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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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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Alright, everybody out.

Some dickhead set off the fire alarm at the Carlton Hotel midway through my gig last night! Just as I was getting to the end of ‘What A Wonderful World’, the damn thing went off and we all had to vacate the building!

Other than that, it was another fine gig. The audience was 26 – that’s how many were there, not their combined age – which I was really happy with on a non 2 for 1 Tuesday. i was expecting about half that. And they seemed to really enjoy it too. Seems like word is getting out, finally.

It was especially good to have that many people in, given that I started flyering two hours later than usual, TSP was tied up with friends for a lot of the day (well, she was busy – I’m not sure what kind of kinky stuff they got up to, to be honest), and then it rained so I missed out on another hour or so of flyering later on.

The one bit of flyering that I hate the most is dealing with drunks. It’s particularly tragic when you get someone who is completely shitfaced at 4 in the afternoon, who comes up thinking they are really funny and says something really really stupid. I’m pretty sure that kicking people in the plums when you’re out flyering in Edinburgh is technically illegal, so I’ve refrained from dispensing with them that way. I just back away slowly and try and spin round to talk to someone else…

The other foxing thing when flyering is the nature of people’s verbal responses, ranging for cool gutteral sounds of either acceptance or rejection through to such gems as ‘No, I’m alright thanks’ – well, I’m not trying to sort your life out, just give you a sodding flyer!! even better, ‘No, you’re alright’ – I know I’m alright, what are you my therapist?? Though worst of all is just the withering look, like I’ve just offered them a plate of poo. It’s a flyer, you’re walking down the royal mile in Edinburgh during the festival, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU EXPECTING????

For the most part though, it’s nice that my flyer works – way more people look at it then take one, with one variation on the accepting monosyllabic weirdness sound. This is good news. Having a great flyer that has all the info you need is so vital it’s not funny. I’ve had quite a few people ask great questions like whether or not the concept for the flyer was mine, implying that I told a designer what to do, when if fact I did the whole thing. this year I didn’t also do the photography, which I did last year (well, I did the one on the front – the one on the back was that lovely yellow and black one that Dominic Bentham took at the Troubadour gig). It’s nice to have people assume it was a pro – it’s like the one time (which obviously had now become lots of times in Stevie folklore) when someone asked TSP where she had her hair cut, when in fact it was me that did it. They couldn’t believe it. or something. Maybe it was small-talk, but I like to think they were hoping to go to the same salon.

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Monday night

Another fine gig – I thought the crowd was going to be a bit smaller given that it was a Monday, but once again we were over 35 (36, to be precise). The audience-vocal-percussion-loop track went very odd thanks to the jazzshark starting the loop with a couple of (albeit very accurate) dog barks. The sounds that followed were equally strange, and the whole thing went very odd. But it worked, and went down v. well. I’m getting into a bit of a stride with the show, which feels good (though apparently last night I slipped back into an old habit of twiddling on the bass with the sound off while I was talking – a bit distracting for the audience, and one that I thought I’d got out of… must try harder).

Flyering is becoming more fun, as more people stop to say they’ve had the show recommended to them by friends. Weird flyering moment of the day was when the owner of The Pleasance (huge venue complex on the fringe) came out to ask me not to flyer outside his venue. I was about to get all defensive and tell him it was a public street and I could do what I like, when he said I’m happy for you to go inside and flyer in the bar if you like’! What a nice man. The spirit of the festival, indeed.

Still haven’t got to see any shows. Tonight will be an interesting one in terms of how hard we have to keep working, given that the last two nights have had a ‘two for one’ ticket promotion running, and now we’re back to normal, so we’ll see if the numbers stay up, or if we drop back again.

Met a lovely lady in the Fringe Press office who will hopefully help point press peoples my way. I’ve not had any reviews so far at all, which is odd given how well the show is going. Must work harder to make that happen (if you’re a press peoples reading this, PLEASE COME TO THE SHOW!)

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Ooh, this was a nice find!

Just been doing a vanity search to see what sites have got my Edinburgh gigs listed, and found this from the Guardian, as one of ‘July’s best jazz, world and alternative music gigs’ –

“THEO TRAVIS featuring ORPHY ROBINSON
Sax man Travis, who effortlessly straddles prog rock, ambient and genuine jazz, has built up a regular creative partnership with bassist and live loopmeister Steve Lawson. Tonight they are joined by the multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson, known for his work with Cleveland Watkiss, Jazz Jamaica and Steve Beresford. JLW
The New Vortex, Gillett Street, London N16 8JN”

that’s nice, isn’t it?

This month's visit for search-engine mutants…

so here’s the top howevermany search strings that lead people to this ‘ere blogland in June –

1 brooklyn beckham
2 tal wilkenfeld
3 feline concussion
4 narcissim
5 pavement art
6 steve lawson
7 strange things
8 todd rungren
9 dude steve lawson
10 julian beever
11 pavement art perspective
12 seth armstrong
13 steve from jerry springer
14 supersize me soundtrack
15 betterment of society
16 derek bailey archive
17 dude etymology
18 eric roche
19 etymology dude
20 galloway’s speach to the senate

What a most weird and sporadically wonderful collection that is. And who on earth is Julian Beever, and how on earth did it point to this blog???? However, I’m delighted to see that the pursuit of the ‘betterment of society’ will lead you to this blog. Wise words indeed! 🙂

Is anyone listening to the bassists?

So, I was just fiddling around on audioscrobbler.com, wondering who people were listening to, and ended up searching on a whole load of bassist’s names, to see who people were actually listening to.

As I’ve mentioned before, The Scrob is a really interesting chart in that it’s not what people are buying, or what they own but what they are actually listening to – what it is that people are taking down from the CD shelf, or dialing up on their ipod and choosing to listen to. The membership is, I think, a couple of hundred thousand, and largely, I guess, a young, tech-savvy slightly geeky bunch, on the whole…

So here are the bassists I searched on, in order.

Jaco Pastorius – 4306
Victor Wooten – 2608
Marcus Miller – 2466
Stanley Clarke – 1002
Jonas Hellborg – 499
Tony Levin – 399
John Patitucci – 388
Stuart Hamm – 342
Michael Manring – 318
Dave Holland – 275
Billy Sheehan – 274
Brian Bromberg – 244
Eberhard Weber – 233
Wayman Tisdale – 168
Avishai Cohen – 141
Renaud Garcia Fons – 126
Jimmy Haslip – 100
Adam Nitti – 100
Mark King – 94
Bass Extremes (Wooten/Bailey) – 88
Reid Anderson – 74
Alain Caron – 64
Doug Wimbish – 59
Jeff Berlin – 54
Trip Wamsley – 51
Steve Lawson – 49
Seth Horan – 47
Randy Coven – 42
Abraham Laboriel – 37
Bill Dickens – 28
Gerald Veasley – 27
Mo Foster – 26
Mark Egan – 22
Percy Jones – 18
Michael Dimin – 10
Matthew Garrison – 7
John Lester – 7
Glen Moore – 7
Laurence Cottle – 5
Fieldy – 5
Janek Gwizdala – 3

Now, bear in mind that this relies on them being entered into the iTunes/CDDB data base under their own name – some of these players maybe be listed as ‘the such and such band’ or something else. Feel free to have a browse at audioscrobbler.com and see who else you can find. Lemme know, and I’ll add them to the list…

Soundtrack – John Goldie, ‘Turn And Twist’ (jazz trio, with the marvellous Ewen Vernal on bass).

What, no mention of the election result??

What is there to say? Labour back in – no surprise there. Greatly reduced majority – good news, or it would be if the Tories hadn’t taken so many of the seats. Interesting that the Tories took those seats due to a swing from Labour to Lib-Dem, rather than Lab to Tory… Lib-Dems did well but not as well as some predicted. Took a couple of very key seats (Hornsey being about the highest profile of them).

It’s nice to see that Michael Howard is stepping down. Hopefully whoever takes his place will be less overtly racist in their policy formation. While I dread the idea of a Conservative government again, a weak opposition is really bad for democracy. Good riddance to Howard and his race-baiting immigration policies.

‘Tis a shame the Greens didn’t get in in Brighton – they did get a load of votes, and it bodes well for the next election. I just hope that some miraculous thing transpires where we switch to Proportional Representation – that way, we would have green MPs, a vote for the Greens wouldn’t be wasted, and the Lib Dems would just about double their number of seats… though it would also give the BNP a voice in parliment… hmmm, maybe we need stronger laws about racial hate-speech. Glad to see the BNP didn’t get any MPs, and their highest number of votes in any constituency was less than 5000… still, the thought that there are 5000 people in Barking willing to vote for a fascist party is pretty frightening.

Will Blair go? i doubt it. Nice to see some MPs sticking their heads over the parapit and calling for his resignation. Would Brown be any better? Who knows. Sad to see Blunkett back in – off the scene for 5 months, and now all is forgotten apparently. I haven’t forgotten his draconian insanity in his time as Home Secretary, so dread to think what he’ll do in his new role as Work and Pensions secretary.

Basically, it looks like being business as usual for president Blair – a few vaguely contrite words about learning from the election, followed by more of the same. *sigh*.

SoundtrackSheila Chandra, ‘Moonsung’ (I can’t ever imagine getting bored with this album, it’s perfect); Steve Lawson/Jez Carr, ‘Conversations’ (not listened to this for a few months, very nice to pull it out again and have a listen – I’d forgotten how lovely some of Jez’ playing on it is).

A flurry of musical activity!

Yesterday was a very busy organising day!

First up, I was contacted about playing at an Italian Bass Day in July – looks like that’s going to happen, just sorting out flight costs etc. It’s all good!

Then, Ahmad at Darbucka returned a call from a few weeks ago about a gig there, so it looks like I’ll be back playing there on May 25th, with a gig in Petersfield on the 26th, and Southampton on the 27th. I’ll probably use these gigs as a change to show off some new tunes, and try out some things for the Edinburgh show in August.

And then just now (between that last paragraph and this one) Theo calls, and we confirm not one but TWO gigs on the South Bank in June – one in the RFH foyer on June 2nd, and one in the National Theatre on June 14th.

So, as soon as Orphy confirms the dates we’ve been talking about, my gig calendar will be looking much more healthy!

And then there’s today – Cleveland Watkiss is coming round in about an hour to demo some material for a project together – we played together about a month ago, and it sounded marvellous, so now we’re going to get some stuff recorded and start touting around for some gigs. So I could be on the road for much of the summer!

Oh, and I’ve also been listening to the latest batch of mixes/remixes of the Calamateur vs Steve Lawson project, which is sounding very good indeed. Could be that after years and years of doing nothing with singers, I’ll be releasing stuff with two of them in a year. Ah, the madness of being a musician.

It’s all very exciting!

SoundtrackSophia, ‘People Are Like Seasons – new album from bloke out of The God Machine (fab early 90s indie band) – shades of everything from Lloyd Cole to The House Of Love via Smashing Pumpkins and something more mellow and miserable – the first Coldplay album without the poppy sheen maybe? Anyway, it’s very nice.

A timely reminder.

Was rehearsing with this morning for the couple of gigs we’ve got coming up over the next two weeks, and was reminded once again how much fun playing with Theo is! It really is the simplest most immediately effective musical hook-up I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few others that were pretty painless. When we were trying to remember how ‘Flutter’ goes (the opening tune from For The Love Of Open Spaces), we actually played the first minute of the tune twice in a row – that’s the most work we’ve ever had to do on anything!

Anyway, we were sounding just fine, and it gave me renewed impetus to get more gigs with Theo. He’s a fantastic musician and a top bloke. If you haven’t got his new CD, Go here to get it.

And now I’m listening to – those of you in the US will probably have heard her (she was on Letterman recently), those of you in the UK might have heard of her if you keep up with David Torn-related news (he produced the record), but she’s pretty much unknown on this side of the pond at the moment. She’s a solo acoustic guitarist, in the Hedges/Forcione/Roche/Ross school of playing, and is magic. Writes great tunes and is a great performer. I’m hoping to bring her over for some gigs together this coming summer. ‘Til then, check out her site and buy the CD on-line from the states!

SoundtrackKaki King, ‘Legs To Make Us Longer; Steve Lawson and Theo Travis, ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’; , ‘Matthew Garrison’.