PRE-FEST, TARRANTINO AND PHILLIPS

June 2015, proved for me to be one of the most memorable months in Coventry for music in a long time.

In the month of June, we are treated to not one but two consecutive night of music at The Nursery Tavern ahead the Beer Festival that they host, hence a “Pre-fest”. As ever these nights are organised by the great Elaine Tierney (A woman of unerring good judgement in most matters musical) and for the first of these two evenings, we were treated to the brother/sister duo of Alex and Elsa Rintu. Alex is a really excellent guitar player whose playing reminds me of John Martyn and the Durrutti Column’s Vinny Reilly. After doing a few numbers on his own, Alex’ sister Elsa joined him on stage where they performed a few pieces which they described as “Hindustani” Classical Music and haunting and wonderful it was too.

Also on the bill there were a very talented young trio that called themselves “Izeloli, Izeloli and Danny” who performed a style of music that I can best describe as power balladry crossed with contemporary “R n B”. Such music isn’t really for me but they are clearly a trio with a lot of potential.

Headlining that evening there was the hugely entertaining “Belles of Three Spires”, a brilliant local female choral group with a very wide repertoire which ranged from “Jerusalem” to “Get Me to the Church on Time”.

The following evening started off with local violinist Jools Street who these days trades under the name “Tile Hill Billy”. I’ve seen Jools play lots of times with esteemed Wes Finch but on the night in question he played lots of tunes in a sort of bluegrass vein including popular nursery rhyme “Polly put the Kettle On” and the traditional “Hoedown Rag”. He was, as always, utterly remarkable.

Nest on the bill, we had the happily ubiquitous David Sanders, whom I’ve talked about quite a lot in these articles. He was flying solo in this appearance performing tracks from his excellent EP, “Jar” and his remarkable version of “Where Do I Go From You?” by my favourite contemporary British band “Trembling Bells”.

The evening’s headliners was the very charming Warwick University Brass Band. They marketed the CD of their own recordings as “something for any relatives you don’t like”. I thought they were doing themselves a real injustice in this as their set was an absolute delight from start to finish. It certainly covered a lot of bases and featured everything from classics by Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as well as pieces by Tchaikovsky, Cab Calloway, Quincy Jones and we even got the Soldier Soldier theme.

The following weekend at the Maudslay Pub (just around the corner from the Nursery Tavern), I attended what has been for me, so far, the musical highlight of 2015. It was an evening dedicated to the music from the soundtracks of various Quentin Tarrantino movies.

The evening was curated by my friend Jonny Nicholds and the “Mustard and Blood” collective of local musicians and singers. Mr Nicholds has been the leader of two of my favourite ever Coventrain bands, The Bellows and Centimes. The previous big production that said collective put on (a re-interpretation of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz), was an absolute triumph and so was the Tarrantino evening.

The evening was complete with costumes, sound effects and brilliant performances. Among the highlights were Jonny’s wife, the insanely talented Liz Crowley singing “Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down” (sounding more like Nancy Sinatra that lady herself does, Dark Actors’ very own Andy Beglin singing Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”, Ryan Every’s brilliant interpretation of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”, Lucy Anne Sale and Lizzy Coughlan’s co performing Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and the ubiquitous David Sanders (yes, him again) interpreting both T-Rex’ “Jeepster” and Urge Overkill’s “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” (well it’s actually a Neil Diamond song).

The greatest highlight of the evening was however, the wonderful wonderful aforementioned Lizzy Coughlan performing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. It was the first time Lizzy had sung lead vocals in public and she proved resoundingly that she’s every bit the vocal equal of both Liz Crowley and Lucy Anne Sale, both of whom she regularly sings with.

Finally for this installment we come to Tin Music and Arts (just for a change) and Grant Lee Phillips supported by “Stylusboy” and Ben Penrose. “Stylusboy” (or Steve to those of us that know him) did his usual very nice set indeed encouraging the audience to go “Ahh” when he introduced a song about his young son, which was the highlight of his set along with his highly unique reading of The Primitives’ Crash.

Penrose, as I’ve mentioned before can often be found running the open mic night at the aforementioned Tin Music and Arts. He is a singer and songwriter very much in the Jeff Buckley vein as is so often the case these days but in his own right he is very good indeed with an impressive vocal range. A particular set highlight for me was his take on Bob Dylan’s “Mama You Been On My Mind”.

Grant Lee Phillips remarked that this was his first time in 20 odd years playing in Coventry. The previous occasion had been with his former band Grant Lee Buffalo in 1994. I was there too on that occasion but neither he nor I could remember the venue. It was certainly great to see him again after all these years. He performed a very powerful solo set and a mixture of old and new numbers. It was a particular joy to hear “Jupiter and Teardrop” form the classic GLB album “Fuzzy” and a more recent number called “Hidden Treasures”. I met him after the show and he was just as lovely as I remember him being back in the 90s.

Next month, Sarah Bennett, Batsch, Evans The Death and others….

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