Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday Night At The Alamo... er I mean Edwards

Well, you missed a treat. It was probably one of the most bizarre and yet strangely entertaining nights I've ever been involved in. First of all, many thanks to Alex, Andy, Kris, Haydn and Carole who made it out through carnival traffic, the maddest disco you've ever been to and, no doubt, some angry redskins to come along and support me.

I must admit I had a nervous feeling about the gig when I arrived to find no one there (load-in is supposed to be 5.30pm, I got there at 6.15). In fact no one appeared until 7pm ish, when I was starting to think I was in the wrong place. The arrivee was the outlaw Robbie James: sound engineer, money collector and, as it turned out, performer. He proceeded to throw chairs and sofas around as if we were barricading up the Alamo in anticipation of the arrival of the cavalry.

Needless to say soundcheck was delayed somewhat, but the other turns started to arrive and I introduced myself. I got chatting to a jovial fellow by the name of Wayne Myers... Don't I know you from somewhere? he asked. We went through a number of acoustic venues we'd been to recently with no matches. Perhaps you saw me in a band? No idea, so we left it...

[Funny aside 1: I guy wanders into the soundcheck looks around and then takes out his mobile phone. He dials. The guy sitting on the sofa just in front of him's phone rings. He takes it out. Hello? Hello? I thought you were playing at Edwards tonight. I am, wait I can't hear you. I can't hear you either... first guy heads to the door. I start to point... eventually he realises he's phoning a guy 3 feet away from him!!]

Soundcheck was completed somewhat hap-hazardly... with much PA popping and microphone placement. The punters began to come in and we looked at each other wondering what order or how long we were playing for... no problem, the outlaw had it all in hand... reverse soundcheck order, two songs each... then the whole thing again, three songs each. Here we go then.

First up is a chap by the name of Red Cesare I believe, who sang some of the most manic and amusing songs I've heard in a while... couldn't catch many of the lyrics due to the PA being a bit hit and miss, but it was fun anyway. Wayne was next up. Again very entertaining, my brother watches interestedly. Then turns to me and says, What was the name of that guy who used to record at 2nd Sense? No idea, I say. But bells are starting to ring. At the end of his set the sound engineer/outlaw is nowhere to be seen. What to do? Play another song? Yeah, why not... so he does.

Next up is me!! Sound engineer re-appeared, I negotiate my way through microphone cables and sofa cushions onto the make-shift stage. I play I Need Your Love and Minneapolis, Hungover, Tired, Awake. It goes well, I think...

After me is something else altogether. A young 19 year old lad called Chris Turpin (see Pic), wearing a BRMC t-shirt, who proceeds to play and sing like an 80 year old american blues player!! It's the most extraordinary thing. The voice appears to be coming from someone else, we all sit and stare in amazement.

Finally it's the turn of Jimmy Chan, a kind of urban protest singer, a bit like an acoustic version of The Streets. Wow, what a mix... and then we do it all over again.

In my second set I play, All I Want Is You, Vulnerable and Do You Want To Dance?, which seems to go down particularly well.

[Funny aside 2: In Wayne's second apperance he is accompanied by a flautist. I assume it's a band member, but it turns out Wayne met him 5 minutes before they played together! So what did you do, just name the key? I ask. Yep, he says. He was pretty good in A, but a bit dodgy in Bb!]

After Wayne plays his second set I sidle up. Did you ever record in Harrow? Yes. At 2nd Sense? Yes. Then you do know me, and more to the point you know my brother (I point) who played drums for you. Jaws drop, Haydn and Wayne haven't seen each other for about 20 years!! Told you it was a bizarre night.

To cap it all Robbie James plays a set of pure Americana blues... told you he was a genuine outlaw! And we swap MySpace details and CDs and wander off into the night slightly reeling from it all... I keep glancing over my shoulder feeling like an extra from Il Mariachi, is the Mexican army following me? Where the heck is my horse!?


P.S. Kris photographed the whole evening, here are his pics of me and Chris Turpin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wish Me Luck

I've entered a competition in Guitarist magazine, it's good to do these things as it's another outlet for the music and a great motivator to get things done. With the latter in mind it was cool that they needed two tracks to listen to, and this spurred me on to record Home / Lightkeeper (see post) and a new version of Vulnerable.

Please do check them out, and let me know what you think:

Home / Lightkeeper


The prize is really cool, a chance to gig as support to two more established acoustic artists and a Yamaha guitar!! I find out on the 24th if I've made it to the last six.

Another reason to wish me luck is I have a gig on Sunday (at Edwards in Hammersmith). I haven't done a proper set for a while, so I'm gonna have to practice hard. If you happen to like the tunes, then do consider coming along. Details are here.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Are We There Yet?

I hinted in a much earlier Blog that I've been waiting for something for half a lifetime... which in my case is a scary 19 years!! Not long to go now and I'm feeling the excitment grow. Honestly, I haven't felt like this since I was a kid, it's nice when something comes along to make you feel that way. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Goodbye Old Friend

I've had a companion (well actually, in best Only Fools And Horses tradition I've actually had three of them... the first gave up the ghost after I dropped it in some girl's loo [a whole other story], and the second was stolen or went awol in a Clapham bar) on my travels and adventures over the last two years, that I'm finally saying goodbye to. It's been more than just a companion though, it's been my phone, my mp3 player and, most importantly, my camera. All the pictures (baring one or two) in this Blog were taken by me using my wonderful Sony Ericsson W800.

I have a brand new W880i now, but it can never be quite the same. The very best thing about the W800 was that you just had to turn it on it's side, open the proper camera-style shutter, and press the camera-style big silver button to take a pic. Okay, it wasn't overly compatible with my Mac, but I did manage to get Calender and Address Book info on there (easily), and copy MP3s from iTunes (rather frustratingly hard). The facility to download pictures often failed and recently it took to switching itself off at every opportunity, including mid-phonecall.

But all the same I'll miss it. Take a flick back through earlier posts to see some of the places we've been and the pictures we took.


P.S. I've decided to recycle my phone in aid of charity, if you have phones lying around I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

And So To The End... for now.

Could this be it? Could this be the last time I sell T-Shirts for the Pet Shop Boys? No idea, in theory the last date should be in Barcelona, but that’s not until October so anything could happen before then. I’m in Lokerse in Belgium. The Magic Numbers are playing the light is fading and insects are starting to buzz about. It’s a slow selling day today, these festivals rarely involve much selling, but there are usually a few interesting sights to distract me. Today the Coca-cola girls have all been dressed as nurses, complete with stockings and suspenders, yummy. There are worse views.

The show finishes at about 1am tomorrow morning, it will take an hour and a half to pack my stuff up and then we drive for an hour back to Brussels. Later we will take the Eurostar home and the adventure ends for now. On Tuesday I fly to Ibiza for a few days rest and then the song-writing and playing will begin in earnest.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Here We Go...

Here we go then - the next to last trip with the Pet Shop Boys. Today it’s Malaga in Spain. It’s been a fun day so far, we arrived last night and checked in late, early lobby call, but no sign of the bus. Eventually we overhear the Tour Manager on the phone to the local promoters, “Well I don’t see how you could mistake 8am for 8pm!”. The bus that was due to pick us up at 8.30 in the morning isn’t going to arrive ‘til 20:30… whoops! Mistake rectified they eventually turn up, only for the drivers to not know where they were going. The first bus dumps the crew in the middle of the car park, the second gets lost. In the end our Production Manager spots the gig and manages to direct them there, luckily he speaks Spanish.

At the venue the problems continue, there is no power in the dressing rooms or to the back-line on stage. Much head scratching and shrugging follows, some thing is unplugged and replugged, time passes. Half an hour later the power returns. Time to try and find out where I’m selling from. Only the man I need isn’t here yet, so I wait.

When he does arrive it’s something of an anti-climax, the selling spot is a piece of bare concrete with two crowd barriers. No table, no power, no light, no change. Can I have a table? No. Eventually I negotiate a stage riser… and I pick up another barrier and carry it over. We’re getting there now, just the power and light to fix. I’m having trepidations given the power debacle earlier. No worries, I’m told, you can get power from the bar. Although the bar has no power. Well no real rush, seven hours ‘til doors.

With about 3 hours ‘til doors, I’m still powerless. But I have my trusty light (see earlier Blog), well I did have it. Right up until I dropped it on the floor and broke the bulb. Now my heart is really sinking, how to fix this one in time? My pleas for help are mostly met with shrugs and blank looks, no one has a bulb (not surprising) and no one seems to know what to do (not too surprising either). Eventually I ask a guy who I know speaks good English, and… he can’t help either. Still at least he could point me to someone who could. I ask again and this time (I think ‘cos he was getting fed up with me) he finds someone who can help and explains in Spanish. Result! This guy talks to two other guys and they set off to buy new bulbs.

Just the power and change to go then. They are setting up a generator at the bar, so that’s looking good. I collar another English speaker at the bar and ask about plugging in, no problem, but I have to wait for an electrician as there are no spare sockets. Okay fine, how about some change. Hmmmm, perhaps when they fill the tills. Perhaps never (as it turns out, never, even though he promises to send someone over).

In due course the electricians arrive and I look plaintive with broken light and plug in hand. My saviour turns out to be a very handsome young Spaniard called Pedro. Even though he speaks no English, he plugs me in, puts one of the two new bulbs in and then proceeds to fix it at a good angle high up the wall. He’s a bit of a perfectionist too, much tweaking later he is happy and so am I.

By this time it’s about an hour ‘til doors, but I’m set fair to go. Of course the Pet Shop Boys are not on until 00:30 (which of course means 00:45 as they are scrupulous about being 15 minutes late for every show), so I have to work through the two support acts. In this case they are a rock band, at least one of which thinks he’s in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (he even broke into the riff from Whatever Happened To My Rock’n’Roll in the soundcheck to prove the point). The rest of the band aren’t too sure though and it turns out to be slightly better than average pop rock.

[Okay, slight break here as a guy dressed as a seven foot soft drinks bottle has just walked past!]

The next support band are a female singer (blond, leggy, big… you know) and her four semi-naked and buffed backing dancers (male, in case you haven’t guessed) doing disco classics. Gay icons? I wonder. Well at least they played some stuff I knew, ahem.

Well we’re pretty much up to date now. The Boys are on stage now in the middle of Heartbeat, about 3/4s of an hour to go and then it’s the mass exodus. After this I pack up and load the truck, which drives overnight to Belgium! We fly tomorrow, so I at least get a few hours in bed, I feel like I deserve it!

(in Malaga, Spain)

P.S. Back at the hotel now, it’s 04:10 and I really am (almost) ready for bed. Well I will be when I finish this vodka, and perhaps a beer, and turn the computer off… lobby call is 10:45, so time for some rest. Good night!