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Saturday, 10 October 2015

Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottosson on gold bars, embarrassment and review etiquette

Something new happened at my house - The Glamour Cave - in east London, the other evening: it hosted a folk gig. Yes: the Glamour Cave has finally done what it was born to do - at least it felt that way at the time. I met the musicians - Bridget Marsden and Leif Ottoson - when I was away on a work trip recently at the Stockholm folk festival, where I heard Bridget play and had my personal bacon saved by the two of them, when they gave me a lift very, very late one night.

I had to be a bit careful while the event was being organised and not mention it on social media as they said they weren't sure about the small print in one of the contracts they'd signed for their UK tour, which made it look initially as if a - possibly megalomaniac? - promoter had sole rights over their playing in London.


However, that turned out to be not the case, even in the mind of the promoter, and now the house concert is over I would love to sing their praises, mainly because they are magical. In fact I would have liked to have done it sooner and helpfully have promoted their tour but I've been ill and can only apologise for any difference it might have made, mainly to them, obviously.

I don't want to gush too much, though, because while they were here they said something that made me think about the ways in which gushing can be bad.

This is the thing. As the evening was starting up I put someone else's CD on the stereo: Richard Shindell, an American musician and friend of Show of Hands, who lives in Argentina. It was Courier, his live album, because it's one of my favourites. And found myself explaining, probably partly due to nervousness that no one would turn up to the house concert, that I'd managed to get myself in an awkward situation with Shindell by, I think, writing something overly empathetic. Read it and feel my girlish naivety.

So this is my embarrassing story. Shindell had played in Islington at The Old Queen's Head - the venue where Leif and Bridget were due to be the next night - and I'd gone along with a photographer  because, frankly, Shindell is fab and if you've never seen him and folk music is your thing, you really should. I'm doing it again. Anyway...

The last time he'd been in the UK I'd interviewed him and the result had been fulsome. In fact, it occurred to me when I saw him in the upstairs room at The Old Queens Head that he looked a bit embarrassed, especially for an American. Let's face it, telling an American you admire their work is not usually a problem.


We hung around: the photographer, David Firn, liked the music nearly as much as I did as it turned out, and managed to get one truly great shot of Shindell, above. We all left the pub at the same time.

"So where do you have to get to?" I asked Shindell.

He mentioned a hotel that we'd never heard of and said he had no idea how to get there but thought it was quite a long way, so we recommended a black cab. And then, in all innocence as one was passing with a yellow light on, hailed it. He climbed in, perhaps somewhat dutifully, looking back on it.

The next morning I looked up the hotel and realised that it was approximately 50 yards from The Old Queens Head and that there was *no way* he would not have known where it was as it had clearly been chosen for its proximity to the venue and that he must have left his bag there earlier. This filled me with a mixture of embarrassment and titillation.


Anyway. I told this tale to Bridget and Leif. "Aha," said Leif. "He suspected you of stalkerish behaviour." Apparently so, I admitted, slightly shamefaced. But not so much that I wouldn't write about it, obviously.

"Yes,"said Leif. "We once had a review that was so good that we didn't know what to do with it. I guess this is kind of the same thing."

Leif was being amazingly socially adept and trying to make me feel less awkward that I'd told the story. As an English person I have the ability to recognise this quality of emotional intelligence in others, even if not actually to reproduce it myself.

"This review. It contained so much praise that it was like a gold bar. We felt we couldn't show it to anyone because it would have been showing off. And we couldn't exchange it for anything because it was too much. 'Please can I exchange my gold bar for everything you have in your cash till?'"

Suddenly I saw the situation from the perspective of an unusually shy American or an average Scandinavian for the first time. You see? That's what folk's all about: learning about other cultures :-)

In the mean time please listen to Bridget and Leif because they are enchanting. Bridget is English and studied at Cambridge University and then music school in Stockholm, where she met Leif. And as a result their instrumental music has a really interesting quality that is something like listening to English being spoken as a foreign language by a Swede. Or vice versa. Some of the rhythms and cadences are familiar but many are not, so to an English folky it is both exotic and familiar.


 Love them. Love their emotional intelligence.

* If you'd like to do a house concert at The Glamour Cave you can contact me here. It could be fun. Also, if you would be interested in helping me livestream or record future events, same thing.

* Here's a story called This Nyckelharpa Kills Fascists about Swedish folk musicians taking on racism. 

* Here's a weird story about Richard Shindell and Doctor Who.

* If you'd like to receive posts from this blog directly into your Facebook newsfeed, you could *like* its Facebook page and then use the drop-down menu to indicate that it's one of your "interests". This will enhance the possibility that you'll get them. You could also follow me on Twitter @emma1hartley

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