Musically, it was quite a busy evening in York. The DV8 Festival had taken over the regular major venues for the whole weekend leading to, presumably, a horde of black-clothed Goths descending on the city. Over at the Knavesmire, Blondie were (was?) providing a post-race concert for those interested in the Sport of Kings. And that was on top of all the usual pubs, bars and smaller venues that are increasing eager to entice punters in by putting acts on. Personally, I’m not a creature of the night (I only spotted a handful of Goths as I made my way around – maybe it was still too light for them at eight-thirty…) and have very little interest in watching horses run around as a pre-cursor to my musical entertainment (although I wouldn’t have minded seeing Blondie). I am, however, by self-admission a tight Yorkshireman who prefers good, reasonably priced beer, free-entry gigs and supporting local talent. And so it was that Andy and I convened at The Golden Lion to see, in my humble opinion, one of York’s best singer-songwriters, all-round nice guy and, as described to me recently, legend of the York music scene, Mr Dan Lucas, tonight performing (as seems to be the norm these days) as Boss Caine.
Now, given the circumstances, tonight could have gone one of two ways. I have to say, I was expecting the pub to be overrun by drunken race-goers, in which case the music would almost certainly have been drowned out by chatter and hysterical laughter, making the whole thing a bit pointless, or the revellers. As it turned out, however, it was very quiet. Not just the pub but, from glances outside, the city centre itself. It may have been busier elsewhere, but I suspect that the staff of the Lion have rarely seen a less full pub on a Friday evening in what we are currently laughingly calling Summer. A few people who knew Dan personally passed in and out, with one woman singing along to all the songs played while she was there. But it seemed that very few people had turned out specifically to see him, a fact part-attributable, perhaps, to a friend’s up-coming wedding and a need to save money for it. Unfortunately, while this meant a slightly more intimate (if that can be used to describe a few people in a reasonably large area) gig and that we could hear the music much more than I expected to, it also resulted in a bit of a muted atmosphere and, at least before his set started, a seeming reluctance on the part of Dan to actually get going. After all, it can’t be fun playing to a near-empty pub.
Once he did start, however, we got another excellent performance. Dan has an unfair reputation of being a bit of a miserablist when it comes to his songs and, being honest, some of them aren’t going to drag punters in off the street. Tonight’s two-part, nearly twenty song set, however, contained a lot of his more up-beat, more jovial songs mixed in with some of the more serious ones. Complimenting songs that, these days, feel as familiar to me as a comfortable pair of shoes, there were a lot I didn’t recognise and even a scan through the (hastily amended) set-list afterwards didn’t really help me identify them. I know we got, amongst others, Kinda Loving, Dead Man’s Suit, Smoking In My Backyard, Self-medication Blues, Your Drunk Baby (a.k.a Lovesick Blues?) and the wonderful Joe Solo written Ghosts And Drunks. There were some fantastic vocal inflections during Murder On My Mind, evident anger in both the playing and singing styles during the anti-government, Everybody Loves You More When You’re Down On Your Knees, humour and light-hearted lyrics in a song about a drunken wedding and a heart-felt tribute to a country singer (I didn’t hear which, but research suggests Gram Parsons) in something that may have been called Be My Grievous Angel. Perhaps best of all, however, was a rendition of The Life In Your Years – one of my all-time favourite songs which always stirs up contrasting emotions in me. Sadly, looking through the songs on the set-list that had been crossed out, I note that the brilliantly varied set could have been made even better (for me, anyway) by the addition of Sha La La and the superb Leaving Victoria. I guess you can’t have everything.
It also seems that big things may be beckoning over in America. Apparently, off the back of some Arizonan pod-cast, Dan got his first U.S. radio air-play with what he thinks was Dean Street Devils, another song he played tonight. There’s even talk of “discovery” by Johnny Cash’s niece/manager and the prospect of a tour over there, if all the financials and paperwork can be sorted. Unfortunately, work on a second Boss Caine album has been put on hold for a while, until certain key personnel are available again. Probably quite selfishly, I hope the album happens before the U.S. stuff as it is apparent from tonight that Dan has a wealth of great material that I wouldn’t mind being able to listen to whenever I want to.