Chapel Arts as the name suggests is a Bath performance space for the arts focused mainly on music and within that mainly folk and “roots” styles but which also caters for jazz, blues, country and indie styles and others types of performance such as the occasional contemporary burlesque show. Although I have assiduously checked their listings for most of the time we have been in Bath and despite the fact that we have been at various times quite regular patrons of their basement café I had not until very recently found anything that I really wanted to see. I was beginning to think that I might fail in my goal of seeing something in every main venue in Bath so I was greatly relieved when I noticed that an American performer by the name of Brooks William,s rated as one of the top 100 acoustic guitarist in the US, or some such ranking, was billed under the blues category.
I hadn’t heard of him but as he was playing with a guest harmonica player, a Brit, I though that they could be good, as indeed they were. Williams played amplified acoustic guitar, steel guitar (a resonator I think it would be called) and a “cigar box” guitar which was literally a cigar box with a thin neck attached, a pickup and only three strings that he played mainly with a bottleneck. Both of these guys must have been either in their late fifties or early sixties and indeed, can we ever get away from them, played for an audience whose average age must have been about sixty, dammit.
The Chapel, for that is what it was, was set out with small tables and chairs arranged facing a not inconsiderable stage which gave a pleasant “nightclub” feel to the place. One thing we both noticed was just how good the sound of the music was, the clarity and balance were really excellent. It felt more like listening to a superb sound system than live music. Indeed Brooks Williams himself made special comment and gave thanks for the quality of the sound and complimented the sound engineer on duty. It turns out that the venue is in fact very well equipped as their own blurb describes:
“We have a superb, solid and smooth oak wood floor, a state-of-the-art lighting system and truss, and the fantastic natural acoustic of the room (best in Bath!) which is augmented by an excellent sound system with a professional 28:8:2 channel Soundcraft mixing desk with more outboard than you could shake a stick at.”
So there you have it, a 28:8:2 channel Soundcraft mixing desk as I expect most of you were thinking after my comments above. For your edification here is a sample of Brooks and Keith in full flight (just ignore the 12 second promo at the start):