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..."

Two men, seated around a central table, read books quietly. A trio plays improvised jazz in the corner of the room, the low throb of the double bass offered counterpoint by the acrobatic scales dispatched by nimble-fingered men with seriously cultivated beards. A tank-topped actor reflects on his circumstance, and with overly serious intent another man, of indeterminate age, but with distinguished salt and pepper-flecked hair betraying his world-weary mien, explains his predicament. “Honestly, if I see a demo with a fucking Cajon on it, it goes straight in the bin. That or a ukulele. Imagine the two together!” he continues. “I tell you, if anyone created a power duo featuring a cajon and a ukulele, I’d go round to their house and kill them, just to save everyone else the trouble later on”. 

Welcome to backstage at The High Barn, premier purveyors of musical theatre and entertainment to the barboured masses of North Essex, and home of Our Beloved Record Company. We are here as part of the monthly acoustic showcase night, which essentially involves a half past five soundcheck, four hours of sitting around and then a twenty minute set (by which time settings on the desk will have irrevocably changed, thus bringing the whole five-thirty soundcheck thing into some sort of perspective from a having tea at home POV) - hence the time-filling manoeuvres described above employed by some of the turns.

There’s always drinking and smoking, of course, and those who have renounced the latter reflect fondly on the smoky dampness that is part of the shared experience. After a period of the former, conversations strike up betwixt journeyman and jobber, percussionist and perfectionist, soundman and shaman; be nice to everyone you meet, runs the mantra, for you never know who they might turn out to be. A guitar case by the kitchen area bears the legend ‘Matt Cardle’. Literally, if you believe Our Glorious Leader, who claims that the erstwhile X-Factor winner now exists in such reduced circumstance that he is forced to live in a guitar case in his parents’ garage. 

“I can’t believe”, says bass player Gibbon “That it was over a year a go you told me that knock-knock joke”. “Guess which nationality I am” says the blond guitar player with the impressively groomed goatee. No one can. “Austrian!” he says after many guesses working their way up and down the Scandiwegian map have come from the group. We suspect he has played, and won, this game often. I try to perk up OGL by mentioning a very lovely uke player Mike Scott out of The Waterboys (his official title according to Debretts) has tweeted*. That takes up a few more minutes as we try to guess her name. I would say ‘remember’, but I didn’t know it in the first place.

Time waddles by. Eventually we are beckoned stageward – for the purposes of the business of show we walk out of the side door, round the side of the venue and back in through the stage door – luckily it’s stopped raining. Twenty minutes later and we’re off again travelling the reverse route. “Language, Timothy” OGL mutters at one point during a lengthy stage introduction on my part. Actually, the set may have lasted twenty five or thirty minutes, now I think about it. On the way home Gib and I listen to ELO’s first album in the car. I reflect on the artistic endeavour that took Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan out of Sixties psychedelic hit makers The Move and into the realms of massed overdubbed cellos and flugelhorn solos. “It’s mental” I say.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

George Clooney in Reverse

There is a reasonably well known story regarding Union Station mandoleer Dan Tyminski, who dubbed the vocal parts for George Clooney’s scenes as the singer of The Soggy Bottom Boys in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? Upon seeing the film Mrs. Tyminski reportedly remarked “George Clooney’s face and your voice – that’s my fantasy!”

I am reminded of this anecdote during a telephone conversation with Our Glorious Leader, who calls to discuss track listing and the resultant potential album length and mentions in passing that due to the combination of a fortuitous set of circumstances and some not inconsiderable personal charm, he has been able to procure the vocal abilities of one Boo Hewerdine to overdub a backing vocal previously performed by me on the new Songs from The Blue House* album. This is exciting news as I am a huge admirer of the 1994 Ivor Novello Award runner-up’s work, and also a fillip for Mrs. K, who will henceforth be able to bask in the knowledge that Mr. Hewerdine is performing a lyric written specifically about her, and in a considerably more mellifluous manner than the previous rough mixes might have suggested would be the case. I’m rather hoping we get to make a video so that I can mime his part in the same way that the former Doctor Ross out of ER so diligently took on Dan Tyminski’s parts (as it were).

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.