The open mics at O’Neills can be ropey at times; can also amaze through variety and talent – Tonight is one of those that amazes…

I walk in to a packed pub at 10:30pm to hear Si Crockett doing his usual thing, this time with Si Genaro on harmonica and Nacho Jase on Congas accompanying his surf guitar sound and vibrant vocals. While I might have heard the material before, the different musicians (and using the house guitar) gives the same songs a different edge.

Graham Jones next, as Si Genaro described him “the only man to make a guitar sound like a Harley Davidson …and that’s no mean accomplishment”. Graham does his own kind of blues again – similar riffs with a different lyric most times. His riffs made up of rolling chords, with “twiddly bits” thrown in every few chords providing the interest.

Third act up since my time here are Know1, a full band making their 2nd appearance, yet doing a first full acoustic performance – chaotic and disorderly yet all in a wonderful way. They play a combination of reggae and Bournemouth surf sound, pleasing on the ears possibly due to the natural laid back nature induced by the acoustic vibe. Their second song carries on the gentle musical vibe, yet the MC’d lyrics are poignant, describing the atrocities of kids in Africa forced to take up arms in uprisings. Third song changes the beat and rhythms slightly, ring changes reminiscent of Latin rather than Caribbean before their final act ditches the backbeats and offbeats totally, whilst still retaining the hopeful positive sound..

Next up is Howard Tucker doing some solo acoustic strumming, a hard slot to take up following Know1 (who were allowed a seemingly unprecedented number of songs). Howard has a good voice and enhances this with some inventive rhymes in his first song. Unfortunately the guitar moves out of tune slightly for his ballad, just when everything most needs to be correct to preserve the delicate nature of the song. He notices and does something about it for his final number. I forget at the time that I’d met Howard in Chaplin’s open mic a few weeks back, must remember more of these musicians.

Last up is a pure acoustic guitar played flamenco styles courtesy of Stuart Gauntlet, with lots of chords, stops and trills, making a need for intricate movements with both hands – I rarely see or hear true classical guitar in this fashion so this is a nice treat. Stuart tends to feature a lot on the Fiesta Latina Sunday nights at the Winchester, if you’re in the mood for this stuff.

Stuart then invites Si onto the stage to finish off the night with a few Simon and Garfunkel covers, Homeward Bound especially rousing enough of a response to get people singing along, which seems a little incongruous bearing in mind the way the crowd have mainly ignored the music as background for the past 90 minutes… The final number is some river blues, really Stuart allowing Si Genaro to showcase his talents on the harmonica, before Si takes over the mic and guitar to close the evening with one of his own inventions (I hesitate to call it a number or song as there is so much more going on, as ever.)