The Keystone has so many events on during the week that there needed to be some changes as there was a Cinema Club upstairs (showing the Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart/Kim Novak’s ‘Vertigo’ I think) so instead of the front room of the bar we were sent into the depths of Bar 23 to avoid noise cross over between the two events. The downstairs proved to be a great space for an intimate performance.

Keystone2-23-1

This week there were possible a couple fewer people up for playing but not significantly (I think it was 8 or so after about 10 last week). Several of the guys (including me) were repeat offenders from last week but it was good to see a few new guys too (including a great guitarist who I’d previously seen at the last Head of Steam open mic). There was a great mix of folk, blues, jazz and pop (and all points in between) and plenty of humour too. Many of the performers were doing their own songs rather than covers and thus showed off their talents even more.

I stuck with tried and tested songs (though somehow I still managed to fook one up):

‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ - cos it always gets me going in the right mode/mood
‘Somewhere Down the Road’
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
‘Heart Breaks Like the Dawn’
and
‘Splendid Isolation’

Keystone2-23-3


Out of all those songs the easiest - and the one I’ve probably played the most - is Warren Zevon’s ‘Splendid Isolation’ and yet somehow I got lost for words in it. Yet it has so few. I’m not entirely sure what happened to be honest. Anyway I did between 4.5 an 5 songs; which is more than I usually end up playing. Maybe I should stop at 4 in future though.

It was a really lovely night with great songs and camaraderie between everyone there and I’m glad I made the rush effort to get into town to show up again. Not sure whether I’ll make it next week but having made two appearances now at the Sanctuary, Head of Steam, Angus and now the Keystone then I’ve gone above and beyond anywhere I’d have thought I’d have made it to. I still have to thank the beer makes for the Dutch courage provided is a necessity: I always need to be on my second beverage beverage before getting up. The lovely cask on last night included ‘Taller Than A House’ Chapter Brewery, ‘Forecast (Bullion)’ Neptune Brewery, and ‘Kandata’ Chapter Brewery (which came on when Forecast was drunk dry). Nice beers all.

Keystone2-23-2

So thanks again to the Keystone and John Witherspoon for a cracking night all round.

_____________

The next day we found out that whilst we were having such a good time on Hope Street a young life was ending when a 12 year old girl – Ava White – was being murdered by children barely older than her just 0.7 miles away from where we were. There really are no words.
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The Tour Continues...

The Tour Continues… The Keystone Leg

Yesterday the lovely
Keystone on Hope Street held it's first Open Mic event, hosted by John Witherspoon. It's always difficult to know how the first event will go and how people find out about it. Not everyone is on social media all the time (apparently – hard to believe I know). And even if you are it is easy to miss announcements. Pubs often rely on word of mouth and people learn about events through chat in one pub or another. This one wasn't saturating social media, but that means nothing. It's down to who knows and how many are motivated to leave the house (along with a guitar or a plectrum).

KeystoneOM-1

I've been to the Opening Open Mic now at the
Angus (fronted by Ali Horn), the Head of Steam (fronted by Jack Malone), and now the Keystone over the last two months or so (I also went to the first one of the reopened Sanctuary fronted by Barry Sutton). I am definitely getting to the point where I'll be getting a tour t-shirt before too long. This one at the Keystone was so well attended with musicians that John, the host, barely played himself because there were so many volunteers there was no time to fill in!

WalkerAndLee
Sam & I in the Keystone – cheers!

This time my drinking and music buddy, Sam, came along to play too – he hadn't played live in a pub for years. We spoke to John at the bar before it kicked off at 8pm and said we'd both play. John played two or three songs and then I went up (so I was the first one at the Opening Open Mic or should I say I opened for the opening open mic?). Anyway, it was definitely nice to play first after being last man standing last week at the Angus as I could then relax and watch everyone else. First up after me was Sam with three of his own songs. Damn cool. Maybe I need to pen and perform a few myself. It definitely did not appear like Sam hadn't done it in years. He was excellent – and I now he'll be back again soon. After that there was performer after performer after performer – who were all too bloody good. Wish I had everyone's names so could namecheck them. But kudos to everyone who played; and I wasn't even the only one in a red-checked shirt.

Keystone4

I'm sure it was as big a success as it could have been. No more could have played really. Everyone was allowed no more than three songs and everyone kept to that. There wasn't even anyone bending that rule by playing American Pie, Telegraph Road and an extended version of Two Tribes. Not that I could do that if I wanted to. Though I've got a longer list of possible songs to do these days I went with three of my now standard standards: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' (Ryan Adams), 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' (Chuck Prophet), and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' (Green on Red). This time I actually had a list of eight songs to pick from in case there was a shortage of performers. Such a list was definitely not required.

Anyway, congratulations to the Keystone and to John for an excellent night and roll on the next one(s).
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Second Angus Open Mic

Went to the second Angus Open Mic Night last week. That makes me an ever present. There were more performers this week. I got there after it had started and there was already a list of people to play and I added my name to the bottom. Every performer seemed to have bought their own guitar rather than use Ali's. Just me then that turned up with only a plectrum.

As I watched the performers play one by one I had a couple of Cross Bay '
Zenits.' I was hopeful that one or two would be poorer than they turned out so my playing wouldn't stand up next to them too badly. I was disappointed as each was bloody excellent and briefly considered going to cross my name off the list. In the end I did play and was the last one on (bar Ali).

Ended up playing three of the songs I did last week at
Head of Steam:

AngusTakeTwo

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

It went pretty well really despite not being up to the standard of the other guys and gals. Roll on the next one.

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HoS Take Two

Last night I went to Jack's second Head of Steam Open Mic. It was a rush to get down there after a cycle ride home in the cold dark, but I made my way there; helped by the anticipation of a few pints of the Thornbridge/Neptune collaboration American Brown Ale ‘Beacon.’

Was a different crowd than the first one and probably a bit busier. The position of the musical gear was the other side of the room from last time. So I ended up, after moving from one table to another, sat in my usual corner of the pub to watch and listen to the music.

There was top music from multiple guitarists and singers. And then I was asked if I was going to play. I agreed that I would. It was after all my initial aim: even if everyone else was more accomplished than me. I’d said over the intervening month since the first Open Mic that I would play different songs than I did at the first one. Not sure it was an entirely good idea. After all it was an entirely new crowd from the first one so I could have played the same songs and (other than Jack (the host)) no-one would have been any the wiser.

Anyway – as promised – I ended up playing different songs than the previous Open Mic with:

‘Somewhere Down the Road’ (Chuck Prophet)
‘Down By The Water’
(Decemberists)
‘The One I Love’
(REM)
‘Whiskey In My Whiskey’
(Felice Brothers)

HoSTake2

It largely went okay with the exception of fooking up Down By The Water. Need to ensure I play and play these songs at home so that they become almost muscle memory. I ended up messing it up a little and instead of playing through the mistake I got a bit flustered. I could have tried again from the start but made the decision to move on to a definite muscle memory one (The Swan Song).

I considered playing another song but volunteered to leave after the fourth. There were better people to follow after all.

Later on two Americans told me as they leaving that they really enjoyed my set. It was nice to hear, even if it was just down to my Americana choices. I’ll take that.

Oh and the Beacon was lovely and flowed very easily.

Of course this morning I got up and played Down By the Water straight through a few times without even trying.
C'est la vie.
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Tour T-Shirt

Up until last week I had only ever done Open Mic in one venue – the Sanctuary – on Lime Street. As of this week I have now played in THREE venues. Amazing really. Last week it was the great Head of Steam on Hanover Street when Jake hosted had their first OM event and this week I strummed through the same mumbled songs as last week (Oh My Sweet Carolina, Heart Breaks Like the Dawn, and You Couldn’t Get Arrested) at the Angus on Dale Street. This was the first Open Mic at the pub and I was keen to show support to it. It is always difficult starting new stuff in venues as so much is down to word of mouth and repetition. Well I’m okay with chatting to people sometimes and all too good at repetition too – so it’s easy to do my bit.

The night was hosted by a brilliant singer –
Ali Horn – who plays there regularly (on Friday nights if I remember rightly). He’s got a great knowledge of songs and those he doesn’t know he’s happy to use Doctor Google to find the lyrics then launch into it. Jealous of both his knowledge and ability. He writes his own stuff to. Definitely worth popping in to see him when you can. The sound system at the venue is really nice. They’ve set it up so the sound goes all around the pub without the need for speakers and amps to be lugged in by the performers. So Ali has an easy night in that respect anyway.

I made the mistake of going back up and playing a second time as there were not many volunteers this week (I missed the start of the OM but I think there were just four or five people who went up). This time I went with
Splendid Isolation (which went okay) and then Van Diemen’s Land (which was not). I don’t know what was happening, but my fingers wouldn’t get into the right position for the B minor (Bm) chord – every time. It was all very odd and maddening. Not sure what was the cause of that as I don’t usually have a problem with it. Don’t think it was MS related but I guess I’ll have to keep and eye on it: and keep playing the damn Bm chord as often as I can. I was lugging heavy weighted things around all day so maybe it was my hands saying enough is enough fella, give it a rest.

Anyway I had a nice evening, and on a school night too. Chatted to some people I know and some I didn’t know before. Survived standing on the stage (and even the Bm debacle). Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger they say – but
they know fuck all. But I had a boss night and hope to get back sometime. As people learn it is on (apart from on Liverpool Champions League nights of course) then it will become more popular definitely.

Now I’ve played in three venues I’m pretty much wondering about sorting out a Tour T-shirt:

Sanctuary
Head of Steam
Angus


What’s next? Maybe the
Denbigh Castle who have recently put their toe in the water with OM too. To think that until I played the Sanctuary – shit scared – that once a few years ago when I thought that maybe I’d give it a go and do it once…

I do need to do a few things going forward, namely; learn some different songs, and some strumming patterns. Oh, and see if I can play the Bm chord again. That’d all help.

Onwards and Strumwards.
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New Open Mic Voyage

Well in the last month or so Open Mics have returned – a little erratically – to the Sanctuary and I have gone to both of them for a wee strum. This week new ones began in two other excellent Liverpool pubs; the Denbigh Castle on Hackins Hey and the Head of Steam on Hanover Street. Both started on the same night - Thursday 7th October.

The Denbigh Castle OM wasn’t starting until 10:30pm after three or four bands played apparently. I opted for the less late (and stressful) idea of going to the Head of Steam. I’d got back home late so didn’t get in to early this time, so I missed some good performances (from clips I’ve seen) from several artists. The room was busy with nearly every seat taken. It’s the area of the pub I usually gravitate to when I’m there – and in fact is where I am writing this now. So it felt like everyone was in my front room. Jack, the organiser of the Mic, asked if I was going to play and I confirmed I would. At least once I’d bought a second drink.

He played a couple more songs on his semi acoustic and then I stepped forward to play. The set up was actually in the corner I usually sit in too. It must explain why I was relaxed enough to chat a bit on the microphone; I rarely chat between songs when I’ve done Mics before. Weird. So with my glass sat on the carpet I proceeded to play four songs. Usual suspects for me – I really need to get a new set or two – and they were, in order:

Oh My Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
Heart Breaks Like The Dawn (Chuck Prophet)
Splendid Isolation (Warren Zevon)
You Couldn’t Get Arrested If You Tried (Green on Red)

HoS-om
Playing in my usual corner of the HoS - who'd have thunk it?

A couple of mates came in and caught me playing which was nice. Hadn’t seen either of them out for a while, and they’d been to a show down the road and popped in on the off chance. Went down okay for me I think. First time I've played an Open Mic in a different pub and therefore with a totally new crowd. Was nowhere near as nervous as when I played the first new Sanctuary one the other month. Got the usual comments I get with my use of these songs, along the lines of “Did you write those?” My CD collection must be a bit different from other peoples I guess. Still, as I said whilst I was playing, the use of songs that people don’t know is a good call as they can’t tell how badly you’ve interpreted them (or what verses you’ve inadvertently missed out).

The party for the Head of Steam moved off not long after I’d finished. So maybe I can become the official bell ringer for time gentlemen please? Me singing could be one way of emptying a place out.

Well done to Jack for arranging, playing and hosting the event. Think the next one scheduled for a months time (first Thursday of the month) and I hope I can make it again. Maybe with more of my excellent (apparently) obscure songs.


Onwards and Strumwards.
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What Is It With Thursdays?

Last Thursday the second Open Mic of the post lockdown era was on at the Sanctuary and I decided to go down again. The last one was packed, but this time there was only five of us there. But I enjoyed it as much – maybe even more – than the last one. Not because of not being busy but because the host, Barry Sutton, was good to talk to – and some of the evening was as much a guitar lesson as me playing a few songs.

To be fair they only announced on Twitter that they were having an Open Mic the evening before, which ain’t much notice for people who may need to organise anything or just plan their week. Hopefully next time there will be a bit more notice and it will be a bit busier. It's either that or I'll end up with another lesson.

SanctuaryOM1
Open Mic in the Sanctuary

Incidentally it is great to see that there are other places starting Open Mic events in the coming fortnight in – and in a couple of my favourite real ale pubs to boot: the
Head of Steam, and the Denbigh Castle. At the moment I understand that the Head of Steam one will – at least initially – just be a monthly event on the first Thursday of the month i.e. first one will be on October 7th. And coincidentally the Denbigh Castle one will also commence (downstairs in the pub) on the same date. The intention is that this one will be each week.

I’m not sure how often the Sanctuary one is intended to be. But just like the two upcoming ones it is on a Thursday too. What is it with Thursdays?
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Sanctuary - The Return of the Open Mic

Out of nowhere - with just one day's notice - the Sanctuary announced they were having an Open Mic the following day. The event was to be hosted by Barry Sutton - one of many former Las. He is a brilliant guitarist.

So I went along a bit (read:
very) nervous about playing with a different group of people. The usual crew were absent of course as were the people who usually turned up to play there: the ones I was comfortable playing in front of because they knew me and my limitations. Playing in front of really good musicians who I didn’t know at all had my hands really shaking. I played and sang okay though but my nervous shaking was obvious.

Barry said if'd been shite he’d let me do one song then pull me off (as it were) but in the end I did four songs. So it couldn’t have been as bad as I feared it was. At the end several people shook my hand and said they enjoyed it. I’ll take that. And next time - if there is a next time - I will be a lot more relaxed appearing in front of a new audience.

OM1-22
One of the excellent young guitarists who I warmed up for.

I didn’t catch the names of the people who played other than Barry. It’s not like I’m writing a review. But bloody hell there were some fabulous (young) performers. It was a really good night. I had to leave early (if 11:30pm is counted as early) so missed Matt Holland Author Dot Com - the one other representative of the former Open Mic crew - read his stories out. Next time; if there is etc etc.

It did feel strange playing there with a different organiser than the previous Open Mic events. I’m hoping to get along to the OM from
Bobo & John once they are up and running (I expect in the Outpost, a little further down the road). I could end up playing more often, learning more stuff, and getting more confident. Well it could happen…

____________

Incidentally my four songs on the return were:

'
Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams
'Couldn’t Get Arrested' - Green on Red
'Whiskey in my Whiskey' - Felice Brothers (accompanied by a Highland Park 12YO: thanks, Josh)
'
One I Love' - REM

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Last Zoom Open Mic?

We last had a Zoom Open Mic on New Years Eve, which is apparently about three months ago but definitely feels like a year or so. At the time we said it’d be a regular event especially with the lockdown which just arrived the day before. As it happened it did not become a regular thing at all. I’m out of the loop as I don’t have Facebook so I miss the chat about it and get a handle on whether it’s almost taken place a couple of times or not. And can’t really help in the organisation of it if I don’t have FB.

Finally last Saturday we did have our first Open Mic of the year. And hopefully the last one to be done using Zoom - if the lockdowns have finally worked their stuff along with the vaccinations. In theory the pubs will reopen indoors from May 17th, although events like the Open Mic won’t be permitted until another month or so after that (21st June). Fingers crossed for that.

The Open Mic was accompanied by a good portion of a mini keg of Mosaic that I’d picked up at Neptune Brewery the day before. I took the keg out the fridge and brought it into the spare room so I didn’t need to go up and down all the time to top my glass. Certainly helped with getting through a few pints.

Cloud Mosaic
Cloud Strife watching over the Neptune Mosaic

In the end I was on the Zoom call from about 7:45 through to 1.00am. So it wasn’t much of a wonder that a few beers were breached.

As it happened there were quite a few missing regulars, who’d kind of indicated that they would/may be there but didn’t turn up. It was a bit of a shame really not to see everyone’s familiar faces - and hear their songs. There were only three of us playing songs using guitar or keyboards, and Matt telling us stories. I only sang four songs as if I’d done any more I’d have felt like I was taking it over a bit. I’d have happily sung six or seven if others had been doing the same. Never mind.

Open Zoom
Not many of us online this time. Think there some good repeat on the telly.

I sang Chuck Prophet’s ‘Somewhere Down the Road,’ Ryan Adam’s ‘Sweet Carolina,’ Bright Eyes ‘Landlocked Blues’ and Barenaked Ladies ‘It’s All Been Done.’

It was good to see the familiar faces that were there - on what may be the last weekend of the year that we couldn’t be in (or at least outside) a pub. Roll on the next Open Mic: wherever and whenever it may be. It’ll be a while, I dare say, but it will be fucking great.
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Strange Weekend, Again

Another strange weekend, but aren't they all? At work on Friday I went from having work, to not having work (euphemistically called being 'spared' in the gig economy), then being told I could have have a route - due to drivers not being given all their parcels, to then being told just to deliver to the drivers that didn't have them. So I nipped out to Queensferry, Neston and Great Sutton to deliver the bags of to three unsuspecting drivers - who hadn't been informed that they didn't have the bags and they were on the way (grrr).

On the positive side it allowed me to get to Neptune brewery to pick up some beer for the weekend. You've got to support your locals during these difficult times - and it helps that the locals these days are so damn good. I'd asked for Saturday off as I had a lot on: judging with @voimaoy on FFF, watching the derby at lunchtime, and Open Mic in the evening. Picked up the last mini-keg (5l) of 'Abyss', which was a result and two pints of Equinox for the Friday. Roll on Saturday!

Um… Then I got a text asking me to confirm for Saturday. I rang and told them I was off for the judging (and footy). They said they had no record of me being off and that they had me down as in. Argh! You can't turn down the work really though. And it's not like I could go out to watch the game with Liverpool being in a Tier 3 lockdown. Said if they were short I'd work but asked them to put me down as first to be spared if there was a volume cut overnight.

Then a call. 'Can you help out with a driver who was sent out late? Take 40 drops off him and you'll get a full day pay.' Two to three hours work by the time I got from Maghull to Warrington. Then it was thrown in that they could 'almost guarantee' if I did it that I could have Saturday off. That was the clincher. So after waking up to find I had work then didn't, then did. Well I got home at the same time as usual - around 7:30pm after a messy day.

On Friday evening I looked into getting a pass for my TV on Saturday to watch the Everton v Liverpool game. Unfortunately it was on BT not Sky, and they don't do Day Passes. I'd have to buy a Month Pass. But I realised that on the plus side BT have the European games so with the lockdown meaning I wouldn't be able to catch them any other way (legally) £25 for a month of football wasn't so bad (3 Liverpool European matches in the month). I didn't get it though: just in case the unlikely event of me working on the Saturday came to pass.

LandlockedYT

Well surprise! Saturday came and so did the text asking me to confirm I was in. So much for the promise; was never going to happen. Anyway I confirmed but asked for as small a route as they could find so I could get back and read the stories for Flash Friday. To be fair they did give me a short route. Got back for around 2:30pm.

Meanwhile Liverpool seemingly lost to Everton the way their fans celebrated. But on checking all the press it was a 2-2 draw. Henderson scored a perfectly good goal in injury time ruled out by VAR because presumably someone pressed the wrong one of two buttons (we've all done it). And worse still the Everton keeper, T-Rex, had nobbled our serene man mountain, Virgil van Dijk. It turned out by Sunday that he may well miss the entire season as a result of that unpunished assault. Breathe in. Breathe out.

So I missed the game. And it was a good derby in many ways, but awful in others.

FFF photo1
Fire & Ice Prompt: Sol 10/19

In the afternoon it was time to get on and read tehstories that 35 people had written for FFF. The remit was a tough one. Using the photo prompt and the Ice or Fire inclusion the story needed to be exactly 89 words. Tough. I picked my top ten after a couple of passes and my co-conspirator did. From there by Sunday we sorted our winners, honourable and special mentions out. I still don't know who has won and will wait until the Dragons put up the results later. Wondering how many Flash Dogs make the cut again after a good showing last time.

Later on Saturday I discovered that the Open Mic, which I'd been told would be regularly every fortnight (and our last one was two weeks ago), wasn't happening. Argghhh! All in all my Saturday's plans were in tatters.

But at least I still had my Neptune 'Abyss'.

On Sunday in lieu of the Open Mic I played a song I haven't done before, 'Landlocked Blues' by Bright Eyes. I recorded a version of it and put it up on YouTube. Hoping it will prove the start of me doing new songs to me; maybe a couple more Bright Eyes and a Frank Turner or two. We shall see.

Anyway all in all the weekend proved to be very different from that planned. How could it not with the lockdown - and the gig economy - being what it is? Probably still get the BT Pass so I can watch the European games whilst we are tied to our homes. And I've no idea who our centre back pairing will be.
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More Pub Distancing

The last Open Mic got cancelled and I was away camping at Bishop's Castle for the one before so I was looking forward to this one. Picked up some excellent ‘White Rat,’ ‘Cold Stone Cream Austin’ and ‘Aiwass’ from Craft on Smithdown on the way home and that was my preparations done –apart from some quick strumming for fifteen minutes. As it happened OM was to prove a low key affair with only four of us on it; with Bobo and Nette, Matt and myself.

There wasn’t too much in the way of singing. Matt started of with a story then Bobo did a couple of songs. I did three in the end and having decided to do new (or very old) ones I went for ‘Half A World Away’ (always contentious doing Oasis - sorry), ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Wild Rover’. Bobo did another and Matt gave us a longer story.

Said to Matt he should try and write for the Seedling Challenge and use all seven of this weeks prompts -  a tough one this week - and that we could then read the resulting stories out at the next OM. We agreed to give it a go.

Then after lots of interlinked chitter chatter about all things travel, pubs, and Covid-19, we went on Jackbox to play some games. Suffice to say funny as fuck – but you would have had to be there (and probably have had a few beers) to appreciate it. Apparently OM is going to go to fortnightly now, which is a shame but I guess a sign that now that things are opening up a little bit people have less time or need for it. Anyway, I am looking forward to it; whenever it is. At least two weeks gives me more time to learn some more new old songs.
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There Is No Sanctuary Anymore 

Well this weekend brought the news that the Sanctuary on Lime Street is to close its doors permanently. One of the first confirmations of pubs in Liverpool to be closing as a result of the damnable pandemic: it won't be the last.

It goes without saying that I wish the owners and all the staff all the best at this time.

It has been a great little boozer for the last few years for me. One of my most regular haunts. Often I would pop in at the start or the end of a wee crawl–or even both ends of one. It was always laid back. There was always music on (I’m not saying it was always to my taste, but hell yeah. Music!). The decor was ‘interesting’ if built-in distressed is your thing. From outside if looked like it could be a wine bar with the logo on the window, whilst inside it was spit & sawdust. It was a contradiction in many ways.

Beer choice could be a little up and down, but usually there was one or two–sometimes even three–that were worth staying for–or else I wouldn’t have, would I?

There wasn’t a big turnover of staff. And all of them were friendly and outgoing. Going out of their way to look after the customers (even giving me control of the music on several occasions. Yeah, an evening of Frank Turner, Wilco or Magic Numbers anyone?). One of last year's highlights was going in there for a few pints whilst waiting for the parade for the European Cup. We watched the progress of the parade on my phone so knew exactly when to leave to catch the buses, got some fab photos and then went back into the Sanctuary within about twenty minutes or so. A perfect afternoon, which unfortunately we won't be able to repeat for any parade for winning the league.–more's the pity.



Best of all I was in one Thursday evening reading a book when I noticed someone walk upstairs with a guitar and found out it was Open Mic. I popped up to watch, telling myself if they weren’t all shit hot I’d get up and play a song–partly on the basis that I didn’t know any of them and I need not show my face again if it all went tits up. I nervously strummed a couple of songs in super fast time and sweated like a pig… and since then I’ve hardly missed any. I hadn’t played in front of anyone for about twenty years. Unfortunately I hadn’t been practicing much either. But rediscovering the guitar was great and it has been the highlight of many a week since.









The continuation over recent weeks of the Open Mic online has been a lovely way to break up the week, especially the monotonous evenings (so much TV watched). Our little Zoom Sanctuary has been great, but it’s not a pub. It’s not the same.

It won’t be the last pub to go and I’m fearful for which of my other favourites may not survive this most painful of years. I’ll miss meeting up with the Open Mic crew at the Sanctuary. I’ll miss the banter with the staff and customers. I’ll miss sitting there reading or writing. Hell, I’ll just miss the Sanctuary.

RIP The Sanctuary. It was good to be in you.
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A Very Good Evening

Last night was Open Mic #4 of the Sanctuary Zoom Open Mics. It was the oddest one. Lots of people couldn't be there due to life commitments and/or watching Chelski v Man City. So as it was there were only three of us online rather than the usual nine or so. In addition to myself there was Matt Holland (.author.com) and Rebecca. Matt does stories and Rebecca does audience–and does it very well. Yeah, I was the only 'musician'. At least until the end of the night.

It was almost nine when I logged in. Despite the low attendance there was never the question of cancelling it and we had a good night. Matt read a couple of old stories and gave us a trial run of a new one he's working on. And I did at least eight songs, which I'll list below. Other than that we reminisced about pubs and drunken exploits and talked about if and when we'd go back to the pub again.

All this with one eye on our phones to see how the footy was going. When I left the commentary after twenty odd minutes City had been on top. But football is a funny old game and if they failed to win Liverpool, after their 4-0 thrashing of Palace the day before, would be Champions for the first time in thirty years. As the designated old git at Open Mic I'm one of the only ones who was alive and going to watch Liverpool back in the 1980's when we won all that came before us. I could understand the excitement of the youngsters not there at the evening's possibilities.

As it was, of course, Chelski scored first and it was 1-0 at half time. City equalised with a worldy free kick… and then a sending off and a penalty gave Chelski the game. Liverpool were fucking Champions of absolutely everything (currently holding the European Cup, the Super Cup, the World Club Cup and now the Premier League Champions): it's not been a bad year. If you discount the coronavirus (or indeed only count the footy).

At this point the Zoomers all left to go to their doors or windows to hear the singing, watch the fireworks and hear the street noise. It was brilliant. I just wish my dad was here to have shared in it. A day so long in the waiting. Back in the early 80s before I had a Season Ticket myself my mum and dad would take it turns to take me to the game with the parent and child ticket. As well as going to several games with both mum and dad. Mum was a red, dad was a fans of the Sons (Dumbarton to you). He'd have enjoyed the day and celebrations immensely.

Getting back onto Zoom it was time for another bottle of beer (I was drinking Platform 6.1 and Oakham Citra) and I played another song or two.

Niall came on from Dublin looking suitably very happy and gave us a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone–which the rest of us did our utter best not to wreck, but probably failed. The night ended after much talk about football, beer, celebrations, fireworks, car horns and the wish to be able to celebrate it properly at some point.

Open Mic 4

We all decided 1:30am was late enough and called it quits. We'll probably change the day next week as next Thursday it is the Man City game–guard of honour and all that. So maybe it'll be on Wednesday or Friday. Either way I'm sure there will be more than three of us (with a late a guest appearance). We shall see.

My setlist (for it must be as set once you're over five songs, surely?) comprised:

  • Homeward Boud
  • You Ain't Going Nowhere
  • Down By the Water
  • Congratulations
  • N17
  • Hotel California
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina
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Boom! We Made It On Zoom

For the last couple of months (yes,  it’s only been than long) I’ve had to listen to so many people on the radio and TV complain about working form home and then extol the possible long term virtues of it thanks to getting used to using Zoom from everything between Zoom Work Meetings to Zoom Quizzes.

Zoom Session

Working, delivering shit all day to the masses, I had not used Zoom and most my mates would have no interest in calling into a remote quiz or drinking session. For me communication remained phone calls, texts and WhatsApp group messages.

But finally on Sunday, after two aborted attempts, the guys and gals who sort out the fortnightly Open Mic at the Sanctuary arranged a Zoom Open Mic session. It had been a long day at work for me in the sun and I was bushed, but called in at around 9pm. It took a bit of messing about as I got a WhatsApp message with the connection link and couldn’t enter the details on my iPad, which I was going to use for the event. In the end I had to copy and paste the invite into an email to myself and then open it up on my iPad from there. Already there were five or six logged in when I joined.

Being the first time I’d used it I had just propped up the iPad on my desk in the spare room. There was still some natural light to begin with but as evening fell I  had to use the desk light. Considering I hadn’t put too much thought to it the set up worked okay. I  had plugged the  Blue ‘Snowball’ mic into the iPad. It’s difficult to know how much that helps with the sound as you count hear how it goes out. Suffice to say that some of the others had problems with the mics in their complex terms/devices and the sound came and went some rather randomly. On the positive side for me that meant some of the others were brought down to my level in terms of results. Hurray!

Despite sound and stuttering issues and the effect of replying not quite in real time, the event went really well. Nine or ten of the regulars came in and played or told stories, and the time and beer flowed quickly. The main issue was having to serve your own beer and not getting our loyalty card stamped. But at least at the end of it I didn’t have to get the last bus home (particularly as I would have missed it - I left the ‘meeting’ at 12:30). I’d had five beers, played four songs, went for three toilet breaks, wore two different tops, and had one big grin on my face.

Zoom Meeting


Many thanks as ever to Bobo and John - and their better halves - for the organisation and time involved in events - both online and in the Sanctuary. Everyone who attended it really enjoyed the opportunity to meet up again. It's not the same as down the pub, but needs must at this strangest of times.

We’re hoping to have another Open Mic in the next week. And I’ll definitely be phoning in.


______

The songs I played were:
‘Mostly Water’ - Bap Kennedy
‘Homeward Bound’ Simon & Garfunkel
‘Somewhere Down the Road’ - Chuck Prophet
‘Sweet Carolina’ - Ryan Adams



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Planning on Planning

The last few months - and longer - have been difficult one way or another. And I have not bothered with New Year's Resolutions. Then again, there shouldn't be a time for resolutions. If you decide you need to do something don't wait til January 1st to get it into motion. Anyway, it's the well into the second half of January and I ain't doing resolutions, but I am doing planning. In that I am planning on planning with respect to all sorts including; work, writing, reading, guitar, and fitness.

Will put some of the planning up here and then track progress as the year goes on.

But now I've got to get some of these plans down. Catch yer later…
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No Singing, or Dancing

Missed four Open Mic nights on the trot in October and November due to work and a dodgy throat on the last occasion. I finally got up an running again a couple of weeks ago when I made it and played four songs at the Sanctuary. It was the first time I've played on the ground floor. Did four of my usual songs: 'Sweet Carolina', 'Somewhere Down the Road', 'Couldn't Get Arrested', and 'Whiskey in My Whiskey.' And so it was that I was looking forward to getting back up again yesterday.

I got back quite late thanks to a rather heavy work load in and around Denbigh (officially 126 drops, probably 140 in reality). Most of the town is okay but the ones around the old town centre are horribly slow with the narrow streets and little one ways and the like. Wasn't sure I'd get home in time to get out again, but in the end I was home for 7.25pm. After a quick change I was out and at the bus stop for 7:45pm, then into town and in the Sanctuary for 8.30pm. Huzzah! I could see plenty of people downstairs, but no guitarists or PA. I was happy to see it would be upstairs or downstairs then…

But no. There were no guitarists there 'cos the Open Mic had been cancelled. Apparently it had been heralded on Facebook, which is all well and good but I don't do FB, do I? So it was a couple of beers and home without giving the singing muscles a go. Ho hum.

I suspect the next Open Mic will be cancelled. As in two weeks time it will be Election Night. Hopefully get one or two more Open Mic's in before the end of the year.
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