UK Leg Over, RM Hubbert, No Direction Home

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The UK leg of this brief summer visit back to Europe done. I will provide for your goggle peepers and brain matter a brief run down of what happened. Starting with my arrival on a wet day when the Queen hath been on the throne for 60 years. Jon Stewart on the Daily Show did use the joke I was going to use. I had packed in accordance with the weather I was experiencing in East Asia with Katrine, and considering that it is lovely summer time. As sure as runny eggs and raw sausage I was stood in the rain for forty minutes in only a shirt, shivering with my suitcase and guitar.

London

After warming up and waiting for the rain to pass over night. It was time for the London show. I had some errands to run in the daytime and whilst running around town through the preparations for the big Jubilee concert I called up some friends to meet at 4pm at Cecil Sharp House. Passing through the Mall there were massive screens and a big posh lady saying “this is a test to sync the audio and visual, one, two …”. As it transpires I rushed around, dropping a split plastic bag of music equipment, and arrived an hour later than I had said I would. A bemused group had gathered at the venue. I had not provided any prior instruction on what we would do for the show, but they all gave it whatever they felt appropriate and it was absolutely amazing. Nevertheless, before all that I had the pleasure of listening to the amazing guitarings of Glasgow’s RM Hubbert, (not Ron L Hubbard). The pleasure was furthered by travelling with such a pleasant and interesting companion for these UK shows. At Cecil Sharp House, the home of English Folk Dance and Song, I play centre stage as per the convention, on my right two nylon string guitars are being plucked, strummed and tapped. To the left a piano is tinkled. Voices pipe up from the crowd and two vocalists eventually move to microphones to my left. A fiddle jumps in to the back and side of the audience, to the other side an electric guitar drones from an amp.  Great supergroup: RM Hubbert, Napoleon IIIrd, Oh Ruin, Sam Amidon, two members of Juice Vocal, and Sebastian Reynolds on the keys. Such a great start to the tour.

Winchester

Ah, Winchester. Have you heard of music? Free Sat Nav lady starts as she means to go on – playing little tricks with us as crucial moments. Nevertheless the awkward one-way system negotiated, the Railway at Winchester is a reasonably quaint venue – albeit we play in the black box of the back room. Under irritating UV light. A mammoth show with four, yes, four local support before Hubby plays his set. What we are to find, starting with Winchester, is that no matter how odd it feels getting up on stage, the show goes well and the audience are appreciative. But they really do use an excessive amount of those urinal freshening balls in the loos. As was to happen at all these shows I had some great contributions from Hubby on guitar for some of my set. As is the nature of my limited conscience of the entirety of the show I cannot specify the details of said contributions. I have failed to adequately prepare for this tour and have no accommodation sorted. Luckily the delights of the pull-out mattress in the Travelodge family room awaits.

Sheffield

Using the information I gleaned from a conversation I overheard when sharing a taxi to Barcelona Airport with the Buzzcocks, I advise the best way to negotiate going around Oxford and getting up to the M1. Sat Nav Lady seems to agree with me. Castle Greyskull is located in Eccleshall, which has an unreasonable number of older men in skimpy shorts striding about. I would have to say that the facilities here were the best on tour. You will never have need for additional chopping boards. Some familiar old faces turned up which helped me feel OK about the show. Hubby joined in again with some choice plucks and taps and strums. And this time some people actually bought some of my wares. We sped up to Leeds to catch some kip at the old Broughton residence in Grotters.

Manchester

In the morning I had a family breakfast and my big brother came round for coffee.  My driver, erm, my travelling companion and excellent opening act took advantage of a well earned lie in. We took a leisurely drive across the pennines, suffering the great british summertime rainfall and chilliness. As it should be, Manchester is wet. Kraak Space, Gallery and Venue is cryptically hidden away in the Northern Quarter. Familiar faces from the old Islington Mill days are around. Magic Arm mans the bar. Jayne Compton takes to her throne. This show is the convergence of two tours. Two Wings and Eric Chenaux. Me and Hubby. Unfortunately for the former they join the show as the bottom half of the bill. As it transpires the audience doesn’t expand a massive amount from when Eric plays to when I play. I really took notice of Two Wings this time, having been too bog bound when we did the show in London together. Great sets all round. Here is where Ron L Hubbard goes back to Glasgow for a couple of days while I go to play at No Direction Home Festival… I must add again, that it is a consistant pleasure to be touring with Hubby.

No Direction Home

I get a lift from Wakefield with my big sister and my niece. We are all going to the festival, as is my little sister. Shame Katrine isn’t here, we went to the first couple of End of The Roads together and it has the same feel as the small first EOTR. Briefly I watched Diagrams which have infectious enthusiasm for music and well put together songs. Dirty Three. Tiny Runis, Serafina Steer, Ichi, And others…  bored of typing but must go on to engage with the internet based audience… There were pretty agitated larks trying to get on with their thing, where we had plonked all our cars and tents. Great close up views though. I played two sets. The first I hastily arranged a couple of willing volunteers (Rob St John and Mark Andrew Hamilton) to step in as my band. Or as Rob St John kindly advised, my ‘drone rangers’ (Rob used to do a drone thing under the name ‘Droney Mitchell’ – and as Mark Hamilton/Woodpigeon opened his set with a Baez song he will be ‘Drone Baez’). As uncomfortable as ever I trudged through. In my mind it was a terrible mess. Positive reviews. Second set was later that day on the little boathouse stage. And with drums this time. The guys who hadn’t heard that Houquets had had to pull out scarpered fairly soonish. I was missing seeing Moon Duo.  A bit of sleeping to the sound of Pyramids. Who’d have thought that dragging a suitcase across a muddy field could be a logistical nightmare. Hubby collected me and additional passenger (Not a ‘hidden passenger’, Shearwater). This was Bob from Tod (R L Wilson) with a camera – capturing me on tour. More on that in the future.  Highlights as an observer: Diagrams, Dirty Three, Austra, Ichi, Serafina Steer and some more I can’t remember at this juncture.

Oxford

We scurry along the M roads and A roads down to Oxford, stopping for some grub and a piss. We overshoot the SatNav a couple of times, due to my pedantic eye and perhaps by me not zooming in too closely, but eventually gilde into Oxford, weaving thorugh caped cyclists and bespectacled boffins (not really) and arrive at the Jericho Tavern. Of course, Seb has been waiting an hour or so. Patiently sitting at his keyboard.  With a failed pick-up and/or jack socket we quickly assemble a work-around. I loop my guitar via microphone. It brings the overall sound level down but works amazingly well under the circumstances. Bottled water multi-pack solo anyone?. Yet another snuggly night in a Travelodge family room, this time with alarming night frets from Bob from Tod.

Bristol

Bristol, Bristol, cobblestone Streets. People missing teeth. Guitar failure from last night prompts a mending. I get advice from a Bristol based friend, Robin Allender, who I have also invited to play with us tonight.  He advised me of Stevie. In a workshop buried in a little cellar in the centre of Bristol. He carefully inserted a new jack socket. but there is still a problem – but a greater one that even he cannot attempt to address at this late juncture. The socket is a vast improvement so I go on happy and £20 lighter. We meet Robin in Cafe Kino, I eat som lovely falafel. Robin has just returned from his latest jaunt on the Yann Tierson world tour, and as it happens taking over the guitars for the lovely Felix. Show run-down: Local support. Hubby did a great set as always. Two guitars accompaniment. Touched a bare scalp. Magic!

Brighton

We nearly died on the way to Brighton. Both I and Hubby nearly dozed off going round the M25. Down at Crawley Hubby nearly overdosed on Red Bull and I had a Lucozade (don’t tell Katrine). We were aiming to get to Brighton for 2pm so I cold go to record a session for SImple Folk Radio. Please can everyone ignore the fact that it was filmed in the ‘naughty room’ at the Pelirocco Hotel (*shivers*). Wow, the backstage grub selection proves good enough to make my total evening meal intake (a number of salad sandwiches).  Thanks to Woodpecker Wooliams who proved to be the best support on this brief tour. Good to see some old familiar faces. Despite being tired and grumpy it all turned out well for mine and Hubby’s last show together on this jaunt. After driving back up to London late in the night it would be a few days off in London before heading to the continent…

 

 

 

And the final installment…

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A restful few days off in London, where I mostly didn’t do much. Felt I was getting ill in Cardiff a little so the rest proved of value. So this brings me to Saturday 28th. This was the Brainlove all day event in the Windmill Brixton. I went early intending to be part of some filmed sessions which never happened, I helped decorate the place in its stead.

Musically Brainlobe attracts affable oddballs like Mat Riviere, Pagan Wanderer Lu, Napoleon iiird, Bastardgeist from Chicago, some nuts Estonians he encountered recently in Tallinn Music Week, and myself. It was nice to see Bear Driver and Rob St john too. Recommended.

After the mess and magic of the previous night it was going to be difficult for Norwich to pull anything out of the bag. Well it did. It was a shopping bag from the market, and it was food what was pulled out. Thank you Ros for what I can now officially call best in tour. The show was long and a struggle against some tiredness I had accumulated. I tried to liven or perhaps just change the formula a little for this one time and asked Tawny Owl if they wanted to join in towards the rear of my set and they jumped at it.  Some lovely lads what played a Brainlove, huddled around one amp in the rain, now had their individual amps and some space in the dry. Drone and distortion backing band. Well done.

Onwards, after an outburst at Norwich Train Station where I thought I wouldn’t make it to the Manchester show. I apologise again to the station staff for that. The next train got me there just in time so no worries, silly David. The rail journey up to Manchester is really nice, you go through the lowlands of Norfolk and Cambridgshire which are fine in themselves, I swear I saw a bullfinch on a wire, when I was looking at the collard dove, it was just there. Then you pass through the Peak District a little later, like great cross section of British Countryside or what? Then, for all you brick fans, you go into Manchester via Stockport…

I arrive with just enough time to get off at Oxford Road Station, fly down the steps and cross to the Palace Hotel to sign in and get my pass for ‘Eurocultured’ Festival – I am in the Arch, and it is a stage set up in a massive railway arch (I was just on top of this arriving by train). With genuine stalactites and filth. Oh, and appalling sound and five engineers struggling to find out how to make it work. We all survived it though. I caught the end of Spokes (who I have liked in the past) and watched Kyrie Kristmanson and Bushman’s Revenge. Amazingly the festival had rooms at the Palace Hotel (big rooms – highest ceilings – unnecessarily large windows – history).

The next morning I just make it to my train after a breakfast at the ‘Spoons. And so to Oxford. I arrive in warm sunshine and I don’t need to tell you how much better anywhere looks with this factor at play. I laze around for a bit admiring some old college or church or something. I find out where to go for the gig and go there. This lovely little church where our show was the first of it’s kind in the place. Delightful. Rob and Emma looked after me very well and it was a pleasure to meet them.

It would be hard to beat this high. The show was accompanied by Sebastian from Braindead Collective on the piano. Not to mention a cameo from Rob towards the climax. I enjoyed this one immensely.

It was not beaten by Cambridge the next day. Cambridge, I’m afraid, did not have the pleasant atmosphere of Oxford. They had my last show for a while and it was intense. And having residence for the night in Girton college, not to mention a fry up in the refectory in the morning. I must say that James put a lot of effort into the show and it was a full room so he did well. AND, the Padang Food Tigers were excellent. I guess, over time, I will reassess my opinion of the place. My mind was already on the plane back East.

 

 

 

 

MAY 2011: Tour so far…

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Ok so I mentioned HomeGame, let us backtrack a little…

I come back to the UK to play some shows. This starts well, I get the train over to Manchester and Walk up to Chapel Street, Salford. Traipse to Islington Mill where the wristband exchange is…only to find that the promoters (Chris Horkan, Hey! Manchester) have already taken them for me to collect at the venue. It would, of course, be the furthest venue from anywhere. So traipse up to Peel Hall I do…the venue is a lecture theatre – a slope of seating down to a presentation area – my stage later this evening. At the Sacred Trinity Church I see a bit of Cath and Phil Tyler – plain folk songs with reasonable banjo playing – then Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – soundscape with a wailing lady-friend – like Juliana Barwick with a guitar and electronics more than she needs – then it turns out Richard Youngs is playing next – he holds an audience rapt with the most ridiculous show – failing to control a motion sensitive synthesiser and his own voice. He succumbs to it’s limitations and begins to auction records to a still rapt audience – absolutely amazing! This fills me with much confidence, and as i return to a modest audience a t Peel Hall I watch the end of The Wave Pictures. I have no fear of playing tonight. Thanks to Richard Youngs. Brief show rundown – dropped coins, kicked beer can into girls face, played one of my favourite shows of mine. All back to Nicks (I missed Float Riverer for Richard Youngs) for some sleep. Hooray!

Back over the Pennines to Leeds. The show is back at the good old Brudenell… Napolean IIIrd pefroms before me. Then “just like Marmite” I perform on the ‘huge canvas’ of the Brudenell. I can not really be sure what I did – but it involved a beer crate and signing a drumstick which wasn’t even mine. Was great to see all my old pals and family. Also to some of the LDS peeps like Neapolitan the Turd, the Bugles of Birth, Dragged About By Ponies and the Lonely Wolfman.

Next show, Puzzle Hall, down the rugged valley. An intimate show. Some mild audience participation. It just about worked. These guys went to the show, listen at about 20:35 for some Jeff Lewis and then Ambiguity then they give you their opinion of the show :Crow Versus Crow Radio Show #5 by CrowVersusCrow Openers for the night were ‘A Rookery’, some good lyrics in there, liked the mandolin/violin. And thanks have to go to Gav for recommending a friend go see me in Paris…

Now, in Sheffield I swiftly passed through. Part of Sensoria, It was a shame that I could only be brief at places which were big events – would have been nice to stick around. Anyway, thanks for having me Nigel and I am genuinely sorry to have missed In the Nursery.

Glasgow was my next stop – and a lovely train journey through Northumberland – Every British person should know this part of their country, it’s nice. This show was pretty nice, I would not too hastily say that RM Hubbert was my favourite person to share the bill with on this tour – his guitarisationing is SWEET! Thanks to the Arches for the balloon too. It’s nice to have some company on stage. Some words on the evening.

After a wee drink to calm down after the show I settle into a comfortable bed in the Jury’s Inn, safe in the knowledge that I have a complementary breakfast waiting downstairs when I wake. Amazing. Despite the breakfast I make slow progress up to Fife, helped by the fact that the sign for the bus station was pointing in the wrong direction when I got out at Waverley Station.

Arriving in Anstruther is like arriving in a miserable fishing village in the middle of nowhere. But. You can get off the bus and ask the first person you see where you are playing and how to get there, because they are all there for a festival of music organised by the Fence Collective. I arrive in beautiful sunshine and fresh sea air is served in welcome doses. The place is not miserable at all (wait until the rain comes again). My show uses the apples from the dressing room in Glasgow and as you see below, some otherness. My highlight was seeing Geese, and watching the Eider at the shore. Very kindly I was given a little mention in this write up.

Shame I couldn’t stick around for the Sunday – Francois and the Atlas Mountains and JTP. Oh well, must dash… DTB is off to Paris. I will play you a recording of the West Country Girl show one day. Watch this space.

So West Country Girl is the creperie where Josh T Pearson lived. They had me over to play in exchange for free crepe and beer. Their hospitality knowing no bounds whatsoever. I need to tell you this now. Lisen. When you are in Paris you must go here:

West Country Girl, Passage St. Ambrose, 11 Arr, Paris

The next day I have a day off and wander Paris alone. It is a bad place. There are bad people. And you should never be alone in Paris. That is all I can say. It will not be so bad if you are not alone.

I scoot off to Lille and play a beautifully long set on La Peniche. Kind regards to the banana for his contribution. This is not Paris and I recommend you go and visit. Before I play the big show I do an instore at Minor Place records. The first hiccup of the tour is me leaving a small bag of cassettes, Buddha machine, and microphone there.

I learn that Magpies are simply called Pi in French, derived from Pica Pica?

After Lille I play again in Paris, this time less people show up and I get embroiled in a documentary about Primavera Sound and how Toma from La Boutiques Sonores is going and how coll it all is. They let me stay in their tiny apartment which was sweet to see and very kind of them. So makes up for the poor show, not that I didn’t have a nice attentive audience and blow the hell out of their tiny little French minds. Shame on the rest of Paris for not being there. Props to Alexis Gideon – He persevered a little way with a lost voice and lost audience. His shizzoo is so funny.

From Parizzle I get Le Train to the Netherlands. Leiden is, as I think I mentioned, historic. Medieval. Dutch.

The small and respectful crowd are delighted that I play for them, in their sarcastic Dutch way, I think they liked it. Second hiccup is leaving my glasses there.

More on this flippin’ tour soon, my eyes are hurting…