Monday, December 15, 2008

Ho Ho Ho!

No, it's not actually Santa giving a cheery greeting from his grotto, but Chris 'enjoying' a half-time fag outside the George, Bradford on Avon last Saturday. As you can tell, he's not overly keen on the new smoking restrictions... thanks to Gretchen for the pic - I think you were wise not to sit on his knee, though.

Inside was cosy & warm, and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces who braved the filthy weather, and also to meet Ruth, who knows more about the band than we do, including the words to all the songs, which may well come in handy if Chris keeps forgetting them faster than he writes them. A cracking gig, despite a migraine, a bad back & two different strains of flu (and that's just between the 5 of us in the band).

Back to Broughton Gifford for late night beers & JDs, while the rain hammered down unnoticed outside - until the next morning, when I splashed blearily up the path to my car, slithered in & headed out towards Atworth, with a bow wave in front of me & weird glugging noises from the exhaust... oh dear. Took quite while to find a navigable passage out, and I half expected to see Mick's narrowboat overtaking me.

Here's another of Gretchen's pics of the gig - the only one I could find where we don't look like a bunch of old winos. OK, maybe that's a stretch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Plough, Manston

And so once more to the Plough in our favourite corner of Dorset, albeit a very difficult to find corner, at least when you take the admittedly rather perverse route I took. The usual mixture of local musos and farmers await, and as ever it's a good 'un. Unlike the place last week, the locals do know how to call for more, even if they sound like a cow in calf when they do it (according to Chris anyway, and he should know - he can do things with a calving rope that would make your eyes water). All credit to them, as their numbers were much reduced by a virulent plague that had most of the village in bed with a hot waterbottle & a lemsip, apparently.
Of course that could just be what they told us, in which case full marks for tact! We used to play at a pub in Bristol many years ago where the guv'nor had a knack for puncturing any bubble of optimism (or indeed will to live) we might have brought with us by dolefully announcing: "Course, there won't be many in tonight... they all came out for the band we had laaast night - fantastic, they were..."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bayshill Tavern, Cheltenham

After the roaring success of our last gig at Mr Wolfs, this one was bound to be quieter, especially as we're minus one tonight, Mick having a prior commitment.
Always a rather sedate venue anyway (feels more like playing a piano recital in your auntie's sitting room than a pub gig) - I've never seen anyone actually get out of their chair....
Also there's something up with the wiring, so every time I plug in my bass amp it starts seething & hissing like a basket of cobras. Ho hum. Still, there was a bigger crowd than usual and they obligingly stick around... pity no-one asks for any more until we've more or less cleared the gear away - you haven't worked out how this encore thing works, have you people?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mr Wolfs, we loves you...

Cracking gig at Mr Wolfs in Bristol last Saturday - support The Dirty Roger were highly entertaining, reminiscent of Captain Beefheart I thought, and they even had someone wearing a bear's head on stage, I have no idea why. Good stuff.
A completely rammed venue for us to play in front of, all leaping about like mad things, which inspired Mick to leave the cosy environs of the stage to go a-wandering through the crowd; a move that nearly backfired as he rapidly disappeared in a melee of dancing bodies, several of whom appeared behind me on the stage at one point, playing havoc with the effects pedals...
Our newer, rockier material seems to be going down very well, and when they finally let us go & the DJ sparked up, there ensued the now traditional mad scramble in the dark to get the stage cleared of all our gear whilst being danced on by dozens of drunken students - Chris was particularly chuffed when a flushed & panting young lady told him afterwards we were 'awesome'... must have been loud too, my ears were still ringing on Monday!

Just to ensure permanent hearing damage, went to see Opeth at the Carling Academy last night, and very good they were too, although the venue doesn't exactly cater for those of us of short stature - unless you get a good spot early on, you can't see a damned thing all night... it's an early night too, as the music finishes at 10pm so DJs can start - I was trying to explain this to two baffled Dutchmen from support band Cynic afterwards, and it didn't make much sense to me, either.
Took this photo of the army of roadies clearing the stage, thinking wistfully - one day, one day..!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It was muddy in 1985, too...

Originally uploaded by Dave Rownia

Stumbled upon this in Flickr after following links from the highly addictive site below - it's Martin's SuperVega at Glastonbury, the year we all tried to become freelance beer entrepeneurs! It didn't work out so well, as we broke the cardinal rule about getting 'high on your own supply', and also got taxed by the Angels, who were the 'official licencees'. Well, we weren't about to argue with them...
At the end of the festival we had to be towed out, and as I was the most susceptible to suggestion due to the various chemical inbalances in my brain at the time, I was sent under the bus with a towrope and an earnest plea from Martin to Not Attach It To The Front Axle! After lying in the mud giggling for a while, I attached it to the front axle & swam out.
Amazingly we made it off site relatively intact, barring an unfortunate incident with a sidepanel - I don't think Martin stopped shaking for days, though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inn on the Green & Fox 'n' Hounds

Not two gigs on the same night, actually a fortnight apart, but thanks to my ISP I've been offline for over a week - thanks a bunch, guys...

The Inn on the Green is a massive great real ale pub on the Gloucester Rd in Bristol, which has just started dipping it's toe into the murky waters of live music. Nice people & a mouth-watering array of beers, albeit a bit brightly-lit for my tastes - I prefer my pubs dark, seedy & a bit sticky underfoot - and the set-up for music is initially unpromising; no carpets, curtains or soft furnishings coupled with a stone floor and high ceilings ring alarm bells straight away... we needn't have worried though, as there's plenty of bodies, and the sound sorts itself out once we get going.
It's our first time out with our shiny new member Mick too, and he immediately distinguishes himself by not only remembering all the songs (some of them better than me), but by bringing his very own troupe of dancing girls with him - mark my words, this lad will go far...
All in all an excellent gig, I hope we come back - and not just because it's round the corner from my house..!

The Fox & Hounds in Coaley is as usual a much quieter affair, though not for the hapless punters who had to try and eat their dinner while we soundchecked - sorry people, but it had to be done! One of those places where we're lucky if we play to double figures, but it doesn't matter 'cos they're actually listening & they like it. Probably our last time here, as the Guv'nor & his missus are hanging up their hats & retiring - cheers for the free beers, mate!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where have all the bikers gone?

OK, so we're not as pretty as the Coors (a band once described as "three models who escaped from Laboratoire Garnier and stole a fiddle on the way out"), and our own-brand perfume is unlikely to be as successful as Christina Aguilera's, but surely we're not so scary as to frighten off an entire pub full of bikers? If it wasn't news of our imminent arrival then something had put the wind up Scallys' clientele last Saturday, as we started off playing just to the barstaff & bouncers...
Eventually however a fair few people who weren't actually on the payroll turned up (among them some familiar faces, which is always good to see) and we ended up having a blast - well, I did anyway, and so did Ruth, though she did start to feel a bit queasy on the way home - probably too much excitement.

In other news, we've found our new mandolin player in the form of Mick Stanger, (ex Tribe of Cro), who also plays mandola and lead guitar, which should take our sound in some intriguing new directions. He's keen to get started, so we'll be tactically deploying him in the theatre of operations as soon as possible...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Plough music festival

A great idea this, organised by Elodie from the Plough at Manston - three nights of music in a huge marquee on the tarmac carpark at the side of the pub, with a cheap bar & camping in the field next door - a perfect setup.
We played the Thursday night, which was always going to be the trickiest in terms of getting people through the door, and sure enough despite the luvverly balmy September evening yer actual punters were a bit thin on the ground. I suspect the long, soggy weeks of the 'summer' have worn away everybody's resolve to party. Terrific marquee though, and the PA & sound guy did a great job (as did the barstaff - we did our level best to keep them fully occupied...)
I really hope the numbers were up for the following two nights, as we'd love to come back & do it again sometime. And I'm pleased to say that despite the Plough's rural location (try as I might I couldn't see any other buildings for miles), we got a noise complaint from someone who couldn't hear their telly...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bye bye Nige...

Another nice little gig at the Prom in Bristol last week, well attended despite the rain lashing down outside. I think everyone's got so used to the idea that it's going to rain all summer that we've resigned ourselves to it now. The Prom have installed a fancy new lighting rig, plus video screens that beam images of the stage to all those far-flung corners of the venue that people hide in to try & avoid the band... it wasn't working yet though, so they could cower in relative safety.
As it turns out, this was mandolin player Nige Lloyd's last gig with the band - he's just turned 50 and has decided to call it a day. Apparently, 'white collar' mandolin players are allowed to retire early because of the wear & tear on the fingers, whereas those of us in the 'blue collar' rhythmn section are compelled to carry on until at least 65. There is, of course, no upper limit for fiddle players.

So, a vacancy has opened up; aspiring candidates should possess all of the following:
1. A mandolin, or a 5 string banjo (tools not provided)
2. Ability to play said mandolin or 5 string banjo (otherwise you'll look pretty silly standing on stage)
3. A driving license & some wheels! (so you can like, get there & stuff)

Non essential, but advantageous:
4. Freakish strength, for loading/unloading gear from van.
5. Ability to survive for long periods with no sustenance other than petrol station Scotch eggs.

If you know someone who fits the bill, get in touch here or via the band website, and we'll come round with some chloroform & a sack!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pontardawe Festival

I cut it a bit fine getting here for our 3.15pm slot on the New Music stage, but not as fine as Nick, who got stuck in a jam on the M4 and eventually turned up at er... 3.15pm. I've never been so pleased to see him, as anyone who's ever had to play without a drummer will appreciate! We launched into our set in record time & knocked the socks off 'em, though I say so myself. Just as we came off, all the house lights suddenly went down, and the stage lighting came on. "Sorry," said the sheepish Stagemanager "I forgot..." We'd been wondering about the rather harsh lighting - shame really, as we look a lot better in the dark.
We must have done Ponty at least half a dozen times over the years, and for the life of me I can't remember one when it didn't chuck it down with rain. This year was no exception - by the time I got there on Saturday all vehicle movement was already banned onsite, leaving several well-refreshed gentlemen no option but to get around site by sliding through the mud on their ample bellies (see above). All good clean fun, until one particularly enthusiastic slide ended up at the feet of a couple of coppers wandering the site, who took a rather dim view as they inspected their not-so-shiny-anymore boots and mud-spattered blue serge trousers... cue comedy chase through mud, cheered on by large crowd of onlookers from the beer tent.
Spent most of the rest of Saturday camped out indoors at the New Music stage, which was dry, warm, and had a cheaper bar than the beer tent. Despite these obvious advantages, everyone else at the Festival seemed to prefer sloshing about outside in the mud & rain - more fool them, as they missed the excellent Jocanovic, and indeed the headliners Pressgang, who played a fantastic set to a smaller crowd than we had - I suspect that most people simply didn't know where it was...
Woke up Sunday morning, upside down in my sleeping bag, to the sound of rain drumming on the car roof - ah, the glamour of Rock 'n' Roll...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rode Festival

Aaaand another festival! ...I love playing festivals, it's a big part of what made me want to be in a band in the first place, way back in the mists of time when I was about 15 and had just come home from Reading Rock in 1981... some of the best experiences of my life have happened at festivals (N.B. Never shorten the word to 'festy'. That way lies madness.). Also some of the worst of course, but let's gloss over that.
Rode festival is a village-based event that raises money for local charities (we're talking the local Scout group, PTA, things like that), and we were chuffed to be asked to open it. OK, a later slot would have been better, but what the hell - we had a good onstage sound & a huge field to play in front of, and we did.
For such a small, locally run event, this was fantastically well organised - proper routes to the stage, loads of time to soundcheck, free food & drink for chrissakes! If only every gig was like this - and did I mention the tractor rides & pig racing?
Another nice surprise was the fact that we weren't the only band on the bill doing original material: sure, the headline act was a Who tribute band (I wonder if the bloke playing guitar has to endure countless heckles along the lines of: "So Pete, where's the book, then..?"), but there were a fair few doing their own stuff, among whom an outfit called Pinstripe particularly caught my ear. I'd have liked to have stayed & listened to more, but the unceasing and unreasonable demands of my entourage (aged 4 and 8) ruled that out...
Fair play to the bods in charge for striking a balance with the lineup though - I've been getting a bit pissed off recently with the tendency of event organisers to load the bill with covers & tribute bands, which can make the whole concept of a 'Festival' seem farcical (in my eyes, at least). I've got nothing against covers bands per se - there's some terrific musicians out on the circuit keeping people interested in seeing live music - but in my humble opinion, if you go to a festival you ought to be able to see some bands doing their own songs. Otherwise, you might as well stay at home and plug in yer iPod...
Alright, rant over - here's a pic of the gig - cheers, wife of mine..!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gillingham Festival & Woolley St Festival

No festivals for ages, then two come along at once! This was a bit of a logistical nightmare, but fun in a hectic kind of way. First up was Gillingham Festival in Dorset, a very slickly run operation where everyone fell over themselves to be helpful - we were issued with passes & plied with tea as soon as we arrived, which made a nice change from the usual "You're the band, then? Don't need you for another hour, sod off." If we'd asked for a big bowl of smarties with all the blue ones taken out, I'm sure they would have done their best to accomodate us...
Lovely big stage, nice sound, crowd a bit thin on the ground, but then that's what you get with an early afternoon gig. Apparently this one was recorded off the desk, which'll be interesting to hear - if it's halfway decent, I'll post it online.
Right, all pile in the van & off to Bradford on Avon for the 10th Woolley St Festival; a cheerfully shambolic charity fundraising affair in the street outside the George. We have to park quite a way away, and lug the gear up to the stage through the crowd (sadly without the sacktrucks, which got left behind), so we're knackered before we start. Luckily, there's about 4 hours to hang around and recharge our batteries before we play. I say luckily, but after a couple of hours of covers band hell, I wasn't so sure. At one point, an atrocious cover of Teenage Kicks was 'dedicated to John Peel', whom I'm sure would have gnawed his own leg off and beaten the singer to death with the soggy end if he'd heard it.
The headline act were a Pink Floyd tribute band who seemed to take themselves even more seriously than their heroes. They'd got a CD out apparently, which was being relentlessly plugged between everyone else's sets.
Bit of a head-scratcher, this: why would anyone in their right mind want to buy a CD of some half-assed tribute band doing Pink Floyd covers? If you like Pink Floyd then you've probably got their original albums already, surely? I mean, is it me..?
Anyway, to add injury to this insult they then decided to set up all their gear onstage before we went on. This left us and the bands after us with a titchy space to set up in, which didn't improve morale. Neither did our set being cut to half an hour, but what the hell, mustn't grumble - it sounded pretty good onstage and the crowd seemed to like it - which is the point of it, after all.
If this festival season has so far taught us anything, it seems to be that tribute acts & covers bands are now considered to be 'what everybody wants to hear', so it seems we have no option: we'll form a Billy in the Lowground tribute band! All we need now is a name... how about Barely in the Lowground..?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Two Rivers Folk Festival, Chepstow

And it came to pass that Billy in the Lowground travelled far to the West, yea even over the Great Bridge to the Land of the Welshmen. The omens were good, & it seemed that the Gods smiled upon our quest, but as we approached the place of Two Rivers the skies grew dark and mighty stormclouds gathered as was foretold by the seers...
There were brought together in that place all the tribes of Morris in a great and fierce multitude, and our band were sore afraid of their warpaint & jingling bells, except for Shirl, wife of Nigel, who was strangely attracted. But the Morrismen made us welcome, bidding us make camp with them and share their beer, saying: “Are ye not Morrismen also?” “Nay,” we replied, “for we are men of Nissan.” And there was much merriment and quaffing of ale.
And that night we played our songs to the assembled tribes, and our songs found favour with their ears (although they could not perceive us with their eyes, for in all their mighty longhouse there were no lights), and outside the storm howled and the rain lashed without ceasing…
On the second day they bade us play again, but in another place, and there we heard the bard Blabbermouth, who sang magical songs so clear and powerful that the rain ceased to fall, and the mighty crowd there gathered cried “More! More!” And we played them our songs then, and there was a great rejoicing and an heroic quaffing of ale, until the sun rose once more on the land.
And on the third day, as the Morrismen slumbered in their tents and the rain began once more to fall, we took our leave of the Land of the Welshmen, vowing to return once more when the leaves fall from the trees…

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mr Wolfs, Bristol

A benefit this one, for the Rainbow Centre for children - nice to feel that a night of loud music & vile debauchery is actually doing someone good for a change. Nearly didn't get off the ground though, as the house PA is strewn all over the floor in bits when we arrive... happily the PA equivalent of a paramedic is on the case, and quickly has it back together again with only a few bits left over.
The support band (whose name I didn't catch) are a lovely bunch of young chaps - about ten of them I think, but it was difficult to count as they wouldn't stop moving - and they certainly made a lot of noise. Really a lot.
When they'd done their thing (and we'd retrieved Nick from the pub down the road), we set to with a will and took the opportunity to try out some new stuff we've been working on, which seemed to go down well. As always in this venue, it doesn't fill up until late, but by the time we're done the joint is, if not exactly jumping, at least hopping from one foot to the other - not bad for a Thursday night.
Thanks again to Grekken for the photos, which as ever we fell upon greedily in the hope of finding any that make us look younger... any chance of smearing a bit of vaseline on the lens next time?! Either that, or it's time to break out the Grecian 2000...

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Chough, Salisbury

Just to clear this up, a chough (pronounced chuff) is a crow-like bird that loves fishing grubs out of cowpats. Oh yes it is.
A completely foul night weatherwise last Thursday - flashfloods all over Somerset, and raining so hard I drove all the way down the A36 with my nose pressed against the windscreen, trying to stay to the left of the oncoming headlights. This had better be worth it...
The pub turns out to be an enormous sagging Tudor mansion of a place, with a bewildering number of rooms, antechambers, vestibules and corridors, plus several staircases that move around by themselves like the ones in Hogwarts, making every visit to the Gents an adventure. Despite all this ample space, we have to set up in a tiny alcove by the door, partially blocked by a pillar. Nige & I nearly disembowel each other whilst trying to tune up in 4 square feet of floorspace. Never mind, the place apparently "gets heaving" on a Thursday night...
Well, whaddya know - it doesn't. In fact, after we finish our first set (to the sound of some desultory clapping from some unseen punter in the furthermost reaches of the pub), the guv'nor tells us we might as well call it a night and pays us off! First time this has happened in 18 years! As we load the last of the gear back into the van, hundreds of punters materialise from nowhere and stream into the place, lured by the Now That's What I Call Happy Hardcore 58 that plays on a continuous loop... we make a quick exit before the guv'nor changes his mind.
Still, the Tesco over the road was open, so we could still get a few beers to take home - which just goes to prove that every cowpat has a nice juicy grub in it if you look hard enough...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Salisbury Arms, Christchurch

First time at this place, so we have the obligatory detour to fully explore all the backstreets of Christchurch before we stumble across it. One of these days we'll get a SatNav. There's a bus stop right outside, so we get a bit mixed up with the queue whilst unloading the van - a couple of us nearly end up in Bournemouth, but eventually we're all in.
Nice, comfortable place with good acoustics, a low ceiling & Ringwoods beer - Hooray! Unfortunately, hanging from that ceiling is our nemesis: a Noise Limiter - Boo!
We've had untold problems with these hellish devices in the past, particularly with old drummer Mark, who could set one off with one thwack on his snare, but happily after 2 or 3 songs are cut off in their prime we find a level it can cope with. Bit offputting though, as you can't help but keep looking at the infernal machine & wincing in anticipation every time you get to a loud bit...
A good appreciative crowd in here too, though I'm not sure whether we'll be back since the sign outside said: "A one-off event! Not to be missed!" Time will tell...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Midsomer Norton Cricket Club

I've just noticed I haven't mentioned our gig at the Prom a couple of weeks ago - not a deliberate omission, I was away for a week or so & forgot all about it. As far as I can remember it was a perfectly decent gig, as they tend to be in there, but feel free to disagree as my memory's not what it was. Also, my memory's not what it was.
And so to Midsomer Norton Cricket Club, an odd little venue for us, and thanks to that day's match being cancelled, a distinctly empty one too. Never mind, the (very apologetic) people who did show up liked us, so we didn't really need the cricket boxes & shinpads. And we even got a free pint & a burger at halftime - result! And I was relieved (though secretly a little disappointed) that no-one attempted to tamper with our balls.
We'll be back on Sunday 24th August though, for their music all-dayer (top of the bill: Suzi Quatro & the Wurzels - seperately, I assume), which should be a good 'un. Last time we supported the Wurzels was at the Cheese & Grain in Frome a few years back, and I still remember their roadie's reply to our query about the length of their set: "They only do an hour," he confirmed, "Any more'n that, they'll 'ave to call a f***in' ambulance..."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Plough, Manston

A welcome return to this little gem of a pub last Friday, and amazingly we even managed to find it with no bother. After the last time Nige had wisely left early, and was just tucking into a big plate of dinner when we arrived, so was unfortunately unable to help lug all the gear in. The man's a genius.
A welcome return also to my beloved Laney bass amp, finally free of snaps & crackles after long weeks of toil by the elves of Malmesbury! Until just after the soundcheck anyway, when the thrice-cursed thing exploded like Krakatoa... back to the elves it goes, leaving me to muddle through with my titchy little practise amp. Ruthie reassures me that "size doesn't matter" - well, it bloody does when it comes to bass amps..!
Never mind, a few pints are a sovereign cure for all ills, even expensive ones that smell like burnt insulation, and the gig goes splendidly - we even get 2 or 3 new gigs out of it, which can't be bad.

Friday, March 28, 2008

In Hell they give you Rum

Here's another animoto video, using one of our oldest songs, In Hell they give you Rum. This version was recorded on Food for Thought in '95. I used mostly old photos in this one - blimey don't we look young...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jagerbar, Melksham

We nearly ran over a deer on the way here - spooky...
Actually part of the Bear in Melksham, this new venue was only finished the day before, and we played the opening night on Good Friday. The landlord & his family had obviously worked like trojans to get everything finished in time, with a lot of sponsorship help from Jagermeister (favourite tipple of folk-metallers Korpiklaani and good ol' Metallica, by all accounts). It tastes like a (very) alcoholic cough mixture, and comes in test-tubes at -15c. Yum.
The place itself is vast & cathedral-like, with a cavernously high ceiling & a stone floor - in other words, it's an acoustic nightmare, as rapidly becomes apparent as we try to soundcheck. Oh well, let's hope some bodies will soak up the cacophony; off to the bar we go, just to do a bit more quality testing on that Jagermeister...
In the end we needn't have worried - most of the population of Melksham have turned out to check the place out, and a fair proportion of them even stay when we start playing, so the sound ends up pretty good. We are even treated to a unique display of Traditional Dancing, which involves rolling your trousers up to the knee and scuttling about like a crab. I got an unprofessional fit of the giggles at this point, and corpsed completely in the middle of a song...
By the end of the night we were all a bit hoarse, but luckily the Landlord was on hand with more of his special cough medicine. It did make me a bit drowsy, though... on balance, think I'll stick to Guinness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A very quiet St Patricks night...

Last time we played the Bayshill Tavern in Cheltenham was pretty lively, so we had high hopes for this Saturday the 15th, especially as the Cheltenham Gold Cup had just finished and the town should still be knee-deep in merry Sons of Erin intent on spending their winnings...
Apparently not though; Chris's enquiry "So, any winners in tonight?" produces no response.
"Er... anyone lose their shirt, then?" Glum silence. It's going to be one of those gigs.
And not a green stovepipe hat or a Guinness promotion in sight, either - Ireland's bishops in their wisdom have apparently decreed that Saturday is the official St Patricks Day, rather than the traditional 17th, because this would clash with Holy Week, whatever that is.
Well, you can't expect much sense from a church that expects it's priests to stay celibate but doesn't mind a bit of ritual cannibalism, but this actually seemed like a pretty good idea to me - people are going to erm... 'celebrate' a lot more on a Saturday than a Monday, after all. Pity no-one told 'em.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

King William, Glastonbury

Here we are again and Nige is back in the fold, his poorly wrist all better - as far as we can make out, he injured it falling backwards over an aerobics step - proof (if it were needed) that exercise is something best left to young, fit people...
The King Willy is on the High Street, squeezed in between the hordes of shops all eager to service the incense, candle & dreamcatcher needs of Glastonbury's pilgrims. Normally a fairly quiet gig this one, and with 4 other bands playing within a few streets of us, plus a Battle of the Bands at the Town Hall, we weren't expecting anything different, but unaccountably the place is packed, and people are up & dancing to the first song (I can only surmise that the 'Battle of the Bands' was more of a massacre, but we're not complaining!). They won't let us go until we've exhausted our repertoire of encores either, the slavedrivers...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mr Wolfs, Bristol

Great little venue this - nice PA, right in the centre of Bristol, and bursting at the seams with people; one tiny gripe - no draught beer! AAaagh! Man cannot live by lager alone! But man will have bloody good try nonetheless.
No mandolin on this outing, as Nige has apparently injured his wrist in A Bizarre Exercising Accident, details of which remain shrouded in mystery... in fact, it was touch & go whether we'd have a drummer, after Nick scalded his hand in A Bizarre Baked-Bean Accident earlier this week (I'm not making this up). Lovers of Spinal Tap will see where I'm going with this, but fear not - Chris has already survived a Bizarre Gardening Accident a few years back, when a ride-on lawnmower exploded under him. Ouch.
First up tonight are the Monaros, a new band from Bristol playing only their 4th ever gig, though you wouldn't know it - bags of confidence, good poppy songs and a gorgeous singer - can't go wrong. The mostly youngish crowd loved 'em, and many thanks from me to their bassplayer, who lent me his rather splendid amp for our set, as mine is still sulking in a corner of a repair shop in Malmesbury.
We quickly barred the doors to prevent any escapes, and gave the audience both barrels - great fun, and one of the best gigs we've played in quite a while - loud, hot, sweaty & dark, just the way we like it. Great to see some familiar faces again too, especially Ally & Sol.
Oh, and ta to Grekken for the pic of our own gorgeous singer above!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fox & Hounds, Coaley

Once again we turned up far too early to this place, forgetting that we have to wait around for people to finish eating in the restauranty-type bit before we can get on with soundchecking... still, we lugged all the gear in, overlooked apprehensively by the Saturday night dining crowd, and Chris, Nick & Nige all retired to the bar to gawp at the unprecedented spectacle of England actually beating France at Rugby. Apparently this is of interest to some people.
Ruth & I contented ourselves with hiding behind the drumkit, peering out at the merrily noshing punters like a couple of malevolent goblins...
Time ticked on, and the prospect of a reasonably early night was gradually receding so Chris took an executive decision & we started playing anyway. That put paid to any polite after-dinner conversation, but amazingly most of 'em stayed, even the couple bravely cowering under one of the PA speakers, determined to finish their tiramisu in the face of the aural assault.
Cor, makes yer proud to be British, dunnit?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scallys, W-S-Mare

Ah, Weston Super Mare... home of the International Helicopter Museum, the Lambretta Scooter Museum and, last but not least, the Weston Miniature Railway! And during the summer months, home to thousands of sunburned & drink befuddled Brummies, for some reason.
No sign of them in Scallys tonight - nor anyone else, come to that. Where are the usual crowd of happy bikers (you can tell they're happy, from the flies stuck to their teeth!)? Possibly they're all at the Lambretta Museum? No. Probably not.
Save for a jolly hardcore who disconcertingly seem to know our material (and back catalogue) even better than we do, punters are a bit thin on the ground tonight, which is a shame 'cos we get the best sound we've ever had down here, due in no small part to the lovely bass amp I borrowed from Ali - a truly monstrous beast that takes four grown men to lift it out of the van. Or just me & Chris and a lot of swearing...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Fiddlers, Bristol

After a gap of about 10 years (where did the time go?) a welcome return to my favourite Bristol venue, the excellent Fiddlers club down in Bedminster, still run by the avuncular Joe Cleary & his son Dan, and apparently unchanged apart from a new monster PA suspended from the ceiling above the stage - woo hoo! Last time here was as support for the Oysterband I think, but tonight was a triple-header with old mates The Dolmen, a terrific pagan folk band from down on the South coast, and the John E Vistic Experience from Bristol.
The Dolmen kicked proceedings off in fine style - since I last saw them they've had a few line-up changes and are now much harder edged than before, but still with their infectious sense of fun that has the crowd up & dancing straightaway. They've also got a very good blonde bass player who, as was pointed out to me on several occasions, is much prettier than me... honestly, I brushed my beard especially, what more do people expect?
John E Vistic started their set with a couple of quiet, introspective songs, then gradually increased the pace - great, driving songs with a voice that put me in mind of Tom Waits or a young Johnny Cash. And he's not putting it on, either - he sounds like that offstage as well!
By now, time was starting to run away with us somewhat... in fact it had blindfolded us, bundled us in the boot of a car and driven us out to the middle of nowhere. By the time we took to the stage it was 12.30, and waayyy past our bedtime, but the hardcore had stuck around and we had a blast. Nice to catch up with so many people we hadn't seen in ages too, especially Ally our old sound engineer, and old mate Rick.
Only fly in the ointment for me was that at some point in the evening my wheezing old amp coughed it's guts out & died. A minutes silence seems appropriate, broken only by snaps, crackles, pops & ominous fizzing noises...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Plough, Manston

A new venue for us this, and almost impossible to find (especially by Nige's SatNav, which apparently took him for a mystery tour through several counties before reluctantly agreeing to show him the way), which is a pity 'cos it's well worth looking for; an unspoilt country pub with real ale, no juke box and a landlady who's not afraid to put on bands that are 'a bit different'.
They do food too, and a few diners retreated in terror as we lugged all our huge threatening looking black boxes through the door... they all came back though, and it turned out to be one of the best pub gigs I can remember playing in a long time - no doubt helped by the pints of Palmers courtesy of the landlady (almost unheard of in this day & age, and very welcome they were too).
Apparently they do an outdoor mini-festy in the summer which we might be back for - hope so, as it's a really friendly place, and I've got a bit of a taste for that Palmers, now...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bayshill Tavern, Cheltenham

  1. Second time at this venue, and a combination of flooding and road closures meant we only just made it in time. Nice pub, quite posh (you can tell it's posh - there's a carpet, and it ain't sticky), but the mainly older crowd actually listen, which counts for a lot.
  2. Bafflingly however, despite their obvious enthusiasm, they don't call out for more when we finish - this leaves us with a bit of an 'encore etiquette' conundrum; do we:
    a. Ask if they want any more? A risky strategy this, as you run the risk of complete indifference, or even worse, a stampede of boots towards the exit.
    b. Play another couple anyway, which looks a bit 'staged' - what was the point of saying "that was the last one" if it wasn't? Or...
    c. Shuffle about indecisively for a bit, then pull all the leads out & scuttle to the bar. Needless to say, we went for c.

On a totally unrelated topic, the flyer above is for a new play about the last days of the late, great Brendan Behan, uncle to our Ruthie, written by her sister, which opens later in January - see for details.

"It’s the Sixties, New York and we are in that legendary bohemian bolt hole, The Chelsea Hotel. Arthur Miller is just across the hall, the sound of Ornett Coleman is drifting down from the penthouse and the symphony of 24th Street is rising up and in through the open window of Brendan Behan’s room. He’s broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book, the first line of which he has yet to write. He was told to stop drinking or he’d be dead in six months – that was two years ago."

Hell, we've all been there...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Loudest Drummer in the World rediscovered in Frozen North!

Believed for many years to be extinct, Mark Rodgers, the last drummer for the Brew Band, has resurfaced in Glasgow. He's now beating the living daylights out of his kit for the Scruffs, along with ex-Brew Band bass player Simon Cottrell (whose amp I once rather embarassingly threw out of a van... I wonder if he's forgiven me yet?)
Here they are on the back of their new release Pop Manifesto: