Once a week, I go to an acoustic jam and open mic night at the Lion Brewery in Ash, Surrey. It’s on a Tuesday and starts at 8:30pm, hosted by Mike (otherwise known as Krabbers) and his now wife, Caroline. Every week, without fail, they prepare, set up, host and pack up a lot of work for which everyone who attends is most grateful.
Mike & Caroline got married last week and they risked handing the ‘reins’ over to Richard, Nick and myself to run the night. We learned first hand the preparation involved, getting song books together, making sure we had all the mics, amp, mixer, stands, cables and so on available. Rai, Nicks partner was organising everything else.
Mike had given us the songbook and a template of the key slides used on the big screen. Opening titles and opening song, the open mic header, raffle song and so on.
Now, remember as of April 2012, I had little experience of music apart from listening to it. I had had a few lessons at school on guitar (one lesson a week for two school years) and a year of piano, but that was it. I had never sung or played solo to anyone. I bought a ukulele and by the end of May I had found UnplugTheWood, by the end of June I had performed my first open mic slot. Since then, I have not looked back (until now I suppose!), been to every UnplugTheWood except for two in all of that time. The jam has been utterly inspirational and motivational for me, without it, ukulele would have been a passing hobby, rather than the obsession it has become. (and a significant revenue generator from my usual ukulele supplier, Omega Music!)
Mike and Caroline left some big shoes to fill, but thankfully, there’s a bit of a ‘routine’ which I know well, so it was easy enough. But would it be acceptable to the UnplugTheWood regulars?
We sat down, and got started, with Wyn on double bass and Paddy in support. As we started, more and more people turned up. The pub was packed, standing room only, more people than we had ever seen there before, they just kept coming in! That was quite daunting, so many people and so many new faces. We had to keep the standards up, and not let Mike & Caroline down.
With all the displacement of our ‘jobs’, my role as photographer was passed over to the very capable Chris Nevard who provided the pictures here.
So, we started, myself with some trepidation, could we carry this thing off? Soon, the whole pub was rocking to the sound of ukuleles, guitars, trumpet, saxophone, mandolin, harmonica, tambourines, keyboard and probably a few more instruments I missed. Were there 40 people, 50 maybe?
We went through the old favourites, “Folsom Prison”, “Call Me The Breeze” and so on. Joy sang “Wonderful World”, we did a few more, then started the open mic.
Eight or so different acts, some brilliant, some OK, some downright silly, but all much appreciated by everyone.
Start again with the raffle, raising money for the MS Society of Great Britain, and back into the jam again.
Now, I was in the real flow of it. “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, “What’s Up” got belted out, plus a few more, finishing up with “Rock & Roll” and the closing song.
I was just amazed and overcome by the generosity of compliments from the people there, including Mike the landlord of the pub, who shook our hands with a huge grin on his face. He even very sportingly had his picture taken with the “Caroline” stand-in wig.
So, certainly my first ‘big’ musical event hosted, I think we did OK, but normal service is resumed next week.
We had a blast, but then, we always do. Come along and join in the mayhem.
Listen to the edited highlights if you dare and judge for yourself. What anything lacks in musical finesses, it makes up for in fun.
UnplugTheWood, an acoustic jam and open mic, every Tuesday at the Lion Brewery, Ash, Surrey. The rule is, if you can get it through the door, you can play it.