TWO of the island’s leading singer songwriters are set to appear on the same bill later this month, with a special gig at the newly refurbished Port St Mary Town Hall.
Clara Barker and Chris Gray are the stars of the double-header on Saturday, February 23, in a show organised to raise money for the Southern Befrienders.
The charity provides a befriending service for the elderly people in the south, made possible by island people offering their time voluntarily to visit and provide supportive friendships.
The gig is a rare chance to see Port St Mary native Clara perform live, as she works towards the release of her second album, The Good Ideas Club, a follow up to 2010’s well-received debut Indigo.
Chris is fresh from a successful trip to London, where he and guitarist Luke O’Reilly opened up for Simon Townsend at a sold out Ealing Club.
He is also working on a new album, and will head to Leeds next month to lay down the finishing touches.
So how did the Port St Mary gig come about? ‘Laurence Skelly saw me playing at The Queenie Festival last Summer and asked me how I’d feel about playing a gig in the Town Hall when it was reopened,’ explained Clara. ‘Of course I jumped at the chance to play in such a cool venue in my home town and to raise money for such a worthy local cause.’
The show looks as though it will take on a personal and relaxed vibe.
‘I’m going on first - just me and my guitar, lots of songs and some of the stories behind them - and then Chris is going to close the night,’ said Clara.
‘It’s going to be a seated, “sit and listen” gig and night of acousticy goodness, but it should be pretty chilled out as the Town Hall isn’t licensed so it’s bring your own booze.’
Chris added: ‘I wanted to try something a little different for this show, I usually play totally acoustic or with a full band so I wanted to meet somewhere in the middle. I have Steve Leach on a stripped back drum kit, and Luke O’Reilly on electric guitar, both excellent musicians and really fantastic to work with, and I’m on the acoustic.
‘So it has a kind of semi-acoustic vibe which doesn’t lose its ability to rock out or soften up too.’
Chris said rehearsals with the new three-piece format have been sounding good.
How is Clara’s preparation going?
‘I’m feeling pretty nervous to be honest, I still suffer a bit with stage fright,’ she said.
‘My last gig was in New York and so far away from home it almost didn’t seem real. Also, I’m putting a couple of brand spankers (new songs) in the set, and this will be the first time they’ve been out in public. Let’s hope they behave themselves, eh?’
The spruced-up southern venue burst back into life in November last year, after nearly a decade lying dormant, already playing host to everything from traditional ceilidhs to ear drum bursting mod rock.
‘It’s very cool and I’m proud to be playing there,’ said Clara.
‘It’s going to be all kinds of crazy real to play so close to my home in front of so many people I know - some of whom have never seen me play live before. No pressure then!’
Chris added: ‘The Town Hall looks great and looks like a great venue to play in. I think there’s something really nice about the south of the island too so I’m really looking forward to spending some more time there.’
On how the mixture of music will work, he said: ‘I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with Clara, I have only seen her play live once or twice a few years back now, but I’ve had a listen to some of her songs on her Facebook page so it’ll be nice to hear them on the night, they are sounding really good. We’re both singer/songwriters, however, we have different sounds so there should be something for everyone on the night.’
The doors open at 7pm.
Tickets are £10 and available from Quine and Cubbon in Port St Mary, Thompson Travel in Port Erin, Peter Norris Music in Douglas or through the Southern Befrienders event box office on 381236.