Thursday, 6 June 2013

What's on? Looking at the local music scene. Diggle Blues Fest and Bar 71.

I've called in at the Number 71 Bar, Stalybridge, on a number of occasions since going see the Alex McKown band in February.  The venue which was a former Conservative club, is situated at the bottom of Mottram Road and is easily accessible from either the bus or train station.

In April, Steve Whalley played a session there with his son, who accompanied him on bass guitar while he played lead guitar, mandolin and vocals. Originally  from Stalybridge, Whalley moved down south years ago and  I understand that he last played a gig in the town some twenty years ago. I last saw him play a session  in the early 1970s, when he played guitar and lead vocals with the local Stalybridge band, the 'Puritans'. Whalley first started playing with the Stalybridge band the 'Bridgebeats' and was also a member of the legendary Manchester band, 'Greasy Bear' who used to play at the 'Magic Village'. For fourteen years, he played with Slade when he replaced their front man, Noddy Holder. He is now playing and touring with the band 'Sad Cafe'.

Although I only stayed to hear the first part of Whalley's performance, which was an acoustic guitar session, I was thoroughly impressed with the music that I heard, which I suspect, most people had not heard before. Before starting to play, Whalley had warned his audience, "We don't do pop." The music was a kind of hybrid of blues and country music with some Ry Cooder style bottleneck playing, which I can't get enough of. Unfortunately, I don't think everybody was as keen as I was, judging from the number of people who I saw playing with their mobile phones or stood about chatting. This sort of audience, likes something they can sing along to, or dance to, which is what they get with the 'Bridgebeats', who've probably been playing the same set list for the last forty years. I was told later, that Whalley's second session included more mainstream rock and role stuff and some Bob Marley covers. If he does ever return to Stalybridge to play another gig, I'll certainly go and see him again.

In May, the Tony Auton blues band played at the Number 71 Bar. Auton, a local Manchester lad, is certainly worth seeing in my view but I wouldn't really describe his music as in the blues genre. On the night, he himself, made light of this, when he said after the first song, "Well that's the blues number done with, I don't really know why they call us a blues band." Nevertheless, I liked what I heard and I like his style of guitar playing, which is more country style than blues style. Personally, I preferred listening to his playing on the Gibson SG to that of the Fender Telecaster. When not playing with his own band, Auton plays with the Cheyenne Social Club as well as the Alex McKown band. He writes and performs a lot of his own songs which makes a change from listening to the usual crap bubblegum pop, that you normally listen to in pubs.

For those who are interested in blues music, they should pay a visit to the Diggle Blues Festival 2013, which is taking place on Fri, Sat, Sun, 13th - 16th June. Among the artists who will be appearing are: Victor Brox, Kyla Brox, Big Joe Bone, Mike Sweeney and Paddy O'Hare with the Collective. Admission is free to the gigs that take place at the Diggle Band Club, the Hanging Gate and Kilngeen Hall.

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