pic Dave Randell
I had a great evening out on Saturday last at the Real Music Club at The Brunswick Pub in Hove. The pub is cosy with pleasant and helpful staff and they do good food. The Real Music Club is an Oasis for great music of a most diverse nature that is run with real love for performers, the music and the audience. It reminds me of Berlin just after the wall came down when there were little cafe clubs everywhere presenting a huge range of music, poetry and performance art with seemingly unlikely fusions of instruments and genres that produced a very vibrant and healthy scene.
Ramblin' drove us down from London and we arrived in perfect time for sound checking. Fortunately I don't need much time for this and so I waited until the two supporting bands had done their sound check. Outside the wind howled off the sea and the rain came down in sheets. The sound check went well though I was disappointed to find my new Tanglewood guitar had dropped the action of the strings and so I couldn't use it. Still the old faithful Tanglewood Evolution did the job and I was ready.
The day in the prison on Tuesday had left me in a slightly dark torpid state and I was looking forward to outing the demons with an intimate performance at Brunswick. I was a little concerned about the walk up given that a gale was blowing outside and the rain still poured down. I needn't have worried though. The place filled up nicely and the first band took to the stage.
Trim Tab Jim is a kind of political rock operatic outfit or at least that is what they presented for us on Saturday. Slightly understated vocal delivery around contemporary politics but quite interesting with some very nice piano playing and appropriate levels in the rocking band that allowed the message through. Early days for Trim Tab Jim but I suspect they will find a niche audience that will grow to love them very much over time. Refreshing and positive.
Dead Whiskey are a melodic raucous outfit with a slide bass guitar player. Never seen that before. They have a dirty bluesy grunt which is a really cool feature and they understand dynamics. Ramblin' found the howling feedback section a bit silly but hey, noise is noise and the throb through the floor was a good indicator to me that they had some deep and powerful bass noise going on that was a bit special. I wondered if it was always like that or just a magic property of the gig space that night. Just needed a snaking dub step line and I'd be right. Cool stuff from young guys setting out to make something else other than fall in with the destructive X Factor normalisation that pervades the UK charts.
Having found one of my guitars to be useless for the evening I was a little concerned that I did not have a spare guitar. I have never broken a string playing acoustically but having said that I realise I am tempting fate without a spare guitar.
Soon it was time to play and the sound on stage was superb. I can really revel in my own noise when I get a sound like that and I launched into Red Star with little by way of introduction. I eased through my set in comfort while trying different vocal characterisations for the first time. I can't say it was effortless but it was easy. The crowd at The Real Music Club is warm and appreciative and I felt a strong connection with them. I had been toying with the idea of playing my song Ice On Fire for this gig and had rehearsed it. I think the song sums up aspects of the confrontation in war torn Ukraine. There is one line in the song that I had forgotten on a couple of gigs. This is in a passage where the words are most important and I always feel bad if I have to improvise through failing to remember words. I think it is a rare occurrence but it annoys the hell out of me every time I do it. So I sang the song and remembered all of the words. I got lost in it as always do when it works and judging by the audience reaction most of them came on the journey with me.
Time passed and soon it was all over before I realised I hadn't played any old EBB songs. That is a first. After the gig a guy said he wanted to shout for Poppy, a favourite of his, but thought it might be out of context with what I was doing. He had really enjoyed the show and so I found his comment especially interesting. After six years playing on my own it seems I have developed a set of new songs which stand up alongside old favourites for some older fans and some new fans. This is satisfying and motivating. I love playing The Real Music Club it has a special vibe and the organisers and audience are very cool.
The drive home with Ramblin' was fun. It always is. What with his dialogues with Doris the Sat Navigator and the endless streams of Ramblin' DAVE consciousness the miles flew by. We stopped off for a coffee and then flew down a motorway with little or no traffic, towards South London and home. A job well done I think.
Solo I am in the happy position of not needing to fill a date sheet with shows nor do I need to play crappy gigs to cover the expenses of touring or be involved with fools. People ask me if I will play somewhere and I tell them what I need and they get back to me or they don't and I don't care either way until an agreement is made and then I make every effort to deliver my best performance on the night. As I write an email arrives from Norway asking if I will play in what I know to be a really cool venue and so it goes. I never know what is coming next and these days I get some really fun collaborations going on. I am currently working with my writer friend Walter Kohl on his book which I call the book of lyrics. We are also planning a collaboration with Walter's friend Octavia Shreiner who is an installation artist among other things. She is working towards a video interview installation with a twist. We are planning to meet up in the Spring to progress things further. I enjoy the variety of projects I can undertake these days.
On the 20th of this month I will be playing a set with my friends Acoustic Routes at an overnight sleep out benefit in Wigan town centre organised by The Brick Homeless Project. Acoustic Routes are one of the acts who played at the Upholland Brick benefit with us so it will be very nice to hook up again. Meanwhile I am writing all the time and playing with new technology. I have big plans for new things and given all that life can throw up as time goes by, I seem to be more or less on target with my own time lines. All is good right now.