Young Charley Robinson kindly invited me to watch the Stringbrokers Showcase Concert, at Harrow Way School. It was a real treat for me to come along, because when I was a young guitarist, and when it was called the Rock School, I used to take part.
It was a slightly different set up back then, but it all leads to the same thing – which is to get young musicians, who would never normally play with anyone else, together and give them a chance to play in front of an audience!
Set up by Rob Robinson of Stringbrokers music shop – in Andover, above the Blue Onion cafe – all of the students that partake in music lessons throughout the year are given their chance to shine on the big stage and perform two or three prepared songs, in bands varying from size from 3 to, yes, 20! I couldn't believe it myself.
The event itself was comprised of two mini concerts. The first started at 7:00 and went on until 8:15ish and was for the younger kids. This was so that the parents could get them home and tucked up in bed.
I was harkened back to my time as a kid, waiting to go on stage, when I heard Dave Allon give his opening speech to the crowd. "Buenos dias!" he announced. "Welcome to the Guitar Club … Showcase Academy … Event!" He always makes me chuckle and is great character to have – dare I say – in any event!
Kicking us off was – the first truly original band name – Kit's Sat 10:45
There were four guitarists playing in this, not including Kit, the tutor, who was with them and they played two songs: I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Candy. I was most impressed with their timing and the general togetherness of it all. And they all came on stage in uniform! With Steph Whitehead on vocals, Rob Robinson on bass and Mr X on drums it made for a great opener!
Next up was another of Kit's groups. This time called Kit's Wed 4:20
These guys played American Idiot and Iron Man. American Idiot sounded just like the original and Iron Man was just awesome. They even got that really cool 'bending the E-string' technique in at the start. However, and it happens to me too, it is a technique that is almost guaranteed to put your guitar a little out tune. But as far as I'm concerned, it just adds to the Black Sabbath authenticity! Dave Allon and Luke Holden, both of you gave stunning vocals.
The next group, according to Dave, Kit's OTHER Sat group, was Kit's Sat 9:30
Playing Anarchy in the UK (Well done, Dave, you sang it great … considering it was your first time – great screaming!) and You Really Got Me, a couple of classic rock pieces, I was again really impressed. With solid timing and a couple of cheeky solo's I was a very happy audience member.
Another Kit group, Kit's Fri 4:20
With Madison Douch, from Maddie and Ali, guesting on vocals, Rob on bass and Dave on drums, we, the audience, we graced with two wonderful renditions of Brown Eyed Girl and Black Horse & The Cherry Tree. Another brilliant set.
Next up was a mini record breaker with a joint effort from groups Kit's Sat 12:00, Kit Tues 5:30, Rob Tues 4:20 Oscar Fri 4:20 and Various One-to-Ones.
With this lot combined it was 20 guitarists! (I mean 19 guitarists and 1 bassist) Before they went on there was a little, I mean long, line of kids all with their guitars, and one bass, waiting to get tuned. I even helped to get them all get ready go on stage! They started with a Rob Robinson piece 'Spa Getty Wes Turn' which, as you may have guessed is a 'hats off' to a good ol' western theme tune. You've got your E major and A minor chord, and a simple, yet catchy, melody line. There were the guitarists with acoustic guitars and those with electric, and each one was given their chance to shine. They also performed Teenage Kicks/Tricks and a fave of mine Wild Thing! And they were all in time and, I can tell you, even getting 20 experienced musicians playing together can be a challenge, so well done!
This was the end of concert 1 and the start of concert 2. In the words of Jake Robinson "The Audience Strikes Back" and in the words of Dave Allon "Buenas Noches!"
Next up was Kit's Tues 6:45
I was very impressed to hear another of my personal favourites, Wherever You Will Go and Rolling in the Deep. Wherever You Will Go was close to the original, while Rolling in the Deep was nicely rocked up!
Then it was Rob Various.
I know, the band names are quite original! It was another very impressive set. They played All Day and All of the Night and Basketcase – when I closed my eyes is actually sounded like the studio recording. It was just awesome, on every level!
They were followed by Kit Mon 5:30
And they played Hate to Say I Told You So, Undercover Marilyn and Born to Be Wild – probably one of the greatest rock/blues tracks. They incorporated all the bits that make it great. There was a solo or two and they got that brilliant E7#9 chord (the Jimmy Hendrix chord) being bashed out at the end!
Oscar Tues 5:30
Apart from Rob and Oscar guesting, this was the only all girl band. They performed Rockstar, Ho Hey and New Shoes. It was doubly brilliant because not only were they playing (very well, I might add) but they were also singing and harmonising, especially on Ho Hey. They played all the three songs exceptionally well.
Kit Fri 5:30
This brilliant band played Are You Gonna Be My Girl, Fortune Faded and What's My Age Again.
Kit Thur 5:30
This final 'Kit' band – also known as the 'Josh Band', as everyone in it, apart from the guest performers, were called Josh – played Are Can't Explain, Danni California and the Boys are Back in Town. Let me start with HOW COOL WAS THE ON THE KNEES GUITAR SOLO! With a Wah Pedal, too. Epic! And I was stunned with the timing of The Boys are Back in Town. I didn't hear a single note missed. Really really really well done!
However, Mr Allon, I was promised that you would be juggling 3 ball, WHILE drumming AND singing … so a bit disappointed really. You let the band down! Hehe
To round the night off we had a band called 'The Pioneers'… Just kidding! The band was actually called Oscar Thur 5:30. What else would it be?
I was only listening to this song on the way to concert and I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it – Man in the Box, by Alice in Chains. It was a really good rendition and so were the following pieces, Flow by Pearl Jam and Blind Man by Black Stone Cherry, with great vocals from Dave Allon and Steph Whitehead.
This event wouldn't have been possible without the help of many people all of whom I will try and list now!
Rob Robinson, Dave Allon, Kit Craig-Lowdon, Charley Robinson, Jake Robinson, Oscar Rees (Mr X), Steph Whitehead, Madison Douch, Luke Holden, Jack Elkins and Matt Corbet.
(If I have missed anyone off the list, please let me know and I will add them!)
Thank you everyone who was there to make it a cracking night!
Thank you to Stringbrokers for the photos.