Greenbelt round-up…

So Greenbelt – another fab weekend. This year’s them was ‘Heaven In Ordinary’ – I didn’t like it when they suggested it last year, but it’s what Greenbelt is, an ordinary world full of heavenly loveliness. At least, it is for those of us who’ve been going there for years and know a million people (bit tougher for those peeps who are there for the first time and spend the weekend meeting a million new peoples…)

Anyway, we got there thursday evening, set up the tent.

Friday was spent catching up with friends and getting ready for the first gig of the weekend that both Lo. and I were playing at – a mainstage set with Sarah Masen. The first nice surprise was how well bands are looked after on mainstage – lots of lovely roadies and stage managers sorting everything out. Good peoples. The set went really well – was a whole lot of fun, and the crowd was HUGE for a first-band-on. Sarah sang beautifully. All good nothing bad.

The best thing about that was that we then had the rest of the night off, and were able to see a bit of Over The Rhine, and then all of Billy Bragg’s set. He was, as expected, outstanding. Funny, engaging, moving, all good things. Couple of great new songs, fab versions of old songs. He just confirmed why he’s one of my favourite live acts in the whole world, and one of my favourite guitarists too.

Onto Saturday, which started as Friday ended, with Billy Bragg, doing a talk about the campaign for a British Bill of Rights. Interesting stuff, if not without some unanswered questions (especially his attachment to the notion of a new inclusive english national pride to replace the cynical racist nastiness of the BN/P et al.)

Anyway, that was great, fascinating stuff. Following that was The Rising – Martyn Joseph’s songwriters in the round session that he does every year – fascinating stuff as usual, with BB, Amy Wadge and the bloke from Willard Grant…

After that much mellowness ensued, hanging with friends, eating lovely food, until it was time to get ready for a busy evening, firstly my gig with Ric Hordinski and then the Recycle Collective. Always a highlight of Greenbelt for me, the RC gig was a blinder, featuring me, Lo, Ric, Andrea Hazell and Patrick Wood. Much lovely music followed, and Patrick in particular was on incredible form. A real triumph.

Sunday was meant to be my mellow day, but after the previous night’s gig, Ric asked if I’d play with him again in the Performance Cafe, and I’m v. glad I did, as it was probably the best gig we did – we rocked! Great reaction from the Performance Cafe crowd too.

After that I was supposed to be compering but managed to delegate and get some time off for buying fairtrade shoes and hanging out with lovelies again. Got to see Sarah Masen play solo in the Perf. Cafe (aside from a couple of song with the lovely lady vocalistes) and she sounded great, as did Emily Barker who was on before her.

Late nights at GB are spent in the Organic Beer Tent – friendships are made, beer is drunk and the world is put right.

Monday was back to more gigs – I was compering in the Perf. Cafe, and got to introduce one of my highlights of the weekend – Nizar Al-Issa (though I got his name wrong on the intro – sorry, Nizar!) – he’s a singer and oud player, and a really great musician. Beautiful haunting music.

After him was Lo and I doing our main duo gig, playing to a nice full tent of peoples, and we played pretty well. Lo’s piano songs being especially great.

after that I got to see another one of my highlights – Beth Rowley, a fantastic singer with an amazing band (it helps that her guitarist and drummer, paul and phil wilkinson are two of my favouritest musicians anywhere). Really great stuff.

the evening was spent watching first Iain Archer, then Duke Special on the mainstage – both long time faves of mine, and both on fine form, playing to a huge crowd who loved them muchly. The headliners on the night were of no interest to me, so we headed for the beer tent. After being there an hour, Lo and I got a call asking us to go and play the late night cabaret (playing to about 1500 people)… after 2 pints… hmmm, we did it, and pulled it off. ‘Twas a little ragged, but fine.

And thus ended another great greenbelt. Now it’s time to buy a load of the talks I missed as downloads.

See you there next year!

Back from Greenbelt

Am back from another fantastic Greenbelt Festival. I’m just off out to play a show at The Spitz, so haven’t got time for full rundown now, but a few highlights would include Billy Bragg, Beth Rowley, Nizar Al-Issa, Iain Archer, Duke Special, and of course getting to play with the great people I was playing bass with – Lobelia, Sarah Masen and Ric Hordinski – all lovely peoples and musical geniuses.

More later…

Duke Special – officially a genius.

Yup, after last night’s show at the ICA, it can be officially confirmed and empirically demonstrated that Duke Special is a genius.

I’ve lost count of the number of times i’ve seen Duke play, not to mention the various bands and projects that Pete Wilson (aka Duke) had before this band, at Greenbelt and beyond (some of which I’m sure he’d rather forget about, so I won’t bring them up here… :o) But last night’s show was a new high point, and bodes incredibly well for his mainstage set at Greenbelt in a few weeks (I definitely pity the dull-as-shit Delirious who have to go on after him…).

The gig was a double header with David Ford, a singer/songwriter of some ridiculous level of talent (watch the video for State Of The Union for some evidence), but whose band are just a little ragged round the edges… It was a still a great show, with some amazing songs, and probably not something I’d have noticed if Duke Special hadn’t been on afterwards…

Duke has a remarkable ability to pick the PERFECT musicians for his stuff – Chip Bailey on drums is a wonder to behold (and at least half Hobbit…), Ben Castle has long been one of my favourite musicians in the country, Paul Wilkinson is a genius guitarist and bassist with the coolest sounds and feel ever, and the new guy in the band on sax/timpani/keys was up to the talent of the rest of them, a great musician.

Add to that some of the most imaginative and exciting arrangements I’ve heard in a long time, amazing use of dynamics and of course Pete’s stunning voice, piano playing and those glorious songs and you’ve got yourself one hell of a night out.

Was nice to catch up with the various members of the band after the show (bizarrely all the security at the ICA go home at 11, despite the bar still being open, so I was able to just wander through into the green room and say hi – useful for me, not so great for bands who don’t want their guitars stolen…), and then head home.

Roll on Greenbelt!

Duke Special video for 'Freewheel'

here’s the video to ‘Freewheel’ by Duke Special – Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson, is a genius. Pure and simple. I’ve known him for years, been listening to him play since he was in dreadful bands he’s rather forget ever existed, and now he’s on the brink of a major breakthrough. Go and buy the single, or download it from iTunes or wherever. He’s great. Go on, do it!

David Ford gig at Bush Hall

One of the guests at Duke Special’s gig last week was David Ford – fantastic singer/songwriter, and from the two minutes I spent talking to him, a seemingly v. nice bloke. He mentioned at that gig that he had a show coming up at Bush Hall, but it was sold out, and apologised for not being able to invite me to even buy a ticket and go… Fear not, for where bands can’t get tickets for their own shows, the mighty Catster can employ the dark forces of the evil empire to procure tickets to just about anything (if I was planning on having Christmas dinner at Bono’s house with his family, and I’m sure Catster could sort out a guestlist place… :o)

So, Catster, The Cheat and I all went to the gig, after a lovely curry at the Ajanta (scene of many many a curry with Jez when he was living in Shepherd’s Bush – come home, you fool – Canada is clearly not the place for you, I haven’t done a wedding gig since you left!)

The gig was an annual charity show that David does, with special guests, to raise money for different projects – this year’s was a YMCA project that took kids from problem situations and put them on a scheme for a few months that apparently helps them look at self-esteem and lifestyle issues before sending them off to Durban in South Africa to work on an HIB/AIDS project out there. Amazing stuff, gotta love the YMCA.

And the gig was amazing. David’s own songs are big emotional singer/songwriter affairs, like a more angry Damian Rice, and the choice of crazy covers for the night was briliant. Fran Healy from Travis did a fab version of Dancing Queen, then a completely acoustic version of Driftwood, stood on top of a grand piano played by David – that’s almost certainly on YouTube by now; if not I’ll upload my video of it, cos it was great.

David then picked songs at random out of a ‘number one hits of the last 30 years’ book, and played a blinding version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – how clever is Celine that she managed to make me hate what is now clearly a very very beautiful song? That takes quite a skill, a sort of reverse alchemy… Anyway, David played it fairly straight to start with, then went all uptempo and spoilt it, but still, it proved that with just a guitar and a voice, it’s an incredible song. He also did Like A Prayer with big audience sing-along, which worked brilliantly too, and Ashes to Ashes, but couldn’t remember the melody on the middle. Same for ‘If You’re Not The One’ by Daniel Beddingfield, another song I’ve loved since I first heard it (see Catster, I’m not ashamed to admit it!), which David again hinted at doing a beautiful version of before giving up… He could SO do an incredible covers album of tunes like that. maybe he will one day.

Anyway, all in a great night – extra kudos to his drummer, who was tops. The rest of the band were fun but a bit shambolic – great for a night like this, but not what you’d want on a proper gig. The drummer though was v. funky. Great player.

So now I need to catch a normal David Ford gig some time, to see what he does then. I’ll be the one down the front asking for ‘My Heart Will Go On’.

Duke Special and BJ Cole live at the Purcell Room.

Great gig last night – Duke Special and BJ Cole at the Purcell Room. I’ve known Pete Wilson, AKA Duke Special, for years – he’s a lovely bloke, hugely talented, and is finally getting the acclaim he deserves.

Last night’s gig was part of a ‘Cool Yule’ pair of gigs – the next one being the Juliet Turner gig next week, and I felt in some way proudly responsible for this one as the lovely promoter JJ met BJ at the gig BJ and I did together at the Half Moon a few months back.

The gig started with BJ’s set, with his ‘Trouble In Paradise’ trio, featuring Ben Bayliss on laptop monkeyness and Eddie Sayer as percussion hobbit – it’s a really great trio, with Eddie in particular adding a crazy human element to all the looped and programmed beats etc. The steel was a little too quiet on the gig, frustratingly so at first, but still ’twas a great set.

Then Duke’s set – it’s the first time I’ve heard Duke Special with a full band – tonight featuring the ever present Chip Bailey on percussion, Paul Wilkinson on fantastic bass and guitar, Ben Hales from Aqualung on guitar, bass, keys, BVs, percussion etc. Ben Castle on sax and clarinet, and then David Ford and BJ Cole guesting on three tunes. ‘Twas a great gig – moving, funny, beautifully played, all good nothing bad. Duke Special is going to be huge in the new year, so go and see him/them as soon as you can…

the aftershow party was magic – a room full of really lovely people, 80% of whom I already knew, and a load of other lovelies that I didn’t previously know.

Yay for Duke!

Pre-christmas must-see gig

I’m a huge huge fan of Juliet Turner, an amazing Irish singer/songwriter, who is a bit of a huge star across the water there, and has a pretty big following here too. I’ve just seen that she’s doing a gig at the Purcell Room as part of the Cool Yule series on Dec 22nd. You SO shouldn’t miss this. Head over there now (click that link above) and get tickets. Go on!! She’s got Boo Hewerdine doing the gig as well, who’s great, and her guitarist, Brian Grace is amazing too.

Go on! I’ll see you there…

I would mention the other Purcell Room Cool Yule gig i’m going to this wednesday with BJ Cole and Duke Special, but it’s sold out and I don’t want to rub your nose in it :o)

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