Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Home again after midnight as usual.
The waiting around for any security personnel to take over after we’ve closed the stage down really does tend to do my head in.
Still, we finished on a good note and managed to give Jo, one of Scum’s long time fans, a lift back too.
Now for some sleep and try and relax a bit until it all starts over tomorrow…
Or today, as it is in reality ?

Oh God… It’s morning…
Here we go again.
It’s just a question of putting a few things back on stage when we arrive and then waiting for the rest of the crew to turn up.
Because of a last minute pull-out, we’ve had to change everybody’s timings for today.
Hopefully all the acts are going to remember ?
Oh well, at least we’re all here by half-past eleven which is a bonus…

Our first act of the day is an acoustic duo from just down the road in Welwyn Garden City.
Again, they are one of those acts that I’d featured before back in the ‘Arcade’ days in the town centre so I know what to expect.
Terry and Gavin McCann play intricate songs with catchy choruses and seem to have a lot of fun doing it ?
Just perfect to wake everybody up from the rigours of the night before.
Gavin & Terry McCann

Their guitar interplay is much, much better than you would expect from a pair of brothers in that there is no ‘dominant’.
Both take turns or leave space for the other and to be honest they are a joy to listen to.
Nice one, guys.

Joy T. Chance


My co-compere Joy T. is up next.
I have to be honest, I don’t like putting poetry on the stage so early in the day, but needs must when you’ve been ‘downgraded’ to an eight pm finish to shut up the whiners and whingers who live on the hill.
Joy’s set is at once ‘in yer face’, entertaining and thought provoking.
She can get extremely political in some places and does so on this occasion, but the crowd are with her all the way.

The one she does about the rude woman pushing her out of the way is brilliant and I wish I’d written it, but then they don’t tend to push me… I’ve had my elbows sharpened by the same bloke who did Mike Summerbee's (1960’s and early 1970’s  footballing legend who allegedly had the sharpest elbows in the football league…)
So people tend not to do it.
Since getting a good shoving in the back trying to get off a boat in The Gambia I now have sharpened boot heels, too… 
Joy T. Chance
Anyway, Joy’s set is over way too soon, but people listened and enjoyed and that is what a way with words is all about.
A damn fine set, even if I do say so…

On to Oka Vanga who are returning to the stage after last year’s appearance when I couldn’t give them a full set owing to time constraints.
Oka Vanga are an instrumental guitar duo and they play music from here, there and anywhere around the globe.
Some of their guitar runs are just mind blowing.        
Oka Vanga

They seem to have mastered what Keith Richards calls ‘The Ancient Art of Weaving’ in that they weave these guitar melodies and harmonies in and out of the basic rhythm of the tune and since some of the tunes aren’t exactly in 3/4 or 4/4 time, that in itself is a wonder to hear.
If there is a better acoustic instrumental guitar duo floating around Hertfordshire then I for one haven’t heard them.
Excellent set.

And now, in a change to our published programme…
Pronounced in my best B.B.C. plummy accent, is the replacement for our ‘dropout’,
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South

I’d got her at short notice from Joy who raved about her, so I’d looked up the youtube bits and no decision was ever made quicker.
We are THE ARCADECLECTIC STAGE and we put on an eclectic mix of this, that and the other, and sometimes we put on acts that just seem to sum up what we are all about without even trying.
Dangerous Dinky was one of those acts.

Acoustic guitar and electric bass and an attitude…

A seriously BAAAAD attitude.
God, she was funny…
It turned out that we got our only two complaints of the day from women who complained that she wasn’t suitable for a ‘family’ event ?
Well, we’d already told them that.
We’d even given them time to move, and then bless her, she did it again herself before she started…
How much warning do these people want ?
I think sometimes we ought to be allowed to tattoo it on their bleedin’ foreheads ?

Besides... Think about it like this...
We are the profane to St Mary's Stage's sacred.
Yin and yang, black and white, chalk and cheese...
We cater to the ADULT in everybody.
Occasionally there might be something for the 'inner child' in all of us, but we cater to the ADULT music fan.
There are enough stages to choose from on the site and neutering or censoring an artist is strictly 'off limits'.
It's not a question of bloody mindedness but it is a question of integrity.
We invite those artists that provide an 'eclectic' and not necessarily commercial alternative to the
I've got nothing against 'mainstream' but if by chance I got Metallica, then I'd want a totally acoustic set.
What's the point of just playing the usual hits ?
Shake them up a bit...
And that's why we are there... To provide an alternative.
Dangerous Dinky aka Dirty South
But... I digress...  

She was funny, thought provoking and downright menacing in her attitude whilst she was on, but as soon as she was off she was as normal as you
or I ?
Hmmm… Maybe I shouldn’t have put that bit in, as I’m not necessarily ‘normal’ in the accepted sense, but you know what I mean ?
Very rude, very insulting, very funny, very entertaining, very adult, and very professional, that was our ‘Dinky’, and I’ve already made the decision to get her back for next year.
I want more… 

At 120 miles an hour minimum, The Zipheads hit the stage…
The Zipheads
SurfPunkRockabillyCountry Rawck (or is that supposed to be Rock ?) is a pretty good way of describing them.
Not all of those things separately, but all those things at the same time.
And all done at a speed that would throw off anything but an Apache tracker.
The Zipheads
They were great, and what’s more if you were nimble enough, you could even try to dance to them.
I’m not personally sure about the spec’s, but hey, they definitely fit the image.
Fucking hell ! 
It was over in the 'speed of light’ and worse, we couldn’t give them an encore because of the time constraint but Christ, did they deserve one, or what ?
You’re coming back guys, no worries…

Which brings us nicely to the first of our Scottish/Scots (never quite sure, so maybe somebody could enlighten me ?) bands of the day.
The Recovery Club

I’d tried to get The Recovery Club for last year but owing to holidays we couldn’t have them, but this year I’d banged on their door very early and we’d come up trumps.
Believe it or not I’d picked up on them from a chance remark on an internet poetry site, and I’m still not sure how to describe them ?
The Recovery Club
I think the word that possibly fits best is ‘ethereal'.
Maybe, maybe not, but that’s what I think ?
Imagine laying down on the grass on a summer’s day, on a hillside somewhere…
Not near the top or the peak, but just on the side and in the distance you can see a village…
Ok, you’ve got that ?
Right, now imagine the sounds going on around you ?
Birdsong, insects, and maybe in the distance a church bell ?
Well that is what they sound like.
A floaty, peaceful sort of sound.
I like to think of them as a bit more ethereal than The Cowboy Junkies, but whether I’m accurate or not, it’s perfect music for a sunny afternoon at a music festival.

The Recovery Club

 The musicianship is superb, very intricate sounding with the instruments meshing together with each other and the vocals.
Gorgeous stuff.
It makes you think how much they must have practised to sound that good ?
(They’ll probably tell me now that it was all done while pissed out of their brains in a Glasgow bar, but I couldn’t believe that)
So, so glad I finally got them.
Wonderful stuff.

And so… From the sublime to rap, which we don’t tend to feature all that much of.
There is a reason.
Most of the local practicioners seem to think they’re in South Central and we get reams of copyists with all their cheap ‘guns and pussy’ lyrics.
Well, I’ve got news for you, guys…
Letchworth, the world’s first garden city, is in Hertfordshire, England, and not downtown Los Angeles.
There might be an Uzi 9mm in Letchworth for all I know, but I do know that some middle class council tenant’s kid is not going to be the one holding it.
Fuck knows why they waste their time pretending when the reality lurking around them is far, far scarier ?
Write and sing what you know and you’ll get further.

The ‘authentic-ness’ will come through and that is why we’ve got BlacKCat on our stage.
My mate Grant from Parnassus, the local poetry group was given a cd of the bloke and he passed one on to me, who went absolutely apeshit over the fact that the guy was good.
Rap Poetry ?
Well, rap is street poetry when you think about it ?
Most of the good rappers seem to know this already.
It’s a strange genre in that my earliest recollection of it was white and not black, and came from the late nineteen forties and early nineteen fifties, although I suppose when you get down to it that artists like Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway, were the originators of the style…
Or you would think that if you followed that path back, but if you follow the blues back to the twenties and thirties you find another strain of ‘rap’ as we know it, so God knows where it originated ?
At a guess I’d say Africa originally, because a lot of African songs are built upon a rhythmic chanting, but anyway, I digress…
Taye, or BlackCat, writes intelligent ‘raps’.

Not only can you understand them, they don’t insult your intelligence either, and believe me, THAT is a seriously major break through.
And he did good…
Another one that I want back again.
Next year we might have to call it the ‘groundhog day stage’ if it carries on like this ?

More rock as epitomised by The Electric Modern…
Now these guys I’d had last year and was quite impressed.
The Electric Modern

This year, although the members seem to be the same, there is a huge difference in that the lead singer is playing keyboards…
This has changed the sound somewhat in that there is now no actual relationship to any form of ‘Indie’ rock within their sound.
The Electric Modern

These songs sound different.

They sound ‘darker’ too.
It’s a hell of a way to try and describe a band’s sound but there are definitely hints of darkness.
The prettiness has all gone.
Adult sounding songs, although to be fair to the band I was concentrating on the music for the majority of their set trying to work out what the change in the sound was ?

I have to say guys, I prefer the keyboard version.
Ok, not everybody will, but I definitely do.
There’s something about them and whatever that something is, it seems to work in my head at least ?

And now it’s finale time and our headliners this year are the trio of whom Glen Matlock last year was heard to say ‘They’re a bit tasty…’
The Ballachulish Hellhounds are back.
The Ballachulish Hellhounds

Not that it seems Dochan has ever been away, as he is also a member of The Recovery Club.
Well, nearly back since last year, anyway.
One of them has had a recent accident and has had to be replaced for the time being in that he can’t fret a guitar right now.
Not that you’d know it by the sounds emanating from the stage ?
Two Ballachulish Hellhounds

To call them a ‘folk’ trio is unfair on ‘folk trios’ and also to themselves.
A Celtic Folk Band ?
Yes, but not in the same way bands like Runrig are Celtic Folk/Rock bands.
These guys play songs that travel from here to there and sometimes come back again from there to here with different arrangements.
They build on the best of them and then make them their own.
I love them and I’m so thankful that Amy recommended them because I love these songs.
Anybody with an interest in all things ‘folky’, that travelled, is hereby directed to the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music.
You will hear a lot of early versions of songs that these three guys play.
But they play the versions that have come back again.

A Ballachulish Hellhound
A bit more ‘arranged’, a bit more musical in some cases, but the root is the same.
That ‘Old Weird America’ seems to get everywhere, and as I’ve already said once on this’ere blog, I’ve even heard nine or ten year old kids doing a verse from a track from the Anthology or the ‘Hellhounds’ in The Gambia as a skip-rope song !!!!
So yes, the songs did migrate, and these three guys play them with a care and a love that borders on fanaticism except that they are having the time of their lives playing them and that enjoyment is being communicated to an audience which is beginning to get it’s collective rocks off by getting up and dancing to them.
Folk songs live forever and there is a simple reason…
Like the Ballachulish Hellhounds, they’re good.
The Gods were still smiling...


And that’s it for another year…
There’s more waiting around for the other stages to finish until the sound crew come round to pick up the kit, but taking shelter from the rain which has held off all weekend but is now pissing it down like a good’un, seems to be the order of the moment.
Time to try and relax while sitting on a flight case, which are not the most comfortable things to sit on, and reflect on the weekend as a whole.
Acts ?   Excellent to brilliant.
Organisation ?   Excellent (with one noted exception)
Food ?   Excellent.  Never had better, so that’s a definite plus.
Overall ?   Ok, you have to take this along with the proviso that I’m writing this from the perspective of one who has a specific set of jobs to do there, but all in all, some people have said it was the best one yet, and who am I to argue with them ?
It certainly could have been.
Who knows…
It’s all subjective anyway ?
Any chance I can go home and get some sleep now please…
Because to put it mildly, I’m totally knackered ?

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