It’s just another magic Monday down Mathew Street today. Tonight, however, will be a manic Monday as it’s the fifth anniversary of The Cavern Pub’s celebrated open-mic night, the ‘Ian Prowse Monday Club’.
Monday nights at The Cavern Pub have become legendary. The PR that ran when the people behind The Cavern announced an open-mic night and installed the Merseyside singer as host talked about “great musicians gathering to show the other side of Liverpool’s vibrant and creative music scene” and also promised “you never know who might turn up”. How prophetic those words have turned out to be…
“It’s the open-mic night by which all others should be judged,” says ex-Frankie Goes To Hollywood guitarist and songwriter, Brian Nash. “The diverse talent I have witnessed during my many visits since is truly inspiring – I have seen poets, bands and solo singers, both young and old. I’m not sure they’ve had a juggler yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long! Long may it run… now, where’s me fucking sausage?”
Nash is talking about Monday Club’s official theme song, written by Barry Jones (Southbound Attic Band), which celebrates the blue the air can turn at this rowdy affair. You see, ‘Monday Club’ isn’t just about introspective singer/songwriters, their finger-picking technique and ethereal harmonies. Sure, you get those too, but where this hooley drops anchor is in those more rarefied waters purified with rock ‘n’ roll bands, poets, activists and punks.
The evening has also attracted its fair share of established artists – Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff is a regular, Irish folk hero Damien Dempsey has been called up from the floor on a few occasions and Liverpool legend Ian McNabb has performed on numerous nights (and once reunited the erstwhile original Icicle Works for an acoustic bash). The reunited likes of 90s heroes Hurricane #1 and Rain have also got back to work on Mathew Street and lead-La Lee Mavers also found himself on the stage a while back. Host Prowse often tries out brand new material there, too.
The main thrust of ‘Monday Club’, however, has remained true to its original aim and given birth to a brand new scene for the city’s up-and-coming creatives. “As a young musician, I found it hard to find venues and open mics that would have me,” reveals Scouse wunderkind, Eleanor Nelly. “‘Monday Club’ was one of the venues that made me feel like I had been received and welcomed in the best way, regardless of age and genre. It welcomes talent from all over the world, too.” Eleanor’s right – indeed, the youngest regular performer at Prowse and The Cavern’s open-mic before her was Liverpool teenager Millie Courtney – now a songwriter with a number one to her name in Nashville.
There have been many ‘Monday Club’ success stories – and not just in the charts. Many of the Mathew Street regulars have gone on to tour the UK, get signed to record labels or graduate with honours from Paul McCartney’s LIPA. Vanessa Murray has just done the latter: “It was one of the very first open-mic nights I performed at and I’ve always felt welcome there,” she says. “I have always continued to recommend the night to anyone who is looking to showcase their music… here’s to the next five years!”
Tom Low is another that got a start at ‘Monday Club’ and he hasn’t looked back since: “I love Monday Club for its atmosphere, people and education in different types of songwriting,” says the artist now signed to the seminal Deltasonic. “There’s no better place to test out your new songs and gain performance confidence. And end up on a mad night out… ” That community spirit is what the ‘Monday Club’ is famous for. Yes, the backline, PA and amps are all top of the range, and the host is a respected songwriter throughout the world, but it’s the intangible that keeps attracting punk poets and troubled troubadours to The Cavern Pub. “I’ve met amazing artists and made amazing friends through ‘Monday Club’,” reveals regular Nishant Goyal, who has recently signed a deal with indie label Coffee Jingle Records. “I’m proud to say I’ve opened for Ian Prowse’s band, Amsterdam, thanks to Monday club, too.” Cheshire original and up-and-coming songwriter Jon Coley feels the same: “As I sit here writing this note, I’m ten days into a three week tour of the country with my music – jumping buses, trains, and sleeping on the move. All this would have been unimaginable when I first walked into ‘Monday Club’ two years ago – Ian’s confidence in me, and the kindness of the ‘Monday Club’ regulars, has had a massive impact on my life. I will always try to return ‘home’ there whenever I can.”
It’s rare to come across such warmth in the modern music game. Liverpool, a village so small and diverse with a hundred different scenes and cliques, can become drenched in territorial pissings. It’s vital, then, that artists, promoters and taste-makers in the city all remain attuned to the radar of ‘Monday Club’. Let’s not forget, either, that The Cavern Pub sits on the same stretch of ley line that gave the world The Cavern Club and Eric’s.
“The Ragamuffins have benefited hugely from the support and opportunities given to us from Ian and the people we’ve met through ‘Monday Club’,” declares David John Jaggs of the popular Scouse rabble rousers. “I’ve witnessed a community spring up that has given birth to festivals and friendships… and people have grown from bedroom stargazers to bona fide recording artists in their own right. Having the opportunity to be inspired by such a wonderful bunch of crackpots week in, week out, can’t help but fire your imagination.” Singer/songwriter Joe Kelly, himself the host of a plethora of open-mic nights around the town, agrees: “It’s easily the best open-mic around. It’s a great place to test out new material and I’ve made many friends there over the years… I’ve even started bands from it! I’ll always keep returning, because it’s always a laugh and you’re guaranteed to see something different each time.”
That seems to be the thing that sets ‘Monday Club’ apart… variation. I’ve been attending open-mics since the mid nineties and the only one that comes close in spirit to Mondays on Mathew Street is Steve Roberts’ ‘Acoustic Engine’ – that once even attracted a young Damien Rice to Seel Street on a Saturday afternoon. The ‘Monday Club’ is cut from the same cloth: open-minded, open-eared and open-to-all. As long as you don’t play ‘Sex On Fire’…
We’ll leave the last word to the host: “I’ve heard a mountain of stone cold classic tunes, listened to magnificent poetry and made some good friends,” says Prowse. “I’ve seen a LOT of crazy things, too! May we sail on into the future, keeping creativity alive all along the Mersey shore.”
Ian Prowse Monday Club
The Cavern Pub, Mathew Street, Liverpool
All details here
Pic courtesy BeatlesPix