Acoustic Gigs Political

Merrymaker at Village Folk, Chellaston 28th January 2017

During a brief  hiatus to the excessively cold weather last month,  I had the pleasure of heading down to Chellaston in Derbyshire for a gig at the Lawns Hotel to see Merrymaker.

High over the street like a small fortress on top of a rocky outcrop; the Lawns Hotel is indeed a hotel (and pub) that has a partnership with a rather pioneering and friendly organisation called Village Folk. Village Folk is a family (not just in saying, there are family working together here) who host an evening a month with a band or folk artist to bring a little entertainment and heart to the local area. I came across both the band (Merrymaker) and organisers (Village Folk) last year at Derby Folk Festival and situated within the Clubrooms they did a great job continuing the tour de force of Derby known as Winter:Wilson (see their site here). Introducing some newer and lesser known groups and giving them a chance to shine they were a great companion to the main acts in the square and more than the added bonus of being out of the heavy rain that weekend.


Relatively new to the organisation of live music, Village Folk are doing exceptionally well. They are getting good attendance and in a time of uncertainty around the viability of live music they are also attracting some recognisable and influential names to their midst (e.g. Sam Kelly soon and Martin Carthy in a couple of months), but it would not work if they were not lovely people with some serious love of the events that they are showcasing. Not a huge venue and also not a folk club; it manages to combine the good running and sound quality of the former with the intimacy of the latter, and it does it well. I certainly have my fingers crossed that they will have an involvement in Derby Folk Festival this coming year! What about the gig?

The great urban sprawl of my my younger years always comes racing back when I hear the dulcet tones of Dan Sealey (vocals, guitar) and Adam Barry (keyboard and others) with their West Midlands swagger, a series of sights and sounds never really seen or heard in my now native Yorkshire (much to it’s loss). They were joined by Nikki Petherick (whose accent is a direct contrast, perhaps sounding like an Inspector Morse extra) and Hannah (whose surname they could not decide upon) who brought additional guitar and violin respectively. In terms of a general sound, Merrymaker are a kind of entertaining scattering of folk with large elements of acoustic rock, which proves a good foundation for an interesting night out and it makes sense as Dan heralds from 90s rock outfit, Ocean Colour Scene. They have a boyish charm too on stage which is offset to some degree by Nikki giving as good as she gets in retaliation to the guys banter. The recent addition of violin is a boon too as Hannah’s classical training brings an extra dimension to Merrymaker’s more guitar heavy numbers whilst also having the potential to bring back the urban rock sound of the 90’s if needed. How would I describe Merrymaker’s songs?

Their songs are much like their stage presence in that they often come with a high dose of humour and/or self-deprecation (Adam spent a large amount of the gig concerned with his “fresh from the laundy-but-not-yet-dry trousers” that he apologised for wafting into the audience). This all creates a good environment for their slightly political angle as they performed songs with a focus on Donald Trump (which they played a rather 60’s pop “Coming Up Trumps” that they described as “a stupidly stupid song for a stupid person”) and another about the Syrian Refugee crisis which they curated from comments on Twitter “Nobody Here Wants a War.” With videos of these song posted online they show a versatility in form to their songwriting. The Trump song is indeed “a stupidly stupid song” but it is so good at being it, “Nobody here Wants a War” is more solemn but really well worked from the source material. Merrymaker’s music as a result has a bit of a bite, but rather than the deeper laceration from a jackal it is more like a nip from a well-meaning Brittany spaniel. And while the present world is too much for some, the band also delved into some nostalgia which was to be had from the Ocean Colour Scene days with a slower paced version of “The Riverboat Song” (admittedly not my favourite re-envisioning), and the Stranglers’ “Duchess” (quite good indeed).

However they go about things, there is always some sunshine and comedy too. “Midst of Summertime” is a song from their time as the band Merrymouth and it is played in earnest with a really a cheerful, leaping in the rays kind of quality. Once again the violin in it’s live state lifted the track even higher; making it a heather-tinged song that leads to quite a smile. Some might say it makes one exceedingly “merry”. The biggest laughs come from a song about a man having to do chores on a Sunday (because he doesn’t mind what he and his wife does all day, when the amber glow of ale is at the back of his mind) which goes down really well the audience alongside “This is England”, a comedic song with some sober thoughts within. A song about the attitudes of their local pub regular, Roy, who at 88 is miserable and bemused in equal measure by the changes that have happened in society it paints a hilarious but empathic picture of a person that everybody knows.

The band unapologetically have fun throughout and this helped by their setlist that combines their political leanings and observations, but also the everyday without a Poe-face to be seen.

A great venue, a caring and passionate organisation and a fun, relatable band amount to a good night out. Check out Village Folk’s website for some great upcoming artists here, and for more information about Merrymaker, click here.


Folk Music Protest Folk Uncategorised

Support Merrymaker’s charity single “Nobody here wants a war”

Nobody Here Wants A War- Charity Single Launch – 26/09/16


Pushing their best foot forward with all the sensibilities of protest folk, the band Merrymaker come at us with a new single “Nobody here wants a war”.

Merrymaker is happily made out of Dan Sealey (from Merrymouth), Adam Barry (The Misers) and Nikki Petherick (singer songwriter), a trio of artists come together in a melodic, thumping protest package; first in the studio earlier in the year to record this number, and soon to be touring with a bagful of new material that for now has been kept under wraps. Their experiences as support for John McCusker, their own projects, and attendance at a large number of folk festivals within the music scene over the years promises to bring a well-tuned, politically sharp live experience to the stage for all. Like all the best folk it feels like they are setting out on a journey of articulating people’s fears of the times they are living in and it does this by going to the populace and crafting a protest out of their collective voice.
As mentioned, all proceeds from this song go to the charity, Action Aid.

“Nobody here wants a war” is a single that sees the burning fire of our Government’s involvement with Syria and blows away the smoke that lingers. Syria is pretty far from the minds of a lot of people in our country despite it having been a catastrophic war-zone for quite a long time. This could be due to the recent referendum of EU membership and other political debacles, but Merrymaker rightly brings our attention to this House of Commons decision where the country joined a coalition of other countries bombing Syria. By bringing back a memory of this decision they are wanting to give a voice to a nation of discontentment, and explore this pivotal decision that quite possibly opened a floodgate for many undemocratic actions that followed by individuals seated in power. Do they succeed?

They do, and make quite a confident stride at raising their profile. Merrymaker have done this through listening to the people through social media and working the concepts into song in a meaningful way. The collective heave of discontentment and unhappiness is expressed within their music video where several of the responses are quoted and worked into the feeling:

“I don’t think that we can actually accept that we live in a democracy at the moment, you have to question everything you hear”

“I feel saddened, frustrated, angry, and scared of the decision of the British Government”

“A country has no right to complain about refugees when they are the ones causing the refugees to flee”


The sentiments connect deeply and the latent hypocrisy of some attitudes is challenged, as the lyrics sing, “”it’s a cycle of madness.. and it’s done in our name”. Uplifting and rousing with some lovely harmonies, a likeable pace and a stirring piano it shows a passion to challenge oppression. The layers of aerophone and free-moving fiddle also catch the ear quite nicely and the main singer’s voice is sad yet hopeful. All together a good listen and a worthwhile cause indeed. Living in times of a challenging political identity and growing right-wing ideologies, it is welcome to hear a band focusing on this year and communicating not just a differing viewpoint, but a highly maintained one from society itself. As they say themselves:

“the idea of writing songs about subjects that matter to us as a band, came from a sheer frustration from modern bands and songwriters not wanting
to air their views through music anymore.”

With people’s unwillingness to openly challenge power in society, Merrymaker are lending a hand and at the same time creating a commentary on the times we are living in.

I look forward to hearing them at Derby Folk Festival this very weekend (30th September so get your tickets now), and their future music releases each month that are to culminate in their EP launch in early 2017. If you are in Derby and have a ticket, they are playing at the Guildhall Clubrooms at 5.30pm on Saturday 1st), website here.

Check out the video below, and then go to their website here. The single is available for £0.99 there, with proceeds going to ActionAid who support women and children through a number of initiatives, click on their image below for a link!


All proceeds from this song go to the charity, Action Aid.