Monday, December 16, 2013

Pubs, pubs, glorious pubs...

Oh dear. It took me quite a while to find my way back into this blog - all the entrances were covered over with brambles, one was blocked up with an abandoned shopping trolley, and I had to evict a tramp from the Control Room. There's still a bit of a funny smell.

So, what's been happening since October? Gigs at regular haunts The Oxford in Totterdown and the George in Bradford on Avon went swimmingly, and we found a new pub in Weston Super Mare called the Bear Inn that we rather liked as well. It was a bit like playing in someone's living room, but well worth doing, and particularly nice to catch up with Eddie 'Van' Dutfield, formerly of Bristol bands Paradise Lost and Guttersnipe, who I haven't seen for years.

The Bear Inn, thanks to Magic Candle Photography

Last weekend we went back to the Village Inn in Nailsworth, scene of a Papal Election last time we were there, and we were honoured that His Holiness was there to greet us and confer his blessing on our enterprise. Quite a lot of Holy Water was sprinkled about that evening by the enthusiastic crowd, and by the end of the night I was standing in a large puddle of it, with broken glass crunching under my boots. Dominus vobiscum, fiat lux, deus ex machina and all that.
A much quieter affair at the Holford Arms in Knockdown the following night, but by the end of the evening we had 'em all up and dancing and not wanting to let us go. Honourable mention should go to DFP's pit-stop team, who managed to swap out and replace a broken snare skin without him missing a beat, nice work!

Last gig of the year on New Years Eve at the White Hart in Atworth coming up... see you on the other side...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Beese's Beer Festival, and the Wurzels!

Beeses crowd!
After a long summer of festivals it's great to finally be headlining one, especially as it's local - the 8th Beese's Beer Festival is held at Beese's Bar & Tearooms by the river in Bristol, the access to which is down a long, rutted track which looks as though it ought to end in a rickety plank bridge over a yawning chasm, but in fact ends at a small but perfectly formed beer & cider festival which is already in full swing by the time we all eventually find our way there.

Well, what can I say? Gorgeous food, lovely beer (Ma Beese's chocolate stout was my particular favourite), and probably the best audience we've had all year - everyone up and leaping around like mad things from the first song, mike stands sent flying (Chris & I nearly lost teeth on a number of occasions), pints sadly lost (Simon lost two in rapid sucession, poor chap), and one woman fell over my monitor wedge at least three times but kept coming back for more...

Here's a brief video clip kindly sent to me by Pete Loft - a bit wobbly, but you get the general idea!
All in all a fantastic night, and I certainly hope we get asked back to do it again next year... getting back up that track in the dark was a bit hairy though, with homeward-bound punters staggering out of the bushes and lurching towards the van like extras from the Walking Dead.
Just as well for everyone's sake that I wasn't driving...

The next weekend we were in Knockdown, at a cider festival run by the Holford Arms, at which the star attraction (apart from the cider) was the Wurzels - we supported them before at the Cheese & Grain in Frome, but this time they wanted to go on first. Suits us, we thinks, and we turn up at 4 pm to soundcheck and then repair to DFP's nearby house for a well-earned refreshment.
All bar Simon anyway, who can't get away that early. He rings at 6 pm to say he's outside the pub, and can see the marquee and everything - where are we?
No worries, I tell him - we've 5 minutes away, see you in a bit.
So we toddle on down to the Holford Arms, but no sign of our Lead Guitarist...
No sign until considerably later in fact, when a rather embarrassed Simon appears, and explains that he'd been at the wrong pub... The Rattlebone in Sherston, you see, had a great big marquee outside for a music festival that they were running that night, and Simon happily swanned in with his gear, asked where to put it, and was directed backstage as per normal. It wasn't until several people had asked him rather pointedly what time he was playing that the penny eventually dropped, and he had to make the Walk of Shame back out of the place with all his gear...

Obviously we all listened sympathetically to this tale of  completely understandable, er, misunderstanding, and didn't laugh at all. Obviously.
Anyway, by the time the paramedics had revived us all with oxygen, the mighty Massey-Fergusson Tractor that is the Wurzels had lumbered into life, and after listening to the 'Blackbird Song' and 'Champion Muckspreader', we were getting a bit nippy, so retreated into the pub, where it was warm and snug and there was beer (the Wurzels were alright; they had heaters on stage as part of their rider. And sandwiches, apparently - they live the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle 24/7, those lads).
As soon as the last chords of 'I've got a Brand new Combine Harvester' died away, we started our set on the other stage, and with 500 cider-fuelled punters eager for more dancing we could hardly go wrong - a great night, and we were all still buzzing in the wee small hours of the morning; a superb way to play out our last outdoor gig of the year..!

Holford Arms, after the Wurzels...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dirty Boots!

The last weekend in August, and a brand-new festival to play at!
The Dirty Boots Festival was started up this year as a fundraiser for cancer research charities, and of course that's something we're happy to support, plus it was in Chris & Ruth's home village of Broughton Gifford, so not far to stagger home from either - win-win.

Great stage, incorporating the famous 'Eat More Chips' potato lorry...
We were on early evening, so turned up that afternoon to check everything out, and were pleased to find that it was a very well organised and friendly event, with FREE BEER for performers - Glory Be! And very reasonable barprices as well, when that ran out. Which it did, quite rapidly.

Our set went down very well, all credit to the excellent sound & stagecrew, although we were playing into the last rays of the sun, which blinded us all somewhat so we had to be careful not to go wandering completely off the front of the stage... again, we lucked out with the weather, which makes every single outdoor gig this year so far (take note, festival organisers: get Billy in the Lowground to play, and you're guaranteed sunshine, as well as good bar-takings)!

Blinded by the light...
 We stuck around to listen to some of the other bands for a while, but as soon as the sun went down, it started to turn decidedly nippy, and we retired to the warmth of indoors, like the bunch of wimps we are! A good little festival, which will hopefully return next year - it raised £5000 for charity apparently, despite a less than huge attendance.
If I had one suggestion, it would be to lower the ticket prices a bit - that would help with the gate numbers, I reckon.

The following weekend saw us back at the Plough in Manston - after such a long run of outdoor gigs it felt a bit weird to be playing in a pub; where was the stage manager? Why aren't there any roadies to lump our gear out of the van?!
It didn't take us long to get back into the swing of it though, and we soon remembered why we like playing here; as usual, it was full of sedate diners tucking into their roasts when we got there, but by the time the food was cleared away and the drinkers came out to play, the place was heaving, and it was yet another barnstorming gig - the landlord must have been chuffed, as he gave us more money than we'd asked for, an unheard of event! We'll be back in the New Year...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Frocester Beer Fest and the Old Royal Ship

The third time we've played the huge Frocester Beer Festival, and a nice early evening slot with five and a half thousand beery punters ready to rock, splendid!
A leaden sky kept threatening to dampen proceedings as it did on the Friday night apparently, but our luck held, and it stayed warm and dry all Saturday.

As always, lovely big stage (Chris had difficulty seeing me from his end, as you can see), and terrific sound, probably the best this year - well done to the soundcrew, and well done to all the dancers going for it at the front - particularly impressed with the two guys dressed as Roman Gladiators, hacking enthusiastically at each other with plastic swords during the somewhat manic last number...
A corking gig, and I'm only sorry I was driving and couldn't make more serious inroads on the barrel of beer they provided us with onstage...

(Plenty of great photos as well as the two above taken by Lou, all on our website photo page)

What with the number of gigs we've been doing recently, it seemed a shame not to do one on the Sunday as well, so off we trooped to the Old Royal Ship Inn in Luckington, a nice little (well, quite enormous actually) pub in the country, for an early evening 'family' gig, which in practise means you get to take the kids along whether they want you to or not. Worked out well, as there was plenty for the kids to do, what with a massive climbing frame, loads of hotdogs and the like, and a bouncy castle, which was mostly monopolised by Lou, our photographer extraordinaire and wife of drummer DFP. It looked a bit dodgy weather-wise when we'd got all the kit set up, but a few drops of rain was all we got, the sun came out, and we had a cracking time. Thanks to the pub for the food, too, 'twas delicious!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Village Pump, 2013

This was probably our best (and certainly our most late-night!) gig of the year so far; we've done this festival many times in the past, and it's always a huge honour to be on the same bill as some of the most well- known and influential names in the Folk world. What sets this festival apart though is the friendliness and general air of bonhomie that pervades the entire site, from performers and organisers, to traders and punters. It's a lovely event, and its success is well-deserved.
It's nice to see that we've made it to the coveted position of being halfway up the T shirt, too! I think the first year we played here we were on the bottom line, but we're gradually working our way up...
Our good luck in the weather department continues to hold - last year was sunny and mild, but this year upped the ante a bit by being alternately scorching hot and reminiscent of a Monsoon... didn't matter though, people just got on with it. Another fine thing about the Pump is the opportunity to meet up with so many old mates who we don't get to see anywhere else - our old Mandolin player Nige Lloyd was there with the lovely Shirl, and it was particularly good to meet up with Martyn Cooper, alias Professor Eek - he played banjo with us (very badly, he'll be the first to admit) back in the 90s, and was here in his new role as children's entertainer. His show was bloody great by the way, and anything that can manage to keep adults as well as my two (13 and 9) amused is a winner in my book. His one-man-band version of 'Ace of Spades' has to be heard to be believed...

Easy to forget with all this jolly socialising that we've got a job to do, and it also means we can't get stuck into the beer too early either, which is doubtless a Good Thing. Our slot was the same as last year - 1 a.m. on Stage 2, which meant we caught the crowd leaving Stage 1 as the Proclaimers finished their set, which worked out nicely.
The band on before us were a fantastic, and worryingly young, outfit called Rusty Shackle - they were on the bill with us at the late-lamented Pontardawe Festival a couple of times, and have evolved into a formidable high-energy Folk Rock outfit. They left the crowd in a very nicely warmed-up state indeed, which made our job a lot easier, cheers lads!
The extremely efficient soundcrew got us up and running in no time, and from the off we could tell this was going to be one of those 'special' gigs... the whole place was up and leaping around from the first song (including the inevitable Lycraman, of course), and it continued all the way till the last note at 2 a.m. One of guitarist Simon's friends tried to get in to see us, but was told by a security guy: "Sorry, I can't let anyone else in - there's too many people in there already, and they're all going crazy..."
Absolutely brilliant reaction, and we were all so soaked in sweat when we came off that it was all we could do to stop Chris stripping off in the dressing room. Well in fact, we only half succeeded... no pictures, luckily. Actually no pictures of the gig at all - does everyone who owns a decent camera go to bed at Midnight or something? Oh well - at least we have a recording of it, but as it was taken off one mike at the front of the stage, it's a bit ropey to say the least - still, it gives an idea of the atmosphere in the place... enjoy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Four festivals in a fortnight!

Well, that was an extremely busy couple of weeks... we kicked off July at the Devizes Beer Festival down on the wharf in Devizes, and it was a ludicrously hot afternoon, with the stage in the full glare of the sun. I don't think I've ever been to a beer festival and drank less beer, it was too hot to want anything other than litres of water, and our Ruthie started to feel decidedly odd at the end of the set, and scarpered offstage for a lie-down in the shade. A great little do by Devizes CAMRA, and a good reaction from the crowd, especially considering the heat levels. Respec' to the three guys dressed in full Cavalier outfits, who were, apparently, the 'Three Mustgetbeers...' It made me feel hot just looking at them. Not in a good way, I should add.

A couple of nice pictures here, courtesy of Graham Brown:

IMG_0419 IMG_0418 IMG_0420

The next afternoon saw us on the Bandstand stage at Keynsham Festival, our second time at this one, and great fun to play especially as we weren't in full sun this time!
It all looked a bit iffy when we turned up, mind, as the backline provided onstage was a bit sparse, and there wasn't much in the way of drumkit - it's a common thing at festivals for there to be an onstage kit already there, and the drummers just provide their own snare, pedals, cymbals etc, but I reckon this is a bit of a hangover from the days when drummers weren't considered 'proper musicians', and were expected to just play whatever was there... I mean, you wouldn't expect a guitarist to just pick up some rented guitar and give a blistering performance on it, would you? Well, not if you know anything about playing guitar, anyway. Same goes for drums - a good soundcrew can mike up and linecheck a drumkit in 5 minutes flat, while the rest of the band are still setting up. Luckily, a good soundcrew was what we had, and the gig went down a storm - we had the best crowd of the day on that stage by far, and lovely it was to see some familiar faces in there, even some who remembered us from Brew Band days! A really nice little festival, and I hope it goes from strength to strength - we're certainly looking forward to doing it again.

Nice pic by Lou Fitch-Peyton here:

So, the next weekend started with the Newt Festival, down in Devon - we did this a few years ago, with an evening slot on the one and only stage, but this year they've introduced another stage, and we've got a mid afternoon slot on there - worked out nicely for us actually, as we had a good crowd sheltering from the sun, and it went down extremely well - many thanks to the soundcrew especially, who did a sterling job.
A bit disconcerting to have a bloke dressed as a fluffy pink pig dancing in front of us, but on reflection that might just have been me. (Well, I wasn't driving that day...)

<< No pictures of us have surfaced yet, so here's a picture of Simon our guitarist 'relaxing' after a few ciders...

.No rest for the wicked, and the very next afternoon we were at the Nailsea Beer and Cider Festival, where a lovely shady stage awaited us, as did a couple of thousand well-refreshed punters trying to stay out of the sun. We were the only band on that were doing their own material that day, which the soundman was very pleased about, I think he was all 'covered-out'... A pretty quiet reaction, (see video below) but to be honest we weren't expecting major crowd participation on a Sunday afternoon on one of the hottest days of the year, and we enjoyed our little selves thoroughly, especially afterwards, when we were free to get stuck into the large amounts of free booze available.
Ever wary of the effects that strong cider can have on the delicate constitution of one unused to drink such as myself, I elected to stay on the ales, sipping parsimoniously from the weaker ones, so as not to inflame any ill humours or anything. I'm reasonably sure that the 'Orkney Skullsplitter' (8.4%) counts as weak, anyway. Others however, were not so circumspect in their choice of refreshment... moving swiftly on from the 'Cat's Arse' and 'Nun's Chuff' ciders, the rest of the band settled on the 7.2% 'Fanny Liquor' (d'you see what they did there?) as the cidre du jour, and the Horizontal Hold swiftly began to go awry... there's something of a pattern developing here...

To round off that hectic couple of weeks, here's a rather splendid bit of video taken by Geoff Pharoah, of one of our new songs, 'The Long Walk Home' - I suspect that for the parents of these two somewhat overheated/excited toddlers, it did indeed prove to be just that... ;)

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Catchup time...

A whole bunch of pub gigs since the last post, all of which have gone swimmingly well, as far as I can remember.
First off was the Oxford in Totterdown, Bristol back in April - loads of people turned out for this one, including our old whistle player Jon Hill, who came all the way over from Welsh Wales, bless him!
Fantastic to see him again after what must be at least 15 years, and What a Shame he 'forgot to bring his whistle with him'... next time, Jon.
Much respec' also to the dude who grabbed the mike from Chris after our encore and informed the crowd in no uncertain terms that we were the "BEST FUCKIN' BAND IN BRISTOL!" and demanded another song. We obliged, needless to say.

The White Hart in Atworth was our next outing, at the end of May - as we were setting up the gear, my old mate Alan, who played guitar in my first 'proper' band, the All-Night Chemists, suddenly appeared onstage and frightened the life out of me - he'd been driving past on his way to a gig in Melksham with his band, and saw me through the pub window - for a moment there, I thought it was 1987, and I'd forgotten all of the songs!
Our guitarist Simon's local, this one, so a good home crowd were in, and a very merry time was had by all, especially Simon, who by all accounts was still in there at 3 am. Shocking...

Onwards into June, and we were back in The Horseshoe, Shepton Mallett - some great publicity in the local press for this one (see photo), but it didn't translate into large numbers of punters, sadly; I didn't care though, as a goodly batch of mates of mine turned out, including the redoubtable Caroline Brown and the one and only Johnny Morris (no, not that one), erstwhile drummer for the All Night Chemists.

OK, now we're up to date, it's time to venture into the gnarly Wildwood of July, beset from all sides with spiky Beer Festivals...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What happened to the last 4 months?!?

Even by my lazy standards that's a long gap between posts, and it's not as if we haven't been doing anything... well, January was a quiet month (apart from going to see Caravan in Bath, which was a great wallow in nostalgia for me), but at the start of February we were holed up in the Session Rooms studio in Monkton Coombe, where we recorded 4 songs and were very happy with the results - some of the best recordings we've made, I reckon - head over to the band website if you'd like to hear them.
Plan is to go back to the same place maybe in April/May and put down some more, and hopefully get a full CD's worth out by the end of the year...

First gig of 2013 was at the good old George in Bradford on Avon, where landlord Darren's PA was once again pressed into service, and sounded so good that Chris threw caution to the wind and splashed out on a new one for us - very nice it is too, and we didn't have to wait long to try it out - the following weekend, we played probably the weirdest gig we've ever done (even weirder than that Pagan Wedding on Exmoor...) at a Point-to-point Race day in Didmarton...

Not having the first idea about horses, and being rather suspicious of the beasts on the whole, I spent much of the day hiding in the van with what was very probably the only copy of the Guardian onsite, while lots of horsey people rode past dressed in what was apparently an obligatory uniform of tweed jackets, flat caps and green wellies. The women all, without exception, wore those fluffy Alice Band thingys that were briefly popular in the eighties.
It was a fine sunny day, and Fortnum & Mason hampers and bottles of champagne were much in evidence as well... to say this was not our 'usual crowd' was an understatement, and I for one was feeling a bit of trepidation... what the hell were they going to make of us?
We were playing in the Beer Tent just after the last race of the day, and once drummer David, who lives and breathes horses, had stopped playing with them and taken his tweed jacket off, we were ready. Simon, who'd left it till the last moment to get there due to a combination of horrible flu that had laid him up for the last fortnight, and an unfortunate allergy to, er... horses, was medicated up to the eyeballs and ready for anything, and we were off!
It quickly became apparent that we needn't have worried about the reception, they loved us, and were dancing like wild things after the first song... it also became apparent that the whole tent-full of them were completely hammered to a man, woman & jockey, and quite a few of them appeared to have lost all control of their limbs as well. At one point, while I was distracted by a ruddy-faced farmer with a sheepdog on a lead that was enthusiastically attacking the Wellington boot attached to the leg of  a pie-eyed Country Gentleman trying to carry 4 pints away from the bar, another chap fell backwards over a monitor and knocked one of our nice new PA speakers onto the floor... once we'd sorted that lot out, he had the cheek to ask if he could have a lift home. No.
When we eventually finished to great acclaim & lots of encores, people gradually drifted off as we loaded the gear back in the van, and we noticed the now comatose drunk being dumped into a skip full of rubbish and dogshit by his 'mates'. He came round and clambered out again, but any chance he might have had of getting a lift home with anyone at all was now well and truly gone. He's probably still there, in fact.

Next gig was on the Ides of March at the Village Inn in Nailsworth, a new venue for us, and as it turned out rather a good one - me and Chris had both done our backs in the previous week, but luckily there were plenty of regulars to help load out, mostly dressed as leprechauns (well, it was nearly St Patricks day) or, more confusingly, members of the clergy. Turns out they were holding their very own Papal Election, timed to coincide with the real one, and judging from the campaign speeches they later delivered, this lot would make a refreshing change from whatever bigoted old fossil the College of Cardinals eventually came up with in Rome... much more relaxed attitudes to drinking and general licentiousness, for a start.
A great night, with lots of dancing, nothing broken, and FREE BEER, which swung it for me, let's be honest! We'll be back here again, I'll be bound...