We should really plan to set off earlier when travelling on Manchester's slower than slow buses, but today we have not, and arrive at the venue just behind the Manchester Museum in the University as Ella Edmondson plays her last song, the catchy 'Hold Your Horses'. Shame really, as this folk starlet is really starting to shine. Beautiful voice and excellent solo guitar skills if you ever get the chance to see her make the effort, she's worth it.
Now it's her dad's turn with his bunch of merry men. If you are expecting a comedy music night you will be disappointed; The Bad Shepherds are all about top quality musicianship and providing punk music in a folk wrapper, although the odd comic banter slips in there too. Ade Edmondson has his impressive mandolin skills topped of with Troy Donokley on a host of other instruments (uillean pipes, cittern, whistles) and the quiet member who has mind-blowing fiddle playing power; Andy Dinan.
Tonight we get to listen to tracks from the new album 'By Hook Or By Crook'. Staying with the punk vein these are more talented folk arrangements of well known punk songs trying to guess the song for the first time by listening to the Celtic introductions is at most times impossible; signalling they have done a good job at 'covering' these well known songs.
The first album has covers from The Jam ('Down In The Tube Station At Midnight'), Squeeze ('Up The Junction'), and PiL ('Rise'), and this album continues the change with more from the Sex Pistols ('Anarchy In The UK') and The Clash ('White Riot') plus The Specials ('Friday Night, Saturday Morning'), The Smiths ('Panic') and a Ramones Medley featuring 'Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue' and 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. My favourite was the cover of Motorhead's 'Ace Of Spades', which even when the lyrics came in and you recognise them, had to wait for the chorus before I could tell what song it was. Not just a gig, tonight is a guessing game too!
There are the odd comedy moments, mainly from Edmondson, like stating that it's like "being a dad" when he has to lend Donokley his mandolin, which he "untunes". Apparently Dinan is not as old as he looks; while Edmondson was studying at this very university in the 70's listening to these very songs Dinan was "listening to Maria Mckee!". We hear the story of a hippy (back in the birth of punk) that walked into a long since closed down Manchester pub hosting a punk night, where he pogoed for one song, losing his protractor and pens from his pocket, only for them to finish and he walk out shaking his head! You can see the Young Ones characters staring to form here.
Upon watching these guys it is hard to see why this has not been done before yes there are bands like Me First and The Gimme Gimmes who cover classic folk and rock songs in a punk way, but not the other way around to this high level. To be honest, I love punk, its simplicity, how it gets its point across, same as folk really with the number of chords, but for once it's nice to know what is said in the lyrics!
Towards the end of the set, the guys play a folk medley and as this is a seated venue, (many people have already started dancing on the small balcony) people start to get up and dance at the side of the stage, much to the band's amusement. They then get a standing ovation, which they appear to love too (they normally play rock venues or festivals, so to have a seated venue like this and this response must be great). And coming out to sign your CDs afterwards is always the sign of a grateful band. This punk turned folk idea is great and well performed, and only the most recognisable punk on TV, Vyyyvan Barsterd with the help of some of the country's finest folk musicians could pull it off. I can't wait for the third album!
Anarchy In The UK (Sex Pistols)
I Fought The Law (The Clash)
No More Heroes (The Stranglers)
Panic (The Smiths)
Whole Wide World (Eric Goulden)
The Model (Kraftwerk)
Up The Junction (Squeeze)
Ace Of Spades (Motorhead)
Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue / Blitzkrieg Bop Medley (Ramones)
Down At The Tube Station At Midnight (The Jam)
Sound Of The Suburbs (The Members)
Friday Night, Saturday Morning (The Specials)
London Calling (The Clash
) Making Plans For Nigel (XTC)
Once In A Lifetime (Talking Heads)
Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!
White Riot (The Clash)