A.J. Walker

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My Return to the Sofar

My Return to the Sofar (and Another Fine Return)

I last went to a Sofar gig in September in a place called Slate. It featured the excellent Heavy North who have subsequently gone on to release a really rather wicked album. Get on it. But last week I got a ticket for my second event. For those that don't know the deal, the ticket is for £10 and you don't find out the location (other than the city) until 36 hours before – and you don't know who is playing until they get up on the stage (or their name is on their kit!).

Last week the venue was
One Fine Day on Old Hall Street. The venue itself is not currently permanently open, but is used for individual events and weddings etc. I'd never been to there before and it proved to be a nice place with good acoustics. It was really busy with not a seat left as far as I could see and I ended up sat at the front. I moved along to help a couple of later comers get nearer and sit together – and therefore I ended up in a nice padded seat instead of a plastic one. Win win.IMG_2860

The three acts of the night were all fab. Loved the local singer songwriter
Eleanor Nelly's stories and attitude – and her songs and singing was excellent. Taylor the Chapter, who wants to never be known as Gary, was solid. And finally the main act were a Wigan four piece called Stanleys. They looked so young to me, but so does everyone these days. There songs and assuredness were great. I've already spent some time listening to them on Spotify. They could definitely go on to be pretty successful if this performace was anything to go by. I believe they have already supported the Lathums, which is pretty impressive.

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The Stanleys played five songs:

'What's Been and Gone'
'Why Would I?'
'A Better Life'
'Look Back'
'Maybe'


Check them out on
Spotify, or better still get on down to see them when they're next playing near you.

The following day was the return of the Open Mic hosted by John Witherspoon. The
Belvedere pub had snaffled the gentleman and given him the opportunity to host the event following the recent demise of the Keystone. It was held in the upstairs room on the left. Despite the announcement on just being made earlier in the week the news had spread very well amongst all the regulars from just that short distance down the road.

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The beer was on.

Great to see so many turn up. It became a most memorable night when the entire area around this part of Liverpool was plunged into a power cut and the playing continued without the PA and under candle light. Moody stuff.

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The lights were on…

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… the lights were off.
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A Poignant Affair

Another Strange Thursday

After a strange night last Thursday and the a good, strange one last week it was time for another strange Thursday–and this one a very sad and poignant want. At the start of the week there came an announcement that had been mooted for a short while that the Keystone was to close down. The home of my almost weekly open mic nights out. Closing. Bloody hell. And although the announcement was only made on Tuesday it was not a 'heads up' it'll happen eventually, it was a 'it's closing this very week.' Bloody awful.

Really feel for all the great staff who are having to look to ply their trade elsewhere. Thankfully it appears that, at least some of them, have quickly found some work in other Liverpool city centre pubs and (at least one) in a new brewery tap–and another returning to another field that she hasn't worked in for a while. Sometimes an end is an opportunity. Good luck to them all of course.

Personally to me it is a sorry shame to lose one of my favourite pubs of the last year. Last year it burst onto the scene due to its great garden, when so many pubs in the city don't have them. It allowed them to open up when most pubs couldn't. I had many a nice afternoon and evening there either reading, or writing, or just chatting with the staff and the regulars (and sometimes very irregulars). I did my best to introduce it to friends and drinkers, whilst hoping it wouldn't become too popular with the wrong regulars. Then in November the open mic was started, hosted by John Witherspoon, and that quickly became one of the first things in my weekly diary (along with European footy nights in the Head of Steam or the Fly).

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I hadn't been playing my guitar that much in the last year. The whole MS thing was worrying earlier in the year when I couldn't even feel my fingers and wondered at one stage whether I'd ever pick up a guitar again. To go from hardly playing at all to playing in front of people at least twice a month was brilliant.


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With the demise of the venue I dare say I'll look into playing in other places. But I am certainly going to miss John and the regulars (and irregulars) who played at the Keystone. This last open mic I had plenty of songs to choose from. I thankfully didn't have to follow Ian Prowse again. I played three of my most regular songs: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina', 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' and 'Whiskey in my Whiskey.' I played the latter one for Ben who had requested it the previous week. He was deep in loud conversation with Si and didn't even notice I'd played–let alone notice I'd played his request (albeit a week late).

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There were lots of chatting with the staff and regulars who were all pretty surprised and depressed about the news. But I was glad I made the effort to go–even though I had to leave early as I was working the next day. Ho hum.

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My last strum through a C-F-G ditty for a while I dare say.

Onwards and Upwards.

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