It’s a little late, I know, but the next installment of Riverflow Music is here! After a rather beer fueled Friday and Saturday, Sunday’s excursion was to the Talking Heads where the weekly Irish session was in full force when I turned up.
I used to frequent a session at the now defunct Bent Brief on Lodge Road, Southampton. It used to be a great way to spend a Thursday evening, with great music and an appreciative audience. This was very similar except for the audience, which was seriously lacking. Apparently there are usually more there, evident by the rows of chairs that had been set out. It was sparse on the ground this week, probably due to the various as sporting events going on at the same time.
The afternoon was frequently punctuated by my recognition of various musicians from the Bent Brief days, and their hazy half-recognition of me (the beard is a new addition since the days when I attended the Brief religiously). There were ten musos in total and they followed the usual session form of drifting in and out of whatever tune is being played, whenever they were inspired to do so. The audience may have been small, but this didn’t matter. At a good session, which I have to count this one as, the musicians play for themselves, their own enjoyment, rather than to please an audience, spending the afternoon playing, drinking and chatting, giving the whole session experience a warm, friendly atmosphere.
As I’ve often noted with folk sessions of all types, there seems to be a bias towards melody instruments, giving a rather high pitch to the general sound. This was the case here until the bouzouki struck up, providing the much needed mid and bass tones. The sound was complete. Round, you might say.
Overall, there were three fiddles, two banjos, a flute played by a chap called Tim who was a stalwart of the Brief days, bodhran, bouzouki, accordion and octave mandola. The latter started a solo piece which the vast majority of musicians joined in as and when they wanted. The loose form really suits Irish instrumental music, meaning a tune can go on seemingly forever, without getting ‘samey’.
One tune would lead into another, with the music barely stopping. Musicians would come into the tunes they wanted to play and leave those they didn’t. A really pleasant, happy atmosphere filled the room, which with its hotchpotch mix of furniture and eclectic decoration was a fine companion to the music. Not quite an Irish pub, but a little more comfortable (and with a better choice of beer).
As the session was drawing to a close, a bottle of Paddy whiskey was extracted from the bar and passed round the musos. I sat at the bar chatting to the licensee / manager / head honcho chap (also in a former life a fellow archaeologist). It turns out the Talking Heads is haunted by the ghost of a monk (or as we discussed, it could easily be a Roman wearing a sack, as Southampton’s medieval friary was located in the old walled town, a long way south of the Heads). Comparing with paranormal visitors to the old Talking Heads in Portswood, the monk / Roman in a sack was far more preferable. The previous venue had a rather mischievous spirit (no pun intended) that would make its presence known by turning off all the beer lines in the cellar, on a regular basis, meaning no booze could be served until someone went down to the cellar and they were turned back on again.
A rather good afternoon was spent at the Heads. Next week will be a little different. I’m off to a singing workshop in Coalbrookdale (Ironbridge Gorge) Watch this space…
[EDIT] It’s no longer 2am and I’ve been able to correct all the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure from the above, written on a tablet whilst repeatedly falling asleep. [/EDIT]