Thursday, 10 July 2014

Last night (Thursday 10th July) at the Brink open mic, by Ruth

I don’t half love the Brink. Partly this is because the Brink is a dry bar, and I drink about once in a blue moon, so it’s great to go somewhere where everyone else is as sober as me, but that’s far from being the main reason. The Brink really is one of the friendliest places in town. It’s really family-friendly too; whenever I take my son there he loves it. There’s always some interesting artwork up on the walls too, plus a great selection of books to read if you’re at a loose end after you’ve done the shopping. There is always something on that looks interesting (one day I’ll get to one of those Beatroot events they have on, although I confess I’d be going more for the music than the health food lecture) including a rave night (whoever came up with the idea of a rave where you can have a sit down and a nice cup of tea, then leave to go home at eleven, is a GENIUS. Over thirties and/or people with children have been crying out for this for ages). There’s the food, which is gorgeous (and the Sunday roast is in a league of its own). And of course there’s the weekly open mic.

There’s such a great vibe at these open mics that we chose to announce our engagement at the one back in March. Really welcoming, and very little in the way of ego, too; established musicians play alongside first timers; poets and rappers mingle and it all takes place on a really well-equipped stage with excellent sound.

Last night was particularly busy, as first up, there were a bunch of people from Crisis having come down en masse to perform a mix of poetry and music. Hard to pick a favourite, and they were all on in quick succession so I didn’t get chance to get everyone’s name but the chap who particularly stood out to me was a rapper who, just when everyone thought he’d finished his piece, got back up for a second with absolutely pelting word-perfect delivery. Brilliant! It was great to hear some of Lee de Pablo’s poetry too (his Mum taught me in my first senior school) and maybe next time he’ll read it himself? There was a woman who had written an absolutely amazing song, despite, as she said, not being a singer. Its blend of really dark humour (“you’re all gonna die”) and post-apocalyptic proclamations about the digital age were absolutely fantastic. It seems as though almost everyone from the group had to leave before the end, which is a shame as I would have liked to have chatted and found out a bit more about their various pieces; maybe they’ll come again?

It’s great when there’s a mix of poetry and music at events like these, and another poet who stood out was a fella who read two really moving pieces which flowed between poetry and rap; David Barnicle (the host) said he’d been trying to get him to read for ages and I’m glad he did; amazing stuff.

Musicians included David himself, who played three songs including one of my favourites Some People Are (which for some reasons seems to have disappeared off Soundcloud, but other songs are available). Gary Maginnis and the Like performed some songs with David on the Brink’s sparkly new drum kit, including the poignant Blood. Some of their songs had a kind of Americana vibe which worked well with Gary’s Irish lilt. I have a feeling I’ve seen Gary perform solo at an open mic event in the Walker Art Gallery actually, with more of a folky feel, but I could be completely wrong and misrepresenting the poor lad in which case I apologise!

Dave Miller delighted everyone with his … what to call them; accompanied soundscapes? I can’t find an example online so you’ll just have to make do with that description.

We played a handful of songs, including our single, Shepherd’s Delight (It’s Not Time To Go To Bed). David took a photograph which hopefully I’m okay to use here (if not, I’m sure he’ll let me know) of us playing Millbrookimage


Before I tell you about my highlight of the evening, I’d like to say I’m sorry to anyone I’ve missed out. Thing is, I didn’t come with the intention of writing about the gig (if I had, I would have brought a pencil and paper) but to listen, and with so many excellent performances, I was listening very much ‘in the moment’ rather than making mental notes. That’s the problem witn any open mic event of course; it goes so quickly with so many different performances that sometimes you forget names and then when you want to look someone up… you can’t! But it’s also its beauty of course; it’s like tapas, or a smorgasbord, each different taste experienced and gone before you can blink.

Anyway. Everyone was great, but the absolute highlight of an already-wonderful evening for me was hearing Laura and Claire, two young women who play guitars and harmonise together beautifully. Now, full disclosure, Laura runs the new music show on Halton Community Radio, which is how I knew of her; she’d played our single a couple of weeks back. But I promise this isn’t the reason I liked her duo; they really were amazing. They reminded me a little of another local duo, Just By Chance (who I also first saw at the Brink), with their close harmony vibe, and that similar feel that you get when you see two people perform together and you know they get on like a house on fire off stage too. Anyway, fantastic arrangements and really, really ‘listenable’, too. Okay, it’s not a word, but you know when you see a new-to-you band live and you think, “I would totally buy a CD and put it on while I was cooking and then probably burn the tea because of being caught up in the music “? Well, that. I’d like to see/hear this pair play again.

But that said, everyone was great (I’d like to think we were pretty good too) and it was a fabulous evening. But as you know now we never do a gig where we don’t learn something and in fact, I had something of an epiphany.

I constantly compare us - especially me, and my voice - to other musicians, and it usually brings me down. In fact, I’ve sat in gigs before and thought, “god, they’re so much better than us, so much better than me, who is going to want to listen to my voice after hearing them?” Last night I realised that not only is this a fast track route to misery, but I realised something else too. Our sound is all ours. There are lots of things we (me especially) are still learning but if we didn’t play live ever until we were absolute virtuosos on all our instruments, we’d never play at all. There is always room for improvement, and I practise every day, but together, as Moss & Jones, we have a unique sound which quite a few people seem to really like.

As for my voice… well, voices are such personal things aren’t they? And instead of spending my time wishing I sounded like Sandy Denny / Kate Bush / Jacqui McShee / Isobel Campbell, I am starting to accept and even like the fact I sound like me. The important thing is to keep practising (for example, taking breaths in the right places so I can really belt out those long, high notes when they come along, multi-tasking so I can sing perfectly in tune even when I’m concentrating on the glockenspiel, and learning the difference between challenging myself, and setting myself an impossible task).

So: a great open mic night at the Brink then. Our next gig is this Saturday at Liverpool’s View Two Gallery on Mathew Street, for Liverpool Acoustic, and after that, we’re performing at St. Helens’ Big Busk event in Victoria Park on City Road. Come along to one or both! They’re free to attend.


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