Lizzy Havenhand reviews the first Sundowner Sessions at Lusty Glaze with the Fisherman’s Friends.
Down on Lusty Glaze, the beach was bursting with South West community spirit and fantastic talent. It was as if taking that trip down the 133 stone steps transported you into another dimension, secluded and united by the love of all that is Cornwall.
It wasn’t long before the Newquay Rowing Club Singers took to the stage, each of the many members sporting a Cornish tartan necktie, with a pint of Rock’s own Doom Bar in hand. They had their audience captivated and singing right from the word go. The umbrellas and pints were held high- swaying from side to side, just as the Cornish flag at the back swayed proudly also.
It was drizzling grimly and had been for quite some time. So it was about this point that I realised we should have been clever and organised by bringing beach chairs along, like many of the families and elderly couples sat snugly enjoying the evening from under a warm blanket! The rain didn’t seem to bother anyone- the clever seated people simply zipped up their waterproof ponchos and pulled their blankets tighter whilst the carefree youngsters’ bare sandy feet just kept on tapping.
The Rowing Club Singers harmonised their vocals brilliantly, and the occasional use of an acoustic guitar brought the old sea shanties to life. The stomp boxes came out for the very popular ‘South Australia’ which brought a singing smile to everyone’s face.
The next band was immediately eye-catching. As all 7 members took to the stage and set up, their artistic quirkiness had everybody waiting with bated breath to hear their sound. The Grenaways did not disappoint- the introductory song began with beautiful guitar picking leading into strong male vocals. This was accompanied by complimenting female vocals from the flute and piano player. Their songs spun stories which left you with a feeling that had you swaying and jigging happily.
Anticipation was high for the Fisherman’s Friends; the beach was feeling beautiful, with the sea roaring in the distance, the dark atmospheric sky lined with rainclouds and the strings of fairy lights framing the stage and the audience. The clever, organised families with their children began to leave their beach chairs behind and come to the front for a better view. The heavily moustached singer, Jon Cleave, greeted everybody and much to everyone’s delight, they started with a well known shanty, ‘Blow the Man Down’.
The positive energy kept everyone afloat in the Fishermen’s boat and the jokey banter kept flowing. That was until about midway through the set, the tone was lowered to something a tad more melancholy; they sang a song which Jon announced was for ‘all the loved ones we have to say goodbye to’. Everyone took this song to remember the sad incident of early 2013 which lost the band their choir member and tour manager, or perhaps they took this moment to reflect on losses of their own.
The feel around the beach lifted once more and the eyes of the young children lit up when ‘The Drunken Sailor’ began. Everyone clapped and sang along, (although the guys jested that the audience shouldn’t sing it too loud, as they didn’t want the song to be ruined!)
Some of the FF’s friendships go back decades and with these strong ties and musical similarities bringing the band together, it puts to shame the many bands of today who fall apart for reasons of musical differences. The way the Fisherman’s Friends joke, banter and jest between songs, finish each others’ sentences and just downright have a great time on stage really unifies them as one big family and it’s clear to see that their mutual love of Cornwall and their music will be long lasting.