Brockley Unplugged

A friends birthday (hope you had a nice one, Dave) took us to a pub in Brockley, SE15, on a Wednesday night. I’d only heard of the place before as one of the places Spike Milligans family lived in while he was off aiding Hitlers Downfall.

Living in SW16 as I do, this involved a trek across the uncharted wastes of Crystal Palace and Gypsy Hill – they’re a lot nicer than Streatham, but that isn’t hard. One highlight is of course the fantastic Crystal Palace TV Transmitter, which looks like a miniature Eiffel Tower, only it’s better because it transmits British TV. Can’t say fairer than that!

We found the pub, nice place, bought a soft drink (school night, remember) then made our way through to the function room at the back. £3 entrance got us in to a beautiful little miniature theatre, with a tiny stage littered with microphones, drums, and a couple of acoustic guitars on stands. Above a postage-stamp-sized dancefloor rotated the dustiest mirrorball I’ve seen in a while…

We had gone to the pub – The Ivy House – because it has an acoustic music night on a Wednesday. It takes place in the theatre, which has a great atmosphere of seedy decadence, like a 30’s Berlin cabaret. OK, maybe not, but certainly evocative.

There were a number of acts on the bill that night. The first couple of acts were chaps with electro-acoustics and harmonicas – couldn’t really tell the difference between them – more so because they used the same guitar. I assume they didn’t use the same harmonica – can’t be too careful in today’s paranoid world.

The next crew up were Knuckles, an American couple on guitar and accordion. They had a good few songs, as did Death Of A Band. Highlight of the night though, was Tim West. His lyrics were genuinely funny in places, and his rock posturing in the tiny venue just made it all the more absurd. The final stroke of genius was Tim inviting a member of the audience on the stage to accompany him. A volunteer stepped forward. Well, shambled forward really. A tall man in a hat. Drunk. Clearly a veteran of the acoustic scene. The musical partnership which followed was a joy to behold. You couldn’t have made it up – it was like Bad News Live. Tim would play, and then say, “take it!” to his new partner, at which point the guy would still be trying to tune the guitar with his back to the audience. At the en, the guy got a huge round of applause, at which point he nearly fell off the stage by tripping over a guitar lead.

A great night – we must do it again. Not through any desire to ‘keep music live’ of course – that’s wouldn’t be me at all.