Vin packs ‘em in

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I can’t remember the last time I queued up to get into a folk club, writes Martin Sumpton.

When we pulled up in the car at Club Chesterfield at around 7.30pm, there were people queuing across the car park.

Chesterfield Folk Club closes for the summer and this was to be the first gig of the new season. Had someone not told us something? Was the concert not going ahead? Had someone forgotten to unlock the doors?

I never actually found out why we were standing outside but by the time I got through the doors it was a full house with a second queue rapidly forming at the bar.

The artist who had drawn such a large crowd was Vin Garbutt. Vin has been a professional on the folk scene since the late 60s.

He started off singing and playing a largely traditional repertoire becoming known, amongst other things, as a very proficient tin whistle player! These days he is known more for his poignant songs of social comment. Oh yes, and his side splittingly funny, off the wall sense of humour.

First up, though, was ex Bolsover resident Peter Davies, who delivered a selection of mostly self penned songs with a confident, clear baritone that set the tone for the evening beautifully. He reminded me of that crop of singer songwriters like Peter Bond and Paul Metzers. He had the winning combination of a simple but effective guitar style coupled with meaningful lyrics. I particularly liked ‘Is it ever going to rain?’ and ‘Go on and dance, Joanne’.

If I had to sum up a Vin Garbutt concert I would probably say it is a bit like watching one of those clowns in a circus who somehow ends up tottering along the tightrope looking like he’s just about to fall off. Of course, he never does and it is all hilariously funny at the same time. Throughout Vin’s act he gives the impression of having had almost too much to drink. He told us rambling stories that defied logic but which led unerringly to an hilarious ending. Then his balance on the tightrope would be regained and he would sing deeply moving songs like ‘Neither widow nor wife’ or ‘The fallen of Fulstow’.

Vin put Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ to music. You had to be there really to appreciate the almost insane introduction to this part of the evening. If Spike Milligan had been around to hear it he would probably have offered Vin a part in a revived Goon Show there and then. The song itself was a masterpiece which sat on a razor’s edge between genius and music hall.

By the end of the evening it had become clear why Vin probably doesn’t know what an empty seat at a concert looks like.

On October 12, the club is hosting the annual Pulling Strings charity concert. This year the guests are the unique Keith Donnelly and the brilliant Phil Hare. A great opportunity to see these two great artists making a rare Chesterfield appearance.