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The Jolly Anglers

July 18, 2011

I’m in England for work reasons this week. To give me something positive to do in the evenings that doesn’t involve surfing the internet or sitting in a hotel bar with a book I brought my guitar…. did a little research and found some open mics to play.

Reading is west of London and where my employer and some of the folk in my new team are based.  The Thames runs right beside tonight’s venue The Jolly Anglers.  You’ll see it in this photo right beside that sign that warns you about motorcycles flying over cars.

I must admit to being a little apprehensive when I stepped out of the taxi and noticed that apart from the barman and the black labrador walking between the tables there was nobody else in the pub. Two or three locals appeared and caught up on whatever business had gone down since their last meeting. No doubt the last meeting was not all that long ago.

In for a penny…. I ordered some food and realised that this was not the kind of pub where one could order a glass of red wine. So I jumped right in and had a pint of the landlord’s own cider. I’m told cider is an acquired taste and I didn’t acquire the taste tonight.

The chap running the open mic arrived and setup the rather good PA system. We chatted briefly and as soon as he walked away to finish setting up his wife told me how her husband had managed to find open mics when on holiday. I mentioned my own dalliance with the holiday open mic last week in Skibbereen (Cork) but did not elaborate on the small audience made up mostly of other musicians.

As is tradition with open mics the host played a few songs. I was invited up and noticed the crowd in the pub had grown to about 20 people by this time. So I had a decision to make: do I play a cover and use up one of my allotted 3 songs?  It’s like being granted 3 wishes so you use them carefully. I opted to stick to the path of original material which can sometimes work out. In this case it did. I opened with ‘Elvis Has Left The Building’ and followed it up with ‘What Do I Know?’. The ballad went down well and the audience was actually listening. As little as 4 years ago I’d have scoffed at the idea that I could wander into a venue/pub/anywhere and get a bunch of strangers to sit and listen to a song I had written.  I closed my first set with ‘Bed For Sale’ which mostly involves me playing the living daylights out of my guitar 🙂

About an hour later I was asked to play again and opted for the cover version.  If you’ve seen one of my gigs you’ll know that I do an interesting old English folk song (all the way from Sheffield). It went down well and the audience joined in. Always a good sign.  By this time I knew the audience wanted to be entertained with familiar tunes so I shied away from original material. A call went out for ‘an Irish song’ and I immediately forgot every song I ever knew.  In a panic I said I’d play a Thin Lizzy song and promptly murdered ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ but it went down well.

The landlord insisted on buying me a pint for “your lovely songs” (I’m putting that on my next press kit!) and asked if I’d be interested in playing a night there on my next visit to Reading.

Wow.

So this proves: no gig is too small and you never know where it might lead. In this case it might lead to another fun night.

Better than hanging around in a hotel bar eh?

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