Monday, August 1, 2011

A Different Kind of Folk Club

Some of our number found themselves in Yorkshire last week, and decided to see what the Scarborough Folk Club was like. It runs from 9pm on a Monday evening in an ethnic pub in the middle of Scarborough. The dark, wooden ethnicity of the pub was only undermined by the absence of sawdust. The two real ales were... off, leaving Guinness, John Smith's on keg and something else. The 'club' was in a smaller area, through a wide archway, down a few steps, so sound spill could be a problem. Wheelchair access, even if you got through the street-level but angled entrance, is therefore very difficult, and impossible unaided.

Our experience of this 'Folk Club' might not be typical, but we speak as we find. We've been to some 'clique-y' clubs, but this one took the cake. THIS IS NOT A FOLK CLUB - it is an irish ceilidh band in public rehearsal. The 5 or 6 musicians sat round a table at the narrower end of the small room, and studiously ignored the ten or so 'audience'. To give them their due, they didn't actually stare and say "You're not one of us, so **** off", but their attitude seemed to be simply that. They might have had ten of the best singers in the world in the pub, but they wouldn't have known, nor, we suspect, cared. Although we entered and left between items, others just wandered in and out whenever they wanted to. One of the 'in-crowd' would start a tune, and the others crept in, on mandolin, fiddle, concertina and guitar. All played quite competently, but the finishes were, at best, ragged. After each tune, a discussion ensued about technicalities of playing for ceilidhs, such as the right tempo for a reel. No attempt was made to acknowledge, let alone involve anyone outside the 'inner circle'.

After five or six tunes, the lady guitarist started very promisingly to sing a slow song to her guitar accompaniment, but, as she had her back to us, and all the other clique members joined in playing the melody line and comprehensively drowned her out, we couldn't tell what she was singing. Then somebody started another tune. We concluded that that would be the pattern for the evening, and at the end of the tune, we left.

On a scale of 1-10:
Welcome: zero
Friendliness: -273 (i.e. absolute zero)
Inclusivity: same
Musicianship: would say 7, but for the crassness over the lady singer, so 4.5

Compare this with your experience at the City Folk Club, and rejoice in your good fortune.


London Apprentice and Special Bitter said...

Now this, of course, is where you find out what you're really worth. In Yorkshire folks are renowned for being blunt. They will tell it like it is by ignoring you for the first 100 years of your tenure. They play the game of life to win. For them merely taking part is not sufficient. They profess to like cricket and claim to be the worlds best players - but - they don't understand the rules. Thus we have had a near diplomatic incident in the current Test when India.....
1) decided to appeal, (successfully), within the rules, only to
2) withdraw that appeal when they realised it was not within "the spirit of the game."
Yes and there you have it. "The spirit - - -. When you next creep back into the confines of The City Folk Club be aware that last week we managed very well without you. I'm glad you were on the end of that salutary lesson in Yorkshire. I'm just sorry that you had to make such a huge carbon footprint in order to get it!

Dogsbody, Scrivener and Wretch said...

Should have gone down t'road to Brid!

parkingspaceman said...

But there wasn't a folk club meeting in Brid during our stay, so what would've been the point?
LA & SB makes some telling points, but I don't know what they are.
P.S. We know a song about the 'Widow of Brid', don't we?

Jimthetall said...

As one of the deeply unfriendly musicians, I feel slightly hurt by your harshness. The Folk club has been run as a session for several years now and only really keeps the name out of deference to the long tradition of folk in this town. The folk club as was would have folded had we not carried it on in this fashion, which in my eyes would have been a tragedy. We play every monday, every week; if people come along and want to join in, they're more than welcome to, all they need to do is introduce themselves and we're very accommodating. We mainly play tunes, as that's what we do, I'm a banjo player, not a singer. Only last week we had a number of singers over from Lancashire who had a great night, as did we all. The difference being, they introduced themselves. Keeping folk music, in any of it's guises, alive, can be an uphill struggle, and as such it may be wise to let people know your interests. It's far better to light a candle than curse the darkness.


PS We sit in the bottom bar because that's where the landlord asks us to sit, and the singer Val, would be rather surprised if we didn't join in, it's that kind of session, inclusive, not exclusive.

Dogsbody, Scrivener and Wretch said...

I acknowledge Jim’s very reasonable response and explanation.
Is it really the function of this blog to criticise other folk venues?
Should I apologise?
I have no such authority.
Does the word ‘sorry’ occupy PSM’s portfolio?