Looong day!

Saturday morning I was up at 5.40am. Yup, I got a healthy four hours sleep before being wrenched from it by Billy Bragg’s ‘Greetings To The New Brunette’ (that’s my alarm sound on my phone – has been for ages, along with ‘Love Changes Everything By Climie Fisher as my ringtone… just in case it ever comes up in a really weird pub-quiz that you’re in… :o)

The reason for my early rise was that I had to be in Bath to teach 3 bass classes at Bath City Church. I’m still not certain how they got my name (will have to ask!), but I was emailed about this a few weeks ago, and booked up for the day. It’s always interesting going back into a big ‘modern’ church setting – I spent so many years in that environment when I was in Lincoln and before, but it feels culturally pretty alien now… There’s a whole other language that gets spoken in those circles, and it takes me a while to get my translating head back on and work out what people are trying to say. But it was a good day – the organisers had also booked Martin Neil, drummer/percussionist extraordinaire to teach, and having not met up for years, it was great for Martin and I to catch up a little… and for me to find that he lives about 6 miles from my mum’s house!

The 3 classes were fun too – they were progressive, in that i had the same group for all three, so one followed on from the next, and as usual, I started out by unpacking the learning process, what practice is for, and thanks to a couple of a really insightful questions, we talked a lot about the nature of goal orientated learning and external vs internal goals. All within the context of playing in a church music group.

The people who came along were a lovely bunch and hopefully took home some inspiration and ideas to get them playing.

Then the day’s weirdness started. Heading back to the car park to pick up my car at just before 4, I find a 15 minute queue just for the machines to pay! Huh? Ah, there’s been a rugby match that’s just finished. I get car, load up, and then sit in traffic for an hour trying to get out of Bath. Bear in mind, I’m supposed to be in Oxford by 5ish. By 5, I’m nearly at the M4 after leaving Bath… grrrr. Mad dash ensues, lovely Jez picks up Lo. and Catster, we all meet at lovely jez’ lovely house, drop off music gear, eat, and head back into Oxford to see Ross Noble – now I loves me some Ross Noble, and he was on top form, rambling and waffling and talking total bollocks to a highly appreciative audience.

Back to Jez’ to pick up music stuff, drive home, get in at 1am. Hence me blogging now instead of being at St Luvvies. Then it’s off to lunch with Rollergirl and Photomonkey.

not really one for the U2 obsessives…

Here’s a clip from Ross Noble’s Randomist DVD – without doubt two of the funniest hours of comedy I’ve ever seen, and the bit in this clip where he starts going on about Bono made me cry the first time I heard it. Mike Radcliffe, you’re really not going to like this… ;o)

…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…

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??

more search terms

OK, I know I’ve just done one of these, and really it ought to be a month-end thing, but the search terms that have come up for the blog in the last two days are just mad –

1 2 8.70% armstrong
2 2 8.70% crepe crusader
3 2 8.70% strange things
4 1 4.35% bassworld
5 1 4.35% birthdays e-mails
6 1 4.35% do nothing til you hear from me
7 1 4.35% doug lunn
8 1 4.35% francis dunnery the brook southampton set list
9 1 4.35% jeff buckley french government
10 1 4.35% lindisfarne uk holy island
11 1 4.35% michael manring soliloquy 12
12 1 4.35% one quiet night preamp
13 1 4.35% raphaËl nadal photos
14 1 4.35% really cool myspace
15 1 4.35% ross noble interviews
16 1 4.35% steve the racist
17 1 4.35% things to do in december london
18 1 4.35% top banana with timmy mallett
19 1 4.35% video killed the radio star – a protest song
20 1 4.35% work is more fun than fun

Do I really need to highlight any of them in particular that are freaky, dear bloglings?? Good lord, there are some crazy mutants out there in webworld.

Top comedy gig…

TSP and I are determined to make up for the fact that we missed all the great comedy stuff at the Edinburgh Festival that we really wanted to see.

So last night we went to The Banana Cabaret at The Bedford in Balham. We knew it was a nice venue from going to the new Kashmir Klub there fairly regularly.

The headliners last night were Milton Jones and Gina Yashere – obviously a v. popular choice judging by the ‘standing room only’ situation by the time we arrived. It was also extremely smokey and we were reconsidering our decision… until the first act came on, John Fothergill – a regular on the London comedy club scene (apparently – I’ve never been to a comedy club before, only comedy gigs in theatres), and a very funny man.

Then came some poor bloke who pretty much died on his arse – given that I’ve only gone to Comedy in theatres before now, the standard of live comedy I’ve seen has been very high – people like Eddie Izzard, Lee Evans, Ross Noble, Rhona Cameron, Barry Cryer etc… hang on, I have been to a comedy club before – Club Senseless in Crouch End, but their booking policy is so choosy there’s never going to be any rubbish there either (I’ve seen Rich Hall and Rob Deering there – both top pros).. so, that doesn’t really count. Where was I? Ah yes, poor bloke dying on stage – it’s not that he was dreadful, he just wasn’t very funny. Which just goes to confirm my response to anyone who ever says ‘you should do stand-up’ after one of my gigs. No I shouldn’t. If I’m not funny, but vaguely friendly and endearing on my gigs, I can still win. People will like me, enjoy the music, and smile a bit, and that’s a success. If you’re not very funny but just come across as a nice bloke at a comedy gig, YOU’RE RUBBISH! there’s no halfway measure. No-one can say ‘shut up and player yer guitar’. They just get impatient for the next act.

So I’ll stick with making people laugh between songs – that way I still have my proper skill to fall back on, something I’ve spent decades honing, rather than a half-arsed haphazard approach to comedy, which just sort of happened and is really helpful for getting reviews on the Edinburgh Fringe, but isn’t really what I do for a living…

Anyway, the headliners were, as expected, fantastic. Very very funny. I’ve seen Milton Jones live loads of times – at Greenbelt, and a few other comedy gigs around, but he never fails to make me fall about laughing. An exceedingly skillful comedian. Gina is someone that TSP and I have enjoyed on TV for years, and is equally if not more funny on stage. Great observational stuff, very endearing personality and some top absurd stories.

All in all a great night out, despite having spent £12 to stand up. Next Time we’ll get there earlier.

Soundtrack – Erin McKeown, ‘Grand’.

General Update

…please salute the general…

Anyway, what’s been going on? On the 16th (the day of my last blog post) was my gig at the Troubadour with Andy Thornton. Andy’s very very good indeed, singer/songwriter bloke, and all-round top man. That was lots of fun except for one thing – one of my MPX-G2s decided to stop working before the show – the Lithium battery that keeps the sounds in the memory had run out. Badly Drawn Boyo dropped into Sound Control to pick up a MIDI cable so I could copy all my sounds across from the other machine, but there’s some weird machine ID thing that I couldn’t work out on the gig, so I had to do the gig with one G2.. bugger.

Further investigation reveals that the battery is SOLDERED to the circuit board inside – WHAT ON EARTH IS THE REASONING BEHIND THAT??? That makes no sense at all – why on earth not spend the extra 2p that it would cost to fit a little housing for it (like you get on Computer motherboards) so that it was changable. No, instead, they solder it there. So much for pro-level gear. What balls. Grrrrrr. For that matter, why on earth isn’t it rechargeable anyway??? what’s with having batteries running out in stuff that spends most of its life plugged in???

Alright, calm down, deep breath – I know you’re just as irate as I am about all this…

Day after Troubadour gig was the Greenbelt workers party – that’s not like the Polish Workers Party, not political, it was an actual party – lots of drink and nibbles etc. Except that I got lost on my way there and missed the nibbles. ah well. Much fun was had, and the curry afterwards made of for the lack of nibbles.

Day after that (saturday) was Paul and Angus’ birthday party – Paul was thirty-something, Angus was one. So clearly what they wanted to get out of a party was very similar… :o) Angus being my God-son, I provided the music for the evening, by playing an extended duo improv set with Harry the Cellist – I’d not played properly with Harry for a long long time, so that was a real treat.

On Monday Kerry Getz arrived – Kerry’s a fab singer/songwriter from California that I met at the Kashmir Klub a couple of years ago, and who has helped arrange gigs for me in the US before now. She’s over here for a few days doing some gigs, so she came to stay chez Steve/Small Person. Tuesday was sightseeing with Kerry, followed by a trip to see Ross Noble… again! The Small Person and I went the previous week to see him, and despite tickets being £25, it was worth the return visit – yes, he’s that good. Possibly the funniest 2.5 hours of my life.

Yesterday, BJ Cole came round for more jamming/recording/musical exploration – BJ, as has been said here many times, is an incredible musician, and a very nice bloke indeed, so lunch and noodling with Mr Cole is a very fine way to spend a day. We got some top stuff recorded, so hopefully I’ll stick some up in the Street Team Stash before too long…

And last night The Small Person and I went over to Rickmansworth to see Jenny Eclair’s one woman show, ‘The Andy Warhol Syndrome’ At The WatersMeet Theatre. We saw this at Edinburgh, and it was very very good, so went to see it again. Was very nice to see Jenny again, after meeting up a couple of times at Edinburgh. I’ll not say too much about the trip to the pub after, other than to say that a copy of a certain ex-mrs Peter Powell’s ill-fated autobiography, which was previously on the shelf of said pub, is no longer there, and may or may not be on the shelf of a considerably more successful writer… A book that flops that badly is a rare prize indeed… ;o)

Onto the weekend, and tomorrow I’m up to Edinburgh for the day to record the music from the Greenbelt Festival communion service – the music that we played live was all just bass and drums, but I’m expecting they’ll be adding a little more for the recording… I could be wrong though.

soundtrack – Kerry Getz, ‘Little Victories’; Pierce Pettis, ‘Great Big World’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Both Sides Now’; Todd Johnson/Kristen Korb, ‘Get Happy’.

Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation…

a new series of Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation started last night on Radio 4. Jeremy has for quite a few years been quietly carving a space for himself as on of Britian’s most insightful political comedians. Not as abrasive as Mark Thomas or as as prone to over simplistic arguments as Michael Moore, his observations on British life are both absurd and challenging, revealing and intelligent. Yet another comedy masterwork from Radio 4 – check out some of the other shows in the ‘listen again’ archive while you’re there – Just A Minute, the 99p Challenge, Boothby Graffoe and Ross Nobel Goes Global are just a few of the marvellous shows on offer. All well worth half an hour of anyone’s time.

Talking of Ross Noble, we’re off to see his standup show tonight. V. much looking forward to that.

soundtrack – Franck Vigroux, ‘Looking For Lilas’; Drum Inc (a danish drummer’s fascinating solo album – good stuff), and all the stuff on AudioScrobbler…

Ross Noble Goes Global

I think I’ve posted about this before, but I’m listening to it again, so thought I’d post another link to Ross Noble Goes Global – one of britian’s finest comedians touring round the world doing gigs… very funny indeed…

Soundtrack Ross Noble right now, before that, Radio London.

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