If there’s one business to be in during this period of paced easing of lockdown, it must be the marquee business, it’s another for pubs to adequately comprehend what to put inside them. Establishments erect a tent and furnish it with tables so punters can eat and drink alfresco, and some might have an acoustic singer compliment it, but supplying entertainment to suit a crowd eager to get social lives up and running again is the tricky part.
For the Barge at Honeystreet, with its unique combo of a pub, wharf and campsite, historically it created a perpetual mini-festival atmosphere, ergo they’re no strangers to understanding how to accommodate restrictions and still throw a mind-blowing party.
What the now-owners have done is nothing short of miraculous; to enhance this ethos, and create an apt space to house the original concept.
With fields-worth of camping pitches, tipi glamping zone, the derelict barn transformed into a tremendously decorated arts and performance space, a brilliant children’s playpark, suitable showers and washroom facilities, the many vast improvements have made the Barge something folk could only dream of in years gone by. And for which they should be extremely proud.
Naturally, I had to check this out myself, improvements already underway prior to lockdown when I last paid a visit, for Knati P and Nick’s Skanga sound system. Of course, back then we danced inside the pub, and given when I booked tickets for this Boot Hill All Stars extravaganza, we were under the impression restrictions would be fully lifted.
To maintain decorum and keep everyone seated while hosting a gig from a scrumpy and western, Wurzels-meets-the Specials in a kind of frenzied gypsy-folk-punk band of misfits, eagerly anticipating their first performance since lockdown, was never going to be easy. Yet through sheer respect for what the owners of the Barge have achieved, restrictions were adhered to and the best made of a bad situation.
Crowds remained seated, within the huge airy marquee, though were aching to break out in dance fever, as the celebrated Boot Hill All Stars did their thing, with bells on, corsets, fluffy dusters and frontman Flounder wearing a testicles necklace and sporting a new twin-tooth Ripsaw Resonator made from recycled and renovated material from Junksville Guitars. All revealed as they disrobed from their “lockdown attire” dressing gowns!
But this was not before support came from the bizarrely unique jack-hammered blues duo, Dry White Bones. Unique I say by way of a Dave on harmonica, and a washboard dangling from his neck, with metallic camping mug, and a variety of homemade percussion features attached, to compliment his other half’s rusty but powerful blues vocals plus acoustic guitar. The pair make quite a show, with entertaining banter and an improbably unpredicted sound; Dave breaking into a sublime harmonica solo of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s Summertime, only as an intro to their own composition, for example, is nothing short of genius. Yet, if you feel a guy tapping a camping mug sounds a bit silly, this is something you really have to witness yourself to fully appreciate.
To the main event of the show, and it is a show, rather than a gig; think vaudeville in a gypsy caravan, circus at Madstock to just go part of the way. It’s an expression of unabashed folly, where Toots & the Maytals’ Monkey Man, can befittingly follow a frantic cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Props such as chairs for Cossack dancing, and handheld signs, one reading “tiny Jesus,” the other, “on a hot cross bun” correspond to their original and humorous song titles. A gig where if dancing is not allowed the gang encourage items of clothing be waved around instead, ending with a pair of bloomers landing on Flounder’s guitar headstock.
Classics known to Boot Hill fans, the comical female masturbatory subject of Devil’s Doorbell to ska-fuelled Night Bus and Monkey in the Hold and were accomplished, (the latter I plug is on our 4 Julia’s House compilation,) but not before a few new, lockdown-related tunes were presented; one of the NHS, the second concerning the Homer Simpson practise of drinking alone in your underpants. With twelve years of doing this under their belt, though they confessed nerves to me prior to going on, it seemed like riding a bike to the punters, stimulated by the epic routine.
There could be no act more apt for The Barge at Honeystreet, yet with a restaurant, and passing activities along the canal or campsite like paddle boating, The Record Deck longboat record store, and Stephanie and Simon’s traditional printing press from a pink milkfloat to name but a few, there’s always something happening, and it’s usually bonkers. As for gigs, the show must go on, and for a mere fiver ticket stub, next Friday sees the arrival of Grizzley and the Grasshoppers, Saturday night will go off with local legendary resident DJ and producer Rich the Ditch and friends on the wheels of steel, and Somerset hip hop outfit, Monkey Bizzle’s album launch on the following Friday 9th July, in this pocket of resistance from our affluent conservative corner of the universe.
Me? I got out of the rut and had a blinder, thanks for asking.
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