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Knacker's Yard, of Canada, leads Celtic-themed music night at South Holland Centre, Spalding Review and interview by Winston Brown




The Function Hall inside Spalding's South Holland Centre became a Celtic music free-for-all earlier this month.

But instead of The Pogues, The Dubliners or The Chieftains singing and playing "Dirty OId Town, "Whiskey in the Jar" and "The Fields of Athenry", it was five-piece Canadian folk band, Knacker's Yard.

Taking their name for a place where old and injured animals are "given their last rites", this comparatively young band from the Canadian city of Victoria (British Columbia) wasted no time in winning over their south-east Lincolnshire.

A combination of easy-going charm and humble Canadian self-deprecation, combined with a blistering display of fiddle, accordian, mandolin, tin whistle and Irish tenor banjo playing, made the last weekend before the Summer Solstice (June 20) one to remember at the South Holland Centre.

Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to South Holland Centre, Spalding, earlier this month. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to South Holland Centre, Spalding, earlier this month. Photo supplied.

Knacker's Yard consists of Cody Baresich (mandolin) Stephen Johnson (accordion and tin whistle), Jon MacDonald (guitar), Dexter Simpson (Irish tenor banjo) and Bronwyn Church who holds a Masters degree in Social Anthropology from Edinburgh University.

Bronwyn said: "Each of us in the band have a heritage that's either English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh and I grew up listening to all of this music because my parents did.

"But although each band members has a connection with this kind of music, we couldn't find other people who liked it.

"This was in spite of the fact that Canada is made up of settlers who came from somewhere else."

For the band's show in Spalding, part of a three-week UK and Ireland tour, Knacker's Yard mixed high-tempo "jigs and reels (the title of the band's current album) with cautionary ballads about men who usually find life getting the better of them.

Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to Spalding, with songs including The Wild Rover, Farewell to Nova Scotia, Fiddler's Green. Whiskey, You're the Devil, Fields of Athenry and The Irish Rover. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to Spalding, with songs including The Wild Rover, Farewell to Nova Scotia, Fiddler's Green. Whiskey, You're the Devil, Fields of Athenry and The Irish Rover. Photo supplied.

Songs included The Greenland Whale Fisheries (The Pogues), The Wild Rover (No Nay Never), Black Velvet Band, Dicey Reilly and Rocky Road to Dublin (The Dubliners), Crooked Jack (Seven Nations), Whiskey, You're the Devil (The Clancy Brothers) and the legendary The Irish Rover (which brought The Dubliners and The Pogues together for an All-Ireland "jam" to end all jams in 1987).

But there were some Canadian, Scottish and English treats as well, such as Farewell to Nova Scotia (The Irish Rovers), La Belle Catherine (a popular fiddle-led instrumental from Québéc most associated with Louis "Pitou" Boudreault), The Parting Glass, Jack Hall (Steeleye Span) and Fiddler's Green, by Grimsby folk musician John Connolly.

Cody said: "All of us were vegans when the band started in 2012 which is why we took the name of where animals go when they are tired and done.

"We've never tried to measure our fanbase, but we do get lots of people commenting on our shows and encouraging us to carry on.

"But it doesn't really matter where we are, it's about the crowds and feeling the energy when you play is fun."

Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to Spalding, with music from The Dubliners, The Pogues and Lincolnshire's John Connolly. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard brought a Celtic-themed music night to Spalding, with music from The Dubliners, The Pogues and Lincolnshire's John Connolly. Photo supplied.

One of the highlights of the concert was Knacker's Yard stunning acapella (singing without instruments) version of The Dubliners' The Old Triangle, along with The Irish Rover, a song recorded by The Dubliners and The Pogues together in 1987.

As well as Spalding and a private function in Gosberton, Knacker's Yard's UK tour in June also saw gigs in Basingstoke, Winchester and Hungerford, along with Irish shows in Dingle, Galway and Dublin.

Bronwyn said: "We were a little nervous about our first show in Basingstoke because we played a lot of Irish rebel songs there.

"But a lot of Irish people were there so we could get away with them a bit more and, as a result, we brought the house down."

Knacker's Yard at The Corner Lounge, Basingstoke. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard at The Corner Lounge, Basingstoke. Photo supplied.

The measure of how well Knacker's Yard went down at South Holland Centre was seen in the brisk sale of CDs during the interval of the concert.

Altogether, the band has recorded six albums since its formation in 2013 - The High Street Demo, Live at Dunsterville, Songs of the Sea, The Dram and The Fray, Gangers, Chancers and the Craic, as well as their newest release, Jigs and Reels.

Cody said: "The group is very much a collective which means that we all decide on what songs to play and we all take up the role of singing and playing.

"We always try and play folk revival songs, as well as historical ones about Victoria and Canada in general because of the opportunity we have to tell the stories of people who haven't seen or heard their stories told."

Knacker's Yard are, from left, Bronwyn Churcher, Dexter Simpson, Cody Baresich, Stephen Johnson and Jon McDonald. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard are, from left, Bronwyn Churcher, Dexter Simpson, Cody Baresich, Stephen Johnson and Jon McDonald. Photo supplied.

Speaking about Victoria and the province of British Columbia, Dexter said: "They are so different to anywhere else in Canada and people come from all over the world to live there.

"Depending on the neighbourhood you're in, Victoria can definitely feel as if you're in a different place to the rest of Canada because it's a tourist city, with a climate that brings people to it."

The overwhelming impression left by Knacker's Yard was their love of Irish music, whether it be McAlpine's Fusiliers, Kevin Barry (In Mountjoy Jail one Monday morning) or Seven Drunken Nights (The Dubliners).

Knacker's Yard at The Victoria Highland Games in Canada. Photo supplied.
Knacker's Yard at The Victoria Highland Games in Canada. Photo supplied.

Bronwyn said: "We have a good time on the audience and we usually see that reflected in our audiences who want the songs to stay with them by buying our albums and listening to us even more.

"The places where we've been before, people have told us 'You have to come back and play here again.'

"It was a really quick tour of England and Ireland, but we hope our audiences had a good time, that we left a lasting impression and that people will want us back in the British Isles."



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