Sunday, 25 November 2012

tottenham chances

frank bungay

Tottenham Chances is a community building set back from the Tottenham High Rd and is almost opposite the police station, centre of the riots in north London last year. The place is run by a group of people committed to developing community acesss to a variety of activities centered around performing arts and offers space for senior citizens and other groups.
Last Fridays Mad Pride gig, Billy’s (William Blake) Birthday Bash.was hosted in the smaller bar which suited me fine. It’s a warmer atmosphere than the larger hall which is currently being re-developed.

I arrived at 7.30 for a sound check. It’s a habit of mine to be on time. The doors were supposed to open at 8pm. I was first there and as usual with a Mad Pride gig nothing got going until 9pm. I always get a bit frustrated and some times tetchy but the sound guy was very able and within a couple of minutes I had a good vocal sound and a fair guitar sound from a house amplifier. Jason Why was at hand in his usual role as master of ceremonies and he began the evening with his usual energetic rant against government benefit cuts and Mr Cameron et al.

Soon the place was quite full and I settled down to enjoy the poetry and other musical offerings of the third kind. What I mean by that is you rarely hear any thing that is ordinarily straight forward at Mad Pride gigs and this was to commemorate Billy’s birthday. This was the man who saw angels in trees and was no stranger to mental illness as we now perceive it. This is the place to experience things outside the usual boxes. The very sweet and relovent Frank Bungay kicked off the evening with the touching and some times slightly disturbing narratives of his life. Later John Clarke performed his distinctive jazz poetry and later he gave me his book of poetry – All the way from Katmandu. He pointed out a poem in it called The Loop and compared it to my Beggar Man song.. We were totally on the same tip and that was nice! There were other brief performances in an open mic style and all added to the mix.

The audience kept arriving past Dave and Debbie on the door. Dave and Mark organise these gigs on a shoe string budget. A couple of the artistes run other events such as Raw Poetry and Raw Glam that provide settings for artistes of all kinds to perform and be seen as well as an opportunity to see interesting acts, some times for free. There is a very healthy subculture alive and well in London. There are numerous venues that you might not have heard of that provide an exciting alternative and antidote to X Factor culture.

I went on stage at about 9 oclock and played and sang my heart out. I just kept going with little regard or awareness of the time passing. The audience was wonderful and very kind. I felt truly connected and free of any inhibition. Later Jason, who is a bit of fan now, said “I was on fire”. You know what? He was right, I was.
taurus trakker

Later came Taurus Trakker a smacking three piece. Thinking mans punk with a slightly disturbing (in a good way) psychedelic edge. Great to see a female rhythm section and it really rocked and so much so that I agreed to do an abridged Out Demons Out at their request. We rocked it though I missed not being able to solo on a strat. Still it was different and went down a storm. I suppose I tend to think all the colour and dynamics of the EBB version is an essential requirement for performing the piece but I am loosening up on some of these long held beliefs. I realise the essence of the song is what counts. It’s a vehicle and just needs to be always performed with total conviction.
voodoo citi

Last act of the night was a lady with the unlikely name of Voodoo Citi and this was a treat. Grace Slick meets Stevie Nicks. Nice songs. Made me think about introducing the female element to some of my material.
I had vowed to leave after my set but as usual I found myself captivated by it all and I left at around 1am to catch a night bus with John Clarke back south towards Battersea. It took a very long time and I arrived home at around 3.20am but it was worth it.
When I arrive at a Mad pride gig I always moan a bit to myself that no one else has arrived yet and that I am the only one who seems to want to bother to get a decent microphone sound etc. Then I get completely sucked into the whole thing and love every minute of it.
So I could just relax and go with the flow or I could make ‘em all get a bit more pro for THE GOOD OF THE GROUP. I am going for the latter because we are worth it.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

still we are here - we love and breathe

still we are here - we love and breathe

Girl sitting in the back ground wants to be a Bishop. Strumming her guitar and singing songs of Jesus. Some creaking men  and a few women line up in opposition  to quote the ancient translations of a creed that mostly served men. If it were not for the lack of credible argument in their  opposition most of us would not care about the issue at all. Outside the Comet workers are quietly croaking in their swarm. They sell cheap gadgetry that has built in obsolescence to hurting people looking for solace in stuff. It keeps the pain at bay. The stuff is manna to the masses that no one needs. There is no machinery that allowed the Comet workers to fight the cause of  those previously dumped out of the work place nor did they have the desire to do so. Bleat like sheep the hammer will fall on you next where ever you are. Solidarity brothers and sisters.  Remember that?  What happens when Olympic feel good factor fades? Cold Turkey?  Mythical legacy?

Schizophrenics’  in the UK lose up to 15 years of life due to state neglect.  In 2012 three to four hundred children with mental health issues are held overnight in UK police cells due to lack of alternative Places of Safety provision.  Here is the news  spun down the wires making us dull with it’s repetitive whine. “We are very sorry that this has happened. We will  do and are doing all that we can to try to ensure this will never happen again”. 

Dark clouds forming over great institutions like BBC and HSBC. The icons of a “ Great Britain” are falling like dominoes and many more are dressed in “The King’s new clothes”.  The distant roll of the broken drums of protest is heard to rise a little but they are still not fully voiced.  Lost in a sea of stinking politics, the goodly and righteous gag on the scent of the spoilt and rotten.  The thin blue line in the north will be thinner still. Government cuts, Natural wastage, the Hillsborough enquiry and the police handling of The Miners strike will do them down.  Police morale has never been lower according to Police Federation sources. The tips of ice burgs form in the path of imminent titanic catastrophe for a Coalition not fit for purpose.  Balance of payments, National Deficit all is smoke and mirrors. Here what is being taken from the little people is wasted on the deficient schemes of mean government. The trick isn’t working and the debt will remain. New UNICEF survey places provision for and care of children and young adults in the UK near to bottom of the world and one place above the USA.

Some where a young, Chinese couple sip state made cola and dance under the light of cheap lanterns to a strange hybrid music born in the west. They have next to nothing save the promise of a better future and they are grateful. It’s a touching scene but how can we compete with a manufacturing base whose workers are looking forward to more stuff not less? Reduce wages and working conditions? Break the union pests who only rock the boat? What we have is less each day that passes and the decent standards and aspirations of a healthy civil society are a fading fast. Girl sitting in the background has heard the result of the synod’s vote. She will not become a Bishop. Another boy soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. Another mother weeps in Gaza.  The leaves turn brown in the pale shine. It’s far out there watching the white lines  - go by just like time flies -  for everybody else and the racing cyclist. Still we here. We love and breathe.

So who are the heroes? They are the besieged workers trying to maintain what is left of public services. They are the teachers who will not be diverted by the bullying tactics that arise from a desperate need for a school to get out of the bottom half of the preposterous league table game. They are the volunteers, advocates and supporters of the vulnerable and they strive to meet the real needs of real people with shrinking resources.  They are the young, bright hopefuls who want to live and work to make a difference. They are the ones who work to establish a value system that will benefit us all. They are the activists who will not give up on trying to wake you up to the need for you to participate in the struggle for a just society. Sophie is 22 years old and wants to be a social worker. She seems undaunted by all that this currently entails in the UK. In’t this wonderful? Dave  19 wants to be a mental health nurse in the NHS. All is not lost.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

in the arms of the montague

I had a very nice time at The Montague Arms last night. It was a cold night and dismal. How ever, inside the Arms it was business as usual. The pub is officially closed and I fear last nights benefit for ALDLIFE might be the last gig. The Arms has been a top venue for many years and has always had a sense of community and predisposition for alternative and eccentric offerings. I imagine the place will be demolished and a block of flats will arise out of the demolition dust.
I love the audience at these gigs and I love their stoic participation and support of good causes that are often other wise ignored.
To say that the other acts on the bill were a bit wonderfully strange would be an understatement. They made me the accessible, pop act of the evening. What a glorious collection of anarchic of artists! Some one has to think and perform outside of the box and they all do it so well and with glorious conviction.
Jason Why did his usual music hall styled Mc job with great aplomb. He gets better all of the time. Out of what seems to be a kind of gentle chaos comes a really unusual and alternative head fest.
At some gigs I often begin the evening in a slightly uncomfortable place. I am so organised on the road that I find unnecessary delay or non pro service a bit tiresome these days if I am being totally honest. Last night was a tiny bit like that but I do realise that sometimes it is me that has to adapt and to banish the anxiety that arises out of a lack of control over what happens next. All of these great gigs are delivered on a shoe string budget and with love and little else.
There was a point early on when I wondered if things would ever get sorted but eventually I had my sound check and I settled into the evening. 
I decided to go on before the last band instead of ending the evening and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The audience was very attentive and very giving. I always feel like we are communing together when I play for these folks.
For a change, I hardly said a word and it was nice just to change things up and jam. I am really enjoying joining bits and pieces together in a spontaneous way. I’m going to miss bits of that in a band context though I shall retain some of it.
As some of you will know I am still fascinated by the electric or acoustic debate though I fully intend to do both. In this respect I am a greedy man. 
A guy came up after my set last night to tell me he hadn’t heard of me until a day or so before the gig when a friend invited him along and played him some EBB you tube clips and the Rock Palast DVD. He told me he preferred the acoustic stuff on the grounds it was “deeper and more emotionally accessible”. It is all a matter of personal preference and of course I respect all points of view. Any way after the gig for Mad pride I will be concentrating on the electrification of my new material. 
I look forward to long months of rehearsals with the new guys with a mixture of excited anticipation and dread. For me it is the putting it together that is the hardest work but if it works it will be special and unique. This I know. Then the gigs will be relatively easy. 
So now it is back to the pre production for the new live show and lots of playing with my new toys. There is so much to do and I have to get a move on. Looking back over the year there are a few things I would have done slightly differently but more on that at the end of the year. There are also a couple of things that didn’t get done such as the new T-Shirts and other goodies but it is a work in progress and this will be addressed early in 2013.
I have a lot to do before the gigs in Athens in January. I’m looking forward to that and to seeing what is going on in Greece for myself. I don’t fancy being “kettled ” in Athens but you never know. If it’s kicking off I’d have to have a good look though, wouldn’t I?


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