Ropetackle Arts Centre Shoreham-by-Sea
On Tuesday a friend and I went to see Blazin'Fiddles at the Ropetackle, as it seems to be known locally. A round trip of over hundred miles, I would normally only travel this far for something with flutes/pipes or a grinding bass line, none of which the Blazers possess. But it was a Tuesday, I'd handed my last assignment in for the year at university, and my friend was keen, so off we went.
The Ropetackle was full. Two hundred people, mostly middle aged and older, sitting in closely packed rows, all enjoying themselves but hardly a whoop, a holler or a whistle. As for hand clapping, that was mostly saved for applause at the end of tunes. I don't get the difference, in audience terms, between the North and the South. How comes no one stands up, dances, stamps their feet? Are Southerners to afraid to show their feelings? And how does that make the band feel? Can they feed off a quiet, seated docile audience in the same way they do the heaving masses of Celtic Connections Festival Club at three in the morning?If you have any answers, please let me know.
Anyhow it didn't seem to stop the band having a good time. Anna Massie's banter with everyone, Angus Lyon (who is surprisingly very tall!) grinning at the band, and the four fiddlers- Bruce, Iain, Jenna and Allan telling tales, jokes and fast frenzied fiddle playing. I've seen the band several times before (including the afore mentioned Festival Club gig) but I don't remember ever seeing them taking it in turns to showcase their different fiddling styles. Hey, to be honest, I wouldn't even know what the different styles were! Is that bad? I can tell the difference between Dezi Donelly and JohnMcCusker, but that's about it...
Anyway, it was fascinating , and they were bloody good. Bruce's 'Simon Fraser' tune was beautiful. Just hauntingly achingly beautiful. Eyes closed and away with the fairies somewhere between Inverness and Mallaig. Jenna Reid was classy, elegant and almost classical sounding. Iain's tunes were fast paced and rousing. I've never seen a fiddle player move like him! And Allan? Well he was taking no chances with my heightist, kinaesthetic critique, choosing to remain seated for his 'turn'.
And so it ended. A few fast sets, an encore where Bruce's glasses fell off his nose (again) and we were off across the bridge home, now able to tell the difference in fiddle styles and with the knowledge that you can enjoy a night out even without pipes/flute or bass!
Blazin'Fiddles are still on tour- dates here
Bruce McGregor organises Northern Roots, free camping and lovely scenery too! http://www.northernrootsfestival.co.uk/