Stick in the Wheel, Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle

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The Star and Shadow cinema is another venue I’ve not been to before – in fact until I google mapped it this afternoon I only had a vague idea where it was! It turned out not to be too far away from my office (as most of the good venues seem to be!) but I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to park! In the end I got a space practically outside and it was free too! I went in and was a bit confused about where I had to go until a man behind me asked to see my ticket. I handed it over and duly had my hand stamped!

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I went into the venue space and as soon as I got through the door I spotted Paul sitting at the bar. I’d met Paul at a gig last year and had also ended up working briefly with his daughter. I’d hadn’t seen him since Shirley Collins at the Sage so it was good to have a chat while we waited for the support act to start. I got myself a pint which cost £4.60 – but it was really nice beer – Almasty Stout – very flat and a bit cloudy but very tasty! The support act was preceded by one of the loudest howls of feedback I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard lots!

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The support act were Phil and Cath Tyler – a local duo – I’d not heard of them before but Paul told me he’d seen them a few times and they were very good. They played for about 40 minutes Cath singing and Phil on guitar, banjo and vocals. At one point he asked if there were any banjo players in the audience – no response so Cath asked if there were any banjo owners and a couple of hands went up! I enjoyed their set, wouldn’t mind seeing them again some time. Cath reminded me of one of my friends which was a little disconcerting!

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I went back to the bar and toyed with the idea of another beer but decided against it! Then it looked like Stick in the Wheel were coming on so I went and grabbed a space near the front but after I’d sat there for a while it became obvious that there were technical issues with some of the microphones – mostly the ones on the drum kit so there was a lot of toing and froing back and forth between sound desk and stage!

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I can’t remember where I first heard about the band – I think it may have been in an article in the Guardian that my friend shared on Facebook. They sounded interesting so I went and downloaded their first album – From Here – or at least I thought that was what I had downloaded but it turned out to be the companion compilation album they released which featured people like Martin Carthy, Jon Boden, Sam Lee and Eliza Carthy and where “each artist was asked to think about what From Here meant to them”. I tried again and this time got their debut album. I went to listen to it on the way from from work but my first thought when Nicola started singing on the first track Champion was “Not sure I’m going to be able to listen to her voice for long” but I was wrong, very very wrong! By the end of the first song I loved not only her voice but the band in general and I have been wanted to see them ever since!

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Eventually they managed to get most of the microphones working (except the bass drum it would seem but if it didn’t start then it wasn’t needed!) and decided to start playing. It became clear from the start that Nicola’s sense of humour is a bit like her singing – takes a while to get used to it! Songs were introduced with comments like – this ones about robbing (me N Becky) or We learned this one from a Martin Carthy instructional DVD (The Blacksmith)  After Me N Becky she put down the instrument she was playing and said I hate that! She also announced that obviously she didn’t intend to become a folk singer but these songs needed singing!

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Nicola and Fran were at the front of the stage singing, playing accordions and other instruments including the “council flute” and doing a great job with the clapping. It hadn’t dawned on me how much an integral part of the Stick in the Wheel sound the clapping is until I saw them tonight. In addition other main member Ian Cater adds Dobro guitar, Si on percussion and Ellie on fiddle. I think they played almost all of the songs that I wanted to hear during their hour or so long set.

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I’d taken the Nikon to take photographs but this was hindered by two things! At the front of the stage they had piled up some cases so that the top case could be used to hold the sheets of paper with the lyrics on – this made getting a clear shot difficult especially from a sitting position! Additionally there was a bright light right behind them which didn’t help either – I ended up having to position myself so that the light was obscured by Fran’s head! Nicola seemed a bit vague all evening and kept forgetting what she was saying – at one point she announced that she wanted meat after the show and asked for recommendations – one was duly given and after the following song the same person in the audience shouted out to let her know that he’d just googled and it was open till Midnight! She was also moaning about how cold it was up here and admitted that she had been wearing two coats and two jumpers!

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The gig was quite poorly attended but since moving back to the North East I’ve found that a lot of the stuff I like is! I hope the band come back again – I missed them last time they played here in the summer as it was only announced an hour before the gig and I was well over an hour away! When Nicola thanked us for coming someone shouted out Come back again soon to which she replied that she was worried about coming this far north in case she “fell off the edge!” The band concluded with Poor old Horse sung around the centre microphones! A great night and one I really enjoyed!

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Setlist

The Cruel Ship’s Captain

Weaving Song

Me n Becky.

Bedlam

The Blacksmith

Champion

Seven Gypsies

Witch Bottle

100,000 years

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

Roving Blade

Common Ground

Jolly Bold Robber

Jail Song

Bows of London

Over Again

E

Poor Old Horse