Every mention of our gig in Dorset drew the same reaction: "Oh you're playing at The Square and Compass! That's the best pub in the world!" The Square and Compass is the best pub I've ever been to, and I can't imagine one that could be any better. I highly recommend a visit to Dorset, and more specifically the Square and Compass if you are anywhere near the south of England.
We rolled up to the Square and Compass straight from Purbeck Folk Festival about thirty minutes late. Owl, our fabulous tour manager, got to work straight away to set up the sound system, and within another thirty minutes we were ready to go.
The scale of the Square and Compass as an entity is pretty grand. The pub, which sits on top of a bluff called Lychard in Dorset County, and commands an impressive view of the south coast of England, is about four hundred years old. It's a cider and alehouse with a few separate rooms (including a museum) and a great outdoor seating section. The interior of the Square and Compass however is relatively petite. There is one main door that leads to a tiny counter where you wait in line to order your pint and pasty from one of the gregarious (and beautiful) bar maids. After receiving your goods you can turn left towards a small tavern with three tables, or right towards the main room, marginally larger than that previously mentioned.
This main room, floor and tables all made up of exquisitely old wood (most horizontal surfaces are smooth and polished, a result of hundreds of years of hands, a kind of furniture polish on an almost geological scale) was where we set up to play our show that night. The four of us, packed ourselves into the area in front of the fireplace, tuned up, did a quick sound-check, and got down to business. There must have been seventy people packed into this tiny room; it was overflowing. Pub-goers were climbing in and out of the window to the left of the stage as we raged our first set. The energy of the room was ecstatic. We were so tired when we got there, but the free cider and the exuberant crowd got our hearts pumping again and we finished the set with shit eating grins on our faces. We spent our set break eating pasties, drinking cider, and talking to the patrons and staff.
The only thing that kept us awake for the second set was the crazy audience packing out this tiny pub. They were dancing, yelling, singing along. At one point Kenny got everyone in the room waltzing in unison as a group. We finished our set, a bit more cider, some whisky, and headed upstairs to our accommodations to get some much needed sleep. In the morning Cory and I went for a run to the beach and found some deep caves cut into an old limestone quarry. The weather was brilliant, and the views were spectacular. Owl set up the PA for our afternoon set right out in front where the crowds would be queuing up.
As I walked outside and saw Owl setting everything up I noticed a big problem. The spot where the owner wanted us to play, according to him the only spot we could play, was right in front of a bush that was swarming with bees. Kenny is seriously afraid of bees. I don't think it's a full-blown phobia, but if there are bees around Kenny will run away; He's thrown his guitar to the ground in order to escape a bee. We assumed that Kenny would simply refuse to play if he knew about the bee situation, so our strategy was simply to not say anything about bees and hope he didn't notice. The two sets went fine, although we were swarmed with bees the entire time Kenny was a brave boy and never ran away. No one got stung - they seemed like nice bees. The owner asked if we would be willing to play an acoustic set that night in exchange for putting us up another night and we agreed. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, drinking cider; Josh and I went for another run.
We did a quick acoustic jam with a skiffle band that night but were all pretty tired so we let the skiffle guys finish off the night and we packed up our instruments. Spent the rest of the night hanging out with the Square and Compass staff drinking cider and talking about ducks (apparently they build houses for the ducks in this country). Okay heading west along the coast. We love Dorset.