Paul Johnson and Darren Beech caught up with Peter Knight after Gigspanner Big Band closed the Friday night of New Forest Folk Festival 2019.
We talk to Peter about the early days of Gigspanner, how the idea came about, Peter’s ethos for music, what he looks for in his musical relationships and how he approaches his new projects since Steeleye Span.
There is a very funny interlude, when the one and only Hugh Crabtree makes an appearance with a bottle of wine. We also talk to Peter’s about John Spiers, how the partnership came together, Peter’s workshops and the Gigspanner Big Band.
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Gigspanner are a band for whom improvisation is as important as composition. In theory, no two performances will be the same even with the same set list. I’d love to hear them on two successive nights in different venues but I’ve had to content myself with hearing them twice this year. It’s fascinating to hear how the music has evolved over a few months – or is it just that this is how it was on this night in this theatre with this audience?
There are certainly more backing vocals from Roger Flack and Vincent Salzfaas which boost the refrains and the ending of ‘Mrs McGrath’ has been reworked to take that into account but the rest is mere conjecture. ‘Picnic’ seemed tighter and ‘Bonny Birdie’ more aggressive but Peter had just spoken movingly about Ray Fisher with whom he first played the song and perhaps it was that emotion coming out. Roger extended his solo on ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ and Vincent got three turns in the spotlight which was different and Peter probably played more pizzicato than bowing, creating some very non-violin sounds on ‘Too Late For Shadows’ for example, but that is pretty much standard.
The time sped past too quickly as it often does when the music is so engrossing. The band has had a couple of months off after a long tour and the chaps seem to have come back from their summer re-energised. You could never accuse them of head-banging but there was some serious leaning forward and nodding at times.