The Bellinghman (bellinghman) wrote,
The Bellinghman

  • Music:

The Distraction Club's inaugural night

On Tuesday night we attended the Distraction Club in the Phoenix on the corner of Cavendish Square in London (a block or two away from Oxford Circus). This is something that Mitch Benn has apparently been wanting to do for a couple of years, and last night he finally did it.

We're both fans of Mitch - we have all his albums to date, including a (post-facto paid-for and authorised) copy of the Bootleg album. So when I heard about this event, I got tickets for it as a treat for bellinghwoman's birthday.

Firstly, at £6 each, the tickets were cheap - the return rail fares to London were about 4 times as much.

Secondly, though we'd have preferred to to be closer to where we are, if it's going to be in London, it's a very accessible venue, being about 5 minutes walk from the tube. I was there an hour after leaving Royston on the train. (bellinghwoman didn't come down with me, since she had to be in London anyway, at her dentist on Harley Street. Yes, that street that leads north from the opposite corner of Cavendish Square.)

The basement opened at a little after 19:00 (though the sign indicated 19:30 opening). Going downstairs, we were booked in by @MsClara. In the room, there was a small stage in one corner, with seats and tables oriented to it. There's a decent sized bar down there, and on the tables, menus and cutlery - they expect you to want to eat too. We ordered a hand-made burger (for me) and a braised lamb shepherd's pie (for her). The food wasn't cheap, but still reasonably priced by London standards, and pretty good too. Beer and cider were mid-range - not a CAMRA paradise, but neither was it the pure fizz options you get in some hotel bars. I drank Frulli and she drank Aspells.

The set opened with Mitch and the Distractions (Kirsty Newton and Ivan Shepherd) doing a pastiche of the Sergeant Pepper intro, welcoming us to the club. There followed a couple of other numbers, and then we had the first guest.

This was Helen Arney, who came on stage and sat down with her uke. She did three songs (IIRC), and they were delightfully funny. (She's on tour with the Caged Animals tour, and I spotted Simon Singh coming in with her.)

The second act was Matt Blair with guitar, who did a reasonably good song, though I suspect that he lost the sympathy of some of the audience because it was (though self consciously) shallowly about women and attractiveness.

The third act was Nick Doody, who was also good. He used Kirsty's keyboard.

There then followed the first break, while people went to the loos and got fresh drinks.

At the start of the second section, we had the Segue Sisters, a trio singing harmony (with Kirsty behind on keyboard). Amongst other things, they did a Doors' take-off, with one of them disconcertingly sitting on the lap of a front row audience member.

Then followed Ivan Shepherd (normally Mitch's drummer) who did a keyboard piece. Not just a drummer, hmm. He may not have the polish of some of the others, but he shows unexpected talents.

Thirdly in the session was Jay Foreman on guitar, who did a rather nice set, including one about stealing food where the action escalated from stealing from friends' plates all the way to hijacking a Waitrose delivery artic.

Finally, Mitch closed the session by playing 'Proud of the BBC', and finally asking for suggestions for an instant song that he'd write during the second interval.

The third session opened with Mitch performing the new song, and then we had Schlomo, who was certainly something different. His 'instrument' was a loop station and his microphone - he built layers of sound just by looping. Ah, it's something you probably have to witness to be able to really get, but though he's not a comic, he had an appreciative audience for his act, and he did amuse us somewhat with his descriptions of his his Iraqi-Jewish grandparents.

That was about a 20 minute set. The close was Schlomo and the Segues joining the Distractions on stage. With Schlomo beat-boxing the percussion, we ended up getting Ivan on guitar instead of drums. The stage was pretty full, with seven people on it.

And then we ran for it - we grabbed a taxi out on Regent Street, tumbled out at Kings Cross in time for the 23:15 to Kings Lynn, and arrived home as midnight was striking.

In general - extremely good value for the ticket price, and the audience really enjoyed it. If not everything was equally good, it was still in general of a high standard, and nothing was bad, just not quite as good.

Next night is 3rd of May - I think it's to be the first Tuesday of the month.

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