Sunday, November 30, 2008

The lore according to Wendell Gee (a guest blogger lends a hand);

Just lately I have been having strange feelings. Over the last couple of years I have suffered from a falling interest in music – nothing terminal you understand, but one of those fallow periods in which very little excites those sound nodules in your brain. Everyone has them. Some make it through the other side, some shrug and accept that maybe music simply doesn’t float their boat anymore. I’ve been waiting for the gates on the other side for a while now, and since seeing The Feeling and Billy Bragg in recent weeks, and now Songs From The Blue House with Kim Richey on Saturday night, there seems to be a light, just over there…We leave Ipswich at 5.30pm, amidst the football traffic and the early evening November rain, and hope that reports of an A12 hold-up are exaggerated. In the car is bass player Gibbon, fresh from carrot related domestic incidents, guitarist and emcee Skirky, and the nominal guitar roadie – me. We stop for dinner at a fast food joint famous for it’s unique blend of herbs and spices, and I insist on sitting ‘in’ to eat my fries and coleslaw – to ensure that, as a confirmed vegetarian for over 25 years, I get the full experience during this rare visit to the church of modern life.We arrive at the venue to find a barn full of Blue Housers, but only a couple of Kim Richey’s band, and it takes a long time to say hello and hug everyone before tea is brewed. With ten minutes to go before doors open the lost Londoners arrive in a flurry of equipment, leads and soundchecks, leaving Blue House the only option available – that of just making sure everything works. There is, however, a general feeling of optimism, The High Barn being one of the band’s favourite haunts, and the soundman being familiar with both the band and their songs means that, well, it’ll be fine.My role becomes a bit woolly after taking the guitar stand out of it’s bag, but I fill time with a bottle of Brewers Gold and a chat with Andrew ‘Toddler’ James, friend and former band-member of both Gibbon and Skirky, and as the barn fills up with the well-dressed and polite audience, the Blue House take the stage. The previous night they played a two-setter in North Norfolk, and the benefits associated with playing regularly are clear from the start. Tonight it’s a 40 minute support slot, the set is a selection of songs from ‘Too’ and ‘Tree’, they look and sound comfortable and confident, and it’s the best performance I’ve seen for a while.The vocals, especially Gibbon’s backing, are clear and bright, and Helen’s cold isn’t hindering but shifting the sound of her voice. The addition of Alone Me’s David Booth on drums is a big plus this evening. About half of Blue House’s songs benefit clearly from some percussion, and the other half sound good with it, and it’s a shame that they mostly do without. The crowd are quiet and respectful, with one shout for ‘Incredible’, and it’s over almost before it has begun.Kim Richey is, apparently, responsible for reviving James’ interest in music a while ago, and is also therefore partly responsible for the existence of Blue House. This is self evident while watching Parters watching Kim, but a quick scout around shows that most everyone is as entranced by the American’s songs and voice as the Blue Houser. This show is with her full UK band line-up who, with the exception of the drummer, all played on her new LP, Chinese Boxes. No surprises that the majority of the set is drawn from this LP, but Kim does a short solo spot in the middle of the set and almost instantly you feel drawn in to a much more intimate and cosy cocoon of her voice.Again the crowd seemed almost too polite, and Kim seemed less connected than she had a month or so back the last time she played with Songs from the Blue House, talking less and engaging with the audience less. No matter, her songs are beautiful, and they were played and sung beautifully by her band.More hugging means it takes nearly half an hour to actually leave the venue, and we are in the car just in time to hear Whispering Bob Harris play the new single by Thunder. All three of us are at a loss for words.However, and probably despite the new Thunder single, that light is a lot closer today than it was yesterday.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"It's just The Matrix rebooting...."

One of the most pressing concerns in a musician's life is not so much "What are we going to play?" or "What shall I wear?" (nice shoes Hel!) as "How am I going to get to the gig?" The prime concern here being not just the importance of being on time and fully relaxed and prepared so much as "How am I going to be able to drink an inordinate amout of the finest wines known to humanity and still get home in one piece?" If you are extraordinarily lucky, someone like Tony 'TT' Turrell will utter those most wonderful three little words that you can hope to hear in a musicianly, or any relationship - "Yes, I'll drive". Hence I am able to board the Songs from The Blue House tour bus (or more accurately Tony's Renault) tonight safe in the knowledge that whatever the outcome of our gig in far-off Norfolk, at least I'll have the comforting hand of ale to help guide me through the night's festivities. TT of course, as a proper musician, is used to someone else entirely driving the bus, but has manfully adapted down to his newly adopted circumstance like a true gentleman. As a passenger, of course, one has duties and responsibilities of one's own - to partake in polite conversation, not monopolise the CD player, and to at least stay awake for two thirds of the return journey which I, a far less succesful social animal, manage to accomplish only partly, immediately demanding that we listen to Radio Four for part of the journey there, and slipping into the sort of half delirium on the way back, which produces a succession of non-sequiturs that sudden wakefulness demands an explanation of. That I half dreamt the text message "S.OK?" and giggled at its absurdity demanded an explanation which I'm not entirely sure I was able to satisfy. that and a succession of phrases which, although containing actual words, never seemed to have them in an entirely coherent order at first, and which even I, as their progenitor, was never entirely certain that I could rearrange into even vaguely well known phrases or sayings.
In between the there and back, of course, there was also the 'there'. The Fox and ounds in Heacham was our destination and we played to a 'locals' pub. The locals themselves were generous to a fault, once they'd tested our mettle with a few good natured barbs along the lines that bass player Gibbon was a spit for Alan Davies (to be fair we're pretty much of the same opinion) and that La Mulley, a flute player in tights, was bound to be called Jethro (as in 'Tull'). We managed to mollify them partly through the power of our deeply moving and spiritually uplifting music, partly through the cheap tactic of handing out a party-sized bag of jelly babies mid gig, and partly through the unfortunate interface of Gib's shoes and some dog shit from the car park, which we noticed about three songs into the second set and which everyone except he found inordinately amusing, with the possible exception of Tony Winn, who was standing next to him. We suspect the provider to have been a slow, sad-muzzled old hound who seemed to be doing circuits of the pub, in that every third number or so she would waddle slowly past again, always left to right. It seemed unlikely that there should be several identical dogs about the place and so we ascertained that someone was letting her out one door and back in another, although we never worked out who. Deja pooch.
Post-show we chatted to some lovely folks, checcked out the forthcoming attractions - "Dickensian Fayre - bouncy castle" one read, and they're apparently thinking of reintroducing the white tailed eagle to the area according to another flyer. Thankfully Mrs Skirky wasn't at the show to comment. She can't stand The Eagles.