Thursday, December 06, 2018

"My style is not so good. As a matter of fact it's minimal".

 
Come hither, young shaver pull your coat and scarf tight around you, for the winter chill seeps inst through the door and wraps unwary limbs in its cold embrace. Sit here by the fire, and I shall tell you of the hinterlands, the dark places where old lore hast not yet been driven out by the briskness of modernity. The hoot of an owl, the scurry of the muntjack, a bustle in your hedgerow – don’t be alarmed now…

Mr. Wendell and I are on our way to an undisclosed location in Mid-Suffolk where, behind a hedge of epic proportions lies The Hovell and inside the rambling adjunct without, Fiddly Richard – a man as drawn by Quentin Blake as an approximation of what the protagonist of Roald Dahl’s great unreleased “The Woodcutter and The Canoeist” might best resemble.* We wipe the mud from our boots – he’s vacuumed in anticipation of our visit, after all – and put down guitar cases. We are here to embark on perhaps the most magic alchemical process of all – that of overdubbing the electric guitar onto an acoustic demo.{FX: Roll of Thunder}. It’s the sort of process which used to beget all those outtakes and alternate versions that now turn up on remastered reissues of classic albums, but with the advent of computer technology much of this “...is it rolling, Bob?”-style malarkey has been superseded by the mere touch of a button.

To my left, sits Mr. Wendell, fully armed with a Fender Telecaster, an amplifier and an electronic effects board, which has a bewildering number of knobs, dials, pedals, and numerous flashing lights aglint. “I mainly use it as a tuner” he explains. Fiddly bustles off to make tea. At this point I should explain that Mr. Gibbon and I have already contributed a bass part and an acoustic guitar to proceedings, La Mulley has donated a guide vocal so we don’t get lost half way through the bewildering middle-eight and Neighbourhood Tony is due in to record some melodeon and harmonica the next day. He’s the banjo player, for those who haven’t been keeping up. We have experimented with many examples of the long-form recording format, however with the dearth of solid Baptist chapels in the area and conflicting diary commitments ever at our backs, we’ve decided to entrust recording the latest example of our ouevre to Fiddly. In his shed. 

He’s using Cubase which, again for those not overly familiar with the white hot development of recording technology over the past few years is - if you ask some people - somewhat akin to holding up a ghetto blaster outside a rehearsal room, pressing Play and Record at the same time and hoping the sellotape doesn’t fall off the C-90 your big sister used in order to enable her tape the top forty off the radio at the weekend. I’m not saying it’s old school, but he has to keep a spare elastic band in case the hard drive starts running slow and if the system needs rebooting he has to rub a balloon briskly against his jumper whilst pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL. This is why it’s obviously handy if there are two or three of us involved in each session.

Nevertheless, the actual sounds he records in the room are as the surroundings suggest – warm, woody, rustic. For someone who regards Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night as the modern apotheosis of production capability, as I do, this is welcome fare. We’ve already had a discussion about Helen’s vocal take on the new song. “It fades in and out and there’s a bit where it wavers a bit at the end of the phrase” runs one argument. “It sounds like her...” I counter “...singing in a room”. Mr. Wendell runs down the chords, adjusts his vibrato and delay settings**, confirms that he can hear the monitor mix in his headphones perfectly and goes for the vibe. The tension rises as we reach the bridge – has he remembered the double-stop arpeggio and 6/8 chord reversal which introduces the breakdown before the penultimate verse? He has! We both relax – me with a gentle exhalation (we’ve got a DI from the Boss rack and a mic on the Marshall combo, so quiet please in the room) and him with a desultory swipe across a capo’d Em which breaks both the rhythm and mood of the song. Fiddly, in the control booth awakens with a start. “Do you want to hear it?” he enquires solicitously. “No thanks, let’s go again” responds Wendell. The endgame is in sight - but as the kids say these days, it’s not over until Ed Sheeran sings. The hum of the amplifier hangs sonorously in the room. “It’s what an amplifier sounds like” I say.

A couple of takes later and it’s almost in the bag. There’s one more chord to drop in – at the very last Mr. Wendell’s nerve has failed him and he’s waited a nanosecond too long to hit the climactic Am in tandem with my ringing double-tracked acoustic. One quick flick of the mouse to get us on to a new track and he’s paused ready to caress the strings of steel. Job done, we ask Fiddly to put it on the big speakers so we can listen back to our work. It’s already full and resonant, and the lengthy (five minutes plus) running time leaves little room for error in a one-take working scenario. Just before the last chord, we hear it. Someone suggests hesitantly “I think you fluffed that picked note just before the end”. I think I did, responds my internal monologue.

“Fuck it” I say out loud. “These box sets don’t compile themselves”.




*Spoiler alert – it’s the same guy.
**I know – once it’s down, it’s down. No post-production remix and remodel for you, Mister.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"This was a museum in 1847" "Blimey, and it's only half eight now!"


We are already in a bus lane, and in a designated loading bay, when we are aproached by the bagpiper. “Are you looking for somewhere to park?” he enquires solicitously, having taken a break from producing the stirring and skirling sound of the pipes - albeit, rather incongruously, in the heart of swinging downtown Ipswich. We agree that we are indeed looking for somewhere to park. “Just down there” he indicates with a wave of his chanter before cheerily resuming his droning on. We park up and I hurry toward the service door, pausing briefly as I remember that Helen is negotiating a darkened car park in three-inch red velvet stilettoes. “Keep up!” I say brightly. “Are we in the right place?” she says. “Of course!” I reply “There’s a white van parked out the back”. And, I remind myself, a bagpiper parked out the front.

We are at Arlington’s, where I’ve played before, at the behest of the new owners, who are minded to launch their new venture in a hail of free drinks, canapes and, as it turns out, the lilting sound of sweet, sweet music. Which is where Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs come in. We have received an electronic mail inviting us to perform at the soiree at slightly shorter notice than one might expect – today being Wednesday and the mail having been received on Monday – but by fortunate happenstance all The Dogs are free* and so we accept the offer of a meal and a drink in return for two ten minute performances about an hour apart from each other, Which at least should give us time to get our small plate Tapas in between sets. And it doesn’t even look like they want a fumble in the car park afterwards, which is where quite a few dinner invitations have led me in the past. Out by the bins.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Two sets, an hour apart? But what the very devil are folk supposed to do in between?” Aha – you see, well, they’d thought of that too. We are but one of seven turns to perform on three stages set about the ballroom in rotation. Someone has clearly been watching too much Later with Jools… and some seasoned heads in the organisation are already muttering to themselves regarding timekeeping and logistics. Fixed upon my “Not my circus...” mantra I am nevertheless slightly taken aback that the promised eight channel PA does not come with microphones, mic stands or monitors**. In these sorts of situations one hopes that the fraternal and sororal nature of the musician’s creed will come to the fore and indeed we are quickly offered the use of the estimable This Machine Kills Fascists’ microphones and bass amp, Turny has a spare mic with him, fellow troubadours Blues Brother, Soul Sister lend a microphone stand, and before kick off TMKF even conjure and set up a vocal monitor onstage. hat'll be where the van came in. Or, rather more accurately, what came in the van.

Waiting staff circulate with plates of tasty morsels, the bar has a limited range of complimentary beverages. It’s not exactly Queen’s New Orleans launch party for Jazz, but it’s pleasant enough. Also on the bill are a couple of conjurors, who have already been asked to cut their sets as we’re running late. We sympathise, as this is a not unfamiliar experience at these sorts of events. I bump into one of them at the bar later. “Are you getting free drinks?” he asks? “I’m about to find out” I reply. “Are you paying for these?” enquires my bar steward. Miming playing an imaginary ukulele as the universal sign for being slightly musical I respond that “I’m with the band”. “Oh” she says, handing over my tasty beverage. “I’ll have one of those” says my fellow traveller. “Are you in a band too?” she asks. “No” he replies, whisking an instantly fanned deck of cards from an inside pocket. “I’m a magician...”

As the evening wends its way toward an end, the genteel hubbub has faded slightly with the thinning of the glitterati, the velvet among the palm fronds further between, and so for our second set we throw in the sort of mournful ballad that you usually need the rarified atmosphere of a folk club to perform. It’s clearly the right move for that time of the evening. There are a couple of solo spots before TMKF return to the stage with their scattergun punky ska approach***, clearly having similarly assessed the vibe of the diminishing crowd. “This is catchy” I remark in an aside to Helen as we tap our toes along to the chorus of something lively. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!” they sing. 

We make our way to our carriages.



*This is virtually unheard of. Even at rehearsals we can only usually round up two thirds of us at best.

**For the layperson, imagine that you’ve been over to stay at a friend’s house and that when you wake up in the morning there’s a note on the fridge which reads “Gone to work, frying pan in the cupboard, help yourself to breakfast!” You open the fridge, and there’s nothing in it.

***Listening to them is akin to a experiencing tightly-condensed support bill at Beautiful Days.

Monday, November 05, 2018

In Praise of TT.

 
I won’t lie to you, I’ve been lucky. The number of people who’ve been willing to throw their talent at whatever dumb idea I’ve come up with has, over the years - the decades even - been humbling. I once formed a band called The Free Albanian Airforce which featured a punk singer on bass, me on guitar, and a guy who once auditioned for Generation X on harmonica, for instance. Then someone actually gave us a gig. Our big showstopper was a version of JJ Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze”. At that point I wasn’t entirely sure whether he or the bloke who used to be in The Velvet Underground were the same guy. That’s how much leeway my friends have granted me, over time.
 
I have played The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (in full – the whole album) to a The Jam-loving friend, who still speaks to me to this day. I have opened a secondary school talent show with a Uriah Heep cover. I have persuaded a folk band that a twelve minute version of Tonight’s the Night is a perfectly acceptable way to close a beer festival. Apparently, according to me, Status Quo’s What You’re Proposin’ makes for a fabulous Sunday lunchtime jam. I am, in short, blessed.
 
None of this was put in to sharper relief than when I idly tapped in a few digits on the electric internet and happened upon Tony Turrell (I know him as ‘TT’) doing an acoustic session with the singer from Genesis Visible Touch (GVT for short). TT was (and for all legal purposes is) the keyboard player in Songs from The Blue House. We came across him first in a pub in Essex (this happened a lot in our recruiting process) and invited him to come and play on our version of Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. His brief (and this was my idea) was to play the middle eight as if it were an extended version of the intro from Genesis’s Firth of Fifth. “Okay” he said, and rattled it off as if it were a thing of no consequence at all. Non piano players may disagree.

Subsequently, TT roamed around the highways and byways of East Anglia with us, occasionally making oblique references to his time working with Mr. Fish-out-of-Marillion and, on one occasion (most excitedly for me) Heather Nova. He ended up writing my second favourite Blue House song, and playing an exquisite piano part on my first; gracious enough to take on board my advice about the dusty end without the merest hint of doyouknowwhoiam-ism.

As I say, I just wanted to tell you how lucky I’ve been. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Folk, People and Others; Tony Turrell.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to make a small fortune in the music industry.

 
In short, start with a large one. Out here in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy (despite the inference offered by their name, media and publishing behemoth Universal have been conspicuous by their absence in my career trajectory to this point) the industry is largely self-financed. You’ll note I didn’t say ‘financing’. Even as I embark on my nascent career as a gig promoter, I am grateful to the good folk at HMRC for doing their sums properly and giving me back enough liquidity to temporarily play the Harvey Goldsmith card here in the heart of swinging downtown Ipswich. At the library.

Yes, I though that too. Nevertheless, in ringing round the venues and cubby holes of Ippo, the one place that was cheap and available happened to be the County Library, where they are keen to make much of the available space and where Police Dog Hogan once put me on the guest list because I had berated myself on social media for being stupid enough not to get advance tickets for a sold-out show. In addition, due to the volunteer-based status of this evening’s staff, it is one of those hen’s-teeth rare gigs where the bands are getting paid and the bar staff aren’t.

Along for the ride are Californian songstrel and serial open-tuner Hanna Haas, and rising stars of the UK Americana scene Morganway, who sound like nothing so much as Fleetwood Mac in their pomp, but with an added fiddle player. All the members of the band who aren’t women have impressively Big Pink-era beardage. We, by way of contrast, can barely raise two and a half between us, but I have bought a new gig top, in a striking Paisley mode, which has de facto lighting tech Kilbey in rhapsodies. Also thinking of striking is TAFKAOGL*, here in the role of sound engineer, to which he has taken in an impressive fashion, all black t-shirt, cargo shorts and sturdy boots, and also seemingly able to exist on a diet of air and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. I don’t think I’ve seen him eat since he started the job, although there was that Facebook post about a Scotch Egg once, so I guess he’s making the best of it.

He is also faced with the conundra of the multi-band gig format which means that once you’ve set up and soundchecked the headliners (Morganway) you then have to deconstruct the whole lot in order to mic up the openers (Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs) who seem to have, unaccountably, brought a vibraphone. This will be operated by Young Young Bob, who I fondly recall used to come to SftBH gigs with his Dad and sit, bored, reading Harry Potter during the set. There is so much percussion euipment banging about that we decide not even to try to get him onto the stage and so he is secreted behind the PA and lights at floor level like some sort of shameful add-on that we’re not really supposed to admit to. At the sound of a bell tree many of our audience may have temporarily considered dark thoughts regarding triggers and samples. I get the impression that James, simultaneously manipulating an iPad and miking up a cajon, may be harbouring certain dark intentions of his own.

Mr. Wendell, over on stage right, is impressively bushy of face, and has transcended his intended initial role in the band as lead singer and strummer to take over harmonies and lead guitar and has reached the stage in his career where he has two identical Telecasters – one capoed at the fifth fret, one let to run wild and free in standard tuning – on stage alongside his trusty Gibson acoustic. Needless to say, his guitar amplifier is set up on the opposite side of the stage to where Kieron-out-of-Morganway’s is. James make a Fawlty-esque harrumphing grunt. “Right...” he says.

The doors are scheduled to open at seven-thirty. At seven thirty-one, we are able let the first of our impressively susbstantial audience in. Much of the past few weeks has been spent worrying about the number of online ticket sales, the potential walk-up and managing the guest list. We have fourteen musicians alone performing, so it’s not like anyone’s going to be playing to an empty room, but it’s still gratifying to see the bar area filling up, the tables all occupied and extra chairs being retrieved from behind the photocopier. It would appear that I’m not going to lose my (Paisley) shirt and I’m not going to have to pull any of that Peter Grant shit after all. I’ve not really put on a gig since all you had to do was put up a couple of posters in your local record shops, but now there aren’t any of those either**, as I ruefully reflect with a local radio presenter who gently chides me that I hadn’t been in touch with him at all and the first thing he knew about the show was when Morganway’s drummer called him on his mobile asking to rent a hi-hat stand. “I’ll play their CD on the show” he says after their barnstorming performance, before adding pointedly “I’d rather have played it last week...”

The good folk of the library are delighted with the outcome. Our unusually thirsty patrons have given them a good night, we’ve rattled out a couple of new songs and given away some flyers, Hanna’s sold some of her beautiful tote bags and lightened her Merch case considerably, and James is deep in conversation about a couple of festivals he might like to get Morganway to play next year. “How was your first promotion?” he asks me. “First one I did I got nine people, and that was with Matt Cardle”. I am relieved and very slightly post-gig euphoric. “Hey” says a passing Morganwayer. “Nice shirt”.








*The Artist Formerly Known as Our Glorious Leader. 

**Thanks to Chris at Out of Time in Fore Street for exemplary gig poster display, by the way.

Monday, September 24, 2018

"What's this song about? It's about four minutes..."



We are legion – those who, for whatever reason, have a handy compendium of easily digestible chapters on or adjacent to our coffee table, night stand or nightsoil disposal unit. The Meaning of Liff, Does Anything Eat Wasps, All These Little Pieces, any number of amusing anthologies of readers’ letters (until you realise that Telegraph readers aren’t doing it in a sense of irony or mildly-detached whimsy, they really are that bonkers) and/or Dear Mr. Kershaw, a collection of notes sent to musicians purportedly from a Mr. Derek Philpott questioning the logic and syntax of various lyrics. Julianne Regan, I recall was a particularly good sport regarding the perceived inconsistencies contained within Martha’s Harbour and Mr. Fish-out-of-Marillion even hosted his reply on his own Facebook page for a while. These are wrought, as one respondent writes, “...in the style of a neighbour’s particularly strident objection to a routine owner-builder development application before the local council”.
 

This term we receive the difficult second album, more of the same but flavoured ever so slightly with the feel that most, if not all, of the correspondents are now in on the joke* – not least as there is a dedication thanking the various roadies, relatives, personal connections and fans who got responses through ‘the back door of the industry’ at the start of the book. “Oh, it’s you again” begins Saxon’s Graham Oliver’s note. Nevertheless, unresponded entreaties litter the volume, some little more than the sort of clever-clever Tweets that pop stars routinely ignore and some, beautifully flighted deliveries which invite you on to the front foot before fizzing away past the off-stump leaving you batting at air. Christopher Cross and Eddy Grant – and thereby we - are spun particularly delicious leg breaks, for example.


The emphasis here, then, is on the writers themselves – or more frequently their drummers, bass players and retired guitarists – to expand and explain according to their wit, sense of collusion and degree of detachment which some master better than others. Chip out of The Tremeloes deals with tremendous dignity in being addressed in a superb muso in-joke as one of ‘The Whammy Bars’, Henry Priestman overdoes the puns, Dennis Locorriere throws himself heartily into character and Chris Difford reflects acerbically on being hailed at airports as “Glenn”. Although there’s nothing quite so epic as Bruce Thomas’s lengthy exegesis on Oliver’s Army as contained in the first volume, Stan Cullimore’s letter wends at length with the sort of wry observation that got Alan Bennett two series of Talking Heads.


In the midst of all this there are some genuinely intriguing (and presumably) shaggy dog stories which I imagine we’ll all be seeing on Wikipedia before too long. One might well believe that The Big Figure once borrowed Will Birch’s floor tom-tom for an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, but what to make of Roland Orzabal’s fond reminisce of an anonymous Scandinavian weather girl, or Verden Allen’s definitive Google fact check-inspiring commentary on All The Young Dudes?


In the end, there are countless hours of amusement to be had dipping in to this fun-filled compendium dotted, as it is, with occasionally inspired philosophical tenets. Who can deny Francis Dunnery’s almost Nietzschean “You can debate with your quick wit and your sharp mind, you can create intellectual pitfalls for us Northerners to fall into, you can outsmart, outwit, out flank and out manouevre all of us at the same time, but at the end of the day, all of your studies and countless hours spent in books and debate will prove themselves useless. Because no matter what you say, we’ll just kick your ****in’ teeth in anyway”? 
 

How much more bleak could it be?’ you think to yourself.

None. None more bleak.




*They, it has been confirmed, most certainly are.

Thank you to The Philpotts for inviting me to be part of their Blog Tour, and hello to all my new visitors. Welcome aboard, do have a browse through the back catalogue. Here are some suggestions to get you started. 'Moby Dave' always seems to go down well at parties.








      


Sunday, August 05, 2018

"Flew in from Alghero Beach BOAC..."

 
As the estimable Ian Hunter once sagely quoth, “It’s a mighty long way down rock n’ roll”. I don ‘t know where he wrote that line. It may have been on a tour bus, an aeroplane, a service station somewhere. These days the amount of popping over to do a quick gig in Europe many musicians do means that the departure lounge at Stansted Airport is, essentially, the new Blue Boar. For the moment, at least. Who knows what will happen under the great new freedoms of Brexit, although the queues at passport control are always a lot longer in the ‘EU’ section, so there’s that to look forward to, at least.

I am for once caught up in this impossibly glamorous lifestyle of expensive food, nervous scrutiny of the baggage carousel and seemingly interminable waiting as I have booked a holiday with my devoted family which ends on the same day as the third date of the Picturehouse Big Band 2018 Tour (of Stowmarket) is scheduled. This means that whilst on Friday I will be in a lovely restaurant with impossibly well-groomed Italian waiters insisting that I try the Seadas, I shall dine on Saturday in a branch a popular fast food franchise so irredeemably filthy that even patrons in replica football shirts are taking souvenir pictures of it to send to their friends. All the way from Gatwick...

Timings work out, and so I present myself to the group armed with my latest custom hot-rod job of a guitar*, a potentially blistering Fender amp, a brand-new vintage Paisley stage shirt, and a complete lack of hearing in one ear due to repeated immersion in a pool and/or the sea over the past week or so. Fortunately it’s the ear facing (earing?) The Drummer, who already has his own plugs in due to the proximity of said amplifier to his drum stool. I wonder briefly whether this condition will have the effect as when the folk singers – you’ve seen the folk singers, by the shop, by where the multi-storey is, and where the Corn Exchange is, by the Corn Exchange, the folk singers – stick a finger in their ear so that they can hear the harmonies better, however I am quickly disabused of this notion when I get up to do Keep on Movin’ by boy band 5ive (some wag responds to Kilbey’s introduction to the song that we might form a tribute band called 5ifty 5ive). With a blockage in one ear and raging tinnitus in the other however, I do get what must be a close approximation of the experience Pete Townsend has during The Kids Are Alright. My sympathies, Pete.

Kilbey ‘Two Beers’ Mears** is in fine form this evening due to a rare driving-free excursion - courtesy of The Singer - and as his introductions get more voluble, the jokes funnier and a tear comes unprompted to his rheumy old eye during one particularly moving rendition of 'Run' I reflect on the proportion of the set that we started playing contemporaneously and which are now the subjects of anniversary and milestone editions of their original release. Even REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity has had the deluxe reissue treatment although, poignantly, they didn’t get around to it until the year after it’s thirtieth birthday. A mighty long way down rock n’ roll indeed.

Post-encore we are collared by an enthusiastic fan who insists that we play her 5iftieth birthday party, in two years’ time. “Even if you have to reform to do it!”. "2020” I say to The Drummer. “Try not to die in the meantime”. 



**Or, on this occasion, Kilbey 'Two beers, a couple of JD and cokes and might as well make it a double' Mears. 

Photo: Louise Paine/Facebook
 

Monday, July 09, 2018

"Pay no attention to the man on the roof..!"

 
Once again I am entrusted with temporary stewardship of the Medicine Show stage at The Maverick Festival – an annual (now in its eleventh year) celebration of all things Americana. This year’s event has much to recommend it in terms of a Commonwealth take on the genre, with bands from Australia, Canada, Wales and the Independent Republic of Yorkshire alongside such luminary risers as The Cordovas and Southern Avenue, both of which I caught during drink breaks in the action on my pop-up stage and of whom I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more quite soon. Of course the Lingua Franca of the genre is Hillbilly, and it is often quite the disconcert to hear a Southern Gothic, gibbous moon murder ballad being back-announced in a broad Sudbury accent. I will later have a conversation with Alicia Best from A Different Thread about there being nothing more country than singing in your own accent, or whether there should be a mandatory short written exam before you are alllowed to adopt the argot of the Louisianans during your performance - “Describe, in no more than two hundred words, what a ‘bayou’ is, and how you intend to get under it. You have fifteen minutes”. Later I learn that Alicia is from Manhattan.

The Medicine Show is a boutique-within-a-boutique part of the festival, situated betwixt bar and barbecue, and intended as an acoustic sorbet during band changeovers in the adjacent The Barn stage. Basically I get a list of artists – all volunteers, for this is no contractually-obligated add-on for their part – who are going to show up, plug in, and give it their best ten minutes or until I get the signal that (say) Danny and The Champions of The World are good to go. It’s a spectacularly popular diversion amongst both performers and civilians alike, with the former eager to get up and indulge in what is for many of us an experience akin to musical speed-dating, and the latter almost equally as keen to let me know that “….the vocals could come up a bit”. Oddly enough, it rarely happens the other way around.

I do have a couple of trigger warnings. Anyone who asks for “...a bit more reverb in the monitors” clearly needs keeping an eye on. Anyone who asks if you’d like to try some delicious tequila from their hip flask, on the other hand, can have as much or as little reverb as they darned well like. This year I am not called upon to mic up a flatfoot stomp box*, however I am presented with a pre-bug mic’d version with a DI output. If this doesn’t mean anything to you, relax. This time last year I didn’t know what a -20dB PAD and ground lift switch did either. I am also reminded that the most talented artists are also frequently the most personable. This year’s above and beyond award goes once again to Lachlan Bryan, his band, and fellow travellers The Weeping Willows, all of whom gave selflessly and at nothing under magnanimously maximum effort. They also all had leads, capos, tuners and songs and were ready to go the instant the start flag fell, even if that did mean passing over a Thai Green Curry for someone to hold while they played.

But it’s not all about the performances. Offstage, there is camaraderie, japerie, cheese, a chance to meet up and let off steam with your fellow musicians. If you spend most of your time cooped up in a van, who can blame you if you want to stay up until two in the morning loudly creating metaphors to describe the size of Lenny Kravitz’s genitalia, or replacing the last letter in words that end with an ‘S’ with the letter ‘T’? Frankly, I think they’d been hanging out a little too long with the Yorkshire contingent at that point and some of it had rubbed off. As it were. Sooner or later though, the music takes priority again. “He’ll be here at about twelve” crackles my walkie-talkie. “Should be fine. Oh, and he’s bringing his three year-old, so you’re on child-minding duties for ten minutes too”.


*Confonted with a stompbox, banjo, acoustic double bass and vocal accompaniment, I ask a passing sound engineer for any advice. "Make a run for it?" he suggests.