On Saturday 2 March, I played for a wedding reception in Frome with Miracle Cure.
The remarkable thing here is not going to Frome – though the town centre is very pretty and I spent a very civilised couple of hours there, and money I didn’t entirely have in the excellent independent record store, the following morning before heading back to London.
Nor is it that I was playing fiddle with a function band for the drinkin-n-dancin portion of the day rather than either instrument with a quartet for the ceremony and/or drinks and canapes; being something I have done before with The Duffys, even if not regularly, and roaming acoustic work with The Mechanics comes much closer to this of the two.
More important is that although this was in principle a one-off gig, it went well enough to also double as a kind of live audition. I think we all (band and revellers) had fun (except the band having to tour most of the vicinity of the house to find the celebration and a way to get gear into it at the start! Orchardleigh House is very big). Certainly the young drummer and bodhran player who confessed, giving me a lift to my AirBnB afterwards, that he’d never actually played with a fiddle player before, reacted to me breaking out the ‘cheeky speed up’ style of performing Irish dance tunes in the first half with initial shock followed by glee – and by beating me at my own game on a reel in the second half. I’ve never removed so many ornaments from a tune in the course of the performance in my life! Equally, leader and lead guitarist (unusually – most function bands seem to be run, unsurprisingly, by a vocalist/rhythm guitarist) Tristan was glad of my relieving him of the interlude melody in Dire Straits’ ‘Walk of Life’. Though I think the general response was (pleasant!) sheer surprise when I more or less seamlessly dropped in the much-repeated ‘lead’ line to Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’, shortly after it had segued from another song I didn’t know that uses exactly the same chord loop … The core of what I was there for may have been to play Irish fiddle on folky songs and especially a handful of trad dances, but I enjoy playing, and dislike being restricted by things like genre and instrumentation, too much to not get involved in the more straight-up ‘function’ side of things when I’m confident of having something to contribute.
In any case, the long and short of that was a follow-up exchange of emails with Tristan, asking firstly which of basically their current unfixed gig diary I was free for, and then booking in a total of 14 dates – I was evidently not just being asked to cover dates their ‘main’ fiddler is unavailable. Sadly they don’t show on the gig list on my homepage because I’m pretty sure all are private functions, but other than that I have absolutely no regrets!
I mentioned in passing above that I stayed in an AirBnB room after this gig; they are very much my go-to option for gigs where I can’t get home afterwards (which, given my currently-paused struggles with the driving test, is annoyingly more than it might be). Partly, this is because experience has found them to be reliably a cheaper way of booking a single room for a night than B’n’Bs, Travelodges or the like. Partly, because individuals letting out a spare room tend to be much more flexible and sympathetic about performance hours than hotel check-in staff (a typical arrangement is for me to pick up a key and drop off stuff I don’t need for the actual gig when I arrive in the town, as I will come in at something like midnight or later after playing and endeavour to pad silently through a strange house in the dark to bed!). And not least, because both the houses and the hosts letting out a spare room to strangers on the strength of an online rating system tend to be more interesting and welcoming than most, and certainly a darn sight more pleasant than a budget hotel room and receptionist.
What is interesting is that I had a few conversations about AirBnB shortly after the 2 March gig; and there are some fellow working musicians who love it at least as much as I do and would always use it as default option; and some, on an almost equally tight budget, who find the idea offputting, have never used it and say they only sleep easy in their own home or a hotel, not a stranger’s or near-stranger’s house. There must be psychological roots to this, but for the moment I’m just glad, with that string of far-flung weddings coming up and train fares what they are, that I find the cheaper option congenial!