May 8th to 14th – From Gigspanner to MoonDance

On Sunday we go over to the Stables in Wavendon on the southern edge of Milton Keynes to see Peter Knight’s new band Gigspanner. As I want to feature the band in my weekly Luton News/Dunstable Gazette live music column (Talking Music), I arrange to interview Peter before the gig.

I don’t normally do gig reviews in the newspaper column since I’d rather tell people about upcoming events rather than tell them about a great gig that they’ve missed. However, as the band is currently touring, there will be other opportunities to see them locally. Another reason that I’d like to talk to Peter is that, as well as having some mutual friends, he was a member of the band Steeleye Span who were one of the reasons I got into playing folk/rock music in the first place – with the album Commoner’s Crown.

I arrive at the venue about 3pm and hang around till Peter turns up. I end around a table with the whole band which changes the character of the interview somewhat. I’m interested in getting some opinions about the difference between working in a big band like Steeleye and the more compact Gigspanner and getting some comments about the health of the live music scene in the UK. I’ve had a similar conversation with Steeleye’s bass player, Rick Kemp and I was interested in getting another take. However, I get the feeling that Peter is bored with being asked about Steeleye, still I get some useful background. By the way if you are wondering about the significance of the name ‘Gispanner’ it’s muso slang for a bottle opener.

Later I have a chat with Deborah, who is Peter’s partner and the band’s manager, about the music business – both live gigging and recording. The band is pretty well self-promoting for the tour – and are usually on a percentage of the door. This makes me wonder what the role of promoters/venues is. Here we have a pretty well established artist taking – or at least sharing – the risk with the venues. If Gigspanner have to do this what hope have non ‘name’ artists getting their foot in the door.

Ali and I  have a couple of hours to kill before the gig so we drive around the Woburn Sands area to see if it might be somewhere we’d like to live. After zigzagging around the area we end up at The Swan Hotel at the Bedfordshire end of  the High Street. It’s a really nice area and town and ideal in terms of location, but I imagine we’d not be able to afford anything suitable within our budget. After a snack at the pub, we head back to the Stables for the Gigspanner concert which is excellent. Afterwards I chat briefly to the band and thank Peter for the kind words that he emailed me after I had sent him a copy of the enQ CD (Tear Down the Barriers).

“I have just listened to your CD for the second time and really enjoyed it.” he goes on to say “What I did like a lot was the energy that comes through and I’m sure this comes across even more on live gigs.”

Later on he says “It’s a great band and all the arrangements have been put together really well, the playing from everyone is excellent.” and “You have combined all the various influences in your music really well and you do sound like a band and not a bunch of musicians. You do have a sound.”

It’s great when you get complimented by one your influences even when he obviously has no recollection of the CD now.  However I still value his comments.

The rest of the week is taken up with rehearsals and a trip down to London for a Musicians’ Union Executive Committee meeting. I usually stay in London the night before an EC meeting as it is difficult to get there in time from Luton due to the London rush hour. I usually catch a number 59 bus from the hotel, which is north of the Thames to the MU National Office which is south of the river – which takes me past Australia House in the Strand and over Waterloo Bridge. I’m a real child when it comes to riding on a London double decker bus and try to get onto the top deck at the front and act like a real tourist, snapping away with my phone. I was so intent on getting a photo of the Thames that I managed to completely miss seeing the giant straw fox that had been constructed next to the South Bank Centre at the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. This just supports my opinion that photographers who go through life with their eyeballs glued to a viewfinder miss out on a hell of a lot of what’s actually going on.

View from the stage…

Friday is pretty much taken up with sorting out our monthly Chiltern Ceilidh event which takes place on the second Friday of each month at the Polish Club in Albion St, Dunstable. This is the second last of the current series before the summer break. We normally have some kind of interval entertainment but we’ve been unable to pin anyone down for this one. However Sally Mounter came to the rescue at the last-minute with her bluegrass band – The Ampthill Mob. Of course Will Hall did a great job calling as usual and guest musician Alex Cumming on accordion was fantastic. The turnout was better than usual and everyone had a lot of fun but I can’t see how we can afford to keep running this event unless we get more people coming on a regular basis.

On Saturday night MoonDance was playing for at wedding at the Coulston Manor Hotel near Croyden with Liz Scholey calling. It turned out that this was the third time that the couple had booked the band. I didn’t recognise the name as the previous time it had been through the name of the groom’s company for a corporate event. The nature of the functions we do mean that it’s pretty rare to get a return booking from the same client regardless of how well we go down – as most people only get married once! We have had one return wedding booking for a 20th anniversary and we’ve also been rebooked for a client’s 50th birthday after doing their 40th – both gigs at the Stationers’ Hall just across from St Paul’s cathedral in London. Needless to say we went down very well indeed and they took the trouble to email afterward to thank us…

“Hi Brian

Just wanted to say a big thank you to you, the band and Liz for making our wedding party so memorable for us both and our guests.

We really had a fantastic night.

I’m sure will be seeing you all again!

Thanks again

Karen & Dan”

About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots / country / celtic fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response."
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