Wednesday, 26 September 2012

the ballad of wild willy bass

low tide fishguard

Having just returned from Pembrokeshire in South West Wales I am now ready for the last of the 2012 gigs. Next up is the CRY Benefit on Saturday in Burton on Trent. Next weekend is the Leeds gig followed by a FDPFAFDW gig in Leek. See GIGS page on website for details.

I was away for two weeks and it was just what the doctor ordered, not that I have been even slightly unwell for a very long time. The plan was to spend serious fishing time in the quest for the elusive sea bass. Well it has been elusive to me and quite a few others. It has been generally a very poor year for fishing.

storm beach

Five minutes to 5 oclock in the morning. Three alarms ring at five minute intervals. It’s now or never. A quick dash by car to meet Matt Powell a Michelin starred chef with a passion for foraging and bass fishing. He guides people like me to where the fish might be. In the early light we scrambled down a cliff face to the rocks below. I had already declined one access path as unsuitable for some one of my age so we had continued along the top of the cliff where Matt found a slightly easier and safer access to the rocks. We soon had lures flying out from our some times precarious perch atop various rock ledges and peaks. I got the odd soaking from the odd small rogue wave. The tide was receding and as the water fell away a moonscape terrain was revealed. I would definitely look at a mark like this at low tide before fishing it but of course Matt knew the lie of the land.

We fished hard from about 6.30 until 12.30 in the afternoon. I was knackered and it would take two days for the aches in my upper legs to fade. All part of the price of a great and exhilarating experience even though none of us caught a fish. We climbed up back onto the cliff top and headed back to the parked cars. Matt produced a compact array of cooking gear and began to make breakfast.

matt the chef

Omelettes to die for with mushrooms and greenery foraged locally and lava bread of the highest quality.

What a wonderful meal this was and after we sat with kuksas filled with tea and full bellies. Matt is a very interesting companion with a sincere desire to do something sustainable and clean. As a foraging bass guide I believe he has re-invented himself admirably, offering a great service with lots of learning around a broad eco centered base. I wish him well. I am sure we will remain friends and it goes with out saying I’ll be back for more.

Lots of time was spent looking for great places to fish and this meant driving parts of the Iron Man Wales circuit that was used for the cycling stage. I can tell you Pembrokeshire around the Tenby area has some very steep climbs so after a swim and a 119 mile bike ride followed by a marathon they all deserved a medal.

The countryside is spectacular and we only scratched the surface. We fished quite a lot but didn’t catch much. In the second week of our quest we became comfortable fishing on the dock at Milford Haven. The weather and tides were against most beach fishing and fishing on rain soaked rocks so we settled for a couple of our last nights in wales on the banks of the estuary opposite the Milford Haven oil refinery. It’s a bit grim in parts in daylight and huge contrast to the vistas deep in country but at night the lights are quite spectacular. I had caught a small Pollack on a tiny metal lure on a very light rod which made the little fish feel enormous. LRF , light rock fishing is the name of the game and seems a logical method given the rarity of lots of large fish. So, as the rain began to fall on every one fishing this spot we began to consider cutting our losses as we had a long drive next day. I decided to change my bait from worm and mackerel to large pieces of mackerel fillet. It was to use the bait up as much as any thing. Minutes later the tip of my rod bent over and then nothing. My heart was pounding when the tip went berserk and I just had time to reach out to stop the rod going over the wall. I was into a large feisty sea bass. Two days later he provided the main dish of what was a really special feast. I have only taken one fish for the table this year and this was the one I had been set on for this summer. Fantastic! The last cast and there it was.
a bar of silver and a very dazed fisherman

The trip west was superb and we will be going back. The Welsh are lovely people and the country has real heart and character. Although Wales has it's share of poverty it has been largely unspoilt by the lack of gross tourism and over commercialisation such as you will find almost every where in Cornwall. Like every where else I have been lately the high street shops are fading whereas the Charity shops are springing up every where. Pembroke itself has a great community feel and there is plenty of evidence of community support initiatives locally. I caught a nice little perch off the bridge there during a short rest stop.
It is always nice to be home but I miss the smell of the sea and even the bitter wind that howled through the high open spaces. It was great to get away and out in it all. I spent some time with my guitar and managed to progress the writing of some songs a little bit further on.
I shall spend Thursday, tomorrow preparing for the upcoming gigs at the weekend and next week and then it will be rehearse, rehearse with the new band.


Monday, 3 September 2012

one night in manchester

Ah the joy of it all! Manchester in the sunshine. Our little party arrived in leafy Chorlton from Wigan about three hours before the show began. It was Dave Owen’s 60th birthday party and quite a few folk were already in situ. We were welcomed warmly and we all said later that we felt right at home immediately.
On Thursday Dave had hired The Muffin men for a night out in the city and they had been partying ever since including a jam session on the Friday night with assembled guests who play guitar. Many of Dave and Nicola’s mates are avid Zappa fans and have met at various Zappa music events. My favourite countries were represented by the nationalities of some of these guests. German, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch and I‘ve probably missed a couple.
A gazebo was set up at the far end of the garden with a little rostrum for me and a platform for the amp. Chairs were set out in the extra-tented part and it was very cosy. I had plenty of time to set up and get a sound with the help of John who looks after me when I’m touring. 

here me now - i shout it out

just before the show - with Dave Owen

The next hour or so was taken up with drinks in the garden and meeting the folk who were still arriving. Every one was in good humour and the international nature of the guests added a special flavour to the conversation as it always does. This is indeed a small world and one of the Norwegian guests was friends with some one who was at the gig I played in Norway a couple of weeks back.

Time passed pleasantly and soon it was time to start the show. I had spent a few minutes deep breathing and settling myself. I was gone off some place  warm while Dave settled his invited audience and introduced me. 
I often have an aluminium drinking bottle with the Liverpool FC badge on and my name. Dave couldn't resist taping a Man U badge over the LFC badge so I drank from a Man U bottle through out the set. All good fun.
I began with Arabesque leading to Speak Down the wires with a little indulgent chanting in the middle somewhere. I always get quite high when chanting and it requires very large intakes of breath. I was glad I had done the breathing warm up at the beginning. I didn’t say any thing at all for a few songs and I was in my element. It seemed as though I had time to think before each chord change and new lyric line. Some times I seem rushed and this is nothing to do with the tempo of the song but more about how centred I am, I suppose.
The little amp provided for me was superb and handled my guitar and voice perfectly. I love the simplicity of what I am doing from a technical perspective. Life is easy with out all the randomness that goes with a band set up.
I moved through the set and my audience was so very good to me. I felt them and this fed the music. I paused after about forty minutes to allow people to get a drink and so on. After ten minutes we were all back together. I know it was an intense performance and people told me so after it.
I jammed around with the new songs Be Still, Please Don’t Take Too Long and threw in a few new parts to There’s a hole in it. It was fun. I just felt completely relaxed and joined with the guests. Their response was extremely generous and this inspired me to play around with the material in a very free style.

Towards the end of my set I played a few oldies such as green Lights and Hotel Room and ended with Evening Over Rooftops. Poppy was the encore and it was job done.
Unfortunately Nicola, Dave’s partner, was busy preparing food for all so she missed the last part of my set. However the meat pie and red cabbage she made was fantastic. Honest, good home cooked food is always a highlight and this was special.
The after show conversations are always a treat for me. It is always a mixture of feedback for the show and tales of the lives folk are living. More and more I find so much in common with the good people who book me for these shows and with their friends and family.
I think my set in Chorlton was the best musical performance of all my shows in the past two years. I know the audience was a major contributory factor and having played regularly lately but then there are the elusive ingredients. They are hard to identify and part of what some call the muse. Any way for what ever reason I stand by my claim ha ha! So onwards and upwards. All of this is food for thought and food for the new show for 2013. The songs keep on coming and they seem to work nicely. I am having a ball. I was shattered after the gig and when we all got back to Wigan I soon hit the bed and was immediately fast asleep. This is a rare thing and I still felt weak after a good sleep and breakfast. A can of Red Bull helped but I realised I had put my heart and soul into the previous nights performance. It’s Monday evening and I am still a bit tired. 
 It was a truly memorable night for me and one that ranks with the best. Every single one of these gigs has been a delight in it’s own individual way.
Next I'm off to Wales for some serious fishing for a couple of weeks. The FDPFAFDW gig in Chorlton for Dave and Nicola will keep me smiling when the fish don’t bite and keep me interested in the next instalment life has in store and then I am back for the CRY benefit in Burton on Trent on the 29th September ( see gigs page on my website for details).  Be there if you can. Its all in a very good cause and one very dear to the promoter and friends.