De-brief, Autumn/Winter 2017 – Part 1.

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Post-Tour Blues vs. Festive Cheer!

It was a wonderful tour experience – I was able to travel most of it with my beautiful family and sate that empty feeling of the lonely hotel room/promoter’s sofa, after all your temporary friends have taken the last bus home, muttering of early starts to the office.  I’ve not updated you all about the tour!  Mainly due to having some quality down time gorging on mince pies, and strolling in the crisp winter sun, through long shadows and country air. I’ve emerged from the chocolate induced coma to recall my travails:

Having said I was able to tour avec ma famile, the first couple of weeks I was solo through France and Spain…

hayward's heath station  La Malterie, Lille

After one sleep off the big plane I was Eurostar bound and shuttling through the Chunnel to Lille Europe. L’il Europe. First stop, Lille. To play a show for good old Nico. I also meet, for the first time, some players who are on Crippling Lack. Timothée Couteau, a talented cellist, who will be improvising along with me that night, and Olivier Minne, one of the drummers on the record – will be playing guitar in the opening act tonight (Walter Brückmann). A wonderful evening. Tim cello’d the heck out of the set, and there was some audience participation as a fairly inebriated pair dragged a settee to the front of the stage area, to the consternation of the rest of the audience. They had assessed a boundary that needed crossing from audience into performance. I proceeded to sit down with them, giving a personal serenade. Who knows? Maybe we planned it?

Pleasant budget hotel with a decent breakfast buffet before a leisurely day in Lille before getting the train to Le Mans. I’m staying with Raphäelle out in Le Mans, with a mind to try to record some new material (no more to be said about that for now, we’re reviewing a fairly odd amount of guff, destined for the cutting room floor).

La Sandwicherie, Le Mans  Le Mans

Next show is in a lovely sandwich shop (Le Sandwicherie) at the back corner where an old bakery used to be, for a very small crowd. It’s my first time to the City and it was a nice reception. The local beer (just a couple – trying not to be boozing for the sake of my voice) and the food were delicious.

driving in France  Japanese Garden, Nantes

The subsequent shows were also intimate. My first ever visit to Nantes was a great show to eight people. One of which was barely six months old. I’m not sure, but I think she knew some of the lyrics. The city is a delight though. A pleasant walk around the Japanese garden was a nice gentle pre-gig potter. Trying not to booze on tour is pretty difficult when you like the taste of decent beer, and some of this continental stuff is pretty snazzy.

Nantes, Cafe de La Ribine

Paris was a difficult one to get off the ground, but eventually Olympic Cafe came to the rescue. Not many in and a spontaneous addition of MaJiKer beatboxing along with me made for a unique and interesting show – some magical moments. But I always find Paris a tough crowd. I’d been gallantly escorted through Paris earlier that afternoon by the delightful Adrian Crowley. What a pleasure to catch up with him. At least his niece thought my show was one of the best she’d ever seen! I flopped down to sleep on a kindly donated sofa, my host, Raph’s friend, had been at God Speed! around the corner (ah! that’s who stole my audience!). I had to dash off early the next morning to get a plane to Madrid – where I was playing that night.

Olympic Cafe  Madrid at dusk

Luckily I was treated to a surprise earlier flight than I had remembered booking (I’d got confused), so there was plenty of time provided I got to the airport in time. Sorted. Got to Madrid with time to spare. Check in – Spain always sorts out decent hotels! – showered and fresh – The lovely Eduardo shows me to the venue.

This is what the general consensus was regarding that night’s performance: Not sure if the review is 10/10 for my show or the review itself

Eduardo took me for some proper standing-up spanish food. melt-in-the-mouth lemon marinated shark nuggets, deep fried squishy seaweed, simple mixed wild mushrooms, etc etc. What a delight.

Madrid airport car pick-up  Valladolid

A lovely fill of buffet brekkie in the morn and I trundle back to the Airport to pick up the hire car. I’m off on a little solo road trip!

I pick up a car – a little smaller than expected, but my trusty steed for the next five shows/six long drives. Well the first drive is not too long, just a couple of hours or so up to Valladolid. Passing over icy peaks where my ears popped. I’m struck by how many raptors circle to skies along these journeys. Kite, eagle, buzzard and hawk. I’m generally the only thing on the road for much of the drive. Great headspace.

Valladolid is famous for the storks nesting on the big old architecture. I don’t really have time to seek it out – by the time I’ve squeezed into the hotel parking crevice, shoved my stuff into the room, and had a cafe con milk, it’s time to trek through the dimming streets to the venue. This gig has been a mysterious secret location for the punters until today. Turns out the owner of the bar is newly licenced so doesn’t want to push it with the authorities. I’m shown the space (by my lovely host Juan, who’s hosted me twice before up in chilly old V-town) which turned out to be a small mezzanine area – an exclusive 30 people maximum get to sit up here for my show, and weirdly, the bar downstairs remains open as usual. I battle the sound of bustling bar, while the bar down there heckles up at the mezzanine. Actually the show went pretty well!  Juan and his pals show me their favourite little bar for a couple of drinks to cap off the night.

Vigo. I'm not a sailor Radar, Vigo

The next morning, after a hearty buffet, and a cheery crowd of Japanese tourists flooding the foyer in synchronised map check – all broadsheet city maps spread out like umbrellas in a kind of am-dram interpretation of a Busby Berkley set piece.I set off to Vigo – the car emerging from the crevice unscathed. Some of the landscape is breathtaking – but I’m not in a position to photograph it, lest I swerve into a ditch. I’ve no expectations from this gig – It turns out it was a kind of punt by the promoter which didn’t pay off – they sold 10 tickets and not all of them turned up – I played to a row of six people on the seating one side of the room and three or four standees. I thought it was actually one of my best sets ever – but there will be scant, if any, record of it! I leave Vigo (too early to sit down for breakfast) with memories of fried squid sandwich and a bad full of water and juice – the guy at the venue took pity on me when I told him about my drive the next day. And so – 8 hours straight to make it to soundcheck in the south of France! I know from experience that this is the norm for US, but I’m not sharing the driving if that makes for a little sympathy?

Notre Dame des Forges, Tarnos  Colin Faivre

Highways all the way, fast through undulating hills and high plains, 0n into Basque country where the roadsigns suddenly become even more incomprehensible. Into tunnels as I bypass all the potential wonderment of thenorth coast. Through the western Pyrenees into Basque France. I arrive in a grey and wet outskirts fading industrial docks area, and a beautiful church looming in the dusk. This edifice, shell, now provides a space for art – an exhibition of culture, sound and sculpture, into which me and banjo player Colin Faivré must insert a performance. He plays first with his signature, illuminated from inside, baritone banjo. We play shoeless on a carpeted area – I point my voice into the acoustic space – it manipulated the show into a drawn out ambient affair. What a lovely event. François and family kind hosts.

Delicias, Zaragoza  Delicias, Zaragoza

The next day I must hightail it to Zaragoza. I’m meeting Eduardo again. The drive was glorious – heading into evening sunshine through open landscape of Spain and being the only car on the road most of the time. The auditorium was a nice size although I may have had too much stage – I continue to use the toy megaphone thing Greg Butler lent me, but often is losing it’s impact and the sound goes thin, most likely due to fading batteries. So it becomes even more an incongruent factor in the performance. What fun!

(the thing – don’t tell Greg – is now completely defunct. I opened it up and the circuitry has all degraded – it will need a very expert solderer or new circuit board)

My final show in Spain is a collaborative ‘encontre’ with dance Pepa Cases, in Castellón de la Plana. We’ve not met or practiced. It turned out to be a delightful evening. Pepa bursts in the room as I’m playing and interprets the music in a dance performance that plays around with my space – peeping through my legs and adjusting my mix and cables, as I remain in my performance. And of course, it is always a pleasure to catch up with the very nice Jose Luis.

Castellon de la Plana, University foyer/venue  'encontres' Jaime II University, Castellon

I speed off in the morning without any time to wait for breakfast – I’m dropping the car off at Madrid airport to catch the plane back to England.

just of basque coast from plane

Hold on for the … Next episode

Highlights and farewells, tour summary 2014.

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I’ve managed to organise a tour for the new record which is meant to be ready in September. The collaboration between me and Juice vocal ensemble.

Show one is meant to be End of The Road festival!

All of us can make it! Anna and family are in The New Forest anyway, on holiday, so it all works out perfectly…. Until Anna gets really sick. The Snows have had to go home to York. Were down to two Juice. Nevermind. We have flexibility for accommodating any arrangement of people. And Sarah and Kerry have performed with me a couple of times before when I’ve passed through London. Cut to the Larmer Tree Gardens. I’ve been sleeping in a two man tent I bought that is not even big enough to accommodate me, my head pushes the thing one way and my feet the other, at least the rain is kept outside of it. That is until it drips in. With ample sleep I indulge in on-site breakfasts and lonely strolls. Occasionally familiar faces sit with me but I generally have my thoughts. I’m not performing until Saturday and The Juice pair are not arriving until then either due to other commitments. It’s been nice to catch up with people, Simon, Sofia, Sam, Zoe, James, Kai, Joe, Marissa, Hollie, Cass, Phil, Howard, Dave, Dave, Greg, Sarah, etc. Here is a summary of the show at the tipi tent as part of Mojo festival summary.

A small gathering saw us struggle on Sunday with unplugged set in the woods. Moving under the awning at the dance floor boat area in the woods helped out. During the rest of the day I also play a couple of songs for Line of Best Fit, which, you know, they’ll never use….and for the radio show of Bram Thomas Arnold, Trail Mix, which they all listen to in the Falmouth area. Missing some great bands was a downer. Seeing some great bands was a bonus! Insulting the headliners and some of the audience, great!

A shaky start to the rest of the tour ensues a week later…perhaps, but momentum is realised and accumulating feelings of success gather towards the end of the month of September.

Resuming.

The first meet up with Juice is in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton-on-Tees. I meet Anna in York to drive up to meet Kerry and Sarah from the train. They are already sat with a tea in the Waiting Room Restaurant. It is a nice intimate show to start the tour. People are eating the beautiful vegetarian food, while listening to the performance. I can’t recall the details, I know there was a bottle count and some squeals and a broken microphone. Fuelled with a delicious dessert we drive back to York for the night.

Kerry, Sarah and I train it up to Newcastle. The impressive reading room (library) of the Mining Institute is few seconds from the station and is our setting. Tall stained-glass windows, imposing portraits and shelves of books lining the walls. An industrial history of northern England staring down on us as we present some of my new songs, the songs I’ve done in collaboration with Juice. Themes running through of industrial decline and small town frustration seem slightly fitting. Unfortunately for most of Newcastle, they didn’t come to our show. The few that attended were polite enough to say some kind words about the show. Our show was opened by Nev Clay.

Shaun clears some spaces for us to sleep. We wind down with a chat and a glass of wine.

In the morning Kerry and Sarah dash off back to York for some work with Anna, I remain for the morning. Shaun and I breakfast at the Scrumpy Willow on vegan delights. And proceed to stroll the town, or ‘Toon’ as it’s known. Notably we take in the Laing gallery and luckily the last stop of a touring, Jeremy Deller curated, exhibition on the birth of the industrial working class. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air. Perusing the fascinating and humbling collection, we take in song sheets of worker songs and hit the jukebox of archive voices… darker than a dungeon and damp as the dew. I leave as inspired as I was after seeing Richard Dawson perform.

My turn to dash off.

From York station I’m collected by the Juice ladies. I have luncheon of vegetable pasty and potato wedges, and an earl grey tea. We drive to Sheffield. On the way, Sarah peruses the internet roaming from her phone. A review of the album has been posted. Clunky and shying from brevity. It proceeds to describe each song. Nevertheless positive. The outlook is good. We’ve been told of good pre-sales in Sheffield. Sofia treats us well indeed!

A photographer is there. He is the venue photographer. It had occurred to me that we had no group photos so I got him to take some promo snaps of us. Sitting on an oil can, propped up at the fireplace, sat by a piano, of course. Thanks Duncan.

A stream of people file in. I’m setting up my merchandise. Familiar faces arrive. juice prepare to take the stage. Hey are opening the show with their own set. A full room greets their pieces with appreciation. It’s a fine show.
It turns out that two people were brought here by false information. They leave after I’ve walked the room and placed my cassette player on their table. A very good show indeed. Everyone is boosted by this and looking forward to the rest of the tour…. We now have a few days off. Well I do. Juice have work to do elsewhere. We’re to meet again after I have collected the van. I’m scheduled for a couple of solo shows.

Solo.

A last minute addition is a date in Dublin, with a lovely group of people putting on shows as Young Hearts Run Free presents Golden Factories, as part of Dublin Fringe. Siobhàn had contacted me about playing, and followed up this with a hello at End of the Road festival.

Dublin…. Greeted at Dublin airport, taken to festival office, check into hotel, meet Allan (Town Planners, Milton Keynes) and do an interview, I’ve known Allan for some time so I ramble on into his ’80’s cassette dictaphone. We then meet Mark (Woodpigeon, Calgary), whose flown in from Finland to play this show. We drop his stuff at my hotel for safe keeping and WALK the city for a quite a while. Allan entices us all the way to see a fountain of spurting penisies, which disappointingly are obviously bull rushes. Mark buys underpants.

At the venue… Meet Adrian (Crowley, Dublin), a pleasant chatter and chit. Soundcheck, a long list of acts pass through the stage this evening. Guitarists, fiddlers, passionate singers, Adrian’s spoken word, Roddy Doyle’s devastating story, Mark’s gentle sad songs and loops. The venue lent itself to a fairly sparse looping from me with much off-mic singing into the vaults. Mummified saints are held in the tombs beneath the church. Here be photos. A nightcap of an Irish single malt and I’m done.

From Dublin I fly to Edinburgh. I take the tram into town passing out-of-town science facilities and retail outlets… I’m directly heading to the Electric Circus. Waiting outside the door of which is Rob St. John and Robin Allender. I’ve cajoled them into playing with me in the absence of Juice. It seems all too rushed and I know I’m driving the van away first thing in the morning to get to Leicester via York and Nottingham. What fun!

Nevertheless something great will happen anyhow… Rob has brought a synth, and Robin a trusty guitar. They fill out my night and we have a fun time playing. The small audience seem to enjoy it. A full report was penned here.

So the morning comes and takes me driving south. The A1 all the way to York.

Resume.

Anna jumps in with Imogen, were dropping her off with Anna’s parents before heading to Leicester for the show. Of the other two, only Kerry can make this show, in fact, she’s opening the show too, as You Are Wolf. Among many surprises was turning round to find them both on the floor as if sleeping. Before the show we had a panic then relief as our Magic Teapot promoter had booked hotels at great expense, that we didn’t need, glad he was able to get a last minute refund and not lose as much money on the (not very well attended actually Leicester, disappointing Leistonians don’t know a good thing when it comes to town) show as he could have done. Chat a while with some new fans. Drive back to Keyworth for our kip. It was, although I do say so myself, a really great show.

In the morning we set off for York. Our show is at City Screen Basement. This odd shaped cavern lends itself to a rather uncomfortable show and a polite York audience. I’m not sure what was taken away from it, but some kind people said thanks, maybe other were thinking hard about their decision to come that night. It turned out to lean more towards the comic this time. Again, only Kerry and Anna, and slightly more people than in Leicester. Thanks for Alicia Casper opening for us. And for the lovely food cooked by our host – heavy on the star anise! Disappointingly the night rounded off with Ed Snow’s bike being stolen!

I’m off to Liverpool for another solo show…

Solo again.

It’s interesting, I drive across the pennines and navigate successfully into Liverpool. Did I tell you I’m not using sat nav (or ‘nag’ as it is trying to autocorrect to)? I never have used it, we did used to do this without it. Anyway, I happily drove the wrong way, panicked, backed into a bollard, creating a lovely concave section of bumper. Don’t tell the bizzies!  It was nice to meet some new folk, with his skewed pop tape cassette and organ fun, the multi-faceted artist Chiz Turnross kindly put me up the night and provided lovely conversation and we had a nice veggie breakfast in a pretty nice end of town.  And it was nice to see old familiar faces. Haress is David And Liz, who had me over for their Sin-Eater festival in Shropshire…

The next day is spent in Manchester. It is a day off on Saturday, after hanging out with Nick Mitchell for a while I was encouraged to join in with Nick’s band at an all-dayer. The mistake was drinking beer and trying to compete with the cacophony of many guitars. My voice was not ready for the following night…

Recommenced.

…But soothed by some tea and a hot toddy mid set, Manchester, upstairs at Trof in The Northern Quarter, competing with the music on the stereo (riffing with Beck) proved to be one of the best shows yet. The intimate space seemed to lend itself to a shared warmth with the crowd. Juice surprised me by bringing some people up on stage to sing!

Anna has to leave to get back to York, she’s missing Mondays.

In the morning I’m picking Sarah and Kerry up from travelodge in Salford, to drive to Norwich. After a long drive from Manchester we are delighted by the quaint setting. The downstairs of the Bicycle Shop Cafe, a lovely room. And a lovely show. Not packed by any measure, but a nice space to play in. The delicious food we were served set us up nicely. Despite some difficulty regarding our accommodation for the night we set off for Cardiff rested. Swinging by Stevenage to collect Anna. Collecting a few groceries while we wait. we resume the trip to get to the M25, M4 then Cardiff. Joy Collective’s Will is ready with hotels for us to check into and a dish of hot food when we get to the venue. Feeling very well looked after, all three juice launch into a very cheeky mode during the set. Adjusting my clothes as I sang and swapping shoes and watches. All very surprising. And if you like birds, as I do, you may find this review as lovely as I did. Some of our party had not tried Wetherspoons’s breakfast before. We treated ourselves to such. A large vegetarian set me up right the way past lunch. we commence the short drive to Bristol.

Oh, Forgot to mention Oh Peas! who made the poster and played at this show, and Trust Fund.

Bristol, we are being given accommodation at a friend of a friend, the artist Kathy Hinde. Her bird based and musical installations are something of wonder. I need to investigate her work more. She is away at Ynis hir, on the west coast of wales, preparing an audio visual installation. Their home has been maintained in a kind of old-lady-died-and-never-redecorated-since-the-seventies style, complete with lovely avocado suite. Anyway. Onwards to the show, in the grain barge, the underbelly bar, fuelled with fish pie we have a great set, more wandering and magic. Juice were able to perform a set of theirs first. Brilliant stuff. Favourable reviews here and here.

Oh, I forgot to mention, on our way to Cardiff we heard news of our show with Hubby in Cornwall being pulled due to poor sales and general not knowing what to do. This did give us more than we bargained for in terms of rest days. We zoom up north. The girls use the time working in York, and I with family in Otley. Saturday we are to play Leeds.

Organised in association with Opera North, a contemporary folk type event as part of Recon festival. We are playing alongside James Yorkston. Suitably well treated and given enough cash to have a substantial (if overpriced) curry down Akbars. Some awkwardness and a quiet sound it seems. Sarah fell off a chair! Also, not often seen the need for four sound engineers!

London. Good to see a female sound engineer. Notably better than lots of the guys we’ve dealt with. I know I’ve kind of run out of steam trying to remember what happened during the sets, I think it is best left to others to provide reviews and ruminations. I know that Juice provided lots of additional delight, both sonically and visually. This show is the farewell to Anna, who has to zip up to York for her monday commitment and her lovely family, sad times…

Nottingham and Neil organises a swift transition throughout soundcheck, food and performance. All sublime of course. An odd kind of feeling is provided by the space and setting, I can’t describe it. Nevertheless something happens and I give what I can, Kerry and Sarah give what they can, there is a melancholy heavier than previous sets, a weight brought down by our consciousness that this is the last collaborative show we will do for some time perhaps.

More Farewells. It would be good to resume this collaboration at some point but we have commitments elsewhere.