Pete Christie @ BricklayersThe Bricklayers Arms was one of the best live music venues a long time ago – Pete Christie says he is playing his first gig here for nearly 25 years, and this was also one of the first venues he played as he just started gigging as a youngster. Live music has returned here after a long absence in celebration of Harry the manager’s birthday; Pete Christie is the artist chosen to play for this auspicious occasion, and Conrad (Solid Air) has been spinning some discs beforehand.

There’s a lot of familiar faces here, brought out either for the delights of the music, or because of the celebration. Since its a new venue for me, I’m unsure who would be a regular here; there is a great atmosphere and makes a good venue – the music is in the long room at the back which used to be a skittle alley. One notable here is Neil King from Fatea, who’s filled me in on the musical history of the Bricklayers.

The music room used to be out beyond what is now the back garden, with outside toilets, long since turned into housing. The Central is opposite just down the street, and across the main road is the Britannia; all 3 pubs used to do music as the Ashley Cross tour, where people could wander around between the venues (and some bands tried to play all 3 in one night!). Each lost its entertainment license until only the Central was left, over 20 years ago, and that has now gone, too. Mr Kyps, the only regular venue here now behind the Central, is a relative newcomer, having converted from a pool hall perhaps some 8-10 years ago.

Pete’s playing is superb as usual – I’ve previously used just about every superlative I know to describe his prior performances. Tonight he exercises a brand new song, Ballad Of An Ordinary Man. This is one of those rare songs that, should winds blow the right way, would be a hit. Instantly familiar, yet totally original, and totally memorable for singalong purposes, hopefully he’ll keep it for future. Neil tells me it is in the forthcoming Fatea showcase (due out on February 1) so catch it there.

Milk Machine @ SloopOn to The Sloop, another first visit for me (watch for drink prices – £1.60 for a squash!), Hawkeye let me know that The Milk Machine were featuring here. As I walk in I’m pleased to see yet more familiar faces, Ski from KFC, Sofi Reed amongst others. The music is cracking, good stomp stuff with old time, bluegrass and hillbilly; loads of us are enjoying the hoedown. The tunes are great, mainly covers played totally originally in the way only The Milk Machine can. Since Hawkeye knows I played Welsh Block on last Wednesday’s show he dedicates it to me, as I’ve just walked in, which is always a way to get noticed! What a night 🙂

Mischa & Merry Men @ Cellar BarBack to more familiar territory and Mischa is with his Merry Men in the Cellar Bar (after an obligatory Night Owl burger). Roland is back, Mischa’s also grabbed bassist Tom and as I walk in Alex has joined them on cajon. Alex’s band Admiral Shiny Sides apparently smashed the place earlier in the evening, being mobbed and “forced” to play 2 encores. Mischa announces he has an EP launch next Friday in Smokin’ Aces – this should be good – I’ve been waiting for fuller recorded material for some time, having had to rely on some open mic sourced material for a while now… I’m only in for 3 or 4 songs and all are performed with Mischa’s usual gusto, the addition of the Merry Men provides for fantastic musical exchanges between them.

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