I don't know if I'm extremely lucky, or whether the rest of the UK has a wealth of brilliant music clubs nearby. Within easy reach I have the pick of the Ram Club in Thames Ditton, Twickfolk in Twickenham, The Anchor Folk Club in Byfleet, Bracknell Folk Club (actually in Windlesham), Grayshott Folk Club, Farncombe Music Club and I'm sure that there are many more. Although most of them are primarily folk clubs, they don't limit themselves to folk, and you're just as likely to hear blues, rock, jazz or classical as you are to see an old guy wearing an arran sweater, singing about a disatrous Jacobean fishing trip. Or just as likely to hear prog rock.
One thing I love about these music clubs is that although they all compete for our custom, they all support eachother and promote eachother's events. Grayshott for example team up with the Ram Club so that the Bully Wee Band alternate venues each tour. In addition, Grayshott and Farncombe team up whenever they want to sign up a really big name, such as Martin Turner (founder member of Wishbone Ash) or Caravan.
So this was a joint event, run by both Grayshott Folk Club and Farncombe Music Club, and held in the absolutely beautiful venue of St John's Church in Farncombe. Caravan are not just a really big name, they are huge and headline festivals, so it is not surprising that this was a complete sell out, with the Church filled to capacity.
This was the second time that Caravan have played at the Church, the previous occassion being noted for a power cut that hit the village before the concert. Caravan had decided that they would perform an acoustic set if the power had not been restored, which would have been amazing, but the electricity board had fixed the fault in time. Was talking to a guy in the queue that snaked through the streets of Farncombe whilst waiting for the doors to open. He had brought tickets for the previous event, and had assumed that the event would not take place without power, so had stayed at home and missed it, so he was overjoyed that they were back again.
It is quite a while since my previous visit to St John's and the church has been subjected to a fairly major make-over in the meanwhile. Previously, the building had a concrete floor, with narrow gulleys running through it covered with a fine pitched metal grating designed to trap stiletto heels. This has all been replaced with wooden floorboards, and the antiquated church pews have been replaced with brand new seating, albeit still pews.
Caravan had no support and played two full sets. I didn't attempt to keep a set list for several reasons. They have been around since 1968 and therefore have forty-eight years worth of material to draw on. They have a habit of segueing from one song to another or adding an instrumental break from a different song. And having recently released a new album, much of their material, particularly in the second half was new to me. They opened the first set with "Headloss", finished the first set with a breathtaking version of "The Love In Your Eyes", and en route played "The Paradise Filter" from their new album and "In The Land Of Grey and Pink" from their second album. The second set was primarily all new material apart from "Nine Feet Underground", like "The Love In Your Eyes", a marathon coming in at over twenty minutes.
Caravan are part of the Canterbury scene, a group of progressive rock bands that include Soft Machine, Gong and Camel. They comprise founder member Pye Hastings on guitar and vocals, along with Jan Schellhas on keyboards, Geoffery Richardson who plays just about everything, including flute, violin and guitar, Jim Leverton on bass, and newest member, the delightful Mark Walker on percussion. Although they are all extremely talented musicians, they don't take themselves at all seriously. During their first encore, "Golf Girl", Richard plays electric spoon, whilst Mark plays a washboard hanging round his neck. Mark is the most expressive drummer I have ever seen. An absolute gem, and the band are so lucky to have found him.
Was very impressed with their new material. Two of the new tracks had a very midnight jazz feel about them, largely created by Jan's keyboards.
Very annoyed at myself for not having bought tickets to also see them play at The Union Chapel, in Islington two nights later. Next time they tour, I must remember that this band are definitely well worth seeing more than once. So a big thank you to Grayshott, Farncombe, and to all of my local music clubs.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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