I hate cancelling gigs at the best of times, and especially this time, but I've just emailed the people organising the gig I was going to be doing at The Grapes on August 31st to tell them I can't now go - last week my lovely Grandad died and the funeral's scheduled for the 31st, and I don't think I'll feel much like doing a gig afterwards!
It was obviously all a bit sad with Grandad, but I did see him the weekend before last, and it was pretty clear that he was ready to go, and he was well looked after right to the end, so though it's still a bit of a shock to realise he's gone, at least it seems like the natural thing to have happened. Anyone who's read this for a while will know I've had a bit of a hard time over the past couple of years losing both my Nans, both of whose deaths were less dignified than they deserved, so at least this time it's not as horrible and upsetting. Just like with them though, I did spend a lot of time growing up with my Grandad and I'm going to miss him just as much.
So yes, I had a think about it and tried to work out a way i COULD do the gig, as I hate letting people down, but realised that it just wasn't going to work out. Sorry about that, if you were coming, but I know Pocketbooks and Pete will be FANTASTIC (they were over the weekend), and I'll be back in Sheffield very soon afterwards!
Indie Tracks: Day Two
Apparently there was a lot of noise on the campsite overnight - several people reported being kept awake by lairiness, but for some reason i slept EXTREMELY SOUNDLY. I'd been talking about doing a GIG AROUND THE CAMPFIRE after the disco but by the time I got back to the tent i found myself UNACCOUNTABLY WEARY and indeed lay down and went STRAIGHT to sleep. It must have been all the fresh country air.
I got myself some Tomatoes On Toast for breakfast, it was a PURE VEGETABLE HIT that was much required, visited the VERY POSH toilet facilities, and then cleaned my teeth. Sometimes you forget what an UTTERLY MARVELLOUS thing it is to have Properly Clean Teeth, and I walked around for several minutes enjoying them. Mmm, cleanliness!
Then we headed off back to the festival, where there was BEER! We arrived to see A Smile And A Ribbon, who, even with very VERY strong competition, were the INDIEST BAND I saw all weekend. They're a twee sounding female fronted properly groomed indie pop band with a glockenspiel... and they're from SWEDEN. Whilst watching them I thought "Could this even BE more twee?" At almost that exact moment they produced a MELODICA.
Next I saw Friends Of The Bride - I'd just wandered in to have a look and wasn't initially pleased with what I saw: a mod-dressed band from London, swaggering. "I'm not going to like this", I thought, but OH MY WORD how wrong I was, they were INCREDIBLE. Between songs they were LOVELY, obviously having a GRATE time, and FUNNY. The songs themselves were ALL brilliantly funny, and clever, and danceable, and catchy, and UTTERLY GRATE, and the way they played them was FANTASTIC. Alongside The Bobby McGees the night before they were my FAVOURITES, and definitely my Top New Band of the weekend. HOORAH!
I'd intended to go and see Horowitz but what with the watching of Friends Of The Bride I missed half their set, but what I did see was ACE, and then it was on to the TRANE to see Mr P Green COMMANDING the carriage - by this point The Pattisons were on site and THE TIGER had also arrived, and it wasn't long before Mr and Mrs Machine turned up and we were COMPLETE. It was also around this time that I went to do my stint on the merchandising stand, which was surprisingly good fun. It was a nice place to sit and WAVE to people as they came in and out, people wandered over for chats, and all was JOLLITY. The only problem was that the people meant to RELIEVE me didn't turn up - it turns out it was a band who'd done their set and were leaving, INDEED they came to pick up their CA$H while they were supposed to be on the stand! - but I didn't really mind as it was quite relaxing and I managed to get Frankie to watch the stall while i had a WEE.
Talking of which - the only thing that could have been improved about the festival was the TOILETS. Not in the usual way of festival toilets as, what with the site and the clientele, they were amazingly clean and tidy. However, there were only 4 per gender on the whole site, so there were a lot of long queues and a lot of nervous dancing around!
Anyway, we reconvened as a group to discuss SETLISTS and then headed back to do our GIG. Things got off to a difficult start as we couldn't find the chap with the keys to the lock-up and so ended up going on a few minutes late, and doing this:
I'd been a bit worried about this beforehand - I'd been looking forward to this weekend and this gig SO much for SO long, if it turned out rubbish I'd've been heartbroken. We often have problems with sound at Vlads gigs, when the drums get too loud and you can't hear the words, turning us into a mushy mess, and the fact we were playing in a vast tram shed filled me with fear.
I needn't have worried - it was one of THE BEST GIGS WE HAVE EVER DONE: EVER! HOORAH! Anything I say about it will sound like OVEREXCITED SHOWING OFF... but sod it, it was BLOODY ACE. I was amazed when we started and a HUGE crowd of people stood up from wherever they'd been sat round the room and STAMPEDED down to the front, HOORAY! As I said before, pretty much everyone I'd met at a gig over the last five years was at the festival, and ALL of them came to see us, along with a whole load of other people, that was LOVELY, especially when I looked around and saw people singing along with BIG GRINS. The sound was FANTASTIC - those sound guys did a GRATE job, and it was STRANGE to realise that everyone could hear ALL the words, especially when we were doing new ones. There were all sorts of BITS that I really enjoyed too - getting everyone to do the WHOO WHOOs in The Gay Train, PAGING Miss Edie Pattison when we did Leave My Brother Alone ("It's the one you like!"), seeing people do the dance in Do The Indie Kid and watching people leaping around on the bouncy castle throughout, the CHEER when we did The Lesson Of The Smiths, and the HUGE SHOUT in Easily Impressed, it was JUST BLOODY ACE.
There was MUCH talking and it all went by far far too quickly but soon it was done, even tho we did get a RIGHT PROPER encore which, AGANE, brought on a big old singalong. It was SO VERY LOVELY from start to finish, we were all absolutely stunned. As we packed away I gathered Frankie to my side so that I could point out the CROWD that had gathered round the merchansing stand - hey, it's not something we see very option! The sound guy came over and told us we were very obviously the most REHEARSED band of the weekend... which he meant nicely, but as we've not really officially practiced for about TWO YEARS i think it's probably not true!
After that there was more wandering around, more beer, and much HUGGING. Lots of people came over to say well done and HAPPINESS reigned supreme in Castle Validator. We added another TICK to the LIST of Bands Frankie Loves That He's Met Members Of, with him being slightly less dignified meeting a member of The Flatmates than he was meeting a member of The June Brides: there was squealing.
The Pattisons headed off and then the rest of us sat around on the Buffet Train, chatting to each other and various people and watching the sun go down, not really wanting to get up and go home and let this lovely weekend come to and end. We did a circuit of the site, and I made it my mission to find as many lovely people as I could, and HUG them - me missed quite a few as it didn't seem polite to barge into Wintergreens set and GRAB people, but we got quite a few, and it was a VERY happy band of Validators who left in the Tiger Mobile half an hour later.
In conclusion then, it was a lovely lovely LOVELY weekend that managed to surpass even my wildest hopes for how BRILLIANT it was going to be. Can we do it again please?
Indie Tracks: Day One
You find me today in an EXTREMELY good mood, also KNACKERED, slightly SUN BLUSHED and generally feeling like I've had about 20 brilliant nights out in the space of two days, for LO! this weekend i was the Indie Tracks festival. SYNOPSIS: GRATE!
I had to get up VERY early on Saturday to get the train to Derby. At the time I thought "Gosh, there are a lot of twee looking people on this train" but this was, of course, AS NOTHING to the amount of twee looking people i would see on OTHER trains... but anyway, I DISEMBARKED into Derby and immediately bumped into my friend RAY, and he, I, and HIS friend Becs wandered off to wait for our bus. IN THE PUB. HOORAH!
We whizzed off and were soon at the camp site, where we found LOADS of people I knew from different cities all in a field trying to put their tents up. As I reached the camping field I saw Mark From The Parallelograms laughing while Sam From Tasty was chased, girlishly, by a wasp. Things were becoming TWEE-ER! There were loads of other lovely people there but it's probably best if I don't REEL off lists of names or it will get like one of those "Wossname Begat So-and-so" pages from the bible, basically pretty much nearly EVERYONE i a) like and b) have met a gigs in the past five years was there. IT WAS BRILLIANT.
The Pattisons arrived and helped me set up the tent I was borrowing, and before too long we were all up at the main camp site. Very quickly I assumed my ATTITUDE for the weekend: GRINNING with a beer in my hand, stopping every five yards to say "OOh, hello! How are you?" as it felt like I knew AT LEAST half the people there - since I've got back i have found it difficult NOT to just start chatting to fellow rail users.
The site was the DEPOT and MUSUEM bit for the Midland Railway, which was an AMAZING place with steam trains and model trains and ALL SORTS whizzing around. It was fully open, so amongst the tiddly indie types staggering around you'd see slightly bemused families and LOTS of men in grey zip up jackets, clutching their sandwiches. It only ADDED to the loveliness of the weekend really, and the fact that most of the staff seemed to be really enjoying themselves only helped. The mood was JOLLY.
After watching Mr Pete Green be ACE in the church (there's a tin church - it's ACE) I went to catch a train to do a gig myself. On both afternoons people were doing completely unplugged gigs in the guard's van on one of the steam trains, and I boarded just in time to catch the end of The Bobby McGees. People changed over and I was just chatting to them when they train LEFT with (I hoped) most of the people who'd want to see me left behind. I knew we'd be back in 10 minutes, so in the meantime kicked off with a SPECIAL UKELELE SET, like SO:
Yes, that was all I got through as there was a LOT of chatting - hey, people were TRAPPED with me, i was going to take advantage! We got back to Swanwick Junction Station and, happily, a whole load more people joined us, and I got the guitar on and did THIS:
It was, frankly, LOVELY. We had a bit of a singalong and there was YET MORE talking and it felt BRILLIANT. Miss Lola Pattison said at one point, very loudly, "I love this train!" and everyone went "Aaaaah!" for LO! She was not the only one.
We got back to Swanwick Junction with me not really ready to finish, so we HOPPED out onto the platform and I did the last song there. This was BRILLO because the as the train pulled out i shouted "TRAIN SOLO!" and they pulled THE WHOO-WHOO CHAIN. HOORAH!
That done it was back to wandering around looking at bands and bumping into people. Later in the evening we saw The Bobby McGees playing their main set in the church and they were BLOODY FANTASTIC. It was funny, it was EXCITING, it was enthralling and it was ACE - Jimmy GRABBED the room and did not let go, and i reckon most people in years to come will remember it as one of the BIG HIGHLIGHTS of the weekend.
Later still there was the How Does It Feel To Be Loved DISCOTHEQUE- I've wanted to go for years but have never managed it, and had thought maybe, after all this build up in MY MIND, it would only be disappointing. I WAS WRONG, it was like a GIANT WAREHOUSE RAVE complete with DJ, exhorting the audience to LARGE IT UP, but with The Indie Music. OH THE DANCING, OH THE FUN. I stepped outside at one point to TAKE IN THE AIR round the side of the tram shed - and that was ALL i was doing - and as I turned to look over the Derbyshire hills I thought "This is all just absolutely lovely"... and FELL down the side of a ditch, TWISTING MY ANKLE as I did so. It really really really hurt, and still does, but HEROICALLY i carried on in a VERY BRAVE WAY, and only mentioned it once or twice to nearly everyone.
Some more dancing later it was time to head home. It had been GLORIOUS weather all day and it only started raining gently just as I got to my tent. I didn't mind, everything was BRILLIANT.
Lee Rosy's Tea Room
I set off once more for the East Midlands yesterday afternoon to FINALLY play my gig at Lee Rosy's in Nottingham - the first time it was attempted i had to cancel, the SECOND time the promoters cancelled it, but THIS was third time lucky as I arrived at the venue (via TRAM) to find the gig was GO. I arrived at 7.29pm, Sam Tasty appeared at precisely 7.30pm and, as no-one else was there, we popped into the pub over the road for a quick drink with Ian From Horowitz, who got the BLUNT END of me RANTING about My Theories: INDIE. OH what a lucky young man!
We returned to find the PA being set up and Tom arriving so we did our soundcheck and then strolled about 15 foot down the road to an RESTAURANT where we had our TEA. It was very nice indeed - i must get round to adding MEALS to the DATABASE OF ROCK one day, it would be FASCINATING to chart the different kinds of grub eaten by different combinations of Validators. I expect the Tim: Kebab Shop relationship to be HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT.
We strolled back to the venue and embarked on TEA - i had English Breakfast (nice), Green Tea Blue Sky (odd, like old fashioned sweets) and some ASSAM (DELICIOUS). It was EXTREMELY pleasant to have a CUPPA on the go while watching bands, especially when watching one as ACE and all round GOOD TIMES as Horowitz, who were on excellent form. It was all LOUD and DANCEY and a bit JANGLE, which was GRATE, tho i did worry about how Tom and I were going to sound, and thus THE USUAL THORT entered my mind: let's do it totally acoustical!
I suggested this to Tom expecting him to instantly say "JAWOHL!" but he was SUSPICIOUS, having only done this with me ONCE, in Leicester, when it didn't work out. However i PESTERED him and we agreed that he'd go through the amp (and, importantly, his PEDALS) a bit quietly. This done we set up and did THIS:
It was GRATE! I did the first four songs on my own and was RELIEVED that a) the live debut of I Did A Gig In New York seemed to go OK and b) i remembered the words to Breaks In The Journey, having not played it in AGES. Tom joined me from The Fight For History onwards and we had a FINE old time. I have said it 100,000,000 times but it bears repeating: it's SO much more fun to do gigs this way, you can dance around as much as you like, get CLOSE to people, you get much more control over how it sounds, and the BARRIERS between PERFORMER and AUDIENCE pretty much GO - people do get a bit FREAKED OUT sometimes by being reminded that you are all VERY MUCH in the same room as each other, but it makes things feel much more friendly, also FUN.
And yes, that IS a three song encore at the end, TWO songs of which were asked for, honest! POLITE DANCING broke out for The Gay Train which, being UNTETHERED, i could freely join in with, although outright FRUGGING was out of the question as it would be too LOUD. Hey Hey 16K was requested after that and I was having SO much fun I thought we might as well do Boom Shake The Room. Which we did.
After that it was back over the road with pretty much everyone who'd been there for POST GIG CELEBRATIONS, also quite a lot of excitable chat and LOOKING FORWARD to Indie Tracks at the weekend. WHAT a lovely bunch of people that Nottingham lot are. Tom and I said our farewells and headed back to Leicester, where we listened to his putative arrangement of We Can Start Having Fun and then stayed up LATE discussing GRATE GIGS WE HAVE DONE: ALWAYS a conversational topic which can keep us both talking.
Thus it was a bit of a bleary eyed and WEARY Hibbett who tottered across what's left of Frog Island this morning (it's an area of Leicester, and they seem to be knocking all of it down) but a VERY happy one. GIGS! HOORAH!
Busy Busy Busy
Bah! ROCK must utch up the bus to make space for WORK, as it turns out i've got to POSTPONE the proposed JOLLY WEEK i was going to have the week after next, in order to do LOADS OF WORK. It's a bit annoying, but it does at least mean i'll have time to DO everything i've got to do, rather than DASH AROUND LIKE A LOONIE to get it finished.
The main DRAG is that I'll now NOT be spending the entire week after next crouched over my shiny new four-track recording The Solo Album, but hopefully I'll be able to get some time in on it still. It really is a lovely little thing, and SURPRISINGLY similar to the old four tracks I used to use 10+ years ago. It's been nice getting back into it, actually, altho the corner of the bedroom has become covered in BRANE DUST as areas of aforesaid BRANE that haven't been visited in over a decade are suddenly full of activity. The cardboard box marked (in felt tip) "THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT BOUNCING DOWN" has been torn open and it's contents FULLY UTILISED - JUST like on the old cassette four tracks you can bounce down FOUR mono tracks (e.g. bass, guitar, two vocals) onto TWO, in STEREO. On the cassettes this was just because it's how tapes worked - each side of a cassette has two tracks each, for left and right, HENCE if you played a normal tape in it you got the other side playing backwards, and both in STEREO - but I guess it makes sense to do it that way digitally.
The BLOODY BRILLIANT difference about doing it digitally, however, is that you have LIMITLESS BOUNCING. For instance, on BORN YESTERDAY, the first song I've properly started, there's electrical lead guitar THROUGHOUT, and it is DOUBLE TRACKED, one on acoustic and one electric. I couldn't play it all the way through, so did each one on two seperate tracks, then bounced each of THEM onto one track, then mixed BOTH of them in stereo with the TWO acoustic guitar parts, which I'd also done in bits, onto TWO stereo tracks. It may well sound a bit complicated, because it IS RATHER, and MANY pieces have paper have been used to make sure I can keep count of where everything is, but the BEST thing is this: LIKE a normal cassette four track you can keep bouncing forever, but with THIS one you'll never lose quality and - AHA! - if you do it WRONG, or decide later on you don't like it, you can go back and CHANGE it!
The only trouble is RESISTING the temptation to STICK A CHOIR ON at every opportunity... so if the eventual solo album DOES come out it MAY feature about 7 million of ME singing, clapping, and doing quadruple tracked KAZOO. Just a warning.
In the meantime I'm getting INCREASINGLY excited about Indie Tracks while getting ready to go off and play Lee Rosy's in Nottingham tonight. Full report, TOMORROW!
Back At The Desk
You find me this morning frankly GLISTENING with SWEAT, as I came back in to work after my week Working From Home And Actually Having To Work to find that the people who attempted to put our office back together over the weekend didn't EXACTLY do the TIPPER-TOPMOST JOB of it. FOOLISHLY they have been wandering round the building this morning, so people have been GLARING at them, OPENLY. Yes, do not cross ACADEMICS, my friends, they will FROWN without mercy!
THUS I have spent a happy few hours moving boxes, HEFTING monitors, and wandering the building tracking down monitors etc. To be perfectly honest it has been QUITE GOOD FUN, I always quite like putting computers back together, it is like LEGO, and there's something quite satisfying about following the MAP of our room to make sure everything goes back in the correct place. Who'd've ever thought that someone who enjoyed THAT sort of thing could find gainful employment in the world of COMPUTERS eh?
Anyway, I'm all sorted out now and ready to get ON, and hopefully things will return back to normal with regards to REGULARITY OF POSTINGS. To celebrate the return of NORMALCY i present you with a NEW DOWNLOAD, a MUSICAL PIECE called EXTERMINATE which I recorded last week on my flashy new DIGITAL FOUR-TRACK. It's NOT the traditional First Thing To Record On A Four Track (i.e. multiple silly voices, swearing) but it IS quite jolly. Also, SHORT!
At Home, Working
I've been at HOME all week this week, as they're decorating my office and so I have no DESK to sit at. I thought this would be GRATE - basically a WEEK OFF for free - but it hasn't turned out EXACTLY like that. The whole being at home bit has been LOVELY, but I've had LOADS to do, not least answering the phone Quite A Lot to give SUPPORT to our fieldworkers. I haven't sat out in the garden drinking tea ONCE, not even for five minutes - nobody tell THE UNION, i will get DONE!
Yesterday I even had to go into WORK, it was MADNESS. I did, however, get to do a bit of SHOPPING afterwards (featuring use of Calm Telephone Voice to Worried Fieldworker whilst i was in The Plaza Centre: ALWAYS WORKING, ALWAYS PROFESSIONAL) and this included the purchase of the AMAZING Boss Micro-BR Digital Four Track. It's TINY - JUST a little bit bigger than an iPod, and LIGHTER. I've not had much chance to have a proper go at it yet, but it apparently has effects units, drum machine, tuner, and BIG memory, and it was only 150 quid! MENTAL! I'm getting geared up to use it for The Solo Album, and i THINK I may even be able to hook it up to a LAPTOP and MIX it there too. WE SHALL SEE.
In the meantime, I've also uploaded pictures of our trip to CORNBURY - they're HERE, on FLICKR. Aaah, that was a LOVELY day out!
Lark In The Park
After a REALLY REALLY stressful day at work trying to finish off a MASSIVE job that has ALREADY been REALLY STRESSFUL for about six weeks i was EXTREMELY ready to go to the pub , so set off slightly earlier than planned for THE PUB. It was a 45 minute walk across the London to the Lark IN The Park pub in King's Cross too, so by the time i arrived there was but one thought coursing through my brain: "BEER!"
I got me a beer and sat down in the back garden to RELAX, which I DID. I did me a soundcheck, had some TEA, chatted to Andy Who Does The Graphic Design, and soon we were joined by Charlie Of The Fighting Cocks. There was a good while of LITERARY DISCUSSON, also more BEER - they had bottles of ORGANIC beer which had ACTUAL Bits Floating In It, it was ACE - before it was time for me to go on and do THIS:
It was a festival, The Pop Art Weekender, and HENCE I did my Festival Set, and it seemed to go down quite well. It got off to a RATHER slow start but I think people came round quite quickly and there was a good lot of joining in and SHOUTING by the end. It was GOOD!
Afterwards there was more BEER, also INDIE BINGO. This was a GRATE idea as the compere, Rob (who i think I'd upset earlier by pointing out that, despite his claims, he wasn't from Leicester AT ALL "because people who really ARE from Leicester, they don't like to show off about it") put on a CD with 40ish SNIPPETS of Indie Tracks which a SPECIAL GUEST (ME) then put on random. We all had BINGO cards with random of the tracks on, so from then on it was like BINGO. There'd be some discussion amongst US (and also,it turned out, the organisers) as to whether it would be better NOT to tell people the names of the songs played, as this would make it double as a QUIZ but then this would DENY the chance to do Inevitable Bingo Gags i.e. "Two Fat Ladies - The Magic Numbers".
It was all rather excellent, even the PRIZES had comedy value (mostly due to BEER and the fact that one prize was "A New Morning" by Suede about which, apparently, EVERYONE says "Ooh, I haven't got that" because NOBODY has). When it was over i watched the EVER Marvellous Ten Foot Nun before heading home, comfortably filled with BEER, GRUB, and GOOD TIMES!
I'm working from home next week, which will be a BLESSED RELIEF after the past six weeks or so, when I've been KNACKERING myself working HARD. However, pretty much everything has now been FINISHED and, as they're decorating my office next week, i'm going to HAVE to stay at home. HOORAH! Obviously i shall be spend the usual Office Hours HARD at work, but if i DO happen to find any time free I'm going to sit down with the various songs on that there NEW SONGS page and work out which ones are going to go on the EXCITING SOLO ALBUM. There's quite a few obvious candidates from recent times, as well as some OLD songs that I've always liked but have never got round to doing properly and INDEED I Did A Gig In New York which i wrote SPECIAL for it. I am REALLY looking forward to getting going on it!
Right now tho it's time to get my desk CLEARED ready for the painters, then it's HO! for ISLINGTON, where I'm playing tonight at Lark In The Park. FACT on THAT, next week!
International Fall Day
Having ROCKED with the BBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and nipped for a Relaxing Pint myself and The Reed On My Wind Instrument parted company, with me heading into Bloomsbury for International Fall Day. This was a similar event to the one we played a few months ago for International Smog Day except, obviously, this time we were celebrating THE FALL. This turned out to be an easier job in some ways, as two of our number are MASSIVE fans of same, but more difficult in others as ARGUMENTS RAGED for some weeks beforehand about what exactly we'd be playing. There was also SADNESS as Francis Albert couldn't make it due to ROMANTIC PLANS and nor, it turned out nearer the time, due to BABYSITTER HASSLE, could Emma. THUS it was The Cleator Moor Validators who gathered this Sunday afternoon to enjoy some hearty DISCUSSION of topics various, also BEER.
There didn't seem to be as many people there as last time, which was a bit of a surprise as I'd've thought there be MORE Fall fans than Smog fans, but then I guess Fall fans are ALSO more likely to be unable to go and sit in a PUB/VENUE on a Sunday afternoon when there are a) loads of festivals happening and b) for many of them, THE DUTIES OF ADULT RESPONSIBILITY to attend to. Still, it was all very pleasant and almost too soon it was time for US to hit the stage, and do THIS:
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - as ever it was a bit WEIRD playing to the backs of people bowling but ALSO as ever it was nice to have people there who WEREN'T expecting to watch bands but got ENTICED to do so by out MAJESTIC ROCK. Theme From Sparta FC sounded DEAD good, and I think we may do it AGANE - i hope so anyway, I'd spent all week learning the words! Our general opinion that the full (ish) band version of Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid is going to be GRATE was pretty much borne out - it needs WORK still, but it feels GOOD - and the FACT that I was congratulating myself on remembering the words to BOTH these new live tracks mean that YET AGANE I thought "Hey! Isn't it going well?" halfway through Hey Hey 16K and, as usual, then COMPLETELY cocked it up. I should really stop doing that!
Once the gig was DONE Tom and Tim had to ZOOM off, as Tom was KNACKERED and Tim had to be up early for work, so I stopped for a chat with Mr S Walker and also The Mighty George, who had organised it all, before slipping away into the night. It had been QUITE a weekend!
BBC Maida Vale
Still feeling a bit tired, also VERY sun-tanned, The Crop In My Arable Field and I hit the ROCKING TRAIL again yesterday and headed over to BBC Maida Vale Studios, where we'd got places booked at the Play It Again Event there. I wasn't sure what to expect - I thought it might be an Introduction To Playing Music and, to be honest, thought it might be a bit Worthy And Slightly Dull. I was WRONG!
We turned up, registered, and got led through Maida Vale's INCREDIBLY WINDY CORRIDORS to drop off our GEAR in one of the studios. We were split into groups, and then got taken back to Studio ONE to hear the BBC Symphony Orchestra perform. A chap called Tim Steiner took to the platform in a Colourful Shirt and did Classical Music Is FUN! type gags with some gigs, reinforcing my preconceptions, and then the orchestra started playing. It was dead good, a big slab of music that, to me, sounded more like Incidental Music in a film or, actually, in a CARTOON. It was all very impressive but, as ever on the RARE occasions I've heard an orchestra, slightly disappointing - I always expect it to sound AMAZING and LOUD and KRAZY, but it always sounds just like it does on the radio or on Telly, and I find myself (watch out!) a bit ALIENATED from it, like it's not really happening in the same room as me.
After that we went off to a seperate room to learn our PARTS, and it was at this point things got GOOD, also A BIT SCARY. I was in the "Others" group, which meant guitarists, bass players, a banjo, an Egyptian Fiddle and a whole lot of Saxophones And Other Brass Instruments. We had a chap called Lincoln guiding us through, and we started off making a BLOODY GRATE RACKET following his hand signals. I was surprised to find it was all so KRAZY and FREE FOR ALL and, actually, ACE, and also found it HARD WORK with the CONCENTRATING on watching what he was doing.
THEN we learnt a chord sequence - when they introduced it they said "And here's some music for the guitar players" and i felt RAW TERROR, thinking it WOULD be ACTUAL MUSIC and I'd be stuck there like a lemon, but handily it was chord diagrams. QUITE DIFFICULT chord diagrams, I must say - my idea that it would all be a bit PEASY was by now FAR out of the window. We started playing it and were ENCOURAGED to JAM it and find different bits, and we ended up following the lead of a chap in front of me who was doing it A Bit Funkily. It sounded ACE! We started playing along with the bass and fiddle and it was all GROOVY and EXCITING... and then the BRASS joined in and, suddenly we LURCHED around as they didn't quite have the sense of RHYTHM that the rest of us were displaying. It was quite sweet really, as we all (inwardly) went "WHOOOAAA!" every time they came in, but what was more surprising to ME was that the rest of us were doing it so well, as I'd thougth AGANE it would be much more Beginning Players going wonky.
After THAT we did some more KRAZY IMPROV, EXPRESSING OURSELVES in short "fills", and we did this thing of tapping instruments and guitars to express RAIN. It sounded DEAD GOOD, although it was slightly to the disappointment of our There's Always One person, who seemed to think THIS was going to be her BIG CHANCE. All through it she was trying to get in the front of the action, doing LOUD EMOTIVE LEAD SINGING in bits where the rest of us were just singing along, trying to do show-offy LEAD GUITAR (and asking for an amplifier) and generally being THAT person. The most annoying thing was that she kept loudly saying things like "Yeah, I've just got back from Glastonbury, I ended up doing about 11 gigs!" which a) made me think "around 11 camp fires, i bet" but also b) "Oi! Stop it! How am i suppose to CASUALLY say 'Oh yes, i have been here before of course to play MY RADIO ONE SESSION' if you keep going on so?" THUS i had to NOT MENTION IT, not even ONCE!
I did, however, get to utilise a long un-used talent i.e. being able to play the Grand Prix Theme Tune, which we all had to do next. HOORAH! I was quite pleased with this, as it's not often i can actually DO something like that, and was HELPFULLY showing the people either side of me how it went, LIKE AN AXE MASTER DELUXE. Unfortunately i got a bit shown up on the NEXT bit, when we got MORE music WITHOUT chord diagrams, and I was showing everyone how to play a D seventh, when we were MEANT to be doing D MAJOR seventh. I felt a bit embarrassed, and also AMAZED - this was all WELL advanced stuff, FAR beyond what I'd expected. How on earth was it all going to work?
After LESS than an hour of learning all this stuff we went for a cup of tea, then got filed back into the main room for the BIG PERFORMANCE. We were all sat in our little groups around the room, and Tim Steiner came back in, having REMOVED his Colourful Shirt Of Classical Music Fun and replaced it with the Black Shirt Of Orchestral Seriousness. We all went through our different bits, with our GUITAR AND EGYPTIAN FIDDLE bit getting selected for it's VERY OWN SOLO. OH! We were so proud!
And then it just sort of started! It was TERRIFYING - we'd played all these different bits as groups but with no idea how it'd all fit together or in what ORDER it'd go, and suddenly had all these different SIGNALS to follow. The HUGE RACKET following HAND SIGNALS sections were VERY small, and got used at SEEMING RANDOM to fill in gaps - the conductor guy was MAKING IT UP as he WENT ALONG! We were JAMMING!!!
It was FANTASTIC - we did our SOLO bit, although it was with some DRUMS, and it sounded BRILLIANT. As we were playing it I became aware of a HUGE and DERANGED NOISE coming from the other side of the room, where other people were making a right old racket. It was AMAZING - NOW i felt part of the whole orchestra, and it was LIKE jamming with a BAND except with LOADS of us, and with someone in SORT OF control moving us from part to part. Our Group Leaders looked panic as they looked over to the conductor and back to us, trying to work out what was going on, but there was so MANY of us we all got swept along in the momentum. This was the most GROOVY bit of it - suddenly EVERYONE was in time, you couldn't help it, there was SUCH a massive sound happening you got carried away. HEY! I even started playing LOUDER and DIFFERENT guitar as it moved along - OK, it was the SAME sort of different guitar i ALWAYS end up playing when we have a Big Jam with The Vlads, but it was STILL jamming. WHOO!
We did the "fills" bit and we were into the BIG CHORUS bit at the end, where the conductor BROKE IT DOWN, with a solo section for the percussion, the VOCALS, and others - it was like he was MIXING it LIVE. It all finished much too soon, and I have to say it was REALLY exciting. Can you tell i enjoyed it? I came out ABUZZ and we strolled down to The Warrington Arms for a Calm Down PINT, just like we did LAST time.
Cor tho, I mean, GOSH! I didn't expect THAT! It was GRATE!
After work on Friday I went to the pub, wherein i was telling a PAL about my forthcoming trip to the Cornbury Festival. The short version of the story is that Word Magazine had a competition for someone to perform a HIT SONG on a single acoustic instrument, and I won with my ukelele version of Boom Shake The Room - when I say "won" i mean it in the Gordon Brown sense i.e. that nobody else entered.
Having shown off SUFFICIENTLY about the FACT I was off to play a Major Festival i went to the loo, and on the way back bumped into JUDE FROM WORD MAGAZINE! It was a bit of a BIZARRE COINCIDENCE as I've not seen her in person since I played at her club a year and a bit ago. "I was just talking about you!" I said, and then gave her a hug, as she's the sort of person whose presence pretty much demands it. As i was to find out next day, this is pretty much an entrance qualification for employment at the magazine.
Next day The Dash Of Pepper In My Hummus & Cucumber Sandwich and I set off for PADDINGTON. It was an easy and uneventful trip, apart from the bit where I forgot we were on the Metropolitan line and ZOOMED off to Finchley by mistake, but HANDILY we had added in lots of extra time, so all was WELL. When we got to Paddington we found that almost EVERYBODY was on the way to a wedding, it was SPARKLY DRESSES and CASUAL TIES central! We got our DELIGHTFULLY CHEAP tickets (rail vouchers + Network Rail Card + Oyster Card + the FACT that it's about a THIRD the price to travel SOUTH from London as it is to travel NORTH) and whooshed south on a packed train to Charlbury, where we met Gina From Last Harbour, who were also playing later in the day. Straight off the train we hopped onto the shuttle bus to the festival site, where we queued for a few minutes and were IN! HOORAH!
We had a gentle wander and then I rang Mr Mark Ellen, editor of Word and also Bloke Off LIve Aid, Him Off The WHistle Test, former editor of Smash Hits, Q, and Select, and Excitable Regular Guest On Mark Radcliffe. HIM! I left a message, telling him where we were, then went to the loo, returning to find someone who LOOKED like they OUGHT to be Mr Mark Ellen, striding away in a frankly ROCK AND ROLL way. We followed him to (where else?) THE BAR, found it WAS him, and said hello. What a LOVELY chap he was, seemed very enthusiastic about EVERYTHING, and agreed to meet up in an hour or so at 15.30 at the Word Tent where he'd introduce me. This last bit was agreed him and The Signature On My Contract who he, like so many people, recognised pretty much straight away as THE ORGAN GRINDER.
With time to spare we went and got some PIMMS then took our new blanket and watched The Hothouse Flowers for a bit. The sun was VERY MUCH shining, it was a GORGEOUS day and we had a lovely time, with only the VERY SLOW INDEED queues at the bar to try, and fail, to bring down the mood. Everyone seemed REALLY happy about the weather being nice, it was LOVELY.
Eventually it was MY TIME and we wandered over to the Word Tent, to find it EMPTY. I met Mark and, LANYARD ON, went backstage, where we agreed that maybe we should wait until the NEXT act was about to start before we attempted to get me on stage. This was fine with me, so once again we said our cheerios and went for another bit of a wander, involving some more BEER.
Another hour later we met again at the edge of the backstage area, where Mark spent a happy five minutes explaining the whole situation to a 17 year old "security guard" - by now we were palling along in a frankly JOLLY way, and i thought WHAT a nice man he was - plenty of other people of his STATURE would have SWANNED AROUND ignoring The Little People and being GITTISH and SHOW-OFFY, but he was treating everybody like an Important Person and was KEEN AS HECK about everything, just like, in fact, he always seems on the radio. We hung around backstage and I had a chat to the Violin player from The Love Trousers, who'd been on first, and then went and hung around on stage waiting to do my BIT. I had a quick ukelele chat to the GUITARIST out of Bettye La Vette's band, who was a NICE CHAP, while The Lady Herself was hand-escorted to the stage by the stage manager. She was a PROPER SOUL DIVA and, as such, did NOT want some pillock going on before her with a ukelele, so once AGAIN we had to rearrange! I didn't mind, it was quite nice to have regular EVENTS like this to give SHAPE to the festival experience, so this time me and The Rhythm Section In My Soul Revue and I stayed in the tent to WATCH, and it WAS a proper Soul Experience.
At twenty past five I met Mark again, so we could be POISED to RUSH the stage as soon as they'd finished, and found that, quite reasonably really, they ALSO didn't want some pillock with a ukelele coming on to their stage as soon as they'd finished, so it was agreed that Mark would go on, announce that I'd be on in five minutes, and then THAT is how we would ROLL. This he did, but five minutes later pretty much EVERYONE had cleared off - The Proclaimers were just starting on the other stage, it was not something you could BLAME anybody for! There was heated debate, talk of waiting again until the Handsome Family got there, but really there were ENOUGH people hanging around (about forty of them, all standing down at the front) and they looked KEEN and we HAD told people I'd be doing it, so i thought "TO HECK with it! Let's ROCK!" THUS i got an enthusiastic introduction - "he won the competition by a country mile", JOURNALISM - and off I went and did THIS:
Boom Shake The Room
It was a whole LOT of fun. I forgot to do the first chorus, but it didn't really matter, and things ZOOMED along with plenty of Audience Participation, and, for the first time in my brief Festival Experience, people seemed to be COMING IN rather than GOING OUT. HOORAH! All the WORD staff were in the middle at the front too, which was a little odd - I'm used to seeing them in small boxes at the top of articles in the magazine, not grinning in front of you, but they all seemed happy enough, and Mr Ellen CERTAINLY seemed chuffed when I'd done - as I say, the HUG GENE seems to be PROMINENT.
Afterwards we had a chat and said thanks VERY much for the tickets and Lanyards, and then had a quick chat to Mr David Hepworth from the magazine who ALSO seemed very nice and, as The Editor Of My Magazine said, sends us a LETTER every month (which comes with the subscription copy of WORD) so it seemed like we knew him anyway. We then went for MORE PIMMS and watched some of The Proclaimers, who were BRILLIANT.
SOon it was time to get going, as trains only went every two hours and the LAST direct train to London was in an hour's time, so out we strolled. A bloke who looked like a former member of The Damned guided us out through a different exit we come in on the bus, and several very nice car park attendants pointed us in the same direction, so off we strolled through the GROUNDS, marvelling at the sight of DEER prancing around. It was just all SO LOVELY - the area, the weather, and ALL the people we met. EVERYONE was really nice, it made the whole day BRILLIANT!
Eventually we got the gatehouse where a couple of chaps were having a drink outside. We asked them the way to the station and one of them offered to walk us out across a FIELD OF CORN to point the way. He seemed PROPER POSH, and so we agreed that he was probably - DEFINITELY - Lord Cornbury HIMSELF. He really was RIGHT POSH, acting like he owned the place because he PROBABLY DID, and was helpful in a LORDLY WAY. I had to restrain myself from forelock grabbing.
He had a VERY pleasant half hour STROLL cross country and into the village, then nearly missed our train - it ROLLED onto the platform and, because it was a single track and there was meant to be another train going the other way first, declined to BOARD. It was only the FACT that i got a bit FRIT and checked that we managed to hop on - PHEW! The journey home was uneventful, and we arrived back ABSOLUTELY KNACKERED, SUN KISSED, and very happy indeed. WHAT a lovely day out!
Six Ages Of Rock +1
Like most people too grown-up/busy/knackered to go out on a Saturday night, I've watched most of that Seven Ages Of Rock programme on the telly, and for the most part, it was ACE. OK, it glossed over all sorts of FACTS and it wasn't exactly DEFINITIVE nor nothing, but I really liked the way it (mostly) stuck to one or two particular people and showed loads of clips about them. I ESPECIALLY liked the way they did the sixties with Jimi Hendrix, which not only made a nice CHANGE, but have us a chance to have a TON of high quality JIMI MOMENTS. Show me a person who doesn't think Jimi Hendrix is GRATE and I will show you a person who just hasn't heard ENOUGH of him, and really, that's another Quite Nice thing about his OUVRE in that it hasn't really been played to death like many of his CONTEMPORARIES. Also, the bit where he's playing live on The Lulu Show and goes "WOOAAH!" and re-tunes his guitar mid-song, THAT is the MOST COOL THING IN ROCK: EVER.
So yes, I was rather enjoying it as it went along, especially the PENULTIMATE episode with Nirvana and REM and ESPECIALLY Kim Deal's Bass Class (which Frankie didn't see but which the rest of us were able to recite IN FULL for him at our subsequent practice: "Fancy bass players go DUM DUM DUM DUM, DUM de de DUM DUM - they can't help it!") and all the inevitable REMINISCENCE that went with it. I used to have a pair of jeans with a big rip in the knee, but it happened one afternoon by ACCIDENT when I got particularly sweaty, knelt down, and the KNEE stuck to me and TORE, but NOBODY believed me.
THUS I was quite looking forward to the INDIE episode. "OK, " I thought to myself, "I know how this works - it's NOT going to be exactly how it happened, various things will be missed, glossed over, got wrong and so forth, and it's only going to be a COUPLE of the proper bands, but that'll be FINE." And LO! for the first half, all was WELL. Johnny Marr was lovely, the music was ACE, and the lack of non-Smiths bands was just the way they were doing the programme. FINE.
I WINCED a little as we moved on DIRECTLY to The Stone Roses, but HEY! I knew we were going to get to see EITHER Suede doing Metal Mickey on Top Of The Pops OR Suede doing Animal Nitrate on The Brits, so that was FINE, and then found myself feeling NOSTALGICALLY WARMED by Noel Gallaghers OLD ACT of being a bit of a knob, especially when placed alongside Damon Albarn's OLD ACT of being a bit fey and daft and not going on: WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU DAMAN. Yes, they missed out Pulp and Radiohead, who i THINK might JUST have been FAIRLY IMPORTANT to Britpop and, actually, could have been covered INSTEAD of the bit about Noel Gallagher shaking hands with Tony Blair, but they DID at least interview Bonehead, which again, made a nice change and was Lovely. Who'd've thought him and Jimi Hendrix could turn out to be so similar?
HOWEVER. After Britpop they decided to CARRY ON: DANGER! Doing a historical treatment of something that only ended 8 years ago is a bit DODGY, carrying on to try and do the same with something ONGOING is surely a bit daft? "Be calm, Hibbett", I thought, "I'm sure it will be fine. But what will they cover? The long lasting influence of Belle & Sebastian, The Velvet Underground of Indie? Perhaps they'll talk about how the Internet has radically changed the way bands communicate with their fans and are bypassing major labels, thus recreating Indie? Or maybe they'll just pick up a cover of Heat and see what useless spud-faced junkie will do interviews for crack?"
THE LIBERTINES?!?! WHAT? Things became SLIGHTLY clearer when the Expert Witnesses turned out to be That Pillock Who Used To Edit The NME, That Pillock Who Edits The NME, and Anthony Who Took Over NME.COM from Pauly And Is Apparently All Right. Does anyone else see a pattern?
THE LIBERTINES?! YES, that first album was dead good, but COME ON! I'm sure Stupid Hat Manufacturers think they are THE BEES KNEES, and yes, dopey Pete is in the paper all the time for being a POSH TWIT, but IS THAT ENOUGH? Once again, I SIMMERED DOWN, ready to be persuaded, but then THE INTERVIEWS began. "Oasis and The Stone Roses were the kids from the Council Estates, we were the kids found in the bins round the back of the estate", said posh son of an Army Major Peter. AARGH! Call Tim Westwood, SOMEONE IS STEALING HIS ACT.
The MOST ANNOYING bit tho was when they got on to "Guerilla Gigs". These are ANNOYING ENOUGH as it is: "Hey! Let's be INSANELY RADICAL and do a GIG, right, but WITHOUT getting our record corporation to pay for advertisements, and not even flypost! AMAZING!" ARGH! The FACT that the programme, like band acted like THIS was something SPECIAL and UNIQUE, rather than WHAT EVERY BAND EVER ALREADY DOES, was a LITTLE annoying, the FACT that The Media at the time and this programme AGREED rather demonstrated how LITTLE they knew of ACTUAL BANDS, Indie or otherwise. NGGG!!
But even as the narrator said "they played in ever more outrageous venues, such as the back rooms of pubs and people's houses" (NGGGG!!!!) WORSE was to come: just as I'm thinking "OK, OK, let's be calm and FORGIVING here, they were after all playing gigs for THE FANS. That must count for something?" came the ABSOLUTE BOMBSHELL. I was not aware of this at the time, but apparently they CHARGED people a TENNER to get in to these gigs!
A TENNER?!? Charging people AT ALL is bad enough - you can't really say it's an equal relationship between band and fans when you personally are forcing them to PAY OUT for the HONOUR of coming round your house for a singalong - but TEN QUID? It was at this point i FLEW INTO A RAGE, KICKED IN the TV screen and THREW IT OUT OF THE WINDOW.
Well, I would have done, but I was a bit tired and i'd bought the telly as a GIFT for The Audience Of My Gig, and she wouldn't have been too pleased with me so instead i HARPED ON about it a bit until it was time to go to sleep. THAT is how annoyed i was! GRR!!
Still, the rest of the series was dead good, and it DID cause what MAY be one of the BIGGEST CHANGES in the History Of The Validators: Tim has bought some HOT RODS. They appeared in the Nirvana episode, when Dave Grohl was talking about how he needed something to enable him to play QUIETER but without having to change his playing style to MIMSY. HE was raving about them and, in select areas of London and The Midlands, Validators Various were suddenly thinking "Hey! TIM!" (or "Hey! ME!" in one case) After YEARS of us JOKING about him getting brushes to TEMPER his MIGHTY ROAR these have suddenly appeared in our lives to do a SIMILAR job, but in a ROCK/non-JAZZ way. He's taking them with him to Indie Tracks so's we can have CAMPFIRE SINGALONGS, and after that, who knows? Just keep me away from Neil Young Records!
I'm still KRAZY BUSY at work, so here's a swift SWEEP through some ITEMS!
ITEM! I am indebted, yet again, to Mr E Bewsher of Hull who sends me a FANTASTIC YouTube link to me playing Payday at The 12 Bar Club a couple of years, on the Artists Against Success Tour with Frankie Machine and Adam Hector Collectors. Adam's song Gary Numan Needs Another Hit is ALSO up there, and GRATE. Aaah, such LOVELY memories, that was a GOOD week!
ITEM! I am now DEFINITELY playing at the Cornbury Festival this weekend, HOORAH! I'm only doing one song, my Ukelele version of Boom Shake The Room, but HEY! Doesn't mean I can only watch one song of the Proclaimers, does it? I'm on about 3 o'clock, they reckon. Where did I put my wellies?
ITEM! There's a new GIG on the GIGS page, in Brighton in August with those Lovely Brothers and Bobby McGees. There's a few PENDING too, in Leicester and Sheffield, I ought to chase them up really oughtn't i?
That's the FACTS for today - I'm back to work now! BOO!