The Old Bookbinder’s Arms (or The Bookies) is in the historic suburb of Jericho in Oxford. Jericho is just outside the old city wall and is said to have once been a place for travellers to rest if they had reached the city after the gates had closed. Which made it the perfect place for me to call into after a long trip from up North.
When I arrive at The Bookies, 'Highway to Hell' is playing through the sound system. I say hello to Nigel who runs the open mic and then settle in a back room full of interesting clutter. A reel to reel tape recorder, a fishing rod, an assortment of old vinyl pinned to the walls, a selecton of radios - one of which has been hooked up to the sound system, pictures of jazz musicians, an electric guitar, a boran, a venetian mask, a bicycle wheel, bagpipes, a triangle, a battered looking bugle, a poster saying ‘Beheading a Lady’, a beer barrel turned into a chair, and some signed posters of the Beatles on the ceiling. Random artefacts from times gone by.
Nigel kicks off the night with one of his own songs, which he freely admits is a ‘bit of a softy’, and some of the best songs are. The Rotafors play next with two guitarists, Nigel on bass, and rhythm provided courtesy of some bongos. The first song is like a bit of a warm up, but by the time they get into the second they are much more relaxed and together. A foot tapping number with a country feel.
Samuel (pronounced Samwell) from Argentina provides some spoken word, with Nigel picking out some backing on guitar. I havn't got a clue what Samuel is talking about because its all in Argentinian, he could be talking about putting out the washing for all I know, but it works because he delivers the words with such energy and passion.
A girl by the name of Jess follows and she has a couple of her own songs to play. For one so young she doesn’t seem at all nervous and delivers her music to a supportive audience with confidence, I’d like to have heard more.
After Jess there are more musicians with their own tunes to play and I make a note that there don’t seem to have been any covers tonight. Which is a good thing in my book, as I’d rather listen to what people have come up with for themselves.
A duo playing accordion and guitar sing about ‘going down’ and I have to be careful how I describe that. I’d been thinking of bringing my own accordion tonight, but I’m glad I didn’t because this guy can really play, I mean REALLY play.
I get talking to a lad called Andy and he sings in a local band. He’s here to play some solo stuff and it turns out he writes a bit of poetry. I give him a copy of my book ‘Poetry vs Lyrics’ which includes a CD of the kaoss sounds. That book usually ends up in the toilet, I don’t mean literally ‘in the toilet’, I mean in the small room – its a slim volume and a perfect read for when your having a dump.
When Andy takes to the stage he apologises that the first song he’s going to play is a depressing one. If you think about it some of the greatest bands and musicians have favoured depressing music, so I don’t think its something to apologise for. Besides, I like depressing music - it makes me happy! And I like the song Andy plays too. He follows it with a more uptempo Americana tinged piece called South of the Border.
Early in the evening I’d played ‘Its been a good year for the spiders!’ which is all about 2010. The weird thing about the kaoss pad is that something unexpected usually happens and tonight was no exception, because within the drum pattern a strange crunching could be heard on every other beat. You just got to live with what the machine will throw at you, make it part of the electronic fun. This music emulates life, you just can’t predict what’s going to happen next.
After I’d played Nigel told me a secret. It turns out he records all the performances and sends the music files through to the musicians. This is a nice touch to the evenings proceedings as it means you can take something away from the night for yourself. Thanks to Nigel you can listen to some of my set right here:
Theres a friendly and relaxed crowd in The Bookies and I guess it reflects the local Jericho community of students, academics, musicians, aging hippies and artists. Nigel does a good job of keeping the night rolling and giving everyone who wants to play a fair chance, and there are certainly plenty of players. I hope to go back to The Bookies some day.