Monday, July 07, 2008

If you were there, you know. If you weren't...

Those groovy Gigspanner boys were back in Kingsand after a year's hiatus on Friday and Saturday just gone. Regular readers will already have heard about the evenings' entertainments offered by Messrs Knight, Flack and Salzfaas. Newcomers are about to read how they blew us all away with two outstanding stage performances and a late night session in the pub.

Friday night was well attended - well done to all of the Daily(ish) Millbrook Mob for making it up the hill to the Rising Sun for pre-gig pints of Heligan Honey. The Rogers Boys made it by the skin of their teeth, missing out on tea at Millbrooker Towers and heading straight to The Riser.

We were treated to an opening set of jigs and reels, songs and tunes played with great aplomb along with a very funny improvisation inspired by Brenda's "Posh Nosh" fish'n'chips in Millbrook. You had to be there; trying to explain why it was funny just won't work here. Some of the old favourites were greeted with glee by the Kingsand throng; we got Down to the Valley to Pray and Sitting On Top of the World along with a great rendition of The Butterfly (BathNick was delighted - he loves that one).(above photo shamelessly stolen from

It's pretty pointless to try and describe the musicianship, but I'll try anyway. These guys are at the top of their game. Peter needs no introduction from the likes of me; he's earned the status of legendary in the field of fiddle playing. Innovative, forever probing at the boundaries of what the instrument can do - he can do outstanding jigs and tunes in his sleep, but when he flies into improvisational mode and starts messing about with all the conventional musical wisdom, the instrument really starts to sing and he's away with the fairies until the music resolves itself.

Roger Flack backs up on amazingly delicate rhythm guitar; he's perfectly capable of string-based fireworks but has worked out the truth of the statement "less is more". His playing provides an ideal foil to the more flamboyant fiddle and percussion sounds happening all around him. In so many ways the band is built on his quiet and solid presence. He gives a calm and understated performance, always looking relaxed and content to be exactly where he is.

Last but not least, Vincent Salfaas. This year he was in great form. Last year the poor chap was suffering from back pain and hobbled from the stage after the performance. Seemingly unencumbered by this problem this year his playing was a revelation. At times turning his percussion into a lead instrument, at others providing driving rhythms and African influences to give the music a highly original lift whilst making at least one audience member (that'll be me then) grin broadly from ear-to-ear with pleasure.

After the gig, Peter and the lovely Deborah kindly said we could decamp en-masse to the Halfway House for a bit of a late night drinkie. Never one to turn the opportunity of more beer if I don't have anything specific to do the following day - we swiftly found ourselves indulging in a pint or two. Another incentive was that I had in my possession an email from the aforementioned Mr Knight stating that owed me a beer. Not just beer; free beer! Count me in.

Here's Deborah, Peter. me and Mrs The Millbrooker enjoying the occasion of drinking some of Gigspanner's profits from the evening:

Once a pint or two had been downed, Peter found himself pressed into playing as part of an impromptu charity gig in aid of the Air Ambulance. Roger Flack joined in for a couple of tunes and several guitars miraculously appeared from thin air turning the Halfway House into something of a musical session venue for an hour or so.

Despite being warned, Peter and crew encouraged Dong to give us a rendition of Larks Singing Malodorous, captured here in all its glory:

Upon being asked which key he was in, Dong honestly and bravely stated "all of them". A quick canter through Wild Rover, and Dong was content with his lot.

The evening had to end eventually, time stands still for no man. Not even for The Millbrooker, nor for a crack squad of superb musicians. The Millbrooker Towers residents and guests rounded off the evening slurping fine single malt and tawny port until 4. Sheer magic.


Saturday. I'm sure many will recall it dawned grey, wet, windy and miserable. And it had nothing whatever to do with hangovers. It was just the fine Cornish weather doing its thing. The male contingent from Millbrooker Towers decided to head off rambling regardless and got a good soaking for their efforts. No photos exist for this event as it was blowing a force 8 and the rain was horizontal making camera work all but impossible. Thanks to the Cross Keys for welcoming us even though we dripped all over the floor and steamed gently as we sipped our pints in the relative warmth of the bar.

Gigspanner were performing again that evening; ticket sales hadn't been all they should be so Mrs The Millbrooker and I dragged our willing guests back to Kingsand Hall for a second dose from the instrument wielders of Hastings.

Here's a couple of pre-gig shots of an expectant audience. First up, it's BathNick, Jon, Jim and Chris: And then Dong, yours truly and Shazzerooneypoos at the next table (Mrs The Millbrooker was behind the lens):

The second concert was, for me, the highlight. The band played several pieces that we'd heard on the previous evening but also kicked off into improvising mode far more. Looking around the small but select audience, there were rapt expressions everywhere - it's not often you get to hear stuff like that played live in a village setting and very rare to get it from master craftsmen like these.

They're coming back next year - watch this space, make sure you get tickets and we'll see you there.

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