I’ve been in Leicester for a dozen or so years now. One of the many things that I love about this city is the continuity within the music scene. Yes, there are bands and acts that come and go, rise and fall, but there are also mainstays of the scene. These are the decent people who will always have their instruments close by should they be called on to entertain. These are the people who live for playing and listening to music.
Last night was another at the Musician for the fourth in this years OBS unplugged. One such mainstay of the local scene, Steve Parker, opened the proceedings. Suffering from that January sniffle and sore throat that seems to be affecting us all, Steve did well to get through his short set. I’d heard these gentle songs from this gentleman before but that only increases my enjoyment. I didn’t want this set to end.
I’m reminded of one of the very first times I ever went to the Musician. It was a much smaller venue then and I’d driven into Leicester from out of town. I knew nothing about Bryter Later, the Nick Drake tribute band, that I was dragging my then partner along to see in a rare night away from baby-sitting duties. I had no idea who this man was who was singing many of the songs but he clearly had even more of an affection for the music of Nick Drake than I did. His voice had the same nervey velvetness that I associated with Drake. That man was Steve Parker. When tales were told about festival excesses, I questioned whether I was actually happy with my life of domesticity in a small market town.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had moved to Leicester. I had a flat in the centre of town and was footloose and fancy free. I could go and see whatever live music I wanted to and often ended my nights stumbling back from clubs at dawn. A regular Saturday would have been live lunchtime music at the old Phoenix followed by afternoon music at the Criterion. I recall one particular Saturday when I was still buzzing from Friday nights club. Steve played a two hour set at the Criterion and I stared at him, jaw agog, for much of this two hours. It could have been pretty disconcerting for Steve but he played on, probably oblivious to the effect that his healing manner was having on my wired mind.
There’s so much else I could mention; sitting around a camp fire in Dorset in the build up to Monkey Fest; Steve’s encouraging and probably misplaced support of an acoustic act, Dreaming Of Insomnia, I once dabbled with (“A bit like Jonathan Richman“, Steve once said) and how I missed Steve’s presence around town when he ran away to Spain. But that would make this piece too long.
It’s part of the ramshackle charm of Steve that he doesn’t really do self-promotion. You’ll struggle to find marketing campaigns and press releases attached to this man. There are no highly produced Youtube videos of Steve covering the latest Sam Smith hit. You might just about find a ‘MySpace’ site as a concession to social media. Twitter is just what people do between songs right?
But, none of this matters. Let’s celebrate a mainstay of the Leicester scene who lives for the music.