Friday, 14 September 2012
855 THE “BATTLE OF THE FIDDLES”; MILES HUNT AND ERICA NOCKALLS VS. GAZ BROOKFIELD AND BEN WAIN, Swindon Victoria, Thursday 13 September 2012
The “Battle of the Fiddles”! Yikes! Let me explain; a welcome return to Swindon town for Wonderstuff leading light and latterday travelling troubadour Miles Hunt, plus his lady fiddler Erica Nockalls, was made even more attractive by the addition of the currently ubiquitous Gaz Brookfield, increasingly becoming one of my musical delights of 2012, as support. Not only that, but thanks to Facebook chatter leading up to the event, Gaz had recruited his friend and occasional contributor Ben Wain as guest violinist for the night, to augment his acoustic guitar thuggery, setting up a real “Battle of the Fiddles”!
So Rach and I took a circuitous route up the hill, hitting the venue for 8-ish, bumping into lots of familiar faces and enjoying a chat with a buoyant and excited Gaz as the backroom venue filled up. We took a good viewing spot stage-left for Gaz’ entrance onstage at 8.45, Gaz tonight joining a select group of acts whom I’ve seen “live” for 3 consecutive gigs. He eased in with “Limelight” and the slow burn, touching “Four Chords And The Truth”, Ben’s fiddle dovetailing in nicely and adding an extra dimension to Gaz’ always committed, strident performance and acoustic tomfoolery. A flippant “Diet Of Banality” saw Gaz suggesting he release the track as a Christmas single to beat off Simon Cowell’s latest effort to No. 1 (“it just needs some jingle bells, that’s Christmassy enough, right?”), whilst the subsequent “Be The Bigger Man” was brilliantly rendered, and received a deserved ovation.
“Here’s the audience participation element; I know you dread it, especially from the warm up guy,” Gaz announced midway through “Thin”, but the rapidly-filling crowd nevertheless sang along with the rousing hook; then, after some fulsome praise for the by now fully-engaged crowd and a declaration that supporting Miles was, “a childhood dream,” “The West Country Song” rounded off a short but superb set from a man who, if there’s any justice in this world (there isn’t, I know…), should be destined for greater things, and damn soon!
The place was by now heaving, and Rach (for once) ran into some old friends for a chat between acts! Met up with the boys in the pub briefly, then wandered swiftly back down to our front stage-left spot, as Miles and Erica were already onstage tuning up. Miles announced himself in swift order, then after a typically acerbic put down of some noisy punter at the front (not me!) plus some chatty Cathys at the bar, he and Erica eased into their set with some understated solo stuff. Corky tousled hair now fully restored to Stuffies spec length, and sporting a raffish and quickly discarded neckscarf plus a chunkier build (hey, don’t we all?), Miles was clearly in no mood to mess about; by the 3rd number he was already delving into the fiddle-powered “Never Loved Elvis” phase of the Wonderstuff canon, with a double salvo of “Mission Drive” and a superb galloping “Play”, divided by a pretty solo interlude from Erica (playing the song she’d apparently played during her audition for “Treme”!) whilst Miles changed a broken string. Entertaining and familiar stories of life on the road accompanied the material, as Miles, by now a practised raconteur and storyteller, revelled in and demanded the rapt crowd’s attention. Stuffies oldies were liberally sprinkled throughout (know your audience, I guess); all familiar and fun stuff, none more so than “Size Of A Cow”, arguably the Stuffies best-known yet most polarising number. Miles actually conducted a humourous debate on its’ merits before actually playing the damn thing; I was one of the naysayers but had to admit it was fine, with Erica, clad in puffball black “Twilight” chic and sporting big boots which seemingly anchored her slight frame to the stage, sawing purposefully away at the fairgroundesque violin solo of this raucous singalong.
A few more Stuffies numbers culminated in a final, cascading and tumbling “Here Comes Everyone”, Miles declaring he’d enjoyed himself and would be happy to return, but the, “noisy cunts can stay at home next time.” An enjoyable set overall, which for me (but not the Stuffies massive, I know) would have benefitted from more than just the one new number (a nevertheless promising “Right Side Of The Turf”). A quick chat with a besieged Miles and a more relaxed satisfied Gaz afterwards, before we hit the road. So, the winner? Well, I’d probably be the only one in the place who thinks this, but for sheer passion, I’ve got to give the honours tonight to Gaz Brookfield!