Part 2 (2017 tour de-brief)

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Arrive London Heathrow.

Collect hire car for a 2-month rental. Speed round the M25. Have a night to cuddle my family and have a rest before the first show.

Rose Hill, Brighton

Head to Brighton the following day. Hey, have you heard of the Rose Hill? It’s ever so lovely! This is the first of my efforts to cajole some acquaintances into performing with me – and this night will prove to set the bar very high indeed! Marcus Hamblett was my saviour in rounding up the team. Team DTB tonight is MH himself – on crutches (not playing them – his chosen device is guitar), the dear Tristram Bawtree also on guitar, Alabaster dePlume on saxophonical (he also opened the show with his ascerbic and poignant socialist ranting), the wonderful Emma Gatrill on clarinet (through effects board) and marvellous Tom Heather as drummist. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter bunch. It sounded like we’d had a week of rehearsals, most of it just worked so perfectly!

So, verily boosted by that, I zoom back in the pitch dark of Sussex for a sleep, narrowly avoiding running down a cyclist who’d chosen, in the middle of the night, a foggy night, to cycle with no lights or reflective clothing.

My band at Paper Dress Vintage

FELL in Hackney

Headed for London the next day – I meet up with Danny Green, who has agreed to jangle his guitar tonight, we have a pizza and discuss the oddness of what we do, prancing about in front of people with daft songs what we writ. But hey, people come to see it so can’t complain getting the opportunity to do something you enjoy so much. Also agreeing to form tonights band is Alabaster DePlume again – he’s residing locally so just a stroll for him to get to Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney, and The brilliant Jonny Bridgwood and Howard Monk – as you may recall they we’re my band back in 2009/10 for the Outbreeding record and surrounding live shows. Wow, this turned out to be a high energy performance to a packed room and thoroughly enjoyable -the band absolutely nailed it! The night was opened by FELL, the brainband of Nicolas Burrows, one of the nicest chaps to sport a moustache.

Billy Mahonie

Seckar

I have a show tomorrow in London and thought the drive back to Sussex where the family is was a bot of a waste if I have to shoot off in the morn – I am kindly housed that night by my old pal from University, Leon, who inadvertently keeps us up chatting until the early hours. The next day I move the car from the soon to expire parking space, and drive up to near Tufnell Park where I pop in to see Beth and Sam, giving them their copy of the record they guest on. And strolling up the Heath for the sunset. The venue is just round the corner. A smaller space and a chance to see creaky old-timers Billy Mahonie show they still have the post-rock grooves and moves! Also playing is electro-northerner Seckar, with synth melodies and smart beats. My show was a little more ramshackle, but fun nonetheless! A sneaky cameo from a hunched-over fiddle player who crept in and crept out (a particularly enigmatic Sam Amidon). Guest guitarring from Billy Mahonie’s Gavin Baker. Plus some vocal noodles from soprano Sarah Dacey and producer, beatboxer, general good egg Matthew Ker (MaJiKer). I night-drive once again back down to Sussex – It’s a nice thing to be able to come back to the most bestest two humans in the world so sweetly sleeping and lie down to sleep soundly with them.

Howie Reeve

The following day is a trip to Hastings. I’m getting to catch up with decent chaps, Greg Butler (director of the film about me) and Chris Broughton (no relation) who have been superb at arranging and promoting a beautiful gig at The Printworks. Friend Howie Reeve happened to be touring the same time with the opportiunity to cross paths here – I invited him to play a set and he opened the show. What a brain pecking delight. You must check out his records – even if ony for the beautiful sleeve artwork! Local Otti and the Voices performed a set. It was a wonderful night even with the bellows of laughter from the chatterers downstairs.

Hubby

Nancy Wallace

Sunday daytime is another London jaunt. A matinee show at the cosy Servant Jazz Quarters with Nancy Wallace, proper english folk, and RM Hubbert, proper Scottish bloke. it all seems too brief. Hubby has to shoot off before I play, but not to worry I will catch him in Scotland as he’s promised to join my band! And Nancy too has something she has to get to, long time ago I used to play a few of the early London shows organised by The Local (Howard Monk) with Nancy. Busy sundays. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this, one of a handful of solo shows on this tour.

Monday is a rest day, but of course I’m in mid-tour head and can’t stop it spinning with thoughts of what’s going to happen and what already happened.

The Waterman Venue

Waterman decor for show

Tuesday we set off as a family up to Cambridge. I don’t think I’ve been here as a performer since I played a show at the Portland Arms as stayed in a Uni College eating breakfast in the dining hall with students and professors and whatnot. We’re staying at The Waterman as well as doing the show in the potting shed attached to the back of it. Dan Carney stepped in to get this show together for me, I’d not seen him since around 2005 or 2006 or something when he was part of the band I Had An Inkling. Anyway – a thoroughly nice chap, as is his pal C Joynes, not-so-fresh from the plane from Bangladesh, who opened the show with his inspiring amped up folk guitar. I learn that Euros Childs and Rosie Smith (who will join me in Cardiff) are playing at that old Portland Arms right across the road so I pop in to say hello before I play. I joked about them having stole the audience but my little 30 person capacity room fills up.

In the morning we had a lovely veggie breakfast included in the accommodation. Have a bot of time to run around Jesus Green with the little rascal, kicking up the autumn leaves, and tickling the posh drunks swigging rosé from the bottle at 10am.

Leicester The cookie

Peter Wyeth

We only have a short drive up to Leicester for the next show. I’ve been put on as a ‘Her Name Is Calla presents…’ by good chap Tom Morris. He’s agreed to have local soundbuilder Peter Wyeth and Adam Weikert (from his band) play a set each to open the show as well as jam with me – as a surprise extra another Calla member, Thom Corah, strolls on with his trombone! Adam bangs some loud keys as well as all the atmospherics he and Peter inject, makes for interesting listening -I think I played a little too long for the small crown that had gathered on this drizzly night. Must mention that The Cookie is a great venue though, and we were staying in the Travelodge just a few steps away, which made for a very convenient night (I was able to have a beer despite promising myself a dry tour!).

Polly Hardy

Giant Head

Although the next show is only in Nottingham I’m driving up to Otley to deposit Katrine and Tomo – She has an thing to go to in Leeds so Grandma is called upon to look after our little tot. Not long after getting up to Otley I set off back down the M1 to the Maze – so I barely skim the edge of Nottingam really. This will be another solo show, Chris doesn’t want to try and play with me and I had totally not been organised enough to ask Katy. They had organised two other acts for the bill, and what lovely treats they were too, Polly Hardy was a great sparse guitar and voice melancholia performance smoky tones. Giant Head wielded a great heavy synth rack and pounded our guts with heavy beats, wild twiddly bits and profound rapping. Actually really great!

It’s a fast ride up a lonely M1 back to Otley for sleeping.

We’ve a day off.

Part 3, soon.

 

Recently…

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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.

I had great pleasure to share stage with Rachael Dadd and Ichi. A short tour, diary as follows:

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.