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.

 

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.