Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Tour blog Pt II

November 22nd, 2004 · Comments Off on Tour blog Pt II

So Thursday – started out with a seminar/workshop/clinic/masterclass (I really out to work out different definitions for each of these so I know what it is we do) at the British Academy Of New Music – run by Access To Music. The National Events Co-Ordinator for ATM is Jono Heale – a fantastically resourceful guy, and a bassist, who has all manner of wonderful ideas for getting interesting bass playing out there to the public, and ideas on interesting bass playing out there to bassists.

The seminar/workshop thingie went really well – at the beginning, for whatever reason, no-one spoke at all. Just sat there, which was slightly un-nerving. But as the students loosened up and started asking questions, it was great. Some really good questions coming up.

So we set off from the school in Bromley-By-Bow and headed over to Petersfield for my fifth (fifth!) visit to Traders this year, and second one with Michael. This was another gig organised by Stiff Promotions – Iain Martin, who runs Stiff is one of those people who if there’s any justice in the world, will be the next Harvey Goldsmith. He books great music, looks after artists, does great promo, loves what he does and has developed a bit of a reputation in Hampshire for only booking quality stuff. Exactly what a promoter should be like. If you’re in that area, you should get on his mailing list, and support the gigs – he promotes shows in Southampton, Petersfield, Portsmouth, Brighton, Winchester – all over that bit of the South of England. support the shows, take your friends, and help it grow!

Anyway, the gig went really well as always at Traders, though there were a couple of flies in the ointment – first was that they’ve installed a pole-dancing pole on the stage at the venue… now, even putting moral and feminist considerations aside (which we didn’t), it made it impossible to play on the stage, and we set up in front of it. Add to that just the fact that it’s a pole-dancing pole, not some root support, and it becomes a real problem in what is otherwise a great venue. I really hope that at the very least make it removeable. I’d hate to see a band try and set up around it.

The other thing was that on the way out of the venue, somebody stole a framed, signed poster of Michael and I that belonged to the venue. Geoff and Patch who run Traders are big supporters of live music, really enjoy it, and have a collection of signed posters from all the shows that they’ve had at the venue, so having one of them stolen off the wall is particularly shitty for them. Please, if it was you, or you know who it was, send it back. It’s signed to someone else! All you had to do was ask and we’d be able to find a poster to sign for you. Please, take it back.

Friday was a day off, so we did what any self repecting bassist does on a day off in London – went to the Gallery – as I’ve said many times before, we’re really really lucky in London to have the two finest bass shops in the world in the one city, with The Gallery and The Bass Centre. Michael had been to the Bass Centre before, when we did our clinic there a couple of years ago, but this time we visited Martin Peterson at his Camden hide-out. It’s a real Aladdin’s cave (particularly apposite in Pantomime season… maybe Martin and Alex should dress as Widow Twanky and Aladdin??) So we spent a good few hours talking bass and trying out toys there.

Saturday, I was playing at The Captain and Tenille’s wedding, which was great fun. The rest of the band was Cathy Burton‘s band. Sadly, my Neuralgia kicked in just before the service, so I had to rush off at the end, to get a Vit B fix before my vision started to go… which was a downer, as the reception would have been cool too.

And Sunday was the gig at The Headgate Theatre in Colchester. The Headgate is a fantastic amateur run charitable venue, with the best acoustics of just about any venue I’ve ever played. Everything sounds great in there.

This was the second of the gigs where we added a Q&A/Masterclass to the beginning of the gig. We did this for Petersfield and Colchester for a number of reasons – firstly, so that we could have a chance to explain a bit about what we do; inevitably, after a gig there are a thousand questions from people about how the hipshots and detunable bridge work on Michael’s bass, about the Ebow, about looping, about my processing, about what strings we use etc… So the chance to answer those in a more structured way proved very helpful. It also meant that we could make the gigs slightly more economically viable. It’s great to be able to play gigs like the Headgate and Traders and make it pay, and this is one way to make it a bit easier on everyone. For both venues, money taken over the bar is a big factor in it working for them, so people arriving early is good for the venue too.

The live music economy is a tricky balance, given that venues need to make money on food and drink, so artists and promoters need to think of ways to give a gigging audience ample time for ordering at the bar! That way everyone wins.

So that was that. Tour over, some great gigs, some fab new friends, great clinics, CDs sold, and the mortgage paid for another couple of months :o)

Then, today, Michael left, about 10 minutes before the postman delivered a box of CDs for him to sell on the tour… DOH!!

Soundtrack – Iona, ‘Book Of Kells’; Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’; Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Patrice Rushen, ‘Straight From The Heart’.

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Half way through the tour…

November 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on Half way through the tour…

So, we’re at the half way point of our lil’ Manring/Lawson tour, and having a great time – So far we’ve had gigs in Brighton and London, and a day at the ACM in Guildford yesterday.

Brighton was at the Joogleberry Playhouse – a very cool new venue, which we managed to fill on Tuesday night (no mean feat for a solo bass gig!). Great to see some familiar faces there – our good friend Rich Ravenhill who has organised all my solo gigs in Brighton worked his magic again, flyering, postering, getting the word out and generally being fab. The venue people were great too.

the day at the ACM is a fabulous college, and just keeps growing – new buildings, more students, more teachers… a very cool place. Stefan Redtenbacher, the head of bass, has booked us there before, and it’s always a pleasure to go and give some esoteric inspiration to the students.

And then Darbucka last night – it was my second gig there, and I love it (though they could do with some stage lighting… 🙂 ) – another great turn out, and lots of friendly faces. Good stuff!

My favourite part of these gigs with Michael is the duo improv stuff, not knowing where it could go. The duo set in Brighton was probably the best improv stuff we’ve ever done – loads of lovely ideas, and it all seemed to flow really well. London wasn’t quite so stellar, though there was still some magic at points, which i’m glad we got recorded…

So, onwards and upwards. This afternoon, we’re at the access to music british academy, and then back at Traders in Petersfield! See you there!

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Democracy unveiled…

November 15th, 2004 · Comments Off on Democracy unveiled…

This quote was sent to me by mini-harv, and does seem somewhat apposite…

“As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and
more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious
day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last,and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

-H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Soundtrack – Jing Chi, ‘Jing Chi 3D’; Jimmy Haslip, ‘Red Heat’; The Cure, ‘The Cure’; Moya Brennan, ‘Two Horizons’.

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November 13th, 2004 · Comments Off on Grrr

Lots to blog about, but for now I’ll just vent about the stupid bastards who broke into my car yesterday.

Some background info – Had a gig in Sheffield last night, and had arranged to go to Jez’s in Oxford to go together in one car. As we’d be going past Birmingham, we also dropped into Music Live at the NEC, to catch up with some friends. A series of road accidents (not involving us!) held up the traffic all around Birmingham, so we ended up getting to the gig a lot later than planned, but we had left loads of time, so no problem there. ‘Twas a fun gig, a jazz gig for a church that was doing a week of events aimed at just about every demographic group in the area, the last night of it was a jazz gig with a God-talk in the middle (by an Australian bloke, who was very entertaining, it must be said)… Anyway, the drive home was a nightmare too – stuck for over an hour on the M1 behind another accident… A note to British drivers – STOP DRIVING LIKE MORONS!!! FFS, there are more accidents now than I’ve ever seen, and as someone who travels a lot for work, it’s freaking me out, so stop it, OK? No more talking on the phone while driving unless you have hands-free, no more trying to make sandwiches or chutney, or knit or whatever other weird shit you get up to on the motorways of England that causes you to crash. Just stop.

Anyway, got back to Oxford after 2am to discover that the rear passenger window on the driver’s side had been smashed in. Nothing had been taken (obviously the theiving little shits weren’t fans of rubbish 80s cassette tapes), but there was glass everywhere and I had to drive home with no window, and then pay £70 to get someone out to replace it today.

So I got to bed v. late, was up early today to teach, and am back in Oxford today for another jazz gig with Jez. And all I really want to do is sleep.

No soundtrack just now, aside from the sound of my teeth grinding.

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A big clearout…

November 10th, 2004 · Comments Off on A big clearout…

…of old emails.

I got one of those pesky Windows windows that tells you things you generally don’t want to know on my screen yesterday, only this one told me I only had about 100meg of space left on my harddrive… time for a clearout. As I’d just been trialling a new email client, I thought I’d check how many emails were on my harddrive… about two gigabytes worth is how many – somewhere in excess of 30,000!!!!!!! Shit, I’m a worse hoarder than I thought… Anyway, what proceeded was an email cull that resulted in the untimely demise of over 12,000 emails. We’ll see how many more get the chop over the next day or so.

Now I’m just trying to get it into shape so I can make the transfer to the new client smoothly. Been wanting to get rid of Outlook Express for a while, so I downloaded Mozilla Thunderbird – I’ve been using the Mozilla browser, Firefox, for about a year now, and it’s way way better than IE. So thought it was time to switch my email as well…

What else has been going on? Lots of promo related stuff for the gigs next week, as well as some teaching and admin-type things.

The Small Person and I have watched a few films over the last week or so – Zoolander, Shrek II, and School Of Rock were all marvellous, top films.

SoundtrackShow Of Hands, ‘Country Life’, Gin Blossoms, ‘New Miserable Experience’; Chic, ‘C’est Chic’; Steve Lawson, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt I’; Stevie Ray Vaughn, ‘Texas Flood’.

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OK did anyone video it??

November 7th, 2004 · Comments Off on OK did anyone video it??

Saturday night’s John Peel documentary – I saw the last half an hour, but if anyone video’d it, I’d love to see the rest. I saw it listed in the TV guide and thought ‘oooh, got to see that!’, but was then watching ‘School Of Rock‘ and forgot about the time (that happens when you’re raising your goblet of rock).

So if anyone has it, that’d be great…

Soundtrack – Tom Waits, ‘Real Gone’; Jamie Hartford Band, ‘Stuff That Works’; Jackson Browne, ‘Looking East’.

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Busy musical friends…

November 6th, 2004 · Comments Off on Busy musical friends…

Thought a quick update on what various musical chums are up to would be pertinent –

First up, Theo Travis is on tour with his quartet at the moment. He’s got a new CD out that’s fantastic, and the tour is playing lots of tunes from that – click here for tour dates – he’s all over the UK.

Singer, songwriter and Burning Shed records main-man, Tim Bowness has got a gig in London on Monday – he’s very good! Click here for details of that.

Solo bass singer-songwriter, John Lester is on tour in the UK over the next couple of weeks – Click here for his gig details – one not to be missed, for sure.

Singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph is on tour throughout November and December – Click here for the dates – Martyn’s a hugely compelling performer, and well worth seeing.

And before he comes over here for the tour with me in a couple of weeks, Michael Manring is playing at a festival in France. So if you’re in France, go see him! check out his gig list here…

SoundtrackMatthew Garrison, ‘Shapeshifter’; Miranda Sykes, ‘Don’t Look Down’; Show Of Hands, ‘Dark Fields’.

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four more years of winter…

November 4th, 2004 · Comments Off on four more years of winter…

Went to see Show Of Hands at the Bloomsbury this evening. They are, without a doubt, one of the finest live acts in the UK. They offer everything a great live music event should – they are moving, funny, exciting, energetic, soothing, virtuosic, inspiring and authentic. Just brilliant. On one song, called ‘I Promise You’, all about being in a bad patch but looking for promises of something better, Steve Knightly ad-libbed the line ‘I promise you… four more years of winter’. It refers to the line that follows all the good promises in the song – ‘but first we must face the winter’.

The feeling that we are facing four more years of winter is pretty strong right now. Last night’s election result has left us without hope of something better. I wasn’t a huge fan of, or believer in John Kerry and the Kerry message. Sadly he was no where near as ‘liberal’ as the Bushites were trying to paint him (if he had been, he’d have had my vote for sure), but he was new, and electing him would have got rid of the Chaney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft axis of evil, and offered ‘the chance’ of something better. Kerry’s voting record didn’t fill me with confidence that he’d sort out the fuckup in the middle-east, but his domestic promises on taxing the rich and channeling the money into primary health care would have been a huge step forward in a country with the kind of deficit that Bush has run up.

All he would have offered would have been a glimmer of hope. The hope that he could have been lobbied and cajoled into acting at least partially in line with the democratic model he was inheriting as that party’s candidate. Clinton did a fair amount of damage to the Democratic principle, and throughout the latter half of the 20th century, democratic presidents in the US were pretty hawkish, but there was that hope. A hope that is now gone.

So what’s the best that can be hoped for now? What on earth is the future in Iraq? I’m neither a military strategist or an expert in middle eastern politics, so have no suggestions for whether a partial withdrawal, total withdrawal or a firm military approach would sort this out, but the man who started this utter fiasco that has lead to the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis (so much for Saddam’s record as butcher of his own people) has been re-elected, to carry on. He wasn’t promising a change of plan, wasn’t appologising for the balls-up thus far, just spouting shite about being ‘tough on terror’ – there is no war on terror. I’m hardly the first one to say it, but you can’t have a war on terror. It’s like having a war on bad stuff, or a war on attitudes. The word war is at the root of the problem, because it’s that kind of imperial behaviour that fosters terrorist motives. So the more you bomb, the more you turn moderates into radicals. If my family were living in faluja, I’d be feeling pretty extremist right now too.

That’s not to justify the behaviour of the ‘militants’ – al sadir and his ilk are evil murderous tyrants who need to be stopped. This is no time to go soft on psychopaths, but it is a time to acknowledge that the invasion has given motive and a localised legitimacy to some pretty messed up groups, who are no recruiting like mad to fight the aggressors.

Those that were opposing Saddam for all those years and are opposing the US invasion too are caught in a really really tricky situation. According to an arcticle by Nick Cohen in The New Statesman this week, they are largely trade unionists, who have been sidelined by well meaning anti-war protestors choosing to paint the ‘insurgents’ in Faluja as freedom fighters, rather than as yet another screwed up faction in a war of people who really shouldn’t be there.

So who knows what Kerry would have done? Maybe the same as Jnr, maybe worse, but there was hope. And now it’s gone.

The best we have is inertia. God Bless America.

It’s weird, I really like america. I’ve never met an American visiting the UK that I didn’t like (well, OK, there was one, but he was very odd). I have a great time every time I visit the country, and have no trouble at all separating the actions of Bush PLC from the love, warmth and positivity of the American people I know and love. But that’s the problem, I can’t find a connection at all. The US seems like the most divided country I’ve ever witnessed (at least since Thatcher’s britain in the mid-80s, anyway).

I guess it’s back to thinking global and acting local. Macro-politics are just to depressing to even consider. So buy low energy light-bulbs, drive the car less, eat organic, shop fair trade, smile at people on the bus, and wait to see what happens in the UK elections next May…

SoundtrackMiranda Sykes, ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Miranda was singing and playing double bass with Show Of Hands this evening – very talented, and her CDs damn fine too); Show Of Hands, ‘Dark Fields’.

Talking of Show Of Hands, they’re on tour at the moment – Click here for their upcoming dates – don’t miss them out tour if they come near you.

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Holiday/tour recap, Pt III – Nashville

November 3rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Holiday/tour recap, Pt III – Nashville

Right, so we’re four days in, and are in our fourth state (Started in Illinois, and drove through Indiana and Kentucky on our way to Tennesee – not sure how many Es Ns and Ss there are in that…)

And we arrive in Nashville, where we’re staying with Elron for a week. Elron is the unofficial Sheriff of Nashville, and a very nice man.

Tuesday, I gave a Masterclass at Belmont University, as arranged by my good friend Roy Vogt – Roy used to play bass for Englebert Humperdink but quit that and is now doing rather well for himself as a Nashville session dude and teaching at Belmont in their music dept. A great guy, and a fantastic bassist, who sat in with me on a couple of tunes during the session. Sadly it was only an hour, so I couldn’t do as much playing or talking as I’d like, but it went well.

During the rest of the week, I had a couple of little Coffee-shop gigs, the first one was at The Sherlock Holmes pub, an English-style pub in Nashville, and I was joined by two special guests, Muriel Anderson, who’s wonderful and I’ve played with before, and Stan Lassiter, who’s wonderful but I hadn’t played with before. Much fun was had, and it was nice to meet up with some people that I’d beein emailing for a while but never met – Dan Borsos from Churchbass, and Sarita Stewart (Sarita organised the gigs – hurrah for Sarita!)

After the gig, we went off to see HREF=”” TARGET=”NEW”>Dave Pomeroy’s trio, with Rob Ickes and Andyt Leftwich at Douglas Corner – one of the many gorgeous little music clubs in Nashville. An unbelieveable band. Seriously, some of the most amazing instrumental music I’ve ever heard live. If you’re anywhere near Nashville, you’ve got to go and see these guys live. Their combined CVs mark them out as Nashville session royalty, so catch them live and see what all the fuss is about. And say hi to Dave from me.

The second of the gigs was at Caffeine, a cool little coffee shop, which again was a lot of fun, and again more chums turned up, namely Josh Doyle and Dave Pomeroy, along with the group of friends that we’d gone to Nashville to visit in the first place – Elron, Julie Lee, Julie’s dad Larry, Anne, Gail… lovely people one and all.

Much of the rest of our time in Nashville was taken up with our favourite holiday past-time; browsing CD shops. With the dollar being pretty weak, it’s a prime time to buy CDs, so we made the most of it.

Saturday afternoon was The first of three Julie Lee gigs that we got to see. Julie’s a bluegrass/americana singer/songwriter that I’ve played with over here in the past, and she’s amazing. Destined for super-stardom for sure (she’s already got Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Colin Linden on her new album, which is in the Americana airplay top 30 in the states!). This gig was an in-store at Tower Records, and she was sounding mighty fine.

Sunday morning was church at Downtown Pres, preceded by a visit to their book-club/discussion group, which was much fun (though the minister at the church looks kind of like an albino Bin Laden, without the bombs, which was slightly disconcerting). Downtown Pres is an amazing place – a beautiful bit of architecture (check out the photos on the website), and also hosts numerous artist’s workshop spaces and runs a feed the homeless programme as well as all kinds of other cool stuff. A good bunch of people (we suspect also run by Elron, ultimately).

And that’s where we’ll leave it for now, as Monday/Tuesday were spent adding a couple of other states to our holiday stats, and visiting more friends… stay tuned!

soundtrack – Jan Gabarek, ‘It’s OK To Listen To The Gray Voice; Talk Talk, ‘Laughing Stock’; Kris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’.

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Before Nashville…. Kentucky!

November 2nd, 2004 · Comments Off on Before Nashville…. Kentucky!

I know I said Nashville would be the next US blog entry, but before we got there, we stopped at a truck-stop in Kentucky. This, obviously, after driving through Indiana (which looked beautiful from the freeway…)

Anyway, Kentucky, truckstop, me with long hair and nail varnish. It was a little like Deliverance to say the least – lots of people stopping what they were doing and turning to stare. Fortunately we were only there for coffee and gas (that’s petrol to you english lot), but I swear I heard Duelling Banjos from somewhere…

Anyway, the coffee was dreadful. So we left, and headed for Nashville.

SoundtrackKris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’ (Kris opened for Julie Lee at The Basement in Nashville while we were there, and was fantastic); Stan Lassiter Group, ‘Chi’ (Stan sat in with me on one of my nashville gigs, and was fabulous).

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