Sartorially somewhere between Rev and Charlie Chaplin, Chris Conway doesn’t exactly look like a star. But there are few people who could pull off a solo spot with just a guitar and a few twiddly things after three blues bands have taken the stage, one after the other. But by his expertise and his commitment to his art, Chris nailed it. He had the entire bar silent and listening (except when we were singing along, of course – or shouting along) as he did a half-hour set to kick off the two-week ‘Art Beat’ Clarendon Park arts festival.
It’s a personal milestone for Chris as well, as it marks the 25th anniversary of his decision to become a professional musician. He told us the story of how, in 1988, he had taken ten quid to go on the Enterprise Allowance scheme and never looked back. I can’t help wondering if it was because of the ‘Enterprise’ in that name that he wrote so many science fiction songs (or ‘Filk’, as it’s known to the cognoscenti). He has whole albums full of the stuff, such as ‘Science Fiction Eyes’, ‘Alien Salad Abduction’ and ‘Three-Headed Girl’, two of which he did last night. With so many songs of all genres to choose from it must be hard to know what to play, and I caught him part-way through the evening jotting some notes on an old scrap of paper. Thinking it unlikely that he was writing me a note (I’m still deaf and will remain so until 4.40 this afternoon when Liberation will occur) I thought ‘Oo! I wonder if he’s writing his set list?’ And so it was.
Chris plays a mind-boggling number of instruments including (I recently discovered) the sitar; but last night he took the stage with only a guitar (I don’t know how anyone can manage twelve strings without slicing their fingers right through: these days I only play a nylon string guitar) a thingy that you play with your thumbs (merimba? – or is that some kind of Spanish dance?) and two pipes which he played simultaneously, sticking them both in his mouth and not, as I thought for one second, putting one in each nostril. It was all terrific fun with plenty of opportunity to sing along – but what I like most, I think, are the lyrics. I’m a lyric person: well, I would be, as a poet, wouldn’t I? He comes up with some imaginative rhymes and my favourite is probably in the song about old people and their younger incarnations, ‘Superheroes Never Die’:
‘The bat-mobile was traded in for a Prius.’
also, from the same song:
‘Robin, Boy Wonder ran away,
now he runs a gay bar in San Jose…’
Chris has been the subject of an article in the Mercury and is soon to be on Radio Leicester:
There’s plenty of opportunity to see him including an upcoming gig at the Musician: