Highlights and farewells, tour summary 2014.

General News

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.

UK Leg Over, RM Hubbert, No Direction Home

General News

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…