Everyone has been at a gig where the performer is battling against the sound of the bar and its obvious distractions. With so many small venues closing down and struggling, it’s no surprise that the phenomenon of the house gig is one that’s gaining traction with music lovers everywhere. The chance to host one of these holds obvious benefits for the owner of the house. The possibility of an up and coming act being prepared to perform a private gig in your very own home is an impossible one to ignore; but what’s the attraction for the performer? One very obvious one is that for once the performer can count on a fully engaged audience who listens to every word and creates an incredibly intimate atmosphere in which to perform.
On behalf of Essentially Pop, I had the chance to host one such house gig for the outstanding young singer Pete Gardiner. He is an act that we have supported for a while and his almost poetic lyricism would be perfectly at home in such an intimate venue. That being said, it takes a special talent to make oneself quite so vulnerable to 35 complete strangers, who listened attentively to his songs as they recounted tales of lost love, social commentary and personal experience. There was no hiding behind house lights here and, rather than expose Pete, what actually transpired was an evening and performance of such honesty that everyone will speak about it for a great while to come. Playing songs from his new CD ‘Ashtray Black’ alongside new material, Pete also managed to squeeze in covers of some of his favourite songs before finishing with a rousing ‘Sweet Home Alabama/Werewolves of London’ mash up that would have Alabama and Warren Zevon purring. He even managed a Tom Cruise ‘Colour Of Money’ nod with his preening to the line ” his hair was perfect”!
Local independent cider makers and festival organisers Phil and May Turner were blown away by the intimacy of the musical experience and Phil, having turned 40 a few days previously, was treated to not only a beautiful cake in the shape of a cider bottle from his wife but to a cover of his, and Pete’s, hero Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. This was a birthday treat to remember. My wife Tiffany prepared wonderful food and the wine, beer and of course kindly donated Turner’s Cider flowed. But this was an evening that will be remembered not for all these special things but for the music!
During a set split in two halves, Pete played his acoustic guitar as he ran through songs from his new album but also debuted a few new songs like ‘Mr’, and the incredible, ‘Who Do You Belong To?’. The new material proved that there will be no “difficult album syndrome” for Mr Gardiner; no problem unless getting better and better is seen as a problem. With great presence and a growing comfort in his surroundings as the evening progressed, Pete left everyone cheering and whistling for more. Kent’s very own record producer and performer Lee Golledge praised the feel and vibe of the evening and joined in the general sentiment that this should be the start of a regular way of accessing music and live performance.
I will be reviewing Pete’s excellent new album separately but on the back of last weekend’s performance I am equally excited about the future for this young man. There is a possibility that this includes writing in Nashville for some country music heavyweights and given country music’s mantra of “three chords and a story”, the arrival of a lyricist of Pete Gardiner’s quality can only be an exciting prospect for all involved. Everyone lucky enough to be part of the evening joined in praise for the performance and can’t wait to see Pete play live again soon. I can only thank him for taking part and wish him all the best for what I’m sure will be an exciting time ahead!