IN THE MIDDLE of the dancefloor upstairs, a collective of roots/folk musicians get out their instruments.
The crowd's quiet and concentrated as it waits for Southern Tenant Folk Union to take the stage. But instead they're playing acoustically, slap-bang in the middle of the room.
Tonight's set is a mixed affair of 'aethiest gospel songs' and murderous dark ditties. "Here's a song about murder," says frontman Pat, as he opens Cold Flagstone. "It's a song about a recent holiday I went on with my brother and sister – we argued the whole time," he laughs.
But it's the 'atheist gospel song' (A Little Deeper) that grips the crowd. Banjo, guitar, upright bass, mandolin and violin combine to create soaring, swooning melodies. Vocal harmonies complement the song's sacred lament and the absence of microphones adds to the already intimate experience.
One man says: "It's like being at Fagans." He has a point – here the crowd is immersed in the set, not merely watching it happen in front of them.
Next up's a cover of banjo player Don Remo's I'm Using My Bible as a Roadmap. It's a jolly stomp and easy to sing along, as members of the crowd demonstrate.
Foot-stomping on the wooden floor provides percussion and the horse-shoe crowd, gathered around the band, is enraptured. Tonight's set – aided by its lack of electrification and intimate setting, provides a conduit between the crowd and the bluegrass that inspired Southern Tenant's Folk Music itself.
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