Words & images by Ged Camera
“I’m too young to be coughing up blood,” sings Steve Millar, aka Arms & Hearts. He’s the sound engineer who’s picked up his guitar and stepped in to plug a gap. After all, he’s promoting the event, so he can do as he sees fit. Thankfully, it’s not just an exercise in ego sating, as he has his own song catalogue to relay.
Imagine Springsteen playing a solo set, passionate and with gritted teeth, giving a blast on harmonica that’s wrapped around his neck whilst hitting the strings of his guitar with wild swings of the arm – that Millar. The pace and intensity drops to the level of Billy Bragg telling a tale about Levi Stubbs’ tears, but this one is about male suicide, dispatched in a manner so quiet that a dropping pin could be heard. Or someone slurping a cocktail.
There are no cakes or renditions or telegrams from the Queen, but Chloe Hawes is still proud of achieving the landmark of her 100th gig. This one will be in front of the person producing her next EP, along with a bunch of supportive friends. Not-so-subtle titles such as ‘Pour Gasoline On My Heart’ demonstrate her ability to knit delicate notes on the guitar with smart words.
Jimmy Broomfield pays homage to his ancestry by going under the guise of Heart of Oak, which reflects on family members who would fell oak trees for boats to the others that would sail the boats. As the lairy lads walk outside the venue reciting their drunken chants, Jimmy explains why it has taken five years to make a record – it’s because he’s shit at life.
One song was about breaking up with a partner, but after that painful life experience he decided to take a more upbeat attitude to life by writing a more positive song. Two weeks later, he met his current girlfriend. His next song about becoming a millionaire is being urgently worked on.
By this stage of the evening, the small, intimate surroundings are illuminated only by the few bulbs on the daisy chain hanging around the mic stand, lending the atmosphere that of a small, late-night gathering at someone’s home, filled with the new friendships of near-strangers. So when the last solo performer, The Lion and the Wolf, takes the ten or so strides from the back of room to the stage, it’s as if everyone is at least on nodding terms. Thomas George, the man behind the pseudonym, is relaxed and in good humour.
He comes across as a natural and engaging raconteur. He has some good tales to tell and when they’re put to guitar, it’s a winning combination. After all, who doesn’t dream about packing in their day job, then following what could be perceived as a dream but could turn into a nightmare? George has done this, still has a smile on his face and is working on a second album. Does he have any signs of regret about his decision? If he does, it’s well hidden behind his smile.
The gig took place at Gullivers on Saturday 4 June, 2016.