It’s the weekend of the Leeds and Reading festivals and, with so much musical talent on show just twenty miles away who does the group plump to go see?
(Well, being honest, one self-confessed Little Boots fan hasn’t been seen for a few days so he may well be camped out in a muddy West Yorkshire field…)
The rest of us, however, look through the slim pickings of the What’s On listings for York and decide to forgo the overblown festival performances and take a chance on Simon Snaize at the Punchbowl. At least, that was the plan – regular readers may remember that any deviation from one of our norms usually ends in some sort of disaster. The full plan called for Roj to call in and check out the talent on show at another venue and to let the rest of us know by text if that was a better option. Things started to go wrong for me when, halfway between bus-stop and Punchbowl, I realised that I hadn’t picked my phone up and seemed to be taking a turn for the worse on arrival at the Punchbowl, slightly later than I anticipated to see that Dave Keegan was down as playing there and there wasn’t a Roj or Andy in site.
(Just to point out that I’m not saying Dave Keegan wouldn’t be worth seeing just that if you expecting one act and get another, it can thrown plans a little awry.)
So, thinking I may have missed the all important text, I bought myself a drink and settled down to see if the others turned up. It turned out that Simon and Dave were playing as a duet that night so, when the music started, I shuffled through into the performance area to at least catch the beginning of the act before deciding whether to move on. A few minutes later I was relieved to be joined by Roj, who confirmed that this was the best option and that he had texted Andy to let him know. So, where was Andy???
That question was answered a few minutes later when Roj received a phone call from Andy who was standing outside the Punchbowl, wondering where we were. For those of you unfamiliar with York’s various watering holes, it’s worth pointing out that there are two Punchbowls in the city centre, roughly at opposite ends. Andy joined us after a brisk walk through the evening air and arrived with a bit of a thirst. I love it when a plan comes together.
So, what about the (other) entertainment? Simon and Dave are both past members of Hazzard County, a covers band we used to see regularly after gigs at Fibbers. Now, however, they play acoustic guitars and perform a mixture of similarly styled covers from their Hazzard days and their own songs. Tonight covers included Woody Guthrie’s California Stars (a Hazzard favourite) and songs by various New Zealand singer songwriters (apologies for being so vague but I also forgot to pick up pen and paper…). At least some of the original songs will, presumably, be on their forthcoming album. There was also a song based on a poem be Henry Longfellow but I can’t remember whether it was a cover or an original.
They play together superbly and harmonise their vocals beautifully and tonight’s set was totally live, with no electronic aid. At one point Roj and I found ourselves wondering where the violin track was coming from before realising that Dave’s guitar had some sort of built-in effects doohickey. Whatever it was it sounded great and had us fooled for a few minutes.
During a break in their set we were treated to three songs by one of the audience (obviously it was planned – not just some bloke who got up and decided to sing). If his name was ever thrown, I’m afraid I didn’t catch it. He explained that the first song was inspired by the Fleet Foxes and, it has to be said, it did sound a bit similar. But then, so did the other two. He was OK, but needed a bit more volume in my opinion.
Quite early in the evening, I overheard one audience member saying something along the lines of, “forget the crap that’s on X-Factor, this is real talent.” I can’t help but agree. Overall, this was a pleasantly entertaining, if slightly less than musically memorable, evening.