Thursday March 9th sees the heartfelt sonorous beauty of KoKo, who will welcome in the spring at the Upstairs at the Unicorn Session in Pont-y-pool.
We came across this wonderful band when they happened to turn up, nonchalantly, at an open mic slot, and from first note to last created an ambience which seeped from the stage to inhabit every nook and cranny, including the nooks and crannies of the listeners’ hearts.
KoKo, we have learned, is short for Keep on Keeping on. The band’s leader and songwriter is musician-extraordinaire, Liz Mullins. Liz plays a host of instruments to an incredibly high standard yet practices her craft and carries the band with the same benevolent nonchalance evidenced at the open mic slot. Her description of KoKo is also characteristically modest: ‘Our music is acoustic and original but influenced by reggae, folk, jazz and funk. The songs are from the heart and are mostly about life today and love’. For us, KoKo have a late 60s/early 70s vibe, with ‘beauty’ as the underpinning force.
KoKo’s staple line-up is Liz Mullins lead vocals, acoustic guitar or accordion, Lucy Marley singing beautiful harmonies and the legend, Pete Hurley (Google him!), on bass. Other special guests may well put in some key appearances also.
As always, the night starts at about 8pm with an open mic, with KoKo taking the stage at around 9.30pm. The usual £3 donation request will apply.
What can we say? Scandalously, seriously wacky. One would imagine they’ve spent a lifetime imbibing strong drink and ingesting certain fungi. They haven’t (At all. The songs emerge from the imbibing of large quantities of lemonade alone) but serve up, nonetheless, somewhat hallucinogenic experiences which are both extremely funny and backed by outstanding musicianship.
The band is: Glossopian, Jeff Japers (ukulele, kick box, sampler and vocal chords); Barry Sidings (darbuka, bouzouki, a percussion tree and own vocal chords); Romany Bob (washboard, thimbles, [rare vintage] clarinet, vocal chords, mouth organ, shaky egg, wood blocks and a melodica); Helen Spoons – ‘found in a charity shop in Roath, Cardiff’ (spoons, djembe drum, claves and vocal chords); Tall Joy – who ‘gives them their much needed bottom end’.
The session begins with an open mic at around 8pm with the band on at around 9.30pm. The usual £3 donation is encouraged.
For the first session of the year at the lovely Unicorn, Pont-y-pool, we will have an open mic. These nights are often well subscribed, so possibly consider arriving early if you want a spot.
The aim will be to kick off just before 8pm.
As always, we request a donation of £3 from all. This enables us to continue booking guest performers.
For the first time ever, the (broadly) acoustic sessions on a Thursday night at Pontypool’s Unicorn pub, by way of festive celebration, run to two consecutive events during December.
First up, on December 8th, the sessions welcome the passionately sublime, personable, downright funny singer/guitarist, Huw Chidgey. Huw has toured Europe with the band, Hanky Panky, played with flautist extraordinaire, Catherine Handley, and also finds time to inspire others in his role as a guitar teacher in mid Wales. Huw is a particularly fine creator and interpreter of songs and an effortless generator of musical intimacy.
Then, on December 15th, the sessions present a hugely varied and lively ‘Christmas Special’, featuring new Welsh bluegrass band, Dark Valley Revival – an exciting six-piece arising from the now defunct Gwair and also including a couple of musicians from psych-folk band, Soft Hearted Scientists. Also on the bill is the elusive folk-prog-rock band, Dennis Remme, and at least one other very special guest who, at least presently, will remain anonymous.
Both nights begin with an open mic session at around 7.30pm. There is a suggested donation entry of £3.
Upstairs at The Unicorn: the ubiquitous Mr. Rob Lear
The newly established monthly music session – christened ‘Upstairs at the Unicorn’ – continues, in its Pontypool home, with a December 10th appearance by much vaunted singer-songwriter Rob Lear.
Rob’s new album, titled Motorcycle Heart, has been released very recently, on which he teamed up with Richard Thomson’s Grammy nominated producer, Simon Tassano, as co-producer together with with Ty-Drwg’s Frank Naughton. The album blends all the skills and influences of Rob’s stela band: twelve track, each taking their inspiration from Rob’s experience growing up in a home dominated by motorcycles and motorcyclists, with the unique characters (man and machine) and the stories that flowed from them. In terms of style, the record – and Rob’s performance in general – bridges Americana, folk, country and ‘even good old pop’.
Rob’s musical career to date has seen him tour across the UK and mainland Europe, including a residency at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, performances at Wembley Arena and support slots with Amy Wadge, Henry Priestman, Bernard Butler and Ian McCulloch. His stylistic adaptability is evident in the breadth of genres he has written for. Filmic work can now also be included on his CV with Rob’s musical contribution to a new motion picture musical – Rain – released by Tornado Films.
Upstairs at The Unicorn begin at around 7.30pm with an open mic. Rob will take the stage shortly after 9pm. A donation of £3 is requested from all attending.
After a tremendous start at the new venue in September, the club returns with an open mic session on the evening of Thursday, October 13th. Things will kick off in the Upper Room at the esteemed Pont-y-pool location at around 7.30pm.
The open mic sessions have included both renowned musicians (many of whom have had their tunes or their instrumental veracity exposed on radio/tv/international media) and those just starting out, voicing their thoughts or exploring an avenue.
Come along and do your thing! It’s not just music – we welcome the spoken voice – and it’s not just acoustic – none of us belong to the folk police. We sort of prefer self-penned stuff but wicked, idiosyncratic interpretations of anything ancient or modern will be appreciated equally.
The Unicorn is a fine venue: good atmosphere, acoustics and the provision of a class PA under the guardianship of Mike and John and their attuned ears.
We ask for a £3 donation from all just to keep the club afloat in terms of booking guest performers.
Acoustic session moves to new venue
The Open Hearth Acoustic session – the monthly extravaganza of acoustic-based music (very much ‘based’: the club is certainly not disinclined towards amplification), the spoken word and comedy moves, to The Unicorn in Pontypool, and the pub’s large upstairs room, for the visit of Shootin’ the Crow on Thursday, September 9th.
Shootin’ the Crow present a wide repertoire of toe tapping material, much of it their own, conveyed with an easy, infectious manner. The band’s self-description sums it all up very well: ‘Think Hillbilly meets Country Rock meets Rock n Roll meets Folk .…if we can get away with it we do it….don’t get hung up on genre’s ..pinning a label could kinda hurt ya head’. Skilful musicianship from three guys who draw audiences in to the camaraderie of a band that clearly enjoys what it’s doing.
Despite the venue change, the basics of the session will be maintained: an open mic starting at around 7.30pm with the band on stage at around 9pm; the suggested donation of at least £3; the raffle; etc.