From the murk of a messy night, one memory prevails from when The Blue Room closed its doors: yours truly and the ‘Wisdom that is Oz’ standing outside those double-doors, regaling passing punters with the middle section of Sweet Child of Mine. You know the bit: ‘Where do we go? Where do we go now? Where do we go?’
Ever since the Bluey shut, that’s been the prevailing question. Any given evening in Blackpool you can spot the refugees, staring wide-eyed and forlorn into the distance, stumbling down the high-street, almost indistinguishable from the folks that’ll tax you for 20p; the only difference between us being that we want information, not shrapnel. We want someone, anyone, to point a finger in the direction of a decent night of live music. I figured my mourning period had to end at some point so decided to get myself out there and see what this town has to offer on a Thursday.
I’ve been hearing good things about Scrooges and their open mic nights for a while so I took a walk down to King Street. As I crossed the street there was a god-awful caterwauling coming from Ma Kelly’s that made me offer a quick prayer that it wouldn’t be a sign of things to come. Someone was strangling Bowie in there but it was none of my business; I moved hastily on.
The first thing that struck me as I came up the stairs was the sound quality. Someone had obviously been carefully checking levels and adjusting acoustics. It sounded very rich and balanced. This isn’t generally the case for most open mic nights I’ve been to. Most times it’s just plug-in, play and screw the feedback. The guy soundchecking, who later introduced himself as Phil Dalton, had an array of loop pedals and effects, as well as a keyboard and a variety of guitars, and was casually going through genres and riffs as if he didn’t need to think about it. Although he was very friendly, shaking my hand and asking if I was going to play, I couldn’t help but be a bit intimidated by his level of musicianship and, as a self-confessed fret-basher, I made a snap decision I wouldn’t be following that.
As 9pm arrived, a steady influx of punters filed up the stairs and Phil was joined by his mate on bass, the two of them launching into a funky-as-fu(n)k version of Superstitious by Stevie Wonder and a good few Beatles numbers to boot. As they launched into Day Tripper a thought did occur to me that maybe a tambourine or a log drum about the room might have been fun for people to bang along with, but all in all I was having fun singing along with everyone else.
Phil and Matthew were followed by a guy with a ukulele, who gave everyone a good sing along with tracks such as I’m a Believer and Golden Brown, as well as a tongue in cheek comedy song about ‘sssssshaving cream’. There was a lull in preceedings at this point and I knew Luke ‘Neptune’ Gribbon would be about to start at the Galleon so I made my move with a mental note to come back another time. The place had a good vibe and friendly atmosphere. I’m interested to see what it’s like when it’s busier. Definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.
The Galleon, as usual, was a mixed bag. As I walked through the door, Luke had already started his set and was deep into Sitting on the Dock of a Bay. I sidled up to the bar where I was to have my usual trouble of getting noticed by the thin-on-the-ground bar staff. A passing stranger took pity and showed me how it was done, loudly shouting across the bar and buying me a pint. Free drinks from strangers is always a big plus point so the Galleon immediately went up in my estimation.
As far as Luke Gribbon’s set goes, I’ve seen him at the Galleon before and he was giving it some as usual like the funkadelic little genie he is. If you haven’t seen him before, you should definitely take some time to do so. The guy’s pitch perfect, both on guitar and vocally, and he seriously puts some soul into what he’s playing. Beyond that I can’t say much though as, again, it’s a set of covers. Luke is a better than decent songwriter and it feels a little flat seeing him playing other people’s songs, no matter how well he does it. All night I’d not seen an original song played in Blackpool and that’s the overwhelming feeling I’m left with: where’s something I haven’t heard before?
As Luke took a break I asked him about his band, The Monster Squad, and found out that they’re playing this Saturday at the Old Oak on Lytham Road. He informed me that they write all their own stuff and look to mix funk, disco and house music “‘Cos they all come from the same place when you think about it.” It sounds intriguing so I promise to go and have a look. I’ll let you know how I get on.
As I left for home, the main feeling I had was that I’d seen some great musicianship but nothing creative in terms of writing. When you think about it, there isn’t so much difference between the guy murdering Bowie on Ma Kelly’s karaoke or a guy bashing out an Oasis cover at an open mic. Thursdays are fun but not quite what I’m looking for. The weekend beckons though and the quest continues.
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