Alasdair Roberts, Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

The gig is in a pub called the Cumberland arms which having looked at their website I can’t believe it’s taken me two years to find out about. As someone put it it’s like someone’s taken an old country pub and dropped it in the middle of a city. The setting is most unlikely, it stands on it;s own at the end of a cul-de-sac as the houses that once adjoined it have been demolished twice over! It overlooks the Ouseburn valley, a (still mainly) industrial area with a growing reputation for being an upcoming quirky arty bent. A main road and the metro line pass overhead but it still feels like a tranquil pub on a hill with a beautiful view.

Once you get inside you could have been transported back a century or so. The front door opens into a lobby and opposite is what would have been the off sales hatch. I can see that the main bar is on the left so I head in there. It’s a old wood panelled room with a scattering of tables and chairs. There’s a bar with an array of hand pumps including, or so I believe, some beers brewed on the premises and opposite the bar a fire roars away. I order a pint and decide to head through to the other side which is where I think the gig will be. However when I get through he door it isn’t and the only other door I see appears to lead to the ladies loo! Confused I head back to the first bar and warm my bum in front of the fire while I try and work out what’s going on.

Eventually I did work it out and the gig was through that door and up the stairs only when I arrived it wasn’t open yet! When I do head upstairs it turns out I’m one of the first in there and on my right there are a number of tables and chairs. There are three tables at the front and then some rows of chairs behind which I sit in as the tables look as though they are all taken. I was just eying up a couple of the chairs when a chap with a beard returned and spotted me. He said that they were free if I wanted to sit there, so I did and it was a good decision as we ended up chatting all evening!

This is probably the first time I’ve been to a gig where the band I’ve gone to see were actually their own support act as well. The bassist from the Alasdair Roberts trio is a chap called Stevie Jones who is the main person in an outfit called Sound of Yell. Tonight he does some solo numbers before being joined on drums by Trembling Bells’ drummer Alex Neilson and Alasdair Roberts himself on Hurdy Gurdy. I had listened briefly to some of their music on their website but confess to enjoying it more live, especially after the other two joined in.

During the inteval I went and got another drink and popped into the loo where to my horror I found myself at the next urinal to Alasdair Roberts – that even beats the opening the toilet door to find Eliza Carthy standing outside! I also found out that the chap I was talking to knew Tow Law as he had an auntie here and used to visit as a child. He said her garden overlooked the cattle mart which narrowed it down to about ten houses, one of which is ours! Small world!

Anyway I really enjoyed the Alasdair Robert trio and it turns out that I’ll see him again on Saturday as he will be at the Sage with Shirley Collins – as will the chap I spent the evening talking to!

When I had originally gone upstairs I’d noticed a sign on the piano in the second room that said “reserved for musicians after 8pm” When I came downstairs during the interval there was a guy playing the fiddle and by the end he’d been joined by two others who were just sitting there playing some tunes. I wish this was my local!

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