Friday, September 26, 2014

The Griffin - Never say Never Again...

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Woolley Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Foxstock and Chilli...

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

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

(Photo courtesy of Rob House)

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Big Farmer...

Farm Festival at Gilcombe Farm near Bruton in Somerset is one of the best kept secrets around these parts...
It's a lovely festival that harks back (as much as you can, these days) to those Halcyon Times when people could just get together in a field and Party - since I were a lad though, as I know to my cost, these things have by-and-large fallen victim to the Scourge of Capitalism. Not so Farm Fest, which has remained commendably true to its original ethos, and donates profits to charity, this year's being Send a Cow.

The festival started small, and as you might expect it stayed under the Media radar for quite a while.
Well, it did until them over in That London cottoned on and came over 'ere with their Drum an' Bass an' Junglist Tripcore and I don't know what else...
(I really don't know what else. I've just used my quota of HipSpeak for the month.)

There is however, even in this enclave of Hipsterness a corner that is Forever West of England... the Sett Stage, curated by the redoubtable Ollie Hulme, puts on local bands for the whole two days and nights, and attracts just as many punters as the other stages.
We were on in the early evening on Saturday, and by the end of our set we'd filled the marquee and then some... it's a fantastic feeling to be standing on a stage, watching people jostling to get into the tent where you're playing, when the whole place was empty before you started. One of those gigs that reaffirms your whole faith in being in a Band in the first place: that many people in one place can't be wrong!
Our stand-out gig of 2014 so far, and it'll take a lot of beating.

Picture by Eamon Boyle
After we'd cleared the stage and I'd returned from the bar, a lovely young lady appeared from the crowd, grabbed me by the beard and planted a kiss on my lips, which was pretty much the perfect ending to that gig, so thank you Ma'am, whoever you were! :)

Oh, and thanks to Sound Engineer Doug, and Drummer DFP's Fiendishly Clever Recording Device, here's the set:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pump up the volume

And so on to the Village Pump Festival in White Horse Country park - our 3rd year on the trot at this much-loved mainstay of the Folkin' calendar, and once again we're in the 'Late-night Extra' slot at midnight on Stage 2. This slot works particularly well for us, as being on the (ahem) louder end of the spectrum, we'd probably clear the venue in minutes if we were put on in an afternoon slot, as happened memorably a few years back when they somewhat perplexingly booked the mighty Jah Wobble....
The Pump crowd that were still up for a party at midnight had left their deckchairs behind though, and were soon leaping about like mad salmon. Fair play to them, as it was stiflingly hot that night - when we came off stage we were all wringing wet, and had to do some serious rehydration work at the bar - many thanks to the chap who bought us all drinks, by the way - you're a Star, mate!
All credit to the Soundcrew and organisers as well - once more it was a brilliant event to be involved with from start to finish, and I hope it goes from strength to strength.
I suspect we were still a bit too much for some of the older guard there, though... the following morning I wandered onto site in search of breakfast, and found myself behind a couple discussing last night's festivities:
"And did you see that lot on at midnight? Ooh, they were so LOUD!"
"I know... you can't call that Folk..."
Here's some video footage shot by my son Joe on his mum's Blackberry... the poor device wasn't cut out for recording amplified music, so I cut off the horrible distorted racket and replaced it with an older recorded version - cheating I know, but I think it sort of works!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dance before the Storm...


The thing (well, one of the many things) that I like about playing Festival gigs is the edgy unpredictability of it all - saying that, a few things are fairly standard.
You have:
A timeslot which may, or more likely may not, actually be your timeslot.
An onstage backline that may not be what you were expecting, or might not be there at all.
A Sound Engineer who may be a super-efficient whizz-kid with an iPad who hasn't a clue what he's doing, or a wizened old geezer with a rollup tucked behind his ear who used to roadie for Led Zeppelin, and can do a line-check in 30 seconds flat with nothing but said rollup and a raised eyebrow.

You don't have:
Any guarantee that the rest of the band will show up on time.
Anywhere to park the van.
Any free beer.
Any control over the weather...

For bands like ours who have experienced the entire spectrum of these silly generalisations in various combinations over many years, it's a pleasure to come across a Festival that bucks the trend, and Summer Breeze Festival did that in spades - a perfect site, nestled in a little valley in an idyllic spot outside Swindon (quite a lot outside Swindon, obviously), running over two days, with camping, two stages, great Real Ale & Cider bar, lots of food stalls and other stuff, and crucially, people organising it who really cared about making it a success.
Apparently the festival used to be a lot bigger (this is the 7th year it's run), but after licensing issues last year it had to downsize from 2000 to 500. After being on the Management Committee for Bristol's late-lamented Ashton Court Festival for a few years, I'm well aware of the hassles they must have had to get the event put on at all, so all credit to them.

props to Lou for the photos, once again!
As we rolled up, the sun was shining, despite the horrendous thunderstorms, twisters and the like that had been afflicting those of us further West for the last 24 hours, the place was full of lovely partying people and tumbling tots, and if there'd been any lambs around, they'd undoubtably have been gambolling...
As soon as we took to the stage though, a few ominous fat raindrops started to fall...

The Gods become Angered by our Songs...
By the end of the first song, it was properly pissing down. I'm talking vertical stair-rods of rain that wouln't be out of place in a Monsoon.By the end of the second song, there were Hailstones the size of marbles bouncing off the stage (and the brave few dancers who'd already resigned themselves to getting soaked)
We never got to the end of the third song - Toby the Sound Engineer wisely decided to call a halt to proceedings and power-down the whole stage, what with it being a tall metal-framed structure and all; this was a good decision, we all agreed, as the thunder cracked right over our heads...
We all Bravely Ran Away, and enjoyed Nature's Lightshow for 20 mins or so until the storm passed, and we hopped back onto the (now rather slippery) stage, and did a few more songs until our stagetime ran out. Needless to say, the sun then came out, and shone gloriously down for the rest of the evening..!
It would be easy to feel somewhat hard done-by by this, but hey, that's part of the deal when you play a Festival, and that's why I for one love doing them.
For my part, I'd rather play one gig like that than a dozen pub gigs that I'll forget all about a week later...

Time to leave the stage, methinks...

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Wolf, the wolf, he's at it again...

Excellent gig at Mr Wolfs down in Bristol's sweaty and heaving city centre last Friday, and it certainly showed us the difference between a weekday night in this fair city, when people still have to get up for work, and the start of the weekend, when nobody gives a flying one...

Support tonight was from a lovely gent name of Madi Stimpson, who plays astonishingly accomplished guitar, varying from jigs and reels (hard enough to pull off on a fiddle, but on a guitar, really something) to full-on Gypsy Jazz stuff that has the guitarists in the audience scratching their heads and wondering why this guy isn't playing bigger gigs... he's ably assisted by Paris Moon on bass - apparently this is one of her first gigs - she's very young, and very nervous, but she played incredibly well, and as I said to her afterwards, if you're playing that well after only a couple of years, the sky really is the limit. She's already got the hang of playing with fingers rather than a pick, which I long ago decided was beyond me, and I've been doing this for 30 odd years...

T'was lovely to see a load of old mates turn up, plus a lot of family, including one of Chris's daughters and one of Ruth's as well (if we're still doing this in a decade's time, I hope my boys will come and see us as well - take note, lads, if you're reading this in 2024... )
A great gig for us, anyway - people leaping about and sending mike-stands flying after the first song, and it went even better after that - big shout-out to the sound man Simon at Mr Wolfs, who really does know his PA rig, and how to deal with bands as well - it shouldn't need saying, but at some venues we've done in the past, the band gets treated as second class Citizens who interrupt the smooth running of the place; Mr Wolfs doesn't make that mistake.

Looking forward to going back, if you'll excuse the possible oxymoron...

taken by Lou, through the looking-glass!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sherston Festival... first of 2014!

And what a gorgeous day for it as well!

We used to do the Sherston Festival way back in Brew Band days, when the stage was just a curtain-sided truck, and apart from a bar, that was it. It's come on quite a bit since then, and although it's still in the same place it's now a properly organised two-day event with a decent outdoor stage and a second one set up in the adjacent Village Hall, lots of stalls, beer tent, plenty of food and of course a lot more bands. Nice to see it was all original music too, and they hadn't gone for the easy option of covers bands.

We had our fingers crossed for the outside stage, but it was not to be, and we were on the indoor one, which would have been fine for an acoustic act, but to be honest was not great for us - it was a great barn of a place with bare stone walls, and every note reverberated around till we could hardly make out what we were doing. The excellent soundcrew had their work cut out for them, and were probably sweating as much as we were under the lights, but they got it sorted alright, and we went down a storm in the end. If every festival we do this summer is as hot as this one though, we're going to be shedding pounds by the end of the season, which is probably no bad thing. After us on the outside stage were a band called Sam Green & the Midnight Heist, who were great - think we're doing another festival with them later in the year, will make sure I check them out again. Honourable mention also to the reggae band who were on there before we started, I don't know who they were, but they were excellent.

Kudos to the organisers for a very well-run do, and thanks also for the goody-bags they gave all the bands - mine contained sweets, bubble mixture, Rizlas, lighter, bottleopener and a miniature bottle of Jack Daniels - they know their musicians well, obviously..! ;)

taken at Sherstonfest, before we got all hot & sweaty...

Friday, June 06, 2014

Popes, Cider & Birthdays

Well, it's been a while, so lets deal with these in order, shall we?
The Village Inn in Nailsworth was a blindin' gig, despite the Papal Election being a bit of a damp squib compared to last year - come on people, I could have come up with a better Hustings speech than any of you proposed Pontiffs in five minutes - put some effort in! I wouldn't be surprised to find out the Pope of Nailsworth has been Defrocked by the time we next play there...
Massive thanks to the stalwarts behind the bar, though, who kept us fuelled with free beer all night - THAT'S how you get the Party Started, folks..!
After that was an all-dayer at the Bell Inn on Walcot St in that there Bath - always a fun gig, despite the rather weird stage setup which causes a few sound problems, but these were ably sorted out by the resident noise-boy, and it turned out nice in the end. The new manager also didn't complain about the volume like the old landlord, which was a nice change. The following week he hit the headlines for ejecting the odious Nigel Farage from the pub after he tried to use it to hold an election meeting in, so our respect for him has shot up several notches further - well done, Sir!
Next on the list was a last-minute request to play a Cider & Sausage Festival at the Southbank Club in Bristol - we like cider, and we like sausages too so why not, we thought, and it was a very good decision. We'd never heard of the place before, but it turns out to be a big old club in South Bristol with a nice-sized stage, PA and lighting rig. We were supporting the excellent Flash Harry, who've been playing around these parts for even longer than we have, and it was a pleasure to do. The event was organised by the Bristol Cider Shop, a magical emporium on Christmas Steps that dispenses all manner of appley goodness... check it out if you're ever in that area.

Finally in May, I found that my 50th birthday had sort of crept up on me. Not being one for throwing parties (too much effort and clearing up in my view), I was hoping for a local gig to turn up, and happily there was a night free at the Oxford in Totterdown, which was perfect.
I had a great night, don't know about anyone else! Lots of beer, some good mates, and thanks to DFP an enormous pork pie - that's a Night Out, that is..!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wolves, Horses and other assorted wildlife.


Way back in the freezing mists of February we were back at Mr Wolfs, a lovely little club in Bristol City Centre. Usually a lively one this, particularly towards 11 o'clock when the place suddenly fills with students for the DJs and late drinking.
Support for the night were the Redhillbillies, a very nice bunch of lads and lasses doing mostly Country covers - good to see how a genre of music that was once seen as terminally uncool is having something of a renaissance at the moment. I was particularly taken with the bassplayer's original 1970s Rickenbacker, which he'd bought new. Battered as hell, but sounded lush.
A good night, although a bit quieter than usual, perhaps because it was a Thursday? Never mind, we'll be back here in June on a Friday night, which should be nice and steamy...

At the beginning of March we were back on the alien planet (to me, at any rate) of a Point-to-Point Race Day in Didmarton - as I observed last year, this was basically a Festival for posh people, with horses instead of bands. We played in the beer tent after the last race again, and this time on a decent stage a good few feet above the ground, which was just as well...
Things proceeded pretty much as last time - an awful lot of alcohol had evidently been consumed (either that, or posh people really can't hold their liquor), and there was a lot of very bad dancing - so far, so entertaining, but a couple of things really got my goat; one young toff who looked the dead spit of David Cameron at 14 decided that the side of the stage next to me was the ideal place to put his brimming pint - right next to a four-way extension with 4 live plugs in it? I snarled "NO!" at him, and he scooped it up and scurried away, luckily.
Meanwhile, Simon had a girl sitting on the front of the stage pretty much on top of his effects pedalboard texting her mates, and a couple of drunken oafs managed to knock one PA speaker and a set of lights flying... I waited for them to put it up again, but no - they just wandered off. Presumably they usually have servants to do that sort of thing for them.
To round off the night, a huge fight erupted in front of the stage, with everyone within range getting roped into it while we guarded our gear... Ho hum. I couldn't get away fast enough.

Back to some welcome normality the following week, and the Royal Clarence Hotel in Burnham on Sea - a great little hotel/pub right on the seafront, with drinks so cheap that I thought I'd been given too much change... A weirdly shaped room to play in, but a decent stage, good lights and a very helpful and enthusiastic landlord. I'd certainly be happy to play it again, despite the unwelcome attentions of the somewhat under-the-influence woman who buttonholed each of us individually to tell her life-story to after the gig, before latching on to me with a vice-like grip to continue her amphetamine-fuelled jabber at some length... oh, for a squad of roadies to do all the clearing-up while we can all swan off to a hotel suite. One day, one day..!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Out with the Old...

Have you seen this anorak?
As a band, we've always taken great care over our personal grooming and appearance, as anyone who's seen us can't have failed to notice, so it is with a heavy heart that I have to report that drummer DFP's favourite piece of haute couture, his ancient smelly anorak with the stuffing leaking out, went missing after our New Years Eve gig at the White Hart in Atworth.
We're all still reeling from the shock, and poor DFP is inconsolable. Apparently it was last seen in the clutches of a pair of drunk girls who presumably loved the heady whiff of sweaty horse, and staggered off into the night with it cackling with glee.
We shall not see its like again... nonetheless, a cracking night was had by all, especially by guitarist Simon, who was still at the bar at 6 a.m. by all accounts. Bad boy.
It nearly didn't happen at all though, as when we were setting up the gear at the beginning of the night, we managed to blow all of the pub's electrics several times - the fault was eventually traced to a couple of long extension leads that Chris had wired up that afternoon... somehow he'd got the positive and negative mixed up, but I promised that I wouldn't tell anyone. Oops...

Moving swiftly on, and we were back at the George at Woolley St, Bradford on Avon last weekend, where a fair number of people made it out to see us on a completely filthy, soggy, windy night - many thanks for coming out and sticking around to hear some of our new songs! Always a good place to try out new stuff, as they're a very forgiving bunch in here. Either that or they just don't notice the cock-ups...

Thanks to Allison for the pic!