25th March 2018
Like the phoenix rising from the ashes this night shone with the changed billing. Due to unforeseen circumstances The Squirrelly Bills stepped up from their support act role and covere3d the first half of the night with Gary Elford taking over after the interval for the remainder of the night. The Squirrelly Bills, Abie Horrocks and Liam Mc Kenny are not new to the stage. They first appeared on the Folk Club stage at an open mic, have been support artists for the Tess White and Jonathan Le Cocq concert and part of a Finger Picking Delights night. They ventured out to the North Island last year performing at the Wellington Blue Grass Society in November 2017.
Their eclectic mix of tunes, ballads, Celtic and toe tappers with that true fundamental sound cultivated in the Appalachian region of the genre that has its foundations developed from years of traditional jamming from immigrants to the area. This was a true hour of entertainment which, offered diversity. Liam demonstrated his ability to master a range of stringed instruments, guitar, banjo and fiddle, as well as his ability to sing and remember words.
Abie made the banjo look effortless; her calm manner exuded confidence, even if she wasn’t. The only recommendation would be for Abie to sing closer to the mic, as sometimes we had to really concentrate to hear Abie’s singing, which was our loss as the harmonising between these two was beautiful to listen to. Set two after the break started with Gary Elford instantly engaging with the audience and generating laughter.
From this initial response to Gary’s infectious stage craft I knew we were in for a great night and we weren’t disappointed. Following a recent six week tour of the North Island Gary was well practiced and able to draw on this experience to offer us a very professional set. Gary explained that he had set himself the goal of performing only South Island crafted songs on the tour, something he ably achieved as we know there is a wealth of talent based on this island.
Songs by Vic McDonald and Martin Curtis were to the fore, and the sense that creativity reigns was super supported as Gary shared his own well written and dynamically executed poems, with the simple hat props Gary’s persona changed to add to the variety of the night. Yes, we laughed however there were also moments of true appreciation for Gary’s impressive recital skills as he accomplished the performance of ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and ‘The Man from Ironbark’ without falter.
Awe inspiring, thanks Gary. It is this professionalism that is without a doubt the reason why Gary has been asked to perform as a guest artist at the ‘Bards, Ballads & Bulldust’ at Naseby in May this year.
by Judi Smitheram, Secretary