Cycle East

  What a fantastic idea, have 3 bands playing 3 shows at 3 different venues, and all for free. Make the venues just far enough apart to provide a little bit of exercise, either as suggested by the organisers by bicycle, on foot or using public transport, as it was the audience and not the bands that had to move. Each show started at 2, 4 and 6pm, and lasted about an hour. So your could choose between 6 possible running orders, giving everybody a different experience of the same event. Soweto KINCH played in the bar at RichMix, a community-based arts centre and cinema complex. The London Gypsy Orchestra played at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. Indy band Sweet Billy Pilgrim played at Toynbee Studios. There was no pre-booking, you just had to get there early and all squeeze in somehow. After much deliberation I decided to see the London Gypsy Orchestra first.
  On arriving at the Working Men's Club, a lovely old building now surrounded by a modern housing estate, I could hear the end of the soundcheck. The hall upstairs had high ceilings and was about thirty foot square with a proper stage and bar. I was lucky to find a seat, but in a matter of minutes the room was full. There were people standing at the back, sitting on chairs in the middle and even sitting on the floor at the front. All age groups were represented. There was a spontanious round of applause as the Orchestra made their way through the crowd to the stage. The full Orchestra has about 30 members, but this was just the professional ensemble. Even so there was 6 violins, 2 flutes, oboe, guitar, lute, and a women sitting at a table with strings and she hit them with little hammers kinda like a dolcimer. There was total hush in the room while they were playing, apart from a couple of tunes where we all started rhythmically clapping. At one point the lead violinist jumped down off the stage and sauntered through the crowd while still playing her instrument. The time seemed to fly by and it was on to the next show.
  I had checked out on the internet where all the venues were, and so had a general feeling of the right direction, but also had my sat nav to guide me, as I got closer. Although it doesn't have a walking mode, and gets a little confused as you quickly change direction, and misses out alleys and footpaths that might save time. Thankfully it was a glorious sunny spring day, perfect for walking the city streets. When I got to Toynbee Studios the cafe area where we had to wait was packed, though I think that many of them had come out of the 2pm show.  The performance was in a charming auditorium with a twenty rows of seats and a big stage at the front. We all clapped as Sweet Billy Pilgrim were introduced. They had 2 guitarists, an accordian/keyboard player and a drummer. One of the guitarists had to retune between almost every song, but this couple of minutes gave the drummer a chance to joke with the audience and inform us what the next song was called. They write their own songs including Bloodless coup and Kalypso. They created some wonderful harmonies with all four singing on some of the tracks.
  Lastly I ended up at RickMix, where Soweto KINCH was playing in the bar. Another large room with concrete at glass, and a balcony. It was already full, but I managed to find a chair. I'm not sure, but it felt like the majority of them had been there all afternoon. They were also serving food which made it smell like a canteen. He started off playing the saxophone, accompanied by a double bass and drummer. But after a few numbers, he started to rap, and invited some of his friends to join him on stage. Although I'm not a great fan of rap, I did like the Notorious BIG and Eminen, but I don't think I was the only one in the room who would have rathered hear him play the sax for the whole hour.

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