Chris Johnson – The Punchbowl, 01/08/08

With apologies to Dr. Seuss…

It should not have been hard, with just two of us out.
It should have been easy, with problems of nowt.

We planned to go out in the City Centre throng.
But Friday was the 1st and the listings were wrong.

We came up with a plan, it went something like this.
We’d meet at the Punchbowl, to see Johnson, Chris.

According to some, he was starting at eight.
I think Roj was on time, but I was a bit late.

I asked about start times and was told half past nine.
I didn’t know Roj had arrived, so that was fine.

I stood by the doorway, with a glass full of beer.
Keeping a watch out for my friend to appear.

After a while, the beer had gone.
Sightings of Roj, there had been none.

I stood for a while in the street looking round.
Still no sign of my friend had I found.

For a few minutes more, I waited alone.
Texting a mate for a number to phone.

I even phoned home to speak to the female.
So she could log on to check my email.

No further updates, so I headed down the path.
To check out Plan B, the band at the Bath.

When I got there of Roj there still was no sign.
The band didn’t sound good, it was decision time.

I decided to give the Bath band a miss.
I went back to the Punchbowl to listen to Chris.

By now Roj’s number had arrived on my phone.
So I sent him a text and found he’d gone home.

Turns out at both venues, each other we’d missed.
By minutes and we just weren’t ready for this.

Although mine was with me, Roj was without phone.
He’d gone home disappointed and left me out alone.

Now, much as I’d like to continue in rhyme.
I’m afraid it has come to gig review time.

Chris Johnson. Formerly of Hazzard County. Formerly of Mostly Autumn. Currently with Fish. Tonight playing an acoustic set in what turns out to be the surprisingly intimate setting of the Punchbowl. Acts play in what is normally a dining area and, while it isn’t exactly a separate room from the rest of the pub, the layout means that you can actually listen to the music without having to strain to hear over most of the chatterers.

Slipping forward slightly, to the interval, I overheard Chris telling someone who asked whether he was still playing with Fish that he was but that he was a bit sick of the rock music and wanted to do a bit more folky stuff. That comment goes a long way to explaining tonight’s set. It seems that, rather than have a set list, Chris works from a list of songs he knows, playing whatever takes his fancy at the time. Tonight he played the likes of Bob Dylan, The Band (Up on Cripple Creek), John Prine (Grandpa was a carpenter) as well as a handful of traditional Irish tunes such as Irish Rover and Whisky in the Jar. His first song after the break was one of his own tunes which showed a surprising gentleness of playing, compared to the passion in both his vocals and guitar-playing when he is doing covers.

Being honest, being on my own, I had half-decided not to stay for the full set (particularly as it started nearer ten than nine-thirty). However, as time went on, I realised that I was enjoying the music enough to stay and, eventually, left when the music finished at nearly midnight.

There’s something about Chris Johnson. For me, I think he was what was missing at the Hazzards gig we went to a couple of weeks ago. It’s not that he is Hazzard County, it’s more that Hazzard County sound better when he is with them. That’s a personal opinion and one I know others don’t agree with. Counterpointing that, however, is the impression he gives that he should be doing bigger and better things. There’s no arguing that he is talented. The question is whether he should be using other bands in an apparent way of furthering his own musical career, leaving a trail of ex-bands and, occassionally, disappointed fans (of those bands) in his wake.


About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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1 Response to Chris Johnson – The Punchbowl, 01/08/08

  1. Hey Ian,Thanks for sticking around to see some of the rambling Irish stuff! The Punch Bowl always seems to bring out the folk music in me. I’ve done some great St Pats gigs in there with the whole pub roaring along to drinking songs and smashing their pints together.Just thought I’d let you know that I haven’t left Hazzard County, and nor has Paddy or Tom. Its just that Dave uses the same name when he goes out with Si. Confusing, I know. I’ve only just found out myself.Anyway, the more full on version of HC with Paddy, Tom, John and myself are playing at the Cock and Bottle next friday 8th August if you want to come down. Cheers,Chris

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