So we have somehow reached summer in Britain. Unpredictable as it is.
We have been back in the UK for a month and a half now. And it is all seemingly good.
I had a few things lined up to try and achieve. I will not go into the details but I can let you know it is not doing badly.
One thing was to do a recording session with Juice, as mentioned before. A brief mix, but pretty much left as is (as is the way one works). I’m pleased and so expect this to make it to your earholes in the not so far away.
The next thing was to play a few shows for you. This I have did and are doing.
A couple of one off shows to ease in gently… Firstly Norwich.
I had been residing a few days where I grew up, I will be here for some more time, but here from is whence I set aboard the rail cabin to the middle of the eastern bulge. Pleasant weather greets me. As does the ever jovial Alex Carson, formerly tawny owl but now of wooden arms. I recall my sage advice of years past regarding the cultural phenomena of ‘survival of the fitties’ the obsessive image culture progressing people’s careers based on looks, only to dwell now, while I type, on the depth of this depressing circumstance in my soon to be home, Seoul.
Ah, but to return to Norwich, I stride that afternoon, out of the city to a small studio in an old meat fridge. This resulted. A kindly young fellow provided carriage back to the town, and my residence for the night. whereupon, servicing myself with clean dress, I took a stroll to the venue for the night. The birdcage. A fairly insensitive decoded back room, albeit with plenty of light and great old windows. The fish shop across the road is not to be missed, if only for the mackerel sandwich. A pleasant set of support form BrothertheWolfe.co.uk and a really great folk guitarist playing under the moniker Takeda. Please look out for his Davy Graham.
I will not go into depth on my show as it was pretty much all recorded here. I have never been so British.
I do have to mention this though…the next morning I trudged with my trundle case and guitar to the station. I sit to rest on the seating which circles the pillar. As I do so a splash is heard. The sound of a bucket being tipped from a high window. We are not near any high windows. I feel wetness on my head. I smell foulness, a fermented gunk is splashed around me, and down my cases and on my shoulder and over my head. I look up to see a single pigeon bum. This is one sickly pigeon. Such a volume of white-specked greenish splurge. I felt like a losing parent on ‘get your own back’. I rush back and forth to the loos grabbing tissue to wipe my belongings down, and roughly washing my head. I am lucky I have a change of clothes. But I’m not changing trousers in the loo while I have to catch a train. Strange ignorance to the event spread around the station. I changed my trousers in Peterborough. The scent recalls silage, the fermenting hay and straw I used to shovel on the dairy farm.
The following week I took a coach to Milton Keynes:
On arrival, Coachway, that ominous portal to an unknown world of roundabouts, concrete monstrosity, bleeding to rural idyll, oddness, nothing is given away by this out of town bus terminus. I am collected by the cornerstone of other music in this area, the selfless supporter of the little honest artist, Allan Harrison. A five year hiatus from performing for Allan has not really changed anything. It is the start of a month of flashbacks and reminders of old times.
Our first stop is the strange little studio of Milton Keynes Cable Radio, the online broadcast show every Friday night, the Garden of Earthly delights. A simply dreamlike experience, a tousled goof, an obsessive music collector, also selfless in his support and compassion of small music and service to a small audience. He has been delivering this Friday mix, of live sessions and well thought out bundles of sound around a theme, since the early nineties, every Friday. His disarming unpreparedness and relaxed approach to hosting even coaxed out some talking and a jingle from me. Here.
Oh, yes, I played a show. A blinder. I was blown away by how well I felt it went. What a strange occurrence. It simply reads like this: all artists were terrified. Stanzilla was shaking and sweating, his blues rugged and funny, a conflicting figure but respectfully received. Mrs Pilgrimm shaking and timid, albeit in keeping with the delicate cello loops and ultra sensitive drumming, it was a pleasure to have seen. Me. Well. My uncle turned up, this whole reminiscence and pleasant conversation kind of wobbled me. The nerves of the previous performers passed on shakes to me. A heavy stomach soon lightened as the whole crowd was entirely with me. High hat stand antics. Water trick. Ceiling light chasing. Can crushing. Shoe shenanigans. Good. A weekend in London with family…
Four days later and I am on my way back north… I train up to Newcastle. I discover that rail stations have dispensed with left luggage and am at a loss as to what to do. I remember a friend who is moving up here, she must know someone who lives centrally where I can deposit bags while I have most of the day to waste in sun drenched toon. What luck! Tessa has a friend next to the station, they oblige and I wander. Phew! I eat and have a pint. Then wander. I find Leazes park and contemplate. A hidden corner has a spread of wild orchids, as I photograph I disturb a pair of weed-smoking teens. I’m surprised by the proximity of cows to the city of Newcastle.
Newcastle is the first show. The star and shadow is a cooperative, entirely volunteer run. It was a pretty inspiring venture. In the office we dispersed massive pillows across the floor. This is where we meet Shuki. The nine month old son of Rachael and Eeichi. Shaun provides a delightful falafel sandwich and salad tub (broccoli, spinach and chickpea… This is the start of the chickpea counter). This is also the show where I am introduced to the wild and beautiful and intimate tales of Richard Dawson. It is also the reunion for me and a good friend who now resides in Maine. His brief trip to the uk coincides delightfully. We meet the following morning for breakfast bab in a greasy spoon in Grainger Market.
I struggle through a set compensating for my kicking off the loop by working with silence and a lonesome voice. Perhaps I found toughness following Richard’s set and how well received Ichi is. Ichi surprised me at every turn. I had forgotten some of the developments through the show, where some object turns into an instrument and then into another one. I was going to thoroughly enjoy this short tour. Rachael endears with lilting ukelele strums, I feel her songs reflecting both her movement into marriage and parenthood, while tapping into universal sentiment as all best songs do. The endearment stems further from the presence of Shuki on her back. We sleep in comfort at Shaun’s house, and in the morning we crammed my things in with their things in a vauxhall corsa. We are driving together from now on. My guitar and Ichi’s case are strapped to the roof.
The tour bus speeds off across the Pennines towards the M6 we stop regularly to give Shuki a crawl. We discuss Japanese food, enthusiasm we all share. I take us into Glasgow to try and find Mono.
Glasgow. The Mono, as you probably know, is a record shop. It is also a bar and restaurant, it also has a zine section, it is pretty much cool on a stick. Oh, they have decent gigs on too. I had to compete with Springsteen being the night before and various goings on in Glasgow. And the Scottish Album of the Year awards the next day. Outside hopeful for said award, RM Hubbert, did make it to see me, and always a pleasure to catch up with. A reserved table stacked with wine and falafel wraps, beetroot dip and hummous, makes for a pleasant evening (albeit another step on chickpea road). Don’t forget to mention Howie Reeve. Such a personable chap…our paths cross later in the journey, as with Richard Dawson also.
Ah, that kid is so cute, don’t let him overshadow the talent of his parents. Rachael unceremoniously resigned to ‘the mother’ by the Scotsman. Our hotel is the Rennie Macintosh Hotel. I missed breakfast. We see little of Glasgow, deciding instead to hurry to Edinburgh, where the mother and father were able to see a doctor to attend to the high temperature of the child. All was well and soon went down.
At the home of Song By Toad, we are really treated. The master of the house nips out for fresh fish, two beautiful cats stride, climb and sleep around the house. Eating our roast fish, buttered asparagus, samphire, and fennel salad out in the garden under glorious sunshine. I’m sure I’d be forgiven for not thinking myself by the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, we are only in dreary old Edinburgh, with its magnificent one-way systems and abundant parking options. I have visited a few times and am genuinely delighted by the old place. I tint my passage this time with sarcasm. Forgive me old hills and cobbles, in your gentle slight accent.
Back to the show. Henry’s boots the baby out. Arrangements have to be made. Rachael does a set while the father walks with the child, then they swap. The mother takes the child to our lodgings. Me and Ichi make noise. I stumble upon the joys of siren on bullhorn. I didn’t mean any ill will against the Boss. I was grateful for all the Isle of Jura. I was also grateful for quite good wine and chat. Toad will treat you well.
In the morn we set off early. We wanted to see some countryside and to ensure plenty of baby orientated stops. We are heading for the Highlands, we near Aviemore, in fact I was distracted so we overshot. Turn back and through uninteresting Aviemore itself to then creep up winding roads to the site of Insider Festival….
….wait there, next instalment on it’s way.