First night success!

We had two gigs yesterday – the first was a 20 minute set at the Fringe opening party. I did this last year where it was a bit of a pointless waste of time given that I was on straight after a Stones tribute band… not the best of Stevie warm-ups, I’m sure you’ll agree…

Still, this year we were told the band before us were a cappella as I mentioned…. were they shite! Four singers with massive fog-horn voices and a rhythm section doing vegas stylee cabaret stuff. Great.

Anyway, we played, a few people watched and really enjoyed it, so that’s good. More worthwhile than last year methinks.

The rest of the day was flyering and postering. Got back to the venue after the opening party gig, and friends started arrived – the oh so lovely G and J, our delicious hosts from last year, and Simon who organised the gigs with Duncan Senyatso last year at Greenbelt.

The balls up was that the gig before us wasn’t due to finish til 11! which is when we were due to start. Then they overran… fuggin’ jazz nonsense. So we got on as quick as we could, while they packed up slowly and chatted to friends. Started about 25-30 minutes late, but the audience (my biggest opening night crowd at the fest yet) stuck around and were very appreciative. We played pretty well – only a couple of mistakes that no-one but us would have noticed. So apart from the jazz-induced lateness, a very fine night.

No proper gig today – instead we’re doing the Midnight Carousel, a cabaret club, which’ll be great fun. :o)

my beautifully flawed design work…

Spent a bit of time this morning updating and redesigning pillowmountainrecords.co.uk – it looks lovely, until you change the font size in your browser away from the default. Then it goes all weird. Must find out how to do scaleable boxes in CSS… the Lovely Rev. G gave me some tips, so will check them out.

Anyway, I like the look of the site, and it’s up to date. Will finish it at some point, I’m sure. :o)

Had a rather nice lunch today with BJ Cole, catching up on news, planning for the gig on Thursday at the Half Moon, and then finally letting him hear his own fine work on ‘Scott Peck’ from the new album. What a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Sales update – the new CD is selling really well, thanks so much to all those of you who’ve already ordered it. The sooner you do, the greater my peace of mind over the cost of releasing it in the first place! :o) I hope y’all are enjoying ‘Lessons Learned From The Fairly Aged Felines’ (if you’ve had any trouble with the download process, let me know and we’ll sort something out…)

Car-gone

For the last few days, the car has been overheating randomly. On Friday, lots of freaky brown sludge came out of the water reservoir when I took the cap off. My first hunch – not knowing much more about cars than a four year old with some toy ones – was that some had at some point used Rad-Weld or something like that on it, and it had just bubbled up to the top. A call the the lovely G disproved that – he’d owned the car from new, so he should know (though he’s not a vicar anymore, so might be practicing telling really big lies now that he’s allowed to).

Anyway, this morning I took it to those trusty peoples at T&H Motors in Barnet (great mechanics and nice blokes), and they told me that the head gasket is leaking oil into the coolant. Apparently it’s a regular problem with Rovers (I remember my brother mentioning something similar when I first got the car). So, the upshot is that we’re without a car for a week, then without several hundred pounds to fix the car. 🙁

With means I’m going to have to rent a car for the RC gig on Thursday…

Small but perfectly formed.

Cambridge gig with Theo last night, at CB2. It’s a lovely venue – very rustic in that it’s just the cellar of the restaurant with a load of chairs and some lights in it, but it’s free, quiet and the food upstairs is marvellous (recommended for dinner even when there’s no gig on!).

I had a feeling before the gig that it was going to be really full – not sure why, but in any event it turned out to be bollocks. It was a pretty small crowd, but a lovely group of people – like a handpicked audience of really nice listening lovelies.

Because Theo and I recording the gigs on this tour for a possible live album, we panicked a bit when we realised we’d left the minidisk at home. No problem though, as a quick call to Dweez meant that the able and equipped Tony arrived with tiny laptop (like the Rev. G’s Psion, only a proper computer), soundcard and cables to record it straight off the desk.

The gig itself went really well – doing the improv stuff with Theo is up there with playing with Michael Manring in the ‘best fun two people can have on stage’ stakes. The range of sounds and ideas that he conjures up is remarkable. And the recording seems to have come out beautifully, on first listen. Will transfer it to computer, boost the level and see how clean it is later on, but it sounds like it could form a major chunk of the live CD!

And today, Cleveland is coming round to make lovely noises and play Looperlative games.

And finally, congrats to the Rev. G on his new job in computer-geek world rather than bible-geek world – much deserved, but certainly the church’s loss.

Juliet Turner and Pierce Pettis, Bush Hall, 17/2/06

As y’all know, I do make a habit of going to gigs by people I know. Well, I know lots of lovely talented marvellous people, and I like to support live music as much as I can anyway, so being able to combine supporting live music, and seeing lovely friends makes for a doubly marvellous night out.

Thus it was last night. ‘Twas also rather nice to do something special with the lovely Gareth and Jane, and we all toddled off to Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, a rather lovely venue that was clearly at one point a ball-room, and and is now a rather lovely gig venue for about a 2-300 peoples.

Pierce Pettis was already on when we got there, and sounding marvellous. I hadn’t seen Pierce since the Cheat and I went to stay with him in Alabama, Oct 2004, so it was lovely to see him again, and hear him. The couple of new songs he played were gorgeous – a Narnia one and one where he was joined by Juliet and Brian on BVs called ‘Vera Cruz’ – gorgeous stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad song by Pierce, even on the three CDRs of unreleased stuff that he gave the Cheat and I when we visited (BTW, I think it’s my turn with the CDs, The Cheat!)

The half time break was almost as much fun as the gig – catching up with many friends that I hadn’t seen for ages. It’s nice with gigs like this, that I can pretty much guarantee that I’m going to know about 20% of the audience.

Then Juliet Turner – most years, I see Juliet play more than just about any other artist that I’m not actually touring with. 4 or 5 times, I guess. And never ever get bored of her songs. She’s a fantastic songwriter, with a unique turn of phrase and way with rhythm. In Ireland she’s a big star, having gone platinum and won reader’s polls in Hot Press (the Irish answer to Q, NME and Mojo all rolled into one) – and she’ll get there over here too, for sure. Cos she’s fab. Apparently she’s got all self-concious about the amount she talks on stage, which is a shame, because her between-song banter was pretty stripped back tonight, and she’s a great story teller. As is Pierce, who was equally subdued. It might just have been one of those venues. I’ve played in those before now, they just don’t lend themselves to getting the kind of feedback from the audience that you need to sustain rambling stories.

Anyway, both Juliet and Pierce, and Juliet’s guitarist Brian Grace, were on top form, a fab night was had by all, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them all again!

As a side note, we got into a discussion last night about the lack of availability of Pierce’s early albums – the ‘big hair’ years. When Pierce was on Windham Hill, he had a hair cut that I also flirted with in the late 80s, the ‘mushroom cloud’, where all your photos look like holiday snaps taken on Bikini Atoll during the h-bomb tests. here’s the best one I could find of Pierce online –

anyone got any others? :o)

Lovely houseguests

We’ve got visitors for the weekend – Lovely Gareth and the equally lovely Jane are here for a break, a rest and many laughs, no doubt. It’s so lovely getting to see them again after the time we spent at their house during the edinburgh festival last year, and they get to see their old car which TSP and I adopted last autumn. A fun few days ahead…

2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

the reality TV myth…

The reality TV people do like to tell us that it’s all about finding talent, people with star quality, the ‘x-factor’ as the show-title goes. Which makes this quote particularly laughable –

“after last year’s winner, Steve Brookstein, sank without trace, X Factor bosses are confident they have found a real star this time around.” (from the daily record).

look, if they can’t find hugely talented people with a nation wide search, a TV budget and a captive audience of 10 million, the whole thing is a charade. I think I’ve said this before here, but the best that reality TV has thrown up so far is Will Young – an above average white-soul singer. Gareth Gates has vanished, Hearsay have vanished. Liberty X are hanging on, getting closer and closer to performing naked in the vain hope it’ll keep them an audience. If the shows had ANY validity at all they’d be finding the people who are genuinely the most mind-blowingly gifted musicians, singers and songwriters in the country. But they aren’t. They are unearthing malleable brainless pop-star wannabes that they can trap in usurious deals, make a load of money off then dispense with. No time is spent developing talent, no time is spent helping them to find a style, to practice their craft. It’s all about the ‘rags to riches’ story of someone who sings in the bath and then ends up on stage because of natural talent.

the problem with that is that that kind of ‘natural talent’ doesn’t exist. Some people have developed a musical sensibility sort of by accident, but to become a performer, to work with a band, to write songs, to communicate as a musician, you need to work hard. You need to do gigs, to spends weeks, months, years in rehearsal rooms honing your craft. That doesn’t happen in the bath.

I’ve worked with ‘naturally gifted people’ – they’re a pain in the arse. They sound great if the arrangement is exactly the same as the one they’ve been singing along with on the radio, because their skill is mimickry, not being a musician.

The reality TV shows aren’t set up to find musical depth, just one hit wonders and losers turned ‘boy dun good’ stories like Darius Dinesh and The Cheeky Girls. It’s shameful, and a blot on the music life of the UK.

All we need to remember is that it’s got nothing to do with us – we just carry on making the music that matters to us, avoid all the crappy competitions and flash-in-the-pan dancing for chicken BS. Music is worth more than that. Simon Cowell can shove it up his arse.

A Blogger's Favourite Blogs blog-meme

OK, here’s a meme for all y’all who blog out there –

If you were stuck on a desert island with an internet connection to only one blog, whose would it be?
Which is the blog that makes you laugh the most?
Which blog is most likely to make you cry?
Which blog is most likely to inspire you to part with cash for a CD/DVD?
Which blog is most likely to cause you to change your mind about an issue?
Which blog do you read first in the morning?
Of the blogs you read by people you don’t know, who would you most like to meet?

And here’s my answers –

1) – assuming that www.howtobuildboatsoutofsand.blogspot.com doesn’t exist, It’d probably be Liz’s – I’m sure if there was a decent curry house on the island, she’ll blog about it at some point, as well as somewhere to purchase stylish footwear should the opportunity arise.
2) – either Liz’s or Going Jesus.
3) – er, probably Sleepless In Sudan – which could also fit into the above category – equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.
4) – Most likely Sid’s blog.
5) – Hugo’s blog – either him or his comments. Lots of great brain food there. There are a couple of others that teach me a lot – George Monbiot and Jyoti but I don’t often change my mind on an issue because of them, just discover an issue I wasn’t previously aware of.
6) assuming all the blogs I read have got new posts listed, it’s normally Gareth’s, knowing that we’ll be chatting about whatever we’ve both blogged about within about 5 minutes of me switching my computer on. Though, it may actually be the Shark, as she lives in NYC and thus blogs later than anyone else I read, so is more likely to have posted after I went to bed… And this was in no way influenced by her offence at not being mentioned in the rest of the list. Not at all.
7) Either Sara, Hugo or Jyoti – all very interesting peoples.

Right, there you go – now go answer them on your own blogs!

Soundtrack – Duke Ellington, ‘The Classic Tracks Of The 40s’ (featuring the legendary Jimmy Blanton on bass).

Bye-bye, little blue car

Having bought Gareth and Jane’s car from them last week, it was incumbent on me to dispense with my old – and now rather knackered – Ford Fiesta.

It was not without some sadness that TSP and I took it down to a local scrap-yard to head off into a new life as bits for other cars. I wonder if it was carrying a donor card? I’m slightly disappointed to have had to scrap it so soon, given that it’s only done 110,000 miles, which compared to the 196,000 of my last Fiesta is still middle-aged. the bodywork was pretty rusty, and the water-system had developed a fate-sealing leak – it was said leak that lead to the car’s demise as, though fixable, it would’ve cost more than the car was worth to sort out. Not a good investment on a car where just about anything else could’ve gone wrong at any moment.

So after a week of middle classness, we’re back to being a one car family. The insurance has been moved over (with a fairly major hike in the monthly payments! Time to investigate alternatives to the Co-Op for car insurance, methinks…)

Farwell, little blue car – we’ve been through a lot together; speeding fines, driving in bus-lane fines, congestion-charge-flouting fines… hang on, you’ve been nothing but trouble! Good riddance, you rust-bound-dollop of scrap. The £15 I got for you at the scrappies is more than you’re worth!