Despite Thursdays being personally quite a busy day, it's always a pleasure to find the odd one when it's possible to head towards North Wales to the friendly and accommodating Hungry Horse Folk Club in Ellesmere Port. Quite a surreal start to the evening it was too what with walking into the Ball Room only to find a large group of couples engaged in a bout of ballroom dancing (no surprise there) and a trip to the bar to watch a bizarre 5-2 football match ending on the big screen in the bar. Not good news for Everton supporters but at least half of Liverpool would be happy across the Mersey from the Wirral. Eventually stumbling upon the Oak Room, all set for the Hungry Horse guest evening, it was interesting to see the three broken down gentlemen of Faustus, that's Benji, Paul and Saul and their association with too many bands to mention, modestly advertised as an "incredibly talented trio".
For those concerned with such matters, the fashion police noted Benji Kirkpatrick in one of his collection of hooped T shirts although not the Dennis The Menace style red/black combo, while the flat cap which seems to have been Paul Sartin's recently permanent headgear seems to be taking a rest break. For once, Saul Roses' sweatband, rather than being a handy accessory for his melodeon micing, turned out to be fit for purpose. At least the sweltering heat and tropical temperatures in the room resulted in a healthy trade at the bar.
The banter which is constantly verging on the surrealistic at a Faustus gig, is always a treat and usually a product of Benji's lengthy tuning breaks, and belies the more serious nature of the folk songs. Having said that, the absence of Saul's chock full of innuendo 'Thrashing Machine', saw it replaced uncannily with a song about male impotence. Striking one back against all the dastardly males who seem to inhabit folks songs and revolving around a wife lamenting the fact that her husband has no 'courage' in him, it may well sit alongside Lucy Ward et al's 'Maids When You're Young' (again bemoaning the fact that the older husband lacks some of the mysterious 'faloorum') as one of those cautionary tales which riddle the folk genre.
You wouldn't bet against one day seeing Faustus gracing from the pages of Viz Comic - the band who sold their souls, in a Faustian pact obviously, for untold bookings in the folk clubs of the land and who must continue to pay their dues with insinuation riddled folk songs.
However, the billing doesn't lie and it's rare to be able to sit back to watch three craftsmen at work, taking turns in lead vocals and partaking in accompanied and unaccompanied harmonies, while switching between instruments as well as launching off in a set of ceilidh tunes to offer up some variety as much for them as their audience.
In a week with the sad news coming out of Manchester about the imminent closure of another legendary music venue, The Roadhouse, all hail the small folk clubs run by those dedicated and passionate souls in various rooms, halls and bars up and down the country which continue to promote the folk songs of the people. Without them, the outlets for the likes of Faustus and their folk peers would be sadly limited. Folk clubs? Clubs? For folk? It's the future.
Words & Pictures Mike Ainscoe
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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