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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Hat Club: Nov 3rd: Tom Baxter

Di and I are still buzzing after Saturday night's Tom Baxter show at The Hat Club. If ever a performance made me want to sell my guitar AND rush home to play my guitar at the same time... this was it. I know that it's no competition but how would you follow that?
Live music is fast becoming the prime income for most musicians. Tom made the point last night that (after much research) 10,000 Spotify plays of his latest album would buy him a bag of nappies for his daughter. That doesn't smell right does it?
Tom Baxter performed, supported by his "baby sister" Vashti on Saturday.
There was such a positive vibe in the room; something that both Tom and Vashti commented on.
You’ve got to love musicians: they do the miles, the waiting, the set up and then… they make something happen.

Vashti was a revelation: she has matured into a fascinating performer: her delicate and dark tales in stark contrast with (in person) her earthy warmth: perhaps that’s what parenthood does for you? It was lovely to meet her husband Richard and her two backing singing, ragamuffin boys, Buster and Sonny. I can’t wait to actually hear something of hers recorded: particularly her last song: the beautiful; ‘Blue’.
Tom? Not a lot to say really as this’d end a gush. We have seen a gig or two: we knew what a brilliant performer he is: that he inhabits every song and sings them from the heart: from a whisper to those soaring moments when the wail seems to be coming out of the top of his head. It was fascinating to watch the mechanics of his performance up close. Because he is such a brilliant writer and singer it’s easy to overlook Tom’s guitar playing: not just dynamically dextrous but also sweetly finessed. The control of his performance was mesmeric: a man in total control whilst in the act of letting himself go: ‘vulnerability' can often seem affected and gauchely garrulous… Tom authentically inhabits every minute.

And that brings me to my main thought this morning: what a sweet man. ‘Never meet your heroes’ they say. They inevitably disappoint. Whilst I’m not given to hero worship, I love to like people. And Tom was such a gentle guy. A listener with lots to say. He’s obviously a sensitive soul who has taken a knock or two, but he wears his worry wisely. I love that he took the time to think about us: beckoning us all onto a squash court for the encore, his intent: to create a special, intimate moment just for us. And how special was that moment?
Gush over: thanks Vashti and Tom.

Can I bring your attention to a lovely review/note/post from Jus Moody: staggeringly good writing: makes me which I’d been there: made me pinch myself to remember that I was.
Jus (who hasn’t been well) articulates perfectly the reason that Di and I wanted to develop The Hat Club.
We were keen to support kindred musicians but we also wanted to create and share the possibility of something special: in Tom’s words we wanted to ‘make something happen’.
We all love a pat on the back and this is as good as an endorsement could get.

Jus writes:

"I’m struggling to articulate the last 12 hours! Like actually lost for words, (which let’s face it is already a miracle)!
When Tom Baxter announced his tour dates, I had no idea one of them would include a venue on my doorstep. I watched for months, eagerly hovering with bust credit card but when the day came, it collided when I took my eye off the boil, probably having some doctor or nurse prod me in the hip, shoulder or eye or one of the boys forgetting their homework or trying to find the games sock which literally tries to escape from the nuttiness of my life even more than I do. I digress...I blinked, tickets sold out. In my Aunty Juney’s words... ‘shit, bugger, arseholes’.
There’s 2 ways of looking at this situation. You lie down, you sob, you beat yourself up for being so rubbish you can’t even get 2 tickets for your favourite artist ever or you try.
I think I accepted first that I could be facing further potential disappointment but I pinged out a plea across selling groups on the off chance someone may have bought extras. I then hit the clubs’ social media and ever so nicely asked if they could let me know if any tickets came up. As polite as they were in responding, my feeling from the instant sell out was this was about as unlikely as meeting Tom Baxter in a squash club.
So think back to just over a week ago and my overnighter with my new dodgy limbed friends in Heatherwood Hospital. Up pops the tagged post that lovely Trev from the Hat Club will be in touch if Lady Luck is coming to visit me.
And boy did she. On Wednesday I get a follow on tag saying ‘Jus we have 2 tickets, pay here, code word BLUE’.
My bestie (responsible for first introducing me to my aforementioned favourite artist of all time), now rudely lives in Eastbourne but tells me she’s coming up to stay with almost as much excitement as me hearing her words.
She arrives, we cab to a heaving Firework night in Beaconsfield, devour a fabulous steak in the Sarry’s Head and then go off to find the mystery venue, under described on a dark lane. We suss our The Hat Club is actually virtual and a lovely duo called Trev and Di. Artisan people with big hearts and a passion for keeping it uncommercial and real. The venue is a Squash club, with a tiny modest bar complete with wrist splints and handle strapping next to the optics incase you want to restring your racquet whilst you have a pint.
The room holds 60 people. It’s intimate and now full of friendly folk who potentially have little in common other than a taste in music. By this point, I’m hyperventilating and my memory is filled with the days of my deepest sadness, my rebuild and my quest whilst supported by lyrics that feel like they’ve been written personally for me.
Tom’s sister Vashti comes on for the first set, filling me with awe of what their parents must feel with their doubling of amazing talent.
I can’t even précis every note, word or feeling I had from the moments of last night but it is without doubt the best gig I’ve ever been to and more so now in my top 3 moments of life. I know I’ve been blessed by being married to a BAFTA winning composer and forever stuck in love with a renowned songwriter but this few hours summed up everything I feel about music and what I cherish in its power.
The set finished and Tom suggests we carry on and move into Court One. (?) So, every one of the audience remove their shoes and walk into a beautifully lit squash court and sit. Tom follows us in and belts out 4 songs that turned the room into a mesmerising version of story telling hour for adults. Just incredible.
At this point, I’m already on an extreme high so to come back out, put my boots back on and head out to the bar to look through the albums that I already have, I chat to the lovely Di who tells me how happy she was that the tickets came free for me, followed by Trev passing her a note that I have just won the night’s scoop of a signed vinyl. I’m handed over with weak knees to Tom for a moment where the obligatory happy photo became a chat that instilled what it is that resonates with me. He is an awesome guy with a backbone of life experience, fuelled with scars and trials but finds himself blessed with wanting to write and perform music which in turn bonuses him with people wanting to listen. Without gain or financial motivation and with a passion for his goals which translates as the epiphany of what is most attractive about him.
Cocktails in the Crazy (and frightful) Bear, Uber home to the standard locking myself out for 2 hours in the freezing cold, being totally hung out to dry by a locksmith who coat-hangered himself into my apparently ‘high security’ lock followed by prayers before bed that my hyperthermic best friend would make it through the night and a sleep filled with dreams that came true."

Thanks to:
Tom’s manager Alaric for helping with the set up.
Chris Hope, Tom's right hand man last night: nice guy for a Lancy!
James Partridge for the pitch perfect sound.
The two Lisa’s for tending the bar so… tenderly.
Andy, our club manager for letting us use the Beaconsfield Squash Club for the Hat Club venue.
Paul Austin who usually provides a PA gratis. He only supplied the parking cones yesterday and they seem to have been nicked… check your pockets!
Barry Cross for doing the poster: I think that’s 26 without the whiff of an invoice.
Finally, thanks to Di for having the gumption to Tweet Tom directly to ask if he’d come out to play.
Tom’s response: ‘Sure, why not?’
And just like that… they made something happen.
A miracle of sorts.

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