Sunday, 26 June 2011

the spirit of 71?

Ramblin drove Luke and myself down to Bristol on Thursday night where we stayed over. The drive down to Glastonbury on Friday morning was a breeze. No delays and the route to our stage was well planned and stewarded.

Glastonbury Festival in the mud and incessant rain is a nightmare unless you are young, care free and determined to enjoy and triumph no matter what. Luke has vestiges of the young festival attendee but he is very clear about the likelihood of his not camping at Glasto in the near future. I think the part about triumph no matter what applies to both of us, most of the time, so that’s what we set out to do.

photo dave randell ( ramblin)

I am sure Bono didn’t get any mud on his shoes and nor should he but the disparity between the provision for the bands at the top of their game and the likes of us Spirit of 71 performers was shocking and something akin to the difference between the Victorian ruling classes and the very poor. Two or three porta-cabins were parked along side the Spirit of 71 stage. Eventually we were allocated one. Inside was a table with crisps, water, a carton or two of juice and about five beers. Take away the extravagant hospitality items and I was back working for Tarmac on Warwick bypass on a rainy day in one of their huts. It was better than the Glasto version though. We had a kettle and an electric fire that we upturned to toast sliced bread on.

Glasto did ask for a rider and I gave them mine. It is very modest but it was ignored. Even the metal walk way from the unloading point to the stage ramp was an after thought and insisted on by the stage crew. Had it not been put in at the last minute there would have not beeen any Sprit of 71 shows in the rain.

Ok so what else? The stage management was very good. The sound guys were top end practioners and all of the staff were very pleasant and helpful. The BBC 2 crew who filmed us for a piece about the 71 stage were also very pleasant and very professional.
So what did I enjoy about it all? It was great to meet up with Andrew Kerr 71 Original Glastonbury Fayre organiser who told me Michael Eavis wasn’t too keen on the 2011 / 71 Stage idea until Andrew showed him a list of artistes who could appear. He says Michael looked down the list and came to yours truly. Michael said that if they had Edgar Broughton they could also have … and soon a list of performers was selected. Makes you feel all warm doesn’t it?

At around 6pm all my usual pre gig anxiety faded and I began to feel strong and clear. I remember saying to Luke that I was ready for action as we tuned our guitars. The thought that I was feeling those good Reiki vibes was very present.

photo dave randell ( ramblin)

It was nice to meet up with Arthur Brown and have a chat. I met his son for the first time. I had a little chat with Nick Turner and many others.
Getting all our bits and pieces together and onto the stage in the driving rain was a total hassle but with the help of Ramblin it came together and at half past seven in the evening we walked out on to the stage. The sound took a minute or two to fix and I launched into Arabesque and we were away. I felt my power and found my voice easily and got lost in the music except for when I had a brief chat with audience. The audio spill from three nearby stages meant that we had to concentrate very hard during our set and try to filter out the noise.

photo by phil moody

Luke sang two songs which gave me a little break to take a photo or two and to take in the atmosphere. The audience was lovely and very appreciative. Mr Brown, the God of Hellfire, commented that the set allowed my voice to really shine which was very nice.

photo by phil moody

Richard Brunton and The Spirit of 71 House Band were a thoroughly nice bunch of guys and top players. We had a smacking little rock out together and the end of our set. The 71 strat felt like some one elses axe in my hands at first . I’d restrung it, having removed the rusty strings from it’s last outing and I prefer it when the strings are not brand new. It had been a while since I played it in anger but I soon got it to sing and indulged myself with a little over the top wah-wahed, fuzzy grunge at the end of proceedings.

The whole show passed by in a flash as the rain beat down on the hardcore audience who refused to be bowed by the UK summer. We came off stage and began to come down from the experience. I have to say that I was as much relieved as any thing else that it had all worked out ok.

photo by phil moody

Now came the logistical nightmare of trying to get our equipment and our selves back to our car. We were ready to go by 8.30 but a Health and safety directive insisted that no onsite traffic could move due to weather conditions. Eventually, at around 11.30 the lovely Becky arranged for transport from the stage area to our car. That was a relief as we still had to drive back to London. We piled our gear and luggage into the back of a Land Rover and with the help of two stewards we slowly drove through the crowds who parted like the Red Sea as we slithered along the top of the old railway line that bisects the farm. It has to be said that we neither heard nor saw any bad behaviour from any one and the Glastonbury crowd is definitely special. The whole place is full of good vibes.

It felt good as we loaded our stuff off the Land Rover and into the Ramblin mobile. After a careful exit from the drenched field where we had been parked, we were on our way home. Job done! Would I do it all again? The answer is probably not.
It is Saturday and as I write this the sun is shining at Glastonbury and on the festival goers. I am so very pleased for them. They deserve it. I hope they are blissed out in the sun shine and long may it last. Next stop Mollington for the next FDPFAFDW show. It’s a village fete and we are the minstrels for the show in the village hall in the evening.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

glastonbury here we come

Luke and guitar

Luke and I had a very nice time at The Donkey in Leicester. A big shout goes out to Gaz Birtles and Warren and all of the staff at The Donkey. Thanks guys. What a very nice little venue! Thanks also to Mike and Liz for their warm hospitality and to all who turned out for the show including old and new friends. You made it work.

It was a different gig compared to the FDPFAFDW shows. It was great to have Luke by my side. We sang some songs together and some on our own. Luke sang two of his own songs which were very well received. Lovely!
As I write this I am heading back to London and feeling good. Mission accomplished. So are we ready for Glasto? Oh yes! Are they ready for the new us. We'll see. I am not a 70 s museum so let's hope folk get that.

One thing I have noticed is that familiar adrenalin buzz from performing has increased since the beginning of 2011. The only down side is that I end up wide awake for hours and some times find it difficult to get to sleep. When I can't sleep I often do a little stretching exercise and or play my singing bowl. The concentration required to rotate the stick around the outside edge of the bowl is somehow calming and I am learning to breathe anew. I breathe deep and slow as the stick travels in an arc and the sweet continuous tone of the bowl rings in the room. I have achieved some very positive states of relaxation just by experimentation but there is more to this than meets the eye or the ears in a first encounter.

The ancients knew that every thing vibrates. Not surprising then that music would become one of the first cultural elements/arts to be developed. Early writings demonstrate that the scientists and philosophers believed that vibrations occurred along a great spectrum. They believed that the note we call middle c on a piano was coloured red and that the same note much higher up the scale would be pink and constitute love. Ah! At the very low end the note would become iron and rusty red. Could there be some thing to this? It merits deeper consideration as a system of relating audible vibration and perceivable colour. Processes that attempt to utilise the relationship between sounds, colours, physical healing and mental states have been applied since long ago. In a more modern world we are beginning to re-discover the art of healing with sound and colour.

We have also developed weapons that employ the use of sound. One example of this is the sound weapon used by the Japanese whalers against the anti whaling Sea Sheperd crews.

The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) is a crowd control and distance hailing device developed by LRAD Corporation to send messages, warnings and deterrent tones over longer distances than normal loudspeakers. It can disable, disorientate and can potentially damage the hearing of "an enemy". While intrigued and dismayed by the use of technology in this way, I am excited by the opposite end technology and techniques that aim to heal and help. I'd like to hear others ideas and thoughts on the subject, especially any personal experiences.
Recently one of FDPFAFDW hosts gave me a Reiki session. It was only the second time for me but that is two occasions when I felt so much clearer and stronger and the benefit continued for days after the sessions ended. My Reiki friend has promised she will send me some good energy for the Glasto gig.
So if you can or know any one who would be kind enough to send some good Reiki vibrations to Luke and myself at approximately 4.30pm on Friday this week We will be very grateful. We will just be about ready to go on stage for our Glastonbury show.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

in an english country garden

Saturday last I set out for Oxford where my host Peter and his mate John met me. After a short drive we arrived at the garden venue at Peter’s house. A large marquee and a tent for the sound mixer and a sheltered drinks bar were already set up. Peter told me that the stage area was originally to be the venue but he decided the dimensions of the tent would have meant me performing in a canvas corridor and any way we wouldn’t have got the 60 people, who attended, inside it. So like all of these gigs the host decided to expand the whole idea. I gather this happened over a long time and obviously took a great deal of planning and then lots of hard work to make it all happen. As the people began to arrive I soon re-discovered the common thread that runs through all of these events. The people at all of these events are very cool.

A local folk duo played first. Nice to hear British folk music delivered, as it should be, simple and sweet. The rain beat down on the tenting but had stopped before the next act. It was cold at around two degrees. Not what you would expect in June.
Next up we had a blues guitarist with one of the finest collection of vintage blues guitars I have ever seen. At the beginning of his set I took the liberty of changing the sound of his vocal microphone to improve the clarity. I tagged the mic so I made sure that would be my vocal mic. There was no need to hide away from my audience as I had been chatting with most of them and so I adjusted my microphone height and the microphone on my little 2 watt Roland Micro Cube. I can’t say enough good things about this little amp that kicks out a huge sound for it’s size. I am very happy with this little gem even though it is quite heavy and carrying it around in a rucksack is no fun.

Ali Pool, Peter’s daughter had painted a kind of urban art backdrop for the show and it looked great. It was a nice touch. I walked out and began my set with The Arabesque intro. I ran through the songs and this was the first time one of these events felt a bit more like a conventional gig. I had the best time as I ran through the songs. I was playing a Tanglewood acoustic guitar for the first time and it sings brightly and sustains forever. It was a bit strange at first but I had been playing it on and off all afternoon so it wasn’t as though I had to play it straight out of the box. My audience was lovely and very attentive. There were times when you could have heard a pin drop in the quiet sections. I told the story of the Christmas song and chatted a little about The Parliament Sq demo and the TUC march before Red Star. I didn’t say much more and let the songs do the talking. I am enjoying the fact that the new songs are doing their job and that the young people attending are just as enthusiastic as the people of my generation.

Don, John, me, Peter Pool & Geoff

I finally came to the Arabesque outro and the journey had taken us back to where it had begun. I do love that moment when people realise that we have come full circle. After I had finished I was called back for a couple of encores. After this I felt folk deserved another so I glanced down at my set list and couldn’t see any thing suitable. I could have kicked myself later when I realised I had missed out Six White Horses. I do things like this on a regular basis. Must be my age. Ah well, that’s ok then.

The more I perform like this the more I see that these events have become my laboratory. I see how some of this material can be made huge with the right augmentation and I am working on that. Meanwhile I’m having a ball.

As per usual I spent half the night chatting with those that stayed after the show. The young people had a small rave in the stage tent mixing some very cool techno on a laptop. I had to check this out and I am glad I did. I love my techno and always have. At around 3am a couple of the guys and Ali came in from the cold night to make the obligatory Rave Survivors Breakfast. They made toasted halloumi cheese sandwiches made with fresh rocket from the greenhouse. Peter had a few concerns about the future viability of his posh grill, post the sandwich creation, but all was well in the end and it tasted so good.

I must thank Lucy Pool who gave up her room for the evening where yours truly finally laid down at about 4a.m. Special thanks to Peter and Claire for their warm and generous hospitality, the assembled helpers and of course the audience for making it so special.

So it’s off to Leicester for some rehearsal with Luke and then on Saturday night we’ll be playing at the Donkey. See you there.


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

this england

It has been a long time since I played as many gigs during the summer months as I am doing this summer. Although every gig is quite different there is a common thread that runs throughout and it is quality people. I am beginning to think that my hosts and their assembled guests would all get on well together if they were all in the same place and I am wondering how I might get that together in the future. One thing is certain. I have learned a lot about this England and the people who live in it. It is so easy to lose touch with what is going on in the land and I am enjoying the opportunity to meet with folk and to find out how it is for them. What their dreams, interests and priorities are, for a good life.

So, I was off again on the Virgin train to Burton on Trent via Birmingham. There I was met by Peter, my host, and Karen who drove us to Burton on Trent. I’ve played there a few times before but it had been a while. I once rode out there, pretending to be a Tour De France rider, when I was about fifteen and I remember suffering very badly on the way home.

The gig was in Noel and Natalie’s garden. When I arrived a small pa system was all fired up to go and my sound check took about fifteen minutes. The rest of the afternoon was pleasantly taken up chatting and exchanging stories with the crew ( Peter’s family and friends). As time went on the makings of a barbecue, and curry and chilli arrived and the stage was set.

Before I played Peter gave me a beautiful gift of a locally made crystal goblet engraved with my name, the date and Burton on Trent. I shall treasure this as a memento of a great night in the midlands. Darkness fell with a little breeze that threatened to lift the gazebo covering the decking stage. A few table lights were strategically placed on the stage. The garden filled up with around forty guests and we were off. Peter introduced me with a touching reference to former times and I began. A dog barked immediately and we all had a little smile as we heard the owner next door ushering it inside. Peter had texted me the night before to ask if I was planning to play Poppy. I replied – No. But I am now. I did and worked my way through the set for the evening. My audience was very warm and attentive. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think they did.

The apr├Ęs gig party was a hoot with people playing Twister and drinking quite a lot. The conversation and atmosphere was great. Later some of us stayed up chatting until quite late or early, depending on your internal clock. There was the odd inebriated and very surreal, impromptu performance on the piano and guitar by one or two folk that had us all falling about.

Next day a spot on bacon and egg breakfast in the garden and a little sunburn for yours truly. Lots of tea and it was time to leave for the station. Pete arrived with partner Karen. Pete is a dead ringer for Spadge the EBB roadie. Peter and I got in the car with them. Peter crashed out and Pete drove us to New St Station in Birmingham. It had been a long time since I had been in the Bull Ring area. Like all inner city areas the changes are enormous and not all good. The individual retailer or service provider has been pushed out by the well known names that occupy every town centre and high streets. I remember when Birmingham was grimy and warm. Now it seems worn and bleak. Not much wrong with Brummies though nor their near neighbours.

There was the familiar little sad thing inside as I said goodbye to lovely people. Every one had been so nice to me. Big thanks to Peter Greening for the invite and all the goodies. I must say special thanks to Noel and Natalie for putting me up and taking care of me. So, another happy and memorable outing into this England is completed. Next stop Oxfordshire at the week end. I am spoiled you know!



Friday, 3 June 2011

the road is a ribbon...the ribbon is my way back home

Luke and I will be playing in Leicester on the 18th of this month so if you can be there we promise some thing very different and special. We have spent the last couple of days rehearsing and will be hooking up in Leicester for more rehearsals. For me playing and singing with Luke is a joy. I am so proud of him. It's like one brain and two sets of hands and mouths. He will be performing a couple of his own songs during our shows togther.  I can't wait to show you what we are up to. I must thank Gaz Birtles at THE DONKEY for his willingness to put this together at short notice.

Last Sunday was a special time for me. I went to play at the post wedding bash of Neil and Sacha. It was a small affair for friends and family in a Moroccan / Spanish Cafe called the Cafe Mauresque in the picturesque, cobbled streets of old Canterbury.

neil and sacha

I am learning a lot from playing the FDPFADFDW shows. Some songs have a wider appeal than others and although I write a set list every evening I rarely keep to it once I have gauged my audience to some extent. There are some songs which always work and I get the chance to ask a few folk why they like them. There is always lots else to chat about and my Canterbury audience was no exception. They also asked some incisive and interesting questions about my life and work.

Neil and Sacha's guests were lovely people and a very warm audience. It was a summery and busy evening outside and the streets were very noisy with the sound of young students celebrating their holiday. I would have gone down to ask for a bit of quiet but it was the sound of enjoyment so fair play. We closed the windows and I ploughed on and had a great time. The meal we had afterwards was very nice but it was the company that made it for me. After a short time I felt I knew the people I had only just met and we chatted like old friends. I had met Neil and Sacha at previous gigs and Neil and I had emailed each other over time.

Thanks folks for a great evening. Another gig done and lot's of very happy memories for me. Congratulations to Neil and Sacha on their recent marriage and my very best wishes for their future life together.

PS The bottles were not all part of my rider for refreshments....though one very nice cognac was.