by Lewis MacLean.
It’s amazing how many people you can crowd into the Art House on a Saturday night and yet still find room for the people who wander in, drawn from the streets out of curiosity, more to the point on 1st April! (I pity the April Fool that didn’t attend.)
I guess the Art House, Southampton, being open at night is a sort of novelty as routine late-night drinkers stumble upon this rare oasis in the middle of a cultural desert of neon-lit phantasmagoria, aptly placed in the heart of the Cultural Quarter.
The host of the night’s nomad camp was five-piece funk/soul band in the making; Nick Tann and the Whole Family (Nick, Ruiseart, Guy, Jez & now with added Southampton A-list Trombone player, Chris). A band so laden with the potential of funk that they had passers-by dancing in the doorways outside. People always react well to the presence of a brass section at gigs and Chris knows what they like. Nick has spent many years himself playing, performing, podcasting (anything but procrastinating) his music all over the south as an acoustic singer/songwriter. I have always felt his self-written songs have been limited by the technical nature of acoustic performance, when presenting his songs to an audience. Whilst his natural voice has kept his talent animated; it is particularly rewarding to see the musical fruition of his efforts as he plays with the Whole Family as a band. We hope to see more of this.
They were in turn supported by well-liked and smoothly operated singer/songwriter Johnny Boxcars, who can charm any crowd with his authentic blues folk guitar, casually bringing elements of 1920s Tennessee to 2020s Southampton. He rarely walks away from a gig without leaving the appropriate impression. Bloody nice chap, too.
Once everyone was comfortable and relaxed, then it was time to bring out the Pandamonium.
At the right time of the evening, you may have wandered into the Art House looking for a pint and witnessed two (allegedly) grown men in Panda suits passing around potatoes. Even if you don’t actually know what the word Panda-monium means – you can hardly sue them for breaching the trade description act. The audience were spoilt as these guys Panda’d to their every need. From a music cabaret to a game of pass the parcel, furnished with quotes from the I-ching. (Yes, this was after the complimentary workshop on stroking potatoes). You could say it was a comedy act but that would require somehow putting the act into a category. If you can do that, you are smarter than I. If you think you have seen Pandas in their natural habitat, think again.
If a picture can tell a thousand words then feel free to glance at this snapshot of a stuffed horse ( allegedly) masqueraded like a Pagan fertility symbol, to the musical backing of The Osmonds song ‘Crazy Horses’.
I think it is safe to say that on April 1st, the Art House were offering something unavailable anywhere else in Southampton. So that was it folks, local live music on a Saturday night without the aid of loud sounds and obnoxious neon lighting. There was even the regular Write-A-Note poetry gig next door at MAST studios. The Cultural quarter isn’t quite extinct yet.
- Main image: Chris Martin
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