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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Hatful of Rain and The Hobbit himself, Martin Freeman

Jamie Freeman had just finished his set supporting Hatful of Rain at the Green Note, and there was quite a lot I wanted to ask really: what with him and his wife, Stevie, running the Union Music Store on Lewes, which is a shop - the kind that people travel to visit - and a record label. Hatful of Rain's record label, in fact.

Then I noticed with a rather uncool start, that there was an extremely famous actor standing at the bar, deep in conversation and wearing a tweedy jacket.

This is always a tricky moment for me. Like some kind of partly reformed junky, I used to work on several newspaper diary columns and am therefore potentially completely shameless about pestering people I've only seen on TV in pursuit of a funny anecdote. It's a habit I'm trying to wean myself off, the better to reintegrate myself back into civilised society. So I coped with the increased heart rate by thinking something along the lines of "Sherlock Holmes, The Office, national treasure, The Hobbit... Oh fuckety fuck. What's his name...?"

"That's my brother, Martin," said Jamie, helpfully.

Sorry for staring. That must be weird. Does he have hairy feet like a Hobbit? (Perhaps I was gabbling slightly.) Being his brother, I suppose you'd probably know...

He replied that veiny feet ran in the family. "Like a map of south London."

Anyway, that was sufficiently bizarre to satisfy my Pavlovian craving for celebrity, especially as I was assured that Martin Freeman wasn't a folky. "More of a soul boy really." Also he was having a night off from being famous.


Hatful of Rain were marvellous. I had an inkling they might be after I tried to go and see them last Thursday at the Halfmoon in Putney but was unable to hear them properly over a shouty crowd that was there - unaccountably - mainly to see someone else. I'll save that story for another time...

Lyrically they're very strong, as you might expect from a band that chose such an arresting name. Seeing them mentioned on Facebook, a friend suggested that it could be a tribute to Del Amitri, which didn't sound very likely to me, but did have the unintended effect of eliciting the truth from Philip the bass player: it's from a Tom Waits song, which is obviously much cooler.

Chloe, the singer and lyricist, has an iconoclastic turn of mind, as well as a day job as a midwife. The latter led to a great story about one of the other band members phoning during working hours only to be told: "I'm sorry, I can't talk now. I'm practising mending perineal tears on a fake vagina." There was nothing about this gig that wasn't memorable.

When I say iconoclastic, I'm thinking of the bold taste in frocks...

(Thanks to Alex Pape for forwarding this picture, which is far better than anything I could wrangle out of my camera phone.)

... also the knack of turning a great phrase. A good way to make a bad man worse jumped out and stayed out.

And then there are the songs that sound as if they're just waiting to be covered.

But they also have a knack of picking excellent covers themselves. So we had Willin' by Little Feat, Gillian Welch's Caleb and White Freightliner by Townes Van Zandt.

All in all I can't recommend this lot highly enough. They're extremely classy and have excellent back-up in the form of Union Music Store. It was Jamie and Stevie Freeman who made the video for Way up on the Hill (top) that caught Bob Harris's eye. And I had a really interesting conversation with Stevie afterwards about how people are better at listening to things when they're also watching something, that led me to wonder again about the role that graphic design plays in the music industry these days. It's Jamie's background and it also came up in relation to Keston Cobblers Club the other day.

By the way, Amanda Abbington, who stars in the video for the lovely Exit Song (directly above), is a professional actress and Martin Freeman's girlfriend.

And inevitably, as I headed off towards Camden Tube station a bus sailed past wearing a big advert for The Hobbit that took the form of Martin Freeman's face. And, yes, it was heading for south London.

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  1. Someday, I'm going to make a folk music pilgrimage to the UK, just so I can see bands like this in person. And, Martin Freeman is very cute (lucky).

  2. And *that* is exactly the response I was aiming for :-) Thanks Ann x


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