The best thing on the internet… ever. no, really.

OK, here’s the deal – head to, download all 22 episodes thus far, and realise why the internet was invented. Solely to bring the ADBS to the world. It’s genius, pure genius.

Danny Baker and I go way back. Not that I’ve ever met him, just that I’ve been listening to him for decades – first on his weekend breakfast show on Radio 1, then a bit when he was at Virgin, and then again when he took over on breakfast at Radio London, following him when he switched to the afternoons. He is, without doubt, my favourite radio presenter ever, and the most consistently funny media figure I’ve ever come across. The podcast is like him replaying his greatest hits without the shackles of the BBC code of conduct. And it’s amazing. L and I had a 10 hour ADBS marathon on the way from Austin to Nashville and it made the journey fly by.

So go, download, listen and sit mouth agape at the genius that is Danny, Baylen, Amy and the oh-so-strange David Kuo.

Two types of church

It used to feel really strange coming to a country so full of seemingly Christian language and yet feeling so utterly alien to it all. It was on about my second or third visit to California that I noticed that I felt considerably more affinity with the honest searching and questioning of the hippies, new agers and agnostics that I met than I did with much of the overly-confident, divisive nonsense that I heard coming from a lot of the christians I met. More often that not, the reasons that people had for disregarding all-things-Jesus-esque were reasons that I wholeheartedly agreed with – the sanctimoniousness of so many of the Christians they’d met, the hideousness of how God’s name is invoked to back up all kinds of horseshit in US governmental circles (‘God told me to go to war‘ etc.), and the gross circus-like game show that passes for so many church services here, and all the televised acts of Christian worship I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness…

I mentioned in one of the tour blogs that Downtown Pres in Nashville is one of the very few churches I’ve been to in the US that I could go to again. I’m just trying to remember where the others were – I quite enjoyed the Presbyterian church I went to in Hollywood, and the Catholic church I visited in Orange county, but I’m not sure I’d go regularly to them if I lived there… But neither of them actually left me feeling alienated in the way that some of the others I’ve visited have done.

There seem to be two very different understandings of what church is at work here – the kind of church I want to go to is one that challenges me to love, to care for the poor, to seek justice, to hold the powerful accountable for how their actions affect the powerless. Church should be a place where I’m encouraged to live a life that’s different in as much as I’m focusing my time on what I can do for other people, rather than obsessing about expanding my piece of the pie. A place where I can be honest, where I can be open about my failings, but also not be able to escape the consequences of my actions, where prayer is about aligning myself with the kind of things that God is concerned about, rather than about some screwed-up spell-casting bullshit where I try and twist God’s arm into giving me a good parking space and sorting out my shit life when I’m not willing to make any changes myself. It should also be a place that encourages me NOT to surround myself all the time with people who believe the same things I do – that, my dear friends, is a cult, and having ‘unsaved’ friends just so you can ‘witness’ to them doesn’t count. That’s the kind of freaky double standard that we find so creepy in people who turn up at our front doors telling us how to live (full disclosure – I once did a ‘door to door’ thing when I was in my teens, with the church I was at – at the time I thought the discomfort I felt doing it was just my resisting God’s call. Now I understand I really should have listened to the voice that told me that a 17 year old turning up at your door trying to tell you ‘the Good News’ is just about the stupidest thing that can happen – it would have made much more sense to go round and ask for advice and listen to people’s stories, but anyway…)

Instead, so often the church is full of people who spend no time with people outside of their church circle, who are all implicity encouraged to dress the same (there are few things that annoy me more than the idea of Sunday best – not that I mind people wanting to dress up for church; each to their own – but the idea that you ‘should’ is pure bollocks), it’s a place where misogyny and homophobia are encouraged and entrenched, where nationalistic pride is fostered (I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of crap gets preached in so many US churches around Memorial day and Independence Day, in a ‘US = God’s chosen nation’ kind of way). Church should be a place that challenges our prejudices, our pride and our complacency in speaking out in favour of any oppressed group, whether that oppression is on gender, sexual orientation, race or class lines. Instead all those prejudices are confirmed

Austin to Ohio

So from Dallas to Austin – first night in Austin we spent at a Motel6, seriously low-rent place, but we weren’t actually in it for long… Went down town, found a coffee shop, and then drove out to find dinner, to the Kerbey St. Cafe, for some fine veggie food.

The next day was the first of the Austin gigs, at a place called Cafe Caffeine – a cute lil’ coffee shop, but it was an afternoon show, and not a place where we had any draw, so just a handful of people there. Still, it’s always nice to play, and Brady Muckelroy who organised the shows for us in Austin, played a lovely set, and it was nice to get to hang out with him.

Then the adventure started… just before we played I got a call from Tay – she and the utterly lovely Vicki Genfan were in the Austin area too, and Vic was guesting with Patty Larkin that night at a local studio concert. So I call the venue to try and get tickets, but no-one answers. i leave a message, but we decide to head out there anyway.

The lovely Brady shows us the way, and we get to the gorgeous studio where the gig is being hosted, but it’s sold out. Tay and Vicki come out for a chat, and it becomes clear that a few people who’d reserved tickets might not show, so we stick around and get in just before the show starts! Hurrah! Patty is, as expected, amazing – I’ve got 5 or 6 of her albums, and this is the first time I’ve seen her live. She’s great. Vicki sits in on the last number ( a crazy prog-acoustic thing in all kinds of time signatures), and much love is shared.

We then head back to Austin to the Bananie love-palace – I hadn’t seen Bananie for about 3 years, so ’twas a delight all round. The lovely Schmelen proves to be just as lovely as expected, and the menagerie is full of gorgeous mutant dogs ‘n’ cats. It’s 12.30 but we’s all peckish, so a trip to Magnolia is in order – late night fun ‘n’ games in the Santa Cruz of the South.

Following day, we sleep late, then have breakfast together, before heading out into the sticks to see Vicki and Tay again for an hour or so, before driving to San Marcos for the second of the Austin-area gigs. It’s another coffee shop gig, in Brady’s home town, and he’s clearly got a cool thing going on there, as the coffee shop is full of his friends, fans and family. He plays another beautiful set, followed by Lisa and I. The driving of the last few days, late nights and not enough sleep is starting to catch up and I don’t play particularly well, but it’s a fun gig nonetheless, and there’s a particularly enjoyable duet between Brady and I. L is as fab as always.

The next morning, we’re up at 5, load the car and head out for the longest single day’s driving of my life – 850-something miles from Austin to Nashville. (as a comparison Land’s End to John O’ Groats is 830-something miles).

Back at Nashville and it’s all round the the utterly lovely Trevor and Jenna’s house, where there’s a party in full swing, featuring the equally lovely Marky over from NI (that’s Northern Ireland, not New Internationalist).

L and I are utterly baked after the journey but find some energy to chat to lots of delightful friends old, new and previously-cyber-only, before crashing out early.

Sunday am, off to Downtown Pres. – one of the few churches I’ve been to in the US that I’d consider going to more than once. Followed by lunch back at the Dark’s, with more socialising and fun with the lovelies of Nashville. Eventually we leave from T and J’s at about 4pm, heading out on yes another mammoth drive (515 miles this time) back to L’s brother’s place in Northern Ohio.

And here we are, helping L’s family to move house, hanging out, and trying to regain the energy that was zapped by the tour thus far… we have got two more gigs, one in St Louis Missouri and one in Wisner Nebraska – see the gig dates page for more info.

Thanks SO much to everyone who’s been out to the gigs so far – it’s been really lovely to meet so many great people. Particular thanks to everyone who helped organise the shows – Ralston, Steve in Toledo, Ric Hordinski, Jay and |Crystal, Kevin Ford, Darren and Cindy, Sarah ‘n’ Dave ‘n’ TOGH, Trip and Sarun, Brian, Brady… good peeps one and all.

Go to my Flickr page for some photos from the tour…

…did you just call me Pardner???

We’re here in Texas. Plano, just outside Dallas to be precise. It seems like a rather lovely place – still strip-mall-based, like so many american cities, but definitely a better class of strip mall than most (and a huge Whole Foods market to be explored…)

We’s here for a house concert tonight – the house is gorgeous, and the concert is going to be marvellous.

Now where did I blog from last? Ah, yes, Nashville – well the Nashville house concert at Sarah and David’s was a whole lot of fun – we set up on their front porch, blankets were laid out in the yard, and we played for lots of lovely friends, surrounded by fairy lights, candles and the sounds of crickets between songs. A most enjoyable evening was had by all, and the duo stuff between the lovely L and I just gets better and better. Her ability to ‘learn’ a loop after one listen is uncanny, and to stack harmonies on something that seems pretty random… She also bought a gorgeous new guitar – a nylon-strung takamine that sounds incredible. Really relaly lovely, and got for a fantastic bargain at Nashville Used Music, or whatever that big shop out on Nolansville road is called.

So favourite things about Nashville? the people, Fido’s, Baja Burrito, the gig, TOGH being there, The Belcourt (Sheriff ElRon and I went to see Rock The Bells – a film about delusional people putting on the last ever gig by all the members of the Wu Tang Clan (though even with ODB being dead, I’m sure they could just get Shane McGowan to fill in, and people would just think Dirty was looking a little pasty…)… Nashville is a town full of good things (and rubbish, it is the home of CCM too, and therefor plays host to much of the most mediocre nonsense ever produced in the name of popular music, as well as the occasional gem…) and certainly somewhere both L and I could live if pushed…

From there we embarked on what i think is the longest drive of my life (yup, I just checked, this was the previous winner) – 700 and something miles from Nashville to Lake Charles Louisiana. Which was, to be honest, a pretty easy drive. Freeways here are much much clearer in general than motorways in the UK, (if you’re not in or around NYC, LA, Chicago or San Francisco), so we never seem to hit much traffic, and just drive from one place to another at 70 mph all the way. In our extensive research, we’ve discovered that IHOP and Denny’s do the best options for vegetarians on the highways of the US. TGI Fridays is shit, Waffle House isn’t actually food, and the burger places are all horrible, with indie places being either non-existent, or really risky in their quality… so we’re happy for IHOP and Denny’s.

The trip to Louisiana was for a house concert at Trip Wamsley’s house – Trip, as y’all know, is one of my most favouritest solo bassists in the world, and fun to hang out with too… it was nice to witness him in his natural habitat, for sure.

The gig was really lovely – Trip played first, and played really well, as always, then L and I got to do our thing, and had much fun, sold a load of CDs, and all was good.

On Sunday, i put down a load of bass tracks for a track on Trip’s new album, and realised just what a HUGE improvement putting this ART tube preamp in the FX loop on my Lexicon has made. It sounded incredible. I can’t wait to hear what Trip does with it. The evening was spent watching Ross Noble DVDs, and hanging out. Much fun at the Trip-house with Trip, Mrs Trip and lil’ Bubba Trip.

And so on into Texas, heading from Chez Trip to Plano TX, from where I’m writing this, trying to decide whether to walk or drive to Whole Foods – how far was it again??

Oh, and the title? We stopped in a auto-mart or some such place, to get directions, and the dude behind the counter actually called me ‘Pardner’ (as in Partner with a silly accent, for all you Englishes) – indeed. He sadly didn’t say ‘you ain’t from around here are you boy?’, but there’s still time for that…

Ahhh, nashville…

So we’s here in Nashville, and it’s fab. Last night we went over to see TAFKASB at Sarah and David’s, saw the lovely Anne too, good times were had. Then today we had breftist with S, D, SB and Jenna, then off to Target to get SB a new phone, and who do we run into by the most marvellous and lovely Julie Lee! Lunch is then had, and now we’re in Portland Brew emailing peoples about our lovely house concert on Thursday, in Sarah and David’s front garden… it’s going to be fab. email me for the address if you’re in Nashville and want to come.

coming up – two days of chillin’, drinking lots of coffee, seeing loads of lovely friends and getting ready for a fun fun gig.

Also booked – house concert in Dallas TX on the 12th June – email for address for that one too!

Tour blog Pt II – Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia…

Right, continuing the story of the tour – from Grand Rapids we drove to Akron to swap the crappy tiny car (which served us v. well for the Northern bit of the tour) for a lovely rental car with A/C – yay!! marvellous. Renting the car was a bit of an ordeal – the poor dear at the airport rental place in Akron had never seen a British driving license, so it took a while…

From there we drove to Cincinnati (this was all on the same day as the drive from Grand Rapids… lotsa miles…) and arrived at Ric Hordinski’s place at about 11ish… Ric is a fabulous guitarist, gigs as ‘Monk’, used to be in Over The Rhine, produces lots of marvellous records for other people, and owns a gorgeous studio in an old church, called The Monastery, which is where we stayed… Great to see Ric, fo’ sho’.

the next day was spent putting some spacey stuff down on a track for Ric’s new album (the rest of the tracks I heard sound amazing), then heading down to Rohs Street Cafe where the gig was. It’s a gorgeous, spacious coffee-shop venue, with a nice PA, and really lovely staff. The whole vibe of the place is fair trade and mellow, with stacked book-cases all over the place and lovely drinks.

The gig was a lot of fun – small crowd (the story of our lives), but lots of lovely friends there, and by now L and I are playing really well…

The next morning we head off on another stoopid long drive – this time to Richmond Virginia. The drives across this part of the States are stunning. West Virginia is so covered in trees that the hills look like giant broccoli plants, all green and bobbly. Finding edibles on the road is tricky for a pair of veggies who don’t like filling their faces with too many chemicals, but we do OK.

We arrive in Richmond pretty late, at the lovely and marvellous Greta’s place in a really cool part of town.

Sleeps, followed by a fantastic veggie breakfast, and a walk round an old cemetery, about half full of civil war graves – this is an area with a REALLY chequered history, as JamesTown, the port of the James River, was one of the main off-loading points for the slave ships back in the day… Anyway, the trip round the cemetery with Greta and her amazing dad was a lovely walk on a scorching hot day and an education.

Back to the house to do washing, then head off to Richmond Music Centre, in search of preamps, reverb units and keyboard stands – #s 1 and 3 on that list are procured – a lil’ ART tube preamp which sounds great, and a cheap-ass keyboard stand. All good nothing bad.

The gig is a house concert hosted by the marvellous and lovely Jay and Crystal – their four-car garage makes for a fabulous lil’ concert venue, and thanks to the ever-wonderful, resourceful and street-team-alicious Justin, and Roy, the PA sounds really great too. The gig was fab, the first half being a mixture of tunes and bass-clinic Q and A, the second half more straight song oriented. Lots of CDs solo, new friends made, all good once again. Big big thanks to Jay and Crystal, Greta, Justin and Roy…

The next morning we leave the house at 7am to head for West Virginia – a 530 mile drive (London to Inverness, basically), more gorgeousness. L does most of the driving today, and the only downer is a dodgy breakfast in some crappy lil’ diner…

The Morgantown/Grafton area is L’s hometown, so much visiting of relatives and friends ensues, before heading to the venue – Gallery 62 West – a lovely little community arts gallery. Dinner is procured at W*lM*rt (I know, I know) and we are promptly both poisoned by it, rendering us both v. v. ill in the run-up to the show…

Somehow we manage to balance the trips to the ‘bathroom’, and both play without any sudden mid-song disappearances – me first, then L, the lots of duo fun. Another fab gig in front of a really really friendly audience – full marks to Josh Trout for driving the furthest on this one (Josh is a v. old cyber-chum – the story of this tour has been meeting people I previously only knew in the virtual world..) big ole WV thanks to Kevin Ford for making this one happen.

An even earlier start is planned for the longest of the drives so far – Grafton to Decatur (on the outskirts of Atlanta) – alarm goes of at 5 and we hear… flapping… flapping???? Light goes on and there’s an effing BAT in the room!!! Flying around, landing on the curtain then flying around again. Much squealing ensues, before bat escapes, followed closely by us escaping to a bat-free car… much fun, and definitely a help in waking up!

A very easy drive down gets us into Atlanta mid afternoon, we find Darren and Cindy’s place for the house concert, and set up. this show also features Darren Michaels and Trip Wamsley, who both play great sets. We play in the middle (after a tussle with Trip over who gets to play second – we win thanks to having been awake for 16 hours already at this point…) – our set goes great, L sings like an angel, much CD sellage takes place, new friends made, all good and, indeed, nothing bad. click here to see loads of photos from the gig… Darren and Cindy definitely know how to put on a stylish house concert. hurrah for D & C!

which brings us to today – finally a day of rest. On a sunday no less. up v. late, much internetage, followed by an some Ross Noble on DVD, followed by an afternoon in Decatur. and no driving. Yay!

So on to Nashville… hurrah! We’ll be there at the same time as the TAFKASJ, which is something to muchly look forward to, as is giggling at the lovely Rachel’s fabulously confused Scottish/Rural Tennessee accent!

more soon… what have I missed??

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

Bass Day UK

Well, yesterday was a landmark for me. The first time I’ve ever been to a bass day-style event that I haven’t been playing at! Needed to find out what kind of low-end hell we musos were inflicting on the great unwashed, after all.

So, long drive up to Manchester for Bass Day UK. LOOOONG drive. but Sunday morning’s an easy time for traffic. It was at the Life Cafe in the city, same place as last year (when I did play at it). Potentially a nice venue, but last year they ran out of food half way through the day, and this year they just didn’t even bother having any to start with! Ah well, Subway did a roaring trade.

These bass day things are all about people for me – occasionally there’s some great music, but a lot of what happens is people who don’t normally play solo doing their thing over a backing track, or some fairly rudimentary looping. Which is fine, and works well for bass-day-type crowds. It’s just not something that I’d choose to go out of the house to listen to.

So musically, the highlights for me were the delightful and wonderful Yolanda Charles and her MamaYo band, and Stefan Redtenbacher’s Funkestra. Stef I’ve known for years, and he’s a fantastic player, genuinely great person, friend and makes me laugh more than almost anyone. His band are amazing, so worth the drive to Manchester just for him. Yolanda’s band featured to wonderful and lovely Miles Bould on drums, who I’ve been listening to do for the best part of 15 years, and a couple of great guitar players. Both bands were funky, raw, danceable, fierce, fun and life-affirming. Just great.

I also enjoyed hearing Jonas Hellborg play – he was also looping in some interesting ways, changing the loop every few bars, and using a reverse delay that sounded lovely. Good stuff.

Always nice to catch up with friends too – Janek Gwizdala was playing, and did an exquisite solo version of a Mike Stern ballad. So nice to catch up with him. Same for Adam Nitti – an amazing bass player from Nashville, who sounded the best I’ve ever heard him. Great playing, great sound.

it’s all about the people – new friends like Yolanda and Miles and Lucy Shaw, and old friends like Stef and Steph, Mike Sturgis, Marco, Janek, the guys from, the organisers Stevie, Jono and Pris, and loads of other great people. All in all a v. fine day. The great music was a bonus, the not-so-great music wasn’t a distraction (when did you last see 8 or 10 acts on one day and love them all? :o) – all in, it’s great to have a UK Bass Day that seems sustainably big, is booking interesting music, and getting supported by companies and the industry. All good, nothing bad.

Got back home at gone 3.30, and had to be up at 9 to teach, so am suffering now. But was well worth it.

four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)

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