Salford – Kieren & Ella’s House
Salford! Home of gang violence, scallies, wastrels and scroungers. This is what we are told by the all-powerful hysterical hive-mind of our time. The same intangible, didactic opinion machine that has also concluded that poor people are stupid and lazy, artists are vapid and ineffectual, and that Costa Coffees and executive flats are more vital to society than community centres and music venues.
So fuck that, obviously.
Salford for me is the home of grassroots culture in Manchester, borne aloft on the three pillars – The Lowry, The Eagle and The Star. And the furtive engineers of this cultural scene, the sparks that fly along the once-dead synapses of society, are folks like Kieren and Ella. They are responsible for (amongst many things) Evidently, the stand-up poetry event that occurs once a month at the Eagle Inn. Check out the details HERE.
These two are long-term fans of the band, coming to us like an awful lot of our beloved friends through our association with the big dog Frank Turner. You can see them dancing along with Larry the Parrot in our LIVE VIDEOS, which we shot in the cherished Eagle Inn. They have also, along with fellow Salford wunderkind and renaissance man Jack Dixon, played host to a solo show of mine at the Star Inn, which was the flame that ignited the idea of this tour. Until then I had generally shied away from solo shows. I didn’t like the idea of performing without the comfort blanket of a loud-as-hell rock band, and I felt forced to play all the strange quiet songs from my back catalogue whilst sitting down and not dancing. But the warmth and general “fuck this, let’s dance!” attitude that hummed in the air of the Star Inn that night made me realise the possibilities of what one could do once you let go of the boundaries of normal civilised society and treated the solo gigs like rock shows. So it was with tremendous glee that we accepted their offer of a stop on the house tour.
They are also old friends of Louis, so it was a joyous reunion all round when we pitched up at their door.
We set about barbecuing a herd’s worth of beef, plus assorted vegetarian oddments for my herbivore touring partner and his darling other half Bryony, who had come prepared with marinated halloumi (the world’s greatest food) and a wonderland of vegetable treats.
Pretty soon the guests started arriving. And didn’t stop arriving for a long time. It was the biggest crowd we’ve had by some distance. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Like Kingston-on-Thames in the south, Salford is filled with the kind of people who won’t stand for dullness. Where other people might see a long empty afternoon, they see an impromptu poetry slam, a jam night or an acoustic house concert from two itinerant frontmen waiting to happen. They are the fun creators. The sorcerers of mirth.
This point was driven home when Kieren revealed to me that seemingly half the people there were musicians or performance poets. Obviously this couldn’t go unaddressed, so we quickly rustled up some extra performers from the eager crowd and got cracking in the garden.
Kieren MC’d with practiced skill, delivering some of his own fantastically urgent and funny poetry with elegance and wit. As if his good-guy credentials needed any more bolstering he revealed that he stood as a candidate for our chums the Greens at the last election (I mean chums literally. Their deputy leader likes us on Facebook. Great bunch of folks). And his poetry exhibited the impassioned and articulate heart of a man who believes in his community and will lead the charge for its vindication from the sniffing hordes of snobbery.
Next up was Rod Tame, an acclaimed poet whose tales of life as a gay man caught between the twin pillars of joyful abandon and looking too straight were glorious, funny and touching to behold, and by the time Louis took to the stage the audience were attentive and up for anything. We had elected to begin the evening out in the garden, and Louis made full use of the space, leaping and capering like a hobo jester in Oberon’s court. We were delivered a set of entirely new songs, with the odd old favourite thrown in by request.
Quick break, and then we moved indoors for the second half of the evening. Another poem from Kieren and then we were introduced to the aforementioned Jack Dixon, who delivered some charming verses exploring various romantic misadventures and drunken misdemeanours. I am a complete novice in the world of poetry, my poetic output thus far outside of song lyrics being the odd nonsensical comedy rap song and the occasional never-ever-to-be-seen-by-anyone-ever love poem. But these guys with their astonishing skills have ignited a fire under my soul. I simply must have a go at this. It looks such fun. We shall wait and see.
Anyway, my turn. I knew this one was going to be a biggie, as pretty much everyone there was a previous attendee to one of my shows. I generally test how many people are familiar with my stuff by playing Go Back Home first, and seeing how many people join in on the “Doo-Doo-Doo-Dooby-Doo” bits. And this time it was EVERYONE. Ace.
We played, sang and laughed together, passed the hat round and then for the finale I led them all into the garden like a young bearded Lord Summerisle and we danced and sang Molly with one voice under the dying sun. It felt perfect.
We finished the night with cupcakes, board games and long, lovely chats, and we reluctantly drove away from this beautiful island of culture with joy in our hearts.
Thanks Kieren and Ella!
Next Stop: PRESTON
Read Louis’ tour diary HERE
Check out some of Kieren's poetry HERE
And Rod Tame's poetry HERE
And check out the lovely review of our Leeds show on Chimeo HERE