Live music is the best. It really is! We are so lucky to live in an age where recorded music is so easily available, from an increasing number of sources. But fabulous though that is, it can make us complacent. Live music is a whole different sort of experience. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan and of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and having seen both live last year, I am still feeling the impact of those concerts. If you doubt the reality of any kind of spiritual element to life, go and see Nick Cave live. Or a great symphony orchestra. Or live opera. It is far removed from even the most wonderful time spent listening to recorded music, however good your stereo system.
Here at the Tree House, live music has always been part of what we do. Our aim is to bring people together through literature and all the arts, but books and music are our two chief means of doing that. The day we opened, we had a fantastic jazz trio, and that set the standard. As well as our monthly open mics, when anyone can take part, we have regular gigs by professional musicians who are usually on national or even international tours – occasionally they just come because I ask them. We’ve had amazing people: the biggest name has to be Ashley Hutchings, founder member of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, among many other accolades. But hosts of fabulous musicians: Emily Barker, The Little Unsaid, Duotone, Ange Hardy, Lukas Drinkwater and Tobias ben Jacob, Siobhan Wilson, and so many more. Local genius Wes Finch has played several times, with a variety of collaborators – he really deserves to be better known, he’s a brilliant songwriter and performer. Sorry to leave people out, but in five years, we’ve had a lot. The above are all people who have been described as ‘off the scale’ or something similar by the audiences.
It’s wonderful to go and see major acts in a big stadium, but there is something very special about intimate gigs like ours. Sometimes there is no amplification at all (as with Emily Barker, pictured) and that’s very special.
But putting on gigs is harder work than it might seem, and this is one aspect of running the Tree House that I do alone, which is truly hard work. From booking and corresponding with musicians, deciding who to book, deciding what fee to agree to, to marketing the event and selling tickets, to hosting on the night – putting out chairs, making sure musicians are OK, making sure refreshments are sorted (basic, but all still needs sorting), checking tickets, sorting out the lights, and more, it’s a lot of work and occasionally quite stressful. The hardest thing is persuading people to buy tickets in advance – but without this happening, the future of any live music gigs is in jeopardy.
This is not an issue specific to us – I chat to enough musicians and venue owners on social media to know that it’s a constant struggle everywhere in the UK. It’s understandable to a degree, but it can be frustrating. Often people turn up on the night simply expecting that there will be tickets, but sometimes we have to turn them away – other times, we are hoping desperately that people *will* turn up on the night. When major artists announce gigs, you have to be online at a certain time to book them, and they sell out sometimes in minutes, usually on the first day. I don’t mean that our gigs have that much clout, but something between that and our current predicament would be good.
This Friday, 13 July, we have the wonderful Anne-Marie Sanderson playing for us. Quite a few regulars are away; some are going to protest against Donald Trump’s visit; but generally ticket sales have been slow. So if you are around on Friday, and perhaps haven’t been to a gig at the Tree House before, why not come? It’s only £8. You can bring your own wine or beer; we can offer tea and coffee and we will have some non-alcoholic cold drinks as the weather is so warm. Anne-Marie’s latest EP is songs based on books, which makes it all the more wonderful for us as a bookshop.
Below are some tasters of her beautiful songs and lovely voice. She is just back from touring in Europe, and it would be great to give her a very warm welcome to Kenilworth. We do need to sell more tickets, though…and if you want to keep seeing top quality professional musicians in an intimate venue right here in the town centre, then consider buying your tickets in advance. You can buy online or in person at the bookshop.