17 May 2008: Bearded Theory – Derby, England, UK

This new little colourful festie consisted of several hundred happy folk wearing fake rainbow beards having a fun time all in the name of charity for Oxfam and for a very reasonable price of only £12.

The setting seemed hidden deep in the hillside of the Derby Dales wrapped around the Knockerdown Pub near Carsington Waters. This is quite a scenic pub all secluded and private with a few geese & ostriches running around in the neighbouring farm. Families enjoyed the wooden carved playground and kids marquee containing face paints, musical instruments, circus toys and more.

The 3 stages at the festival, included, Main Stage, the Dance Tent, and the Open Mic Stage for random stand up comedians and musicians.

Artists this year included Dreadzone, 3 Daft Monkeys, Rev Hammer, Beetroot Kings, Hobo Jones & the Junk Yard Dogs.

There were plenty of homemade food stalls dotted around the site, including a Teeny Tiny Tea Tent, Merch tent, and not forgetting the Real Ale Bars offering Bearded Theory Real Ale.

Congratulations to the management and roll on Bearded Theory 2009.

Roy & Debbie Sandbrook

14 December 2007: Drunk In Public – The Palace, Tamworth, England, UK

14 December 2007: Drunk In Public - The Palace, Tamworth, England, UK

Misty evening, Twycross Zoo. This wasn’t where I expected to be 15 minutes before the time that the venues box office had said that Drunk In Public were due on stage, but a couple of wrong turns meant I was now miles from where I should be and I couldn’t even see the Monkeys.

A spot of what seemed like night time rally driving, 20 minutes, a broken watch reading 11:50, a quick burn down the A5, three penalty points and a £60 fine (probably) later and I’m at the venue listening to the last couple of songs from Dan Donnelly.

I like Dan. Good songs, holds the crowds attention well and he treated us to a nice version of The Boys Are Back in Town, amongst others.

I’d missed all of the first band, Carousel Circus, but I did spend most of the night stood next to them and they seemed like decent blokes.

The Palace is a nice little venue in what I assume is the centre of Tamworth . It’s a bit bigger than the venues that I have seen Drunk In Public in before but still small enough to give the feeling that you’re all in the same room. Judging from the posters advertising the bands recently playing there, Drunk In Public are the biggest thing to hit Tamworth for a while and the local populace had turned out on mass as the venue seemed to be sold out. It promised to be a great evening, with the Christmas tree at the rear of the stage twinkling away happily.

At 11:50 (according to the broken watch), resplendent in full evening dress, Drunk In Public took to the stage. The time was probably nearer 9:30 and the band promised us two hours of entertainment.

All poshed up...

Drunk In Public (picture courtesy of tinternetradio.com)

Opening with “The Ballad of Robbie Jones”, they took us through a set of old Levellers favourites including “15 Years”, “Confess” and “What A Beautiful Day” with a smattering of Rev Hammer’s own material (“Caledonia Rain”, “Ole Welsh Soul” and “Wedding Ground”). I love Rev’s own stuff and it’s great to hear it live once in a while (can we have a small solo tour next year please Rev? One day I will hear “Every Step Of The Way” live).

Wedding Ground – Drunk In Public (Quality: not great)

Mark Chadwick was on top form, asking a girl in the front row “What was that? Come back to your place and you’re going to do what to us?”, to much laughter and, after the first song, asking “I know it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll, but has anyone got any Rennies?”

Just before “Julie”, Rev explained that they were going to take a 15 minute break after the next song, as this was the first time that they’d attempted a gig since the smoking ban was introduced and it was proving to be a bit of a struggle.

Strange interlude moment was when some chap appeared from the front and pointed at my shirt and sang “Subvert, Subvert” at me, before muttering “I don’t know any more of the words” and wandering off towards the bar.

15 minutes later (at 11:50 by the broken watch) and Drunk In Public are back on stage for a much faster second half. A mosh pit has broken out and people are bouncing about happily as the band blast us through “Carry Me”, Rev’s “Burford Stomp”, “Riverflow” and an incredibly sped up version of Rev’s “Down by the River ‘O’”. The band were joined onstage by Dan Donnelly at one point (I think it was for “Carry Me”) and he stayed for a couple of songs, taking some of Simon’s musical responsibilities and allowing Simon to field a couple of text messages, the rest of the band jokingly telling him to concentrate. Mark then asked if Simon could have a pint of Carling passed down from the bar as Simon had managed to spill his.

Somewhere amongst the second half we were also treated to “Dirty Davey” and “One Way”, before the band left the stage and were reintroduced to the audience for a second encore of “Another Man’s Cause” (I think) followed by “Just The One”, before ending the evening with the fantastic “Ragtime Annie”. Glorious.

Leaving the venue I looked at the broken watch and it still read 11:50, but on getting back to the car, the time was 11:50. Spooky. You’re probably expecting the watch to start going again now. It didn’t.

Special thanks to Roy and Debbie at tinternetradio.com for getting Drunk In Public to Tamworth.

Freeborn John – Rev Hammer – DVD/CD (released 19 May 2007)

Freeborn John - Rev Hammer

Rev Hammer’s concept for his Freeborn John DVD/CD has been around for a long time.

The original studio CD was finished in 1996 and this DVD package’s literature thanks “Mark Chadwick for an idea in a country garden, July 1994”. However, there are recordings in existence of Rev performing some of the songs on here (“ England’s New Chains” and “ Elizabeth’s Great Gallop”) as early as 1992.

This gives some indication of the amount of love, endeavour and effort that has gone into this project, covering the best part of 15 years. And it shows.

Freeborn John tells the story of John Lilburne, the leader of The Levellers (no not them) in 17th century England , and “the first English Radical”.

This DVD is a recording of the performance that Rev and his fellow musicians performed at the Beautiful Days festival, Escot House, Devon in August 2005. You also get a CD of the live recording as well.

The DVD (and CD) consists of 13 or so tracks, the majority written by Rev with one written by Justin Sullivan of New Model Army which is, I believe, exclusive to this release.

The story starts where it should, at the beginning, and takes you through Lilburne’s life, telling of his run-ins with Prince Rupert, The King and eventually Oliver Cromwell.

The story is told in a sort of Folk-Rock-Opera style with passion and intrigue as each of the performers taking the stage puts in enthusiasm and effort. And what performers there are, including but not restricted to; Rev himself taking the part of John Lilburne, Maddy Prior playing Elizabeth – John’s wife, Justin Sullivan (of New Model Army), Rory McLeod who somehow manages to pull off a great performance as the folk singer (something he has been doing for much of his life) and The English Civil War Society who put in brave performances during the fighting scenes.

I’ve listened to the original CD numerous times and the live CD accompanying this DVD a number of times, but nothing prepares you for the full impact of the DVD presentation. However, you have to pay attention – let yourself get distracted and the impact is lost.

But if you sit there and immerse yourself in the experience of the story, the storytelling and the songs, then you will be moved. Some of the literature in the DVD booklet is included on the DVD to help with the narrative and this works well, filling in the story between the main areas covered by the songs.

This is a DVD that is a required purchase for anyone who was at the Beautiful Days festival in 2005, an historic recording of an historic performance, which could quite easily move the viewer to tears at times (especially during “Seventeen Years of Sorrow” and “Lilburne’s Death Song”) and a document for anyone wishing to learn more about the history of England without the need to resort to a history book.

But for Rev Hammer, nothing like this would ever have seen the light of day as I can think of no other performer around today who could have pulled it off.

Rumour has it that Rev is planning to tour the show next spring (2008). If this rumour turns out to be true, then I wish him luck and can promise here and now that I will be there.

16 June 2006: Levellers – Big Session Festival, Leicester, England, UK

“And these are the days and the ways I’ve known”

This is the second year running that I’ve been to the Oysterband’s Big Session Festival in Leicester. Last year was to see Mark Chadwick and Rev Hammer (with Seth Lakeman on fiddle) on the Friday night and this year I’m back to see the Levellers headline the main stage.

The Big Session Festival is a small-ish festival, run by the Oysterband out of De Montfort Hall in Leicester, and the line up over the weekend included Dan Donnelly, Seth Lakeman and Chumbawumba (acoustic), as well as the Oysterband themselves.

After catching a bit of Nizlopi, while sitting on the grass outside the marquee, I wandered into the main hall at the designated time to be greeted by loads of kids running around having a wail of a time and hardly anyone awaiting the Levellers.

As the time moved on, the hall gradually filled up with a wide selection of people ranging from young children right up to people way past retirement age. This is one of the great things about this type of festival, everyone gets to mix together and experience and enjoy the same music rather than being segregated by venue type.

At about 21:00, the lights went down and (I assume it was) one of the Oysterband came on stage to thank the Levellers for appearing, mention the Levellers own Beautiful Days festival that the Oysterband have appeared at a number of times and set the show going.

The band took to the stage to the sound of the audience whooping and cheering and Mark started off by introducing the band. I’d already noticed that there was a stranger in the midst. Sat on the left of the stage in Simon’s seat was Mr Dan Donnelly. Mark went on to say that Simon was unable to attend due to personal reasons (what these were was not elaborated on, but I hope that all is OK with Mr Friend) and Dan Donnelly was sitting in and helping out. I’ve seen Dan perform before and he is a very good and very competent musician.

The band launched into “Robbie Jones” and we were off, with the crowd quickly warming to the performance.

“The Road” followed and then it really took off for me with “The Lowlands Of Holland”. I love this song, especially when performed live, and it certainly seems to go well every time the Levellers play it.

Mark was keeping up a great rapport with the crowd and seemed to be enjoying himself enormously. “Together All The Way” was next up and despite Dan struggling with the Harmonica parts at times, it seemed to gell together wonderfully. The lovely “Confess” was followed by, the new “Song for Bloke” was next. Written as a tribute to a very dear friend who has passed away, this is a lovely number, but unfortunately the crowd were unfamiliar with it and it seemed to only attract some light applause, which was a shame.

Dan took over the vocals for “The Boatman” and despite being forced to battle against a sound engineer who seemed to refuse to turn his mic up, pulled it off very well and was entitled to the positive reaction of the crowd that greeted the end of the number.

Most of the band left the stage for “Julie”, leaving Mark, Jon and Dan to perform the song. Mark had trouble with his mic this time and the vocals at the start were virtually inaudible, until they were suddenly turned up about a third of the way through, which prompted a massive cheer from the crowd who had been helping out on vocals until that point.

“Four Winds”, as it so often does, seemed to blow the roof off of the venue and at the end a bra was chucked at Mark, who passed it to Charlie on the drums. The Levellers seem to be amassing a vast collection of girl’s underwear over the last couple of years, and it seems to surprise them every time it happens.

During the gig Dan received quite a few visits from his roadie, who kept having to remind him to plug his next instrument in. I guess this is what happens when you take on the roll of a multi-instrumentalist at a moments notice and Dan coped admirably with the situation. Before the start of the next song Dan asked what key it was in and Mark told him immediately that it was in D, Dan misheard and questioned again “E”, and Mark reassured him that it was D, but that it didn’t really matter and that he could play it in E-minor if he wanted. There was then a short discussion between Charlie, Jon, Mark and Matt, before Mark announced to much laughter that it was actually in A.

A storming “What A Beautiful Day” followed, with the crowd forgetting (once again) that there is a break in the middle of the song and applauding during the break. The real and louder cheering happened at the end of the song.

Dan on vocals again for “Men-An-Tor” followed, and his vocals were even better on this one, and then we were launched into “Carry Me” and the floor erupted into what it was designed for, a dance floor. “Burford Stomp” was next, with Mark forgetting the words half way through and seemingly repeating the chorus twice instead. It didn’t make any difference at this point though, as the whole place had gone wild and the dance floor was rocking out.

“Dirty Davey” then brought us up to the end of the set, with the crowd once again forgetting the break in the middle of the song and applauding prematurely. It makes no difference in the end though and the song continues speedily, before the band left the stage to warm and rapturous applause.

After much stomping of feet and yelling, the Levellers reappeared for “Another Man’s Cause”, a slower number to lull us into a false sense of slowness, before the ever-present “One Way” sped us into “The Riverflow”. This was the song that I’d started off the day singing, so it was fitting for me that they should end the show with it tonight. As ever, it was fast and got faster as it went on, but probably didn’t quite reach it’s normal very high tempo, perhaps because Dan was helping out in place of Simon.

All in all, another great show as expected, with Dan Donnelly proving that he’s a very versatile musician as well. I hope that other people who experienced his own set later in the weekend, which unfortunately I was unable to attend, appreciated that as much.

Setlist; Robbie Jones / The Road / The Lowlands Of Holland / Together All The Way / Confess / Song For Bloke / The Boatman (Dan Donnelly vocal) / Julie / Four Winds / What A Beautiful Day / Men-An-Tor (Dan Donnelly vocal) / Carry Me / Burford Stomp / Dirty Davey / [Break] / Another Man’s Cause / One Way / The Riverflow

08 July 2005: Levellers – National Forest Folk Festival, Leicestershire, England, UK

08 July 2005: Levellers - National Forest Folk Festival, Leicestershire, England, UK

Yes, “Your mind can go away”…

But I’ll get back to that later.

So that map said left onto the B5030, off the A511, but was it sign posted? No. Did it say how far along The A511? No. Several miles further and I decided it was about time to turn left even though I still hadn’t seen the right road and I asked a chap on a bike. Directions were acquired and off I went again. Down to the end and turn right, check. And then a little further and turn right. But I’d been going for miles and there were no signs and no sign of the venue, so I slowed down past a pub, and looked round hopefully.

And there, sat outside, enjoying their drinks, were Jon and Mark.

So then I knew I was on the right track and 150 yards further down the road was the car park.

The venue was a fairly large amphitheatre with a fixed, tent like cover over the top of it. You could also sit outside on the grass banks and I settled down to chill out and wait for the Levellers.

This was their first gig since their acclaimed performance on the Jazz stage at the Glastonbury Festival and they were rocking.

The band appeared on stage and appealed for everyone to move forward (and therefore unavoidably crush the line of security people across the front of the stage) as, as Mark put it, “We’re not used to gaps at the front”.

We got “The Game”, “England My Home” and “Make U Happy”, near the start. Simon took over the vocal duties for “For Us All” and was left on his own on stage for “When Love Runs Out Of Time” (which seemed to have an extra bit at the end).

“Last Man Alive” was greeted like an old friend and the crowd stepped up a gear for “Sell Out” and “Together All The Way”.

There were shouts somewhere around this time for “Just The One”, but Mark replied that he’d given up drinking so that was a definite no-no (I don’t believe him, but he alluded to this at Leicester with Rev Hammer as well).

Instead Boaksey appeared with his didgeridoo, in full make up and we were launched into “3 Friends” (which surprised me, because I was expecting “This Garden” for some reason). “3 Friends” was quickly followed by “One Way” and as always the crowd responded again, with the line of security people in front of the stage taking a severe battering from the mosh pit.

“Liberty” was played somewhere in the middle of all this, with Jeremy bouncing up and down with his bass, head back in exultation, as if the world depended on it.

After “Burford Stomp” Mark announced that they’d been going for a speed record, and a think they just about made it, though how they ever play that fast I will never know.

And then, “Riverflow”. Full on speed rush, with the entire crowd singing along.

I can’t remember the order of the tracks in the encores, as I was too busy dancing, but there were definitely at least two encores, and they definitely played “What A Beautiful Day” (“This one’s for the people in Moira, who’ll know this one”), “Battle Of The Beanfield”, and “What You Know”, and there may have been more.

And yes, “Your mind can go away”.

Simon’s in virtual hysterics, Jons struggling not to laugh and I couldn’t see the rest of them at this point. Except Mark, who having forgotten the words to “What You Know” at the “Your mind can go away” bit and then filled for a bit and then sung “That’s it, ‘Yes your mind can go away’” appeared not to know whether to laugh or cry, at one point holding his head in mock despair, and then laughing his head off. Before coming back to the mike for the next verse with a postcard with the words written down on.

People often ask me why I go to see the Levellers so much. All the shows must be the same after a while.

But, there are so many reasons. They are the best live band in the country. They make records that I love. They have songs that can move you to tears. And sometimes they make you laugh, hysterically. To put it simply, they make me happy.

Then they were gone, Jeremy waving at us as he went with a towel on his head.

They played nothing off “Zeitgeist”, nothing off “Mouth to Mouth” (I think, except “What A Beautiful Day”), nothing off “Green Blade Rising” and nothing off “Hello Pig” and we still got two hours of excellent, full on rocking/rolling/punking/folking music, and we all went away very, very happy. Show me a band that can give you a roaring show for two hours and barely touch four of their records and you’ll be pointing at the Levellers.

And I’ve got my December tickets already!

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer – Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer - Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK

It was a glorious summers evening when I arrived at De Montfort Hall to be greeted by the sounds of Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers emerging from the indoor main stage at about 8:00.

I collected my armband and headed off to explore the outside area with a drink in one hand and a programme in the other. There were loads of stalls in the outside area, selling food and the usual festival clothes, plus one selling rather tempting hats.

The real ale marquee was well placed next to the Marquee stage where Mark and Rev were playing and I settled down in the Marquee to await the band.

Mark and Rev arrived, guitars in hand, with their summery outfits topped off with splendid Cowboy hats and as they vanished back stage to prepare the seated (on the grass) crowd was joined by plenty of others congregating at the back.

The compere appeared and announced the next act to the expectant crowd as Abbott and Costello and Mark and Rev appeared and began to argue about which one was which. They went on later to compare themselves to a number of other duos such as Morcambe and Wise (“This is why Morcambe and Wise never used guitars” from Rev).

As they appeared on stage the crowd stood up, only to be told by Rev to “Sit down and relax, this is a folk gig you know”. It was good that everyone sat down and chilled as the view of Mark and Rev seated left to right on the stage would have been un-seeable to anybody past the first row had everyone stood up. For some reason there was a spare seat, all set up with Microphone to the right of Mark. Mark later explained that Jon Sevink (the Levellers extraordinary fiddler and Drunk in Public percussionist) had been expected but according to Mark, “wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £20.00”.

After a bit of problem with the sound levels we were off (Gary the sound man sorted it out after receiving some light hearted abuse from Rev and the crowd). We were treated to (amongst others) “Punch Drunk” and “Ole Welsh Soul” from Rev’s debut album “Industrial Sound and Magic” and “Galahad” from the Levellers “Wild As Angels EP”, together with a storming version of “Julie” and “What A Beautiful Day”.

Mark had trouble with his guitar jack for the majority of the early songs and it all really fell apart during “What A Beautiful Day” as we were asked to sing along to the chorus several times while guitar leads were swapped and re-swapped. It made the song really, with Mark making the verses really slow and attempting to speed it up into a real stomper for the chorus and then being dealt a bad hand by his guitar lead. They both apologised, but there really wasn’t any need.

Mark commented that they were drinking “only water”, and Rev announced that Mark might be, but he was on the Brandy. Medicinal apparently as at times Rev struggled with his vocals in the humid atmosphere of the tent. Mark, despite Rev’s difficulties, still managed to virtually chain smoke his way through the gig.

Mark was leant another guitar by some kind soul and after another couple of numbers, including “One Way” and a haunting version of “Confess” from the Levellers excellent new album “Truth and Lies”, which sounded fantastic with just guitar and vocals, it was announced that Mark and Rev would be joined by an extra special guest.

When the extra special guest arrived, he was announced by Rev as, and then the amplifiers let out a loud noise and I failed to catch who they were. This was a shame because it turned out to be a fiddle player who I got the impression, perhaps wrongly, had been dragged out from his night in front of the telly to play at the last minute. It doesn’t matter really because I cannot praise him enough. The next song was “Together All The Way” which would have been almost impossible without the fiddle. Mark helped him through it, counting him in at all the right places. The track was much slower than normal but the crowds’ appreciation afterwards was immense. They got a standing ovation from everyone, including those sat on the floor.

The fiddler made the last few numbers and the gig really got going with Rev’s “Burford Stomp”. Rev then encouraged everyone to stand for the last number “Down By The River ‘O’”, which went down a storm with the crowd dancing about as if it were there only chance all night.

They left the stage to staggering applause and came back for another quick rendition of “Down By The River ‘O’”, and then left, thanking us as they went, with Rev apologising for the sound problems and thanking us for our patience. He really didn’t need to as everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I left the marquee and, after a quick last look round some of the stalls, I headed back to the car for the journey home. Everyone else headed to the main stage to catch the end of Eddi Reader’s set, but I didn’t want to spoil the memories of a great gig, in a great little tent, in Leicester.

29 May 2004: Off The Tracks Festival – Isley Walton, Castle Donington, England, UK

This is a great festival. It’s only small (especially the spring one), but it makes up for it big time by being just about the best-organised festival you will ever go to. The camp site is spacious, there’s plenty to see and do, the stewards are all friendly and helpful and there’s plenty of reasonably priced beer to be drunk.

This is a review of the Saturday evening events, as due to other commitments and much as I’d have liked to, I couldn’t stay for the rest of it.

The evening started off with a set from Vinny Peculiar, who I unfortunately missed due to being slightly later than expected.

Next up were Derrin Naudendorf and Dave Downing, who performed a set lasting about an hour and a half, with just a basic drum kit, an acoustic guitar, a voice and a hell of a lot of energy. The guitar playing was fantastic, speedy on occasions, neat and very melodic at other times. They mostly played there own material, with a couple of covers and some Dylan numbers thrown in as well.

The crowd seemed entranced and called them back on, appreciatively, for an encore.

Between 21:30 and 22:30, we had a bit of a wait while the Levellers kit was set up on the stage and after much “one, twoing” and an occasional “three, four, five, six” from the sound guys, John Shaw MC appeared on stage to introduce the band that everyone was waiting for, the Levellers.

Before the band came on stage, John Shaw appealed for anyone in the audience with an harmonica to come forward, as Simon had neglected to bring his with him, and promised that Simon would buy them a pint after. Unfortunately, no harmonica was forthcoming and so Simon was ribbed for the entire set for having forgotten it. He passed it off well, by explaining that he’d not actually forgotten it, but had not bought his normal roadie with him, and it just showed how much those guys were worth to a band.

The band appeared on stage in front of an expectant crowd and Mark started by asking if we were all looking forward to the gig. He then told us to “lower your expectations. Lower them down”. He then seemed to have a problem with where to put his cigarette and passed it to a girl at the front, telling her that he wanted it back.

The Levellers then started to play and “The Ballad of Robbie Jones” was the first number. The band seemed to be in very good spirits, with Mark and Simon in particular, getting some banter going with the assembled crowd. After the first song Mark’s microphone stand needed adjusting and he told us that “It’s no use having a floppy thingy” and went on to say “After too many pints of scrumpy, Mr. Floppy comes out”, which was probably too much information.

The band were seated on the stage with Jeremy in the back left hand corner with his bass, Mark telling everyone that “you could have that hairstyle and dress sense, if you drunk that much real ale”, Charlie in the middle at the back, with his “cardboard box for a bass drum” (which, however unlikely it may seem, actually sounds fantastic) and Matt seated at his keyboard on the right, sideways on facing Mark.

Along the front were Simon (who appeared to be praying, at times, to the sound man to turn his banjo up), at the left hand end, Jon, on fiddle, in the middle, and Mark at the right, alongside Matt’s keyboard.

Each of the early numbers was interspersed with some chat with the crowd, Mark announcing a “snog a Leveller” competition, and the first Leveller up for it would be Jez, “He’ll chase you. He’s slow, but he’ll get you in the end” and asking where the bloke who’d been dancing all day was, and then spotting him in the middle and saying “give him room, he’s been dancing all day to everything”.

The early part of the set was made up of “Another Man’s Cause”, “Burn”, “Galahad”, “Julie”, an excellent “Men-An-Tol”, the fantastic “Lowlands of Holland” and “The Boatman”, Simon saying before they started it that “I wrote this while living in Kilburn”, which raised a cheer.

Somewhere during this lot Jeremy announced quietly to the band that he was very drunk, and Mark told everyone that he was fuelled by Barley Wine. Jez did look slightly the worse for wear and at one point early in the proceedings seemed to get caught up in his dreadlocks and spent an age rearranging them, tied up on top of his head, while attempting to keep his balance on his stool and play the bass.

Mark introduced “Not in My Name”, by asking “Does anyone know who Nick Harper is? Has he played here” (next year Nick?) and, on getting a positive response, saying humorously “We wrote this with him. He wrote the shit bits”. The song itself is a worthwhile addition to the Levellers ever growing archive of material, and was played beautifully, with Mark saying at the end, “You know that shit bit at the end where Charlie went wrong? Nick wrote that” and we all laughed.

During another pause Mark, who was in excellent form asked the crowd “Has Rev (Hammer) played here?” and then went on to joke “Don’t book him, he’s shit. In fact, get up a petition to stop him playing”.

Simons punishment for forgetting his harmonica was to have to play the Bazooka for one number and then, after that track (“Carry Me”) Mark announced that for the next song Simon would be playing the Chilean Anal Flute!

The second half of the set consisted of the speedier numbers such as “Four winds” (gets better every time I hear it), “Is this Art”, “Beautiful Day” (Mark forgetting some of the words), “Burford Stomp”, “Riverflow” (Mark – “this’ll get you chair dancing”) and “Dirty Davey”, which I think was the last one before the band left the stage, Matt having disappeared from the stage for the last few songs.

John Shaw and the entire audience persuaded the Levellers to come back for an encore and we were treated to “One Way” (with the special treat of a Jeremy Bass solo in the middle, and Mark saying, “you’ll never hear that again, I hope”), a speedy “Just the One” and finally the curtain closer, the excellent “Wake the World”, with Mark lighting his traditional cigarette, Jeremy’s bass line and Matt’s keyboard keeping perfect time and Johns fiddle and Marks vocal making the song perfect.

Another fine set from the Levellers to top off a superb 7th Off The Tracks Spring Festival. Long may they continue.

07 February 2004: Levellers + friends – The Opera House, Buxton, England, UK

07 February 2004: Levellers + friends - The Opera House, Buxton, England, UK

What a great venue. The Levellers, acoustic and live at the Buxton Opera House, with friends. It started with “The Ballad of Robbie Jones”, the Levellers sat ranged across the stage from left to right, Simon, Jon, Mark, Matt (complete with keyboard and Grand Piano) and then, at the back, Charlie and his drum kit, and a restrained and seated Jeremy (not jumping around manically tonight).

Next was an excellent “Carry Me” and then “Is This Art”. The band sounded awesome, no other word for it. Mark then said, “Hope you are enjoying this, because this is what you’ve got for the next four hours.” And then went on to ask everybody at the front to sit down, because he couldn’t see anybody. They didn’t.

“61 Minutes Of Pleading” was next up, Marks voice straining with the lack of a cigarette in this no smoking venue, and then announcing “Look, it’s only water I’ve got tonight”, but if you looked closely Jon had a pint of Guinness next to his chair.

An excellent “Lowlands of Holland” was greeted with fantastic applause, Matt looking the part on the Grand Piano, and then we were into “Edge of the World”, after which the band left the stage, at least all but Simon did. Simon announced that he was going to sing a new song (which I think was called “Prisoner”, but may not have been). This was great, the crowd listening to every chord and every lyric.

Simon was then joined on stage by the first of the special guests. This was Maddy Prior, one time (and apparently now rejoined) member of Steeleye Span. Maddy and Simon then sang “Cavalier” from Rev Hammers 1997 “Freeborn John” project. The rest of the band then reappeared on stage and Mark announced that Maddy would be singing “Julie” next, but that it was going to be in a different key. The song sounded fantastic with a female vocal, although a lot of it was drowned out by the crowd joining in, in the wrong key, Maddy struggling at times to be heard. She looked like she enjoyed it though, and we certainly did.

Next was the ever favourite “Another Man’s Cause” and then the excellent “Galahad”, one of the B-sides of the “Wild As Angels EP”.

Somewhere during the breaks between the songs above, someone enthusiastically shouted for “Julie” and Mark asked the band members if anyone knew anyone called Julie. Quite funny at the time, but I suppose you had to be there.

“The Road” was next, and then we were introduced to the next guest. This turned out to be Nick Burbridge, founder member of McDermott’s Two Hours. Nick wandered onto the stage, and the band launched into “The Boatman”, Nick adding another dimension to an already excellent song. Nick then did a little solo poem to the tune of “In an English Country Garden”, which went something like this;

“How Many Bastards Make Their Buck, In An English Country Garden, I’ll Tell You Now Of Some That I know, And Those I Miss You’ll Surely Pardon, Politicians And Industrialists, Bankers, Bent Scientists, Chief Constables, Generals, All Their Gentry And Their Brats, We’ll Dance On The Wall When The Bastards, Fall In An English Country Garden.”

Then we were treated to The Levellers playing “Dirty Davey” with the author of the song on lead vocals. It sounded brilliant. Nick then left the stage, but this was not the last I was to see of him, as at Breakfast, in the excellent little hotel we were staying at (The Westminster Hotel), the next morning, was one Mr Nick Burbridge and family, looking all relaxed and a bit tired, but happy. Hope you had a safe journey back to Brighton Nick!

Mark now said that they were going to take a break and then come back for the second half and we dashed off to get some drinks.

During the break, the bouncers moved in to try and stop some peeps from smoking and evicted one chap for arguing. He wasn’t best pleased, but there you go.

The band returned to the stage and Mark implored everyone not to smoke and to sit down, because, he said, they wanted to play more of this type of venue in the future. This stopped people smoking (for a bit at least) but nobody seemed to sit down. He also informed us that there was four foot of snow outside and we were trapped in the building with the Levellers. If only.

The second half started with the, by now crowd favourite, “Four Winds” and then “Men and Tol”, with Simon on vocal, after which the Levellers were joined by Rev Hammer, sporting a Stetson and a big smile. The band launched into Rev’s “Caledonia Rain”, followed by an excellent “Old Welsh Soul” and “Punchdrunk”. All good stuff!

Mr Nick Harper then joined the band and Rev on stage to do the lead vocal on “Hope Street”. I was quite impressed with this, as having seen Nick before, I’d been left wondering what all the fuss was about. I thought he pulled “Hope Street” off really well and certainly didn’t disappoint. “Hope Street” was followed by “Not in My Name” (with Nick still onstage), a song that I am not too familiar with, but which was still very enjoyable.

Somewhere in the middle of all this someone shouted something from down the front and Mark and Simon got up, hoisted them up by what looked like the neck and shoved them into the hands of a bouncer. Don’t know what that was all about, but they were both out of their seats pretty quickly.

We were by now starting to get towards the end of the evening and were treated, in the run up to the encore, to “What A Beautiful Day”, the drinking song “Just the One” and then the band sped it up for Rev’s “Burford Stomp” (at which point the crowd went wild) and then ended on “Riverflow”. Phew!

I missed some of “One Way” as I was helping one of the camera men filming the gig to change his tape (which he couldn’t see whether had run out or not), but it sounded as good as ever, and was followed by the excellent “Down by the River ‘O'”, Rev, Mark and the rest of the band giving it everything. Towards the end of the song they slowed it down and Mark sang “and I was born by the River”, and then looked at Rev, who was giving him a “What are you doing?” kind of look, and sang back “and so was I” at which point they both cracked up laughing and sped the song up again to the finish. Just shows how much they were enjoying themselves. A very drunk looking chap in a snorkel coat got onto the stage and looked like he was having a great time dancing during “Down by the River ‘O'”, but he didn’t last long before he was bounced towards the back door.

Encore two was the classic ending of “Wake the World”, Mark looking a little lost without his customary cigarette, but still giving it everything and everyone in the house was singing along. A perfect ending.

The band then left the stage to a standing ovation, which was all they deserved. Charlie standing on his drum riser, waving away, Jon bowing and Jeremy jumping up and down behind Mark (I couldn’t see Matt at this point).

It wasn’t four hours, but it wasn’t far off and I certainly haven’t any complaints and would be there again tomorrow, given half a chance. An excellent gig from an excellent band, with great friends! And it was sold out!

We all left the venue to try and stand up in about two inches of gradually melting snow. We weren’t trapped after all. Dam!

Full set list:

1st half:

The Ballad of Robbie Jones / Carry Me / Is This Art / 61 Minutes of Pleading / The Lowlands of Holland / Edge of the World / Prisoner (Simon solo) / Cavalier (Simon and Maddy Prior) / Julie (Full band with Maddy Prior vocal) / Another Mans Cause / Galahad / The Road / The Boatman ( with Nick Burbridge) / Nick’s Poem / Dirty Davey (Vocal Nick Burbridge)

2nd half:

Four Winds / Men and Tol / Caledonian Rain (for this and all the remaining songs the Levellers were joined by Rev Hammer) / Old Welsh Soul / Punchdrunk / Hope Street (Nick Harper vocal) / Not in my name / What a Beautiful day / Just The One Burford Stomp / Riverflow

Encore 1:

One way / Down by the River ‘O’

Encore 2:

Wake the world

07 July 2001: Drunk In Public – The Flowerpot, Derby, England, UK

07 July 2001: Drunk In Public - The Flowerpot, Derby, England, UK

Years ago (when i was young) you used to be able to go and see your favourite band in a very small venue and have an excellent time for very little money. Drunk in public were that band. Or at least the levellers were and thankfully some of them recreate those long ago nights by touring occasionally as drunk in public. This appears to be something of a summer holiday for them and everyone ends up very drunk and (not necessarily due to the alcohol), a great time is had by all.

Drunk in public are mark leveller, rev hammer, simon leveller and jon leveller (at least that’s what they called themselves on rev’s classic album “industrial sound & magic”). The show consisted of a very small stage, in a very small room, with 4 stools on it. Sometime in the evening the band appeared and launched into a load of old and new levellers numbers, mixed in with some classic rev hammer tunes. Sometimes mark sang, sometimes simon sang and sometimes rev took charge. At half time they had a short break of about fifteen minutes and they came back to much applause to continue the show.

On a night like this, i find it impossible to remember what songs they played and in what order. Suffice to say that any set which contains “cardboard box city”, “social insecurity”, “down by the river ‘o'”, “the ballad of robbie jones”, “dirty davey”, “punchdrunk”, “is this art?”, “far from home” and “one way” is going to be a fantastic night out. This it proved to be.

This was an absolute classic of a gig and an experience i thought i would never appreciate again, after the levellers “made it big” (anybody remember the derby dial acoustic gig when jeremy had a broken arm and the bus broke down!)).

Thanks guys, and please keep coming back.