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17 June 2005: Mark Chadwick + Rev Hammer - Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, England, UK
It was a glorious summers evening when I arrived at De Montfort Hall to be greeted by the sounds of Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers emerging from the indoor main stage at about 8:00.
I collected my armband and headed off to explore the outside area with a drink in one hand and a programme in the other. There were loads of stalls in the outside area, selling food and the usual festival clothes, plus one selling rather tempting hats.
The real ale marquee was well placed next to the Marquee stage where Mark and Rev were playing and I settled down in the Marquee to await the band.
Mark and Rev arrived, guitars in hand, with their summery outfits topped off with splendid Cowboy hats and as they vanished back stage to prepare the seated (on the grass) crowd was joined by plenty of others congregating at the back.
The compere appeared and announced the next act to the expectant crowd as Abbott and Costello and Mark and Rev appeared and began to argue about which one was which. They went on later to compare themselves to a number of other duos such as Morcambe and Wise ("This is why Morcambe and Wise never used guitars" from Rev).
As they appeared on stage the crowd stood up, only to be told by Rev to "Sit down and relax, this is a folk gig you know". It was good that everyone sat down and chilled as the view of Mark and Rev seated left to right on the stage would have been un-seeable to anybody past the first row had everyone stood up. For some reason there was a spare seat, all set up with Microphone to the right of Mark. Mark later explained that Jon Sevink (the Levellers extraordinary fiddler and Drunk in Public percussionist) had been expected but according to Mark, "wouldn’t get out of bed for less than £20.00".
After a bit of problem with the sound levels we were off (Gary the sound man sorted it out after receiving some light hearted abuse from Rev and the crowd). We were treated to (amongst others) "Punch Drunk" and "Ole Welsh Soul" from Rev’s debut album "Industrial Sound and Magic" and "Galahad" from the Levellers "Wild As Angels EP", together with a storming version of "Julie" and "What A Beautiful Day".
Mark had trouble with his guitar jack for the majority of the early songs and it all really fell apart during "What A Beautiful Day" as we were asked to sing along to the chorus several times while guitar leads were swapped and re-swapped. It made the song really, with Mark making the verses really slow and attempting to speed it up into a real stomper for the chorus and then being dealt a bad hand by his guitar lead. They both apologised, but there really wasn’t any need.
Mark commented that they were drinking "only water", and Rev announced that Mark might be, but he was on the Brandy. Medicinal apparently as at times Rev struggled with his vocals in the humid atmosphere of the tent. Mark, despite Rev’s difficulties, still managed to virtually chain smoke his way through the gig.
Mark was leant another guitar by some kind soul and after another couple of numbers, including "One Way" and a haunting version of "Confess" from the Levellers excellent new album "Truth and Lies", which sounded fantastic with just guitar and vocals, it was announced that Mark and Rev would be joined by an extra special guest.
When the extra special guest arrived, he was announced by Rev as, and then the amplifiers let out a loud noise and I failed to catch who they were. This was a shame because it turned out to be a fiddle player who I got the impression, perhaps wrongly, had been dragged out from his night in front of the telly to play at the last minute. It doesn’t matter really because I cannot praise him enough. The next song was "Together All The Way" which would have been almost impossible without the fiddle. Mark helped him through it, counting him in at all the right places. The track was much slower than normal but the crowds’ appreciation afterwards was immense. They got a standing ovation from everyone, including those sat on the floor.
The fiddler made the last few numbers and the gig really got going with Rev’s "Burford Stomp". Rev then encouraged everyone to stand for the last number "Down By The River ‘O’", which went down a storm with the crowd dancing about as if it were there only chance all night.
They left the stage to staggering applause and came back for another quick rendition of "Down By The River ‘O’", and then left, thanking us as they went, with Rev apologising for the sound problems and thanking us for our patience. He really didn’t need to as everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
I left the marquee and, after a quick last look round some of the stalls, I headed back to the car for the journey home. Everyone else headed to the main stage to catch the end of Eddi Reader’s set, but I didn’t want to spoil the memories of a great gig, in a great little tent, in Leicester.
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