Wednesday 9 July 2014

ManorFest Party on the Farm, Sunday 6th July

Being on twitter is great, especially when you live in St. Helens. There’s a real sense of local community on twitter, especially with the #sthelens and #sthelenshour hashtags. Add one of those tags and the wonderful folk at @sthelenshour and @sthelensculture will retweet your event, organisation, shop or whatever it is, to thousands of local residents.

One of the biggest supporters of St. Helens, both the town and the hashtag, is a chap called Mike. He writes a blog about the town which is largely positive but not afraid to be critical when called for. And it’s thanks to him that we found out about a two day event to be held at Manor Farm (a gorgeous pub on the stoops side of Rainhill) in aid of Willowbrook Hospice. And it was Mike who retweeted that a lady called Helen was still looking for musicians, and suggested we might want to look into it.

Which, of course, we did.

The day arrived, well, the second day (as it was a two-day event, but due to prior commitments we couldn’t make the Saturday), and after realising there was no way we could get there on the 10a ‘bus with all our instruments, we called a taxi, plonked our gear in the boot, put the child in the back seat with his football, and were on our way.

It hadn’t quite hit home that we were actually opening the day’s events with our set until we got there, set the little one kicking his ball about in the field in front of the massive stage-on-a-truck, where he was soon joined by other children for an impromptu kickabout. But, there we were, all set up thanks to the fantastic sound team led by Bayley and Liam, and ready to go.

We played for 40 minutes, mainly originals with a few covers thrown in. It was great fun, and we gave what we certainly thought was a good performance.


We also had chance to speak to a few people we knew from twitter, but not “in real life”; DJ Dex Nelson, who played some fantastic music in between all the sets (proper vinyl too), Fruitbatwalton (we learned his real name but we don’t know if it’s common knowledge, anyway, you probably think of him as Ralph even though that’s the name of his dog) and Vikki and her other half, Steve. Vikki is organising the Big Busk in Victoria Park, St. Helens, at which we’ll be performing on Saturday 19th July.

Then, the child, having been running around with a football in the heat for about an hour, came down with what seemed like a mild form of heat exhaustion, so we had to get him inside and administer fluids, and so it was we missed some of the music, but obviously, the kid comes first. Thankfully though, after about half an hour he was okay again, although we had to tell him no more football for a bit, about which he wasn’t best pleased. Still, we all sat under a tree and listened to the musicians, eating burgers from the fab barbecue.

There had been a running order posted on Facebook, but as often happens, it seemed like a few positions had changed, and as it was we weren’t entirely sure what band/musician names were (though Polker Dice very cleverly brought along a banner to tape to the stage; great idea). We especially liked Bayley’s band, Three Piece Suit, for their fun covers of well-known songs (especially Another Brick in the Wall) and their on-stage camaraderie. It’s always great to watch a band who are clearly enjoying themselves. Evil Picolo was good (one of those musicians you see around the townie all the time but realise you’ve never actually heard play) and there were some great singers too; a young woman called Amber who had a belter of a voice and another girl whose name we didn’t catch (might have been called Eleanor?) but she was young, and sang some originals with her guitar with great verve and confidence.

The child got another chance to meet the excellent Reef’s Reptiles, a husband and wife team who bring their menagerie of unusual pets to events (and can be booked for parties). He especially loved the snake!


In the end, we had to leave a little earlier than we had planned, because the child was getting sleepy, but we thoroughly enjoyed the event.

We always say that you never do a gig where you don’t learn something or come away having to decided to change something. Well, this time it was our realisation that the sets of the other bands were very cover-heavy, and that it wouldn’t hurt us to have a few more covers in hand too for similar events. When an audience has come specifically to see you, playing lots of originals makes perfect sense. But when they’ve come to an event at which you just happen to be playing, it is probably polite to play the audience a few more songs they might know, whether that’s covers, or possibly some traditional folk songs. Obviously there’s a balance to strike; we want to be known for our own stuff, not just as “that duo that does the folky rave covers,” but at the same time, expecting a new audience to engage with your original material right from the off is perhaps a tad (unintentionally) arrogant?

(We’ve also learned that you shouldn’t let your child play football non-stop in the afternoon sun for the best part an hour without a cooling break.)

Anyway, thanks to all involved in the organisation and promotion of ManorFest Party on the Farm; we hope it raised lots of money for Willowbrook, and we’d love to come back if you do anything similar again!

For those who want to hear us live again, we will be playing two or three songs tonight (10th July) at the Brink’s open mic night in Liverpool; get there about sevenish. Next up, this Saturday (12th July) we are playing the View Two Gallery as part of the Liverpool Acoustic Afternoon; get there for one o’clock in the afternoon. Finally we’re playing the Big Busk in Victoria Park, City Road, St. Helens on Saturday 19th July. We’re playing at three but there’s an entire afternoon of music so why not take friends/family and make a day of it?

Beyond that… well, we have a wedding to organise (our own) so are trying not to book too many gigs in August, but you never know… so watch this space! X

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