Two more great gigs and The Godfather Pt II

so, what’s been happening?

Last Friday night, Evil Harv and I went to see The Pixies at Brixton Academy. I’d really really been looking forward to this, having missed them when they were around last time (I lived in Berwick on Tweed, so didn’t get to go to many gigs!). Graham Coxon, the ex-Blur guitarist was the support, and was surprisingly good – I didn’t really have high expectations, but his blend of Blur’s noisier moments (it becaume clear what his part in their sound was) and the 80s american hardcore of bands like Husker Du and Black Flag was marvellous. Fine voice and some great guitar playing.

Then the Pixies came on, and played non-stop for over an hour. Not a word was said between songs, no breaks, no nothing, just out of one song into the next. It was marvellous. Loads of stuff from Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. All fantastic. A brilliant brilliant gig.

Saturday night, the small person and I went to see the new Harry Potter film – The Prisoner of Askerban. I enjoyed the other two, but this is the best of the three so far. Darker, faster moving, better acting from the three main kids, a great cameo by Gary Oldman as the Prisoner. Excellent stuff.

and Sunday was Godfather Pt II – regular blogsters will remember I was godfather to Angus a few months back, and on Sunday I was godfather to Charlie. Forgot to take any photos, but I’m sure there were plenty taken, so I’ll see if I can get hold of one for here. A ‘triffic day – Jonny and Rosie Didj are Charlie’s mum and dad, and live on a barge, so the party afterwards was marvellous. Much fun. And of course, I get to be Charlie’s godfather as he grows up, and with him and Angus being around the same age, I can take them both out to weird gigs as they get older! :o)

Monday morning Evil Harv MSN’s me offering a free ticket to see Peter Gabriel. I saw him last time round, and it was amazing, so a bit of diary juggling, and I was able to drive straight from a recording sesh at Jez’s in the afternoon in Oxford to Wembley for the gig.

Two support acts, the first one playing what sounded like Lloyd-Webber/Ben Elton compositions – crappy west end show tunes that did nothing for me at all. Second one was an african dude with a guitar who was much better.

Then Peter and band came on. Any chance to see Tony Levin play is a treat, the guy’s a bass legend and a genius. Another mindblowing gig. Lots of clever staging, lighting and of course Peter and his daughter zipping round the stage on Segway HTs – I SOOOOO want one, but they’re a bit pricey… if anyone should feel like buying me one, please get in touch… ;o)

the set was similar to the last gig, though I don’t remember there being a huge train wreck in the middle of Salisbury Hill – someone in the band lost their place completely, and I think Peter had to count them back in! After the show, it took me almost an hour to get from Wembley back to the North Circular!! grrrrr.

On the recording front, I’ve got a version of the album finished, which is nice as it gives me a strong reference point. Anything that I record now that’s better than what’s on there, I can swap into the album, or it can go towards it being a double… lots of fun.

Soundtrack – once again, me me me…

Whale Rider

I’ve seen this film three times in the last month – first time on the flight home from LA, then twice this week on video. It’s brilliant. truly truly marvellous.

The basic story is of a girl who when conceived had a twin brother, who died in childbirth, along with her mother. He was the first born male of the next generation within their mauri community, and it was hoped that he would be a leader. The patriarch of the tribe can’t deal with the fact that it was the girl that survived to continue the family line, that stretches back to Paikia – their ancestor who arrived in New Zealand on a Whale. The film follows the struggle as the grandfather looks for a suitable heir amongst the other first born sons in the village, and Pai wrestles with her emmerging destiny. The film is most powerful for all that it doesn’t tell you – the relationships are multi-dimensional, the characters are unfolded in glimpses, looks and body language, not spoon fed in unrealistic dialogue. The acting is amazing, and the story of old vs. new, heritage vs. modernisation and the struggle for authentic spirituality in the face of an increasingly fragmented world is inspiring and bears repeated viewing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

What else has been going on? the usual mix of teaching, gig promo, practicing etc… Got a last minute gig booked in Italy on the 11th March (which reminds me, must remember to move Aidan’s lesson…), got a gig in Petersfield, Hampshire tomorrow, and aparently advance ticket sales are going really well… Was recording yesterday with BJ Cole, pedal steel genius and all-round marvellous bloke. We got another couple of really interesting duet pieces in the can, and it was yet another chance to explore what the new bass is capable of.

And last night I went to hear Tom and Christine Sine speak – I’ve been reading Tom’s books for years, and it’s always good to hear him speak. He’s a futures analyst, which means he looks at trends and extrapolates what’s likely to happen. Most of his work is with church organisations looking at ways to meet the needs of their communities over the coming years. Always good to take time out to reappraise what’s important, and look at how our priorities have got mixed up… it’s all too easy to get sucked into ‘the rat race’ and value profit of people, and pursuing some sort of status or economic goal over and above any sense of what’s ‘right’. Globalised culture excerts such an enourmous pressure, that it requires a strong proactive stance to choose to do something other than earn and consume in pursuit of a higher place on the ladder, but it’s possible, and hearing Tom and Christine speak is always a good chance to reassess.

soundtrack – the duets with BJ Cole have been on repeat here since yesterday, but in between I’m still really really enjoying the new Jonatha Brooke CD, ‘Back In The Circus’.

the dark side of being away…

Remember a few weeks back I blogged about being Godfather to Angus? Angus, who had had a heart defect at birth, was rushed into hospital and operated on in his first few days of being alive, and then his mum and dad, Paul and Rachel, had a sort of dedication/service of thanksgiving thingie for him and his sister Jasmine? Well, while I was away, I got a text message on my phone saying that Paul was in ICU, on life support, and could I pray for him… at this point, as per all good film scripts my phone runs out, dead battery, and being as how it will only charge off a USB port on a computer (no wall-socket charger with me – won’t make that mistake again), I was unable to charge it. The next day I try phoning round friends, but all the numbers I need to call people are in my dead phone. So I have to wait til I get home.

This is the dark side – email, cell-phones, fax etc. all makes for an amazing web of communication, but we grow to expect it and when if fails, we don’t have contingency plans…

As it is, Paul is out of ICU, doing really well, all things considered. It turns out he was hit by a bus on his way home… not really what anyone needs. Please pray for him, and Rachel, and their tiny people.

Soundtrack – Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranea’, Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’.

Email sig. files will never be the same again…

So Blockbuster video have done a survey to find the all-time great film quotes, so the BBC news pages tell me. Lots of emminently quotable chunks of film dialogue just ripe for harvesting for email signature files… I wonder how much download time in used up worldwide by sig. files that stay the same for years and years, that people read once and thought was cool and then ignored for the next 3000 emails… hmmmm

anyway, there are some great quotes on the list, my two faves being –

4. Samuel L Jackson, Pulp Fiction (1994): The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.


7. Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting (1996): Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends… Choose your future. Choose life.

but still worth a look.

And while we’re on the bbc news site, we find that Credit Card Spending hit an alltime high in November – GREAT!! The whole country plunges into debt over satiating the desires of greedy kids and buying hideous ties and socks for miserable old gits. When and where will it end???

This news item was brought to you by Sharpreader… :o)

Soundtrack – not much, right now.

end of year roundup top 5s

So we’re rapidly approaching the exit of 2003 and the entrance of 2004, to take up the batton of time for it’s year in the spotlight. It can’t really be much worse than its younger sibling on a world scale (well, I guess it could, if the bush/blair axis of evil decide to invade more countries, and don’t realise that they really have no place being in Iraq… but I digress…)

Anyway, there have been some cool things this year, so here’s a series of top 5s to sum up my year (each of them is in no particular order…) –

top 5 albums from this year –

Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
Bill Frisell – The Interncontinentals
John Lester – Big Dreams And The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn – You’ve Never Seen Everything
Kelly Joe Phelps – Slingshot Professionals

Top 5 albums I got this year but were released ages ago –

Theo Travis – Heart Of The Sun
Rob Jackson – Wire, Wood and Magnets
Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
David Torn – Tripping Over God
Medeski Martin And Wood – The Dropper

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

Athlete – The Astoria
Bill Frisell – The Barbican
King’s X – The Mean Fiddler
Kelly Joe Phelps – The Stables
Bruce Cockburn – The Stables

Top 5 fave gigs played –

National Theatre Foyer (with Theo Travis)
Greenbelt (with Patrick Wood)
Derby Dance Centre (with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba)
Constable Jacks (California – with Michael Manring)
Anaheim Bass Bash (with Michael Manring)

Top 5 International Destinations –

California (USA)
Garda Lake (Italy)
Le Monstastier (France)
Amsterdam (Holland)
Copenhagen (Denmark)

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

would’ve done top books and top films, but haven’t seen enough of either to
come up with a convincing list of good ones.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but that’s it for now…

Soundtrack – yesterday I downloaded the new version of WinAmp – WinAmp 5, and have been listening to various Shoutcast radio stations ever since!

Hi, honey, I'm home…

after being away for about two weeks.

First week was in Denmark, visiting the International People’s College. IPC is a ‘folk high school’ – a scandinavian educational model that looks at learning as something that’s worth doing for its own sake rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end of it. The various folk high schools around Denmark, Sweden, Norway etc. have different emphases (emphasise?? no idea…) – some are all about sport, or film making or whatever, and this one is an international school (the clue’s in the name), drawing currently from 32 different countries as diverse as nepal, england, argentina, tibet, bangladesh, malta, poland, USA, romania, uganda, kenya, australia and brazil.

the focus of the college is on conflict resolution, cross cultural studies, development issues and for most of the students it’s seen as a great place to learn english. The staff are an amazingly diverse bunch – from cambodia, mauritania, denmark, australia etc. etc. and the food’s great.

The reason for the visit is that my mum’s involved in trying to set up a folk high school in Berwick On Tweed (middle of nowhere and turn left), and I taught on their summer school this year. So we both went on a fact finding trip, to see if all this folk high school stuff was hippie idealism or a the answer to the UK’s current education crisis (education, education, education said Blair. bollocks bollocks bollocks says the entire population of england, 6 years on.) It was amazing – a fully functional school, the classes dealt with some pretty intense stuff, lofty concepts and deep philosophical stuff, all within the framework of 32 cultures under one roof, all unwittingly capable of deeply offending one another! :o)

With a week at the college and a couple of days to look round Copenhagen, we had a marvellous week (also had a nice chance to drop in and see Anders-Streetteam at one of the most amazing drum shops I’ve ever seen!) Copenhagen’s a great city – here’s hoping I can sort out some gigs there soon…

Got home from there for one day, did a day’s teaching, and headed off to Amsterdam on holiday. Warning – if you’re living in London, heading off to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the space of a week is not a great idea if you still want to feel really good about where you live… Don’t get me wrong, I do like living here, and some things about being in England are magic, but politically we’re losing it, and the whole crime/vandalism/transport/weirdness thing has become the british axis of evil. Amsterdam is beautiful – it’s great to see a city of that size operate with so little car traffic. Thousands and thousands of bikes, but precious little car useage. lots of canals, gorgeous canals, and some very groovy shops. The liberal drug laws seem like a cool thing (when was the last time you saw someone get stoned and start a fight??), and there were much less of an agressive feel there than on a night out in central london, but the ‘liberal’ attitude to porn and prostitution is, according to the UN and other sources, just a front for some seriously nasty illegal stuff. So much for unionising the prostitution industry – doesn’t really help the girls who are being trafficked from asia and eastern europe. London has a huge problem with this too, but at least we don’t pretend that being a prostitute is a great gig and that it’s all kosher here… scary stuff.

Still, it’s a great city, sex-tourism aside, and I hope to go back and do some gigs there too soon!

And now I’m back home – time to get to work promoting the CD, which hopefully you’ve all bought by now! :o) Theo did a huge mailout to radio and media while I was away, so reviews and airplay should start happening soon… til then, play the CD to your friends, steal their money and buy them it for christmas. Lots of people are saying it’s their favourite of the CDs I’ve put out, which is nice.

On the bad news front, I heard today that Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car accident a couple of days ago – if you’ve ever been to Greenbelt, Yak won’t need any intro. If not, he was an author, social activist, realist, speaker, comedian and all round remarkable human being who did far more in his 61 years than many people could acheive in 10 times that. His passing is a loss to the world. here’s the report from his hometown. Please spare and thought and a prayer for his family.

Soundtrack – while I was away I picked up a few CDs – Charlie Haden, ‘American Dream’; Jing Chi, ‘Live’; Living Daylights, ‘Electric Rosary’ and Metalwood’s latest, which is upstairs and I can’t remember the title, but they’re all very good indeed! Today I’ve been listening to Jonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’, which is oustandingly brilliant, like just about every note jonatha has ever uttered.

try again

OK, so this is my second attempt at writing this, having written a very long post earlier before my computer crashed nearing the end. Bugger…

anyway, here’s the bullet point version (I’m sure much to evil harv’s delight) –

on Saturday I went to a memorial service for a friend whose life was tragically cut short by cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was 29, had a baby and a husband – everything to live for, but the cancer had other ideas. The service was moving and beautiful, but nothing could hide the deep, painful merciless injustice of someone being cut down that early in life. I’ve no idea what her poor hubby is going through – he’s someone I’ve looked up to hugely for years, and I just hope that I can somehow be there for him now. The pain must be inconceivable.

Friday I got a new computer… well, some bits with which to construct a new computer having picked at the bones of my old one for whatever morsels could be rescued. the new chimera is pretty good, and The Captain was invaluable in building it for me – I’d have no idea how to put the damn thing together – software, I’m fine, hardware, forget it.

So the last few days have involved lots of installing of software, lots of trying to find email archives and diary archives etc. All great fun… but at least is all runs a bit quicker, and I’ve not got an extra external drive so I can back everything up. Some friends of mine were burgled this last week, and aside from the electronic stuff the had taken, they also lost a load of photos and film that was in the camera and camcorder, as well as a load of work that was on the PC – that’s terrible! I’m going to try and keep backups of everything so it can’t be stolen or lost or have my harddrive crash again… It’s such a pain as the actual stuff is hardly worth anything, but the work on it is very hard to replace…

anyway, today was a teaching day, and posting out of CD orders (yup, still getting orders for the older albums too! :o) this week I need to get the extra disc pressed up and sorted, so that it’s already to be sent out to all of you who’ve advanced ordered it by next week…

On the gig front, Italy this coming weekend is confirmed, but Stoke Newington on Nov 9th has been cancelled… comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, bookings and cancellations. Thunder and Rainbows from the same sky. Friends dying, babies being born. All part of the cycle of life, but that doesn’t make the tragedy of death any easier to bear, the joy of birth any less marvellous. On that note, congrats to Johnny and Rosie, Geoff and Sarah and maybe to Steve and Linda by now, who knows… St Luke’s is awash with babies, with more on the way!

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, ‘Second Sight’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, ‘Steal Away’; recordings of me with BJ Cole and Orphy Robison, and with Luca Formentini, Moreno and Gianni in Italy.

Gigs seen, gigs played

long time no blog, appologies.

Anyway, last week I went to two gigs. First one was a guy called Michael W. Smith. Second one was Kelly Joe Phelps. The comparison was quite incredible. WH Smiths was playing at Hammersmith Apollo (cap. – 3,500), KJP was at The Stables (cap. – 350). The WH Smiths gig I went to cos his bassist is a friend of mine, and very nice bloke. The gig itself was pretty excruciating – it’s always hugely frustrating to see great musicians stifled by a really really bland act. It was clear that the guys on stage were very fine players, but the overall vibe was blandola. Safe in the extreme, sort of Richard Clayderman meets half-assed Riverdance. The chat between songs was cornball par excellence – Forrest Gump with a guitar. Clearly I was in the minority here as the largely frhu audience were well up for Smith’s crass between song chat and attempts at brit-relavence (favourite moment – at the end of one song, he starts reciting the words to ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’, before waving a huge Union Jack and playing.. wait for it… ‘Pride’ by U2 – a band from Dublin. Which is in the Republic of Ireland. Oh shit, big mistake. Which WH was clearly oblivious to..)

Anyway, it was very nice to meet up with Anothony, a great bassist, and very nice guy. Next, I’ll just body swerve the gig, and spend more time chatting…

Onto Kelly Joe Phelps. so far from WH Smiths that it’s not true. The support act was Brian Houston, a fantastic dylan-esque singer/songwriter from Belfast that I’ve seen play lots recently. He’s brilliant. nuff said. KJP’s band was Scott Amendola on drums (last seen by me playing with Sex Mob in San Jose in July 2001) and Keith Lowe on upright bass. From the off, the gig was amazing – the communication between then was brilliant, the songs were really open to loads of improv, they were making eye contact, having a great time playing fresh, creative, free-wheelin’ music. It was fun, exciting, new, engaging, dangerous, moving wonderfulness. Everything that George Michael Dubya Smith wasn’t. I could watch that every night. Got the latest album, which is great. again. All three of his CDs that I’ve got are great. ‘Shiny Eyed Mister Zen’ is in my all time top 20. Get it.

What else? ah yes, recording session – hip-hop R ‘n’ B track with the guys from Commonwealth (I played on a remix of one of their singles last year) – there was already a synthbass part on the track, which was well played and written anyway, so a lot of it was about recreating that with a more live feel, then adding some fills and a slap line. It took a while to get the feel they were after, but it was worth it. I’m sure the final track will be very fine indeed. It’s a good song. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

The weekend was spent in Lincoln – Rick’s stag do – went out in Nottingham for a fun night out. Always nice to catch up with chums from Lincoln.

Oh, almost forgot – gig on Friday, with Lovesjones. A bit of a left-field one this, as I was covering for the keyboard player, and the stage was TINY so I could only use my processor and one bass for the whole set, but it went well. A few of the tunes were ones I’d not been sent, but playing keyboardy stuff is a piece of piss – it just involves waffling around in the key, you don’t have to be there on the downbeat, and you don’t even have to get the right root note! Bass is a far more satisfying role to play… Anyway, it was loads of fun, was was followed by a solo set, which also went well….

To this week… Monday was a teaching day, then the small person and I watched the 2nd Harry Potter film, which is fantastic, even better than the first (which I really enjoyed as well…) Tuesday Andrew arrived – not seen him for ages, great to catch up.

Gig with Theo Travis at the National Theatre went very well. Nice big crowd, we played very well except one bizarre moment when Edwina Curry walked past and we both fell about laughing… not easy to play flute whilst laughing. Anyway, good gig, boding v. well for future theo ‘n’ steve gigs.

After that, dropped stuff at home and headed off to The Klinker to see Rick Walker and Matthias Grob play. We got there half way through the set, which sounded really good. The Klinker’s a very strange club, but a great place for experimenting. V. much looking forward to tonight’s gig there with Rick Walker. Didn’t stay long at The Klinker as I was knackered.

Wedneday was a do-nothing much day (though I did buy a new Bonsai, so we’ll see how long I can keep this one alive for!)

and now today – gig tonight at the Klinker. See you there!

SoundtrackBruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; The Smiths, ‘Louder Than Bombs’; THe Bears, ‘Live’; Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘Humans’; Chagall Guevara, ‘Chagall Guevara’.


Well, after two or three days of fervent coding and editing, I’ve updated my site – the new look, I’m sure you’ll agree, is much easier on the eye than the old one, and more importantly is far easier for visually impaired people to access (changed all the graphic buttons to text links, so that voice software can pick them up…)

also added a couple of video clips from my gig in March at the Troubadour – Jonny Didj and Rosie did the videoing, and Jonny converted the film to .mov files for me, lovely man that he is…

have a look!

soundtrack – listening ot lots of Bill Frisell’s new album, ‘The Intercontinentals’ – very good, as always…

MY favourite Oscar…

Well, he had to win really didn’t he – biggest grossing documentary of all time, beating the film in second place by over twice as much as the box office… and the number two film? that was his as well…

Michael Moore picked up the statue for best Documentary picture – should have won best picture, but still… ;o)

Anyway, here’s his fantastic acceptance speech, from

Michael Moore: Whoa. On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I’d like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to

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