There were just a few at first. As the clock ticked and tocked towards 2pm the gentle trickle became a bit of a flood and pretty soon there were hundreds of happy Shufflers sitting on the grass chilling out to the very first Bearwood Shuffle.
(Missed the back story to all this? Here’s a (very) brief potted history. Group of Bearwoodians reckon there should be more live music in Bearwood. Group meets in pubs and bars. Quite a bit. Not a lot happens. Group has a bit of a rethink. Group decides to put on a free afternoon of music in an old, long neglected bandstand in Lightwoods Park. Working on a bit of a shoestring budget group assembles all the kit, fills in all the forms, books all the bands (7 in total...7...ambitious eh?) and does the whole promotions thing. Restoring the group’s faith in human nature around 500 people turn up to watch. Blimey. Slightly sweatier group returns to bar to plan the next one).
With a mysterious yellow orb in the sky (it’s called ‘the sun’ apparently) the very first Bearwood Shuffle kicked off with the lovely Esther Turner’s spirited cover of Gloria Jones’/Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Despite having her guitar run over just a hour or so before the event (relax, it was in a case, the guitar’s fine...the case might need some minor surgery though) Esther powered through a crowd pleasing set of covers (a bit of Pink, a slice of Perry, a light dusting of Lavigne) culminating in a fine version of Joan Osbourne’s What If God Was One Of Us? Actually God was there. Saw him sitting on the grass sipping a cheeky Shiraz. True story.
Next up Boomshadow who rocked up in a variety of outfits including Darth Vader (on the Flying V) and recruited their kids into the band for the day, winning the very first Bearwood Shuffle “Awww Bless ‘em” award. After rocking up they well and truly rocked out, blazing through a half dozen or so self penned tracks before hitting The Cure (not literally, although that would explain Bob Smith’s look these days) and unveiling their rather fine version of A Forest. Tree-mendous.
Rising singer songwriter Alex Lanyon got the crowd singing along (not easy on a mellow Sunday afternoon) in the extravagantly titled (deep breath here) If Talking Is Acting Thank God No One’s Yelled Cut. There’s always a moment when a performer tries to get an audience involved when it could all go a bit wrong. It’s a measure of Alex’s talent and bloomin’ lovely personality that a few hundred people happily sang back at him when he tried it.
Two double acts next. Gaz and Chaz then Kim and Joe. Git it? Good. Gaz and Chaz’s twin guitar powered acoustic rock created a neat wall of sound that added an extra layer of oomph (that’s a technical tem by the way) to their set of impressive original tracks. Kim and Joe (can't find a link for them)took things in a more soulful direction. Never seen Kim before, but boy can she sing. Kicking off with a soulful rendition of Summertime she went on to nail Feeling Good, Cohen’s classic Hallelujah, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and a fun rattle through Hey Ya! Powerful vocals are all well and good but it’s control that really matters and Kim seems to have a knack for knowing just when to take the foot off the gas.
Right, a real treat next, ChickenBone John. I’ve not known this dude for long but he’s got me yearning to take up the guitar. Not just any old guitar mind you, one of his magical creations. You see Ol’ ChickenBone makes guitars out of anything. Seriously. Today he bought along one crafted from an oil can, “The tuning’s difficult but you get fantastic mileage out of it” he quipped and another made from a cigar box. It seems there’s a whole ‘Cigar Box Guitar’ scene out there, men in sheds crafting guitars from all kinds of crazy stuff. A toilet seat’s the best one I’ve heard of. Song wise he (and his double bassist Ken) gave us a bit of Booker White’s Jitterbug Swing, some Eric Bibb (Long Vacation) and John Lee Hooker’s classic Boom Boom before launching into an oil can guitar (naturally) powered Route 66. The man’s a legend. “Bearwood’s answer to Seasick Steve”. Go see him at Boxstock 2011, a cigar box guitar festival featuring some the genre’s biggest international names at The Public, West Brom, 1st October and you’ll see what I mean. In the meantime here's a video of him playing around with some African Highlife sounds...
Unexpected guest time. Earlier in the afternoon we’d been approached by a heavily tattooed Rastafarian dude who asked if he could play. Why the hell not eh? So we slotted him in after ChickenBone for a few numbers. Smart move. He was damn good...Kumari I think his name was (apologies if I’ve got this wrong...leave a comment and I’ll amend it if I have). Bringing the same kind of good time vibe as prime time Michael Ferranti his trio of tracks left the crowd gagging for more. On the final one of these he was joined by a couple of dudes from the nearby skate park who’d worked on a song together that afternoon and performed it live for the first time at the Shuffle. Impressive stuff.
Finally, as the sun peeped out from behind the clouds again, Gucci Pimp closed the whole thing in fine style, kicking off with Right Now before powering through one rifftastic track after another. There’s a distinct garage rawness to the Pimp sound together with a bit of a late 60’s psych rock flavour. They put their heart and soul into the performance too, wringing every bit of energy out of an album’s worth of self penned songs.
So that’s it. Bearwood Shuffle # 1 done. All we had to do was clear up and push the chemical toilets back where they belonged (not as pleasant a job as you might imagine) and we could all retreat for a well earned pint or two. Huge thanks again to all the performers who played on the day and everyone who turned up to watch. We’re doing it all again on September 18th!
PS: Picture from Bob Piper