I will be supporting Supine Orchestra at Esquires in Coventry on 26 March 2011 - starts at 7pm
A rainy night in the city they send you to when they stop talking to you, and the place I grew up. Coventry is always on my mind and on the back of a weekend seeing family, I tracked down an open mic at The Tin Angel on Sunday night.
Spinning round the 1960s ring round I weave in and out of cars weaving in and out of me in a completely chaotic fashion. How we don't crash into each other is all down to timing and the excellence of the human mind, but it would only take the slightest of misjudgments to end up wrapped round a lampost. I park up beneath a high rise and head down some steps, where moments earlier I'd seen two figures in the gloomy night disappearing with guitars.
Having searched the internet for open mics in Coventry, the results kept telling me of The Tin Angel in Spon Street. A Kashmir night that promised to welcome all comers and all instruments. It sounded just the job, but at the last minute I discovered The Tin Angel had been closed, something to do with a dodgy landlord and a change of locks. The open mic had been relocated to Taylor John’s House in the coal vaults of the canal basin.
As a kid I used to come to the canal basin to do canoeing. It was a rough and ready place back then, overgrown with a small community of hippy barge dwellers who had given up their houses for a simpler way of life. Now the area had been the subject of urban improvement and there were no longer any canal barges to be seen. The run down buildings were now upmarket offices and businesses.
It took me a while to find Taylor John’s House, disguised behind patchwork arches that once stored coal for an industrial revolution. Inside, a small gathering of musicians were sitting in the comfy chairs around a couple of microphone stands. There was a conversation about car crashes and I reckon they must be talking about that ring road I just drove in on.
After I’d got a drink, I was surprised to be charged a £1 entrance fee. In all my travels to over 40 different open mics this is the first time I’ve ever had to pay to play, and although a quid isn't much in the great scheme of things, it seemed a bit mean. In Leeds and Bristol there were free drinks for playing, in Oxford you got a free MP3 of your set, in Lancashire I’d even got a free meal, in Manchester they put you on the local radio, but in Coventry you get to pay. I love my home town!
The host for the night is Mason and he kicks off the event with some original songs. The songs have a reference point somewhere in the iconic 60's, but with a contemporary feel and slightly Bowie-ish. I follow Mason with the beat poetry, but unfortunately the major kaoss doesn't like the PA or vica versa, so I have to get by with the hand held version. It works well, but the full set up would have been better. A gravel voiced blues guitarist is up next and is well received, then two young female singers sing some ballads. Throughout their songs a guy plays along on a cajon at the other end of the bar, and it makes for a party atmosphere.
More musicians arrive and I get talking to Rich and Joel who collectively are Supine Orchestra. They liked what I was doing with the kaoss poet. I gave them a copy of my lyric book and they gave me two of their Cd's in return. This is what open mics are about, meeting different people and finding out about their music.
Unfortunately I didn't get to see Supine Orchestra play as I had to leave before they took to the stage. But I listened to their Cd's all the way back to Yorkshire the following day and was struck by the depth of the music and the lyrics. Country and folk influenced songs and some great stories, such as:
'Rodriguez and me, breaking into factories, stuck in the air vent when the alarm went, hanging by the thread of my jeans' (Rodriguez and me) - that one made me chuckle
'Round the back of the bottle bank where the seagulls fought me for my soul' (Feverish Dreams)
A lot of thought had gone into the lyrics and you can check out Supine Orchestra on their myspace:
There's a good crowd at Taylor John’s House and a decent welcome. And judging by the quality of the music there is still some great song smithing going on in the old home town.