FIERY gypsy folk’n’rollers Holy Moly & The Crackers will return to Pocklington Arts Centre on October 16 as the East Yorkshire venue “excitedly resumes its live events”.
The North Yorkshire and Newcastle band are noted for sparking up a raucous, feelgood party atmosphere at their blazing live shows, built on soul, rock indie and Balkan folk.
Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer says: “Holy Moly & The Crackers always put on such an energetic, vivacious show, featuring their unique sound that has our audiences foot stomping and dancing in the aisles, so we can’t wait to welcome them back after their sold-out show back in February 2019.”
The band formed in 2011 almost by mistake, when singer, guitarist and trumpet player Conrad Bird, fellow singer and violinist Ruth Patterson and costume designer and accordion player Rosie Bristow met at a house party in Leamington Spa, of all places, in their late teens.
Enamoured by Rosie’s party-prop accordion, the three decided to start playing music together, mainly stomping Irish, American and Balkan folk and drinking songs at open mics and dive bars, as an alternative to Smack, Leamington’s main student club that provided the only other option for a night out.
After moving north, the founders were joined by jazz/funk bass player Jamie Shields and drummer Tommy Evans in 2015, when they released the single A Punk Called Peter, a “sort of New Orleans funeral march mixed with some fine and highly danceable reggae”.
Second album Salem marked the 2017 launch of their own label, Pink Lane Records, and a heightened profile for the band after lead single Cold Comfort Lane was picked up by Hollywood producers to turbo-boost the stick-it-to-the-man comedy crime caper Ocean’s 8 in 2018.
Classically trained but psychedelic and DIY punk-inspired guitarist Nick Tyler came on board that year to add to The Crackers’ grunt and diesel power.
Reuniting with Salem producer Matt Terry, they recorded swaggering third album Take A Bite in 2019, once again at Vada Studios, built in a 1260 chapel near Alcester on the Warwickshire /Worcestershire border.
“Apparently it’s called Vada Studios because the owner is obsessed with Star Wars’ Darth Vader,” says Conrad, whose band stayed in one of the outhouses.
Teaming up with Terry for a second time proved fruitful. “He’s worked with bands like The Prodigy and The Enemy and he has really good ideas for pop sensibilities,” says Conrad. “I was always against ‘pop’, but there’s a real skill to it. There was a chance for us to go with another producer, but we felt we could do more with Matt to develop our sound.”
Whereupon The Crackers hit the road in full throttle, joining shanty punks Skinny Lister on tour around Europe, before appearing at more than 30 festivals and undertaking a victorious headline lap of the UK, culminating in selling out their biggest show to date at Sage Gateshead on the banks of the Tyne. Ruth and Conrad tied the knot that busy year too.
2020 saw the band blasting out of the blocks with the single Road To You, “a shot of espresso that comes loaded and ready to work in a short, sharp shock”. Twenty-seven dates across ten countries should have added up to their biggest European tour to date, to go with support slots for fan Frank Turner across France and Germany and a return to Glastonbury for its 50th anniversary, but we all know what happened next.
Tickets for Holy Moly & The Crackers’ 8pm gig cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
POCKLINGTON Arts Centre (PAC) has been closed to the public since March 17 2020, curtailing that year’s 20th anniversary celebrations after comedian Tom Rosenthal’s Manhood show on March 14, but the venue will “hopefully be re-opening our doors this summer”.
Watch this space for further updates, but already director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have confirmed that the PAC-programmed Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington, has been called off for a second successive summer.
Festival shows by the likes of comedian Omid Djalili, Richard Thompson and Shed Seven duo Rick Witter and Paul Banks in acoustic mode initially had been moved from 2020 to 2021, although former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant’s Saving Grace acoustic gig with fellow vocalist Suzi Dian never had a new Platform date set in place.
“Robert hasn’t rescheduled any of his 2020 shows, originally because he was recording with Alison Krauss in Nashville,” says James.
“We looked into moving Richard Thompson’s date too, but he’s cancelled his plans because amid the continuing uncertainty over Covid, he’s not sure where he would stand, what with being based in the United States.”
More details are yet to be confirmed, but Pocklington Arts Centre is contemplating reopening with a film programme from July 2, followed by the full reopening in September, with greater clarity once the Government roadmap is rubber-stamped.
“It will be a slow re-start at first to restore audience confidence in coming to PAC, and film is a good way of doing that,” says Janet. “With films, you naturally socially distance to get the best view.
“But that’s why we couldn’t go ahead with the Platform Festival, because there are still uncertainties and it made sense to call it off.”
Plans are afoot instead for Primrose Wood Acoustic, a short series of outdoor shows in a 60 to 70-capacity woodland setting at Primrose Wood, Pocklington, in early July. Two shows are pencilled in for PAC in July too, subject to the Government’s Covid statements. Again, watch this space for more info as and when.
Within PAC, the lavatories have been refurbished and upgraded; air-purifying units to increase air flow are being installed around the building; a Covid-secure screen is in place at the box office, and such Covid measures as an app for ordering drinks, anti-bacteria spray “foggers” and hand-sanitising stations will be the way forward.
The frustrating year of lockdown x 3 has kept Janet and James busy rearranging concerts by, for example, The Felice Brothers and Courtney Marie Andrews three times and New Yorker Jesse Malin twice.
The management duo have been working their way through 20 years of paper work in the attics and have set up a beehive on the flat roof as part of a PAC environmentally friendly package.
So, now there is a buzz about the place in more ways than one, and on the Pocklington horizon is a theatrical ghost-walk promenade, commissioned from Magic Carpet Theatre founder Jon Marshall for the dark nights of November before the December dazzle of glam cabaret supreme in the company of York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli (date TBC).