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Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions

Paul Reade 14 Jan 10 - 09:13 AM
Will Fly 14 Jan 10 - 09:23 AM
Will Fly 14 Jan 10 - 09:24 AM
GUEST 14 Jan 10 - 09:51 AM
Hamish 14 Jan 10 - 09:59 AM
Banjiman 14 Jan 10 - 10:01 AM
Will Fly 14 Jan 10 - 10:13 AM
Banjiman 14 Jan 10 - 10:21 AM
Paul Reade 14 Jan 10 - 10:38 AM
Will Fly 14 Jan 10 - 10:42 AM
Dave the Gnome 14 Jan 10 - 10:47 AM
Banjiman 14 Jan 10 - 10:49 AM
Acorn4 14 Jan 10 - 12:33 PM
Acorn4 14 Jan 10 - 12:35 PM
Phil Edwards 14 Jan 10 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,flush 14 Jan 10 - 03:30 PM
GUEST,Suegorgeous (away) 14 Jan 10 - 04:18 PM
GUEST,jimmy 14 Jan 10 - 05:07 PM
GUEST,Stuart Reed 14 Jan 10 - 08:18 PM
Leadfingers 14 Jan 10 - 09:20 PM
Paul Reade 15 Jan 10 - 05:27 AM
OlgaJ 15 Jan 10 - 05:50 AM
theleveller 15 Jan 10 - 06:07 AM
Phil Edwards 15 Jan 10 - 12:13 PM
Mavis Enderby 15 Jan 10 - 02:18 PM
Tim Leaning 15 Jan 10 - 07:55 PM
OlgaJ 16 Jan 10 - 05:53 AM
Acorn4 16 Jan 10 - 07:00 AM
Acorn4 16 Jan 10 - 07:11 AM
Acorn4 16 Jan 10 - 07:26 AM
OlgaJ 16 Jan 10 - 07:31 AM
GUEST,suegorgeous (away) 16 Jan 10 - 07:42 AM
Paul Reade 16 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 16 Jan 10 - 03:13 PM
Paul Reade 16 Jan 10 - 03:29 PM
BB 16 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Jan 10 - 05:26 PM
Paul Reade 17 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM
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Subject: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:13 AM

At a time when Folk Clubs are complaining about falling attendances, there is a boom in acoustic music, mainly among young people. "Unplugged" / "open mike" sessions are a "grass roots" movement similar to folk clubs, where the atmosphere is a real "buzz" from a packed audience of all age groups, just like the old days in the 60s and 70s.

A few I've tried in this area are:-

"Open Mic Surgery" – every Wednesday at the Stubbing Wharf Inn, Hebden Bridge (http://www.myspace.com/openmicsurgeryorg)
"Wharfe Unplugged", every other Sunday at the Ilkley Moor Vaults, Ilkley (http://www.wharfeunplugged.com/Home.html)
"Garstang Unplugged" – last Wednesday each month at the Kenlis Arms, Garstang, between Preston and Lancaster (http://www.garstangunplugged.com/index.html)

Why is it that your average folk club can muster an audience of perhaps a dozen on a singers' night, whereas you can get five or six times that number for an "unplugged" session?

You could argue that we are here to preserve 'the tradition' – but a traditional song will be listened to and appreciated at an "unplugged" night just like any other genre of music. So which is better for keeping alive 'the tradition' – fifty people hearing one traditional song or five people hearing ten traditional songs?


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:23 AM

Well, I don't actually think it's one or the other. The two types of gathering are not necessarily as different as you suggest. As has been said time and time again on Mudcat, all depends where you are geographically and what the local scene is like.

At a time when Folk Clubs are complaining about falling attendances...

Not in my part of the South-East (Surrey, Sussex...), but perhaps in yours. There's also a great buzz in many of the informal acoustic sessions down here - just depends who turns up on the night and when and where it happens. Oh - and on the enthusiasm of the organisers as well.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:24 AM

Last para shouldn't have italics - more use of the "Preview" button in future, methinks.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:51 AM

Getting a mix of styles iz a good thing. Just don't say unplugged if there is a P.A. :-)


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Hamish
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:59 AM

Hah! Yes - the commuter friendly central London Acoustic session invitation to my colleagues says "an open-mic with a difference. There are no mics". But it could equally well say "An unplugged session with no plugs and nothing to plug the other ends into".

I'm with Will on this: I'm more at home in a folk club - with or without plugs - but find that folk songs can go down very well in an open mic. Often when I do a pub gig, I'll feel like I should do pop and country stuff, but the punters ask me to do "more folk". And you'll find quite a cross-over from both scenes (although there are those who remain exclusively in one domain or t'other.)


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:01 AM

Unplugged/ acoustic nights are good. But we have a very health folk club scene as well in North Yorks.

Unplugged/ acoustic nights don't seem to provide the next step on the ladder for aspiring musicians...... if they book acts (rare) the money tends to be really poor.

You might see this as a good thing but it does mean you tend to only get local(ish) acts playing rather than bringing in fresh ideas/ music from elsewhere.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:13 AM

I think transport, locality and urbanisation have some bearing on what happens at sessions and who attends. I'm lucky in that - should I want to attend them - there are several, regular (predominantly) English tunes sessions in my area, plus a local (predominantly) French session, and two "anything goes" sessions which are a mix of traditional stuff, blues, jazz and anything that the attendees want to bring. Good musicians and singers at most of these, I have to say - and often some new faces to enrich the mix because there aren't huge distances to travel.

And, as you rightly say, Banjiman, the folk clubs Guest nights provide a fresh perspective and opportunity. Whereabouts in N Yorks are you, by the way?


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:21 AM

Middle of nowhere (Kirkby Fleetham) between Northallerton & Darlington.

I can be at a folk club/ singaround/ session every night of the week (some nights several) within 30-40 mins. These are generally well attended for both guest clubs and informal stuff, one or two struggle but most are healthy.

Plenty of open mic/ unplugged and acoustic night things as well.... though as you say Will, these tend to be more urban.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:38 AM

The original point I was making was that at a time when there is a boom in acoustic music among young people, you might expect an influx of young acoustic performers into Folk Clubs. This hasn't really happened, in this area anyway.

Talking to people at unplugged nights, some felt they hadn't been made welcome at a folk club, and others that the "F" word definitely put them off.

The result is that they've gone and done their own thing, so I was suggesting that if they won't come to us, why not go and have a look at what they're doing?


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:42 AM

Quite right, Paul - and I'm all for a mixed economy myself. I was merely suggesting that regional experiences - and therefore future actions - can be very different.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:47 AM

I was suggesting that if they won't come to us, why not go and have a look at what they're doing?

I think has already been answered, Paul. Lots of places are doing exactly the same thing and lots of folk clubs are thriving as well as the open mic nights. In your experience and that of the people you spoke to the work 'Folk' or the attitude put people off. I can undertsand that in some clubs and it is a good argument to drop the word 'Folk' - But you will have a fight on your hands with a lot of people here!

And don't start on the 'what is folk' line:-)

Cheers

DeG


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Banjiman
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 10:49 AM

Paul, I wouldn't argue at all with your second post.

My point is that unplugged/ open mics etc. only serve part of the function of folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Acorn4
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 12:33 PM

From looking at the thread comments so far it would seem that experiences in various parts of the country differ.

I've found the problem with some open mikes is that they lack the sense of community of a folk club. People arrive with their fan club of five mates, do their bit, then talk loudly at the bar while other people are singing, and leave early.

There are a number of thriving folk clubs in our area where it is rare for anyone to leave before the end, and everyone encourages each other's performanace.

Obviously this might just be in our local area.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Acorn4
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 12:35 PM

....oh , and the "unplugged" thing - the earliest people to do these gigs were performers like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, who although they used acoustic guitars had these plugged in and sang through a mike.

The conclusion was the "unplugged" just means "sitting down">


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 03:06 PM

a traditional song will be listened to and appreciated at an "unplugged" night just like any other genre of music. So which is better for keeping alive 'the tradition' – fifty people hearing one traditional song or five people hearing ten traditional songs?

At the two places I go, it's a choice between a venue with a stage where forty people can hear one traditional song and a pub back room where fifteen people can hear twenty traditional songs - I think the maths favours the second one! As for 'folk' vs 'acoustic', only one of those two has 'folk' in the name, and it's not the singaround.

I think acoustic nights are great; acoustic nights where traditional songs are welcome are even better, and acoustic nights which don't call themselves 'folk' are best of all. If 'folk' is being used as a name for one of the styles of music you can hear at an acoustic night - rather than a generic term for what happens when someone sits down holding an acoustic guitar - so much the better.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,flush
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 03:30 PM

Lets just keep music live wherever and whatever you want to call the evening


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,Suegorgeous (away)
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 04:18 PM

Acorn

Not all open mic nights are like that. These days I only go to ones where everyone is quiet and listens to the performers, and at these, performers tend to stay for all or most of the evening. No one stands talking at the bar.

Plenty of the other kind though! depends what you want. And usually my acapella trad songs are welcomed (though I keep my slot short).
Sue


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,jimmy
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 05:07 PM

Some of people on Mudcat seem to have been predicting doom and gloom for folk music for years. Sure the boom years of the 1960s and 70s are long gone but I find there is still a lot of interest and enthusiasm here in Yorkshire and elsewhere I travel in the North of England and Scotland. There are younger artists with inspiring talent and I know that some of the younger people who open mike evenings here in the Leeds area also come down to singers nights at the Grove Folk club where I am a regular. Lets be more optomistic.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,Stuart Reed
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 08:18 PM

There are about twenty open mic nights in the Brighton area and all of them seem to be as Acorn4 describes: People arrive with their fan club of five mates, do their bit, then talk loudly at the bar while other people are singing, and leave early.

I feel sorry for the aspiring musicians and songwriters who take their first steps in public performance in places like this - and some that I've seen have obvious talent.

There are also plenty of free live music venues where you can hear good quality blues, Irish, jazz and country - but there too the musicians are playing against a wall of noise.

OK, it's a positive that people are still getting out and playing but one hankers for the old folk club ethos where there was a connection between performer and audience.

As a footnote, I was witness recently to an example of how times have changed in this respect. A very accomplished pub band was booked into a folk club type setting and were much discomfited to be faced by an audience which listened to them in silence and applauded heartily at the end of each song. By contrast, there were many performers who started out in the folk clubs in the boom days and found themselves booked into more mainstream venues where their best efforts were greeted with less than wholehearted attention, much to their chagrin.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Leadfingers
Date: 14 Jan 10 - 09:20 PM

NOT Unplugged - PA is used , but the middle of the evening is open to anyone who wants to do a couple of numbers in the middle of the evening !

That's at THe Brewery Tap (Well Presented Fullers Beer) at Brentford
in St Catherines Yard off Brentford High Street on (Particulary) each
Friday and Sunday !

If I am not gigging I tend to be sat at the end of the bar jamming on
Mandolin or whistle .


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 05:27 AM

In the sessions I mentioned in the original posting I've rarely come across the problems described by Acorn4 and Stuart Reed that "People arrive with their fan club of five mates, do their bit, then talk loudly at the bar while other people are singing, and leave early". In my experience singers (and their mates) generally respect other performers, and on the one occasion where it got a bit noisy, a quiet word from the organiser soon sorted it out. Perhaps it's a geographical thing.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: OlgaJ
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 05:50 AM

Am I missing something. Doesn't 'unplugged' mean not plugged in (to anything)? Unfortunately some of the sessions we go to are being spoiled as more and more people are bringing their own 'small' amps to plug their guitars and autoharps(!)into. Then they lend a lead to another guitarist and before we know it we are into a pub jam session playing sixties standards and nobody wants to sing or play a melody instrument because they can't be heard. If there is amplification people who would normally sit and listen feel justified in talking as they feel they won't be heard above the instruments. Open mic/acoustic nights tend to attract singer/songwriter/guitarists more than anyone else and admirable though that is the people who play accordions, fiddles, concertinas etc. or prefer to sing without a microphone feel intimidated. At the end of the day if you go to one of these sessions and don't like it you don't have to go back, or you can do what my son has been known to do - refuse the plug, stand away from of the mic. sing naturally, play truly acoustically and still be heard. It can be done.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: theleveller
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 06:07 AM

I used to go regularly to our local folk club and there was a wide range of performers, young and old, and an 'anything goes' policy which meant an excellent mix. In the last year or so, however, it seems to be more and more dominated bu those wishing to perform 60s and 70s pop songs, Beatles/Kinks/Stones and a sprinkling of Bob Dylan with a bit of Mary Hopkins. We hardly ever go nowadays as it seems our traditional-style (albeit largely self-penned) stuff just doesn't appear to be what the majority of people want to listen to. The saddest part is that the average age has increased and the young and enthusiastic folk musicians and singers simply don't go any more or, when new ones make a visit, tend to leave after the first half.

Fair enough, it seems to be what people want, but we have found places where we feel more comfortable performing (like Kirkby Fleetham FF).

"That's at THe Brewery Tap (Well Presented Fullers Beer) at Brentford
in St Catherines Yard off Brentford High Street on (Particulary) each
Friday and Sunday !
"

Leadfingers, that's a rave from the grave for me - I used to drink there all the time in the 70s when the entertainment was a wonderful 'cockney' singaround with all the bargees, led by a bloke with a banjo. Happy days!


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 12:13 PM

If there is amplification people who would normally sit and listen feel justified in talking as they feel they won't be heard above the instruments.

Hate hate hate hate hate. I hate it when this happens. You'd think with a PA it'd be easier to shut people up - you can shout a lot louder, after all - but in my experience it's the other way round: if you're working without amplification, people will listen when you tell them to shut up. The sight of a PA seems to tell people they can carry on talking until the act actually drowns them out. Which, when there's a lonely unaccompanied singer at the mike, is never.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 02:18 PM

Slight thread drift, but OlgaJ's point about people with 'small' amps taking over sessions made me think - can electric instruments mix with acoustics at sessions - or is it inevitable they will take over?

I've seen electric guitarists take over pub sessions in exactly the way OlgaJ describes, but I've also have seen electric bass and keyboards used in conjunction with acoustic instruments tastefully with great effect.

Just wondered what other folks experience was?

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 15 Jan 10 - 07:55 PM

Same as yours Pete it can go either way.
Also seen plenty of aspiring rock gods arrive with entourage and behave ignorantly.
Banjiman.
"Unplugged/ acoustic nights don't seem to provide the next step on the ladder for aspiring musicians...... if they book acts (rare) the money tends to be really poor."
I do understand what you are saying,and who could ever object to the chance of hearing Mrs Banjiman and the rest of your group,however...

I enjoy going into a pub setting ,sitting among the audience/other musicians and playing a song or two when it gets round the room to me.
That is my fave way of playing and listening .
Sometimes I have enjoyed playing with some sound enhancement via a P.A.
The thing is I bring the same attitude to that situation and have enjoyed them on that level.
The trouble is if you find a set up in a pub that you can enjoy on that level it soon attracts performers who are looking for gigs.
There will be bands between gigs who have a high standard to maintain and must take up lots of time getting the desk jockey to fiddle about with the levels. They often don't think that they should maybe just have the same time allowed to them that ordinary players do because they need to "perform"
Soon you turn up and the friendly little OM is now starring a band the landlord want to have a free listen too and takes up the first or last half of the evening.
Or some oik you never saw before is now MC ing the whole thing and his mates get preference.
As mentioned in a previous post I don't have to go there if it don't suit me.
So I don't.
I wouldn't mind so much but they do seem to have a way of getting things changed to suit themselves.
But I do have to spend time finding new (to me) Venues to escape the same desperate sad gush of loveys who appear intent on invading every nook and cranny of our local music scene in the hunt for that elusive break.
Whinge over.
(maybe)


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: OlgaJ
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 05:53 AM

Burton Coggles - I appreciate your point about bass guitars and keyboards, they can make a great contribution to a session, although I was once at one very well attended club in a small pub where a keyboard player turned up, asked a whole table full of people to move, set up his instrument then spent most of the evening in the smoking area outside, not exactly considerate. By the way I am not against use of PA, we use lots of it as a band, I just feel its not appropriate everywhere.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Acorn4
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 07:00 AM

The question of amps is a tricky one - we've just restarted a session in a village pub which is a very small room, and once, someone bought in an acoustic double bass which seemed to fill up half the room, and an electric with a small amp would in fact have caused less hassle.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Acorn4
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 07:11 AM

PS: We go to Olga's session regularly - it is probably just about the most successful folk club in the Midlands (of those we go to anyway), and it is very rare for someone to leave before the end. There is a wide range of performers most of a very high standard who all appreciate and encourage each other. although it starts at 8.30 you won't get a seat if you arrive after 8.00.

I don't actually find the amps she talks of too much of a problem because the performers concerned don't use a mike and therefore can't switch instruments up too loud otherwise the vocals wouldn't be heard. I think more of a problem is, perhaps those racks containing five guitars, six mandolins, a dobro, etc can be a bit of a pain in a small room.

I think perhaps if the line is drawn at not having mikes it will keep things within bounds, and stop escalation to Pink Floyd levels of technological whatever.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Acorn4
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 07:26 AM

...as in "My autoharp is now so loud that you can't hear my voice , so I'd better mike that up as well!"


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: OlgaJ
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 07:31 AM

I wasn't knocking the people who come to our club, they are a pretty sensitive bunch, but its not the same everywhere. We seem to attract a really good mix of styles and as it is free and run as a sing a round everybody gets an equal turn. Strangely enough we now have a double bass turning up regularly and it has to spend its night in the bar when its not being played, wonder if its the same one? Agree with the point about instrument stands by the way and thanks for the comments about the club.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,suegorgeous (away)
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 07:42 AM

Maybe in Bristol we're lucky. There's at least two open mics where there is always virtually dead silence while people are performing. Both have organisers who have deliberately set out to create that atmosphere, both as it happens with low/no lighting and candlelight.

At one, in a social club bar location, the PA system is excellent, and so the quieter stuff (eg me) gets listened to.

At the other, a room above a small pub, it's totally unplugged and anything goes, and sometimes there are some very fine and/or original and/or quirky acts. It always gets completely packed out.

And over in nearby Bath, a promoter has set up a similarly great gig venue in the cellar of an otherwise noisy pub. Again, the PA is fantastic, there's candlelight and table snacks, and people come to really listen. I sang there when I was in a duo, and loved it. This one does need more attendance though. Most of the bands come from Bristol (10 miles), and their mates seem to find it hard to get there!

I think such delights have to be deliberately set up and pursued by the organiser/promoter, to work in this very specific way. Some people outside of the trad folk world DO also want to be able to listen to everything. I'm even toying with the idea of starting something like this...


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 11:44 AM

Interesting all this talk of amplification, but one of the sessions I mentioned at the beginning calls itself "Open Mic" ("Open Mic Surgery", Hebden Bridge - http://www.myspace.com/openmicsurgeryorg), but doesn't in fact have a microphone! To quote from their publicity "… you bring the music, the attention and the vibe. We provide a chair, a spotlight and a house guitar anyone can borrow".


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 03:13 PM

...Why is it that your average folk club can muster an audience of perhaps a dozen on a singers' night, whereas you can get five or six times that number for an "unplugged" session?

Well perhaps it's because a hell of a lot of folk clubs are full of cliqueish miserable old bastards!!!

(...and that's not necessarily MY point of view, but the view of various young people I've spoken to!)


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 03:29 PM

Those are the sort of comments I tried to summarise in my earlier posting "Talking to people at unplugged nights, some felt they hadn't been made welcome at a folk club, and others that the "F" word definitely put them off.". Couldn't have put it better than you Bruce. Hope our club (Skipton
) doesn't fall into this category


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: BB
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM

I would have thought that the word 'club' is more exclusive than the word 'folk'. It depends what people's interpretation of the word 'folk' is - in some venues it's very wide, and in others very confined, and not necessarily to traditional folk. For those outside the folk world that we know so well, the word 'club' would indicate something which might not be too easy to be part of - we all know differently, of course. :-)

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Jan 10 - 05:26 PM

I've understood "unplugged" as primarily meaning music and performers that haven't been "plugged" by the music industry.


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Subject: RE: Folk Clubs and 'Unplugged' Sessions
From: Paul Reade
Date: 17 Jan 10 - 04:04 PM

One thing I've found with the sessions I've been to is that you definitely need to arrive early if you want a spot. At Garstang Unplugged they average about 25 performers each session, the record being 38 in a single night! This obviously needs some precision organisation, so musicians are given plenty of advance warning and a separate room for tuning up. Quite a few folk club organisers and guitarists could learn from this!


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