Friday, December 18, 2009

Cocos carol singing

Thursday 17th December, The Bowl Inn, Hastingleigh

This pub up on the Wye Downs is run by an old biker called Ron and his wife. I saw Cocos Lovers there this summer (and played on one song with them) and afterwards, Ron came out to ask if they'd like to lead their annual Christmas carol singing.

I'm really not too bothered about Christmas, but I can see it as an extension of Winter Solstice celebrations - and as it was Cocos, I put my bike on the train to Wye and cycled uphill for almost three miles (in a freezing gale). I arrived to find a few dozen locals huddled around a brazier singing "The Holly and the Ivy" (my favourite). Will, Natasha, Nicola and Phil were leading, throwing in some harmonies, etc.. Earlier that day, I'd been decorating the little caravan I've been staying with midwinter greenery - holly and ivy, of course. There had been quite a bit left over, so I wove a few ivy wreaths and stuck them in my bike panniers just in case they might come in handy. The timing was perfect - I shuffled around the back of them and enwreathed them all, to everyone's amused surprise.

Quite a few more carols got sung, generally the tasteful old ones I remember from childhood. At first I didn't join in, thinking "I don't sing", but soon discovered that singing sort of keeps you warm, and in a low enough register I was able to blend in unoffensively. It was strange, though, singing Christian dogma with a load of strangers, almost all of whom (I'd guess) didn't actually believe this stuff. But at the same time, it was lovely to all be together singing (especially huddled round a fire, while Ron served mulled wine and minced pies from inside the pub's garage). It's one of the few existing forms of genuine folk music in this culture (along with football chants, playground songs and - arguably - karaoke) and so everyone was doing their best to get into the spirit of it. I noticed Nicola break down in giggles at the lines "Late in time behold him come/Offspring of the virgin's womb/Veiled in flesh the Godhead see/Hail th'incarnate deity!" (from "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing").

Most of the locals gradually drifted away, the cold being just too much, even with the brazier. I was on my second cup of mulled wine when it became apparent that they weren't just going to lead the carols, they were going to play a gig inside the pub too. So everyone gratefully hurried into the warm to hear Paolo and Claire from The Momeraths play a very sweet mini-set, ending with Cocos' "Dead in the Water", a nice surprise. I've seen them a couple of times before, not really got into them, but in this stripped down form, the beautiful harmony singing came to the fore. Also impressive was Claire's innovative use of an ironing table as her xylophone stand!

Cocos Lovers then started their set with "Dead in the Water" and proceeded to play one of the best gigs I've seen from them (I always say that, but they just keep getting better). Lots of old favourites, all well received (largely by locals unfamiliar with the band, as usual). There was a new song called "Over the Hill", not so sure about that one - it'll probably grow on me though. Their debut album Johannes is finished and out very soon. I've seen the tracklist, and it's the perfect selection of their songs. Looking forward to that.

I had to leave for my train (allowing time to cycle downhill for miles of icy country roads), but just caught the beginning of a beardy friend of theirs (whose name I missed) started his set (backed up by several of the band) with a wonderfully ridiculously cover of Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious" ("Beyonce, can you handle this?!"). Just in time for my train...A great evening, and perfect start to my extended midwinter festivities.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

8:59 AM  

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