3 gigs, 7 bands, 2 comedians and a couple of lovely new bass cabs

Boy, it’s been a busy weekend!

Teaching all day Saturday, on Saturday night I went up to Hoddeston in Hertfordshire to drop in on the Greenbelt Angels Weekend – the Angels are the year round financial supporters of the Greenbelt festival – an arts festival that means so much to people that they will give a monthly donation, and buy their tickets a year in advance, and bring their friends, and then turn out for the angels weekend. Which is largely a mini-greenbelt affair, but with greater emphasis on the organisers of the festival letting the angels know about what’s happening, and brainstorming new ideas.

Anyway, Saturday night was all entertainment – first up Old Solar, a very fine band from Scotland, featuring my very good friend Andrew Howie, who also records solo under the name Calamatuer. Both acts have been played a fair bit by John Peel and had rave reviews, and were rather good, a few guitar tuning problems not withstanding.

Following them was Cathy Burton – angel-voiced singer/songwriter, and another good friend. Cathy’s great. Marvellous songs, lovely stage manner, will be huge soon (musically speaking…!)

then comedy stuff – Jude Simpson was new to me – comedy poet, very funny indeed, runs a comedy/poetry club in Hammersmith, well worth going to hear. She was followed by John Archer – northern comedy magician, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen do a gig. Think Peter Kay taking the piss out of Paul Daniels but actually being really really good at sleight of hand… He’s great, and it’s always a treat to see him do his thang.

Sunday morning I was playing bass in church (first time in about two years), and Sunday evening I went to see Bill Frisell at the barbican. He was playing with Djelimady Tounkara, a Malian guitarist I’d seen him with before. Also on stage were Greg Leisz, Jenny Scheinman and Sidiki, er, someone (can’t remember his surname), on Percussion. It was a fine gig, but I do tend to go to Bill Frisell gigs with such extraordinarily high expectations that I found some of the two chord jam tunes just a little too long and twiddly for me. Bill was brilliant as always, so I guess I’m just not a huge fan of Djelemady’s guitar playing. Greg is a god-like genius of the pedal steel – an instrument I’m very quickly falling in love with the sound of (playing with BJ Cole obviously doesn’t hurt!!). Jenny was fine, and Sidiki laid down some rather groovy rhythmic things, but the overly long I – IV – I – IV jams in the first set kind of spoilt it a little for me…

Monday night was another ‘Bob Harris Presents…’ gig at The Stables in Milton Keynes. this time featuring Julie Lee, Vigilantes Of Love, Dolly Varden and Show Of Hands.

Julie Lee is amazing. I’ve played with Julie on a number of occasions, and she’s a gem of a person. She’s also an incredible singer and songwriter. I get this buzz just before she starts whenever I see her play in front of an audience hitherto unfamiliar with her, knowing that they are about to discover something very special indeed. Like the first time you sit someone down and play Hejira by Joni Mitchell to them…

The Vigilantes are another marvellous band – their song ‘Resplendent’ is in my ‘perfect songs’ list (a virtual compilation that’s ongoing in its construction), and they’ve got quite a few other truly wonderful songs. Bill Malonee is a great singer, and Jake (does Jake have a surname, or indeed need one?) was splendid on guitar and vox.

Dolly Varden – husband and wife duo from Chicago. I liked ’em, but will reserve judgement til I’ve heard a full set at The Borderline on Wednesday (VoL overran, as is Bill’s habit, so their set was cut short…)

And finally, Show Of Hands – they played greenbelt a few years ago, and I gave it a miss. WHAT A FOOL!!!! they were amazing. Truly truly remarkable. Brilliant, splendid. Repairs any lost belief you might have in the power of folk music. Steve Knightly on voice, guitar, mandola etc. Phil Beer (great name!) on vox, violin, guitar, mandolin etc… just a duo, but a HUGE sound. Great songs, great voices, amazing stage presence (it’s not at all surprising that they just won the ‘best live act’ award at the british folk awards). I can’t say enough good things about them, they were amazing, and are playing at the Borderline on Tuesday 9th March, so go if you can (I’m teaching til 9 that day, but will find out what time they are on stage, and see if I can race down after teaching…)

And then today, to cap a marvellous weekend, my new AccuGroove bass cabinets arrived!!! Yippee. And a day early – bravo FedEx. These are the passive ones – my signature powered cabs are still in development (we want to get them perfect), so I’m using these for now. I’ve plugged them in, and they sound incredible. Lovely, clear, full. I’m a happy bunny.

soundtrack – right now, I’m listening to ‘The Free Story’ – a much underrated band, with a killer bass player. Guy Pratt asserts that Andy Fraser is more influential in real terms in the rock and pop world than Jaco. I’m inclined to agree. Amazing stuff. And Paul Rogers voice is killer.

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