photos from last night's house concert in Anstruther

steve lawson playing a house concert

Once again, I haven’t really got time to blog extensively, thanks to my lappy now being on, but being wedged in a drawer to keep it on (I think there’s a dry joint or loose connection that requires it to be suspended from one corner in order to work!!)

So, instead, for your viewing pleasure, here are some photos from last night’s most enjoyable house concert at lovely G and J’s. A select gathering of very lovely people, and a fine time was had by all.

The two days of masterclasses in Perth and Salford were a lot of fun too – lots of talk about the future of the industry, about creativity, finding your voice, marketing, myspace, downloading, looping, practising… some good questions, and a lovely response at the end of each session (not to mention a few bassists walking out cos It was bassy enough for them – one choice comment ‘he’s more like a singer’… which I’m sure was meant as an insult, somehow, but I’m definitely taking that as a compliment!)

If you were there, please drop by the forum or the myspace page and say hi (I think I accidentally deleted one or two myspace comments, thanks to the broken lappy, so if I deleted your very nice comment, please feel free to repost it!)

more on the future of music v. soon – I’ve been getting some thoughts down via voice notes on my phone whilst driving around, so need to get time, space and a working computer in order to write those up… some good stuff coming up! :o)

More on Microformats

So after posting yesterday about adding the calendar to iCal, Outlook, Sunbird and Google Calendar, I discover that it didn’t work at all in Outlook. Some geek-advice from The Lovely Gareth and Drew helped me discover that Outlook requires a couple more hCalendar tags than the other applications. So those have been dutifully added, and the calendar subscription link now works for all of the above. And I’ve also added Google Maps links to each of the gigs on the Gig listings page.

THEN, clearly not having done enough geeking out, I decided to add an hCard format address card to the Contact page for my site – the mark-up was pretty simple, and by accident I found a link on Technorati that will turn it into an importable vCard that you can then save into your address book.

I’m still working out how best to format the address to prevent spammers – the javascript tweak I usually use is also too clever for the vCard reader to be able to make sense of it as well… at the moment I’ve just done the old ‘replace the symbols with words’ thing – [AT] and [DOT] – you can make sense of that, right?

What’s next on the website tweak list? hmmmm…

Geekery update…

Well, the blog is all now viewable – hurrah! And ALMOST all my website is validated – I’ve learnt loads about code-monkey-ness in the last three days, with lots of help from sarda, Lovely G, Matt and Drew – Drew was particularly interesting as the validator told me my code was nonsense, and sent me over to an article about geek things, that Drew had written, and I know Drew through Greenbelt-y things – he’s another of the lovely Greenbelt Geeks.

So, where I’m at now is that it all ‘works’, and I’ve given up trying to get everything to validate, because I was having to completely rewrite java files and bits of code to try and get round the code generated by the widget-creators at, Jaiku. I’ve managed to edit all the player widgets – the one on the front page, and the ones on the MP3s page – here’s the code for the one on the front page, should you use plug-ins and want to get round the ’embed’ stuff that doesn’t validate –

<object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="http://panther1." width="540" height="123"&rt;
<param name="movie" value="
defaultEmbedPlayer.swf"&rt;<param name="FlashVars"
&resourceType=10&restTitle=Best of Steve Lawson&albumArt
Pillow+Mountain"&rt;<param name="wmode" value="transparent"&rt;

the key to it is the data= bit, taken from the article by Drew. there you go, geeks!

You've come a long way baby…

Where were we? Are yes, I was car-less in Barnet… well, I rang the garage who were sorting my car out for its MOT – T & H Motors in Barnet (020 8449 2672) – to ask if they knew of a place I could rent a car for tonight and tomorrow (given that I was going to lose teaching revenue and then not be able to go and see the lovely gramps tomorrow), and the response was that they had a car they’d lend me. Very nice indeed ‘it looks terrible but it’s very reliable’ i was told. And indeed, it doesn’t look like much.

But the big shock was driving it – you forget what cars used to be like, in the days before power steering, power assisted breaks, automatic choke and all the general comfort of any car made in the last 10-15 years. All cars used to be like this! It reminds me just how fortunate I am to have the Rover, even if it is about to cost me £££ to get it through it’s MOT, it’s a lovely car, comfortable, nice to drive, and all thanks to the delightful and wonderful Lovely G and Lovely J. Thanks!

Anyway, cars have come a long way in a relatively short space of time, so if you’re not driving around in a late 70s/early 80s tin can, say a small prayer of thanks to the Gods of Motoring (or Clarkson if you like) that car makers discovered comfort.

So tomorrow, my lil’ mum and I will be off to Sussex in said tin can, and then to my gig tomorrow night in south london… hang on, where the hell is my gig tomorrow night? I think i’d better find out…

Oh, the point of this – of course, it’s the wonder of being lent a car by T & H Motors – fabulous people, great mechanics (the specialise in Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar etc…) and nice enough to lend a car to a long term customer… I’ve been taking my cars there for almost a decade, and they’ve had a few grand out of me in business by now (given that I had the big end go on one car, the head gasket on another and numerous other disasters along the way… :o) But now my loyalty to them is paying off in more ways than just great service, as I get lent the car. If you’re in North London and need a mechanic, call them on the number at the top, they’re the best.


OK, first up, I’m in Geneva, so I have an excuse. However, for those of you in the UK, why the hell weren’t you voting for Tim Vine last night on Comic Relief does Fame Academy?????? How could he be evicted??? It’s a tragedy, fo’ sho’… Equally bizarre was Sundance Head being evicted on American Idol, but that’s another story.

secondly, how old does it make you feel that The Joshua Tree came out 20 years ago this week??

and thirdly, thanks to the lovely Rev. Gareth, I give you the weirdest thing on the entire internet.

Place names…

There’s a really strange element to traveling across Northern Ireland, in that almost every place name is familiar as the site of a bombing, or a murder or some kind of act of sectarian violence or political significance from the last 30 years. It’s like visiting southern california and driving past signs for Mulholland Drive and Sunset Blvd, only instead of feeling like you’re on a film set, you feel like you’re a bystander on a news broadcast. It’s a strange thing with place names – like Columbine or Waco, Darfur or Wounded Knee – they cease to be the name of a town, and become shorthand for disaster, for tragedy, for crazy behaviour.

It’s one of the interesting things about watching foreign news – or spending a lot of time in another country – you find a whole new set of significant place names. In the UK we’ve got Dunblane – site of a school shooting, Aberfan – site of a coal-slag-heap that collapsed on a school in the late 60s and wiped out an entire generation of kids there, Toxteth – area of Bristol where riots took place in the 70s. Brixton – more riots; Broadwater Farm – yet more riots; Lockerbie – the place where the plane blown up by Libyan terrorists crashed in Scotland… the list goes on. You drive past the road signs and they stick moreso than the rest of the small towns and council estates that fly past on long journeys…

Northern Ireland is littered with them. The sad thing is that it gets to the point where the feeling is a non-specific one – any place name you recognise must be the site of a tragedy, when in reality it could be that you heard it mentioned in a song, or had a pen-friend that lived there in your teens…

it’s been really lovely to spend a few days with lovely people in Belfast – the delightful Dr Higgins is a fantastic tour-guide to the psyche of the place (he hosted the amazing panel discussion at Greenbelt with the representatives from both sides that was so controversial they couldn’t release the tape of it). He’s a wise wise man, and I realise after just a couple of days how little I know about the history of what has gone on over there in the last half a century. I mean, I know the stuff that gets reported. I’ve read articles and interviews, watched the documentaries. But I’ve not even scratched the surface…

Belfast is one of those places that is now forever going to be a benevolent place in my mind – you know, those towns where the only people you know from there are lovely, so you subconsciously think that everyone there is delightful and friendly and wonderful? Nashville’s like that too. And Edinburgh is all about creative people being wacky on the royal mile… except it isn’t really, it’s just how you file things according to your experience. So Belfast is a place of community and parties and good food and great conversation and lovely lovely people and Neil Diamond, Bond Themes, hopes for the New Year, lots of hugs, a place to realise just how pathetic my knowledge of film is and how much catching up I’ve got to do, a place to walk along the beach in the freezing cold talking about child development and irving Goffman, Kierkagaard and the essence of self.

So at least one place has changed ‘Belfast’ is no longer just the site of orange marches and bomb scares. I’ll smile every time it’s mentioned on the news now.

Oh, and Gareth, if you haven’t written 2000 words today, you’ve no business reading blogs – get back to work. :o) x

The travel-pain of the ecomonkey

So, as y’all know, I avoided a short-haul flight by taking the train/boat/train route to Belfast. Train, fine. Boat, hideous – the roughest crossing I’ve ever had, bar none. A veritable storm which had me retching into a sickbag, and falling asleep on the floor, unable to crawl back up onto my chair. The food was also appalling.

Still, I’m here now, with the lovely and wonderful Gareth, looking forward to a great New Year. Just don’t ask me to go on any boat-rides over the weekend…

On the bits of the journey where I wasn’t asleep or puking, I watched ‘I Know I’m Not Alone‘ again – the Michael Franti film, and read a big chunk of ‘As Used On The Famous Nelson Mandela‘ by Mark Thomas – an INCREDIBLE book. Vital viewing, vital reading. Just don’t try it on an Irish ferry in a storm.

more greenbelt thoughts

some top 3s (I don’t think I did anything 5 times at Greenbelt except brush my teeth…)

Top 3 music highlights

  • Spearhead
  • Nizlopi
  • Lleuwen Steffan, Huw Warren and Owen Evans

Top 3 non-music things from the program

  • Jude Simpson’s poetry/comedy gig
  • The Northern Ireland discussion
  • Paul Powell’s Liquid Lunch, with Jude Simpson, Gareth Higgins and Cole Moreton.

Top 3 eateries

  • the new Burrito van (definitely a favourite)
  • Nuts
  • the Burrito place again (didn’t go anywhere else really)

Top 3 things I wished I’d seen

  • Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Alistair McIntosh’s seminars
  • Bill Drummond’s interview
    (fortunately loads of the seminars and talks can be bought here)

Top 3 people I vaguely knew before but got to chat to lots more

  • Gareth Higgins
  • Paul Chambers
  • Joe Fisher

(very nice to make your further acquaintance, gents)

All four of the me-playing moments went really well, so can’t pick favourites there, and everyone I got to play with over the weekend – Julie McKee, Steve Stockman, Simon Jones, Mark..? (fab poet whose surname I didn’t catch, sadly), Huw Warren, Andrea Hazell, Harry Napier, Juliet Turner… were all fab. The poetry and bass stuff (Stocki, Simon Jones (‘is unwell’) and Mark) was a whole lot of abstract fun, and the Recycle gig continued the tradition of Recycle gigs resulting in some of the loveliest music I can imagine. All good, nothing bad.

Greenbelt really is my favourite weekend of the year, and selling lots of CDs and T-shirts is kind of a lovely icing on the cake.

It speaks volumes that I took no photos at all over the weekend – was far too busy having fun to faff with a camera. But there are squillions of great photos on the Greenbelt website.

If you weren’t there, put the last weekend in August in your diary for next year now. It’s magic.

The finest weekend of the year is over

For another year.

Another magic Greenbelt has come to a close, and we’re home. We drove back late last night, which was pretty hair-raising given how tired we were, but I’ve got a gig today at the National Theatre Foyer with Theo so couldn’t really have stayed over and partied til 4am like so many others…

The last day of GB was a fab one – starting with an organic vegan breakfast, and progressing via a panel discussion on Norther Ireland featuring Assembly members from the DUP and Sinn Fein along with two peace activists, one of whom had had his wife murdered by the IRA. The session was incredible, and what was said was so remarkable, that I doubt they’ll release the tape of the session… A big step forward. Maximum kudos to the most wonderful Gareth Higgins| for chairing the session so well.

After that, I was back into compere mode, to introduce Lleuwen Steffan, Huw Warren and Owen Evans – definitely one of my musical highlights of the festival (that’s their gig, not my introduction, which was good, but hardly a highlight). Amazing music, great performance, very well received.

After that it was full-on Recycle gig logistics – collecting keyboards for Huw to play, getting my gear up to the venue, missing lots of things I really wanted to see… Anyway, got all the gear up to the venue, and set up. Lovely audience comes in along with my co-conspirators.

The gig started with a me-solo set – (Grace and Gratitude, Behind Every Word, MMFSOG, Scott Peck, FRHU, Deep Deep Down and Deeper Still, for those keeping notes), then Julie joined me for some New Standard-ing – Video Killed The Radio Star, I Don’t Wanna Know and Running Up That Hill. Then we went into One Step from the album, and about three quarters of the way through, I gave Huw a nod and he joined in on the baby grand piano that was in the corner of the room, which worked an absolute treat.

After that, he came up to the stage on Keys and laptop, and he Julie and I did a couple of improv things, with them doing a duo version of ‘The Water Is Wide’ in the middle that was exquisite.

All change after that, and Andrea Hazell joined in on voice for our version of Dido’s Lament, which was gorgeous as always.

The wonderful Juliet Turner then got her first taste of Recycling with Harry Napier and I. Most lovely.

And finally, Huw and I played a gentle duet to send the lovely crowd off into the night. All in all, a fab Recycle night. Don’t miss Sept 20th at Darbucka!

Then it was all systems go to get all the stuff packed up before Spearhead started on mainstage. We missed the very beginning of the set, but it must be said that standing in a field at Greenbelt with TSP listening to Spearhead is as close to utter bliss as I can imagine. Really really great way to end a stunning weekend of great music, me-gigs, new friends, old friends, brain food, organic food, camping, chatting, hugging and kissing, laughing, sharing etc. etc. etc. All good nothing bad. Everything was wonderful in this best of all possible worlds.

See you there next year?

Thursday at The Fringe.

Thursday began in fine style – we were booked to play at ‘Mervyn Stutter’s Pick Of the Fringe’ – a fantastic show that highlights the best of what’s on across the city. Julie had emailed them, and their lovely booking lady Trudy had come to the show on Tuesday and booked us.

That went superbly well – great reception from the audience, lots of promises that people would come along. Yay!

After that, it was flyering time. Lots of it. I think I gave out more flyers than on any day since Saturday. A busy time, for sure.

In the morning, I’d dropped into a junk shop on Dalry Road, where I’d seen a Mama Cass album for £2 in the window, and given that Amy Lame’s show that TSP and I saw last weekend was called ‘Amy Lame’s Mama Cass Family Singers’, I bought it and dropped it off to Amy after her show, who was delighted.

My dodgy knee was feeling pretty bad by about 7 o’clock so I went and bought a ticket for Sue Perkins stand up show – I’m a HUGE fan of Sue, whether solo or in the double act with Mel; their Saturday morning show on Radio London rivals Danny Baker for the greatest radio I’ve ever heard. She’s clearly supremely intelligent and a great observer of the world, and the show was indeed both very funny and acutely observed. She finished on a really poignant note about her grandmother – great way to end a comedy show. Definitely worth going to see.

I nearly missed the gig, as I thought she was on at the Pleasance Dome but was on at the Pleasance Courtyard – not an easy journey to make in 6 minutes on a buggered knee. Ow.

After that, it was back to flyering for a while, then down to the venue for soundcheck and gig.

Another lovely night – similar numbers to last night, so pretty good, but really need a couple of big nights tonight and tomorrow to make some sensible money on this trip.

The Lot is SUCH a great venue – for those of you in and around Edinburgh, you really ought to get on their mailing list, as they book some really top class jazz stuff (I’ve mentioned before that Theo has played there with his quartet) – it’s really lovely, and the food in the restaurant downstairs is top notch. I’m really hoping to come back to the same place next year. Great space, great people, and it’s run as a charity funding venture. What could be better?

After our show, Julie and I were back doing the Midnight Carousel in C Central, compered by Dusty Limits – again, we went down a storm, got an encore, and gave out lots of flyers to many promises that people will come along… Edinburgh promises – not worth the flyers they’re printed on, but we can but hope. :o)

So Today is a usual Edinburgh day – shitloads of flyering and postering during the day, dinner with the lovely J (lovely G is away, sadly, and TSP back in London, so it’s just lovely J and I meeting for clandestine munchies in Henderson’s). Then going to see a beautiful show in The Speigeltent – a Belgian voice and accordian duo, that I’ve completely forgotten the name of, but who are just fabulous, and played at Mervyn Stutter too. Then the show.

Two night’s left – come and see us!

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