Big(gish) in Wales

Posted by Ken Edwards on Friday, June 21, 2013 Under: music
Today, Midsummer Day, The Moors play their first gig of this year in Hastings Old Town, at the Jenny Lind Inn, where we've performed eight times previously (the last being 28 December). I hope the sound balance will be improved from that occasion, when we were plagued by problems: our current drummer, Russell, will be taking charge of the PA and mixing this time, as he did in Brecon, Wales, at the beginning of this month.

That was kind of interesting. It was the furthest the band had ever been, and Russell's big Merc van was also helpful, especially as he was happy to drive us all the way, entertaining the rest of us with stories of his days on the road with The Dharmas, the band he was with in the 1990s. They nearly (but didn't quite) made it in the Britpop days. 

We'd been booked to headline the Saturday night of Plethiad, billed as a Balkan/Klezmer festival, probably the first of its kind in Britain. As a hybrid band, we were deemed, I suppose, to bridge the gap between those two genres. It took about five hours to get from Hastings to Brecon, in bright sunshine: M25, M4 and then over the Severn bridge and into the hills. At the pub where we were booked to play, and to sleep over, the landlord was holding court with a group of regulars at the bar. None of them knew anything about the festival or the kind of music we played, but he generously plied us with free drinks, an offer that held good for the entire evening.  

At a nearby cafe, we encountered a small cluster of people who had come for the festival. A klezmer trio (The Klatsh: clarinet, accordion and tuba) was playing - the fully kosher, traditional stuff. 

Back at our pub, another acoustic klezmer group acted as warm-up for us. We were anxious about how our full-on, electric sound would be received. Although specific advertising for our gig had been minimal, a small gaggle of locals turned up as well as the festival audience, so by the time we started there was a pretty decent attendance. It was a great relief that they all took to us: the klezmer people delightedly recognised the klezmer tunes when we went into them, while the locals who had seemed not to have a clue what the music was all about turned out to love it. I have to say the others - Elaine on soprano sax, flute and her newly acquired accordion, Jenny on fiddle, Richard on guitar - were on good form. In mid-gig, Russell had a nose-bleed and had to go off to get it seen to while the rest of us improvised drummer-less for some minutes. We played the standard two one-hour sets. The encore, taking in "Hava Nagila", was especially raucous. Some Hungarians were seen dancing. A few CDs were sold. 

The festival organiser seemed satisfied, and handed us us our fee in 20-pound notes in an envelope; but he told us we would not after all be getting the promised breakfast in the morning because the person who was to have cooked it was "too drunk". Indeed, the local patrons were extremely merry. A group of women surrounded Elaine to compliment her. One said to me “What's that instrument, she plays, she's very good, is it a ukulele or something?” I said I thought from her actions describing the instrument that she meant the accordion – a ukulele is a small guitar, I added. ‘Ah yes, a ukulele, it’s like a little fiddle, isn't it?’ she replied. 

Jenny and her partner were booked into another hotel for the night. Their dog had attended quietly throughout the whole gig, which was deemed to be a first. He had been given his own room in the hotel, Jenny said.

The rooms for the night the rest of us had been offered, above the bars, were reasonable. At around 1am we were consumed with hunger and devoured the remains of the packed lunch that Elaine and I had prepared for the journey. When we all did retire, I went straight off to sleep, but Elaine was bothered by continuing sounds of revelry downstairs. Next morning, Russell reported hearing calls for more drink at about 6am. The Sunday morning sunshine poured in, but everything was locked up and there was no sign of anybody in the pub. I had a panic that we wouldn't be able to get out, but fortunately the fire escape was open, so Richard, Elaine and I loaded the rest of our gear onto Russell's van and we hit the road.

The hills around the town were really stunning in the morning sunshine. A buzzard flew across the road. We had breakfast in the first motorway services we came to. Four hours later, we were back in Hastings. I think it all happened, but I'm not entirely sure.

In : music 

Tags: "the moors" 
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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at