Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Stag and Hounds

The Stag & Hounds is a massive pub in Bristol’s busy Old Market, which until recently was a place for suited types to have lunch in whilst barking into mobile phones, but since it was taken over by the people that run Mothers Ruin it’s had a new lease of life.
The place reeks of history, with parts of it going back to the 15th century, and for a time it was the home of the ‘Pie Poudre’ – a local court where miscreants were tried upstairs, found guilty, and promptly hanged out the front of the pub.
It’s luvverly now though, loads of comfy sofas, good beer and open fires and a refreshing commitment to original music that’s increasingly rare nowadays:
First up tonight was Leo Sampson, a young singer/guitarist who also plays harmonica, which is something I’m always envious of, as I find it difficult enough to play one instrument at a time, let alone two. Excellent songs, well played, but he needs to work on the inbetween bits – 30 seconds of silence while you select the right gob-iron for the next song is a long time in a quiet pub…
Next up is Howlin’ Lord, who, with his full band is well established on the circuit as a purveyor of Country Rock par excellence, but is in acoustic solo form tonight, which works fantastically… if anything his songs are more powerful performed this way, I reckon.
Howly also does the desk duty tonight, so he has the headache of making us sound good, and he did a fine job, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? ;)
Luckily, everyone else in the place seemed to agree, and this was one of the nicest pub gigs we’ve done this year – great venue, really appreciative audience, good sound… the only fly in the ointment for us was Mick’s dental arrangements – he’d been booked in to have an impacted wisdom tooth removed that afternoon, but after an hours wrestling with pliers had resulted in nothing more than a sweaty Dentist and an extremely irate Guitarist, a date for the rematch has yet to be agreed.

Mick has been advised to take a firm grasp of the dentist’s dangly bits when he leans back in the chair, and remind him that “This isn’t going to hurt… is it?”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Kameleon

This gig should rightfully have been in the Raglan Arms, our favourite muso pub in Weston, but thanks to the actions of a few arseholes who decided to break into the place, have a party and burn it down, all bets and indeed gigs were off, until the Kameleon , a newish music venue in Weston, took over the Raglan’s roster, fairplay to them. The Kameleon was described to us as a place that was ‘finding its feet as a music venue’, and that would be a diplomatic way of describing it – it’s basically a Wetherspoons style pub full of blokes in white T shirts with shaved heads trying to cop off with women. Suffice to say, it wasn’t really our Target Demographic.
Still, it sounded nice where we were, and the few refugees from the Raglan who turned up made it worth our while – not forgetting the couple who came down from Birmingham, bless ‘em!

…and yes, I know the shorts make me look like Lofty in ‘It Ain’t ‘alf  Hot, Mum…’
It won’t happen again...

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Fleece, the George & Lytchett Matravers

Busy couple of weeks for the band, kicking off Friday before last at the Fleece in Bristol, supporting The Men They Couldn't Hang (again). They must think we're stalking them, but we're really not, although we do seem to go down well with their audience - an excellent gig, even if we only got half an hour, and great to catch up with some old friends at the same time!
Rich the engineer took a recording off the desk of this gig, which I'll link to somewhere when it's been mastered, it didn't sound too bad in raw form.
Apologies to young Dominic Malin, a young and rather nervous singer/guitarist who went on before us, and wasn't quite sure what to do with the DI lead from his guitar when he'd finished: "Err... should I just unplug my guitar?"
"No! You must stay there all night!" called out our Mick, to a suddenly silent room... poor kid looked briefly terrified!
No-one took any photos, as far as I know, so here's one of the Allnight Chemists playing the Fleece in about 1987. My haircut's the same, anyway...

Friday last saw us return to The George in Bradford on Avon, where landlord Darren had a mouthwatering array of local real ales and ciders ready for us... many were sampled, and all found favour, and a pretty good crowd in the place too, always a pleasure to do this one.
The next night, with me feeling unaccountably jaded, we headed off to Lytchett Matravers in Dorset, which as well as a name that sounds like an Edwardian skin complaint, boasts a very large and impressive village hall which was hosting a beer festival... it had evidently been going on for some time, as an ambulance had just arrived to pick up a comatose body from the adjoining playing fields.
As we chatted with the organiser, a genial punk geezer who used to run a pub we played at in Poole a while ago, a purple-faced gent with a glazed expression staggered up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and whispered conspiratorially "I 'aven't 'ad a piss yet!". I didn't have the heart to tell him that actually, yes he had...
Lovely big stage in this place, huge lighting rig as well, but the acoustics were shocking. In between sets a DJ played his eighties record collection ('Eye of the Tiger', anyone?) and cheerfully burbled away completely incomprehensibly in the way that only DJs can.
While we were playing, an elderly gent came and asked us if we would play "a waltz, or a quickstep?" and was quite disappointed when I explained that we were unlikely to. He made the best of a bad job though - over the next hour he must have dragged every woman under 40 in the place around the floor with him, the cunning old fox...
A good night,especially the Exmoor Beast!
(That's a beer, not the dancing gent...)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Glastonbury 1995!

Finally rescued & converted from the moldering VHS on top of the wardrobe, here's some video of the Brew Band playing a little stage at Glasto back in 1995!
It was shot by a lovely couple whose names now escape me, and posted to us later in the year.
There's bits from two separate gigs here, we didn't rush off and change halfway through... I can only excuse the terrible shades I'm wearing in the first bit by saying that I had a monumental hangover, I think I only crawled out of bed 10 minutes before we went on.
Right at the end of 'Wishing we were Younger' I managed to break my bottom E string, not an easy thing to do, and to this day I can remember the feeling of horror... good job I only had an instrumental to struggle though after that (and 'struggle' is definitely the right word)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Farmfest 2011

When I started going to festivals, they didn't have their own Twitterfeed (I know, right? OMG!), and they were regarded as the preserve of long-haired weirdos in funny hats in pursuit of free love & illicit chemical stimulation, which was fair enough, because they were.

Here I am in 1981, having given up on the free love, and settled for a couple of litres of vodka & orange by the banks of the Thames. It's an attitude which has served me well ever since.

On the evidence of Farmfest 2011, a lovely little 3000 capacity festival in the wilds of Somerset, nothing much has changed, apart from the constant social media input & the mobile phones (last time I went to Glastonbury as a punter, I had to meet up with my mates by arranging for one of them to ring me from a call-box on my new-fangled pager to tell me where they were...) Certainly the toilets haven't improved, but apart from that minor gripe, a really well put together event - the main stage headliners Dodgy finished a little while before we went on in one of the two marquees, so we got a nice big audience for our midnight set, and it was a storming gig - encores, singing along, the lot. Haven't enjoyed a gig as much as this one for ages - well done to all the organisers, and the highly effective soundcrew, who sorted us out in 5 minutes flat - we all crawled off to bed very happy indeed!
The next morning though, the Black Rat and even more threateningly named Bull Beggar cider had left it's mark on us to a certain extent, but had taken a terrible toll on the young lads & lasses crawling out of their collapsing tents, shrivelling in the sun like a coven of vampires... in funny hats.

Cheers to Ollie for the picture above, lots of splendid hats to be found here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Woolley Festival 13

To Bradford on Avon last Friday, for the 13th Woolley Festival, a cracking little do organised by Darren, the landlord of the George on Woolley Street.

We last played it last a couple of years back when the whole thing was crammed into the street in front of the pub, which was pretty hard work to be honest, especially trying to manhandle the gear through a sea of punters to get to the tiny stage, only to find that the Pink Floyd tribute act that were going on last had decided to set all their gear up during your setup time, and not actually left any room on the stage for you... This is the sort of thing that upsets normally mild-mannered musicians, and Nige, our then Mandolin player, turned a worrying shade of puce before offering to fight pretty much everyone within range...

No such problems this time though, as the whole shebang had been relocated to a nice big field down the road, with everything the discerning festivalgoer would want to hand. Except for the Unicorn Petting Zoo... we always request one on our rider, and never get one, I can't understand it.
The band on before us were a disconcertingly young trio called the Operation, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear more of them, they were extremely good and very, well... young. When they came off backstage after their set we all looked like their Mums & Dads come to collect them...
Our set went down pretty darn well, especially as there were a couple of brand new songs in there we'd never tried out before, and a good time was had by all.

Was hoping for a few photos to materialise, but none so far... well done to Darren & his team for organising such a great event, and here's hoping we'll be around for number 14!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back to the Raglan Arms!

Saturday night at the Raglan Arms, Weston Super Mare, and further proof that we do our best work in the dark! ;-)
We weren't due back here till October, but since they had a cancellation, and our gig diary had a big pub-shaped hole in it, we thought why not?
Looked a bit Marie-Celestial up till about 9 o'clock, with band outnumbering punters by a ratio of 2:1, which didn't bode well, but sure enough the place filled rapidly then. Weston people obviously don't like to come out too early! Once again, a nice warm sound in this friendly old pub, probably helped by all the wood, plus it's been dry of late, so all our speakers have finally dried out.
A great night, and many thanks to everyone who turned up at such short notice and supported us.
I was somewhat baffled by the geezer who kept calling out "Fire Brigade", until I remembered that it's an old Roy Wood song... what was he trying to say, I wonder? Well, here you go mate, this is the closest you'll get to us doing it!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Men They Couldn't Hang, and Lechlade Festival

After a prolonged gig drought, two come along at once, or nearly so - both in the same part of the world too, the first being a Friday night support slot with The Men They Couldn't Hang at the 12Bar in Swindon. We did this about a year ago on St Patrick's night, and it's a lovely little venue, with a decent stage & PA and friendly soundcrew. Good pint of Doom Bar, too!
Everything ran like clockwork this time around, and our set went down rather well, I'd say - lots of people saying nice things afterwards, anyway. We'll be back at this place later in the year, I think...

On Saturday, with our ears still ringing, and heads still thumping from the Doom Bar (OK, just mine, then), it was time to head 20 miles North of Swindon to the first Lechlade Festival, set in the Cotswolds Water Park, next to the Thames. Lovely little site, Nice big beer tent, like to see that... (Old Lech at £3 a pint?! At a festival? Oooh yes, I'll 'ave some of that!) A tad wet & windy, unfortunately, with nearly fatal consequences: in a scene reminiscent of The Omen (if you don't know what I'm on about, check the link below), a freakishly strong wind blew up, toppling a scaffold tower draped with banners by the side of the stage, and as the tower fell onto a car parked next to it in the backstage area, a 3 foot-long steel roadpin which had presumably been left on top of it neatly impaled Ruth's metal case, thankfully missing any vital tuners, leads, effects pedals, or indeed fiddle players, which would have put a distinct dampener on proceedings (I could swear I heard a choir reaching a menacing crescendo too, but in retrospect that may have been an aftereffect of the Doom Bar).
Despite the best efforts of the Evil One/scaffold company, our late afternoon set went down very well, in fact when I went back later that night, it was apparent that we'd had the largest audience of the day - headliners Incubus Succubus were playing to about 50 people, which was a shame as they were pretty darn good. The lot before them though, a Glam covers band called Same Old Faeces Faces were... well, you can guess.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Great Wreck'n'Roll Circus

I think the last time I saw Here & Now was at Treworgey Festival back in 1989, so a gig in Bristol was not something I was going to miss, even if it was an all-nighter I knew I'd be paying for later...
The Wreck 'n' Roll Circus is a loose, touring collection of bands & DJs that reminded me of the old Club Dog back in London. The venue was an eclectic jumble of rooms in an old warehouse in St Philips, most of them playing host to DJs playing some ear-splitting variant of Drum & Bass. A mostly young crowd happily did whatever people do to Drum & Bass, while those of us who'd come to see Here & Now (easily identifiable on the whole) cowered in relatively quiet corners, nursing cans of Red Stripe and hoping the babysitter didn't ring.
The bands kicked off with Disorder, a lumpen punk band who proved that Punk is, if not dead, then nodding in a daycare centre with dribble running down its chin. I wandered off to another room to listen to some Jungle, they were that bad.
After that, Spanner were a breath of fresh air - basically a young, angry Culture Shock with a trumpet, they played tight, politically charged ska-punk, only slightly denting their 'Sticking it to The Man' stance at the end of their set when, in response to calls for more, the guitarist asked: "Errr... do we have time for another one? Anyone in authority out there..?" 
Next up was Skip (little axe) McDonald, an instantly likeable Jamaican gent with an electric guitar and a host of effects pedals, which was great for a while, but it went on a bit to be honest. So much so that Here & Now were setting up behind him and he still didn't take the hint. So they started playing along with him... great, he thought - a backing band! Eventually he relinquished the stage (I was half expecting a long shepherds crook to appear from one side to assist) and it was Here & Now's turn.
What with the inevitable changeover delays in a show like this, especially one with an authentically shambolic free-festival vibe, it was now 1.30 a.m. and waaay past my bedtime but that didn't matter as the band kicked off with the instant wall of noise that heralds 'Floating Anarchy', and we were off - a great set, packed with songs I know and love, from 'Ali Baba' to 'So Glad You're Here', and of course 'Opium for the People'...
I spent the entire set leaping around in my prime position by Keith's bass bins, and haven't enjoyed myself so much in years!

When they'd finished it was 3 a.m, and time for me to call it a night. Lots of stuff still on the bill, but I was knackered. It seemed to take forever to find my way home, but I was still surprised to see it was 5.30 when I finally stumbled in. I only realised the next day that the clocks had gone forward...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Raglan Arms, Weston

A Sunday night outing this week, back to the Raglan Arms in Weston Super Mare, a splendidly woodsmoky little boozer full of er, colourful characters including the gent in a full suit of armour made out of cardboard (we didn't like to ask), the cartoon drunk who apparently is going to get us a spot at a certain major folk festival (no he isn't), and the rather confused chap who thought Mick was playing a Mandarin...
Good sound in here this time (it was a bit ropey when we did it last year!), and a great crowd too, thanks to Dave the promoter, who also took the photos plus a vid which you can see on Facebook.
A cracking night, especially for me, as every time I went to the bar I got a free pint! It later transpired that no-one else in the band had, so I'd probably drunk the entire band's rider. Oops.

There must be something about this part of the world that breeds strange fancies in the minds of the inhabitants; the sea air, perhaps? Last time we were in these parts we met a deluded bloke who claimed to have been Hawkwind's bassplayer (at a time when anyone with even a cursory knowledge of their history knows it was Lemmy), and this time as we were loading the van a staggering inebriate who claimed to be Paul Weller's Tour Manager appeared, and tried to get us to come back to Burnham with him and meet Paul at his studio - either he was telling the truth, or he was angling for a lift home. I know which one I'd put my money on...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

First gig of 2011!

We're back! As our last two gigs of 2010 were cancelled at the last minute due to the snow, the whole band spent the Christmas period in a state of hibernation, cosily snuggled in packing crates stuffed with straw in the shed. After all, as our nauseating Government constantly reminds us, we're "all in this together". I still don't see why we couldn't have just gone home, though...
Strange how snow doesn't seem to affect the touring plans of umpteen Scandanavian Metal bands, forever yomping to and fro across the frozen tundra... they even have festivals in it, that's how Metal they are. Clearly we are weak.

Still, there are positive signs appearing in this bright & shiny New Year. I've just doubled the value of my car, by the simple expedient of filling it up with petrol and putting a new tyre on it, and the gigging calendar is showing a few tender green shoots of recovery from the traditionally fallow winter.
First gig of the year, then, at the Plough in Manston - always a favourite, but to be honest we weren't expecting much of a crowd on a freezing Friday night, which meant the large & enthusiastic turnout was even more of a pleasant surprise - thanks to everyone who came, especially Elodie & Mildly Alarming Dave (and thanks again for the photos, Dave!) - sounded great (to us, at any rate), and cheered us all up a treat.
On Saturday morning however, there were sure signs that we haven't done this in a while: levels of earwax had built up to Father Jack proportions overnight, and someone was apparently hammering a steel log-splitting wedge into my skull. So it goes, so it goes...