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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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!
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…