The Betsey Trotwood, Farringdon, London
I may already have seen my favourite gig of the year and it’s only February.
A night filled with song, musicianship and love saw 12 musicians crammed into the tiny upstairs room of the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, as well as the lucky 30 or so paying audience members they managed to squeeze in as well. I say paying, but at a tenner a ticket I reckon the entrance fee must just have covered the cost of the room, mics and camera. I can’t believe the singers were doing this for anything other than the love of the music, and the couple of bottles of Jack Daniels which circulated freely among them.
The musicians involved were [deep breath] Partick Ralla, Michele Stodart, Louis Brennan, Felix Holt, Zak Hobbs (Richard Thompson’s grandson, fact fans), Ren Harvieu, Romeo Stodart, Laura Tenschert, Angie Gannon (making three out of four Magic Numbers on the bill) Robert Chaney, Naomi Larsson and Joe Harvey-White (the evening’s organiser). Before the event I had wondered how they were going to get that many people on and off stage, even allowing for the 3 hours scheduled. In the event they didn’t; all 12 were seated at all times as they sang and played in various combinations.
This was a celebration of outlaw country from the Heartworn Highways documentary, which I confess I haven’t seen, so original numbers mixed with the music of Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark and others. It’s saying something that original songs held their own with the likes of Pancho and Lefty (performed by Patrick Ralla on the night) and Waiting Around to Die (Robert Chaney). Highlights were many, but Joe Harvey-White’s lap steel guitar deserves special praise, and although I already knew that many of the performers were wonderful musicians from other shows, I don’t think I have ever come away from a gig with so many new-to-me artists to explore. In particular I lost no time ordering Louis Brennan’s album from Bandcamp (link to video in comments) after the show.
By the time the third of three sets rolled around the playing was getting looser, the audience singing louder. A couple of encores took the total time to closer to three and a half hours than three, culminating in a collective singalong of Harvest Moon. The couple of video clips I’ve seen make everything sound a little more ragged than I remember it being on the night, and it’s more than possible that the evening was enhanced by performers and audience alike being bonded in boozy camaraderie. That’s all to the good. This was an evening for a small group of people who love hearing and playing music, with no egos on display from behind the mics and great appreciation from the other side of them.
Heartworn Highways did what all the best gigs do, and make you remember why you fell in love with music in the first place, leaving you floating out of the doors on a cloud of benevolence. No wonder London was bathed in unseasonal February sunshine the morning after. How could it possibly be gloomy when the atmosphere was still on that buzz?
It could have been an Afterword mingle in there. Quiet during the songs, loudly appreciative after them, especially as the evening wore on and the pub’s beer pumps took effect.
It made me think..
I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a huge arena show anything like as much as this small gathering of like minded fans above a pub.