If you've ever visited Bristol before your probably aware of The Thekla but those who haven't, the venue itself is a boat situated on the harbour side in the centre of Bristol. It's unique, intimate and there's a maze of rooms to get lost in, also a bar upstairs and downstairs to help you find your sea legs. Downstairs is what we're interested in as this would be the setting for a songwriter night with main focus directed on Mr Ragan, who is currently touring off the back of his well received new album "Till Midnight". Having seen Chuck perform from afar at other larger venues I was eager to get up close and personal on May 14.
First up on the bill was Billy the Kid, I had not heard of "Billy" before and I was half expecting to see Emilio Estevez get up and shout "Regulators!" but to my surprise it was a Canadian who coined her name from playing in bands from a young age, hence 'the Kid'. She played a tight, mellow set, using a bit of humour to get the crowd on her side and subject material was imaginative with topics like her own version of her grandparents meeting. This was only the second day of the tour and i think nerves were showing a bit but all in all, I think she did well and if your a fan of acoustic punk, then give her a shot.
Next on the agenda was Northcote. I had the chance of seeing Matt perform not too long ago and I was impressed, I really liked the song "Worry" and was excited to see him perform again. As expected it was a great set, with the singer–songwriter infusing Punk, Blues, Emo etc to give a smile lifting effect. I caught up with him after show and he had a few words him me. He explained how this was the first time he had visited Bristol and was impressed by the relaxed vibe, saying the people here are "unique" and compared it to Vancouver Island. After joking on stage about pirates, he explained how The Thekla was a great experience and he had a great time. A really nice guy, a big thank you for the chat, check out Northcote if you can.
Now for the main course. After stepping out on the main deck for some air, I wandered downstairs to see Chuck and The Camaraderie just about to enter the stage. The place was rammed packed, from the upstairs to the downstairs everyone was trying to get their piece of the action and bam the band got into full swing. They played an hour and a half set including old favourites like "California Burritos", mixing it up with the new songs like "Something May Catch Fire". The level of musicianship with this band is incredible, if you love country folk/punk, roots music ladened with intricate fiddle work(Jon Gaunt) and deep, thumping upright bass(Joe Ginsberg), then this is right up your alley.
The energy that the band as a whole gives off is incredible. With all this talent you'd expect a certain amount of smugness but as explained by Chuck mid–set, they are very humbled and grateful for all support. So after a pumped up set of harmonica solos, fiddle solos and everything else in between, the Camaraderie ended ironically on one my favourite tracks "The Boat". I thought this would be the icing on the cake but I was to wowed again after the show. Chuck did his rounds with the fans, then appeared to leave back for the boat, I then proceeded to have my chat with Northcote, to our surprise and some other lucky fans, Chuck, Joe and Jon appeared from nowhere and played us all a private tune! A real testament to their character and love of music, thus ending a great night with some of the best artists around at the moment.