Confessions of a Folk Virgin

As regular readers will know, one of the key tenets of my return to Newcastle was: Try New Things. I was determined not to try to just replicate the (lovely) life I had in Brighton, just cheaper and with less sea – I wanted to push myself constantly out of my comfort zone and build a life here that felt special and unique.

One area I have managed to do that is music. Now, I used to be SO into music: a long, long time ago, I was even briefly cool, the one everyone turned to to find out about new music. (Confession: this is because I discovered a record shop in Old Eldon Square that used to sell cheap 12″ singles and I just bought them randomly, so happened to know most of the music of the day. Once I stopped shopping there, I returned to my ‘I know about half a dozen acts and the rest I vaguely recognise from movie soundtracks and adverts’ level of awareness, which is pretty much where I have been stuck ever since.)

So moving back was good for me, because it put me back in the circle of friends who liked going to gigs a lot and were happy to recommend stuff (and have me tag along) and were willing to take a punt when I suggested gigs myself. Crucially, though, it also made gig-going easier and more affordable. While you can obviously still pay top dollar for a big name, big venue gig, there’s a ton of really reasonably priced gigs at places like the Cluny, Live Theatre and even The Sage. Which means you can go see a lot of stuff you are not sure about without being unduly out of pocket.

So when I heard that there was going to be a new folk venture in town, I thought: why not check it out? Especially since the ticket was only a tenner. Folklub is a brand that is already established in Glasgow, and launched at Alphabetti Theatre this weekend with a range of events, including a songwriting competition. My regular pal at gigs, lovely L, came along last night to the opening night, Katie Doherty & The Navigators, with Jack Rutter.

I hadn’t heard of either act and must admit my impressions of folk music are both hazy and suspicious. When I lived in Glasgow I often frequented the kinds of pubs where you are never more than a Guinness away from someone reaching for a guitar, and I liked the organic nature of that, but to my informed eye the ‘official’ scene seemed a bit heavy on knitwear and judgement, and not at all to my taste.

So did last night convert me? Well…. maybe! In part because, music aside, both acts were so warm and personable. Rutter was a delight – clearly thrilled to be there, with lots of entertaining tales of where his songs came from, and a genuinely lovely voice. This was the kind of folk I always thought I really didn’t like – there was a lot of songs about lads and their lassies, I can tell you and both L and I welcomed the brief diversion into 80s Americana – but by the end I was truly won over by both singer and the songs.

Doherty, too, didn’t seem like my cup of tea, but again I was charmed by a local lass with plenty of warmth and stage presence (performing with talented musicians Shona Mooney and Dave Gray, who also acted as emcee for the evening), a gorgeous voice and some beautiful songs.

So I… like folk now? Apparently? That’s a thing that has happened?

There are more gigs planned throughout the year. Check out the Alphabetti website, or the Folklub Facebook page.


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