I arrived late, at about 5 past 7, when a young man with a guitar was singing and playing. I took him to be Louis James. He began a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. There was a fairly long and tinkly guitar intro, which led me to believe that this would be one from the Jeff Buckley school. And so it came to pass. I am absolutely allergic to bad cover versions of ‘Hallelujah’, by Leonard Cohen. They make me come out in terrible running sores, all over my bozzolikons. This was a good cover version. When he sang ‘All I ever learnt from love / was how to shoot at someone who outdrew yer’ the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It sounded like an impersonation of Jeff Buckley, but it was a very good impersonation. Louis James (if I have got your name right): why don’t you try a freer version?
A splendid build-up, in the Cluntergate Centre. I get to walk to this place, from where I live. I may be an outsider (I come from bloody Leeds) but this is my centre.
The next performer was Halima Mayat. I know Halima from, among other things, the Black Horse Poets. Halima is part of the spoken word scene in Wakefield.
She opened with a poem that she said had been written during a workshop with someone called ‘Gen’. I have sent my spies out throughout the north of England, and the best they can come up with for a suspect called ‘Gen’, is Geneviève Walsh, of, among other things, Spoken Weird in Halifax. It was a poem about bi-polar disorder, called, ‘Tin of Hot Dogs’. It was a very good example of how to use an everyday object as a metaphor for mental states.
Halima’s next set of pieces were based on fairy tales: Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. These were modernist treatments of classic stories.
‘The Dark of The House’ was a chilling poem. ‘Betrayal’ was an angry poem.
As a listener, I still find Halima’s poetic persona tantalising, but, from this performance, I learnt a great deal about her. It was an excellent performance. Halima held the room (there were 40+ people there – that is a serious room). Her microphone technique was very good. She got tumultuous applause, as well she deserved.
Stefan Grieve and Ralph Dartford appeared under the name ‘Specky & Specky’.
Stefan and Ralph performed 8 pieces. Ralph did a piece about domestic violence, and relationship breakdown, which began, “There’s indentations in this chipboard wall…” Stefan rhymed “Fill ya” with “thrill ya”, and “dyspraxic” with “sarcastic”.
Stefan also said, “Don’t let your pain be a stranger to those who can help,” which is a summary of the whole evening.
Ruby Macintosh wears spectacles and an A-line dress. She evokes the 1950s. She can really sing. She plays an amplified acoustic guitar. She has excellent technique in both hands. That is not something that I say, often.
‘Raspberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry Jam’ was a tour de force. Never mind the vocal and instrumental technique, in perfect unison. The subject matter of the song is about life choices. It is a kind of poetry that I would normally associate with Brian Patten, Roger McGough, or Stevie Smith.
Ruby Macintosh is as good as Eddi Reader. Possibly, better, because she doesn’t have a backing band.
Nathan Birkinshaw did a routine that was partly about repetition. He was telling a joke about a man who walks into a bar. It involved a certain amount of lying on his back on a table, and shouting. I am not keen on shouting. There was a barmaid.
His funniest line, in my opinion, was, with reference to this chap in joke land, and the barmaid, “It’s later in the night, and they’re in bed.”
[There is an old 15 amp plug socket on the ceiling of the main hall in the Cluntergate Centre. Don’t ask me how I know that.]
The last act on the bill was Jess Rowbottom, as The Bleeding Obvious. She was, among other things, promoting her show, ‘Rainbow Heart’. But this evening was all about the moment.
As a fan of Augustus Pablo, I am appalled at how Jess used the melodica. To hell with that. I am not appalled: I am encouraged. There are new uses to which the melodica can be put, and The Bleeding Obvious is finding them. More of that, please.
I am going to list some of the pieces that Jess performed, if for no other reason than I want her to know that I was listening:
- Life is Never As Straight as it Seems
- Not Dead, Yet
- Family Gathering
- Outside v Inside
- Me, Myself, and I
- One Foot In Front Of The Other
It was #6 that did it, for me. There was a sample from the old-fashioned speaking clock. It went a bit Pet Shop Boys. It went a bit Momus. Jess briefly lost her place with the melodica, and had to count herself back in. That was lovely.
If I have to crawl there on my hands and knees, I will put a blue plaque on the wall of Cluntergate Community Centre. “13/10/2017 Jessica Rowbottom, rock star, performed here.”
It was partly about the keyboard playing. It was partly about the vocals. It was certainly about the hair. But, mostly, it was about Jess. With the playing, singing, and persona, she told us she was going to take us to a different place, and we acquiesced, and she did.