Ghost Weed – Left to right: Neil Phillips, Mark Halper, Matt Peach and Michael Lloyd.
Ghost Weed, an up-and-coming local Band – The Only Dad Band with a Flute (as they, rather endearingly, refer to themselves) – have been strutting their stuff most impressively as part of the Wrington-based International Tug-of-War Competition. Last weekend this happened, Saturday May 27th to be precise.
A fan for many a year, able to trace their journey right back to the start – and their ex-fiddle-player to boot – I was keen, nay homicidally-determined! – to get a ring-side seat at this, their latest gig, and, accordingly, turned up, with a plethora of Band Wives, Daughters and other Hangers-on, at the field behind Wrington’s Recreation Ground, just as the band was setting up and the sun, like a firmamental Banksy, was Graffiti-spraying its warmest colours and designs all over the scene.
I just missed Day One of the Pullers’ (as, I gather, Tug-of-War competitors call themselves) Pugilism – a shame, in many respects, as I am inordinately fond of the old thews and sinews and second to none in my lascivious admiration for a toned male bod. The sport’s quite good as well…
But I did see the odd specimen wandering, sweat-shirt clad, around the tented area:
A last few sound checks and the like having been dispensed with – and Technician, Tom Henry, ready at the mixing desk to mellifluate – Frontman, Mark Halper, stepped up to the proverbial plate to introduce the band.
Without giving too many specific comedic moments away, Mark is ace at this job: In addition to playing a mean saxophone and even meaner flute, he is an excellent lead vocalist, has a fine line in up-to-the-moment banter, bags of charisma and a damn good rapport with the audience. Accordingly, on this Tugging occasion, Pulling jests were thrown thick and fast at us – with all the necessary suggestive implications, I hasten to add!
In addition to his comic skills, Mark sang brilliantly, particularly in new piece, Men at Work’s ‘Land Down Under’ (which included a lovely solo on flute) and gave us some seriously impressive sounds on both flute and saxophone.
Meanwhile, the Paul McCartney of the outfit, left-handed guitarist, Neil Phillips – having done a Loreena McKennitt at the start (broken string, for those not au fait with my reference here) – was in fine fettle all evening, with fabulous guitar-playing and showing his vocal skills in an unexpected, and thoroughly impressive, rendition of Bauhaus’ Gothic song ‘The Passion of Lovers’.
His backing vocals in such pieces as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Oklahoma Home’ and Ghost Weed original ‘Cud Ya Just’ were both effective and harmonious.
Matt Peach, Drummer Extraordinaire, was clad in a particularly splendid red Fez – which harmonised most ambiently with Neil’s signature black and red shirt and caught the setting sun a treat later on! – and was, as he always is, the marvellous rhythm, the heartbeat, beneath the song. He corrals any wayward impulses with the most subtle action of brush and stick and, in his capacity as joint Timer and Pulse, keeps both schedule and life-flow going!
Michael ‘Earplugs’ Lloyd, Boss Bass-man and general wit, spent much of the time lurking far out of camera reach, catching the side flickers of sun beneath a hat and newly-hirsute face, whilst catching, matching and deepening song, reeds, rhythm and guitar. A wonderful sound he adds to the mix.
‘Why the name Ghost Weed?’ you may ask…
Aha! That is for you to find out when you see the band in the flesh! One of their originals, ‘The Ghost’, tells the story in full!
Eclectic, to say the least, their musical influences range from Elvis to Bruce Springsteen, from Canned Heat to Bauhaus, from memorable Originals to the Beatles, and far more besides.
Their final number – ‘My Oklahoma Home’ – has become a real favourite at Redhill Open Mic, and other local venue, evenings, and is now known as ‘Blown Away’ by many Redhillians. To my delight, the lads asked me to come up and join in as a backing vocalist. It was an honour and enormous fun.
It was a tremendous evening’s entertainment – and, by the end of their second forty-five-minute set, the lads were on a high, and enthusiastic audience members (including me) were up and grooving on the grass!
I am now trying to persuade them to grace Glastonbury with their talent! I think I am making some progress – and hope to be able to announce a Ghost Weed appearance in the King Arthur, Hawthorns or the King Billy very soon!
This last observation, to me, summed up evening, gig and band most beautifully: There was a glorious moment towards the end when, sun dripping gold like honey all over the field, the Weeders were caught, briefly, in a flare of exquisite radiance. Symbolic, it seemed, somehow: Their increasing prominence reflected in the brilliance of evening’s best palette; a New Moon overhead foretelling, I feel, the next phase of the Band’s life – their inexorable rise upwards.