First Gig With The Palace Buskers – Sometimes Simplest Is Best

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned I was going back out gigging again after a hiatus of a good few years. Well, last night was the first gig with my new live venture, The Palace Buskers. Briefly, to recap, I do a couple of shows each week on a local community radio station in Redcar, PalaceFM. On one of these shows I play guitar whilst my co-host, Dee sings. It’s a sort of “live lounge” type thing, basically. Well, to cut a long story short, we decided to take the songs we’d learned for the radio performances out on the road.

I must admit I was a bit nervous about how it would go down – no backing tracks or any sequenced drums, no bass… nothing but guitar & vocals. Would the audience (and more importantly the landlord who was paying us) feel short changed by the stripped down nature of our set? Well, I can reveal that I was worrying over nothing (or “nowt” as we say in these parts). We kicked off with a soul medley of “I Can’t Stand The Rain/River Deep Mountain High/Midnight hour, with me strumming out the necessary barre chords on a strat (plugged into an amp modeller, straight into the desk), and Dee belting out the vocals. As I hit the final chord of the opening medley, the pub erupted into applause with cheers & hollers coming from all parts of the (admittedly small – it was a Sunday night, after all) crowd.

Next song was Fairground Attraction’s “Perfect” which went, erm… perfectly. Again the crowd loved it & so the evening went on. Song after song went down brilliantly – no heckles, people visibly enjoying themselves even when I dusted off my vocal chords to sing “Whiskey In The Jar”. Barring the odd few mistakes (bound to happen on any 1st gig with a new set) which we covered pretty well, the night couldn’t have gone better & I enjoyed every minute. The venue, The Clarendon Hotel have rebooked us for a gig in early January too which is the truest test of how we did – a venue doesn’t rebook any act who they’re going to lose money giving a gig to.

Russ, the landlord, said what a fantastic change it was to have a live music night that wasn’t just a singer, or singers with karaoke backing tracks, “borderline miming” he called it. He praised our rawness and promised to spread the word on the pub grapevine so that we would more easily get a foot in the door with other venues in the area. Great news!

As you can probably tell, I’m on a bit of a high after this inaugural show & I’m already looking forward to the next one at another local pub, The Britannia Inn on Nov 3rd. What strikes me as being the most enjoyable thing about this new live act, that I’ve stumbled into, is the one thing I was worried may be a our Achilles heel – the lack of a “full band” sound either with drums & bass or backing tracks. It turns out that (surprise, surprise) audiences love live music and they love it all the more for being 100% live – a perceived weakness has actually turned out to be a strength. Also when there are only two people on stage, there is far less scope for things to go wrong (on a scale that the audience would notice, anyway). All in all I’m filled with optimism for The Palace Buskers – it may not be a way for me to showcase virtuoso guitar soling skills a la Satch & EVH (something I always used to try & squeeze into any song given half a chance), but I’m learning loads about making complex songs work with a minimalist arrangement, I’m having fun & I’m earning a few quid into the bargain. Happy Days!

John Robson Guitar Tuition & Musicianship Coaching

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