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?

more on hunting

So tonight’s episode of holiday showdown had a gun toting military family from Lincolnshire going on a holiday-swap with a bisexual anarchist ouple of video artists.

The military monkeys took the anarchists to Texas on a holiday of shooting guns, trying to shoot boar and roping cattle.

then the bi people took the Lincolnshire rednecks to San Francisco for a week of hanging out with trannies, filming the streets of SF for a VJ gig.

What was startling was seeing a bloke, who thought nothing of whooping his teenage son into a testosterone fueled frenzy over a huge gun, describe two men kissing as disgusting and something that no decent person would let their children see… but aiming a Magnum at a human-shaped target (or boar, or deer) was fine.

We’re back to the topic of moral equivalence. OK, so it was intentionally car-crash TV, but the juxtaposition of gun-toting misogyny with anarchist sexual liberalism was a really interesting one, given that bigotry, intolerance and downright nastiness of the Lincolnshire smiling militia.

Shooting good, lovin’ bad. Very odd equation, that one.

As Michael Franti sang – ‘it’s not about who you love, it’s all about do you love’.

As it happens, the wife of trigger happy dan (with his remarkably gay moustache, that made him v. popular in SF!) actually took to the VJ gig really well, but she also couldn’t deal with transgendered dancers in a club. That I’d have had a problem with as well – not because they were transgendered, but just from a human rights angle, I’m not into exploitation at all, and I don’t think transgendered people should be objectified in that way any more than I think women should be. There were a few things in the SF scenes that I’d have issues with, but none of it because it was ‘sick’ or because they were ‘woofters’, more that that level of sexual-obsession tends to stem from either hurt, poor self image or narcissism, none of which need celebrating, just understanding.

But of the two holidays, I’d take a week with the lovely freaky drag-queens of San Fran over a week with the gun totin’, wife subjugatin’ rednecks any day… All the freaky people make the beauty of the world, to quote the lovely Franti again…

Me in Bassics magazine

I posted a thing about this on my NewsFeed page a while ago, but I finally got a copy of Bassics Magazine through today, with the interview with me in it. It’s the biggest interview I’ve done in print (there are a couple of big ones on the net with various e-mags), and looks great. The questions were pretty good so it’s well worth a read if you should see a copy in your local newsagent/borders/barnes and noble/wherever you buy mags.

The cover star of the issue is Michael Manring, so it’s a fine solo bass filled issue. There’s also a track of mine on the cover CD, as well as some video footage, which I’m looking forward to seeing again – the Cheat and I filmed it at St Luke’s at the start of the year. We wanted to do it at St Luke’s cos we could do it in front of the big purple curtains in the main church, but the day we booked it they were installing a new PA, so we had to film it in the back hall, which means the backdrop is a yellow-painted brick wall. It looks like I’m filming it in prison! Hopefully my wikkid skillz will obscure any reservations people might have about learning from a convicted felon serving time at her majesty’s pleasure.

I’ve been a busy boy this morning, putting together the press release for the John Peel Day gig with Riseclick here for the PDF. That’s now been mailed to all the relevant media peoples so now we wait for some coverage and a huge crowd!

Soundtrack – Michael Franti and Spearhead, ‘Everyone Deserves Music’.

Edinburgh Fringe Programme now online!!

Got back from a weekend in Berwick On Tweed (more on that later) to find the Edinburgh Fringe programme had been posted out. And it’s also now online for your perusal!!

Obviously, the first place to go is to the entry for my show, where you’ll want to buy tickets for multiple nights for you and your friends.

Then, from blog-world, there’s Richard Herring’s show, from bass-world, there’s guy pratt’s show, from jazz-world, there’s Julie McKee’s show, from RFH Foyer gigs-world, there’s The Big Buzzard Boogie Band show, from last year’s showbiz pals-world, there’s Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden’s show, from guitar-world, there’s Antonio Forcione’s show and from unmissable gig-world, there’s Spearhead.

So, spread the word, tell your friends and get them to come to the show, and I’ll have flyers for you to download everso soon!

Soundtrack – Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’.

Web links…

Links have obviously been the main traffic driving thing for the web ever since it began. You go to a page, the info there contains a link to somewhere else, and so it goes on.

I often get emails from musicians wanting to ‘swap links’ – they’ll put a link to my site on their if I’ll add one to theirs on my site.

Now, while I appreciate the thought process behind this, that’s never been what a links page has been about for me. A links page should tell you a lot about the person whose site it is. It’s one of the first places I head when I’m checking out a website – what are they into, who do they want me to check out, what’s important to them? Same with blogs – you can tell a lot about a blogger by the blogs they read.

So my links page is all about what I listen to, what I’m into, what I think is important, musicians and things I want to support, places to go to get more info about the stuff that’s already on the site. My blog links on this page are to blogs I read, not blogs I want people to think I read cos it would be cool, or links I’ve swapped with other bloggers.

There are very few people on my links page that link back to me – a few of the bassists do, some of the music equipment companies etc. They are they cos I dig what they do, not because I can get some more traffic out of them.

If you want to link to me, please do. If you’d like me to link to you, send a link over, I’ll check out the site, and if it’s something that becomes part of my webosphere, it’ll go up there, but not if you make linking to you a condition of linking to me.

So, head over to my links page, check out some of the musicians, or the political stuff, or just the fun stuff. It’s all things I like a lot.

Or just have a read of the links to other blogs on this page.

SoundtrackSeth Horan, ‘Conduit’ (that’s another link to follow to check out a fabulous singing solo bassist); Spearhead, ‘Stay Human’; David Wilcox, ‘Into The Mystery’.

weekend roundup

Lots of teaching yesterday, which was fun. Followed by lots of Edinburgh festival stuff – I was overdue on getting my press releases sent to the CVenues people, so needed to get those written – needed full press release, then 10 word, 20 word, 40 word, 50 word and 100 word versions of the blurb on the show! All needed for different types of advertising/promo/brochure etc. I got onto a bit of a roll and put them together pretty quickly. It remains to be seen what the press dept at CVenues make it them all…

Also sent them some photos for press useage – thanks to having had the photoshoot with the very wonderful Steve Brown, I have loads of very high quality pics to choose from. Edinburgh will, come August, be peppered with loads of pictures of me looking rather foxy (and slightly portly, worryingly…!)

Today was church this morning – fine preach for Pentecost Sunday drawing the parallel between the fragmentation of people through language at the tower of Babel and the reuniting of them through the disciples speaking in all the languages of those present at Pentecost – very nice link, not one I’d thought of before.

After church, it was off to celebrate the Bangla New Year in Spittalfields – was rather novel, and quite enjoyable, experience to be in a 2% minority as a white person at the celebrations. Lots of vibrant colours and happy people.

From there we (we being Steve photo-dude and his lovely wife Lorna, along with Paul and Rachel, Jazzy and Angus – Angus being my godson) headed over to Spittalfields market for a mezze lunch in that place that has the canope outside just along from Spitz, and then a stroll round the market.

Then home, knackered after lots of walking and carrying Jazzy (she’s 6, fortunately, so I wasn’t actually giving a full grown adult a piggy-back around all day!), but contented after a fun day.

SoundtrackSpearhead, ‘Stay Human’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Both Sides Now’; Jonas Hellborg, ‘Octave Of The Holy Innocents’; Thelonius Monk, ‘Greatest Hits’.

I'm on a charity compilation CD…

Back when the Tsunami happened in December, everyone was running around wondering what they could do to help. We all gave money to the various appeals, so much so that the DEC said it didn’t need any more money after just a few months. It was an astounding response, to be sure. One of the efforts that I was contacted about almost immediately was a compilation CD being assembled by people at BassTechUK – a website/webforum based in Manchester. the guy who runs the site had the idea of putting together a CD of tracks from bassists all over the place, and selling it to raise money for the appeal.

So the charity was chosen – SOS Children – a charity that works with orphans all over the world – and lots of bassists were approached.

The resulting list is pretty impressive – Janek Gwizdala, Jimmy Haslip, the Poogie Bell Band, Steve Jenkins, Mo Foster, Peter Muller, Stevie Williams, Lorenzo Feliciati, David Dyson, Laurence Cottle, Dean Brown and me – we all donated tracks, which are now available on the ‘As One’ CD.

It’s a nice idea, and one I’m glad to be a part of – as a musician, it doesn’t really do much good to turn up in a disaster area and play tunes while there are people who need feeding (after the event, it can be good to have musicians turn up – if you ever get a chance to hear Micheal Franti tell his story of his trip to Iraq, it’s amazing). But we can do what we do – sell music to make money – and then donate that money to the appeal. Every penny of this is going to the charity (to the point where we’ve all agreed to donate our MCPS royalties on the manufacturing when they arrive).

So go on, click on the CD cover and head over to BassTechUK and buy a copy…

Soundtrack – mainly bits of new stuff that I’ve been recording, trying out some new tunes to premier at the upcoming gigs.

Festive Fives Pt 3

OK, fave live gigs of 2004 (no particular order etc.)

The Pixies – Brixton Academy
Billy Bragg – The Barbican
John Scofield – QEH
Show Of Hands – The Stables (and The Bloomsbury, The Borderline, Greenbelt…)
Julie Lee – The Station Inn (and Tower Records, Greenbelt, The Basement…)

and…

Juliet Turner – The Borderline
Spearhead – Jazz Cafe
Gary Husband – Turner Sims
Carleen Anderson – Jazz Cafe
Psychodots – Cincinatti
Sam Philips – The Belcourt, Nashville

Soundtrack – Beck, ‘Sea Change’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’, David Torn, ‘Best Laid Plans’.

Too long in the wasteland…

…out of blog-dom. So let’s catch up.

When did I blog last? er, 25th, so let’s start from there…

Friday 25th was Rob’s leaving do – Rob’s a friend from church, moving away from London down to Devon (wise man, methinks), and it was lovely to see so many friends turn out to give him a good send off. He’ll be missed…

Saturday 26th – Masterclass at Colchester Academy Of Modern Music‘s Bass Day. Lesson number one in the Steve-makes-mistakes-so-you-can-learn-from-them book is always check the address of the venue – I got an address off the website for what I assumed was the college venue, but was actually the home of the organiser. Got there, rang him, and was fortunately only 5 minutes away. Lesson two is not to trust the RAC website’s directions to anywhere – very shoddy indeed, and resulted in a 45 minute detour on a journey that should’ve taken less than 2 hours anyway…

However, the masterclass went really well – seems like a great little set up at CAMM, run by good people. The questions asked were good, and we were able to talk a lot about the process of learning an instrument and how to apply practice material to real music… A fine day.

This week I’ve been to a couple of gigs – the first was G3 at The Albert Hall – G3 on this tour is Robert Fripp, Steve Vai and Satch. Fripp was up first, and was, as expected, remarkable, playing a beautiful beguiling, deep, rich soundscape, to an audience half captivated, half disinterested. Breathtaking stuff, but pearls before swine methinks for much of the audience. Then Vai came on – did a solo intro on a triple-necked guitar, before getting his band up on stage. Now I had high expectations of Vai’s set – I know he’s an incredibly gifted technician on the guitar and have heard some stuff by him that I really liked, but tonight was a bit of a disappointment. Actually a huge disappointment. Not helped by possibly the worst mix I’ve ever heard in a major concert hall – no drums, very little bass, a tiny bit of keys and second guitar and then Steve’s guitar ripping your face off. And it’s not like I had some weird seats up in the gods – I was not far behind the sounddesk, so apparently in a good aural vantage point. Anyway, the material didn’t grab me at all either, and the shredding got tired very quickly. Especially following Fripp, it seemed unbelieveably dated and teenage. It’s a shame, cos I really wanted to like it, but it so didn’t happen for me. That coupled with the fan on the front of the stage blowing Steve’s hair back… oops.

Last on was Joe Satriani – This is the fourth time I’ve seen satch, and the third time in 18 months, and by far the best. His current band of Matt Bissonette on Bass, Jeff Campitelli on drums and Gaylan Henson on second guitar is, IMO, his strongest ever, the tunes were there, the shredding was well placed, the mix was better, the interplay between the musicians was great, and Fripp joined in on some numbers towards the end of the set. The playing was a bit freer than before, with Joe giving Jeff and Matt a fair bit of space to play, deservedly so, as they are definitely one of the finest old school heavy rock rhythm sections I’ve ever heard.

The encore was matt and jeff with all three guitarists doing Ice Nice, Red (a King Crimson number) and Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World – apart from the obviously surreal experience of seeing Fripp and the Shredders takling Neil Young, it was a great choice of tunes, and Free World an inspired choice of closing number. The aftershow was fun too, with a chance to catch up with Jeff and Matt and Matt’s wife, and see Jakko, Clive and a few other old friends too…

Wednesday night was an altogether more satisfying musical experience, watching Spearhead at the Jazz Cafe (thanks to Deb and Alice for the ticket!) – one of the finest live bands on the planet, they were well on form tonight, if a little loud. A heavier reggae content than the last couple of gigs I’ve seen, they were nonetheless as groovalicious as ever, with Franti’s tales of his recent trip to Iraq an inspiration to everyone there. Very late finish though – why on earth did they start at 9.30 if they wanted to play for three hours? surely starting an hour earlier would have made sense…

Which brings us to last night’s gig, an improv sesh with Filomena, Orphy, Dudley, Roger and Roland, along with some improv theatre and dance stuff. A slightly shakey start before the gig got underway due to a couple of misunderstandings about the nature of the gig, but the gig itself was fantastic – great players, lovely people, some marvellous music and surprisingly engaging dance and theatre stuff. All in all, a marvellous night. It’s always great to catch up with the lovely musicians on these gigs, and Fil gave me space to play a solo tune from the new album, which was a great plug (and I sold a few CDs afterwards too… :o)

anyway, in between all those events, I’ve spent the last week doing album/tour/promo stuff – emailing radio, sending out CDRs, ringing venues etc. all trying to get this bass-show on the road! Things are looking good!

SoundtrackCathy Burton, ‘Speed Your Love’; Muriel Anderson, ‘Heartstrings’; me, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1’ and of course more of the new album.

two fine gigs in one day. (oh, and a really hideous guitar show…)

So last night (well, actually two nights ago now, seeing as how it’s 1am Thursday…) – anyway, on Tuesday night, The Cheat and I went to two gigs in one night. Firstly to see Iain Archer supporting Paddy Casey at Scala in Kings Cross. Scala’s a really nice venue – I’ve seen Spearhead and the Dum Dums there before – and Iain was on top form. He had Paul and Phil Wilkinson from The Amazing Pilots on bass and drums, and the trio was incredible. Loads of energy, big grooves (I’ve been a big fan of Phil’s drumming since I first saw the Pilots play, and he just gets better and more inventive…) And Iain’s guitar sounded particularly good. He’s a megastar in the making. It’s been really interesting to watch his music evolve, from his days as a gentle acoustic pop songwriter (his debut album, ‘Playing Dead’ is marvellous, but very different from where he’s at now), through a mid period of experimentation, to where he’s at now, absorbing all kinds of interesting influences and being genuinely brilliant. His new album, ‘Flood The Tanks’ is just out. I’ve got it on order, and from what i’ve already heard, it’s great stuff and highly recommended.

After that, we walked up Pentonville Road to ‘Bar Academy’ in Islington. Got lost twice (once due to me, once due to The Cheat), to see Nick Harper. Nick’s great. I was introduced to his music by Catherine Streetteam (thanks!), and then saw him play at Greenbelt last year. His is the highest energy one man acoustic show I’ve ever seen. Great guitar playing, great voice, hilarious stage presence, and apparently, tourettes syndrom (someone who swears more than me – is this possible??). Anyway, he was bloomin’ marvellous.

All in great contrast to Sunday – The London Guitar Show was on at Wembley. In case you don’t know, the basic premise is that lots of big companies pile in there, and loads of apparently dreadful guitarists and bassists arrive and playing badly, loudly and incessantly for a weekend. The joke is that people go there to buy guitars, even though trying one out would be like sound-testing it on the hard shoulder of the M25 in rush hour. there’s no way to check things like sustain, quality of tone, noise floor etc. You just can’t hear anything.

The various artists actually playing on the stands had a hard time being heard, so turned up and just became part of the general mush.

Still, it was nice to see some friendly faces – Franck Vigroux, Stuart Clayton, Dave Marks, Bernie Goodfellow, Martin Simms, Svetlana Vasileva, the Bass Centre people, BassTech people, Bass Guitar Magazine People (who got me in for free as well – thanks very much!), and a few old friends.

Also managed to catch a few minutes of the Scottish Guitar Quartet, who even with the din in the background were fantastic. Well worth checking out.

SoundtrackPeter Gabriel, ‘Up’; Jonatha Brooke, ‘Steady Pull’; Calamateur, ‘The Old Fox of ’45’ – this last one is fantastic ; I’ve posted about Calamateur before, and this is just released – great new album, reworkings of some of the tracks that have been on EPs before, and some new stuff. Andrew’s songwriting, singing and production just gets better and better, and it’s no wonder he’s had airplay from John Peel and The Late Junction, amongst others… a lo-hi gem, highly recommended.