Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 9
Had the tour not been cut short, we’d have cycled from Cardigan down to Carmarthen. Here, we were due to play Cwrw. This looks like a terrific venue and the promoter, Michael, had been really helpful during the planning stages. No doubt we’ll return to the area before long to honour that commitment. Naturally, they’d been thoroughly understanding when I’d been in touch to tell them about my bereavement.
So too the wonderful Annie, at the Whitehall in Llandovery. Annie had been extremely accommodating, finding a date for us at short notice after our itinerary changed. She’d also organised overnight digs and sourced a PA. The Whitehall is a great locals’ hangout that has occasional music and other events. I’d encountered this terrific pub on a cycle tour with my son last year. On that trip, we hadn’t been playing music but did have a great night.
The tour would have then carried on via The forest of Dean and back to Bath. And here we resumed, joined – once again – by guitarist Stephen Dalley Smith. The venue was another great watering hole (what are the chances?), The Grapes.
Right in the city centre, this used to be quite a dive, with sIot machines and sports continuously ignored on wall-mounted TV Screens. After a refit, a few years ago, it has been transformed. Now a modern, characterful bar, The Grapes caters to a broad age range, attracting locals and tourists alike.
Ellie, the manager, has been part of the local music scene for many years. She’s well connected, well respected and able to attract the cream of local talent. The music here tends to be informal, with both jazz and folk sessions a regular feature. On Sunday afternoons, Ellie puts on booked acts. And this was the slot we took for our tour date.
A side room, downstairs in the beer cellar, has become something of a repository for local musicians’ equipment. Which is a great reciprocal arrangement. They get somewhere to store gear between gigs and visiting acts get to use this when they play.
Setting up at the front of the bar, I had no idea what to expect. Whereas I’d been to The Grapes many times, I’d not witnessed a Sunday afternoon gig here. I’d imagined either an empty bar or one full of people with no interest in listening to unfamiliar, original songs.
But these fears were unfounded. Just as Ellie had promised, the bar filled nicely with people who’d come for the music. And the makeshift PA worked just fine. Rob joined me, direct off the train from Sheffield, in time for a quick soundcheck. Stephen would come for the second set, having spent the night at Glastonbury (where he’d worked a gate shift during the festival build).
The gig went well. We had a great crowd, who remained attentive throughout. During the sing-along ‘Calling From The Future’, I was able to make eye contact with those right at the far end of the bar (and it is a long one), who enthusiastically joined in. Especially with the out-of-tune harmonies!
Regroup, Repack & Rehearse
Now there was time to regroup, repack and rehearse before the final leg of the tour. Which would involve retracing our steps South. This time, we’d be stopping at the Somerset village of Pilton…