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Why folk clubs are dying

Sleepy Rosie 02 Feb 09 - 05:36 AM
Faye Roche 01 Feb 09 - 07:32 PM
Tootler 01 Feb 09 - 06:44 PM
Forsh 01 Feb 09 - 06:32 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 01 Feb 09 - 05:29 PM
SPB-Cooperator 01 Feb 09 - 03:47 PM
Sleepy Rosie 01 Feb 09 - 01:25 PM
Jack Blandiver 01 Feb 09 - 12:39 PM
Sleepy Rosie 01 Feb 09 - 10:50 AM
Phil Edwards 01 Feb 09 - 10:40 AM
The Sandman 01 Feb 09 - 10:11 AM
Will Fly 01 Feb 09 - 09:35 AM
TheSnail 01 Feb 09 - 09:32 AM
Will Fly 01 Feb 09 - 09:14 AM
TheSnail 01 Feb 09 - 09:03 AM
Jack Blandiver 01 Feb 09 - 08:45 AM
Will Fly 01 Feb 09 - 08:09 AM
TheSnail 01 Feb 09 - 07:55 AM
The Sandman 01 Feb 09 - 07:53 AM
Big Al Whittle 01 Feb 09 - 07:42 AM
The Borchester Echo 01 Feb 09 - 07:20 AM
Jack Blandiver 01 Feb 09 - 07:11 AM
TheSnail 01 Feb 09 - 06:47 AM
Jack Campin 01 Feb 09 - 06:24 AM
Backwoodsman 01 Feb 09 - 05:30 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 05:18 PM
Gervase 31 Jan 09 - 05:14 PM
Phil Edwards 31 Jan 09 - 05:13 PM
The Sandman 31 Jan 09 - 04:35 PM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 04:30 PM
Surreysinger 31 Jan 09 - 03:42 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 31 Jan 09 - 12:01 PM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 11:38 AM
Phil Edwards 31 Jan 09 - 11:28 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 11:10 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 11:09 AM
mattkeen 31 Jan 09 - 10:46 AM
matt milton 31 Jan 09 - 10:40 AM
greg stephens 31 Jan 09 - 10:07 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 09:49 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 08:56 AM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 07:27 AM
TheSnail 31 Jan 09 - 06:44 AM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Jan 09 - 06:37 AM
Phil Edwards 31 Jan 09 - 05:47 AM
Will Fly 31 Jan 09 - 04:07 AM
melodeonboy 30 Jan 09 - 09:43 PM
Big Al Whittle 30 Jan 09 - 06:34 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Jan 09 - 03:41 PM
Jim Carroll 30 Jan 09 - 03:15 PM
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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 02 Feb 09 - 05:36 AM

Faye: "I didn't know that I was going to kick up such a storm."

I wasn't even specifically thinking of your thread Faye, though it was another which I recall. When I first landed at Mudcat there was an ongoing discussion about these Bog Beasties that ran and ran! Check Folk Club Manners if you're interested.

"One last comment from me- there is a difference between people who get up to sing and are not very good but try their best and those who can't be bothered."

Well, that seems to be a point of contention, as to whether anyone is actually so lacking in interest as not to learn their words. But my own query and puzzlement, was based on the assumption that there are these people out there, who actually want to perform but are seemingly not all that into singing the songs for themselves.

See only recently I discovered this whole secret hourd of little sparkling worlds. At first they look a bit dusty and antiquated, but give them a little love and attention and they slowly open up for you and let you inside. It's a bit like staring at some faded sepia photo that you've found in an old leather trunk in Grannies loft, and then something magical happens and the image comes to life. And there are these living figures fulfilling their microscopic destinies. But more than that, you find yourself slowly pulled into this little world, which is both of the past and yet timeless, but very much alive. I'm still stuck in the loft sifting through this enchanted trunk of old photos. Don't think I'll be down for supper til way past pumkin midnight...

Right now I don't have a burning ambition to become a performer in any formal capacity, be that as a 'floor singer', a 'guest', or whatever other assignations there are in folk clubs! I'm enjoying learning the songs for their own sake. Maybe the desire to step it up a level will come in time. I dunno, but while I do understand singing for it's own sake, I sure don't understand why someone might want to perform seemingly for its own sake. But especially when you know you're inevitably going to give a poor performance. Which does an injustice not only to the audience and to yourself, but to the song.

And that's the last I'll be saying on this matter too! Because I too seem to have generated some irritation.
In innocence I hasten to add. And indeed, as is becoming more apparant, in ignorance of the full range of issues which I may be clumsily stumbling over.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Faye Roche
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:32 PM

I didn't know that I was going to kick up such a storm.

One last comment from me- there is a difference between people who get up to sing and are not very good but try their best and those who can't be bothered.

If you think that you can sing in tune and yet can't hold a tune in a wheelbarrow, you need someone to take you aside, have a quiet word with you, and then guidance and encouragement to improve. I have a reasonably high tolerance level of people like this.

If you forget your words in the second, fourth and sixth verses because you can't be arsed to learn them, you KNOW that you've done badly. It's people who sing like this and don't seem to care than **** me off. And I still can't see what satisfaction they get from it.

A folk club organiser said to me the other day: "Ah but old Jim's been coming here since we started. He always gets lost in the third verse of "Fathom the Bowl" but he's one of our main supporters so we have to give him his turn. And Amy's been bringing her tin whistle here for the last three years; when she started we couldn't make out what tune she was trying to play, but now we can, quite often, so we always let her go on."

Jim and Amy (all names have been changed, as has the song and instrument) were also the nicest of people, so I can see the club's dilemma. I don't know what the answer is.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Tootler
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 06:44 PM

Whether you think folk clubs are dying or not depends on whether you see the pot as half full or half empty and it is possible to put most of the regular posters on this thread - and on the many other threads that discuss folk clubs - into one of these two categories.

In fact there are certainly good clubs and bad clubs and a lot in between. If you find a good one, stick with it.

On the other hand what you think of as a good or bad club depends on what you are looking for - and your expectations. I have heard almost diametrically opposed views on one local club - which seems to be quite successful, btw - and they were both from people whose opinions I respect.

In discussing singers, I have seen no mention of choruses. I mention this because I was at a session last night where the chorus singing was fantastic and somehow I think that helped to raise the overall standard of the individual singing.

If a club has good and enthusiastic chorus singing, it will compensate for the variability of the individual singers and also give the weaker ones something of a helping hand.

There is something special about joining in the choruses. Certainly last night I felt the proverbial tingle up the spine.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Forsh
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 06:32 PM

Because idiots who run them say stuff like "oooh, I never book anyone I haven't heard/seen"
other idiots let committees run their clubs.
others still, just like the kudos, and being 'in charge'.
IT'S ALL ABOUT 'FOLK', f'chrissake!
Folk is what folk want to hear, folk want to sing & folk enjoy; NOT what YOU Mr stick-in-the-mud want to book! (You know who you are!)
Regards
Mr Angry.

OK
It's me
Forsh.
You Got Me.
Hrumph.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 05:29 PM

"Do we have a case of a folk Yeti or Nessy here? A kinda 'Folk Club Urban Legend'?"

Unfortunately not! Sadly I can think of several - and they are certainly not mythical!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 03:47 PM

From experience the kisses of death for folk clubs seem to be:

(1) Lack of supportive venues (i.e. clubs having to move at the whim of a brewery/change of management, and loud music in another bar drowning out the music in the club).
(2) Regulars becoming too introspective making 'outsiders' feel unwelcome.
(3) Lack of professionalism in club organisation, e.g. starting late.
(4) In-fighting between those who want to stamp their authority on club policies and those who pull there finger out and actually do the work.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 01:25 PM

For my own part, whatever the craft or art, wherever there is genuine Love, there beauty and joy may be also be found.

And while I find the notion that there may be those out there who appear to evince a complacent absence of love for their craft somewhat bemusing, I also believe that where there is genuine love, then ample latitude may be allowed for relative aesthetic merits and degrees of ability.

I also believe imperfection to be an essential element of anything aesthetically beautiful. Without some imperfection comes inauthenticity and sterility. Perfection is fraudulent. We feel it in our gut, we instinctively know these are intricately constructed forgeries of the truth. And we feel betrayed and empty. No love, no anima or pneuma, no communion.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 12:39 PM

I'm not a big fan of Jim Eldon, but I'd much rather listen to him than to some of the polished, professional, bland and meaningless stuff I've heard at folk clubs - no matter how well rehearsed it was.

They don't come any more polished or professional than Jim Eldon, Pip - as a look through Corona Smith's recent videos on YouTube will testify. There are, of course, detractors, but they tend to exist at the more muso end of folkery, more concerned with playing notes than playing music.

I got into folk music (rather than folk notes) because it allowed people to sing material that seemed to me possessed of an appropriately feral charm in a context that was entirely fitting; an outsider aesthetic that was as much about the collectivity of a given tradition (however so perceived) as it was about the idiosyncrasy of the people who represented it - traditional, revival, neo-revival or otherwise. The so-called source-singers have always been of great significance to me, as are the rank & file folkies who sing this stuff week in week out at folk clubs & singarounds with precious little reward for their life-long efforts & endeavours.

Folk celebrity hasn't born any great fruits musically, I fear, IMHO - unless one might think of Jim Eldon as a folk celebrity, or Peter Bellamy, who could barely scrape a living in his own country despite his extraordinary genius. When PB died, something died inside of me as well, and I really had to get to grips with just what it was about folk music that I loved - and despised. I think I'm more or less on top of that now, just about, but in the end it's always down to a handful of people who make this music real for me, otherwise I'd just as soon not bother at all.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 10:50 AM

"I've no idea. If you ever come across one, ask them and let me know."

Fair enough Snail!

My initial post was prompted by what I've been hearing here, almost constantly since first arriving. The continuing debate about these dreadful mythic creatures and what to do about them has been a matter of interest to me, because as a beginner I want to know what common pitfalls to avoid. And the more I watched some threads, the more paranoid I began to become!

In fact I heard so much about terrible amatuers on one thread when I first arrived, that it inspired me to ask about half a dozen questions onlist about what DOES constitute a 'good performance', what IS a 'good voice' etc. etc.?

Honestly, I'm laughing now!

See, I've got this image in my head of a mysterious breed of shuffling mumbling voudou-ressurected peat-bog men, who only hang out in the dim lighting of folk clubs where their true nature will not be identified. Their habits include hogging the limelight for hours on end, keeping their heads permenently wedged in a folder the size of a black-hole (maybe they don't have heads?), drifting all over a tune like some hapless soul lost on a life raft, while barely managing to string more than half a dozen words together (probably because they only speak Peat-Boggish).

Do we have a case of a folk Yeti or Nessy here? A kinda 'Folk Club Urban Legend'? Anyway, I'll be sure to keep my camera phone handy if I do venture out to one of their mysterious folk-lairs. And Fortean Times have already been promised exclusive rights to publish some completely out of focus images of something that actually looks amazingly like something completely unrecognisable! Camera shake mandatory.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 10:40 AM

If any one went along there thinking "It's only folk music so it doesn't matter, they'd learn the error of their ways very quickly or take up karaoke.

The question answered. Why do you see a lot of the GEFF mentality at some folk clubs? Because some folk clubs foster and encourage it. Why do you see none of it at other folk clubs? Because they don't.

IB - I'm not a big fan of Jim Eldon, but I'd much rather listen to him than to some of the polished, professional, bland and meaningless stuff I've heard at folk clubs - no matter how well rehearsed it was. It's not lack of polish that annoys me but lack of attention to the material: people who wander on stage, smile apologetically and say something about not having had time to practise, then give a performance which shows they were telling the truth. I reckon a club where that doesn't happen is a club which has (in whatever intangible collective way) the right attitude.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 10:11 AM

who cares ,there will always be someone better,the secret is to enjoy what you are doing and maintain the enthusiasm to keep working at it.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 09:35 AM

There are musicians there who will blow your socks off (including your good self if I may say so) but it can accommodate people like your young friend.

Too right. There are some sessions I wouldn't dare participate in because I just don't know the repertoire well enough - particularly true of some of the Irish sessions in Brighton where many of the players would vaporise my socks! Still, we can but hope, though I'm not getting any younger.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 09:32 AM

Haven't been able to get to that session for a while but it epitomises all that's good about the folk scene. There are musicians there who will blow your socks off (including your good self if I may say so) but it can accommodate people like your young friend. If any one went along there thinking "It's only folk music so it doesn't matter, they'd learn the error of their ways very quickly or take up karaoke.

Back to Rosie's question - 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've no idea. If you ever come across one, ask them and let me know.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 09:14 AM

LOL! Bryan, I guess you're right. I must admit, I do love acoustic sessions, when I can get to them, as I've said before. Most people get to play most of the time. You can learn, or at least hear, new tunes, there' often a different mix of instruments - and I do see a lot of younger people at sessions.

At the last sessions I went to (last Sunday) in Sussex, there was a young lad there who we all knew. He has some learning difficulties but dances with the local Morris and has learned to play the accordion - upside down! He brought it along to the session and was persuaded to lead off on a tune that he knew. So he played "Shepherds Hey" - a little tentatively at first, but better when we all joined in. It turned out that it was his public playing debut and he got a huge round of applause. That's why I like sessions. I've learned a great deal from them myself over the last 2 years or so - and not just music.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 09:03 AM

You're a man with a mission, Will, but I don't think you are going to change them. There are plenty more good clubs and sessions in the area. I've heard that there is quite a good session in Henfield, second Sunday of the month if memory serves me right, not to mention the session at the Trevor at Glynde this afternoon. Details can be found at Will Fly's Folk Clubs, Singarounds and Sessions.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 08:45 AM

have you seen WAV,lately,doesnt he live near you?

WAV lives over in Tyneside, some 130 miles away from us, though we lived in Durham until September '07 which put us in a similar orbit, so our paths tended to cross from time to time. Actually, he's a classic example of the more singular creature you get frequenting singarounds, and before ever I became aware of his somewhat bizarre on-line persona (and the opinions thereof) I found him as affable a cove as you could wish to meet, the eccentricity of his performances notwithstanding. But having long since embraced idiosyncrasy as a fount of (potential) genius, one must then weigh each case on more particular merits, which in WAV's case are, alas, severely compromised by his political motives.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 08:09 AM

Bryan - I suppose the answer is - deep down at heart - I really don't know. Why do I go to places like this? Because I do believe passionately in keeping live acoustic music alive, and I like to try and do my bit in that direction.

As it happens, I was at that club to meet up with some old friends, to renew acquaintance with people I really like and to give out some concert fliers. And, do you know, I always go with high hopes. At every club I go to, I genuinely hope the evening will be good fun. More often than not, they are actually good fun, because the company is good fun and the people are genuinely good people. But I still can't help wishing that some performers made more of an effort... so, sorry to be an old bore, but that's me. (and the particular evening I commented on was musically dire).

Perhaps if I wasn't driving and could get a few pints of Harveys inside me, (and some of Nobby's nuts) the critic in me would happily dissolve in an alcoholic haze...


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:55 AM

PLEEEEEASE! Make this a WAVfree zone.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: The Sandman
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:53 AM

well, it depends on the Nut.
I am not very keen on Train Nuts,they are fine out spotting trains,but as regards conversation in a bar,no.
but you get many different kinds of nuts in folk clubs
Insane Beard ,have you seen WAV,lately,doesnt he live near you?


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:42 AM

Perhaps you should meet Nobby first, before coming to a quick decision.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:20 AM

contemplating the latest additions to Nobby's celebrated range of Nuts and rediscovering the will to live

Where is this pub?
I think, just occasionally, I might like to try this.
The nuts bit, anyway.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 07:11 AM

I wonder - to what extent is this truly a matter of taste, or expectation, or else seeing the epitome of musicality in the slick preening professionalism one often finds in the upper echelons of our Folk Society... Personally, I don't, and I never have, believing that a song is greater than the singer, much less their ability to sing the bloody thing. The fact people are moved to sing at all is miracle enough to me. Indeed, one of my favourite singers of all time is often slated as the worst singer in the world even by his own admission (and has trophies to prove it). I have heard singers of little or no ability who don't put any effort into at all, who do seem to be taking the piss rather and, like Rosie, I might find myself pondering what they themselves get out of it. On the other hand, if we like our music with the bark still on, then needs must we cherish the non-muso who sings purely for the love of it, however awry his / her performances might appear to be in terms of our own prejudices, musical or indeed otherwise.

As for my own prejudices, I'd rather listen to the worst singer in the world singing a traditional song (or better still ballad) than the slickest singer-songwriter dazzling us with his faultless finger-pickings and Americanised musings on the human condition, personal, political, or otherwise... At that point, you'll find me at the bar, contemplating the latest additions to Nobby's celebrated range of Nuts and rediscovering the will to live. Once though, we had a genuine Elvis impersonator in our club (one of the perils of our proximity to Blackpool) and he brought the house down, and me with it.

The moral is, if I'm drunk enough, I'll listen to anything.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: TheSnail
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 06:47 AM

I don't think you answered my question, Will. Slightly modified for Pip's benefit - Do you think the people at that club knowingly perform badly because they don't think it matters or do they simply not know any better?

When I said they have little to compare themselves with, I meant in terms of the norm of what is expected at folk clubs. They don't seem to interact with other clubs in the area very much as far as I can tell. As far as I know, the club is well attended and has been running for a good few years. It doesn't seem to be dying. They seem to be happy. If you don't like what they do, don't go.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Jack Campin
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 06:24 AM

Or sometimes hearing themselves as they were thirty years ago.

One of the least entertaining phenomena on the folk scene is the performer from a previous generation who used to be good once but has learnt no new songs in the present millennium and hasn't changed their approach to anything in their repertoire for longer than that (except maybe forgetting some words). They can impress a new audience for a couple of minutes because they're extremely self-confident; anything beyond that and they're a freak show.

Hearing a beginner fumble a bit is nowhere near as scary for a newcomer in the audience as thinking, "my god, if I stick around here long enough will I turn into that?

If you aren't still learning, pack it in.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 01 Feb 09 - 05:30 AM

"you get a whole string of poor performers who seem to have no sense of their poorness"

A good point, Will. I'm pretty sure that there are many people whose musical- and self-awareness are so lacking that they don't actually realise they are bad performers. It's not their fault, it's not necessarily lack of practice, and it's not that they don't care about it, they just don't have the capacity to understand that they haven't got the necessary attributes to be a good performer.

I have a theory that, when they're performing, they aren't actually hearing themselves, in their head they're replaying the track they learned the song from, and imagining they sound the same.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Will Fly
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 05:18 PM

TheSnail:
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.

Most folk clubs are very supportive and friendly places - which is great because, if they weren't, many of us would never have had a place to get started as performers in the first place. I certainly wouldn't. Most folk clubs have a core of regular audience members, some of whom will be regular performers. When these performers get up to do their piece(s), they will usually get very warm and enthuiastic applause from the audience. The whole evening is friendly and cosy. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

However, there's a potential drawback with this. At its best, you get an evening of good singing and/or playing, with enough dedicated and competent performers to make it worth while (as WLD might say) to shift your arse away from the telly for the evening. At its worst, however, the whole ethos of the club is so lacking in discrimination and so smug that you get a whole string of poor performers who seem to have no sense of their poorness. And because the club is warm and inviting and cosy and everyone knows everyone else and everyone's used to it being like that for 1,000 years, no-one cares. Except me?

Let's be clear: when I see a performer who is obviously a beginner, obviously nervous and shaky, my heart goes out to him/her. I worry for them. I want them to get through it successfully and, when they've finished, I try to show my appreciation of their effort. Note the phrase: "their effort". Because they remind me of meself 40+ years ago. What gets my ageing goat are those who, by their smug demeanour, think they're adequate - actually sometimes think they're very good - when, in fact, they're not. And they can sometimes be experienced - and even being paid a guest fee.

So what's the remedy? Well, to return to the nub of your question: if they have little to compare themselves with. Hmm. This surely can't be true? There's just so much excellence around - in good clubs, on radio and TV - on YouTube - on CD - on DVD. Surely we each have powers of discrimination? Surely we have role models? When I was starting to play guitar, I had so many role models that I wanted to be like that I drove myself crazy trying to be like them - Merle Travis, Doc Watson, Django Reinhardt, Davy Graham, Big Bill Broonzy, Rev. Gary Davis... The list goes on and on and - grows: Richard Thompson, Duck Baker, Martin Simpson - it never ends, for God's sake. I'm still driving myself crazy - but I have improved a little, I think. And so have many others - because we listened, we wanted to be like our role models - and because we weren't we tried a little harder. We could tell the difference between what we sounded like and what our role models sounded like. We may have failed to attain the giddy heights that we'd aimed for - but at least we tried!


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Gervase
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 05:14 PM

I just want to know, what on earth do they get out of it?
For many folk club regulars I do believe that it's a form of therapy. Folk clubs attract an odd bunch; the average audience is by no means typical of the top deck of the Clapham omnibus. Many are drawn to folk music because of its inclusivity - folk club audiences will clap and smile broadly at almost anyone, to be honest. Thus you can get up and murder a song and still be rewarded with the sound of clapping, and no-one's going to come up to you afterwards and say, "You know, that really wasn't very good. "
And, at the same time, singing a song unaccompanied or with three guitar chords, is perceived as easy. Why, anyone can sing...
It's something you don't tend to get in other musical genres.
As a result, the performer ends the evening on a bit of a high - there's been the burst of adrenalin in getting up to perform, and the welcome ripple of applause at the end; all in all the performance has been validated.
To be honest, in that sense some clubs do have something of a 'care in the community' function.


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Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 31 Jan 09 - 05:13 PM

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

I don't think it's all that subtle - people don't go out to demonstrate their contempt for the audience ("don't care"), but they do go out to give a rough-and-ready performance ("think it doesn't matter"). And yes, I do think rough-and-ready performances, & performers who admit to not having practised, are a common occurrence - in some folk clubs. Not necessarily (just to complicate matters) the ones that are doing badly.


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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Jim Carroll
Date: 30 Jan 09 - 03:15 PM

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


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