A.J. Walker

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Muppets Forever

The chest infection is lingering on but isn't as bad as it was. And I managed last week to cycle to work, to actually work – and to do two open mics again. I played at the open mic at the Dispensary on Monday night. It was a good crowd again playing. Andy they had more beer choices this week too, which was nice to see (after they only had two ales on last week). Later on in the week I played at the Belvedere for the first time in ages at John Witherspoon's night.

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Dispensary Open Mic

Played four songs on Monday and three on Thursday. Not bad eh? Trying not to start off automatically with 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and actually going for one of either 'Couldn't Get Arrested' 'Whiskey in my Whiskey' and 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn'.

On the Monday I met a local who'd returned to Liverpool after living in Aus and was just getting back into the place. It'll be like he's never been away in no time. He played his three songs and I chatted to him about other venues with open mics. I recommended the Belvedere on Thursday – and yes he did go and play there too. I'm an influencer!

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Barry, brilliant as ever

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Great to see John play again. It'd been a while.

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There were a few people in the small room. Cosy!

Lots of regulars there all on top form – and someone's grandmother (who'll remain nameless) was enjoying the evening with a great deal of toe-tapping and she even regaled us with a couple of songs
sans guitar.

Bit mad to hear a fair few people singing along with
Couldn't Get Arrested and Whiskey in my Whiskey in the Belvedere. It felt like I had a chorus being sung like the muppets on Fraggle Rock. But it was nice though.

Not sure whether I'll get to any open mics next week. If I do it'll probably just be the Dispensary one as I am going to a Sofar gig on Thursday (I do wish autocorrect would stop changing that to Solar gig). Of course that is assuming music is still on in the middle of this week of random mourning (you can play cricket or rugby, but not football?).

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Me, looking like an old overweight white bluesman. It's just the shirt I tell ya!

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John, the host with most.

Thank you everyone, including the muppets!


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Wheezy & Dizzy Again

Have had a wee chest infection for a few weeks. So much so that I even went to see the GP in case it was something more serious. Thankfully it seems like it is just that. Can't wait for it to clear up fully though. Its made singing some songs very difficult, indeed impossible, as I've not been able to fill my lungs enough with breath! Some songs though survived this breathless cull.

I've previously gone to watch some open mics recently without singing as I knew I would fail miserably. Collapsing in a heap in a high pitch wheeze is not a look I want to aim for. Yesterday though I managed to clear my lungs enough to sing any of my usual songs – and I did. I went along to the Dispensary again (think for the fifth time?) to play. It was run once more by Muzz and I was pleased to see Ollie and Guy there. They usually play at the Monday Night Club at the Cavern, but it was cancelled this week allowing them to come along for their first time.

In the end I think there were seven people who played. And most got up twice. I ended up playing two lots of three songs:

'Down By The Water' - Decemberists
'Oh My Sweet Carolina' -
Ryan Adams
'Whiskey In My Whiskey' -
Felice Brothers
'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' -
Chuck Prophet
'You Couldn't Get Arrested' -
Green on Red
'Somewhere Down the Road' -
Chuck Prophet

It being a Bank Holiday the event finished a bit earlier than usual (before 10). So after getting my free pint of White Rat for playing, I had one more then got of and had a final drink in the Sanctuary before heading home. I had an early start on Tuesday to look forward to for a real ale visit to Sheffield. More of that later…

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Still a bit chesty and I think I'll give the antibiotics a go (I was prescribed them by the GP in case it hung around for any longer). Of course it's as likely to be viral as biological but worth a spin of the wheel I suppose if it gets rid of my 'smoker's cough' for non-smokers.
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Little Changes

Done a few open mics at the Dispensary now, hosted by either of the Seafoam Green duo (Dave & Muzz). Last week it went pretty well and I felt I sounded better than usual - ie not forgetting too many words or messing up chord changes. But I am aware that I have kept doing the same three or four songs (last week's songs were: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams, 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' - Chuck Prophet, 'Couldn't Get Arrested' - Green on Red, and 'Whisky In My Whiskey' - Felice Brothers). The next time I play I intend to not play any of these as I should try to mix it up and stretch myself a bit.

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Currently thinking next time I'll go for '
Down By the Water' - Decemberists, 'Somewhere Down The Road' - Chuck Prophet, 'Splendid Isolation' - Warren Zevon, and maybe 'One I Love' - REM. We shall see. I dare say that I'll end up playing one or two of the usual instead. I'll let you know!

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Ripping it up at the Dizz.- well maybe just playing a C.


And in the coming weeks I intend to learn some new songs and get them out there. Before maybe playing with my own words (alongside the usual C, G, Am and F chords no doubt). Again, watch this space.
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That's A First; Could Be A Last

That's A First; Could Be The Last
– A Story with Two Sebastians –


The footy season is indeed over, but last week saw a full on fixture pile up of my own. In a stunningly unusual week of performances I ended up playing three open mics in a week. Three! One or fewer is the norm. Last week started with my first visit to the Dispensary on Renshaw Street on Monday for the mic. I'd never seen it so didn't know what to expect in terms of its set up or who usually attended it. It was advertised as starting at 7pm, which seems an hour or so early – but it is what it is. I ended up heading down for about 8:30, I'd been at work in the day but was off the next day so the finishing time was neither here nor there. The mic stand and speaker was up the steps at the rear of the pub. There was no-one there at the time, but there was a guitar in the window resting. There were a few people sat up top (and a couple more down the stairs) and it wasn't clear who was running the night. At 8:30 it seemed early, but to be fair whoever had been playing could have been playing for an hour and half by that time – so a fag break or a quick stroll around the park would not have been too outlandish. I thought perhaps a fag break. No one moved towards the mic until I'd almost finished my pint, when a woman who'd been sat with some friends at the back came across to pick up the guitar.

The hostess turned out to be the singer, Muireann, from the excellent local band, Seafoam Green. It transpired that she was filling in for the guitarist from Seafood. She played a few songs whilst calling out for anyone who fancied giving it a go. I volunteered and two students (well, just graduated) cheered me on despite my declaration I was not
all that. It seemed a change was as good as a rest to them. And so I went up and played. It was a long set for me - SIX songs. That just about depletes and stretches my memory to destruction.

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Sebastian Blake

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Sebastian, Muireann and a guest slot from the dancing student (Bez, eat your heart out)


I played everything surprisingly unstressed and without many errors – which for me is a rarity. It seemed to go down pretty well. By the time I came off the mic a songwriter & guitarist who was passing through Liverpool from Leeds had arrived on the scene. He was next up. And he was brilliant. His name was Sebastian Blake and you can find him easily on Instagram. He put on a great show with his songs and was a thoroughly nice guy. Muireann, Sebastian, the students/graduates and I had a nice chinwag until closing. Oh, and I got a free pint for playing. Unfortunately just one for the whole stay at the mic and not one per song. Okay, maybe that's fortunately.

All in all an enjoyable evening.

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Playing a C in the Belvedere

Next up I returned to the Belvedere for the open mic for the first time since the first day of John Witherspoon's open mic stint. The mic is in a small upstairs room and during that first week there was a power cut. We all played on and it was realised that there was no need for the mics and amps so all the subsequent mics have been sans mic. It's still called an open mic, because if was just called an open it may get inundated by golfers – and it is far too small a pub to take all the trolleys.

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John turning off the music before Ollie played some

John played first, quickly followed by the brilliant Dan Bradley. And then another brilliant guy. Then another. I should really turn up first to these events so I'm not preceded by all these top players. I ended up being about the fifth person up. I actually did okay – and remembered all the words (and generally played the correct chords – or at least didn't lose myself if I did strum a wrong un'. I was working the next day, Friday (which is unusual for me), so I had to leave after just a few more. But I saw the bulk of the guys and gals; and it was another top night.

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Full on troubadour stance from John Witherspoon in the Angus

Then came Sunday; the third appearance of the week. It was good to support John again at the Angus, on Dale Street. It was only the second of their Sunday open mics and it is competing with the relatively large one at the Jacaranda (which I've never been to) and the general lack of knowledge that it is on: it takes a while for the news of regular events to filter through.

John was there when I arrived and, unlike the Belvedere on Thursday, I was the first to arrive, which meant I'd be the first up – after John's excellent troubadouring. He indicated that I should play three songs, and that if it was quiet I could go up again. This is how it went. In the background on the TV in pictures and occasionally with sound was the BBC coverage of Glastonbury. So as well as coming on after John I also followed Lorde and Jarvis Cocker.

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Mark Lacey (or Mark Sebastian D'Lacey)

In between the excellent, funny and charismatic, Mark Sebastian D'Lacey had arrived on the scene. He was brilliant. I think three appearances in a week is a lot: he was on his third of the day! Mark is a good mate of John's and they both enjoyed each others music muchly. As did I. I ended up going up for a second time to get my six songs in. Didn't play or sing as well as I had on the previous two days. Partly I think because the guitar was too prominent for me (after all my singing is a bit better than my strumming at the moment). Still, I am glad I made the effort to support both John and the Angus with this new fortnightly set up.

Oh and as well as playing three 'mics in a week it was bookended by appearances from two Sebastian's, what's the chance of that!?

Onwards and Upwards –
probably with a C, G and an A Minor; with just an occasional F for good measure.

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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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