Dollop 78 – Young Irish Nuns And Experimental Jazz

Download today’s Dollop in its audio form here

After my blogging marathon on the Wednesday, we headed to our Melbourne gig, which was taking place in a jazz club. There were signs on the building declaring itself to be the home of jazz in Melbourne. Looking down the list of other acts who had appeared at the place seemed to indicate that we were the first folk group to have played there. Had they gotten us confused with another group with a similar name? Maybe there’s an experimental jazz trio called The Young Nuns, and the poor dyslexic secretary is going to get fired tomorrow morning when her mistake is realised.

Are we going to have to pretend to be an experimental jazz trio called the Young Nuns in order to save a dyslexic secretary’s job? I suppose you might think that this would be far too difficult a task, given that we sing unaccompanied folk songs, but surely we could just throw in a few discords and do a bit of scatting. After all, I know a thing or two about the art of scatting, having read one of the most popular tomes on the subject, The Dooby Do’s And Dooby Don’ts Of Scatting. If anyone contests that what we’re singing is experimental jazz, we could simply argue that the fact that they don’t recognise it as experimental jazz proves just how experimental it actually is, so much so that they’ve heard nothing like this in the experimental jazz world before. A watertight argument.

But it wasn’t the fact that we weren’t a jazz group that we needed to worry about, there was another surprise for us. Five minutes before we were due to go on, we saw one of the programmes. It turned out that they knew we weren’t a jazz group, as the programme described us as a folk group. We breathed a sigh of relief, although I think we were all a little disappointed that we wouldn’t get to our flailing acapella jazz solos that we’d spent the last two hours practising. But just because we weren’t expected to play jazz, it didn’t mean that we were out of the woods yet. Closer inspection of the programme highlighted another area for concern. The programme didn’t just describe us as a folk group, but said in big bold letters that we were an Irish folk group singing Irish songs. This is completely untrue; we don’t sing any Irish songs. There was no time to practise a completely new repertoire in under five minutes; we’d need at least ten minutes to pull that off.

Our MC in Melbourne was completely the opposite to the Port Fairy MCs, who spent twenty minutes chatting to us before our gig, writing down as much information about us as they could for their introduction. Our MC tonight had only popped in fleetingly an hour before we were due to start, and hadn’t asked us any questions at all. We’d just been instructed to listen out for the MC’s intro and then come onto the stage directly from our green room. There wasn’t anyone around to correct them about the fact that we weren’t an Irish folk group and that we wouldn’t be singing any traditional Irish songs, and even if there had been someone to tell, we were due on in three minutes so there wasn’t anything anyone could really do. It’s not as if they’d pull the plug on the gig due to the revelation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid the gig tonight has been cansilled. We were going to fire our secretary who was meant to book the experimental jazz trio, The Young Nuns, but then we let her off the hook when she informed us that the group she’d accidentallly booked were in fact an Irish folk group, and that it would be the day before Saint Patrick’s day. So we went ahead with the gig. But now we’ve just learnt that they’re not even Irish, they’re English. I know, I can completely understand why your booing. Believe me, I am just as livid as you, and I’ll fire the secretary first thing in the morning. Now I could let the Young’uns come out and play for you, but none of us want that do we? We’re not having this place polluted by English folk.”

Surely, the MC would have read our biog and has realised that we’re not an Irish band?

“Ladies and gentlemen,” came the voice of the MC, “please welcome, all the way from Ireland, The Young’uns!”

Fortunately, it turned out that most of the audience knew more than our MC and the gig organisers, and were aware that we were English. We asked how many people in the audience were expecting an Irish band singing Irish songs, and no one said yes. In fact, most of the audience knew we were from Teesside, and there were quite a few people who originally came from North East England at the gig. It felt like we were playing to an audience who’d seen us many times before, even though none of them had. Quite a few people had seen us at the Port Fairy festival last weekend, and others had heard us on the radio or read about us. People were shouting out requests for songs, and gratifyingly they were songs that we actually sang, so it was evident that we were known by the people there. It was really heartening to note that we’d travelled thousands of miles to the other side of the world, yet eighty people had turned up at a week day gig to see us, and clearly knew who we were.

There was no mention from the MC about the Irish thing, even though we frequently joked about it on stage. His intro to our second half was simply, “ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, The Young’uns.” I thought that he might have made a jocular reference to the error, and maybe introduced us by saying something like, “ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, all the way from Brazil, The Young’uns!” But alas not.

Having said all this, it was a great gig and a really good venue. Everyone at the venue was really friendly and accommodating, and fed us the most delicious food before the gig. The mix-up in the programme and with the MC didn’t impact negatively on the gig at all, in fact if anything it gave us something to talk about and served to get the audience on our side straight away. I mention this in case there’s someone from the venue reading, who has taken this blog as a complaint. It’s not. However, it’s more interesting to write about mix-ups and oddities than it is for me to write about nice food and friendly staff. But, if you do want me to blog about how brilliant a venue you run, then we can discuss a fee. I am also open to bribes if there are things that people wanted me not to blog about, to protect their reputation. For instance, if the MC didn’t want me to mention him then he could have bought my silence. It’s already worked for Jools. Notice that I’ve not said anything about her for a couple of weeks. Ah, damn, I shouldn’t have mentioned that, sorry Jools. I’ll issue you a refund.

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