The Met, Bury
An eclectic array of instruments, banjo, harp, accordion, glockenspiel, voilà sit on a bare stage surrounding three unassuming blokes who are grinning from ear to ear as the packed room lauds them. They are Harp and a Monkey and for almost two hours they have entertained delighted the audience with their unique Northern Folk Experimentalism and storytelling.
The future is built upon the past they’d sung earlier and so it is, using various connotations of the instruments mentioned plus home made backing tapes that add extra of said instruments as well as beats and grooves, they’d performed both original and traditional songs . Their music at times conjures thoughts of David Thomas, Music Hall, The Orb, Lenny Cohen, Jacques Brel, Bjork and The Oldham tinkers but it is always, uniquely their own.
Singer Martin Purdy had a begun the show by saying they were probably “committing commercial suicide” as they would be playing the new album,( due November) in it’s entirety during the first half the show. Yet such is the craft, the sheer excellence of this band and the strength of the material that each new song was greeted at as if it was a decade old firm favourite.
The album itself focuses on the Victorian era, the songs are a mixture of re-imagined broadsheets, music hall and folk songs of the time as well as self penned material. As they are performed they invoke humour, poignancy, tragedy, love and loss, joyfulness, often in the same song as they tell stories of of everyday Victorian life. Each song as is their wont is preceded by an anecdote that merely confirm the feeling that rather than this being a show it’s more akin to being sat in the parlour with family and friends.
The second half see them perform a selection from the first three albums songs and tales about soldiers, ghosts, cuckolded mole catchers, people selling dope to make ends meet, Charlie Chaplin, Nellie Spindler, Rawtenstall fair, men digging holes, radical ramblers, The International Brigades and so much more. And then far to quickly it’s over and the audience are on their feet applauding an evening that had been funny, irreverent, poignant, interesting, musically inventive, melodic and creative. It’s said that everywhere Harp and a Monkey have played they have been invited back and on this performance it’s not hard to see why.
A home town show so a mixture of family, friends, fans and passers by, mostly of the more mature (over 40) range
It made me think..
Folk is the place where ideas collide