John Lester/Gretchen Peters gig

Regular readers or Stevie-gig-goers will already be familiar with John Lester – he’s proof if ever it were needed that being fantastic won’t necessarily make you a star (if it did, he’d be the new Sting). For the uninitiated, he’s a singer/songwriter who plays upright and electric bass to accompany himself. He’s a marvelous songwriter, and a really gifted bassist, and has released two really lovely albums.

One of his now-regular gigs is with Nashville-based singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters, both opening the show solo and playing bass for Gretchen’s trio.

It’s one of my favourite gig experiences – going to see a friend play that I know is fantastic, but the rest of the audience is pretty much unaware of, knowing that within the next half an hour, lots of people are going to have a new artist to add to their list of favourites. I remember seeing Julie Lee play at the Stables on one of the Bob Harris Presents… nights, where very few people knew who she was, and most of the audience were in love before she came off stage. A great feeling. I like offering things like that to my audience (obviously in a smaller way, as my crowds tend to be smaller than those that Gretchen or the Bob Harris gigs pull) – the gigs I’ve done with Rob Jackson, Calamateur and John Lester have offered that to the people who had come to see me play, and got to hear something else marvelous into the bargain.

Anyway, John won the audience over last night with his first song, and by the end of the set, was selling CDs like a headline act. Great to see.

I wasn’t familiar with Gretchen’s music before the gig, but am a convert now – there are hints of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sheryl Crow before she went crap, and even a bit of Joni Mitchell, but in a really mellow guitar/double bass/piano trio. Beautiful songs played to perfection. It was great seeing John just doing the bassist’s job – we solo players rarely get to see each other playing in bands (oh, if I had a fiver for every email I get saying ‘I’d love to see you playing in a band’…) so that was a real treat.

And what’s more, the early curfew at the venue meant that John and I could head off for curry and catch up on a year’s worth of news and gig stories.

The only downer on the evening at all was the choice of venue – I’ve done my rant about Carling venues before, and this one was at the Bar Academy in Islington – this was a better environment that when I saw Nick Harper here, but why have an all standing venue for an acoustic trio?? Why have a barman making loads of noise when an acoustic trio is on? The layout of the venue is rubbish, and again, the lack of chairs seems primarily aimed at keeping the beer drinking potential of the audience mobile enough to up their consumption.

I hope the promoter of the show finds a more suited venue soon…

SoundtrackVikki Clayton, ‘Looking At The Stars’.

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