Friday, October 30, 2009

My Phone’s on Vibrate for You.

May I take this opportunity to express the fondest regards and the best of wishes to the good folk of Halstead for inviting us into their second home, The Dog, and letting us take up a corner of their local with our country-folk-blues-pop stylings last night. A friendly crowd lowered the hubbub and made best of order for the SftBH show on October 29th, allowing us free rein to indulge our penchant for tales of love, loss, woe, hope, optimism and the occasional punitive exercising of the right to defend one’s farmhouse against those who would trespass against us. That last one always goes down well in the Essex borders. 

Also notable was the opportunity to fill in a string-replacing lull in proceedings with a fine version of “Love Hurts”, which I always enjoy imposing on the group as it gives me the opportunity to do my best Gram Parsons impression. Coupled with that was the availability of a couple of shelves’ worth of casks of ale which came associated with the imprecation to “help yourselves” and the wonderful opportunism of landlord Ady, who took our throwaway “This one’s in ‘D’ – I hope you all have your harmonicas ready?” to indeed scurry off upstairs only to reappear with an appropriately tuned harmonica, find a handy microphone and engage in a spirited instrumental duet with Tony Winn on “Rolling and Tumbling”. There was absolutely no call for the subsequent “…and if you’ve ever wondered what two cats fighting in a bag would sound like…” comment, there really wasn’t. 

In the break I got chatting to a chap who mentioned in passing that he’d once jammed on stage with Van Morrison. I enquired further. It turns out that he was once in The 100 Club with some mates who were in a band, and who should walk in mid-soundcheck but the late, great Lonnie Donegan. The skiffle legend was hastily invited up for a jam, and things were going swimmingly before Van the Man himself actually walked in, took in the scene and decided to join his old mucker up on the stage! As you can imagine, our friend was mightily impressed by this astonishing turn of fortune and was even more delighted when Morrison made come hither gestures toward him, indicating that he, too, should join in with the communal merry-making. Having protested that he couldn’t play an instrument, he was handed a tambourine with the comment that no-one could muck that up, and it was important that everyone be able express themselves. 

One lengthy improvisation later our chum was delighted to be approached by the great man, who extended a warm paw toward him. “Looks like I was wrong about that then. I’ll have that off you, if you don’t mind…” he said, witheringly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some days, you eat the bear. 

It's difficult to know what to say when you finish a set and one of your previously sane and rational friends storms the (admittedly minor) length of the venue, vaults on to the stage, embraces every member of the band within armshot and exclaims "That was fucking awesome!". It seems only fair to express gratitude, especially if he's also just bought dinner for the entire band. After sober and censorious reflection, said chum was willing to repeat his critical appraisal this mornng over a pub breakfast and so I'm going to have to trust him on this one.

It was a necessarily short set, tucked in between an extraordinarily personable percussion-looping open-tuned virtuoso guitarist and one Melanie Dekker, a wonderful Canadian singer/songwriter blissfully untroubled by any prior interaction with the ugly stick, the whole thing being introduced by BBC Radio's Sue Marchant, delightfully both free of spirit and scat of ty. 

There was a minor set list adjustment prior to the show on the grounds that it was "the wrong room" for one of the songs, but if you can't indulge the whims and fancies of one of your trusted bandmates in a cellar full of pews, when can you? She was right, of course. It was a good set, a good gig, a good show - hell, the sound guy even congratulated me on one of my jokes, that's how good we were. 

You know that bit in movies featuring bands, where the caricature singer turns up at the stage door, throws on a guitar, strides centre stage and without a soundcheck counts the band in, wows the crowd, throws off his axe, gets the girl and rides off in to the sunset on a powerful motorcycle all within the space of one anthemic number? It was like that all the way through. On the application form you have to fill in whenever you want to form a band (there's a central registry and a government department and everything- I think one of the Miliband brothers is in charge of it at the moment) there's a section at the bottom where they ask why it is that you and your friends want to be in a band. After careful consideration, on mine I wrote "We could be heroes. Just for one day".

Monday, October 05, 2009

I remember when it were all Fostex four tracks round here.

Being the old curmudgeon that I am, my advice to any up and coming young tyro who seeks me out in order to sit at my knee, all the better that he or she should benefit as I impart the wisdom of my years, is generally “Don’t bother – you won’t make any money, you’re definitely not going to become famous, and in five years’ time when all your friends have graduated and got proper jobs you’ll still be working behind the counter in Subway dreaming of your big break”. 

Sound advice, I think you’ll agree, and to be honest anyone who does actually accept and act upon it doesn’t deserve to be in a band in the first place. 

Proper tips however, always go along the same lines – don’t bother running a coach down to some ‘showcase’ gig in that London, it’s rarely worth getting involved with a self-funded compilation CD involving a perceived local ‘scene’ and never, ever, bother entering a battle of the bands competition (although, in the words of The Killers, all these things I have done).

However, in between my burgeoning radio career, finishing off the second volume of my memoirs, the warm thrill of confusion brought by Songs from The Blue House, and the space cadet glow formerly engendered by Picturehouse I realized recently that I have been neglecting the upkeep and welfare of Gods Kitchen, the post new-new wave Heavy Heavy Big Pop-lite arm of my ongoing dispute with the fates as to who has the more pressing need for that career, Elvis Costello or me (so far, he’s ahead on points), and so when our beloved local evening paper hoisted its freak flag high and created a social networking site for music lovers it seemed the ideal opportunity to poke awake the shuffling, dribbling near-corpse of the band, point it at the spot lights and wait for folk memory to kick in and remind it what to do.

By delicious chance, the nice people at the website have opened a battle of the bands competition, and rather than having to drag our weary bodies out to some godforsaken church hall somewhere and perform for the afternoon DJ on Heath Road Hospital radio like we had to in the old days, they’ve just asked for an MP3 to be sent their way. Well, what could be easier? We don’t even have to rehearse! By further fortune, should we make it through the first round of online voting and get as far as the five-band showcase gig, one of the judges deciding on our artistic merit and musical worth will be the singer from a band that one of our guitarist Kilbey’s kids formed a group with not long ago. 

It really was too delightful a chance to miss - and with any luck there'll be a place on a compilation CD to go with first prize too! Gods Kitchen is a four piece band and our combined age is over one hundred and seventy.