Category: adventures of self raising lazarus


59832831_2835369863156182_5602576901085331456_nA couple of weeks back those awfully nice people at Songs of Praise put on a bit of a blinder of a show. Ex- Case Hardin main man Pete Gow was the headline draw aided and abetted by a band garnered from the great and good of the Clubhouse Record’s roster and a 5-piece string section. In a church! On a Saturday Night! With a bar!

Now, I would have thought that this would be seen as being something a bit special but apparently not. Despite features in The Adver, Ocelot, Swindonian, SOMR and the like, it failed to pull many at all. It was up against some stiff competition with The Radioactive Zombie Mutant Bikers From Hell in town to play loose approximations of tired classic rock songs and Fred Spode offering his take on Joe Bonamassa numbers – so, covers of covers of covers. And what is it with Joe Bonamassa? Apart from blues aficionados, no one had heard of him 5 years ago and now he is touted as some sort of minor diety by cover bands!

Anyway, I digress. So basically you weren’t there, and I have the maths to prove the probability of this sweeping statement. And because you weren’t there you not only missed a glorious set from the aforementioned Clubhouse posse, you missed a elegant and eloquent opening set from Tamsin Quin, helped by Jamie R Hawkins, no slouch as a singer-songwriter himself. It looked a lot like this….

There were plenty of “gutted I missed it,” comments and Instagram hearts after the fact, which is either lovely or annoying depending on your viewpoint, and of course, the lesson learned is that shows like this don’t happen often and when they do they need to be supported. “I’ll catch the next one” doesn’t work if the promoter decides that there is no point doing the next one.

I was just going to post the video and leave it at that, but I do get annoyed at what I perceive as apathy for shows which really bring something new and add a new dimension to an already struggling live circuit. Rant over, I’m off to eat cheese and listen to Mazzy Star, enjoy your Sunday.

60487714_331289560889406_5618553556656193536_nFor the last few weeks I have been working for an events company. Although they have a background in sports talks they were putting together a “Back to the 80’s” event at Old Town Bowl, the idea being that as the 80’s revival vibe is pretty much covered by synth bands and established local cover acts, delivering a series of artists doing 80’s songs but in slightly different ways might be a different take on things. And so 80:Three, a conventional pop cover band, Emily-Jane Sheppard performing a tailor made solo set, Sonore String Quartet and Ghetto Blasters brass to headline were hired in to offer something leaning to the more unusual.

At the point of me working with the company things were well underway, or so it seemed and my role was promotion and social media, that sort of thing. It quickly became clear that there were many, many holes in the arrangements so far made, including them not having secured a PA, a task which was dropped on my desk with less than a week to go. Glastonbury week, when every PA company in the South West was hiring out and working at that not so small event.

But I managed to get them a PA, though the company was short of crew. I then managed to hire a sound engineer and between the two of us became the technical wing of the event…let me tell you putting in a 15 hour day and setting up and decanting (I’m sure that’s the word) a festival size rig really came as a shock to my out of shape body.

But it all worked, the bands all came and went…perfectly to time, the stalls all reported reasonable takings, the Bowl had a reasonable but slightly smaller than expected crowd and the event seemed like a great success. A visit from the council inspectors even left us with a warm and positive glow. Then as we were packing up and ushering people out…the complaints started. People moaned that they couldn’t bring picnics in whilst saying that here should have been more food options as well. The beer at £4.00 a pint was too expensive, the music, though delivering what was advertised was not what people want. Some said that nothing interesting ever happens in Swindon but this was too different. One person even said that they hoped that we lose so much money that we don’t get to put anything else on. A nice thing to say to people putting their first event on and learning steeply with every hour that passed. I think her wish has come true.

Then the real clincher came from an unexpected direction. On the Tuesday after the event I was told that I was being let go as (having plugged all of the holes in their event and worked my day off to help staff it) I was an “unnecessary expense.” A bit of a blow, especially after a few months earlier being told that the Swindon Advertiser was dropping my music what’s on column of 9 years for being ” no longer compatible with the on-line direction that the paper is going in*.” To lose one job in 6 months is careless enough but to loose two….

So between the organisers and the punters attitudes and lack of gratitudes, this story probably goes some way to explaining why there isn’t much out of the ordinary going on in Swindon. It also explains why most of my efforts these days go to writing about and promoting bands in the Minneapolis and Berlin, New York and London (in that order) rather than worry about anything happening in my own post code.

* it was replaced with a column cut and pasted from bands own event descriptions.

 

 

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Having a sartorial image that falls somewhere between the guy who drove the van for The Waterboys in the late 80’s and All About Eve’s roadie around the same time, I tend to do most of my clothes shopping on-line or in charity shops. Today, as the sun beat down on Railway Town I braved the heart of the metropolis for coffee, cake and a rummage through the second had book shops. On the way back I thought I’d have a look through some of the mainstream outfitters for perhaps an interesting shirt or a new pair of suede boots.

I came away not only empty handed but wondering when exactly did the powers that be decide that we should all dress like a prep school twat from a medium sized town in Iowa? I don’t want chinos. I don’t want a fitted check shirt. I don’t want a pair of daps!* I certainly don’t want a pair of big shorts and a baseball cap! Why is it with apparently more shopping choice than ever on the high street we are becoming increasingly more conformist and unadventurous in our fashion?

*showing my age there.

 

 

60143892_2839638536062648_1394331329868333056_oWe all see those articles about the fate of music venues, about how they are closing down at a speed normally only reserved for Brexit related U-turns, how they are under-supported and under threat from gentrification. As someone who has spent more than 35 years watching live music in such places, it is sad, the music world is changing and perhaps not for the better. Progress and technology are of course the way forward but you have to be aware of the cost, the more aesthetic qualities and more emotive factors that get lost along the way. I’m sure that I will recall the first time I played my older brothers old rock vinyl or first saw The Icicle Works live, for the rest of my life, I expect that the feeling of excitement at downloading Wilco’s All Lives, You Say? single lasted slightly less time than it did perform the action.

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cdreviewsIt’s funny how, once again, I find myself having to defend something that shouldn’t really need defending. The fact that I write positive and constructive music reviews (mainly these days over on Dancing About Architecture) that champion rather than criticise, seems to be an issue for some and it seems a bit strange that people feel the need to gird their literary loins and vent their spleen in the form of comments to that end. Or occasionally shout across the bar that my writing is “a joke” whilst I’m having a quiet post-gig pint.

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55908395_10157181921067930_1721754210308980736_nMost of the gigs that happen at The Tuppenny tend to be artists and bands that I am already familiar with. It is to be expected being that these shows are put on by Ed Dyer, my long term musical partner in crime in Songs of Praise, and so leans to a certain degree on many of the contacts we made together over the years. But the one band who played there in recent times that was new to me was Messrs. Lawton and Howlett, Will and Weasel to their friends, who joined by their good buddy…er Buddy represented something totally new to feast me ears on.

I did play some small part in the guys getting the gig and also pointed them in the direction of Steve Cox’s wonderful Lazy Sunday Afternoon sessions. When they set up they appear to be some sort of jazz trio, piano, drums and bass being the component instruments, but what they produce is a far more complex sound one that takes in classical charm, sweeping cinematics, proggy structures, samples, intricate timings and indie cool. They are an interesting bunch to look at to. Will playing the role of normality, Weasel looking like some sort of Edwardian inventor and Buddy’s mix of sartorial uniqueness and wry asides giving the impression of a world weary children’s TV presenter!

It was nice, therefore, to be invited to a small, live recording session set in the gorgeous environments of the library of Abbey House, set in the historic part of Malmesbury in the shadow of the titular Abbey itself. And so me and my good friend Tom (Grasslands)  found ourselves watching an augmented version of the band in these plush surroundings with the great and good of the region, including rustic poet laureate, radio host and festival organiser. Brian Reid. The band were joined by Amy on guitar and some brilliantly ethereal vocals and Harki Popli on tabla drums, a musician I have known for years through a number of Swindon based bands.

In this environment and armed with a grand piano rather than the usual electronic keyboard, the set took on a more classical/jazz edge but in either format the music is a gloriously unique and brilliantly exploratory, not to mention dextrously delivered experience. A set of nine songs graced the evening…well nine and half really after a false start with one of the newer numbers but it was this informality, as well as wandering children, chats with the audience and general band banter that made the night feel even more special and intimate. A fabulous evening all round and I look forward to seeing them back in Swindon sometime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

51682737_2331387376912848_8750105669203394560_nThe curse of original music, in Swindon at least, means that most gigs I want to check out generally happen only on a Thursday. So with two gigs scheduled I headed out into the bracing night air. A quick pint at Baila provided a gentle start to the night before heading to The Tuppenny and my mate Tom doing a last minute acoustic slot in place of the unwell Emily Jane Shepherd.

Grasslands is often a sprawling musical affair involving guitars, synths and effects pedals   all being operated by our musical hero and always teetering on the edge of chaos. That’s half the fun. The acoustic sets are normally more focused and the quality of the songs is allowed to shine through. The charm of Grasslands is that between songs, Tom, who during the day works in environmental surveying, engages the audience in conversations in all things green with a particular relish for mosses. Somehow the banter turned darkly in the direction of Croatian attitudes towards badger culling, I may have been responsible for that but by and large it was a set of wonderfully affected, textured acoustic with sonic hints of early post-gabriel Genesis, surprisingly.

A wander down the hill to The Beehive and Matt Boulter has already on and for the next 40 minutes he delighted the modest crowd with his spacious and delicate songs. Aided and abetted by a fellow Lucky Strike on upright base the songs were as impressive as ever and I detected a lovely Paul Simon lilt in his voice that I hadn’t noticed before. The night rounded off with a nice chat before he had to pack the car up for the journey home.

Matt was playing as part of Tim Manning‘s Acoustic Buzz night, a monthly spot he has at this compact and bijou boozer. Always good to catch up with him too and before long I was wandering back through the night to a warm bed.

imgID137127048.jpg.galleryI’m sure most people aren’t interested in my bar related wanderings but as I want to keep this blog as a sort of diary of my activities, both scribbling and non scribbling, you are going to have to put up with my ramblings.

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