I hadn’t been sure whether or not I would get to this event but am glad that things turned out to make attendance possible. The Royal British Legion in Duns was the venue for a band night to help raise money for the forthcoming Education Trip to Peru for a group a students and staff from Berwickshire’s High Schools in Duns and Eyemouth.
The previous day brought a report in the local paper that an Extraordinary General Meeting has been called to discuss closure of the club so it could well be that will be my last trip to what strikes me as an excellent little venue. Sadly, such facilities do require sustained and regular support as they must be able to, at least, cover their overheads I just hope that Greenlaw’s newly restored Town Hall, opened on Monday by HRH Prince Charles, will generate sufficient support to justify the massive investment and to prevent it making losses. Enough of that, I really wanted to review the evening, not get bogged down in politics!
I arrived just in time to catch the start of proceedings – the first band up included two ex-students from one of the classes in my final timetable before retiral. Having seen their skills develop in Graphics it was so good to see them further excel in a different area. The band are a trio of young ladies who perform under the name ‘Where’s George’ and they entertained with a mix of self-penned numbers interspersed with an interesting selection of covers. Not, however, covers of songs from their lifetime but songs from my youth. I’m really impressed by the way many young people are prepared to explore stuff that first enthralled an earlier generation. For bands starting out it is clearly helpful to do covers as they learn how to gel as a unit, I particularly like it when an individual twist is incorporated, but I really relish the opportunity to experience new original compositions. ‘Where’s George’ succeeded on both counts. Knowing about the guitarists love of the band, it came as no surprise to hear renditions of ‘The Beatles’; ‘Twentieth Century Boy’ was an unexpected surprise and the choice of ‘Tin Soldier’ was great way to end a brilliant opening set.
Equipment changeover didn’t take long at all and the second band were soon into their set. ‘The Riotous Assembly’ stage presence was really quite dominating, due in no ‘small’ part to the ‘giant’ in centre stage who made his guitar look like a scale model and boy could he play it! Apart from the drummer, another ex student, this band were from a different generation and played a very interesting selection of covers from the 70s and 80s. Early on in the set there was a technical issue with the microphones, after a brief wait while a solution was explored, the guitarist led the others into an instrumental while a replacement amp was set up. This impromptu version of ‘Wipe Out’ gave the drummer a chance to demonstrate an amazing ability as he got right into that track’s driving rhythm. One highlight from the set was the creative, and unexpected, segue from ‘Pink Floyd’s’ ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ into ‘Chic’s’ ‘Freak Out’! Their closing version of ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’ was just so apt.
Back to the youth for the third band; ‘Overflow’ were billed as ‘alternative heavy tunes’, and we got exactly what it ‘said on the tin’. The drummer from the previous band clearly hadn’t had enough as he continued with this band. The lead guitarist was very animated and although the music was different I found myself drawing some comparisons with Wilco Johnson’s (‘Dr. Feelgood’) stage antics. They were good and showed a lot of potential as they stormed their way through their set.
By the time the fourth band took to the stage the venue was nearing capacity and an sizeable group were on the floor in front of the stage when ‘Le Woodsmen’ got into their stride. A fourth band and a fourth style of music, the appearance of an acoustic guitar helped bring a different sound. Their billing had trailed them as a “laid-back, beautiful, no-frills folk band” but I might take issue with this description as I didn’t sense too much of a laid-back attitude, although they were certainly less frantic than the previous band. They did come across as a very accomplished group who were extremely comfortable playing together. I suppose folk is a fairly wide-ranging term; in any case I’m not too bothered about genre specifics, I’m more concerned about whether or not something works and this set did. On the other hand maybe I’m just a bit slow to adjust, after all aren’t ‘Mumford & Sons’ labelled as coming from the ‘West London folk scene’ along with other bands such as ‘Noah & The Whale’?
The fifth band, yes FIVE bands for a £3 admission, featured some more ex students and demonstrated the close-knit nature of this local band scene. During my previous visit to this venue, the singer had guested for a number with ‘Easter Street’, and one of the guitarists had played bass with ‘Morfsnud’, ‘Overflow’s’ lead guitarist was back on stage as was the bassist from ‘Where’s George’, AND ‘Overflow’s’ bassist was now on drums! This line-up was ‘Stone Soul Tavern’ and they brought the live part of the evening to a close with yet another interesting and varied set. ‘Stevie Wonder’s’ ‘Superstition’ got a second and different treatment as yet another joined the singer on stage to share vocals, this was the DJ who would bring the evening to a close.
All told I thoroughly enjoyed my evening, chatting and listening to a great range of local talent. I was very impressed by the original compositions that had featured throughout the evening, I can also understand the desire to include covers of well-known tracks in a set as it helps encourage people to get up and dance where they are maybe less likely to if they don’t recognise the songs. It had been a long day so sadly I felt it was time to leave as Kerr Scott was preparing to entertain the remaining crowd with his drum’n’ bass ‘n’ dubstep set.
As far as the Peru Trip group were concerned I’m certain that they will have added a reasonable amount to their running total, it was also another opportunity for some of them to spend more time in each others’ company prior to their trip, I believe about half of the student participants had been able to attend. It’s now only around three weeks before they set off for their opportunity to experience the work of The Vine Trust that I was privileged to witness back in 2009. I have no doubt that their participation will have just a big an effect on their lives as our trip had on us. I also look forward to returning as a member of a work party in July.