Blues In the City Chelmsford
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Blues In the City Chelmsford, various pubs 28/09/14

I have never been to the Blues in the City before, strange as it is in its 4th year. It is a weekend of music run by the hard working Nick Garner with all profits going to the Helen Rollason cancer charity. We were going to try and do the whole lot starting at the Cricketers at 12.15. We thought about this and it seemed that it would be quite a long day so we missed the first 2 venues and rocked up to the Woolpack at 2.30. A good job for me as I had a very heavy all day drinking session the day before which ended up with me watching what I thought was going to be the best band of the weekend, a heavy rock band called Turbulence in the Golden Fleece. They were very good, covers of Guns n Roses, Black Sabbath etc., well worth going to see.

The first Band we saw on the Sunday was the Dave Jackson band. A trio of musicians who played more rock than blues, if you think along the lines of Free or Rory Gallagher you won’t be far away. We managed to sit in the beer garden and listen to the band from there, the end of September and wonderful weather. I couldn’t tell you any off the songs but it was a great start to the day. I also can’t tell you how the beer was as I couldn’t face one. The boys were drinking the Blues in the City ale from Chelmsford very own Roundtower Brewery and gave it a big thumbs up.

The good thing about this festival is that it is a bit of a pub crawl, the next band is on in a different pub, which saw us take the 10 minute hike to the Ale House to see Mississippi Mcdonald and the Cottonmouth Kings. A superior blues band which are a foursome including a harmonica player. Another great set, with most of the songs I have never heard before. I do recall “Bright lights big city” and “Mystery train.” I really enjoyed this band a lot, the guitarist just seemed to play all of his chords clean and pure and the harp player who was 70 was fantastic. I have never seen a band in the Ale House before and I was surprised to see how well it worked in there. The sound was spot on and as the name implies it is a real ale pub which serves over 20 different beers and German lagers on tap. The chaps also gave the beers they drank in here another thumbs up.

A short hike down the road to the Black Bull, another pub that tries hard to get people through the door. They always have bands, quiz nights and entertainment on. The beers here were Doom Bar and Brewers Gold so you can’t go wrong with them 2. The band were the oddly named Blind Dead Mcjones. Apparently Mcjones is an old blueser who sold his soul to the devil and very rarely, if ever turns up to jam with the band. They were my favourite band of the day. It was mostly covers, ZZ Top, Hendrix, Tom Waites and Nick Cave but they did some of their own as well . The bamd come down all the way from Leeds and play with great humour. Nick Garner got up on stage with them as well playing his harmonica and they also asked if anyone fancied a go on guitar. A young chap got up and he could actually play, I bet you get a few disasters if they do that at every gig. They finished with Ghostbusters, Foxy Lady and the George Foreman grill song, “I’ve got a George Foreman grill, and if you don’t cook for me George Foreman will” A wonderful band who had you laughing and did not take themselves seriously at all.

We backtracked to the Ale house for the next band Split Whiskers. Another fantastic band, playing blues but with a bit if funk involved. A five piece including harmonica and keyboards. They did a lot of songs that I didn’t know, that doesn’t mean they are originals, just I don’t know much about blues music, I did recognise “Mojo Working” “Kansas City” and “Barefootin.” After this discretion became the better part of valour and we dipped out of the last gig back down the Black Bull. If anything was to go by it was probably another blockbuster band.

Summing up we had a wonderful day and hopefully it goes on again next year. We saw 4 standout bands who all played full sets, over an hour each. They were all different and not one was what I was expecting to see, some old chap singing about his wife leaving or his dog dying. I was surprised how good the bands were as they were all top quality. It is good for the pubs as well as it gives them much needed business. It’s such a shame when you see a lot of the big pubs in Chelmsford shut down or just levelled waiting for flats or a Tesco Express. Walking between venues we passed the Lion and Lamb which was empty and derelict and the Rose and Crown in Rainsford Rd which is just Rubble now. I drove past the Barn in Kings Rd today and that is completely flat as well. Depressing but if you don’t use them there gone. Same with the music as well if you don’t go people will not bother putting anything on anymore.

Anyway thanks Nick we had a great time. Thanks also to Paul and Ash for getting a whole Sunday away from the family to keep me company, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Duncan, September 2014