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Why folk clubs are dying

Backwoodsman 29 Jan 09 - 09:19 AM
Backwoodsman 29 Jan 09 - 09:21 AM
Folkiedave 29 Jan 09 - 09:47 AM
Backwoodsman 29 Jan 09 - 11:57 AM
Folkiedave 29 Jan 09 - 12:32 PM
Big Al Whittle 29 Jan 09 - 01:02 PM
Phil Edwards 29 Jan 09 - 03:50 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Jan 09 - 04:08 AM
The Borchester Echo 30 Jan 09 - 04:33 AM
Will Fly 30 Jan 09 - 04:38 AM
GUEST 30 Jan 09 - 05:40 AM
Big Al Whittle 30 Jan 09 - 05:42 AM
GUEST 30 Jan 09 - 05:43 AM
TheSnail 30 Jan 09 - 06:00 AM
Musket 30 Jan 09 - 06:07 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Jan 09 - 06:26 AM
Will Fly 30 Jan 09 - 06:32 AM
Jack Campin 30 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM
Jim Carroll 30 Jan 09 - 06:51 AM
Musket 30 Jan 09 - 06:59 AM
Phil Edwards 30 Jan 09 - 07:56 AM
Big Al Whittle 30 Jan 09 - 09:48 AM
Musket 30 Jan 09 - 11:17 AM
GUEST,Jim 30 Jan 09 - 11:31 AM
Phil Edwards 30 Jan 09 - 11:53 AM
Richard Bridge 30 Jan 09 - 11:56 AM
melodeonboy 30 Jan 09 - 02:13 PM
Big Al Whittle 30 Jan 09 - 03:11 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Jan 09 - 03:15 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Jan 09 - 03:41 PM
Big Al Whittle 30 Jan 09 - 06:34 PM
melodeonboy 30 Jan 09 - 09:43 PM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 04:07 AM
Phil Edwards 31 Jan 09 - 05:47 AM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 06:44 AM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 07:27 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 08:56 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 09:49 AM
greg stephens 31 Jan 09 - 10:07 AM
matt milton 31 Jan 09 - 10:40 AM
mattkeen 31 Jan 09 - 10:46 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 11:09 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 11:10 AM
Phil Edwards 31 Jan 09 - 11:28 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 11:38 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 31 Jan 09 - 12:01 PM
Surreysinger 31 Jan 09 - 03:42 PM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM
The Sandman 31 Jan 09 - 04:35 PM
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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 09:19 AM

I must have been from a different mould Al, I lived with my old mum and dad until I was 25 and got married to the first Mrs. Fenswoman. I loved the home life, good food, clean clothes ironed by mum (even my socks!), no cleaning, and all for twenty-five bob a week lodge. No appeal to me whatsoever in the idea of living on baked beans in a grotty flat, sleeping in bedclothes that you could stand up against the wall for the muck, and turning my underpants inside-out every day for a fortnight! :-) :-)

Mind you, I might have got a shag more frequently if I'd moved out earlier! Hey, I reckon there's a song in there somewhere! LOL!

All the best,
J


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 09:21 AM

"Hey, I reckon there's a song in there somewhere!"

But would it be folk? :-)


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Folkiedave
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 09:47 AM

Now you know why we moved out.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 11:57 AM

I believe I do Dave. Shame.
But there ya go.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Folkiedave
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 12:32 PM

And I do have to tell you, combined with folk clubs and moving out of home - there was a lot of it going on - so people tell me.......


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 01:02 PM

I think theres still a certain bit of the rebel about folk club goers. Rebelling against the bullshit standards of the music and enterainment industrries and rebelling aginst the fate society has blueprinted out for us of being passive observers. a certain hatred of orthodoxy....

would you agree?


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 03:50 PM

Rebelling against the bullshit standards of the music and enterainment industrries and rebelling aginst the fate society has blueprinted out for us of being passive observers. a certain hatred of orthodoxy

Can't speak for anyone else, but I get three out of three. I liked the thread where somebody said they wondered if we'd be hearing "Hallelujah" more often around the clubs now, and two or three people immediately chimed in & said we'd be hearing it less.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 04:08 AM

"but some die-hard blow-hards would like it to, so that they can crow"
At the time of writing there are 657 hits on this thread.
From the number and the contents of those postings I would have thought it obvious that some people, me included, are not particularly impressed with the direction that the clubs have taken. Can't speak for anybody else, but personally I find the suggestion that any questioning of that direction comes from people who would like to see the clubs die to be deeply insulting and more than a little - what's the word I'm looking for - oh yes, that's it - stupid!
The 'evolving' that has taken place in the clubs is rather like watching a warm comfortable coat turn into an extremely shabby string vest.
I've seen the standard of singing plummet and I've followed arguments (with increasing incredulity) that this isn't just a fact of life, but is necessary, even desirable so as not to frighten away potential club audiences and performers. Admittedly, it has also been suggested that rescue is at hand by the 7th Cavalry in the form of guest nights (as long as you don't embarrass yourselves by rolling out the poor performers on these nights).
I've seen the material presented at clubs change from something that was folk music or identifiably based on folk music, into an indefinable mush that defies all definition.
I've seen it argued that folk music has been re-defined by countless millions who have decided somehow that the old definition is no longer relevant (though this new definition and the countless millions who have arrived at it remain an undisclosed mystery). On the strength of this re-(or non) definition I, and others working in the field of research, have been served with a notice-to-quit the term 'folk' and have had it proposed that we should look for another.
I have read arguments by folkies suggesting that an evening of folk music is 'boring' and that folk song is irrelevant. I constantly read whingeing postings claiming that the songs are 'too long' - this notably from a 'respected club organiser' who proposed a limitation on the length of songs to three minutes, thus wiping out the jewel in the crown of the folk repertoire, the ballads.
As I see it, the situation appears to be this:
The number of clubs and the size of audiences have been literally decimated over the last twenty odd years.
You can no longer go to a club and be guaranteed that you will hear and enjoy an evening of folk songs.
Whatever you get to hear, you can no longer rely on it being of a standard that you can enjoy (deliberately so, to some arguments).
The loss of direction and the lowering of standards has led to folk music losing (what little) public respect it once had outside the clubs and the present situation more-or-less guarantees that it will never regain that respect.
This isn't evolution - rather it is deterioration to the point of disappearance.
This is not to claim that there are no good clubs or no skilful and dedicated performers and organisers - of course there are; it wouldn't be worth putting finger to keyboard if there weren't. But IMO, there are far too few to make a difference at present.
I responded to this thread because the original posting rang bells and coincided with my own experience. I partook of the clips I was directed to and found music that was more akin to poorly executed pop music than folk; confirming my original impression rather than contradicting it.
So why do people find it worthwhile to question the state of things in the clubs; not for any sneaking romanticism or nostalgia for 'halcyon days' as somebody snidely suggested, nor for the smug satisfaction of being 'right'; rather because we believe the music to be worth it and would like to see people continue to get the enjoyment out of it that we did.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 04:33 AM

With a mere handful of notable exceptions, going to a "club" nowadays is both a risk and a chore. Jim's right. the chances of 'hearing and enjoying an evening of folk songs" is as unlikely as staying in and switching on R2. Though I'd have thought that would make him as determined as I am to ditch the "F" word, so counter-productive and meaningless has it become.

Yes, you might sit with clenched teeth through an evening of dross and hear one jewel that stands out. The same applies to an open mic. There are rubbish venues called "folk clubs" and other rubbish venues which are not. Standards of performance are determined by practice, dedication, research and more practice, not by what you label the product nor how you describe the venue.

Jim's also right about the few "good clubs with dedicated performers and organisers". Those that are not (with heads firmly stuck in sand or elsewhere) are the ones that continue to tarnish and degrade the public image and put off newcomers big time.

What he's most right about, importantly is this: we believe the music to be worth it and would like to see people continue to get the enjoyment out of it that we did. To which end, I'd recommend Edward II & Mawkin Causley @ Cargo next Wednesday. A "folk club" it ain't.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 04:38 AM

Jim - I respect your position totally and have always been impressed with the quality and passion of your arguments. My main worry - if you can call it that - throughout this convoluted thread, is that it is very difficult to generalise completely on a few examples posted here. The original post described a dire situation at one club. Other commentators have chipped in with their descriptions of the goodness or badness of their local situation.

And, as usual, the whole debate has been muddied by this assertion and that assertion as to what constitutes the music - with little mention of the tunes, as opposed to the songs.

Of course the scene is evolving and changing - as it always did - but to state categorically that folk clubs are dying is to state something that can neither be proved nor disproved from one month to the next. They are simply changing, and whether they are changing for "better" or "worse" depends solely on our individual viewpoints. And, of course, the population of this forum - brilliant observers of the scene, though we may be - does not constitute a total view either.

All we can say is that, depending on where you live, on your own individual experiences, and on your personal view of what constitutes the music, the folk scene is what it is. Here's my own recent experience: I'm currently doing the rounds of local clubs and sessions giving out fliers for a Duck Baker concert I'm promoting - and doing a spot here and there. It's a mixed bag. I've been to one club recently that was, in my view, dire. A tribute evening to Buddy Holly, with piss-poor renditions of the same songs over and over again. I left after a decent interval. Every other session/club I've attended has been excellent - a good emphasis on traditional tunes and some excellent musicianship.

I was at the Royal Oak at Lewes last night, as it happens, and we had Irene Shettle and Ralph Jordan presenting an evening around the life of Lucy Broadwood, with floor singers providing quality support - Dan Quinn, Will Duke and others. Shirley Collins and Martin Wyndham-Read came along to listen, and MW-R was persuaded to sing. It was an evening of excellent musicianship (with several 'Catters in the audience and on the floor). Should I say, from these experiences that clubs are dying or flourishing? All I can say is, that they are as they are - which should not preclude us all from striving to make the quality better.

Regards,

Will


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 05:40 AM

Thing is, I just can't relate to this:

"The number of clubs and the size of audiences have been literally decimated over the last twenty odd years.
You can no longer go to a club and be guaranteed that you will hear and enjoy an evening of folk songs.
Whatever you get to hear, you can no longer rely on it being of a standard that you can enjoy (deliberately so, to some arguments).
The loss of direction and the lowering of standards has led to folk music losing (what little) public respect it once had outside the clubs and the present situation more-or-less guarantees that it will never regain that respect.
This isn't evolution - rather it is deterioration to the point of disappearance"

Point-by-point it just doesn't coincide with my experience of going to clubs.

And, while some of the clubs I'm thinking of probably wouldn't fall into some people's category of folk (ie you are not *guaranteed* to hear a song from recognized traditional repertoire at all of them), even at the least "folky" of the clubs I'm thinking of, you will recognizably derived from the folk tradition. I don't wanna dig up that old traditional versus original song chestnut: suffice to say that I still think folk is a useful term. And I will continue to use it to describe music that objectively or intuitively reconnects to trad, Dad.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 05:42 AM

Folkmusic hasalways been a funny thing. The claassics worthy of the respect of the highest in the land. Also a major constiuent has been the vapid and transient that people take into their own lives from the music industry - that's the folk. Its the folk process.

In a recent dvd, marin carthy (no less) cites a song about the hats for hats like the Motgolfier bothers balloons - dishonsty's all the rage - I think he said it was, as an example of this.

you can huff and puff, but the buddy holly song book has as much right to be there as anything. the public know these songs and maybe they will use them to make folksongs. doing crap versions is just the start of modifying them.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 05:43 AM

Bah, post above=matt milton by the way.
(that GUEST/log-in thing again...)


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:00 AM

Jim Carroll

You can no longer go to a club and be guaranteed that you will hear and enjoy an evening of folk songs.

You can if you come to Sussex. Ding! Ding!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Musket
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:07 AM

Been away for a bit...

A so called friend using my wifi with his PC came onto the forum wound a few people up and so my IP was blocked for a while.

Anyway, back now.

Actually, I am sad to be back in some ways. This thread will just run and run.

Can't we just say that there are some clubs that see themselves as "pure" in what they do, some that consider themselves an open forum and some that want a beer and a bit of nostalgia to take them away from the troubles of the day?

And perhaps end this thread?

Many good people with good intent are getting irate with each other, and it is rather sad to see.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:26 AM

666


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:32 AM

Al - I love Buddy Holly songs - and spent 12 years playing them (and other stuff) in a 1950s rock'n roll band. Problem is - as Jim has said on many an occasion - performers in some clubs just don't try to put any passion or feeling or effort into performing. Whether it's Buddy Holly or anyone else - and that's why the evening was piss-poor. It's when you know people can do better, and they don't, that it can be dispiriting.

Ian - I'm sure the thread will end when it ends! It may go on a bit here and there, but it's always fascinating to hear a variety of opinions, however much one might disagree with them. And our minds should be open to other arguments - particularly when many of them are expressed by intelligent and articulate people.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM

you can huff and puff, but the buddy holly song book has as much right to be there as anything.

Saying you have a "right" to play something is not much of an incentive for getting people to come and listen to it. It's the attitude ot the sort of neighbour who points their loudspeakers out of the window and cranks the amp up to 11.

the public know these songs

They know Buddy Holly's versions of them. Doesn't mean they want to hear you doing them.

and maybe they will use them to make folksongs. doing crap versions is just the start of modifying them.

Yeah, well, come back when you've finished. Don't expect us to listen to your experiments.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:51 AM

"you can huff and puff, but the buddy holly song book has as much right to be there as anything."
And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, concludes the case for the prosecution!
As a long-standing buddy Holly fan - I agree with Jack!
Ian,
If you knows of a better 'ole, go to it.
Fraternally,
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Musket
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:59 AM

Jim, I know of many good 'oles. The reason I was questioning this thread is that as you read down it, you see people compare comments with their ideal form of a folk club.

Just think folk clubs are a broader church than that, that's all.

Will Fly, I am fascinated by the debate, and the views put forward. I am racking my brains to think of a sub thread that could harness a few of the ideas and if anybody reading is attending or running a club that is not well supported, use it to start local debate?

This thread goes off on all sorts of tangents. The awful management speke phrase does however ring true. How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time, the only way.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 07:56 AM

About a year ago, I found my way from a 'singing horse, all abilities' club to a 'mostly but not exclusively traditional, mostly but not exclusively been doing this for years' club, and rapidly developed a passion for traditional music and the places where it's played. Since then I've been going out more widely, and taking traditional songs into a few other places where the singing horses roam free. Born-again traddie, that's me.

So to some extent I agree with Jim. I only discovered traditional music properly when I went beyond the club I'd been going to for the previous five years, and when I think how much amazing music I could have been hearing and singing in that time I can't help thinking that clubs like that are getting something seriously wrong.

On the other hand, clubs like that are thriving - so it's just not the case that a "sing what you like and don't worry about learning it beforehand" policy drives people away. The club I'm thinking of is packing them in.

So maybe there isn't really a problem: people are flocking to hear variations on a theme of "my girlfriend stood me up" and creative interpretations of Beatles songs; some of those people also like traditional music, and they can find their way to places where it's appreciated. As I did. And they can get some chops singing whatever they feel like singing, so if they do start doing traditional stuff seriously they won't be total beginners. As I did.

Still, back on the first hand - five years does seem like an awful long time to be going to a folk club and not hearing much folk.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 09:48 AM

'Yeah, well, come back when you've finished. Don't expect us to listen to your experiments.'

Contrast this Ewan MacColl who threw his home open to young songwriters. All I can say is thank god (and me an atheist!) the people who welcomed me into folk music were not so damn sure they knew everything.

Its not how this movement achieved greatness - but I bet its how it got into the present mess.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Musket
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 11:17 AM

Ewan McColl did encourage all.

However, I once did a floor turn at a club he and Peggy Seeger were appearing at and performed a song about a native American having problems living on the streets in an American city.

When they got up, he rattled off his "you should only sing what is indigenous to you" mantra that he (and others) used to come out with.

Not good to be carped by your heros. Especially a hero called Jim from Salford singing Scottish songs...

Elvis Costello always claimed his first time up with a guitar was doing a floor turn when they were on the bill.

Like I said, folk clubs are a broad church....


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 11:31 AM

I think you're right, but I think for a tradition to survive it also needs it's young, and there's nothing to attract young people into folk clubs at the moment.
(Some) festivals tend not to struggle, because festivals have a cooler sort of image, then there's the fun of the stalls, camping, etc.

The thing is that would put me off folk clubs were I not a folkie would be the type that sit with one finger in their ear and sing harmonies ever so slightly out of tune that it becomes agonising to listen to. I mean, don't get me wrong, that is a crass generalisation and I know that not all club singers are like that. But nonetheless, when this sort of thing is advertised as being 'folk music' it makes young folk enthusiasts run a mile.

Perhaps a more modern approach may boost it's profile in some way.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 11:53 AM

there's nothing to attract young people into folk clubs at the moment

Except those folk clubs which are thriving and are attracting young people - which are obviously not folk clubs, because as we all know folk clubs aren't attracting young people and are therefore dying...

The thing is that would put me off folk clubs were I not a folkie would be the type that sit with one finger in their ear and sing harmonies ever so slightly out of tune that it becomes agonising to listen to.

I've seen some pretty bad singers in my time, but I've never seen even one example of that 'type'.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 11:56 AM

Me, I'm a traditionalist. I like the old definition of "decimate" - to select and kill one in ten of a part of a Roman Legion if that part had failed in its duty. A good traditional punishment.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: melodeonboy
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 02:13 PM

Hmm.... By your rather strict (but essentially accurate) definition, Richard, if the numbers going to folk clubs have been "literally decimated", as claimed above, we've still got 90% of the original attendance (whenever that was!). Therefore, folk clubs can't be dying!

Cor, I've just solved this thread!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 03:11 PM

No I don't think they're dying either.

I just think its obvious people go to folk clubs for their own reasons (usually not unrelated to enjoying themselves)- not to pay homage to tradition. and you get weird stuff going on, and i say 'Good - its better than the shite on telly!'

I think the born again traddy is a bit like the born again Christian. they don't really get it. Most christians are Christians because they think it helps them to be nice. Whereas the born again types are in it to praise the lord and reflect his glory.

i suppose arguably they're both right. I wish i could believe in something.

there also seems to be sliding scale for what is acceptable - depending on how far in you are with the'in crowd'. thus it was okay for Bob Davenport to have a bash at Chuck berry and Bob marley - and Martin carthy's individual take on heartbreak Hotel gets the thumbs up - but some some Dim Jim doing his first floorspot gets the thumbs down for slaughtering Buddy Holly.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 03:15 PM

Sorry,
Decimated was the wrong word - devastated is better.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 03:41 PM

I think the born again traddy is a bit like the born again Christian. they don't really get it.

Cheers, Al. Merry Christmas to you too.

I just think its obvious people go to folk clubs for their own reasons (usually not unrelated to enjoying themselves)- not to pay homage to tradition. and you get weird stuff going on, and i say 'Good - its better than the shite on telly!'

Thing is, until relatively recently I agreed with this 100% - I did some of the weirder stuff myself, & prided myself on it. But the reason I converted to the Way of the Trad was that it was so much fun - real full-on musical pleasure. The average singing-horse night - that was a weird one... glad he's finished... didn't expect her to do that one... - just can't compete.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 06:34 PM

Yeh you're right Pip - maybe I'm not all that musical. For me the music is very secondary. It probably always was.

I've measured out my life in versions of The Ballad of tam Linn and to be honest

1) I had a pretty shit education - but as a James Joyce freak, I recognised in a a retelling of the Proteus myth the first time I heard it.
2) It was like Question Time - nearly interesting, but not quite - certainly not entertaining. I remember thinking Ewan cut a fine figure of a man sitting backwards on his kitchen chair like he did.
3) I couldn't whistle the tune.

I do feel some sort of kinship when I hear a jazz band play Running Wild, or a fifty something year old struggling with the chord of a Buddy Holly Song.

To me its about folk. Music....... okay. but first and foremost its about folk. And liking that chap up there onstage.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: melodeonboy
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 09:43 PM

I must say I'm quite taken by the slightly metaphysical direction that this thread has taken. And your posts are starting to intrigue rather than irritate me, WLD.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 04:07 AM

it was okay for Bob Davenport to have a bash at Chuck berry and Bob marley - and Martin carthy's individual take on heartbreak Hotel gets the thumbs up - but some some Dim Jim doing his first floorspot gets the thumbs down for slaughtering Buddy Holly.

I think you're slightly missing the point, Al. It's not that the "Dim Jims" were slaughtering Buddy Holly songs - it's the fact that they obviously hadn't given the time and attention that they could and should have spent to being better than they were. Have you seen the words to "Learning The Game"? It must be one of the shortest songs BH ever wrote. To see at least two floorsingers get up, put the words on a music stand, fluff them, sing out of tune, etc., is not entertainment. The bloody evening had been advertised weeks ahead - any half-sensible, would-be performer would have learned the words properly. As Buddy said...

Sing in a folk club and slaughter the tune -
That's when your learning the words...


I saw John Kirkpatrick roaring out a Chas'n Dave song at a recent gig down here - superb! Any many of us were roaring along with him. It wasn't superb just because it was JK - it was superb because he'd learned it, rehearsed it and performed it magnificently. We can't all be John Kitkpatrick, but we can aspire to it, can't we?


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 05:47 AM

I do feel some sort of kinship when I hear a jazz band play Running Wild, or a fifty something year old struggling with the chord of a Buddy Holly Song.

Yes and no. Illustrative anectode #94. When I was just getting started on floor spots I used to have a bit of a complex about arranging stuff so that it worked unaccompanied. Lots of the stuff I was learning had been arranged (or written) to be sung with a guitar or a band, so if you stripped that out you were left with loads of rests at the end of lines -

One morning in the month of May, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3,
When all the birds were singing, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, and
I spied a lonely lady stray... and so on

It's not usually that bad, but end-of-line rests do tend to sound wrong - as well as giving you, the singer, plenty of opportunities to get nervous, look at the audience, forget the next line etc.

One of the first songs I did in front of people was Lord Franklin, which I learned from the Pentangle album where Bert Jansch sings it. He does some great things with the timing - it's not an umpah-dumpah 4/4 by any means - but you're still left with a bunch of end-of-line rests. So I worked on it for a bit, and ended up doing it in 3/4. It worked much better.

A few weeks later a guy came to the club and did Lord Franklin, unaccompanied, in 4/4, with a lot of rests at the ends of lines which sounded wrong and gave him opportunities to get nervous, etc. Call me an elitist, but I didn't feel very much fellow-feeling with that guy - I just thought, you could do it better than that.

I'm not in any kind of in crowd - I only do floor spots. But I like to work on stuff, and I like to hear people who have worked on stuff. OK, people getting up and having a bash is fun, but a whole evening of people having a bash wears thin quite quickly.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM

"I only do floor spots. But I like to work on stuff, and I like to hear people who have worked on stuff. OK, people getting up and having a bash is fun, but a whole evening of people having a bash wears thin quite quickly."

One of the things which genuinely puzzles me, is why anyone would actually want to botch something up in public. Yet so many here, repeatedly say that they are seeing dreadfully executed amatuer performances all the time - which arise not as a consequence of beginners nerves, but as a consequence of little no prior effort. I don't understand it at all. I wouldn't attempt to perform *anything whatever it be* for *anyone whomever they be*, if I was not confident of a *competent amatuer standard* forged from a reasonable degree of personal effort (bar drunken messing about with a bunch of mates at bonfire party or a Christmas living room kareoke special of course.)
If I try to learn a song, it can take me a whole day of fluffing it over and over again, quietly to myself, before it becomes ingrained. I leave little printed lyric sheets dotted about the house, in the bathroom or kitchen, to keep it in mind whilst I'm doing other stuff. And I don't do it because it's some necessary ordeal, I do it because I love to sing and I *want* to, I enjoy the song when it's finally 'mine'. And though I've got a terrible memory and it might take me all day, the 'effort' doesn't exactly leach blood from my haggard body!
Why do these people that get up to perform in public - when they apparently aren't interested or enthused enough to sing a little themselves at home snd learn the songs first - wish to bother with doing any kind of singing at all? I don't learn songs primarily because I want to perform them, if I'm at a party and I sing, I sing. But performance isn't my motivation, I'm learning the songs I learn, for their own sake. Because it's a pleasure to do so.

I'm curious about the motivation behind wishing to perform *publicly*, something you're not motivated enough to get right for *yourself*? Why would anyone wish to do it?


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 06:44 AM

Sleepy Rosie, I haven't been back through all your posts, but I can't recall you saying much about your own experience in folk clubs, either of performong or of hearing others perform be it well or poorly. Perhaps you'd like to tell us a bit more about what you've seen and heard yourself.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 07:27 AM

TheSnail, due to impossible transport restrictions I'm a non folk-club goer, though I do 'perform' regularly for friends and family, and I've done voluntary performances for the elderly. For what it's worth, I was told recently by a lady trad singer whose work and reputation is very sound, that from what (little) she's heard of my own singing I'm already more competent after a couple of months, than a lot of the floor singers that she's heard in folk clubs. Coming from her, it was quite a strong compliment, though I can also extrapolate from that, that the standard she's comparing my own efforts to are therefore probably not all that exceptional. Anyway, that's as much context to my own personal experience as I can offer. And it's probably not all that relevent to my question.

I haven't seen dire amateur performances myself - and I make no claim to know what the general standard of amatuer performance out there is, I'm simply responding to those people on both this thread and a number of others, who have maintained quite vigorously and repeatedly, that there is a low standard of amateur performers to be found in places that *they* know.

If this is indeed so (and I suppose implicit in my question is that I am assuming that these posters statements are not fabrications - but borne from genuine personal experience), I'm genuinely curious to know why anyone would wish to perform in public, what they can't get right for themself? Why would anyone want to do it?

It is a bit of a thread drift. But it I find it puzzling.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 08:56 AM

Sleepy Rosie, yes, a number of people have reported "that there is a low standard of amateur performers". We don't know whether those performers share that opinion. For all we know, they may all be talking about each other. Nobody has reported that anybody got up and performed knowing themselves to be bad. In my experience, everybody wants to do the best they can. That may not be all that good but we can't all be superstars.

Performing in public is very different from alone at home or in front of a couple of friends. I screw up occasionally. John Kirkpatrick screws up occasionally and so does everybody else on the very broad spectrum in between. If you ever get up in front of a folk club audience, you may well screw up and appear on Mudcat as "a woman who couldn't even be bothered to learn the words". It wouldn't mean that you're not motivated enough to get it right.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 09:49 AM

Bryan - I'm generally sympathetic and supportive to all performers who get up and do something at any club I attend. The strange thing is, it's not always the nervous amateur, perhaps just starting on the road, who gives off an aura of unpreparedness and laziness. I'm not talking about beginners here - or people who make an odd slip in their performance (as I did last night in a song) - but performers who have got into some kind of rut about what they do, or who seem to have lost the impetus to learn something properly.

Take, for example, the use of music and music stands (and I know this has been discussed thoroughly elsewhere). I'm aware that some people like to have the music there on standby because they have genuine difficulty in remembering words - particularly if they're getting to an age when memory becomes elusive. Fair enough - no problem with that in my book. However, there are some performers in clubs - not always amateurs - who have brought along something they obviously haven't prepared properly, and then read it as their performance. Well - I don't like this, for the simple reason that, if you're concentrating on getting the words and chords (say) right from the music, you're not concentrating on the main thing: the audience. There's just so much more communication between performer and audience if the music's not in the way - and, knowing the thing backwards means you can put your heart and soul into projecting the song/tune and interpreting it as you want to. I have never used music except where I've had to learn a new genre of music very quickly (band dep situation, for example) - I've always learned the repertoire that I do thoroughly so that I know it inside out. This, by the way, as I'm sure you know, takes hours and hours of repetitive practice - but (I hope) it pays dividends in the actual performance.

I'm not trying to be elitist here - just making a plea for performers to give of their best. Any performer worth their salt has to have some self-knowledge.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: greg stephens
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 10:07 AM

I am 100% with Will Fly on that one. I take it as a given that most people can read these days. It's nothing to be particularly proud of, and I have no wish to sit in a pub seeing someone demonstrate this ability.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: matt milton
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 10:40 AM

by way of response to the general tenor of the above recent posts, I guess that's why some clubs have a rule of thumb of "one song per floorsinger". I find it slightly annoying, as it normally takes 1 song to get warmed up, feel comfortable, get in the zone. But seeing it from the club organizer's point of view, I suppose at least it means that even the direst, least prepared singer can only do so much damage to an evening!

A propos of nothing in particular, one thing that I will never understand is some performers' total lack of awareness of time. There's one open-mic that I go to (not a folk club incidentally) where you get two songs each. One regular performer there has songs that tend to drift towards the 8-minute-mark. So that one of her songs is the equivalent of another performer's entire go.

There's another guy who goes there who routinely brings along a whole guitar-shop's worth of FX pedals and invariably spends the equivalent of a floorsinger's entire spot just setting up. I often wonder what is going on in these people's heads – do they have no concept of time? are they just entirely entirely self-obsessed? does it not occur to them that other people want to play too? Total lack of manners.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: mattkeen
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 10:46 AM

Quote will Fly
However, there are some performers in clubs - not always amateurs - who have brought along something they obviously haven't prepared properly, and then read it as their performance. Well - I don't like this, for the simple reason that, if you're concentrating on getting the words and chords (say) right from the music, you're not concentrating on the main thing: the audience.



Try telling classical performers that it isn't possible to read music and deliver brilliantly for the audience.

I don't happen to like it when people are reading in a club setting AND are unsure of the piece. No objection to them reading if that is how they perform - e.g. if they also happen to be a classical performer and thats how they learnt to do it


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 11:09 AM

I know the club you mean, Will. I went there once a few years ago. My reasons for not going back are more to do with the way it was organised (or not) and the choice of material (remember, I'm a boring old traddy) not the quality of performance. On the other hand, a certain newly formed (from highly experienced musicians) band that we both know reported that they had a great time when they did a booking there a few months back so maybe I should give it another try.

The reason I was taking issue with Sleepy Rosie was because she seemed to be attributing motives to people on the basis of second hand reports and no direct personal experience. The implication was that people were knowingly performing badly because they didn't care. Would you say that was true of the performers at that club? They seem to work in isolation so may honestly feel they are giving of their best if they have little to compare themselves with.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 11:10 AM

Well... I think the classical world is subtly different from the world of folk clubs. The composer usually has very definite instructions on the score as to tempo, dynamics, etc., the conductor of an orchestra will also have definite ideas on interpretation, and - on the whole - classical pieces are far more complex than folk stuff. I've played (viola) in an orchestra and I can tell you that, by the end of rehearsals, the score was pretty much memorised. During the actual performance, we kept a close watch on the conductor for the overall cohesion of the piece.

As it happens, many classical soloists these days play their pieces by heart - i.e. not with the music in front of them. I would say that this is because, through constant hours of intense practice, they've got the score in their heads.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 11:28 AM

The implication was that people were knowingly performing badly because they didn't care.

Perhaps not "didn't care" so much as "didn't think it mattered". I've never heard anyone say "this may be a bit rough, but it's good enough for you lot" - but I've heard plenty of performers say "I've only just written this" or "we've only rehearsed this once" or "I haven't played this in years" or "this wasn't what I was thinking of playing" or "I haven't had time to learn this" or... Some of those people then gave perfectly good performances - but not all of them.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 11:38 AM

A subtle distinction, Pip. Is it really sufficiently commonplace to be an issue?


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 12:01 PM

"I'm curious about the motivation behind wishing to perform *publicly*, something you're not motivated enough to get right for *yourself*? Why would anyone wish to do it?"

From my own personal observation one reason why people do it is, what I call,'spouse encouragement'. Person X may be a good singer but X's wife or hubby can't sing a note. Nevertheless, X thinks, "I'm sure if I encourage him/her indoors enough he/she could be as good as me." So X pushes and cajoles spousywousy into having a go. Alas, the initial hypothesis often turns out to be false - but several long, long years later the long-suffering folk club audience is still having to live with the dire consequences on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Surreysinger
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 03:42 PM

>Performing in public is very different from alone at home or in >front of a couple of friends

Ain't that the truth Snail?? There's a certain small matter of adrenaline that doesn't happen when you're singing to the four walls, with the possible addition of a musical safety net of notes or words ... and there's nobody looking back at you intently ... and (in the early days at least) your legs are wobbling and threatening to leave the room of their own volition and in two different directions !!! Or when you stand up in a room full of rather "starry" names for the first time .... I reckon we must all be masochists to get started at doing this!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM

Yeah, I did have a further think about this after seeing TheSnails reply. And I'm in no place to judge or compare.

I understand that my own experience is strictly limited. I've only ever stood up before small audiences of friends and family, or groups of elderly folk. The greatest number being around thirty, and though they were strangers, it wasn't a challenging stage atmostphere, with an audience of critical eyes and ears. Which I think would be genuinely challenging.

I think however to a degree I wasn't expressing myself well in my earlier posts.

Yes, I was basing my query completely on accounts repeatedly given by other posters here - and indeed taking those on faith, that some performers simply don't make the required prior effort. I'm simply taking their word for that, and not considering what other possible contributing factors to a poor performance may potentially be.

But if there are these mythical beasties who allegedly are ruining folk clubs by turning up week in week out, but never learn the words or keep a tune, I just want to know, what on earth do they get out of it?

I guess I just found the whole (perhaps inaccurate?) idea that someone would wish to perform without sufficient prior practice thoroughly perplexing - in fact utterly bizzare. I know for my own part that I'm anxious about doing the best I can in anything 'artyish' I try to do. It matters to me greatly that I am learning and trying my best. And I do see embarressing flaws in my own performance - I'm rather bland and monotonous sounding truth be told, I don't always keep right time, my lows can descend into boggy mush, my highs into watery schreech, I even hear fake accents creeping in sometimes! But I do always work at learning the words until I know them through and through. Then comes the much slower process of ironing out all the crappy sounding stuff. Which indeed, is only the beginning of the process of where I'm at right now.... And with that, Onwards!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: The Sandman
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 04:35 PM

700,sorry lead


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