Blues Summit ScrollerI have seen the future of rock n’ roll.

Ever feel that you’ve been ‘ad?

These two famous rock n roll misquotes sort of sum up my reaction to one of the strangest live music events I’ve ever attended anywhere. No – make that any kind of event, anywhere.

Indulge me a moment whilst I attempt to explain the venue. A convent, formerly the home to a silent order of four nuns, in an extremely quiet and secluded corner of England at a discreet distance from the bright lights and fleshpots of, err, Stroud.

Bands play on the altar of the convent chapel, replete with stained glass windows, and the obligatory(!) trombone wedged behind the altar and sewing machines and alarm clocks scattered around the huge stone windowsills.

The rest of this huge venue appears to be part hotel, part bar, part restaurant. The whole place has a sense of brooding oak darkness about it and the sleep of centuries of silence.

The chapel itself has around 100 or so seats arranged tidily on the chapel floor and further seats in the pews around the edge.

There appears to be no signage to speak of and getting into the venue is more by luck than by judgement, as is finding the bar as you wander around the gloomy, doomy corridors in search of a pint of 6X. Or absolution. Or both.

Eventually, showtime, and this is a very precise showtime as the show is being filmed.

The audience tonight appears to be about 30 people or so, many of whom appear to be here by invitation. By now, the casual observer would be wincing for the poor promoter who would undoubtedly be facing a night dedicated to St. Flatbroke, Patron Saint of The Unsustainable Loss.

So, Blues Guitar Summit take to the stage, unfeasibly close to the declared 9PM start time for rock n roll. The three – guitar attack of Chris Corcoran, Mal Barclay and Paul Garner  are very good value, having distinctly different guitar styles, having a wide and varied repertoire from blues shuffles to solid rock boogie-woogie tunes to four on the floor 50’s rock n roll and some classic gems, such as a very likeable version of “Tequila”, for example. The rhythm section, Jamie Lawrence and Robert Pokorny on slap bass and Gretsch sticks and pans form a solid and confidence-inspiring backdrop to whatever direction the assembled guitarists head off in. The voices are workmanlike and functional, as tends to be the case, but some of the playing is genuinely inspired and very enjoyable, especially “Crawl” and ‘High Heel Sneakers’.

But something feels, very, very weird – and it isn’t just the rather ‘creepy’ venue. The band are almost treating me like I’m not here. I feel like a sort of irrelevancy. And the reason why slowly begins to dawn.

We were told at the start of the show by the smiley, jolly MC that the show was being filmed, and streamed. Nothing unusual in that, perhaps, but what became rapidly clear was – that was the whole and only point. The kit being used to film, record and stream the gig was light years in front of virtually anything I’ve seen outside the BBC and the stage / altar lighting was clearly set up with this in mind. The venue claims to be the world’s first ‘pay-to-view’ subscription live venue. Punters, anywhere in the world, pay a fee to stream the show or pay a subscription fee to stream a sequence of shows – and, worldwide, there are sufficient numbers of fans of particular musicians or a particular genre of music to make this a viable exercise.

And therein lay the problem with the performance. The band were playing directly to the camera. I was just there to be another pair of clapping hands. My ten quid ticket purchase made not a jot’s worth of difference, nor my attempts to help support the venue by purchasing another pint of 6X. I felt rather like the telly equivalent of canned laughter.

So, if you like your Rock n roll without the muck, the stale beer and the piss, this is for you. Me? I felt a little bit like I’d been used as a prop. True, I was offered free pizza and drinkies afterwards and the staff and management of the venue were kindness itself but almost as soon as the band had finished – without an encore of course as the transmission end time had been reached (an ironic request for an encore was greeted with nervous laughter) – I felt a rather tremendous urge to leave. Ten minutes later given the lack of signage we were still trying to leave. Eventually we gave up and asked one of the management team where the exit was as we wished to leave; and was told, with jolly candour and good cheer, that they didn’t like it when people left and why not stay for some pizza, at which point my companions and I did actually start to do that odd run-walk thing they do in all the best horror films.

In summary, a good but sterile performance in a very strange circumstance. The Blues under laboratory conditions. Not for me.


The next big thank you is to The Grahams, Alyssa and Doug, who released the wonderful “Glory Bound” album this year and toured the UK to support the album. Here are some of their suggestions for little escapes while you’re on the road in the UK.

Top 5 Romantic Escapes From ‘The Rest Of The Band’ While On Tour In UK:

Touring is what we do.  Playing music together and with other likeminded musicians is our way of life.  However, sometimes as lovers we need an escape from ‘the rest of the band!’  This is not just a list for musicians (though many artists may find it helpful while on tour in the UK).  Lovers, musicians, tourists and wandering bards alike, we all need to get the f*ck away from our ‘mates’ sometimes.

SW Coast PathHike The South West Coast Path:

Originally created by coastguard, patrolling the south west peninsula looking out for smugglers, this trail is the walk of a lifetime.  It doesn’t get more romantic or adventurous and it will feed your soul and clear your mind.  You can walk 630 miles of unparalleled coastline making up the longest national trail in the UK.  The wildlife, geology and scenery are breathtaking and inspiration abounds.  The path starts at Minehead in Somerset and runs along the coastline into Cornwall and continues into Devon ending at Poole Harbour.  Spend a few miles or a few days releasing your soul and getting back to zero.  It will help the music, the friendships and the rest of the tour!

ChocolateVisit The Chocolate Shops of Shrewsbury:

All over the UK, if you keep your eyes open you can find handmade, gourmet chocolates galore.  Chocolate is a way to tame the savage beast and the cranky musician!  Shrewsbury has a few great chocolate stops.  You’ll leave smiling ear to ear and a few pounds heavier but it’s worth it!  The Chocolate Gourmet is a great first stop.  Grab a variety of locally made and exotic goodness.  We gravitate towards the dark chocolate and left with some J. James Chocolate Firecrackers, Willie’s Cacao and Marou Friseurs De Chocolat. YUMMY!  For a real chocolate treat head over to the Shrewsbury Market and visit Ms. Melanie Fallon at BonBonniere.  Her chocolate treats are all handmade and to die for!  She was also named the Diamond Award winner in the Heart of England Foods Awards.  Her chocolates will enhance your mood and make any touring a sweet delight!

BBelfastelfast Botanic Gardens and Palm House:

What better way to find romance (and serenity) than wandering about the extensive rose gardens at Belfast’s Botanic Gardens.  Established in 1828, these gardens are an important part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage.  Visit the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine and lose yourself in the intoxicating scents of tropical plants, seasonal flowers and birds of paradise.  This stop is sure to open your senses and clear your head.  Just make sure to tell your lover NOT to pick a rose for you!

River_Cottage_Jemma Moran

Photo by Jemma Moran

River Cottage Farmhouse Lunch:

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to escape your bandmates and grab some romance with your better half.  On this tour to the UK we had the great privilege to perform at the famed River Cottage, home of award-winning chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  For an extra special and incredibly romantic afternoon hit the River Cottage Farmhouse Lunch.  It’s a beautiful way to experience amazing food and take in the serene rural surroundings.  Everything is locally sourced and you can taste the absolute passion in the preparation of these creative and unforgettable dishes.  It’s just like a great country song… simple.  Three chords and the truth.

theconvent2[1]The Convent:

Ok, not the first place you would think of for a romantic getaway but let me tell you… this place is a dream destination.  Tucked away in The Cotswolds, this is a restored 18th century masterpiece set on 22 acres of gardens.  Forget the spectacular architecture, the unique and superb dinning, the world class music performances set in a beautiful Chapel and the unmatched ghost stories told by the charismatic and charming owners.  It’s all about the tub!!  Spend a night with your sweetheart in the free-standing tub and all your road cares will wash away.  It’s truly a “religious” experience. 😉