Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The George at Woolley

Back to the familiar surroundings of the George in Bradford on Avon last Saturday, home of the genial landlord Darren and the lovely Bath Ales 'Dark Side', mmm...
Home also to possibly the Highest Urinals in Wiltshire; not because the pub's built on a hill, but the urinals were presumably installed by a seven-foot plumber, making it a bit tricky for those of us of a slightly shorter nature... I can just about manage it if I stand on tip-toes. Any chance of a step, Darren?
Not exactly a vast throng of people there, but since most are at one of the many firework displays that night it's not surprising. Thanks to those who made it, especially the usual suspects! We enjoyed our little selves no end, and we'll be back here in the new year, including a slot at the annual Woolley Street Festival in July...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Bell, Walcot St

Ah, back to the Bell on Walcot St, pretty much the only place for old hippies to hang out in Bath since the Hat & Feather became a tapas bar, or whatever it calls itself now...
Sunday lunchtime, always a weird time for a gig, particularly one of a loud, raucous and Rocky nature, but as we are commanded, so do we manifest.
On this occasion, We Are Not Alone... as we finish loading the various Black, Arcane & extremely Heavy items of our Craft into the venue, another van turns up, and disgorges a cargo of disgruntled Blues musicians, who have also been booked to play here... someone, somewhere has clearly fucked up in a major fashion, but as this is not our problem, and our name is on all the posters we carry on regardless. Luckily for all concerned, some rapid telephone diplomacy secures the other band a gig in Bradford on Avon, but I wouldn't like to be that promoter in the morning.
The gig goes pretty well from my standpoint, bar a few imprecations to turn it down, which as has been said before is pretty much an impossibility with a band featuring Drums, Bass, two generous helpings of Electric Guitar, 3 vocals & lashings of Fiddle... I mean, ferchrissakes, if you wanted Uncle Derek on his electric organ playing 'Songs from the Shows', why didn't you book him?
We liked it, the punters obviously liked it, judging by the numbers of 'em telling us so afterwards (and calling for 2 encores, haven't had that for a while), but I can't help thinking we'd do better with an evening slot in here... we need more bodies! Not in a Burke & Hare kinda way, you understand, more in a sound-absorbing way...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Rolleston, Swindon

Has it really been that long since our last gig? Leafing back through the vellum-bound parchment of my journal I see it has, partly due to my inconsiderate 10 year-old son, whose appendix chose to make a bid for freedom a couple of weeks back, causing us to cancel a gig in Devizes. All sorted now thankfully, so I was looking forward to last night's do in Swindon, especially as it's a proper music pub & not the sort of place with a sound limiter...
Knew this would be a good 'un from the moment we arrived - I always like to see a goodly contingent of hairy people outside a pub, makes me feel at home right away, and I wasn't disappointed by the hirsute turnout at the Rolleston. As we loaded the gear in, a very drunk metalhead accosted me:
"You're the bassplayer, aren't you?"
"Knew it."
Great venue, nice sound (possibly the shortest soundcheck we've ever done - sounded fine right away, so why twiddle?), really nice friendly clientele too, ranging from local musos who were especially interested in Mick's new doubleneck mandolin/mandola, to a couple of older gents who came in on spec because they thought we "looked a bit Cornish" on our posters (not quite sure what they meant by this... possibly we look as though we've put away a lot of pasties?).
All in all a good gig, despite a mass exodus halfway through the second set to get into the nightclub next door; was it something we said?! Be happy to do this one again sometime...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Frocester Beer Festival

The thing with a beer festival is, you've got to pace yourself... oh, and remember to eat something as well. Two pointers that the comatose punter we had to step over to load all our gear onstage would have been well advised to take onboard, rather than the industrial quantities of cider he apparently did instead. The St John Ambulance people were trying to revive him as we arrived, and by the time we took to the stage an ambulance had whisked him off for a truly miserable night having his stomach pumped... which was a shame, as he missed an excellent gig. Terrible waste of cider, too.
We went down a treat, especially the second set when everyone had warmed up a bit (and had a bit more beer, natch), particularly with a large contingent of smurfs, complete with blue body-paint and not much else.
Sadly for me (but luckily for the punters) I was driving, so no beer for me, but on the upside that meant I actually remembered most of the set - no mean feat, as it's been weeks since our last gig!
Well done to the organisers for such a well-run do, and the quietly competent soundcrew, too - cheers guys!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bathampton village celebration

This was a brilliant little event on Saturday, held in the playing field of the primary school in the almost impossibly quaint & picturesque village of Bathampton. It was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Kennett & Avon canal, which runs through the village, enabling Mick to moor his narrowboat right next to the gig, lucky sod!
Everything was there - beer tent, food stalls, stage area, but on a lovely small scale - a reminder of what festivals started out like before people realised there was serious money to be made...
We were last on, and as it had to finish bang on time to comply with the license, we only got about 20 minutes, but it went down a storm & we were all dead chuffed.
Thanks to everyone involved, not forgetting the sound guys, who did possibly the quickest set-up in history!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

South Cotswold Beer Festival

Reminiscent of a cheery village fete, this one - held on the field of Chipping Sodbury Rugby Club, it comprised a stage at one end, a huge marquee full of beer barrels at the other, and 1200 punters baking in the sun in the middle, having picnics.
Security consisted of a string of warning tape looped around the site, plus a couple of squiffy Rotarians, so what would have happened in the event of a full-scale invasion by marauding hordes of Chipping Sodbury lager-boys is anyone's guess.
Strange crowd for a beer festival too, there were lots of oddly shaped chaps with no beards... women! That's what they were! And those little people were children! A very good natured crowd, but when we went on after the obligatory covers duo, it soon became apparent that the occasional "polite ripple" was all the feedback we were likely to get. Stage invasions were limited to an unusually persistent bee and a number of footballs kicked by small boys.
"It's like this every year," confirmed the sound guys afterwards; "they only wake up during the last ten minutes of the last band in the evening, then they can't believe it's all finished..."
Nevertheless we enjoyed it immensely, due in no small part to the excellent sound - well done That Man for reaching the Holy Grail of sound engineering: making the fiddle sound like a fiddle, only louder, rather than the dreaded VileDin...
After our set came the Tug'o'War, where a team from the Rugby Club who clearly took it very seriously were soundly thrashed by a team calling themselves the 'Powder Puffs'. Twice. Which doesn't bode well for them next season...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Keynsham Festival

Went to this a couple of years back, so was really pleased to be playing it on Sunday... one of the few free festivals left in the South West, with 4 stages and over 10,000 people turning up. A friendly event that seemed to run like clockwork, with people helping us shift the gear, and a very efficient soundcrew (we actually went on early, how often does that happen at a festival?!)
Should mention the band on before us too, Strange Folk - they had a really full sound for a 3-piece, and the singer sounded like a young Sandy Denny, a terrific voice... the Top Stage was nicely full for our late afternoon slot, and we thoroughly enjoyed our little selves, as did the crowd, even getting us back for an encore, bless 'em. Wish I'd remembered to take a drink on with me though, I was completely hoarse by the end of our set.
The rain, which held off for our set, started to come down in earnest soon after, but didn't dampen our spirits too much, with a succession of people coming up to us and saying nice things... a good day.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Salisbury Beerex

To Salisbury on Saturday for the 30th Beerex Beer Festival, which turns out to be in a rather impressive old church converted into an Arts Centre. For the second gig in a row we've got a nice big stage to play with, complete with a massive arched stained-glass backdrop, featuring a bloke with long hair & a beard (clearly pissed, who's lost most of his clothes and fallen into some brambles), draped over a sort of wooden cross thingy while a lot of people look at him disapprovingly. I mean I'm flattered, obviously, but I wish they hadn't gone to so much trouble...
Lots of time for a soundcheck for a change, and for such a huge venue the sound is actually not bad at all - someone who knows something about acoustics has put some effort in here - and our godless heathen racket eventually wins over the sizeable crowd of almost exclusively male beer drinkers, even dragging most of them away from the tantalising array of over 60 real ales on offer.
I only spotted half a dozen women in the whole place; one asks us if we can play some old style Rock'n'Roll (we could, but why on earth would we?), one tells us that she's "acshewully the fire schteward...so it'sh my reshponsibility to, umm, you know, shave everybody's livesh if there'sh a fire...", and one mistakes me for Bill Bailey - a comparison I'm happy to go along with, given that I've recently been compared to Rasputin & Satan...
Many thanks to Salisbury CAMRA for asking us to play, we had a blast, and much appreciated all the lovely beer they gave us to take with us, too... I polished off my Old Growler as soon as I got home. Mmmm...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BITL @ the Prom

Video of Billy in the Lowground @ the Prom last month, courtesy of Martin Moss, though the ham-fisted editing is all down to yours truly... cheers Martin!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shaftesbury Arts Centre

This gig was booked several months ago, long before anyone knew what dates Ingerland would be playing matches in the World Cup (or indeed whether they'd even qualify), so it was with a familiar sinking feeling we noticed it clashed with their first game against the USA... oh well, we reasoned, there must be loads of people in Shaftesbury who would rather see us than a bunch of overpaid pillocks ruining a perfectly good lawn, mustn't there?
The venue itself is great, a nice theatre with a huge great stage, loads of lights, backdrops, and a backstage area with a table containing several empty bottles and a pot of Geraniums. Clearly someone has got confused over our rider, which I'm sure specified several full bottles of Guinness? We make the best of it however, and eat as many of the Geraniums as we can manage, apart from Chris, who has a pathological aversion to salad.
Meanwhile, the very apologetic and charming organiser confirmed our fears that ticket sales had been "disappointing"...
Seven, to be precise. We counted 'em in, and every so often Chris got the excellent lighting man to light 'em up so we could check none had escaped. Never mind, it's quality, not quantity that's important, and for 7 people they did a damned fine job - we really enjoyed ourselves. Particularly nice to see Elodie from the Plough at Manston there with Dave, the Man in a Hat, to whom many thanks for the great photos..!
As we packed the van up at the end of the night, several grim-faced men in England shirts wandered past, muttering something about a "complete bloody disgrace..." Apparently, a huge audience is no guarantee of a good gig!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tiddley Om Pom, Pom...

Back to the Prom in Bristol again the other week, which has had a few improvements since last we played there - the stage has magically expanded (unless we've all shrunk, which is a worrying possibility), and the PA's been overhauled; we were under strict instructions not to break it...
Sound was as good as ever, but unfortunately we outnumbered the audience for much of the evening, which is a good thing if it all descends into an anarchic punch-up, but since it didn't we were a bit lonely up there...
Anyway, many thanks to those hardy souls who did make it - next time tell your friends!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Stepping Stones, Poole

All the way down to the South coast on the Friday night of a Bank Holiday weekend... what could have been traffic hell actually wasn't too bad, and we even found the place easily too.
The Stepping Stones is a huge great sprawling pub with acres of space to play with, which I was particularly chuffed by as it gave me a chance to wander around unencumbered by trailing leads, thanks to my new wireless rig. The rest of the band glowered jealously as I skipped merrily around the back of the room, wishing I had a trio of husky roadies & a surfboard... they'll all be getting one, now.
The downside of this ability to mix with the audience is that, well, you have to mix with the audience. As we tried to soundcheck, I was subpoenaed as an expert witness by a ruddy-faced all-day drinker who'd bought what he thought was a little guitar for his son, only to be told by his slurring companion it was a ukelele. One look at his popping eyes, dodgy tatts & general air of a man who could explode into violence made me very glad that it was, in fact, a tiny guitar...
Not a bad gig all in all - good sound, lots of room, and a very friendly ex-punk landlord, but a bit dispiriting going all that way to play for a couple of dozen people, so I doubt it'll become a regular fixture.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Deepest, darkest Devizes again...

Back to the Bear Hotel's cellar bar on Saturday, on a nice balmy spring night, only to be told we can't go in because all the electricity has gone off.
Only one thing to do - repair to the nearest hostelry to fortify ourselves while we wait for the all-clear from the Sparks. Down the road we trot, and into a decaying pub where the gurning landlord rests his gut ornamentally on the bar while his elderly wife does her best to coax some beer out of the pumps for us. A couple of superannuated rockers who remind me of the Chuckle Brothers are setting up a karaoke which occupies half the pub, and for a while we are haunted by the prospect of having to sit around and listen to whatever bangin' choons they've brought with them... happily the power is back on at the Bear, and we drink up hurriedly & leave.
Rather a rapid setup thanks to the late start, but the gig goes well, as they tend to here, and the stunned punters stumble drunkenly out into the night, ears ringing... job done.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Glastonbury Assembly Rooms with Pressgang

To Glastonbury on Friday, playing support for loud folksters Pressgang, who we last played with at Pontardawe Festival a couple of years back - a lovely bunch of chaps who are currently promoting their latest album "Outlandish" - see the link at the bottom.
The Assembly Rooms is tucked down a little passage off Glastonbury's High Street, and once we've humped the gear up the many, many steps it opens out into a surprisingly large venue with a decent stage & huge LED lighting rig. Most venues smell of stale beer, fags & sweat, but being Glastonbury this one smells of incense with a hint of apple crumble, and there are smiley ladies placing tea-lights on every flat surface.
Nice little bar/cafe attached too, with local real ales, so I'm happy...
Pressgang have set this gig up themselves, and no-one's sure how many people will turn up, but arrive they do, and by the time we go on the hall's filling up nicely. With that big lighting rig it's a bit tricky to tell how many people we're playing to, but judging from the noise there's a fair few of them & they like it a lot!
We thoroughly enjoy our little selves too, and after a couple of encores we hand over the nicely warmed up crowd to Pressgang, who are excellent, & get on with the business of drinking & sweating a lot. Now I come to think of it, perhaps it's not the venues we normally play that smell like that... perhaps it's us..?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Garden Tavern

Oh dear, oh dear... where do you start? It wasn't looking promising when the promoter (Harley Quinn - not his real name, I suspect) first contacted us about this one, as he didn't want to pay us anything apart from "a couple of drinks"... we were underwhelmed by this offer, & eventually he agreed to cough up some cash so off we went.
We played this place about 15 years ago when it was called Dirty Nellies, an ill-advised foray into Oirish theme-pubbery, but it's recently been done up as a music venue, and very nice too - good stage, nice acoustics, decent PA and a genial landlord who doubles up as sound engineer.
The enthusiastically burbling young Harley then told us that the 2 bands who were supposed to be supporting us had like, er, pulled out at the last minute, but it was alright 'cos a couple of his mates were like, literally on the way here on the bus, and they could play an acoustic set...
"Are you going to kill him, or shall I..?" growled the landlord as we set the gear up.
Harley's mates showed up after a while, and he took the opportunity to disappear, presumably to rethink his career path... we played the gig, and it turned out to be great fun, we all really enjoyed it - thanks to Emily & Ally for turning up so we had someone to play to! A good little venue, and I hope it does well.
Harley needless to say never reappeared, but to his credit (and much to our surprise) he had left some dosh for us, so all's well that ends well...

Friday, March 19, 2010

The George, and The Men They Couldn't Hang

A busy couple of weeks, starting with a gig in The George at Bradford on Avon last Saturday - always a pleasure to play here, especially now that our favourite landlord, the Porcupine tree-loving Darren, has got Bath Ales Dark Hare on! Such a pleasure in fact that we stayed there sampling it till the wee small hours - cheers Darren!
On St Patricks Day we were in Swindon, at the 12Bar supporting The Men They Couldn't Hang, and a cracking night it was too - great PA, a very good young sound engineer name of Kieran, and a proper sticky floor to boot. We seemed to go down well, and there was a fair bit of dancing going on by the end of our set, which ain't bad when you're the support band.
I didn't see much of TMTCH as I had to drive home, but thanks to them for the cheerful loan of their drumkit & slightly less cheerful loan of their bass amp (think I'll bring my own next time), and hopefully we'll be back in this venue again...

Monday, March 01, 2010

Raglan Arms, Weston Super Mare

A new venue for us this, and very nice too: smallish pub in the back streets of Weston with a great atmosphere, a policy of putting on original music and real ale at two quid a pint - you can't go wrong, really!
The only fly in the ointment was the lack of punters, but apparently they don't usually do music on Saturdays, so this was a bit of an experiment. Hopefully there'll be a few more next time, but it was good to catch up with some familiar faces we haven't seen for years, when we used to regularly play the late lamented O'Malleys Bar, good stuff...
Cheers to Dave the landlord for the video clip above, too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Woo hoo! 2010!

And so Old Father Time has finally shuffled off this mortal coil & we're in a new decade... or is that not until 2011? Who cares. Anyway, after the enforced 'rest' of Christmas, with all it's attendant pigging out, debauchery & general licentiousness, Billy in the Lowground are back in business!
Drummer Nick has at last recovered from his appendix malfunction, and is champing at the bit to get hitting things with sticks, so it was off to the Bear Hotel in Devizes last Friday to frighten the local jazz enthusiasts again. To be honest we thought we'd be playing to nobody, as there was still snow all over Wiltshire & more was coming down, but a very respectable crowd turned out to see us, which was very gratifying - thanks to everyone who came for braving the icy pavements & making us feel so welcome, it was much appreciated, and apparently we'll be back in April sometime... looking forward to it!

Oh, and Nick promises to keep it in his trousers next time... drummers, what can I say?