Last night a five piece bluegrass and “old time” music band played at what has become one of the premier London folk and country venues, The Birkbeck Tavern in Leyton. The Random Canyon Growlers, featuring guitar, double bass, mandolin, banjo and fiddle, are mostly from the east coast of the USA, but first came together playing in the Northern Rockies. Performing two sets and two encores, the Growlers’ fast paced, in the tradition, playing proved a perfect accompaniment to the pub’s impressive real ale selection.
Lead singer Jamie Drysdale told me that they write around a quarter of the numbers they perform; others are by such bluegrass legends as Flatt and Scruggs and country star Bill Monroe. This band will go down well in the north and south of Ireland, where they also have gigs scheduled this month; the common heritage is obvious, and is one that Matt Donovan’s fiddle playing gives particular expression to. They are also due to play in Brighton, Bristol and Chagwell. Their second encore was “Salty Dog Blues”, a deliciously titled and supremely fast-paced climax to another thoroughly good music night at the Birkbeck.
The band’s UK and Ireland booking agent was full of praise for Stephen Ferguson, the pub landlord and man responsible for the What’s Cookin’ gigs. Stephen himself puts on a brave face about the bottom line issue: will the pub survive the proposal before the council to turn the whole building into a block of flats. The “community use” defence in favour of a pub with very popular music nights may, sadly, not, be enough to stave off the march of “development”. Sign this online petition to register your objections so that hopefully more music of this quality can be enjoyed live at the Birkbeck.
10th October 2012