Saturday, December 31, 2011
"They say you play High Barn twice in your career - Once on the way up and once on the way down. It's good to be back..."
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
George Clooney in Reverse
Not that I am in any way suggesting that Boo is not a fine figure of manliness in his own right. Indeed, a less than sympathetic suggestion on Twitter (I was in the pub) that the guitarist of the band I was watching bore more than a passing resemblance to the Honey Be Good hitmaker prompted a rather reproachful response through the social networking site from Boo himself. That’s the trouble with these things – you can’t be rude on the internet about just anyone these days. Only last week, a Tweeted suggestion that children’s television’s monkey costume-based beat combo Zingzillas were possibly not producing their best work recently (“Second album syndrome”, I called it) drew an indignant reply from Banks and Wag, the partnership behind such established Kirk Central toe tappers as “Do You Didgeridoo?”, “Playing a Solo” and “Rocking in a Rock Band”. To be fair, I’d only seen the rock n’ roll-based one, and Tang seemed to be wearing The Edge’s hat, so I may well have been premature in writing off the new series.
On the other hand, since he was online and self-confessedly at a loose end the other night I was actually able, in a manner not unreminiscent of Flight of the Conchords’ manager Murray, to ask Neil Finn’s advice as to whether he thought thirty six minutes was too short for an album, which is what prompted OGL’s call in the first place. “That’s long these days” he replied.
In case you wanted to keep up with any more pub band-based lookalikes or comments on the quality of children’s television programmes I’m on Twitter as @doyoudoanywings
*It’s not a great name, admittedly. But only fate and fortune’s intervention stopped us going with our first choice, which was The Soggy Front Bottom Boys, for which I think we can all be thankful.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I check my phone to see that there is a new voicemail message from Our Glorious Leader. "The saxaphone player from Van der Graaf Generator likes 'Tree'", I hear. "He says it reminds him of The Grateful Dead".
Sunday, November 06, 2011
Things we learned about sound checks from this weekend's (splendid) pop show/birthday party at The High Barn.
(Right) The author soundchecking yesterday
(1) Do not eat coconut prior to soundcheck - even if it is presented in lovingly bite-sized shapes as part of your pre-match refreshment. It will get caught between your teeth, and dessicate into tiny flakes which will catch at the back of your throat, making any other action than coughing, spluttering or retching almost impossible. Sound engineers hate this as a way of getting a level on the vocals. Much safer to stick with the three bean wrap, the strawberries, the jaffa cakes, pineapple slices or individual party-sized trifles. Not a typical rider, by any means.
(2) 'Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga' by The Wiggles is a more than adequate song to play when deciding on the appropriate mix for the guitars. Also utilised in this capacity at previous gigs have been 'I Wanna Be Your Dog', 'Brenda's Iron Sledge', 'Before The Deluge' (occasionally supplanted with 'Rosie' in deference to the subject matter - that of the trials and tribulations of being a sound man. Oh, and wanking), 'It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) or, indeed, anything that happens to be on the front of house PA at the time. We prefer not to play songs which will actually be in the set, which can lead to some confusion with sound men and women unfamiliar with our act. In Beatles specialist outfit The Star Club we used to occasionally run through a spirited version of Radiohead's 'Creep' before they opened the doors (conversely in Picturehouse we used to do a creepy version of 'Street Spirit').
(3) For the sake of the front of house engineer's frame of mind it's probably best not to rewire the desk on the afternoon of the gig. This can lead to industrially-couched expressions of disbelief when the talent (i.e. us) points out that the vocal mix which should be coming from the monitors at the front of the stage is actually engulfing the drummer with warm swathes of close harmony. Sounds great in principle, but what the he invariably wants is "Kick, snare, bit of bass, touch of lead vocal". Whatever the sound on stage, your FOH engineer will be the one who presents your sound to the audience, and so it's best to keep him as stress-free as possible. You don't need any unnecessary complications weighing a sound man - not when, as we do, your line up features a banjo anyway.
(4) Within split seconds of the on stage check being completed, Nick Zala will have gone for a curry.
The very touchstone of the artiste's relationship with the help is probably best summarised by the (possibly apocryphal) tale of Ry Cooder who, when asked by the festival engineer how he wanted his sound out front, allegedly handed the unfortunate fader monkey a single jack lead. "Plug that in" he said "And try not to fuck it up".
Friday, November 04, 2011
Thanks to the multi-platform interface of modern multitasking digital media you can now not only read this blog for free here but you can also have it delivered directly to your Kindle, for a very reasonable consideration, from those people at Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/All-These-Little-Pieces
The physical hard copy books, the downloads and the iTunes versions are all, of course, also still available to purchase from the blog front page.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
More indulgence, as I decamp once again to Pigpen Studio in darkest Essex (http://pigpenstudio.net/Pig_Pen_Studio_Essex/Home.html) for an evening in the company of That Nice David Booth and of Andy Trill in order to scratch another recurrent musical itch, attempting to record something in the style of long-time musical touchstone Jackson Browne, who I have to thank not only for many years of musical pleasure, but also for gaining me that extra advantage when his name came up in the interview for a job at Andy’s Records many years ago. I correctly identified him as the co-author of ‘Take It Easy’ and the progenitor of the more recent (at the time) ‘Lawyers in Love’ (“Good!” squawked one Billy Gray, who was asking the questions, “Everyone thinks he’s a soul singer”. He then went on to ask me if I had a criminal record, to which I replied that I didn’t realize I needed one, but I digress)*. Having written some lyrics couched in suitably Canyonesque form** I first needed to explain to my willing collaborators the sort of thing that was expected of them and rather than talk them through the heady haze of the 1974 LA singer-songwriter scene with all its multifarious Waddys and Ladanyis, Kortchmars and Sklars (and who doesn’t experience a vicarious thrill at the mere mention of Craig Doerge or Russ Kunkel?) I simply played them a couple of bits from Late for the Sky, asked Trill to concentrate on what Doug Haywood was doing on the bass, and promised him that he could unleash his inner David Lindley once we’d double-tracked the acoustics.
As previously, the combined Booth/Trill axis quickly nailed the feel I was trying to get across with the maximum of empathy and the minimum of fuss (bear in mind that the last thing I’d asked them to do was a six minute prog-metal instrumental, so the very least you can say for them is that they have breadth of scope) fuelled merely by strong tea, and some fruit scones and jam which had been brought along by Andy courtesy of his generous and delightful wife (hi Sally – thanks for the scones!) and which had been the subject of our first and most important discussion of the evening, prior even to whether to tune down to use a dropped D on the acoustics – to whit, whether to pronounce the delicious crumbly bakey goodness as skon or as scoan? They were also a boon to getting Andy to be decisive in deciding which licks to execute during his closing solo, as we said that he couldn’t have his second until he’d completed the part satisfactorily, which he then did in summarily short order and with consummate professionalism – notwithstanding that he wasn’t actually being paid – with no recourse to auto tuning, pitch shifting, patch pasting or dropping , and all completed in a couple of live straight to amp to mic to desk takes.
After many happy hours’ tea drinking, scone eating, guitar overdubbing, and a number of attempts to get a half reasonable guide vocal (that being a consequence of my own atonal honk being the only resource we had to hand and not any technical shortcomings - only a bad workman blames his pro-tools) we managed to drop in not only a piano part carefully arranged, transcribed and performed by myself, (although Dave did operate the pedal for me while I drove in much the same way as Michelle Dotrice and Matthew Garber shared duties in 'The Gnome-mobile') while Andy held the bit of paper I’d drawn the chords of D and G on with big dots on the keys to show me where to put my fingers, but also a counterpoint bouzouki riff crafted by Boothy while idling on the sofa waiting for the kettle to boil.
In the circumstances (it was getting a bit late, I had a cold and besides, the scones were all gone) we decided that the wake of all that activity was probably not a great time to start lovingly multi layering backing vocals and harmonies, and so we will be decamping to Boothy’s new recording space and audio workshop (just as soon as he’s finished building it) to complete and tweak it. After which I’ll probably get Steven Wilson to do a 5.1 surround sound mix for the audiophile market using platinum-coated cables, Zucarelli holophonics and gold-coated eight track cartridge technology. Well, why not? As the platitudes say, there’s only one ‘I’ in "self-indulgent".
*Obviously, the correct answer to the question “Do you have a Police record when posed in an important job interview is “I used to have Outlandos d’Amour on vinyl”, but that’s not what he asked.
** A review of Browne’s The Pretender included the comment "The shallowness of his kitschy doomsaying and sentimental sexism is well-known, but I'm disappointed as well in his depth of craft." which is, coincidentally, as good a clarification of my style as I’ve read anywhere.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, September 05, 2011
So far this year we in Songs from The Blue House have played a number of festivals and they have all, with the exception of one, had the same thing in common - it’s pissed it down. At Maverick however, the sun shone, insects buzzed lazily in the summer haze, children grasped hungrily at melting ice creams proffered by indulgent parents, and strawberry blonde girls fanned themselves waftily below outsize straw hats. The difference here was that this was the only one that I hadn’t travelled to with bass player Gibbon – he’d taken the opportunity to ride the bus out to Easton Farm Park - and so when we were engaged to perform at Felixstowe’s al fresco Art on the Prom festival I thought I might see if the fates were inclined to smile upon us again and decided to let the train take the strain, thus enabling me to avoid having to worry about finding somewhere to park, whether the gear would fit in the boot, whether the traffic lights on Felixstowe Road would hold me up - basically to avoid all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace that inevitably accompanies these things.
The sun shone brightly in the sky as I boarded the railway carriage at Ipswich station, Sunday paper in one hand and guitar case in the other, and I busied myself with minutae of the inkies as the train surged through the glorious East Anglian countryside, unfettered by roadworks, traffic signals, inconsiderate BMW drivers pulled up on double yellows with their hazards flashing, and pedestrians too lazy to make it the next twenty yards up the road to where the pelican crossing is. We pulled into Felixstowe station right on time – sadly no longer the splendid Victorian edifice with a five hundred foot long platform, where Wallis Simpson arrived to ride out the pre-abdication storm, where I caught last orders after my shift waiting tables at The Orwell Moat House Hotel in the station buffet (divided by a piece of tape stuck to the floor into the public and lounge bars, identical but for the extra ten pence on the price of a pint of ale) or where my maternal grandparents rolled up to enjoy the bracing sea air in the roaring twenties, one of the last memories that Gran happily shared with us that day when we visited her in the home.
I walked down the High Street – past the very cinema where Kipper got me tickets to see Hawk the Slayer and then got me the poster and the promo stills afterward, past the supermarket where RB’s Mum used to work, over the road which leads down to The British Legion where I did my first public gig and where they called the support band back on for an encore after we’d finished our set* and past the Wimpy, still serving the Brown Derby for dessert and with a family sat by the window, a tousle-haired child drawing circles in the spilled fizzy drink on the formica-topped table. It was about this point that it started to piss down.
Anyway, the gazebo on the green by the seafront was a washout and the members of the band who’d already shown up had retreated to the Red Cross tea room – officially opened in 1965 and constructed, according to the brass plate on the wall, by one Percy Plant – where it was resolved that we would continue with the day’s programme and so after a short set by Steve Mann’s Exit 13 we adopted the position in front of the twenty or so souls that had either stoically resolved to see the event out or had volunteered to serve tea and cake in the day centre as required and were determined to fulfill their commitments, and we performed a very well received, intimate and almost totally acoustic performance, utilizing the old-school skills of stepping forward to take a solo, dropping down to enhance a vocal and lustily throating a hearty four part harmony when required. As we cased up our instruments the constant patter of raindrops on the windows which had accompanied our performance quietened to lull, the lowering sun glowed dully on the sullen clouds hovering above the choppy grey breakers of the North Sea and I was struck with a profound truth. “Gib” I said. “Can I have a lift home?”
*Believe me, that Spinal Tap line about the audience “Still booing them when we came on” has no little resonance at Kirk Central to this day.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I’ve got a fuzz box and I’m gonna use it…
Much later, while reflecting on having recently listened to a Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction in the car a few times (a purchase made after reading Dave Mustaine’s autobiography) which I very much enjoyed, and a free CD that came with a magazine called Classic Rock presents Prog, which I very much didn’t, it occurred to me that it might be time to dig out the trusty Gibson Les Paul and have a bit of a noodle myself, and so I contacted Andy again to see if he would be interested in coming down to That Nice David Booth’s studio to spend a day faffing about with some guitars, just for a bit of a lark. TNDB agreed to play drums, and I also brought my niece Roanna along, as she was interested to see what went on in a proper studio and had promised that her tea making was exemplary in both form and execution.
We turned up at nine in the morning, I played through what I had in my head, Booth interpreted my air-drumming as appropriately as he could, Andy sat at the back and worked things out on bass and then when I’d done my guitar bits to as proficient a level as I felt able he embellished them very beautifully with some extra parts before accepting some vague pointers from me about some other bits we needed doing in the mean time. I walked out at five that afternoon with a CD of the roughly mixed article in my hand.
We then sent a copy off to keyboard player Tony ‘TT’ Turrell, who has history with all of us in various ways, forms and combinations and he very kindly worked out what we’d done & where we’d left spaces and then filled in what he perceived as the gaps before Andy and I went back to the studio with TNDB to buff it all up in terms of electronically shaving bits off the edges of notes, chopping sections out and making sure the dB levels stayed sufficiently in the red zone for long enough to keep me happy when I looked at the fuzzy lines on the computer in between making cups of Fairtrade tea.
So here it is then - you can listen to it now if you like (see link below). Roanna suggested putting in the bit toward the end where there are two bars of a reverse-effect bass figure before the end section, by the way.
The ‘band’ and the track are both named Future State Map.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Who you gonna call?
Monday, July 04, 2011
"Thank you very glad!"
Let’s Do It Country.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
A Good Day for the Slaves
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Regular readers of the Skirky blogspot, gripped and entranced by both the published versions of these accounts and the regular updates here, will doubtless have pored over the minutae of the sidebar just over there to the right and often wondered what this radio show malarkey is all about. Well, to summarise, the joy of Community Radio is that by its very definition anyone can have a go at it and so my friend Neale and I get together every Thursday at ten o'clock at night to curate two hours of chat, music and filleted highlights from the week's media in what is best described as a loosely-scripted fashion. The genesis of the whole thing can be read about in the introduction to Philip Bryer's book http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/why-the-long-face-the-paper-trail/14954100 which is a compendium of pieces he's contributed to the show over the past couple of years in his weekly feature None of Your Business. We also have a regular section entitled Celebrity Death Watch, Neale usually reports some important Chinese News, we conduct Why The Long Quiz? (one week we played "Arr or Narrr?" - wherein I attempted to cleave truth from fiction in working out whether he was naming actual Pirates from history or mere figments of his imagination - we've done similar things with Barbara Cartland novels and James Last album titles in the past) and for a while http://mybandtshirt.tumblr.com/ progenitor Wadey Wade did a weekly soup review for us. We have regular input from and share badinage with correspondents such as Lord Tilkey, The Mystery Txtr, Daron - The King of South East Minnesota and My Wife Kelly Brook, and we play some of our favourite music to listeners in as far flung places as Barcelona, New Zealand, North Wales and Framlingham. There's even a Facebook group. It really is what community broadcasting was designed for, and the very existence of ICRFM is a continuing tribute to the hard work and long hours put in by countless volunteers from it's very inception as part of the Venue for Ipswich Campaign in the nineteen eighties. It's also jolly handy indeed for me personally, as it gives me a convenient global platform to explain why I think a bloke called Dave, who sent me a message earlier this week calling me "a ***t", is a fucking wanker.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
With the barest explanation of what we were after he then listened carefully to what we'd already done and rattled off a couple of takes. We made some more suggestions, he nodded patiently, and tried to make happen with his fingers what we were trying to hum, sing and, in lieu of any real knowledge about the mechanics of this fiendish (and rather cumbersome) instrument, mime. The procedure was repeated, we got three songs down, he seemed very happy to have helped and toddled off into the wan and unseasonal Essex sunshine. That was the only time I met him and, until today, I must confess that he'd pretty much dropped off my radar. He didn't, as a number of our sessioneer waifs and strays do, join up full time or come out to gig with us on special occasions, and he became a virtual footnote in the accounts of our musical (folk) odyssey. Sadly, Chris passed on recently after a long illness, and so, belatedly - far too belatedly - I'd like to say thanks for one fun day, and to ask anyone who has enjoyed that swirling, fairground sound on “Forever” to raise a glass and toast Chris, who played for the fun of it, shared his talent without reservation, and who still brings a little unseasonal sunshine into the room whenever that musical snapshot of one afternoon in Essex moves some air through speakers around the world.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
Shake it up, Baby!
And so au revoir then, Pig Pen studio. As of last night (6/4/11) I have officially finished doing all my bits for the next Songs from The Blue House album and have merely to fulfil a watching brief from now on, occasionally (say) suggesting tentatively from the sidelines that the twelve string guitar which double tracks (one of the four takes of) the guitar solo in ‘A Good Day for the Slaves’ might perhaps benefit from being a little prouder in the mix than it currently is. Unfortunately when it comes to mixing, mastering and gently buffing the basic tracks with a diaphanous sheen of studio trickery I am very much the last person you need hanging about the place as my two main interests are (1) getting the thing finished as soon as possible and (2) being able to hear all my bits properly. I do, however, make a nice cup of tea, although bass player Gibbon is much better at coffee, but I'll confess I occasionally forget who has sugar and who doesn’t. All in all then, I may as well complete the crossword at home as clutter up a perfectly good recording studio by clogging the sight lines and disrupting the carefully strobe-tuned audio shadow. Besides, the rustling of The Guardian tends to irritate engineers when they’re trying to locate fret buzz and drop outs. Some people, eh?
This triumphant last hurrah involved managing to forcibly append my beloved bouzouki to one track on the album, where the sweet synergy of open-tuned double stringed jangliness and the key of ‘D’ meant that resident produceneer That Nice David Booth was so moved as to enquire whether he might also use it on his own album. Flatteringly, I find that ad hoc musical forays of mine frequently result in collaborators wishing to take instruments off me, and also that the mixing process results in (for instance) guitar parts of mine being polished to such a degree that errors, glitches and in some instances entire takes disappear in a frenzy of technological tinkering before reappearing patched up, fixed and virtually unrecognizable from the original recording. It’s marvellous, it really is, and I have no idea how they do it in merely the time that I am otherwise occupied, having been dispatched from the control room in order to get (for instance) sky hooks, or have been asked to go for a really long stand.
I also contributed backing vocals on three more songs, where my unique blend of harmony, dissonance and a Beefheartian oblique jazz-rock approach to melody was expertly coaxed from me from the safety of the other side of the soundproofed two way control room glass, where I could make out the shadowy form of the third Blue Houseketeer - James, Our Glorious Leader – literally wrapping his arms around his sides lest the raw emotion of the performance become too affecting for him, and throwing himself bodily to the sofa, shoulders shaking with the sheer intensity of absorbing the performance. For a fleeting moment the studio talkback crackled into life and I heard what sounded like the words “…gargling with soup…” but which surely consisted in whole of the phrase “…worthy of Difford at his most supportive and poptastic, or David Crosby, weaving the gossamer threads of harmony to create a shimmering backdrop of voix mysterique for the track”. When it was time to record my final take of the day – ‘Raise Your Flag’ – I knew what was at stake.I took a final drag on a cigarette, sucked on a couple of zubes, had a gargle with delicious Brewers Gold, and went into the vocal booth. The rest is history…
Thursday, March 03, 2011
"Sprinkle some fairy dust on the bastard..."
Monday, February 28, 2011
It's one for the money, two for the money, and three for the money…
Thursday, February 03, 2011
You know things have come to a pretty pass when you’re sleeping in your singer’s kitchen with your suitcase of belongings taking up barely more room than the guitar case beside it at the end of the mattress. One of the items of clothing I’d stuffed into the case, and thence into the back of the van, when making my troubled escape from Humberside domesticity to the bright lights of Ipswich’s downtown rock n’ roll heartland was my Kevin McDermott Orchestra t-shirt, a gift from a grateful record industry in the days when a pencil and the back of a fag packet were all you needed in order to complete a fully authoritative chart return. It was clean, it was comfortable, it was on top of the washing pile when I left.
We were on a cross-North Sea ferry en route to play a series of arts festival-funded shows to disinterested Danish youths when a bass player walked up to me and said that he knew one of the guys on the back of my t-shirt. We got chatting and it turned out that he lived four doors down from where James the Singer and I were sharing rather too much domesticity. Drinks were taken, tour plans discussed and before too long overtures were being made to the in-house cabaret band who had already proved themselves to be embittered veterans of the Harwich to Esbjerg round trip and had forewarned us darkly of the fates that lay in wait for any rising young group of popstrels who should misguidedly accept an engagement playing covers while they waited for their proper career to sort itself out. A visibly sweating floor manager watched as we disengaged ourselves from the ancient musicians, leaving them as idle as painted ships upon a painted sea and took their places on the bandstand for a glimpse into our future. The ghosts of cruise ships past, present and future were in the room.
At some point during the evening it became apparent that wagers were being taken on various courses of action and their possible outcomes. Thus it was that I found myself asking a lady of fairly advanced years if she would like to take to the floor in order to both dance, and earn me several Krone in illicit gambling returns. After some discussion regarding the advisability, motives and possible outcomes of such a course she gracefully accepted, and started to tell me about herself. She had been widowed some years before after a long and happy marriage, and when newly bereaved had decided to explore what else life had to offer and, as a result, had eventually pitched up on a ferry as part of a choral group doing a low key tour of opera recitals at the same time as I was going off to do a low key series of spending evenings staying up late playing indoor cricket with a tennis ball, building campfires, riffing on a double bass we found in a games room at our accommodation and putting the drummer’s hand in a glass of water when he fell asleep to see if he’d wet himself. She was not planning to indulge in any of these activities herself but, to be fair, I hadn’t exactly set them in stone at this point either. She spoke on, I moved my clumsy feet to the music as best I could, trying not to either trip me or her up or become entangled in her evening dress, and after some time had passed I realized that we’d been talking easily for ages, her quietly with grace, passion and humility, me with a sense that I was learning a life lesson in the company of a far wiser head than I had been able to muster so far. It was almost spiritual. As we parted, I think I may have kissed her hand. “Will you still respect me in the morning?” I enquired wolfishly. “I’m sure that won’t be a problem” she replied, the coquette.
When the band disembarked the next day in a flurry of sleeping bags and hangovers, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I told you I’d still respect you in the morning”. She smiled, with eyes as grey as the colour of the sea. “I wasn’t sure I’d recognize you in the daylight, but I saw your shirt. Be kind, you are a good person, I wish you happiness” she said. “Farvel”
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
The weekend brought a new year, a scent of something special in the air and a trip to Deepest Essex, where we had accepted an engagement at Bob Collum’s Prozac Yodel (no – me neither) on the first Sunday of 2011, January the 2nd - always the most happening party night of the year, I find. In order to achieve maximum impact trajectory in terms of sound check we were advised that five p.m. would be an appropriate time to turn up but since we weren’t playing until nine, Gib hadn’t had his dinner and last year there was only one monitor anyway, the Suffolk delegation decided that five would actually be a good time to leave home to begin the journey to the gig or, in light of his given full name - The Late Richard Hammond, nearer half past. As it turned out, dinner for me eventually involved a Snickers at the bar and an apple from the fruit selection that our drummer had packed into a small handkerchief and delivered to the band in much the same way as Mr. Toad received extra rations from the washerwoman’s daughter in The Wind in the Willows whilst in prison for an early example of that olde Essex pastime of TDA. To further emphasize the analogy, in case of dire emergency and the crowd turning ugly there was a contingency plan in which we’d all disguise ourselves as drummers and make our escape while talking about what grade sticks we used, before stealing a boat and making for the Hertfordshire border. The music business is littered with the career corpses of those who hadn’t properly prepared. Oh yes - always have your exit strategy planned in advance.
The Prozac Yodel is a monthly (principally) acoustic session held in St. Anne’s Castle, reputedly the oldest Inn in Britain, which happens to be situated conveniently close to the studio where we are currently recording our magnum opus (tentatively titled IV). It is inconveniently far away, however, from my house, especially for the purposes of doing a short set with no monitors and an expenses recompense programme which depends entirely on the generosity of some people putting their post-New Year’s Eve loose change into a hat. What, us – award-winning critically acclaimed festival veterans of many years’ standing – turn up at a pub in the middle of nowhere and expose our treasured muse to the critical vicissitudes of the non-paying public for free!? Well, yes actually...
Despite the MU-taunting nature of the barely-busking payment scheme, it’s not been written anywhere that we delicate and perfumed flowers of artistes have a right to be paid anything at all for foisting our songs on people, and most of these types of evenings would not exist if it were not for the enthusiasm and dedication of people like Bob, who tend to spend approximately half their time between gigs persuading people like us that it’s a good idea to come and play the 2007 Panic Awards Best Venue with a set of our own material, and the other half (conversely) persuading venues that what they really need in their lives are a bunch of people performing their own songs. Last year, mind, I ended up £4.72 down on the deal after particularly enjoying a couple of barrelhouse versions of numbers by the likes of The Band being enthusiastically delivered with gusto after we’d done our turn and, caught up in the thrill of it all, dropping a fiver in to the collection. This year to be on the safe side I packed the electric guitar so I’d at least have some control over audible events and made sure I only had loose change on me in order to try and limit the damage on the fiscal side of things.
Our Glorious Leader and The Fragrant and Charming La Mulley had just come hot foot from an afternoon (recording) session at Pig Pen studio when we arrived, and we were soon joined by de facto producer That Nice David Booth, who’d nipped back home to get a microphone with which to amplify his impressive-looking Cajon, if by ‘impressive’ you mean “looks like a small, empty, upturned tea chest”. The joy of such a thing however is that it passably reproduces the sound of a bass drum and a snare without all that humping of big heavy cases into the back of a van, and so is enormously popular amongst a certain stripe of drummer, not least because it also gives you somewhere to sit while you play. With the string section detained elsewhere and TT unavoidably involved with other commitments it was actually very nice to be able to stretch out into the spaces afforded by their absences, especially with the cool, hard twang of a country-flecked guitar at my disposal, and also to be able to perform a pretty much similar set to the one we had done just before Christmas, when we had trouble fitting everyone on to the same stage, but with subtle emphases in different places. In the words of Geoff and Giles from The Orphans of Babylon, we were expanding in all sorts of interesting directions. Never ones to look a gift pedal steel player in the mouth we also coerced Bob’s accompanist into joining in with a couple of songs and Booth, by now a veteran of these sorts of cross-cultural raids was pleased to be able to sway back on his thumpety tub and enjoy the temporarily discomfited player’s expression at being told that we were about to perform a pretty standard twelve bar, but with a couple of switches in the turnaround, and in the key of G minor. “Minor!?” he queried, peturbably. “You’re going to need an extra knee” advised James solemnly. “If in doubt, hold the G, and gently press the swell pedal” responded our doughty volunteer, clearly a veteran of such situations and not one to be panicked by a simple diminished third.
originally posted at http://www.skirky.blogspot.com/