Back so soon?

So I’m back in Edinburgh, and it hardly feels like I’ve been away! Back with the lovely Rev G and Jane. Bizarrely, having stayed here for over two weeks in august, tonight was the first time I’ve actually had a meal here with G and J!! the madness of the festival meant that TSP and I were eating out each evening, and though we took the lovely G and J out to Henderson’s, we didn’t get to have a meal in with them at all. How nuts is that?

Anyway, I’m back to buy the Rev G’s car off him – after me slightly facetiously blogging about my car needs, I get an MSN message from everyone’s favourite sweary clergyman saying that they are getting rid of their cars and getting a new one, and did I want the old one? Much haggling ensued, with TSP and I wanting to pay more than G and J wanted to receive for the car (ah, trying to out-nice eachother is such a fun problem to have), but we settled on a figure, and I’m here to pick it up.

i’m also getting to meet up with Duncan and Rise from the Greenbelt gig while i’m here, to catch up and hopefully talk about some gig opportunities – all being well, I’ll have Rise playing in London for John Peel Day on October the 13th (you heard it here first, peoples!) I’ll confirm that on Thursday!

For those of you who just can't get enough of background hiss…

The lovely and wonderful Rev. G of the parish of St Tourettes, Edinburgh blogged about the PlusDeck – a cassette adaptor for your PC.

Now, apart from the general uselessness of creating high res MP3s that sound like dial-up optimised real audio files from the mid 90s, the page is particularly hilarious given that right at the top, where they are selling the unit’s most remarkable features, it says,

“PlusDeck 2 offers you high quality sound using cutting-edge audio technology and a Full Logic Mechanism Deck. The deck plays and records with Auto Reverse. You can easily play or record on sides A and B of the tape without ejecting it.

Now, I don’t know about you, but ‘auto reverse’ on a cassette deck is a bit of a late 80s innovation – hardly the stuff of computer-geekery. Surely that’s a given? In these days of iPods that will play 30,000 songs on continuous random play, having a 90 minute cassette, that sounds like it was recorded under a duvet, turn over in the middle is hardly world beating?!?

If you pay a bit extra you might even get the one with the buttons that make it go faster in both directions so you can find the songs you want just that little bit quicker than listening to the whole thing.

(having said all that, it would be a cool gadget to have, given that I have got a few things on tape that I’ll never be able to replace on CD… shhh, don’t tell Gareth)

The rancid end of the music industry

OK, this is really really screwed up. Garth Brooks has signed an exclusive distribution deal for all of his work… WITH WALMART!!

How scummy is that? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to miss being able to get his records, I’ve never bought one, or listened to one for that matter (though he did once record a Pierce Pettis song – I think I’ll stick with listening to Pierce’s amazing CDs, and avoid the be-hatted loser), but the idea of someone being so screwed up in their view of the world that they would want their CDs to only be stocked by a supermarket chain… and Walmart at that. It beggars belief quite what brand of decaying faecal matter his brain has been replaced with, but I’m sure Walmart stock it and sell it cheaper than anyone else.

The world of supermarkets is getting progressively more horrible – I went to the Tescos in Corstorphine last week, while staying with the lovely Gareth and Jane, and was amazed to find ‘self-checkout’ facilities – you just scan your own stuff and leave, with one person watching over 6 or 8 tills.

Now, I wouldn’t relish a job on a checkout, that’s for sure, but the net jobloss whenever a supermarket opens in a town that previously didn’t have one is well over 200. If you then take away what few shitty jobs there were in the supermarket, you destroy the local trade infrastructure and don’t even replace it with a poor imitation of itself. You replace it with a void. For some people, the option to work an overnight shift in their local supermarket is their only realistic chance of employment due to family commitments or whatever.

So Walmart are becoming exclusive stockists of shit country CDs and carry on destroying communities across the US. Meanwhile, they’ve bought Asda. Our local supermarket is an Asda, which we studiously avoid. Now we’re back from Edinburgh, it’s time to sign up to an organic box scheme and leave behind supermarket veggies for good.

But for now, Bollocks to Garth Brooks and his new distribution deal – I hope it fails miserably for all concerned.

Audience reviews from Edinburgh

A few more reports coming in from the Edinburgh show –

this one is on and includes some photos of the night with Guy Pratt, this one is from the Rev G’s blog – he came to four gigs, so was able to compare them a bit, and here are the reviews on If you were there, please feel free to post reviews either at or preferably in the reviews section on my forum. It’d be lovely to hear what you thought of the show.

Today was spent shopping with Wes for a bass – I love taking people to The Gallery for the first time, as the magicalness of it strikes you the minute you walk through the door – great basses everywhere, amps piled to the ceiling and lovely helpful staff. We managed to pick up a real bargain – an OLP 5 string for £190.

And now I’m listening to the soon-to-be-released Bruce Cockburn album, ‘Speechless’ – it’s a collection of his instrumentals, and is as expected, perfect. Beautiful tunes beautifully played. What’s not to love?

I think that's called 'going out on a high'

Words I wasn’t expecting to hear at the Fringe ‘hello can I get a ticket for ‘Bass: The Final Frontier?’ ‘no sorry, sir, he’s just sold out’.

Oh yes, a sell out. A rather confusing sellout, given that I’d got lots of comps and given them to friends, not expecting the room to be full at all, so just before I went on stage there were people who had bought tickets who didn’t have a seat… all v. mixed up. My fault. But hey, what a problem to have!

The show went superbly, and loads of lovely people were in tonight – the poetry legend that is Jude Simpson sat in on the show and did a cracking version of Femur (to the tune of Fever), Ronnie Golden was there (his show with Barry Cryer, Little Richard III has just started at the fest, go and see it!), Duncan, Simon and Rise – who I spent a fantastic 5 hours rehearsing with today for Duncan’s gig at Greenbelt – were there, Jack Cryer, the guys from Rap Canterbury Tales and of course the potty-mouthed Rev G. ‘Twas the perfect way to end a run at the fest, great crowd, I was on form, played well, bantered well, and sold lots of CDs and T-shirts. If you were there, thanks so much.

The CVenues crew in C Central were great to work with – lovely peoples who put up with a lot of crap.

And now it’s finished, and I’m off back to London, to spend the next week and a half teaching and learning the songs for Duncan’s gig at Greenbelt – the rehearsal was amazing, and the best bass lesson I’ve had in years, getting to grips with the African rhythmic stuff that Duncan and Rise were throwing at us. Being on stage with two guitarists that good will be a dream come true. They are both outstanding (Rise Kagona was the guitarist in the Bhundu Boys, one of the first African bands I was properly aware of, thanks to Peelie and Andy Kershaw).

So tomorrow we’re off home, via Berwick to see the family again. It’s been so much fun staying with Gareth and Jane – they are the perfect Edinburgh hosts, and it’s just a shame we’ve seen so little of Jane, as she goes to work before we get up, and is in bed before we arrive back in the middle of the night.

So if you’re still in Edinburgh please go and see the shows I recommended tonight at the show – , , , , , .

And I’ll see you here again next year!

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Fringe Sunday…

Fringe Sunday began looking like it was going to be a total disaster – it was tipping it down with rain til gone 12, and given that they usually have almost a quarter of a million people out during the day to see all the Fringe festival-related stuff going on at (a secret location known only as) The Meadows, rain puts a bit of a downer on the day.

Fortunately it had stopped by 1pm, and by 2 it was drying up nicely.

I was booked to play in the Cabaret tent (how the hell did I morph from serious musician to cabaret performer??? Edinburgh seems to do this to you…), but had had a major brain freeze the night before and forgotten to bring my Echoplex pedal with me out of the box backstage, so was left with two Echoplexes and a bass, and no way to start the loops. A brain-wave just before I went on lead to me asking the wonderful Amy Kohn to come and be my footpedal. Not that I was going to tread on her or anything – we just planned it so that I’d count her in and out of hitting the record button on the Echoplex while I played ‘Amo Amatis Amare’. And as she was there on stage, it would seem mad not to get her to play some lovely accordion over the top. Which she did, beautifully.

So that went well. I had a couple of minutes left at the end of the set, so opted (rather unwisely, really) to playing ‘What A Wonderful World’ – I played it OK, but it is a struggle on the fretless, and doing it without decent monitoring, and more importantly with NO REVERB (!!!!), it didn’t sound great from where I was. Still, it was well received.

What I did realise was that being lumbered with armfulls of bass-techie equipment at Fringe Sunday is an f-ing liability, and I’d actually have had much better exposure if I’d not bothered playing and had just spent the day flyering near the music venues. As it was, it went OK, but me and one EDP with no reverb or processing is hardly a fair representation of the show. Thankfully the duet with Amy made it worth doing. She was fab.

So after that I took the Echoplex travel-rack home, picked up TSP and headed back into town. The best thing about weekends in Edinburgh isn’t, as most people will tell you, the larger crowds. Oh no, it’s the FREE PARKING!! We were able to park on the North Bridge, less than 50 yards from the front of my venue. Very nice.

Then it was back to the usual flyering mode, which I’ve been perfecting over the week. Flyering your own show definitely gives you an edge of the disinterested students trying to make some money to pay off their beer deficit for the year, and it does get people to stop and chat if you introduce the fact that it’s you on the flyer in an amusing way. By yesterday my patter for flyering had become (roughly) ‘One Man Music Show, four star review in Three Weeks (pause while they take the flyer) He’s a legend! He’s a genius! He’s MEEEEE!’ – cue much hilarity and a conversation with person being flyered about what the hell the show is… seems to be working well, as I had another audience of around 40 last night (didn’t get the official figure, but that’s the report from the venue manager).

The show itself went well – there were a lot of late-comers, walking in after the first song, so I hope the caught the explaination, or they’ll be going home telling their friends to give the Karaoke bass-monkey a miss, he just mimes to a mini-disc! Still, sold a bunch of CDs and tshirts, so all is good.

The Rev G (where did I get the abreviation Rvd from? I just made that up, and it’s not like I don’t know enough vicars so I have an excuse) was back in the house last night and performed very well in the role as ‘vicar with tourettes’ in the MMFSOG story – it’s odd, I just decided on the first night to explain the tune (not something I’ve ever bothered with at gigs before) and it’s become a bit of a favourite in the show). And the lovely Amy also came to show and was involved in the audience participation number, making a very odd sound which worked surprisingly well! That’s another spur of the moment addition to the set that has worked remarkably well. Might have to expand it to two tunes next year if I can come up with another angle that works…

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Oops, a not so great review…

Ah well, just found this review from The Scotsman – it’s fairly gentle, though she (I’m assuming Jan is a she, though could be a Scandinavian bloke, I guess) only gave me two stars. Nice that she described my technical abilities as ‘top class’, and my chat as ‘engaging’, I guess, even if the music didn’t make much of an impression on her… Well, at least I’ve broken my Edinburgh press duck. Would have been nicer to get a good one first time out, but we can’t control these things, and reviewers bring with them a whole pile of notions and preconceptions about how things should be (I know, I used to be a reviewer!) Maybe I should just write ‘TOP CLASS!!’ on a piece of paper and stick it across my posters… this seems to be the way with Edinburgh promo – a review might say ‘despite an excellent premise, this play was dire, one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen’. And the poster then says ‘Excellent!’ – the Scotsman.

So no, my self-esteem is worth more than that.

Maybe the Three Weeks one will eventually come out…

For now, I’d wholeheartedly recommend ignoring the press, and reading the audience reviews instead.

Oh, and this one by the Rvd G (which, given that I’m sleeping in his attic, might be biased in terms of feeling particularly warm towards me, though I did make his kitchen look like the aftermath from a Greek wedding the other morning at 2am, so this would have been the perfect opportunity to get my back for covering his floor with broken glass… So on second thoughts, view Gareth’s words as understated and mute by comparison with him having to be carried from the venue in an ambulance, such was the degree to which I blew him away with my wikkid skillz!)

The weekend starts here

The Fringe has an interesting curve to it, in that midweek gigs tend on the whole to be smaller, especially for late night gigs, and shows tend to build an audience as the run goes on thanks to flyering, word of mouth and press (still no press that I know of for my show.)

So yesterday being Friday, I had fairly high hopes of a good turn out, and Guy Pratt was going to be on the show, so that was something else to tell people – members of Pink Floyd guesting on shows in tiny venues is generally a pretty cool coup, I guess.

Didn’t get into town til almost three, so concentrated on getting lots of flyering done til meeting TSP for munchies in Hendersons – Edinburgh’s coolest fair trade veggie restaurant.

After flyering the queue for Antonio Forcione’s show (I’m getting quite good at the queue-flyering business – just camp it up, smile a lot, and people seem happy to take a flyer and ask about the show – it’s a captive audience!), I met up with Julie McKee, Andy Williamson and some other friends for a mint tea back at Henderson’s, then headed back to The Carlton to meet an old college pal, Brian, who had come into Edinburgh to see the show. Brian was a fantastic bassist back when we were at college, a proper jazz-monster, and a thoroughly nice bloke, so it was great to catch up. The friendship/social side of the Edinburgh Fringe is so much fun, though not that dissimilar to how I live my life anyway, just more concentrated.

About two hours before the show, I rang Guy, who said he was ill and might not make it, but would if I had a bass he could borrow. No problem, says I.

Get to the show starting, still no sign of Guy. I eventually phone him from the stage in the middle of the gig, and he’s on his way. Cool audience in tonight, and my biggest yet by quite some margin (50), a few brought in by the promise of some two-bass-action, so it was a relief when Guy turned up.

Sadly, the duet section of the gig wasn’t great. Instead of playing one of my tunes, as I’d planned and suggested, Guy kicked into a funky riff thing in A, which went on and on, moved into E, and became pretty much what I’ve tried to avoid for most of my solo career – two bassists playing over one chord funk for what seems like ages. It’s a real shame, as I had hoped that we’d have played something more musical together – Guy’s a fantastic player, and has played on a few of my all-time favourite tracks, but tonight, it really didn’t work. Eventually it wound down, and he put the bass down and left (?).

It went on so long that I had to drop two of my tunes (the two with the funniest stories), and the show as a whole felt like something was missing, though CD sales were the best of the run so far, and the audience reaction was still very positive. It also meant that I couldn’t involve the Rvd G in the show, which I’d planned to do on the MMFSOG story – will just have to get him to come back in full ecclesiastical garb on another night (I wonder if a vicar could be struck off for dressing as a bishop and swearing onstage? I guess we’ll find out… OK, maybe not dressed as a bishop, that’s just wishful thinking…)

I’m not too bothered by the way it went – we tried it, it didn’t work, no problem. And in someways, it just solidified my own feelings of rightness about the solo stuff. It was really odd to be playing the kind of bass-duel stuff that I hear all the time at bassfest gigs and am always trying to steer clear of – I dispensed with the notion of ‘bass music’ a long time ago, in favour of just seeing my basses as instruments with no set function and with a total disregard for the tradition of the instrument, in order to come up with a way of getting the music inside my head out without it being trapped in some kind of expectation about what bass is. After tonight, it’s clear how hard that is to do with other players. I’m spoilt by how a lot of the duet situations I’ve been in have worked so easily, particularly the duets with Michael Manring, where the two bassist format works so ridiculously well that it feels like it should be fine with anyone.

Ah well. Fortunately the rest of my guests are just contributing their bit to songs I’m already doing – tonight is Julie McKee, a FANTASTIC jazz singer with her own beautifully original show here at the Fringe. She’s going to come and sing People Get Ready with me, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

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Fine digs in Edinburgh

There are a few things that seem to be consistent across most people’s Edfest experience – sore feet from flyering, paranoia about a ‘nil points’ on the ticket sales front, fretting about bad reviews, drinking too much and staying in overpriced horrible accomodation.

Well, sore feet I have – though not too bad, and I do feel myself getting fitter as the days go by, and I’ve lots weight…)

Audience figures have thus far been well up on last year, and I’m reasonably positive about the rest of the run.

Not a single press person has booked a ticket for the show as yet, though I did ring a couple of papers this morning who seemed at least slightly interested in sending someone along. but it does mean I’m only worried about audience reviews, and the one I’ve had so far has been just fine.

Drinking too much? Well, I’m driving in each day, and playing at 11.15, so no drinking for me at all. My Edfest alcohol consumption for 2005 thus far has been one glass of wine in the Jolly Judge on my first day here.

And as for a place to stay – TSP and I are staying with Gareth and Jane, a finer place to lay one’s head is not to be had in all of the Scottish lowlands. It’s warm, spacious, and Gareth’s a geeky pedant who prints off corrections to my blog and brings them up to me. And they say vicar’s are meant to be rushed off their feet. He also has a slightly unnerving fetish for 80s metal, and a their bath is so deep and long that it’s more of a canal than a bath. I’m thinking of installing a lock halfway along it so I can reach the taps in a boat. There’s a tow-path along the side of it, and I stubbed my toes on an old shopping trolley this morning.

It’s a great place to be – and I have to bite my tongue when other peoples are telling their tales of woe regarding paying £400 a week for a hovel.

Edinburgh Photos…

The March –

in The Meadows –

next to the Grayfriars Bobbie pub (a regular flyering zone during the Fringe) –

looking back from The Royal Mile –

the white band snakes its way down to Prince’s Street –

Didn’t manage to meet up with many people I knew that were there – some some St Luvvie’s, but didn’t see Andrew and Lynsey or Jyoti who were there too. However, I did find Gareth and Jane –

Now, these t-shirts were confusing –

…I thought Franciscans took a vow of poverty??? Were there also Franciscans against Chastity and Obedience? Nuns For Promiscuity? Bishops for Swearing? Trappists for a good ole’ chat? Very odd…

This MPH banner on Edinburgh Castle was great to see – it was about a hundred feet long –

and finally, my favourite street in Edinburgh, from whence came one of my Lincoln nicknames, ‘The Lady’ –

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