Gats, Gats and More GATS!

Guitarist Tony Hale had been working on an idea to bring together some of our best local finger- pickers for a guitar-laden concert. It came to fruition recently as ‘Fingerpicking Delights’ and was warmly received by a full house at the Christchurch Folk Music Club, March 12th 2015.

MC Neill Pickard opened by reminiscing about his own early days at the University Folk Music Club and the bands and songs of that era. He then introduced Hale to the stage who was immediately joined by Jon Hooker. These two opened with a funky version of ‘Windy and Warm’ with strong rhythm and bends. The ‘Cannonball Rag’ followed with the two guitars on fire. It was a night of many notes, every one melodious and well-timed. They bounced off the timber walls and ceiling and the odd bald pate.

They weren’t all from the shining strings of guitars for Kristina Godfrey sang a couple of songs accompanied sensitively by Tony. Her strong confident voice was a highlight of the evening on ‘Diamonds and Rust’ and a very laid back ‘Autumn Leaves’. Tony soloed ‘In the Mood’ then was joined by Dave Hart on vocal and his home-made tea-bag bass for ‘Deep River Blues’. The next scheduled performer was unable to attend so Billy Vallance and Jon Hooker slotted in an impromptu set of blues with a folky edge. Three standards from Rev Gary Davis and Jimmy Webb, very rhythmic and melodic with cross-harmonies and nice harp breaks by Billy (but not enough of them!).

Pickard opened the second half with more historic notes then Hooker and Hale launched into some Nashville material on resonator and guitar respectively. Bit of a messy start with prolonged tuning, semi-audible talking on, off and around the mics, and some sound hiccups but it came together for a good set with nice slide touches. Next up was Susan Grant with Hooker, both playing slide. This was the other highlight of the evening, their time spent playing together shining through. Absolutely together and on fire: ‘Anji’ – Jon on lead, Susan running a bass line underpinning Jon’s driving lead, ‘Available Space’ – both on resonators, then ‘St Louis Blues’- Susan sliding, Jon picking melody. For the next step Billy was up with Jon to sing ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ offering evocative vocal and harp, to Jon’s haunting Baritone guitar, followed by ‘Get the Good Stuff Baby’ – Jon putting a monotone-ish blues backing to Billy’s vox.

A new face appeared next – Filipino Apollo Torres to sing a pair of Jim Croce standards with Tony. Two guitars, Torres low, Hale treble. Excellent. Tony then played a sweet solo ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ after which a slightly tipsy Charlie Chaplinesque figure entered, from the kitchen, to strut appropriately across past the orchestra pit twirling a cane while Hale picked ‘Chaplin’s New Shoes’.

The final set returned Hale and Hooker to the stage for their version of ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ with driving rhythm and tight picking. This left the audience yelling for more so the performance was rounded off with, appropriately, ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’.

Tony would like to make this an annual event, which is a worthy plan. Plenty of pickers out there! The evening rolled along well with just a few tweaks needed for a repeat – a stage assistant was sorely missed for the adjustments necessary with such frequent performer changes, and it seems these accomplished pickers need to ‘pick up’ their mic technique somewhat when addressing the audience.

It’s essential that performers speak purposefully into a mic always ‘on axis’ – i.e. in line with it no matter which way they are facing and at a consistent distance of 2 to 10cm. Otherwise the audience hears only snatches of the talk/conversation which annoys them immensely and also drives the soundman insane. And no performer should ever piss-off his soundman! We look forward to further and improved Delights…

Review by Geoff Anders

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