He’s a nice guy, but…

He’s a nice guy, but…

…or she’s a nice lass but…

Should we be held to ransom at a session because someone might be a pleasant person but is not quite up to the job? I don’t mean genuine “improvers”, but…well, *non*-improvers, I suppose. Especially in a small session where every nuance is heard. Is this a form of emotional blackmail? How do you tell such a person? Or do you tell them? Or do you just stop going to that sesh?

There may be some people who would say the same about me right enough (except “nice guy” is a questionable description also!) I also expect a good deal of flak back for posting this thread, so fire away!

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

There’s people like this at many sessions and, if they really are *nice*, I think we should try to tolerate them. If they’re doing something which is causing a problem, surely we can advise them in a “nice” way. They will probably take it very well, if they are nice people. If not, maybe they’re not as nice as we thought.
It depends a lot on the effect they might have on the session and the type of instruments they choose to play. A couple of “shakers” or strummers in the background could be quite harmless providing they’re in time and in tune whereas a loud drum, out of tune fiddle, aggressive accordian player etc could cause more of a nuisance.
Many of these players who are not “up to the job” are as much in love with the music as the rest of us. Some of them have a great repertoire and store of tunes even if their technique is not the best.
Speaking as someone who isn’t that great a player but would like to think of myself as a “nice guy”, I’d say tolerate people if you can but, if not, treat them tactfully. If they are not very nice, even arrogant and aggressive, then “out the door” with them.

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I’m thinking more of persons who shake, rattle and thump: eggs, cutlery, or modified garden sieves, or attempt to play proper instruments. The effect I mean is as in a small session where their effect is to put even leaders off their stride. And I agree an aggressive person even if they’re good can be as much of a bane, but that’s not what I was targetting here. But thanks John for your thoughtful response. BTW, I think I am not a bad bloke really.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

I agree with John - and I know one nice person a bit like that but not quite: he’s a very good musician but improvises on the tunes and can be distracting. One day, I put together a tape of tunes that are popular at London sessions and said: you’re a really good player, but as I know you don’t read music, here’s a tape of the most popular sessions tunes, this way you can join any of them and blend in. We are still on cordial terms, although I fantasise of strangling his pal who is poor technically and has not learnt anything new in 2 years, yet thinks he can lead a session - and certainly does not qualify as nice.
Come on Danny, who did you have in mind?

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

For God’s sake people, get real - I play in the heartland of the Irish music all the time e.g. Gurteen, Roscommon, Sligo and there are often people who are just twiddling away but in the overall sound of the session its okay - and its not a recording, is it. I think that’s actually the problem, some people only hear recordings of Irish music and think this is the way it should always sound but in reality that’s not the way it is and who is good enough to criticise another human being for doing their best to fit in. Nonsense

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

I won’t go public, Cath. But as we are starting up the Woodman again a week on Sunday, I don’t really want to have to suffer too many of these kinds of nice people. Here’s the details for the Woodman:

https://thesession.org/sessions/175

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Agreed but… We have someone who comes to local sessions bringing a different instrument nearly every week - we’ve gone through whistle, accordian, guitar, mandolin etc. I would prefer they picked their instrument and worked at it. A case of jack of all trades, master of none!!

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Point taken Molly. I’ve no problems with noodlers, and even the best musicians play slightly different versions of a tune. As long as the main melody can be heard, that’s what matters. The problem, which Danny mentions is when a not so able person takes centre stage and you may wonder whether the person should not have practised a little bit more at home before playing in front of an audience. It can also be embarrassing for them, so it’s a dilemma - do you tell them gently to practise first? From personal experience, I’m always hungry for advice on how to improve my many shortcomings and did attend sessions for years before joining in, making notes of the tunes and going home to practise. These ‘nice’ people can sometimes be a bit thin skinned and never come back if somebody upsets them, no matter how you try to say something kindly, as it’s still negative, and then you could hate yourself for putting them off.

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Thank you, Molly.

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Cath, you’re right, they shouldn’t take centre stage and the other musicians should allow them one or two tunes and they take the music away. In Gurteen on Saturday night the session is led by 2 musicians and everyone else joins in and there are no soloists. But I cringe on looking back to my beginning days on the whistle when after class we would go down and join in the session and start all our tunes. We must have really annoyed everyone but nobody said anything and we got wiser before long.
At a later stage in a practice session we had some heads thought they were better than anyone else (and they probably were) and set up a new secret session - those of us who heard about it were very hurt and it put me off for a long time so I agree its difficult. I just always bear in mind people like Peter Horan, Patsy Hanly, Ben Lennon who welcome people with open arms into their sessions.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Some people with no musical apptitude like to be “in” music, have an instrument in their hands and sit with the musicians, but no matter how hard they try, if the music is not “in them”, they will stop as strummers and shakers.
Get them to sit and listen, and try and explain to them what they should be listening to and how tunes/sets work. If you can’t get that through to them, thats when you may have to get more “truthful”.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Sometimes they will come to see it for themslves. My husband who plays a bit of guitar (not at sessions) once went to a session where the guitarist was strumming over tunes he did not know but thought he could try. It made my husband finally realise that not getting it right can spoil it for the other players and that yes, a Bminor does have to be played sometimes and you cannot always cut corners and play approximate chords or chance it when you don’t know the tune.
It’s very strange because I have seen less contentious thread get really angry and it seems the responses here are quite reasonable. The bottom line is we should try our best, understand those who cannot do it well but not allow them to go so far as to spoil it for others and hope to God that we’re not the nice but crap person ourselves 🙂

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

The negativity on this board really does my head in at times. If we all think back to when we first started, just for a moment, and remember how we must have sounded… we’ve all been there! Live and let live, for goodness sake.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

We’ve still to get words of wisdom from the late risers “across the pond” and, of course, the definitive answer from a certain Tuesday night fiddler from Sandy Bells. 🙂 🙂

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

And here is Dow, looking on the bright side, as usual.

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Dow - I reckon you’d feel fairly negative as well if you’d been at the session which has sparked off this thread. This happened a while back, an indeterminate length of time ago. Let me explain the scenario, no names mentioned. I joined this gathering a bit late, as I had to do some shopping. (One of the people present had actually phoned me beforehand, but unbeknown to him I had intended to drop in anyway, to see how it was doing) There were 4 blokes there, one a sound man, knows his stuff, another guy on guitar who is quite useful also. But the other 2 fellas, one on very loud and only just in time, spoons, and some singing, next to whom I had the misfortune to sit; and a “brandisher”, for want of a better word, of the box, because he wasn’t able to make much tunes come out of it, despite determined and continuous efforts. These 2 chaps are nice enough guys, but basically I don’t want to spend my own time attempting to play some tunes through an auditory *hail* of loud spoon clattering, and *fog* of box noise, some not even in the right key never mind even playing the tune. To the extent they were putting me off - and that was when I was playing my own box, which can be quite loud…never mind the flute. But these guys are not improvers - they’ve been at the same level for years, so they obviously do not practice, like normal players. The simple solution is for me not to go to that “session”…at least then we know where they are, out of harm’s way. But the other side of it is, that by them being present there and known to be there, deprives other aspiring sessioneers of a place to go on that night of the week, because they know it will be crap. I don’t want to have a monopoly on all the sessions in South London, not at all, but there is that to consider.

Anyway, the new Woodman session will be the bizz….just like New Labour!!??!!??

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Yeah, because I had 2 great sessions @ the weekend. Even if we’d had a nice but crap person there I wouldn’t have cared. We were making music, as opposed to being without food for a week or having our heads blown off by men brandishing AK47’s. So yes, I’m looking on the bright side today 🙂

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Sorry Danny - cross-posting, but I’m serious, things could be a lot worse! But that’s easy for me to say because I didn’t get deafened by spoons at the weekend. How do you know these people you’re talking about aren’t reading this? You know what happened the last time a thread like this appeared and then disappeared…

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

The musicians who make the effort to go to the Tuesday session only come back because the landlord begs them too, but there is hardly anybody drinking there and the session somehow never seems to ‘gel’ no matter who is there. I feel guilty for saying it but I just don’t enjoy being in that pub, the session musicians notwithstanding.

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Dow, maybe they’ll read it but won’t know it’s about them…

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

You’re right on all accounts Dow. I don’t think at all that these guys do read this board. But at least I’ve tried to cover up their identity. Things could be a whole lot worse - but I’m sure there are other sites where you can discuss people being boiled alive etc., but that’s not here. And I do feel thankful (to whom I don’t know…) I can eat etc., but I still think it’s worthy of a discussion, about how to deal with people at a session who literally can’t play…and others obviously think so too.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Danny, what if you make the Woodman a closed session? Send an invite to all your music buddies who you enjoy. That way you avoid a lot of frustration. I’m not sure why anyone can’t make *their* sessions closed. There are enough open sessions out there in London, right? What’s wrong with a nice small, intimate, session where you play with the people you want to play with and avoid the ‘nice guys’ who make it unpleasant for you. If it’s your session, why can’t you do what makes you and your other two mates happy?

Joyce

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

I think it’s gonna have to be something like that, Joyce. And I think that’s the way the governor would prefer it. The 2 other guys also would prefer something like that. We’ll see how it goes…

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

A few friends and myself are doing something similar (closed session) because the owners of the pub want to keep it more of a gig. They don’t want a big messy session since they are giving out free beer & dinner. For us it’s working out great. I really look forward to playing. There is also going to be an open session starting up at another venue. So I feel good that there will be something more open and inviting.

Good luck with it Danny!

Joyce

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I’m with Molly and Mark, but I have suggestions nonetheless:

1) If you don’t like the tunes or the company, don’t go. (I don’t see why this isn’t obvious).

2) The sound of two poor players could be overwhelmed if you brought a few extra decent players. If there are two already, plus yourself, you should be able to pull it off by inspiring two more. A solid core of five decent players can withstand far more spoons and accordions than two.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

[The Ogre awakes] *yawn* hmmm…. did I start this thread?

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

lol. I was surprised to find you didn’t!

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Oh dear …

That session a while back …

I feel guilty, having rung his lordship up to see if he was up for a few tunes since there weren’t a lot of musicianers had turned out. I only went because the guitarist that Danny mentions had said he feared a poor turn-out which was true) and he’s a nice bloke who’s helped me out on a few musical occasions and I don’t often have an opportunity to return a favour to him.

I wish I hadn’t bothered. It was a waste of Danny’s time. It was a waste of the guitarist’s time (though he may be reluctant to admit it, cos the musically-challenged people to whom Danny refers are very good mates of his.) It was a waste of mine (until later, but more of that anon!).

For those who think that Danny’s being mean, please let me confirm that he is, in fact, being quite merciful. My overriding memory of the occasion is one of … disbelief. If the situation wasn’t so excruciating, it might actually have been quite funny.

It is a sad fact that there a number of people who hang around the periphery of the session scene in our neck of the woods; their presence can turn an enjoyable and reasonably tight session into a frustrating and bitter experience. It’s not the fact that they’re not in step with the other sessioneers that’s the problem so much as a) they don’t have any awareness of just how out of step they are and b) (possibly because of a)) none of them appear to do ANYTHING to bring themselves closer into step with the sessions which they hope to sit in on. Or perhaps because they have no real appreciation of the music these guys can’t hear just how appalling the racket they’re making is.

I suspect that many of the out-of-step crew will be put off by the new set-up. They don’t have any personal friends in the camp any more. And it’s likely that the new Woodman’s session will be seen as an extension of the “other” session circuit anyway, with the Thursday session, the Saturday session and the new Woodman’s session being less welcoming of piddling about
than the Tuesday session (which will probably fold, I gather) and the Friday session (which despite being piddling-about-friendly does at least have some fine players in the company).

You may not, therefore, have any cause for concern … I suspect that some of those whose presence you dread wouldn’t dream of going along in any event.

The later bit … I stayed behind for a pint and Albert - very tall Clare bloke, late 50s/early 60s, quiet as a mouse - asked if he could play a CD. Gerard Commane’s and Joe Ryan’s “Two Gentlemen Of Clare”. Great CD altogether. Turns out that Albert is related to Gerard Commane (nephew or something). Anyway, goes to show that he’s not just your common or garden punter, Albert. Once he started talking, he knew his stuff! And I’ll have to get my hands on the CD. One of the best I’ve heard for a while!

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

I’ve had similar experiences to those above in a session quite some time ago during the Edinburgh Festival, namely from a flamenco guitarist (who incedently was superb, on his own..) but who insisted in joining in with all our sets at whatever tempo, meter and key he wanted. The result was, well, chaos. However, we had to say to him: “Though we love your playing, maybe it doesn’t quite gel with the jigs and reels, (etc.).” My point is this - sometimes you have to tell people that their playing maybe doesn’t fit a certain set. Conversely, however, they should always be given the opportunity to start another set (or to play some of their own music) - in which everyone can join. If you want to have closed sessions, then fine, but I think it would be a shame if the scales tipped too far towards these more exclusive sessions, at the expense of the open gatherings. Having been on both sides of the fence (i.e. well-involved with a session, and very much on the sidelines) I have sympathy for both sides of the argument. The only time when I feel really emotional about this argument is when sessions become involved in what I call “folk snobbery” - when good players (or players who think they are good) deliberately exclude others, or ignore their efforts. I’ve seen it (though thankfully not recently) and it’s a depressing sight. I much prefer it when I get a chance to hear what everyone has to offer - as long as they know when to stop and allow someone else the chance of a little ‘limelight’. If the guitarist is reading this, don’t interpret this wrongly - we loved your playing! Maybe we can learn some good tunes from one another, so next time we meet we’ll play together in perfect harmony… aah… 🙂

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Well…having been the new to the group person, and the established group member, it takes a lot of guts to be willing to put your thing down in front of others. So, give the two thumpers kudos for cajones. However, they apparently also have delusions of Carnegie Hall. What my group mates did for me was to give me burned CDs of people they were attempting to sound like--Kevin Burke, Eileen Ivers, Joe Derrane. And I took them home and practiced like hell for a few weeks to much improvement. I think a gentle word would be in order, something along the lines of “Be selfish…make time for you” to practice. They work in all those women’s magazines. 🙂 And if all else fails, then invite the people you want to jam with over to the house, cook a huge pot of spaghetti, open some Chianti and some good beer, and have a party. That works well for me when all else fails…people generally play better on full stomachs and loosened fingertips anyway 🙂

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Aidan, Aidan. Maybe you didn’t see my reply to Dow, calling me negative, scrolling up..Hup….
“Let me explain the scenario,…one of the people present had actually phoned me beforehand but unbeknown to him I had intended dropping in anyway, to see how it was doing”

..and that’s the god’s honest.

And Jakki, it might be easier putting someone straight that you might never meet again (fair play to you that you did, though.)

But these lads are 2 older fellas who probably make going out to “sessions”, loosely described, their life…but then at the same time we don’t operate a mobile care for the elderly facility when we go a-sessioning. Inclusivity is virtuous per se, but not to the detriment of the local traditional music vibe.

Anyway, I feel slightly bad about using the example of these 2 lads to make a point, valid though it may be. Senior years will catch up with us all, quicker than you’d like, as will the great leveller Death. Just to say, if possible, explain to non-trad players invading your thaing, the zeitgheist of the etiquette for the hoi-polloi and the intelligentsia otherwise it will be pan-demon-ium

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

These comments would have been more at home under the Duke of Edinburgh sesssion site, I’m surprised they weren’t automatically shifted there. Aidan, thanks for NOT calling me that night, I went to the Cricketers and had a great time (and learnt a great hornpipe from John O.) Commiserations to all of you, I had a worse one there I believe once though, with our posh mate.
I should like to set the record straight regarding the old concertina player you mention Danny. He must have been under the weather, and also suffering from the very poor acoustics in that pub, because I saw him on the previous weekend and he started some really great tunes, and can play with a great swing.

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Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

cath - tried to email you but it didn’t get through, so I sent it via this site.
Old concertina player? the guy I’m referring to “plays” a D/G melodeon. I thought the Cricketers was/will be folding? I hope not, as there aren’t many English sessions around, certainly not as good quality as that one, even if it isn’t my thaing.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

i think that if you are not good, and sound horrible, it is ok to play a couple of tunes a session, but do not try to play the whole time. it is not fair to the beginners that they shouldnt be allowed to play, and it is not fair to the masters that they should be completely imposed on by people who dont realize their own skill. but it has been my experience that most people will compromise, good players letting a lesser player join in for a bit, and lesser players being content for the most part to listen and enjoy the better players playing.

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I’m a first-time poster so apologies if all this has been said before (An interesting thread BTW).

I largely agree with dai v. There are often those at sessions who aren’t up to the job. If it’s an open session then they have every right to be there; it’s about compromise, surely. Ask them if they want to lead on a tune and go get a drink or nip to the loo if you can’t take it!

And then there’s the other side of the coin: the session where the ‘lead musicians’ are so busy jumping in with their own tried and trusted tunes and not letting accomplished but first-time musicians have a chance to add something different. As a result the accomplished musician doesn’t bother to return and the sesssion becomes increasingly stale.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

daiv -- I have been that person who is “allowed to play” a few tunes at a session with players that are beyond my abilities, but most of the time -- I sat quietly and enjoyed the music. I haven’t seen anyone here saying there’s anything wrong with that, the thing that gets folks stirred up is when that person noodles and tries to play along with tunes that they hardly know -- if at all.

This is the sort of behavior that puts off the more experienced players. Whether or not to sit down at all at a given session is a tricky thing to determine. All you can do is use your common sense and employ your best judgment.

Knowing when to give up your seat is doubly difficult as well; often you can take your cues by watching the hosts or leaders of the session to see how they respond to new arrivals. The newcomer might be someone they knew was coming, or someone they would like to sit near them.

Be observant -- politeness is key when visiting sessions.

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Yes, all very good points, however, Danny had in mind session old timers who are set in their narrow ways and refuse to make an effort to blend in or improve or learn new stuff. If they turned up at your session, they would not be shy to bitch about your diddling, just because it does not suit their very limited style. They would want to do their stuff regardless of whether it is appropriate in your session, or whether anybody in the pub enjoys their ‘contribution’. They tend not to worry about the fact that there are other people in the pub who would like to hear some good stuff. They have more in common with someone’s aged relative breaking into a poorly sung song at a gathering, that you humour as long as they keep it short and don’t behave as if they were the greatest and took offence if people did not feel in awe.
Am I right Danny?

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Yeah, Cath, but I wouldn’t want to come over as age-ist (sp?). Regardless of their vintage, they are set in their ways and reluctant to embrace innovation.
What really got on my t!ts was I was trying to play that set Dan the Cobbler/Strop the Razor/Paddy Canny’s and yer man was attempting to accompany me in a totally. wrong. key. I just gave up half way and tried quietly to pack up my yokes and vanish. More like strop the flute player.

I was once at a session in Enniscorthy where myself and another contemporaneous flute player were the youngest by maybe 4 decades. It was amazing to see and hear these local octogenarians singing very old local songs. There was much in the way of laying on of hands and yelps and murmers of encouragement…“Go on there Paddy”…“That’s the girl, Mary”…and so on. It was almost a spiritual experience, I kid you not.
So, I try not to let age alone be a factor in this debate.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

Granted Danny, but one particular individual there has in the past thought it was ok to say to you and to me, separately, to F… off because we had the cheek to start a set in one of their many, interminable chatty lulls. And he does use his age to force other people to defer to him sometimes. If he were someone my age, he would have been asked not to come back a long time ago. We’re supposed to admire the fact that he can still sing at his age, and how he looks great and that. Funny how he does not feel we’re being condescending when it suits him.

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Actually, that’s an interesting way of looking at it - he uses his age to enforce respect. So maybe HE’s being ageist against us “whippersnappers”. Hmmmm….maybe not such a nice guy after all….

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We often get “accordian players” in folk festival (usually) sessions who are “nice old guys” but with a limited repertoire and all their tunes seem to be in “C” or very occasionally “G”. They have a tendency to “hog the night” once they get started and nobody has the heart to tell them to give it a rest. Another problem is that they are often “local” whereas we “folkie musicians” are the visitors. So, we either have to “transpose” to fit in or seek another session elsewhere.

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I’m not sure that the guy in question uses his age as a means of enforcing respect so much as some of his compadres use his age as a means of enforcing respect on his behalf… The age thing is, of course, a red herring. The fact is that the players in this particular session crowd have become fossilised. Despite their not having had a tremendously big repertoire when I first heard them, their repertoire hasn’t increased by a single tune since then. (And this observation is as pertinent for some of the younger members of the troupe - who weren’t there on the night in question - as for the oldsters. So yet again it’s not a question of age, it’s a question of inertia.)

Most puzzling episode. Yer man on accordion starts playing a jig, which has one or two phrases in common with “The Kesh”, but which differs crucially in places (in fact, it made a pretty effective countermelody). I’m thinking a variant I’ve not come across before, maybe it goes under a different name. So - tune over, and it’s always single tunes with this guy, he doesn’t string sets together - I ask what’s that tune he was playing. “The Kesh” He must have seen my eyebrows raising. “Yeah, lots of people ask me that. They seem to think I’m playing it wrong. But I’ve listened to loads of versions of The Kesh and I always hear them playing it the same way I do.”

I was completely nonplussed.

How can you *not* hear that you’re playing a tune so differently to the standard setting that it’s become something altogether different? And if “loads of people” tell you - straight or obliquely - that you’re playing of a tune is off-kilter, then surely you’d attempt to learn a standard setting?!?! Or apologise/forewarn?

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I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible to “go wrong” with The Kesh jig. 🙂 Sometimes, I might add an extra triplet or two and others may have similar variations but it’s basically the same tune. It’s one of the easiest to “learn by ear” and/or “by music” that I know.
Incidentally, “Stan Chapman’s” is a little bit like “The Kesh”, albeit in a different key but I’ve a feeling it won’t have got as far as this guy you’re talking about. 🙂

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Yes Aidan, everytime he plays the Kesh, I recognise it vaguely as a tune I know without knowing quite what, and everytime I say to him: is this an English tune? (no insult, his version has en English folk tune feel to it), everytime he says ‘No, it’s the Kesh’ Maybe in Scotland they spell it Keech 🙂

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no, just keech!

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John J … I suspect if he *was* Scottish, he might not have misheard. To clarify … the main store of the guy’s repertoire seems to be what I can only call “music hall” tunes (i.e. to these untutored ears he has a great number of tunes which sound more or less like variations on the Beny Hill theme tune). I suspect he’s grown up listening to and playing this sort of music and his ear just isn’t attuned to Irish and Scottish music, just as mine - as I’ve demonstrated in my inane comment above - isn’t much attuned to the “music hall” stuff.

Actually …

I’d better stop this … it’s very easy to go into assassination mode and the geezer hasn’t actually done me any physical harm … I’m starting to feel grubby for going on! I’ll have to start a thread where I say something positive as penance!

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Just having a bit of a joke on Kesh and Keech, John, not to be taken seriously. I also heard a friend in glasgow referring to Quich as Keech, which I though was a great word, so any chance I get, I use it. The writer Christopher Brookmyre spells it Keesh though.

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Stop this? Call it catharsis, Aidan. Seems to me like there is an undercurrent of disdain and resentment only now surfacing, which just goes to prove a point I made earlier, that the presence of these people in that pub deprives it of ever becoming a half-decent session pub, because word will get around that it’s crap and no self-respecting sessioneer will touch it with a bargepole, thus in turn depriving the said sessioneers of a local T£$%day night venue.

Re: He’s a nice guy, but…

And anyway, one of these guys was ultimately responsible for the only Mudcat thread ever to be deleted!

:~}