The Hunter Club is Back!

As a photographer, my last gig-shoot was round five of BurySOUND at The Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds on 7th March.  I was delighted to be invited back last Saturday to cover the venue’s first live event in seven months.  Delighted to be photographing musicians doing their thing, even more delighted for The Hunter Club.

This gig was incredibly significant, it had been arranged before Arts Council England announced the distribution of grants under the Culture Relief Fund.  The Hunter Club’s grant of just over £123k meant that this gig would not be the venue’s swan song, that is how critical things are, not just for The Hunter Club, but for music venues across the country.

The main hall was looking very elegant. Each table adorned with red tablecloths, white roses and flickering candles, all of which gave the place a distinctly Parisienne Café feel.   It was a very emotional Sara Kathleen who stood up to welcome the forty seated guests and the artists.  As venue manager she had spent a lot of time learning about the rules and regulations required to operate a covid compliant and safe venue.

First to play was Belinda Gillett, a treat for me, for she has long been on my ‘must see live’ list and I was not disappointed.  Belinda openly admits that she forgets to talk about her songs or even mention what they are called, but with a voice like hers I was quite happy to sit back and listen and get lost in the moment.

Next up was Phoebe Austin with a selection of her songs written during lockdown.  Her cathartic ‘Serenity’ and allegedly subtle angry song ‘This is War’ were both interesting insights on how the pandemic is viewed by young people.  Incredibly Phoebe is only fifteen years old but with a stage presence of one much older.

When I arrived, I noticed that Leon O’Leary was sitting at a table with his sister Izzy.  I have seen them perform as a duo and was pleased to see Izzy join her brother on stage despite her name not appearing on the line up. Her harmonies and chilled stage presence are a perfect complement to Leon’s melancholic guitar work.  They won round one of BurySOUND back in February, alas we’ll never know how they would have faired in the final which was cancelled like so much of 2020.

Last to take the stage was Matt Reaction.  It was Matt who played the last ever gig at The Hunter Club before lockdown – this set was significant.  To begin with, Matt announced that this would be the last ever Matt Reaction performance.  He was heeding the Government’s advice, taking Fatima’s lead and retraining into cyber, in the same breath recommending that Belinda, Phoebe, Leon and Izzy do the same.  There is irony in this man’s performance, anarchy too, angst, anger and humour in abundance – but above all passion.   ‘Thrilled Beyond Biscuits’ and ‘Can’t Wait’ are the earworms I came away with.

And then the evening was over but there would be no sitting around having a drink with performers like we used to.  Uncharacteristically staff had to ensure that their guests were out of the building by ten pm sharp. Police patrols checking to make sure that all Bury’s venues were complying.

The Hunter Club has plans for more gigs – having just announced that Alton Wahlberg will be there on 7th November and, in conjunction with Green Mind Gigs on 11th December they will present Nigel Clark of indie band Dodgy.