The Razz Up 26/02/2016

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The Razz Up … or The Steyning Committee ; also know as the  Steyning Collective.

Steyning my pretties? A picturesque village in the  quieter, leafier parts of West Sussex, winding lanes, flint/brink frontages on the main street a post office , an arts centre and several pubs complete with  wrought sign irons and requisite black gloss window sills. I would hazard that somewhere there may be a war memorial to the fallen of the village but that may just be my vivid imagination and rose tinted countryside idyll imagery.

It is here at one such pub The Norfolk Arms that the Razz Up takes place.

 

I first visited there in my much sort after role as “audience’ on their second from inaugural night in November 2015 and it is as it seems a small and local set of modern day average citizens with latent artistic and creative passions ever burgeoning.  that cannot be fulfilled in the day jobs of social worker, tree surgeon, community project developer etc .

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Soon after that initial meeting I visited the mouse hole as you know with Nick and Pete to  go through a few numbers , and get a feel for each other and then ; last night I was invited to join the line up ! I confess I was a bit giddy with the anticipation,  it is a while since Betty has trod the carpet and a while since she has met a group of musicians with as much graciousness and such a  welcoming attitude , the potential for  larks and fun  look  large ! yes they do Betty ! and there is an ever wider and richer vein of musical talent and vision which appears as yet to be honed and lays untapped .  The group has a resident artist even , Rob, who had designed the rather spun out flavour for the posters and flyers for the evening. While we sound checked, he knocked up a listings poster  so quickly and with such confidence, I was impressed. I had no idea of what the symbolism meant in the imagery but who cares! He is good  … while I watched him work I began to  ponder …What might suit  this creative hub,  is a resident artiste Betty ? would you say? An approachable and beautiful new femme fatale , a chanteuse?  Who could  feature as a …who knows, …be that as it may, ahem … ..what they got was Betty!! 

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The Razz Up is a rural collective !  and on this night which appears to be evolving from a general open mic night and bring your own sounds night to a spawning caberet vibe.   There was a line up of acts starting with the Razzettes  ( the house band)   this is largely Nick , Pete and a hardcore set of regulars , who I was introduced to but whose names I spectacularly failed to get except for Mel. The Razz Up number 4  woz written on the door in an urban stylee to a  reggae dubstep beat  that was nicely incongruous to the setting of small back room of a back street boozer, the tar stained walls with sports shirts draped above the kind of patterned carpet that stamps a mark of a decidely white and elderly blue rinse of a by gone era. 

 

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Next of the listings was Guacomel ? a play on words?  Some food flinging avant guarde mime?  No … and a good thing too really, it would be a bugger to get out of the carpet.  Mel appeared full of awe and wonder at the splendour of the night. She told us she had not performed before meeting with Nick some months before, however, she is a dab hand with a ukelele and has a clear and emotive voice with which she eloquently presented a turn of ‘that’s entertainment’  ‘ I fought the law’ and another song I didn’t know.

 

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 This was followed by the compere  and MC Simon, who does a good line in  Performance Poetry, hunched in a left bank kindaway over the mic or leaning back launguid and urbane, he presented the spoken word, sometimes over a music accompaniment from the Razzettes ;often  as if he were alone , talking to himself; as a conversational  piece , he acted as a link between acts while , the performance area was moved, set and rearranged ostensibly by Pete. The Act was billed as ‘the concrét jungle’……all he needed, if anything woz a Gitane

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There was a call then  for Different Al, next upon the carpet..  I feel I must mention the carpet yet again. You do not get many of these patterns to the pound these days, most often they have been consigned to a skip alongside  pint mugs, however The Norfolk Arms is a fine exponant of  that great 70’s tradition. It is worth a visit just for that, and the fact that there is a very nice and open minded land lady who allows  complete strangers like myself to Razz Up in her back parlour !! MatthewJshawphotagraphers say her name is Pam and this might well be correct.

 

Indeed Yes MatthewJshawphotographers were working the room. Betty and they have worked together before and have created a good body of collaborative stuff to date.  They have taken professional piccy wiccy woo wah’s ,….. their words not mine you understand... of the evening and will be publishing the edited highlights in the near future. Ordinarily an artiste might have to pay some hundreds of pounds for a professional photographer and this company are no different, however I get special dispensation because I’m special, aren’t I Betty, that’s right Betty , sleeping with the director? ….might be, who’s asking?  I can’t answer for Nick, Pete, Mel , Simon or the rest of the ensemble last night…. That would be a busy schedule.! however I think the professional presence was a favour to a friend from a friendly photographer… ahem…lol

 Different Al , he arrived!  and cut a swathe through the crowd declaring his star status  with a self depreciating smile before settling in to tune up  while MC Simon  gently draped a few poems over us while we waited.

 Different Al , set up differently! acoustic style in front of all the mic’s and music paraphanalia he stood  unplugged and announced that he had three chords and 2 of them were a bit dodgy before doing a most passable rendition of ‘A lover sings”  followed by ‘old red eyes is back” … Al said felt we wouldn’t know the songs but we did ! or Betty did anyways…. She does love to sing along our Bet x

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 The Slow Down Sisters appeared to mine eye as the most professional of the Razz line Up  last night. I feel lacking when I say I did not know any of the songs they presented. One was introduced as Gillian’s Welch’s and that is all I know.  They were two very nice ladies Carol & Deb, friendly and smiling who played the mandolin and guitar with care and precision, all the songs seemed to hold that  American folk essence  and their voices blended gently in harmony.

 

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Then the penultimate act of the evening. All The Presidents Men. Appears to be suspiciously familiar.  Faces that also belong in the Razzettes, Mel is there! lol   but this act features another voice than Mel’s  , a man with a rich and soulful timbre who lead a mellow pursuit, the room relaxed and chilled to this laid back zone…nice.

Which woz then all to brutally brought into stark contrast by  the entrance of Betty!! She never woz subtle , never woz  graceful ! ha ha!! A set that as she rather succinctly put as starting with a B&T  descending into madness before rounding off with a jolly and rousing chorus…

Nick and Pete rather deftly swung into “did they laugh”  which  sounded rather groovy as it goes.  

 Mark Cottrell had been so good as to send the chord structures down south for them to learn from . Mark is  still up in York and has recently pit up some tracks from his 54th album on Facebook. He works solidly with The Chacers up in the reaches and we will meet again hopefully this year.

 I ran out of puff and fluffed the last two verses of Tom o Bedlam, .. it has been 18 months since I last performed and  my body is weak ,  the acheses and the painses my pretties….. however! No one seemed to notice too much :->  Nick and Pete , were exemplary.. x    

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Of course as is often customary , we finished the set with ‘Knickers’ …… Nick had said he was looking for something to bring the crowd in, involve them , make them feeel part of the faaamily and I think we pulled it orf! …snigger , chortle!

 Betty in her inimitable fashion, raised an eye brow and a skirt hem, while Nick and the crowd  rallied in the chorus with a woooooooaaaaahhhhhh! Hurrah!! She had flashed  them again my pretties! Oh yes!!

  With a grand applause the caberet came to a close and it was a lovely time , people coming over to me,  lovely ladies and gents , giving me great praises and a hug by george, yes someone offered, asked politely even, to give me a hug!!  Betty does like to be asked and she loves a bit of  mutual consent…….She’s back my darlings in full force :->x

I chatted at length with all manner of lovelies, The Slow Down Sisters and ladies from the audience,  Simon and Rob and the groovy gentleman who played Bass in The Razzettes… I must get those names

 There woz though no one star  at The Razz Up 4 .. Every performer at The Razz Up  is a winner with bags of talent to share. …and guess wot! I have been invited to join them in their fun and games! Wehay!!!   

 Because there are plan afoot  for  another night at The Norfolk , the Razz Up 5 , with hopefully its own art work, line up and identity ……. but  there is also to be an April night at The Football Club and a festival in May!!  Can I slip in to the collective become one with  the Steyning people , I do hope so… I will get them, furnish you with the dates my friends and perhaps you will come and see me, see us all !

 Feel excited my pretties ,  excited at the prospect! Many and much love Bet :-> xxxx


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