Review of ‘A Place I Know’ (23/3/16)

The original idea for the show was conceived before the end of last year, when we were asked to think about Mods and Rockers in the 1960s/70s at the famous Frank Freeman’s Dance Club which was based in Kidderminster. I looked into its history and found out that from 1956 to 2003 it acted as a showcase for many bands that went on to be famous for example T Rex, Captain Beefheart and even Fleetwood Mac.

The show was created as an ensemble piece by tutor Andy Edwards based on the history of the club and in order to showcase the talent of everyone in the group who all would be on stage at the sometime throughout which was a new experience. It was also the case that parts of the show filmed would later be used in a TV documentary about the history of the club, so there was added pressure to deliver a good performance also because of this. As part of promoting this show we created a Facebook page to alert people to the performance, press releases and a poster.

The songs chosen for the show were proposed by our tutor. I personally felt that different songs may have worked better and would have preferred to have had more of a say in which songs best illustrated the era but I think because I’m involved with other bands I’m just used to a greater level of independence when it comes to choosing songs etc. The song I was to peform, ‘Misery’ by The Dynamics, obviously wasn’t my personal choice and I wasn’t sure about performing it but in the event it seemed to work well and Ellie sang the high notes well with me doing harmonies.

Things seemed to go wrong in the last few days before the show and it was quite stressful but on the day itself the full rehearsal did go well and it felt like everything was at last coming together. Because it was being filmed and bits of it were going to be used on TV it added to the stress making all of us more nervous than perhaps we would normally be.

For the Moving Image part we needed to set some music to imagery and for me this was one of the highlights. We used lighting to create a psychedelic atmosphere on stage and harmonised and improvised to the background sound of Eclipse by Pink Floyd. Afterwards audience members said this was very well done and really created a sense of the era we were trying to convey. That part of the performance had a really Trance-like feel and worked really well from a visual point of view. This was also an opportunity for me to do some impovised ambient trance like singing which I enjoyed.

Everyone had the chance to play their own instruments and/or sing and I think this gave a really good idea of how talented everyone in the group was. Some of the rockier songs were done really well also with strong vocal leads.

One thing I wondered about, and this was also said by some members of the audience afterwards, was the use of segments of interviews with two people who knew Frank Freeman and had been heavily involved in the club as it developed. The idea of interrupting the music with basically talking heads several times was I think a bit overdone and although what they had to say did give people a feel for what the club was about, perhaps that would have been best left to the TV programme rather than a live show as some people said to me they found the switch to interviews and back a bit intrusive and maybe jarred with the rhythm of the performance as a whole.

I recall trying to give my own song more of a funkier, Ska-like feel, and I think that worked out well in the end. I think I was keen, given that I hadn’t chosen the song, to make it my own in some way and I feel that I achieved that so this is one aspect of the show that I felt went really well in the end for me personally. As a group I think everyone pulled together really well in the end, despite the usual difficulties, and put on a really good performance.

In conclusion it was a very interesting and challenging show to work on, and I feel I learnt a great deal by being part of such a group piece of work. It was interesting to see over the months of preparation and rehearsal how different elements of it all came together in the end to create what felt like a good period piece that captured the mood of the times and was in many ways quite educational because it taught us a great deal, and the audience hopefully, about the musical heritage that lies on our doorstep in Kidderminster. Frank Freeman’s Club was a real source of musical energy and attracted creative talent from far and wide, and things like this are important to remember and celebrate because in a way as musicians we are all influenced by things that have gone before us and in many ways the current local music scene that I am a part of today would not exist in its current form if it were not for the previous generation who brought live music to the area and made it famous and such a good place to work as a singer or a musician.

It was also a unique experience for me to share a stage with so many other performers, and to see how much the other students had developed in skills and confidence because of the course. I thought the show looked good because we had paid attention to the clothes of the era, and that generally it did reflect well the spirit of the times we were portraying. My only reservation, as I said, was that the interviews were intrusive and maybe lasted too long and didn’t always connect with what had just been performed or with what was due to come next, and this seemed too disjointed really. Obviously things can be changed as there is always room for improvement as a show grows and I think a future version might be more streamlined with the focus more on the live music performance side.

I enjoyed being part of the show and feel that it challenged me in many ways, particularly in performing as part of a large group.

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