Types of event

Little Victor and his Combo

The larger than life Little Victor – AKA Victor Mac, “The Beale Street Blues Bopper” and DJ Mojo Man – graced Leek and a full house at The Foxlowe for The Blues and Americana Festival with his presence on Saturday the 5th of October; supported by Dominic “Chuck Berry” Cooper’s Red Berryn, playing the music of Chuck Berry.

Along with his Combo – his backing band – Little Victor gave us a rollicking and rambunctious night of Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll, straight from the heart of Memphis to a packed room in the Midlands home of Blues and Americana.

Little Victor is an internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player; well-known on both sides of the pond for his rich, quirky and inspired real deal postmodern down-home Blues. He has been called ‘the King of Grit’ and the antithesis of meaningless virtuosity.

The music journalist Johnny Whiteside, writing in the LA Times, described Little Victor’s style of music:

“Little Victor (is) an untamed maverick whose raw, primitive sounds are the utter antithesis of the contemporary Blues model. The offbeat singer-guitarist eschews the genre’s prevalent trend for streamlined six-string virtuosity in favour of wild shouting, stabbing guitar and heavy, almost hypnotic, rhythmic repetition. He can effortlessly switch from shadowy, primitive low Blues to the polished, uptown Beale Street-style R&B to wild, wicked boogies, and all of it is put across with expressive, soul-deep conviction.”

His live shows are an unusual blend of juke joint blues and cabaret, and Saturday night at The Foxlowe was no exception.

Little Victor comes over like a mixture of John Lee Hooker, Slim Harpo, Pee Wee Herman, Muddy Waters, Peter Sellers, RL Burnside, James Brown, Salvidor Dali, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tommy Cooper, Jimmy Reed, and Screaming Jay Hawkins, all rolled into one! A larger than life character indeed!

Sporting an array of sharp attire, black sunglasses and natty headwear – leopardprint berets and fezzes – and a cape, Little Victor and his equally well-dressed Combo played songs from his new album, entitled “Deluxe Lo-Fi”, as well as cover versions and material from his “Back To The Black Bayou” album. Ably backed by his band, Little Victor’s rowdy, joyous showmanship was a joy to behold. Prowling the stage at times, Little Victor whipped his guitar lead around, did nifty and well-honed moves with his mike stand, stood on a stool which he later kicked over and off the stage, and ventured out into the audience, meaning that you could never take your eyes off him. Woe betide you if you should talk during his set too, as the couple sat near to the stage found out when he called them out for having a conversation whilst he was telling a tale between songs! Appropriate and orchestrated audience participation was encouraged, however, with call and response sections within the songs (“Shake Your Boogie”, and “Another Sleepless Night”), and audience interaction between numbers.

Sponsored by CTD Architects, we were delighted to have Little Victor and his all-star Combo with us for the Festival this year.

Prior to his set, Little Victor was presented with a sketch portrait by Leek and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based artist, Gavin Bowyer. Gavin was commissioned by the Leek Blues and Americana Festival to produce sketch portraits in his own signature style of each of the acts playing this year.

The photo of Little Victor receiving his portait from Gavin is by Mark Brammar.

All other photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Little Victor recieves his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer

Little Victor recieves his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer. Photo by Mark Brammar.

 

Dominic "Chuck Berry" Cooper's Red Berryn

Dominic “Chuck Berry” Cooper’s Red Berryn. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Stool still onstage. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Little Victor and his Combo, Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Leek

Little Victor and his Combo. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Sam Brookes

Martin Harley, supported by Sam Brookes, kicked off the Foxlowe’s Leek Blues and Americana Festival as a host venue for live music on Wednesday the 2nd of October.

The Festival as a whole opened with a showing of the film Amazing Grace in the cinema room in the Foxlowe on Tuesday night, followed by Festival First Call with Mike Gledhill in the Cock Inn on Wednesday afternoon, but the Foxlowe opened its doors on an unseasonably chilly evening to welcome a great turnout for Martin Harley’s brand of electrified Country Blues.

As Martin’s website states:

“I’m ready to make a bigger noise……Muddy Waters invented electricity right?”

“In 2019 British guitarist and songwriter Martin Harley is making a change. Having created a deep impression on the acoustic blues roots and Americana scene with his last two Nashville recorded albums, his highly anticipated new record finds a new and exciting sound. An Intimate and gritty analogue album, recorded in a remote chapel deep in the wilds of Pembrokeshire. Taking county blues riffs to the electric bottleneck slide guitar, served with sweet vocal harmonies over the driving rhythms of co producer and drummer Harry Harding (Yola Carter/William the Conquerer) Award winning Australian bassist Rex Horan finalises the line up. He has recorded and performed with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Laura Marling.

“Through Harley’s road worn songwriting style this record explores hopes and fears for fast changing times, offering gospel like comfort and consolation. The song ‘Roll With The Punches’ implores the listener not to get dragged down when challenges seem unsurmountable. ‘Coming Home’ asks questions beyond the end of life and ruminates on freedom from worldly desires.

“If success can be measured by growing global demand to attend Martin’s dynamic life performances then perhaps his touring schedule is proof of that. He recently played to full house at the Union Chapel in Islington and has appeared at Edmonton, Vancouver, Canmore and Calgary folk festivals in Canada, Glastonbury, Bestival, Beautiful days in the UK, numerous European and US tours and events including the AMAs, The Bluebird in Nashville and Tønder in Denmark. In 2018 Total guitar ranked him #16 in the worlds greatest acoustic guitarist poll and he was nominated as Instrumentalist of the year at the Americana music awards.”

Ably supported by acoustic singer-songwriter, Sam Brookes, who has been described as being “reminiscent of Tim Buckley as he glides between the lower and upper registers of his four-octave range. His pure voice, evocative lyrics and soaring melodies have made him a rising figure in the alt-folk scene”, the appreciative and reverent audience were treated to an uplifting and at times highly poignant and moving set, including renditions of ‘Roll With The Punches’, ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ and ‘Winter Coat’.

Prior to his set, Martin was presented with a sketch portrait by Leek and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based artist, Gavin Bowyer. Gavin was commissioned by the Leek Blues and Americana Festival to produce sketch portraits in his own signature style of each of the acts playing this year.

The photo of Martin receiving his portait from Gavin is by Mark Brammar.

All other photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley receiving his sketch portrait from Gavin Bowyer

Martin Harley receiving his sketch portrait from local artist Gavin Bowyer. Photo by Mark Brammar.

 

Sam Brookes supporting Martin Harley and playing to a full room at Leek Blues and Americana Festival, Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Sam Brookes supporting Martin Harley and playing to a full room. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley playing lap slide guitar

Martin Harley playing lap slide guitar. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

 

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Martin Harley and Band. Photo by Giles Metcalfe.

Leek Blues and Americana Festival Sunday Sessions Sister Suzie and the Right Band

The final day of the Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019 saw an enforced change of venue due to the poor weather conditions and health and safety concerns.

The Sparrow Park stage, sponsored by Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour, was dismantled, and the scheduled bands moved indoors to the Foxlowe, which had been on standby in case of this eventuality. The organisers and volunteers pulled out all the stops to make sure that everything went ahead, and the running order and start times were unaffected.

I caught the tail end of festival favourite Lil’ Jim‘s set, and then settled into my seat for Sister Suzie and the Right Band‘s brand of explosive Rhythm and Blues.

Who is Sister Suzie? Well, Suzie hails from Northumberland’s wild and rural northern border, and has been bringing her natural downhome charm, undiluted, to southern climes for the last few years, including appearances at Glastonbury. The band has also toured Europe, before heading to the Midlands capital of Blues and Americana – Leek.

Suzie was joined onstage by drummer Neil Marsh, Al Nicholls on tenor sax, guitarist Matt Jackson, and Eddie Edwards on stand-up double bass. The band’s Sunday Session set was a rock and rolling mixture of original material and cover versions that drew heavily on the songs of Elmore James and Irma Thomas in particular, as well as a poignant duet between Suzie and Matt on Angel from Montgomery, made famous by Bonnie Raitt.

The bolder and more boisterous members of the audience were soon up and out of their seats and twisting down the front, along with the youngest audience member, who absolutely stole the show by boogieing along too! The interaction between the toddler and Suzie was priceless, funny and altogether too cute.

Before the show, Suzie was presented with her portrait by local and Foxlowe Creative Hub-based portrait sketch artist Gavin Bowyer. Gavin has been busy producing specially commissioned sketch portraits of all the acts appearing at this year’s Blues and Americana Festival.

Thanks again to Old Smithy Tattoo Parlour for sponsoring the event, as well as extending big thanks to the various acts, the Festival organisers and volunteers at the Foxlowe for making sure that everything ran smoothly.

We hope to welcome Sister Suzie and the Right Band back to the Foxlowe soon.

All photos used with kind permission.

All photos by Mark Brammar.

Sister Suzie and Gavin Bowyer

Sister Suzie and Gavin Bowyer, at the presentation of her portrait sketch.

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Sister Suzie and the Right Band at Leek Blues and Americana Festival 2019, Foxlowe Arts Centre

Leek Blues and Americana Festival

Now in its 6th year, the historic market town of Leek plays host to an array of local, national and international talent – showcasing the very best in Blues & Americana music. The Festival is set against a backdrop of independent shops, high street favourites and thriving specialist markets with host venues comprising a mix of real ale pubs, craft beer bars and the community arts centre.

5 Days:  Starting Wednesday 2nd October – Sunday 6th October 2019

20+ Venues : Pubs, bars, cafés and arts centres all hosting

60+ Acts: Over 60 Blues & Americana acts throughout the town centre of Leek

Headline acts here at the Foxlowe are:

Martin Harley, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers and Little Victor and his Combo.

Qigong Classes – Autumn 2019 Dates

Twice-monthly classes in the Rainbow Room on a Tuesday from 10.00am to 11.30am on the following dates:

Tuesday 24 September
Tuesday 8 October
Tuesday 22 October
Tuesday 5 November
Tuesday 19 November
Tuesday 3 December
Tuesday 17 December

Qigong is an ancient and powerful system of energy medicine from China:  it means ‘vital energy (Qi) cultivation (Gong).  It uses breathing techniques, gentle movement and meditation to cleanse, strengthen and circulate Qi.   Working with Qigong exercise will relieve stress, balance the hormonal system, release toxins and strengthen the immune system, as well as slow ageing and help accelerate healing.

£10.00 per class payable on the day, but please book in advance with Lindsay.

For more information, please contact Lindsay Trevarthen, Three Treasures Qigong on 07989-986672, email qigong@w3z.co.uk or visit www.threetreasuresqigong.co.uk

Autumn Film Programme

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The Film Group have been beavering away to complete the new autumn programme and it’s looking to be as good as ever.  Highlights include Rocketman, an extravagant musical about the dramatic career of Elton John; Judi Dench playing Red Joan, a retired physicist revealed in later life to have been a Soviet agent working for the KGB, and The White Crow, a biopic from Ralph Fiennes about Rudolf Nureyev, whose defection to the West from the USSR in the early sixties stunned the world.  This film also comes with a Meal Deal.

Judi Dench appears again, playing Anne Hathaway opposite Kenneth Branagh as Will Shakespeare in All is True and there are many other excellent films, some by well-known actors and directors and some less so, but all contributing to the exciting and eclectic mix for which Foxlowe Films has acquired a well-deserved reputation.

For a change this season, the Children’s Matinee will be a well-loved classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Although such classics may be widely available on electronic media, our aim is to introduce small children to the magical experience of seeing outstanding films on a big screen in the company of other children.

The Documentary programme will be launched by The Sequel: What will Follow our Troubled Civilisation?, a film that explores new ways of thinking about how to live well, despite and perhaps because of the widely-accepted Climate Emergency, along with initiatives already developing apace around the world that look to reduce our carbon footprint while also improving quality of life. As the film is only an hour long, we hope to arrange a Q&A session afterwards with members of the Staffs Moorlands Climate Action Community, who were recently instrumental in persuading the District Council to unanimously declare a Climate Emergency and commit to working for change.

Printed programmes and tickets will be available in mid-August.  Alternatively you can download an electronic version of the programme.

Live and Local professional theatre

Professional theatre shows announced, starting in October

The Foxlowe is proud to work with Live&Local to present professional theatre shows.  Live&Local is the touring network which offers theatre, as well as music and dance, to venues like ours.   Serious shows, light-hearted shows, shows for young children – we range across the repertoire with a number of one-night performances.

The next season starts in October, and here’s an update on it.  We’ve been awarded 4 shows, two before and two after Christmas.

On Saturday 19 October we’re presenting “Once Upon a TimeThe Misadventures of the Brothers Grimm“, described as ‘anarchic comedy at its best’.

The Brothers Grimm are about to publish the final volume of what will become the greatest collection of fairy-tales:  but on the eve of publication a shadowy figure from their past lets it be known he intends to collect an old debt, and kidnaps them.

So now their lesser known (but incredibly brave) sister Lotte has to travel deep into the Fairy Tale Kingdom and confront a great evil in order to save her beloved older brothers.

Is our heroine in grave danger?  Yes.   From what?  Lots of things.  Will she make it back alive?  We can’t tell you.

Accessible and hilarious, this comedy fairy-tale combines a distinctive mixture of music, theatre, slapstick and puppetry.  Lotte must travel deep into the Fairy Tale Kingdom and confront the evil Rumpelstiltskin in order to save her beloved older brothers.   A show for the entire family – recommended age 7 and up.  The Oxford Times says it “thrilled and delighted an audience of all ages”, and a Devon promoter reported ““Very, very good. The teenagers loved the macabre humour. Wonderful characters and plots skilfully told.”

Tickets are now available for this at the Foxlowe as well as online.

This is followed on 23 November by an unusual and exciting version of Shakespeare’s King Lear, presented by Oddbodies.

Armed with only a drum, a guitar, a knife and a chair, the tragic trajectory of Lear’s demise is presented to you from the point of view of his long suffering and ever-loyal fool. This one-man show is inventive, irreverent and highly accessible.   ‘Oddbodies is that rare thing, a genuinely original blast of fresh air… unique.’ Evening Standard

In the New Year, in January we’re presenting a show for our youngest audiences (aimed at 3 – 6 year olds)  and in March there will be a welcome return of one of last year’s really well liked companies with  Twisted Tales II.

 

Live&Local is funded by Arts Council England, and gratefully supported by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.  Other Moorlands places which also receive L&L work include Alstonefield, Biddulph Moor, Blythe Bridge, Calton, Foxt and Swythamley.  You can find the list of nearby Live&Local shows online at liveandlocal.org.uk and looking at “What’s On”.

 

Michael Quine

 

 

 

Adored and Definitely Mightbe Leek Arts Festival 2019

Perennial local favourites Adored and Definitely Mightbe brought the sounds of Manchester to Leek Arts Festival on Friday the 3rd of May, 2019.

150 or so merry indie music fans packed out the Foxlowe and enthusiastically danced and sang along to every word from the classic Stone Roses and Oasis back catalogues, played faithfully – and to the faithful – by Adored and Definitely Mightbe who returned to the Foxlowe after a triumphal gig here last year.

Adored opened proceedings with their tribute to the Stone Roses, as their seminal debut album turned 30 this week. The set featured songs taken mostly from that self-titled debut album, including I Wanna Be Adored and Fools Gold, but also Ten Storey Lovesong from the much delayed follow-up, 1995’s Second Coming.

Definitely Mightbe are the longest established Oasis tribute band in the world, with over 2,000 shows under their belt. After the interval and a change of clothing and backdrop, Definitely Mightbe took to the stage for a set of anthemic Oasis classics, ostensibly from their first two albums.

Leek’s own Kev Pyne, who played bass in Adored and Definitely Mightbe and was a real character, sadly died unexpectedly in October 2018, and the Oasis song Live Forever was dedicated to him on the night in a fitting tribute.

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Adored at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Adored – Stone Roses tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – ‘Liam’ aka Ian Alcock

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – Oasis tribute: ‘Liam’ and ‘Noel’

Definitely Mightbe at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, May 2019

Definitely Mightbe – ‘Noel’ aka Paul Mitchell

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

Foxlowe Film Summer Programme

Your local cinema is back soon with fantastic improvements to the Rainbow Room (new curtains, sub-woofer and stair carpet)  made possible by a Staffordshire County Council Community grant from Councillor Charlotte Atkins’ allocation.  The room looks cosier with the curtains and this and the new sub-woofer should improve the overall sound which is great news.

Thanks for all who came along in the spring season, we had a rise in audience numbers with a number of sell outs which is heartening and good to have so much positive feedback about our programming choices.  We’re back with a varied Tuesday night programme, with something for everyone.

We kick off on Tuesday 7th May with Leave No Trace – a wonderful film about a father and his teenage daughter living off-grid in Oregon.  Mark Kermode declared this his favourite film of 2018 “a film which just doesn’t put a single foot wrong” and Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian awarded it *****.

On 14th May we have A Private War staring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, one of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time.  The film charts this fearless and rebellious reporter, as her mission to show the true cost of war leads her to embark on the most dangerous assignment of their lives in the besieged Syrian city of Homs.

We’re delighted to bring you the outrageous period satire The Favourite, screening on 21st May.  Olivia Colman won the best actress Academy Award and BAFTA for her performance as Queen Anne, ably supported by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.  “A bawdy, brilliant triumph”.

On 28th May we screen Beautiful Boy, starring Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carrell in a powerful, soulful and intensely moving drama about addiction, its tragic consequences and reverberations through a family.

Colette, screening on  4th June premiered at Sundance 2018 to rave reviews.  It stars a radiant Keira Knightley giving a career-best performance in what is an exhilarating and timely film about the life of ground-breaking French novelist Colette.

Later in the season we screen:

Vice – Tuesday 11th June

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Tuesday 18th June

Stan and Ollie – Tuesday 25th June

If Beale Street Could Talk – Tuesday 2nd July

Green Book – Tuesday 9th July

Wild Rose – Tuesday 16th July

Full details are now available in the What’s On calendar  and a copy of the full programme can be downloaded here.

Tickets and programmes will be available by this weekend (27th April)

Johnny Dowd and Park Doing

It has been a great couple of months for fans of Americana and Blues in Leek, as the Foxlowe has recently staged amazing performances from some of the top exponents of the genres.

Hot on the heels of Kris Barras and the Jack J Hutchinson Band, Gemma Ray and Thomas Truax, and the mighty Bob Log III and Husky Tones, the legendary Johnny Dowd brought his trademark Twisted Americana Country Blues to the Foxlowe on Friday the 12th of March, 2019, ably supported by Park Doing and Michael Edmondson.

Park Doing and Johnny Dowd both use drum samples, loops and pedals, in the vein of fellow US guitar mavericks Thomas Truax and Bob Log III, and Johnny and his band also inhabit the same twisted David Lynchian Americana universe as the aforementioned Truax and Gemma Ray. However, each individual’s sounds and stagecraft set them apart from their contemporaries. A fantasy future Leek Blues and Americana festival lineup of Gemma Ray, Thomas Truax, Bob Log III, Park Doing, Mike Edmondson and Johnny Dowd on the same day would be awesome, but who would go onstage last? Hmmm…

Anyway, back to Friday night’s gig…

So, first up onstage was Park Doing, who describes his music as “Psychedelic Disco Blues”. Sporting a corduroy jacket, and a hat that looked to have been styled upon the one worn by Brad Dourif in Wise Blood, Park plugs in and attends to his bank of effects pedals and sampler before introducing his first song.

With “These machines kill cashists” emblazoned on his road-worn electric guitar – a clever twist on the message immortalised on radical folk singer Woody Guthrie’s acoustic guitar (“This machine kills fascists”) – Park and his sonic armoury of effects pedals, samplers and loopers, and beat box crank out such idiosyncratic songs as Punk Rockers Don’t Need To Wear Watches; If You Don’t Say It Right, Don’t Say It At All; and You Know What To Do, So Do It – words of homespun wisdom set to an accompaniment of live guitar, loops and lo-fi trip hop beats.

After ably setting the tone for the evening’s entertainment, Park leaves the stage, changes into his blue velvet jacket, and loses the hat.

Talking about this latest tour together, Park said:

“I got a call from my good friend Johnny Dowd who asked me to tour with him again, this time in the Netherlands and England. He also asked me to sing with him during his sets, so I am doing double duty (the hardest working man in show business!). It’s an honor to perform with him — he has taught me so much over the years.  He has taken to calling me and his guitar player Mike Edmondson “The Hummingbird Singers.””

Park then joins Johnny onstage for his set as part of backing band with Mike Edmondson. This backing band may or may not be called The Bluebells or The Humingbirds (it may even change from gig to gig). I could have sworn that the band are introduced as the Bluebells, possibly or probably because of their natty blue velvet patterned jackets.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, and hailing from Ithaca, New York, Johnny Dowd’s sonic brand of dark and ramshackle alternative country-blues noir, with boom box beats, calls to my mind the recorded spoken word output of William S Burroughs (especially The “Priest” They Called Him, by Kurt Cobain and William S. Burroughs), early lo-fi Beck, and white blues guitarists such as Johnny Winter and Peter Green. Typical of Johnny’s style are the experimental, noisy breaks in his songs and strong gothic elements in the lyrics as well as in the music. There is also a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurd in his work too.

The use of samples and technology mixed with good old fashioned stagecraft places the performance firmly in the 21st Century, although the music of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is paid homage to, including a Bo Diddley medley, and referencing James Brown and Blaxploitatation (the song White Dolomite). Johnny cites James Brown’s Live at the Apollo as his lifelong favorite album, and Live at Paris Olympia 1971 “has got to be high on the list”, according to Johnny’s interview with Americana UK. Avant garde jazz musician and cosmic visionary Sun Ra, and godfathers of grunge Blue Cheer, are also big favourites too. Johnny and his sidemen put on an entertaining show, which includes incendiary guitar playing from all three musicians, sweet harmonized backing vocals, spoken introductions to the songs, poetry and even some coordinated choreography with audience participation!

Johnny Dowd’s songs, stories and poetry are about the perennial topics – love, sex, death, religion, life on the road, and (dysfunctional) relationships (both familial and romantic) and break-ups and their aftermath – but delivered with enough self-awareness, self-deprecation and tongue in cheek humour to stop it from all becoming too maudlin and depressing. This ain’t no country music- or blues-style “born-under-a-bad-sign-my-woman-left-me-my-dog-just-died-I’m-so-lonesome-I-lost-my-job-and-the-man’s-repossessed-my-car-and-the-bank-has-foreclosed-on-my-mortgage-it’s-raining-hard-the-leevee-has-broken-and-the-water’s-three-feet-high-and-rising-and-I’ve-finished-my-last-bottle-of-whiskey” cry-fest! No, siree, Bob. There are laughs a-plenty, both in terms of the interactions between the musicians and the audience, and in the songs themselves (the humour is dark, but it’s there). There’s even a goofy dance routine to lighten the mood!

Johnny stands up (he stays sat down for the set up to that point), places his guitar on his chair, and exhorts the seated audience to get up on their feet and mimic the band’s choreographed dance moves. The band are doing the Butterman Dance – whilst shouting, “Butterman, oh yeah!” – and Johnny joins in and we all do too: a surreal but funny couple of minutes during the set. Park cleverly and expediently dedicates the song and dance to Leek’s very own Butter Market. Nice one. Good local knowledge.

When the song and dance is over, Johnny compliments the crowd for their audience participation and enthuisiasm, saying “There’s no fear in Leek”. There may be no fear in Leek, Johnny, but there is very definitely an “eek” in Leek! Sorry, I’ll get my coat…

Other highlights include a rocking Bo Diddley medley of Hey, Bo Diddley and Who Do You Love, How Much Emptiness Can you Swallow?, a coruscating but poignant grunged-up version of Frank Sinatra’s It Was a Very Good Year, Jesus Loves Me by Joey + Rory, and Country legend Conway Twitty gets a surreal namecheck too!

A love for late 50s and early 60s Death Discs is also evident. A cover of the ‘splatter platter’ paean to twisted metal and mangled bodies, Teen Angel by Mark Dinning, is played in a respectful homage to the original, and as a rendition it would be wholly in keeping as a Twin Peaks: The Return end of episode performance at The Roadhouse tavern.

The Death Disc, also known as a ‘splatter platter’, ‘car crash song’ or quite simply a ‘teenage tragedy song’, is a style of ballad popularised in the 50s and 60s sung from the point of view of either a dying (or dead) teenager or the dying (or dead) or surviving teenager’s sweetheart, as is the case in Teen Angel.

Teen angel, teen angel, teen angel, ooh
That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track
I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back…”

David Lynch and the clientele at the Roadhouse would approve, I think.

All-in-all another memorable night at the Foxlowe, in front of a select crowd of appreciative and knowledgable Americana fans. Thank you to everyone who came out to support the venue and the artists. We hope to see you again soon.

Any milage in that fantasy festival lineup suggestion…?

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Park Doing at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

Johnny Dowd at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, Leek

All photos by Giles Metcalfe.

 

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