Harmonious folk music and songs of the sea are not things commonly associated with The Tub, Hastings. However, the venue hosted gentle folk acts Will Varley and Geoff Lakeman for an event to raise money to save The Tub.
Will Varley, the 29-year-old singer based in Kent, recently concluded a strand of gigs supporting the likes of Beans on Toast and Frank Turner. Varley’s raw, husky vocals almost instantly put his audience into a melancholy trance; his lyrics are forthright and the silence absorbed his virtuous poetry. Will Varley blends the shadowy imagery of Pete Roe into his music whilst maintaining a buoyant approach to life and the conflicts faced along the way – such as with King For A King, from Varley’s debut album Advert Soundtracks, which delivers a bleak but authentic perspective on a human life from birth to inevitable death – “Just a name in a family tree, nothing to history”. Despite Varley admitting “I didn’t write much of a setlist, so I don’t really know what I’m doing” he sailed through with powerful numbers such as Weddings and Wars, Outside Over There (which he wrote in the woods during one of his walking tours), as well as teasing a snippet of A Monkey on a Rock.
Storytelling continued on this February evening with the ensuing talent of Geoff Lakeman. Lakeman, the 69-year-old former journalist who recently recorded his debut album After All These Years with the help of his children (the trio that formed The Lakeman Brothers and Equation), Seth, Sean and Sam Lakeman. It is now evident what, or rather who inspired their musical skill as Geoff Lakeman’s debut album holds a vast collection of truths and tales inspired by growing up in a fishing port in Cornwall and his many voyages since. Lakeman’s set list consisted of many audience favourites, such as his “first and last” protest shanty Tie ‘Em Up, a song that BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe described as “a new song that sounds as if it could have existed for 100 years“ to which Lakeman responds, “He should see the guy who wrote it.” The atmosphere was warmed as Lakeman coalesced the divide between artist and audience by urging them to sing the chorus of each number which they heartily agreed to; he also kindly offered to donate half of the proceeds from his album sales that night to The Tub.
It’s always nice to be reminded that folk may not only save The Tub – but it may save us all.