Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A gap wider than the Grand Canyon...

...between this post and the last one, so much for keeping up to date!
2016 has been an important year for the band, not least as our latest album 'Ticket to Somewhere' finally came out on sale, and we were dead chuffed, not only with the album itself but with the reaction to it - the 'Dancing About Architecture' blog and 'Rock & Reel' magazine gave particularly pleasing reviews, and a track was featured on the latter's 'UnHerd' CD.
The gigging year got off to a slow start, partly due to our concentrating on the album and forgetting to book gigs, but also the traditional post-Christmas slump, but our first outing in February to the Rose and Crown in Longburton was a hoot, especially as our old friend Elodie was in charge there.

My next gig was a bit different, as it was with my old 1980s band The Allnight Chemists - our first for 26 years! I've kept in touch with Alan the old guitarist, who's been playing with the hardest-working covers band in the South West, Angel Up Front, for years, and also Rich Harding the singer, who has been fronting prog rockers (he'll hate that) Also Eden, and we thought it might be fun to get together and see how much of our old material we could remember. As it turned out, not very much, but with the aid of a few dodgy cassette recordings, Angel Up Front's drummer Stuart and Rich's carefully hoarded setlists, we cobbled together a decent set and promptly landed a support slot with Antimatter at the Exchange in Bristol - this went better than we'd dare hope, despite my determined efforts to cock something up in every song, and we decided to keep our hand in by meeting up regularly and keeping an eye out for a few other gigs. Watch this space...

The Allnight Chemists at the Exchange - how does this one go, again..?
Firmly jammed back in the saddle of Billy in the Lowground, and April saw a very welcome return to the all-new Mr Wolfs in Bristol - a great venue which has moved to bigger premises just around the corner. Always good sound and a decent crowd in here, and that hadn't changed. The only drawback was that after our set finished to a full house the DJs, as is their wont, cranked up the beats immediately, which meant we had to load out through a huge dancing throng. Turns out that politely asking a saucer-eyed hipster grooving to the latest sounds to "Mind yer back, mate..?" doesn't work - the only way is to plough through them like a bulldozer carrying heavy amplification equipment and see them scatter in your wake. They'll be wondering where those bruises came from in the morning...

April 23rd is of course St Georges Day (no, I didn't know either, but apparently it is so) and that night we played a Medieval Banquet in a tent on Broughton Gifford common, set up and organised by the good people at The Bell on the Common, which was fully as surreal as it sounds.
It was a great idea, but the downside to April in Merrie Olde England is that it's a bit, shall we say, nippy out... the assembled medievally-costumed multitude showed every sign of enjoying themselves, but when they'd finished eating most of them disappeared inside to the roaring log fires of the pub, leaving us shivering minstrels to play to our highly inebriated ex-guitarist Simon and his good lady wife, who were dancing on a table, and the landlord, clad in a complete St George outfit including chainmail. Believe it or not it was enormous fun.

It hadn't got any warmer at night by the next weekend, when we played our first festival of the year, Landed Festival at Rhayader in Wales. This was a new one on me, but a fantastic little festival, on a beautiful site with multiple stages, catering to all musical tastes.
We had a whale of a time, I particularly enjoyed a band called Kilnaboy who came on after us. And the beer tent, I really enjoyed that. Drummer DFP did his best to get me into the Drum'n'Bass shenanigans at the Club stage later on, but I was having none of it and went weaving unsteadily off to my tent, where despite being fully clothed and with 2 sleeping bags I spent possibly the coldest night of my life. Hope this one happens again next year, though I'll be packing my thermals if we go back...

By May I'd more or less thawed out, in time to return to the Southgate Inn in Devizes - another great night in this snug but welcoming pub, and onwards into June we played a double-header with Alien Stash Tin at the Louisiana in Bristol. First time we'd played here in years, and it was a real pleasure, although the mid-week slot didn't do us any favours and the crowd was distinctly thin. Great sound, though!
At the Louisiana - where is everybody?!
A lot busier later in the month at the Golden Lion in Bristol for their annual 'Backyard Bash' - a multi-band street party that lasts all day, which we finished off inside - the joint was well and truly jumping, and it was particularly great to have so many old mates come down to Bristol for the night - this one was my highlight so far this year. Some great photos by John Morgan as well:

Golden Lion Backyard Bash!

In July we were in Clivey near Westbury to play the aptly named Cliveyfest, a very well run 2 day charity festival with sofas to watch the stage on, which is a splendid idea
Next on the list was the Village Pump, always a favourite of ours and a real pleasure to do. Once again we found ourselves in the late-night slot on Stage 2 starting up as the Proclaimers finished '500 miles' on the main stage - the space in front of the stage rapidly filled with everyone onsite who didn't want to go to bed just yet, and we rocked the place till 1.30 in the morning, by which time Chris had cast caution to the winds and ripped off his shirt, he was so hot and sweaty... I kept mine on, discretion being the better part of valour...

The Village Pump - Chris bares all...
It turns out that this may have been our last appearance there, not because of Chris's sweaty chest, but it seems the Village Pump is no more. At time of writing we're not sure of the full story, but it seems the organisers have pulled the plug on a festival in 2017, which is a real shame as it was a real landmark on the Festival calendar. That said, everything has a lifespan and there are so many events over the summer now that the Festival Pound can only stretch so far. We'll miss you, Village Pump...
From a nice big stage back to a small one for the Crown Inn in Lechlade next, an idiosyncratic little pub where we went down a storm - expect to see us there again in 2017.

Into August and we returned to the Firsdown Festival, which we played last year - a lovely stage and sound and lights (see the photo below by Terri Johnson) and we played last on the Friday night. This looked like a great slot on paper, but the band before us took so long to clear their gear offstage that combined with a strict 11pm curfew we only got about half an hour playing time. We were all pretty disappointed by this and it marred what would otherwise have been a good night for us. Never mind, you can't win 'em all.

Firsdown Festival - could've done with more than 30 minutes..!
A private party we played a couple of weeks later was great fun, although I felt sorry for the host, whose 50th birthday had been several months before but he put off the party to ensure better weather. Needless to say it bucketed down all night, making the barbecue a bit of a labour of love... everyone had a good time though, which was the main thing.
The following week saw us back at the Golden Lion in Bristol, my new favourite pub venue, but not as busy as last time, probably due to it being a scorching Bank Holiday weekend, and most everyone had gone away. Much kudos to the faithful few who turned up though, and we will be back here before too long I'm sure.
FestiBell - LASERS!
That brings us almost up to date except for last weeks headline slot on the Saturday night of FestiBell, a new venture by the owners of the Bell in Broughton Gifford (they of the St Georges Day Banquet) - a 2 day festival in aid of charities which was great fun and very well run, although as anyone who went to the huge 28,000 people gig by Massive Attack on the Downs in Bristol that night knows, the weather was not exactly with us. It poured down, but despite this, the brave punters splashed about with abandon, and the onstage sound and light was possibly the best we'd had all summer - well done to everyone involved, and pleased to hear it raised about £1300 for charity. Hope they do it again next year, we're certainly up for it!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Catch-up time again.

Lots of gigs since July, the album is all but finished, and we've had some memorable Festival appearences, so best take things in order; the first festival date this year was the South Cotswold Beer Festival - a well organised do in a massive field full of beer-soaked punters, at least it was by the time we'd finished if not when we started... a rather early slot for us, and the enormous gap between the stage and the beertent apparently about a mile away was slow to fill, but the sound was great.
Ditto the following night at the Rattlebone Inn at Sherston, when our occasional sound engineer Hans got to play with the new PA that DFP had surprised us all with - very large and lovely! The PA, not Hans. Although Hans is large and lovely too, bless him.

August kicked off with Farmfest in Bruton on the 1st, followed by Festival on the Farm in Purton on the 2nd. The confusion this caused was considerable, and after a storm of muddled texts and emails between the 6 bandmembers, I wasn't at all sure that we'd all turn up to the right festival on the right day, but somehow we managed it.
Farmfest was as usual excellent - it has grown year on year and now occupies a big place in the national Festival calendar.The Sett Stage, ably curated (I hate that term, but it seems to have entered common parlance now) by the inimitable Ollie Hulme was a hit, although I suspect the PA might have been a little underpowered, as there was quite a lot of 'bleed' from the stages either side. A bit more separation between the stages might not go amiss next year, as it's a nice big site.

A full house at Farmfest - pic by Lou Fitch-Peyton
Festival on the Farm was an altogether lower-key affair, set on a little organic farm with a really relaxing village-fete atmosphere, and chickens running around all over the shop. Took the family to this one, and it was a good day out - here's a photo taken by son Joe, in-house photographer and roadie-in-training...

Festival on the Farm - Joe Simpson
The next week, Firsdown Festival was another small, local event, but someone in the village clearly owned their own PA and Lighting company, as the stage set-up put many much larger festivals to shame... a very well organised and friendly do - apart from us it was all covers bands though, which was a bit of a missed opportunity I thought.
A big surprise for us though was meeting the original Brew Band bassplayer Sid, who was over on holiday from New Zealand with his wife, and turned up to see us, which was brilliant - I'd never met him before, and Chris and Ruth hadn't seen him in 20 years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. Sid was pleased to see that there were still one or two songs on the set that he recognised and remembered playing!

Firsfest - pic by Terri Johnson
At the other end of August came our headlining slot at Foxstock, a 4 day music festival run by Maurice Dickson, who coincidentally is the chap who's been Mastering our album - this was a big deal for us, as the Saturday night slot has previously been filled by big-name bands like Dr Feelgood and Chas 'n' Dave, and I think we acquitted ourselves rather well, certainly judging by the audience reaction. We were well chuffed, and many thanks to all involved including Antony Edwards, who took some great photos...

Johnny at Foxstock, by Antony Edwards

Ruth at Foxstock, by Antony Edwards

The following night we were in the Southgate Inn, Devizes, as part of the Devizes International Street Festival, which was a tiny and eccentric place of the sort that I would love to have as my local... and not just because the guv'nor gave us free drinks all night, either; a proper music-loving pub with an extremely enthusiastic crowd - the best pub gig I can remember playing in ages.
I enjoyed it so thoroughly in fact, that I managed to leave my jacket, wallet, doorkeys, carkeys and phone there, meaning an early return in the cold grey dawn of Sunday morning to retrieve them. Oops.

And so on to September, and the Upton Cheyney Chilli & Cider Festival, which we were very pleased to be doing again - we played the Saturday night 'Party in the Barn', and had a blast - cheers to Alex Duck for asking us back, and for the ciders! Also good to make the acquaintance of Sicknote Steve, the UK's premier Seasick Steve Tribute, and a jolly nice feller to boot.
Those punters who stayed until the Sunday afternoon were treated to the Wurzels, who in addition to their usual eye-watering fee, apparently demanded that a larger PA was hired in at great expense... I'm saying nothing...

Chilli + cider = party... pic by Lou
Later in the month another 2-gig weekend, starting with The Locomotive in Swindon, a new player on the scene trying to get established as a music venue but still somewhat hampered by the clientele, who were more the all-day drinking crowd, including the World's Smelliest Irishman who wouldn't leave Ruth alone... actually, just typing that makes me think I can still smell him...
The makings of a good venue - I hope it succeeds, as Swindon has a dearth of decent places to play for a town of its size - good luck to the organisers, who are clearly putting a lot of work in.
The next night we played the OktoberWest Beer Festival in Yattendon, Berkshire - a new one, run by the local brewery, who had pulled out all the stops with a lovely old tithe barn and some great beers.
A rather posh crowd, with many pairs of red trousers in evidence, plus lots of rugby shirts with the collars turned up, and some truly appalling dancefloor moves, which seems to be a speciality of the upper classes for some reason.

A return after a couple of years to the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon at the end of September was enjoyable, though a bit quiet by recent standards - apparently there was some sort of rugby World Cup on, or something.

Thunderbolt - pic by Rhys Postians
October saw us headlining a benefit gig at The Thunderbolt in Bristol, in aid of medical aid to Greece and the Calais Refugee Crisis appeal. The support band were a young outfit from Cardiff called Commander Boom, and very good they were too - I don't know how much money we raised, but everyone seemed to have a good time, ourselves included. Nice venue the Thunderbolt.
Commander Boom had a photographer mate with them who very kindly took some very nice ones of us as well - thanks, Rhys Postians!

And that about brings us up to date, apart from a private party we played the following night at the Holford Arms, Knockdown - this nearly didn't happen at all, as when we got there the place had been hit with a powercut, but eventually it was sorted out and it was a pretty good night in the end.

No more gigs in the diary at time of writing, and we're still finalising the artwork and design of the new album, but hopefully that'll be ready in time for Christmas (I hope so, there's a few earmarked for Christmas prezzies that otherwise I'll have to buy!) Watch this space...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Bit of a pattern emerging, isn't there?

OK, I know, even by my woeful standards, 6 months is a long gap between posts, but I think I've got a pretty good set of excuses:

(1) Our recent line-up changes have necessitated a lengthy period of introspective reflection, practise and self-improvement, mostly at an exclusive Retreat in the Maldives.
(2) Frankly, I couldn't be arsed.
(3) Errr...
(4) That's it.

Well, that's the ritual excuses out of the way...

This should be pretty short and sweet frankly, as there's several gigs I can't remember a thing about - the Village Inn in March, for instance, I know we were there, but damned if I can recall one single thing about it. I could make something up, but then I'd be compromising my Journalistic Integrity, and you wouldn't want to be complicit in that, now, would you?

After that one we did the opening night of Charlie's Bar in Westbury - an unpromising start loading in all our gear over the heads of a small herd of apparently completely unsupervised toddlers, but a great little sweaty gig in the end - some good photos by Andrew Bert Greaves as well...

April saw a return to the wonderful Beeses Tea Gardens in Bristol - an unlikely sounding venue to anyone outside of Bristol, but a legend to anyone within, and it didn't disappoint. We headlined their Beer Festival a couple of years ago, and we'd been itching to get back there ever since - a lovely place to play, run by people who know their music and are happy to put up with a bunch of whinging musicians and still keep a smile on their faces - good luck in your future endeavours, Ma Beese & Co., we'll miss you!

We finally took the plunge and went into the studio to do some recording in May, at the splendidly 1970's-feeling Alma Vale Studio - the intention being to 'do it properly this time' and record a full 10 or 12-track album.
We started on the first day with recording the drums and bass guitar live, and it worked so well, we'd recorded 14 tracks before we'd quite realised what we'd done. so we decided to stop there and let the other guys do some work.
As we go to press it's in the Mixing stage - a few more stirs, and it'll be ready...

 We were supposed to play the Bradford on Avon Beer Festival in May, and we turned up and soundchecked as per,but unfortunately one of DFP's mares was having a difficult delivery, which obviously he had to stick around for to sort out, so we had to pull out at the last minute.
(You can insert your own 'Stud Farm Related Coitus Interruptus' gag here, I'm not doing all of the work for you...)
What with all the recording we've been doing recently, it's a wonder we've managed to find time to play live at all, but we managed to drag ourselves onstage - protesting all the while, and covered in capes like James Brown...(could've done with capes as well, it was bloody freezing...) at the Holford Arms in Knockdown, playing outside in a frankly rather under-lit marquee, to an audience of of around 200 tree surgeons.
I have no idea why there were that many tree surgeons in one place, but they seemed to enjoy it, which is just as well - never a good idea to antagonise a man with a chainsaw, in my experience.

I've always maintained that we do our best work in the dark...

Monday, January 19, 2015

And then there were six!

the rather splendid poster from the first Star gig...
Oh dear, let this slide a bit haven't I?
Not a huge amount of gigs since the last entry though, as we were frantically trying to organise a new lead guitarist after the unexpected departure of Simon.

A new venue for us at the end of October was The Star in Fishponds - a quick Google of the place showed what looked like a shut-down pub with a load of terrible reviews, but in actual fact it's been recently taken over by the same team that run the Village Inn in Nailsworth, and they'd really gone to town on the place, gutting it completely and turning it into a real asset to the area (and god knows, Fishponds needs a decent pub).

We did this gig as a 4-piece, but by the time we returned to the pub a mere few weeks later in December, we'd not only recruited a new lead guitarist, Rob Fawcett, but also a banjoplayer, Johnny Gould, so for possibly the first time in our history we played with 2 new members - luckily both chaps are so quick on the uptake and generally talented that we sailed through it, which gave us lots of confidence for the coming year. The sound of the band has been beefed-up considerably, and we're all rather excited about the possibilities...

Next gig was at one of my favourite Bristol venues, Mr Wolfs, with support from the Bonfire Radicals - a brilliant alt/Folk band who'd come all the way down from Birmingham for this Tuesday night gig, and with a variety of debilitating lurgeys between them, as well - hope they decide it was worth the journey, as I'd very much like to see them down this way again.

Final gig of the year at the end of December was at The Oxford, Totterdown - another favourite Bristol haunt, and a great way to finish 2014...
Onwards and upwards!

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Griffin - Never say Never Again...

Looking back through these dusty archives, I see we were last here back in 2009, and the rather terse entry was so short, I may as well quote the whole thing:

"Bit of a random question, mate, but if we give you a fiver could you give us all a lift down to Sainsburys in your van?" Thus spake the boldest of the small knot of emo kids hanging around outside the Griffin in Frome as we drew up.
Well, if we'd known then what we know now, we'd probably have taken them up on it.
The Griffin's a nice little pub (little being the operative word) with it's own (micro)brewery attached (lovely beer, by the way), but is plagued by a neighbour prone to ringing Environmental Health if the milkman whistles too loudly in the morning. As a consequence there's a 82db soundlimit on proceedings,which pretty much sounds the death knell for a 5 piece amplified band. In fact death knells usually peak at around 90db, so even this wouldn't be allowed.
Very frustrating for all concerned, and I think it's safe to say we won't be back - sorry Frome!

OK, it's five years later, and I think I can safely expand on that a little... the source of our frustration at the time was indeed the abovementioned Neighbour from Hell, but rather more in-your-face was the lady behind the bar at the time, who had one of those noise-meters shaped like a gun that she was basically shoving in our faces while we were soundchecking.
When the Snaredrum trips the infernal device all on its own, you know there's going to be a problem... Safe to say, things went from Bath to Sausage, as the Germans would say (look it up. Think of it as Homework), and by the end of the evening our lead guitarist Mick had lost all patience with the silly cow and cranked his amp up to 11... I followed suit, as did everyone else, and we left under something of a cloud.

Aaanyway, so 5 years later, the Neighbour from Hell has presumably died from Apoplexy, and the Landlady from Hell has thankfully buggered off as well, so back we are, and it couldn't have been a more different experience! The only similarity to last time is that the beer is still lovely.
This time, the barstaff are also lovely, there's no noise issues (they've cunningly devised a lot of curtain-related trickery to ameliorate what noise there is, as well), we have a large and very appreciative audience, and did I mention that the beer is rather lovely?
We will be back here as soon as I can decently manage it...
Oh, and here is the ad for the gig in The List, which is as nice a summation of what we do as I've seen in many a year, cheers folks!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Woolley Festival

Our last festival of the summer, this was the 16th Woolley Festival, held on Merkins Farm near Bradford on Avon. This has grown over the years from being a street party held out the front of the (late lamented) George pub, to a much more ambitious event the last time we played it a couple of years ago in a neighbouring field, to this year's huge site featuring several stages, a eclectic line-up of nationally well-known bands and plenty of local acts as well.
Quite a line-up, and that's just Friday and Saturday.

We were extremely chuffed to be asked to open the main stage on the Friday night, before Chas 'n' Dave, and well impressed as we rolled onto site and saw the stage - probably one of the largest set-ups we've ever played on, it wouldn't have looked out of place at Glastonbury!

That's a Proper Stage, that is...
Great to have some room for once, and we took full advantage of the opportunity - excellent onstage sound, a great crew, and got to meet Dave and Joe Brown too, both of whom were thoroughly good eggs. Nice to see Joe has fully recovered, as he was originally supposed to be on the bill for the Village Pump earlier in the year but had to cancel due to medical problems.

We seemed to go down pretty darned well, too, which made it an all-round success for us, after which we relaxed into the cider and ales and watched Chas & Dave (who are much more than a sort of Cockney Wurzels, a terrific pair of musicians with a fine band behind them - a great set, too) and lastly Joe Brown, whose ukelele version of 'Ace of Spades' I particularly enjoyed...

We had another gig on the Saturday, playing at the relaunch of the Rattlebone Inn, Sherston, after their roof caught fire earlier in the year, so sadly I wasn't able to make it back onto site for the rest of the weekend - a shame, as I'd dearly love to have seen the Aristocrats play on a big stage - I saw them at the Fleece a few months ago and they were astonishingly good. Dreadzone by all accounts were superb, and Jesus Jones headlined the Sunday to much acclaim.

Unfortunately by the Saturday night it was becoming apparent that the numbers needed for the festival to break even just hadn't materialised, and organiser Darren was forced to contact several acts including Ginger Baker, Martin Simpson and Courtney Pine to explain that there wasn't going to be enough money to pay them... they cancelled, and a lot of people were of course very disappointed.
I still can't for the life of me work out why more people didn't show up... the line-up was excellent, the weather forecast great and the facilities top-notch. Doubtless this will be the subject of much debate and agonising over the next few months, but whatever the fallout, Darren deserves a huge thank-you from all the local acts like ours he's supported over the years. I know full-well what goes into organising a large Festival, and the list of things that can go wrong is truly terrifying.
Hopefully some lessons will be learned from this year and the festival will return next year... it will be a real shame and a great loss to the area if it doesn't.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Foxstock and Chilli...

AAaaahhh, August Bank Holiday weekend... traditionally a time for relaxation: a barby in the garden, an alcohol-fuelled fight in the beer-garden of your local, or perhaps a combination of the two..?
We, on the other hand, were at Foxstock - a 4 day music festival at the back of the Fox Inn at Great Barrington on a stage which is erected over a river which runs round the back of the pub - sounds a bit shonky, but the whole thing was run on a very professional basis - great stage, well managed, and one of the best soundcrews we've ever worked with.
Made a huge difference, especially as, due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control, we were minus our lead guitarist that day. We pulled it off as a 4-piece however, and that just means that we've got a bit in reserve for when we do it again next year, which looks to be on the cards...

A photo Lou had forgotten she'd taken! A terrible thing, red wine... ;)
Weekend after that was another first for us - the Upton Cheyney Chilli & Cider Festival - just roll that around your mouth and savour it for a while, eh?
Being as I am a huge fan of both the aforementioned comestibles, I was salivating at the first mention of this baby, and by the Lord Harry it was a cracker.
The only downside was trying to get our gear out of the barn afterwards into a pitch-dark farmyard, and thence into the van, without either losing anything, accidentally goosing the barstaff * or headbutting the Sound Engineer. Perhaps some lighting next year, Alex..?

(Photo courtesy of Rob House)

*Sorry Lucy, it was an honest mistake. Honest...