Sofar, Secret Location, Christchurch

Billy Bragg

About a month ago I got an invitation from the landlord of my local pub about a “lounge gig” I might be interested in I enquired if it were to be held in the pub lounge or their own home? When they said home I thought wow, great concept – I need to attend. When I found out the main act was to be one Billy Bragg I wasted no time in securing my spot in said lounge. Now I’m not as big a fan of Billy as some of my friends, but I knew I had to remain tight-lipped about this gig. On pushing me further on the subject my trusted “other Brother” Dave Chinery (also from this site) I was forced to reveal who the main attraction of the event was. Keen not to miss out I secured his spot as my trusted photographer and video maker. And so: on this balmy September evening, just a stone’s throw from my home we ventured up the road for a gig that will be remembered long in the memory of those who were there. Let’s not also forget that this was a fundraiser for the charity Amnesty International with a minimum entry fee. A win-win if you like for all present.

And so to the music. Opening up for us is none other than local singer/songwriter, the hugely talented Mr. Phil “Jinder” Dewhurst. Known locally for his prolific output and gigging he delivers 3 heartfelt, open and honest songs in his own inimitable way – interspersed with some frankly hilarious stories and anecdotes, keeping all amused. “Let My Love Be Your Shelter” is delivered with real passion and Jinder appears incredibly at ease in such limited surroundings. “What Am I To You” is introduced as a future single and he preludes this with a humorous story about record company advice over future recordings. His stories are delivered in an articulate manner as he offers a heartfelt message about the work of Amnesty and his own experiences of homelessness. I only wish there were more songs in his set, and I don’t think I’m alone.


A 15-minute break allows time for refreshment before the main event of the evening. No stranger to causes Billy Bragg takes to the stage and opens with “Sexuality”, cue polite singalong! Staying with the theme of homelessness he delivers a great cover of the Woody Guthrie song “I Ain’t Got A Home Anymore”. Billy uses the between song time to discuss the Amnesty cause and the fine work it does to deliver help and assistance. He also tackles climate change and then delivers a poignant “King Tide And The Sunny Day Flood”. With fire in his belly and passion in his vocals, one detects a real personal attachment within the lyrics. “Handyman Blues” comes next with an amusing story to accompany it, while “Saffiyah Smiles” is accompanied by a back story about racism. After 5 songs and various stories it seemed somewhat fitting that he should end on “A New England”. It becomes an end of set singalong and we all join in. Billy takes the applause and thanks the homeowners for their hospitality. He sticks around for the obligatory photos and various questions, then quietly leaves before the final act.

Billy Bragg
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Prior to the final act, a lady from Amnesty gives a short introduction to their work and campaign. She too gets great applause before ‘Witherwood’ begin their set. This touring 3 piece sing gentle little songs about life, love and everything between. Indie/Folk; “Americana”, call it what you like but they have a simplicity about their style and delivery. Ashley (vox/guitar) takes the main vocal, aided by Edward to her left (also vox/guitar). On her right Steph (violin) is no less a contributor. They too exchange stories between songs of life on the road as a touring band. ‘Nephew’ in particular sees Ashley in fine voice with an interesting violin ending. They depart rather aptly on ‘This House’ before being encouraged to return for a one song encore. They don’t disappoint with a stirring rendition of ‘Dummy’ (Portishead). And that folks was a ‘Sofar Session’. I’m reliably informed that these events were taking place all over Britain concurrently; some 350 other shows, all at the same time. Tonight has been an eye opener to me and seeing a format so simple work so well, it almost has that ‘DIY’ feel about it we first experienced back in the early 80’s. One can only hope that decent revenues were raised at this event, and hopefully it won’t be the last of its kind in this town. Proof if ever it were needed that when charity comes a knocking; we can all make a difference, whatever the format.

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Written by Ross A. Ferrone
Pictures & Video by Dave Chinery (Chinners)

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