Paul Goodwin

Film 2013

10 Jan 2013

We went to the cinema for the first time in ages at the weekend, and then again two days later. First up was Quartet, one of these films starring old actors, presumably aimed at older people (successfully, based on the rest of the audience). We only went because we became members of the Picturehouse almost a year ago having seen a flurry of films, and almost immediately they stopped playing anything good so now anything that looks even vaguely ok gets considered. We just about made it worthwhile in terms of money and it's good to feel like you have to give things a go. That's led to seeing a few not so great films (Take This Waltz, Imposter) and a couple of nice surprises (that one where Sean Penn is a reclusive pop star who turns into a nazi hunter and I'm sure there must've been something else). This was a nice surprise. It's set in a home for retired musicians and is the good natured story of their annual fundraising gala. It touched a bit on the things you have to give up to really properly be an artist and how it feels to have done that and be past the point where you can still perform as you used to, which are things I've thought a lot about over the years so resonated, but mostly it was old people swearing and Billy Connolly pissing against trees. I enjoyed it a lot. Or maybe I just like anything with Maggie Smith in because her character in Downton Abbey is so amusing. Billy Connolly helps too. He doesn't so much act as say a series of punchlines, but that's fine by me - he has a really amiable accent.

Life of Pi at the Cineworld was much less fun. It got off on the wrong foot when I got a small coke because I thought that all drinks in cinemas were outrageously big, but it turned out to be properly small and only 30p cheaper than regular, which is outrageously big. Maybe I should start saying 'regular', but it feels like a defeat. I still refuse to say grande rather than medium in coffee shops. I read the book when it came out to a blaze of acclaim and thought it was boring and not as clever as it thought it was. And sure enough, that's what I thought of the film too. We watched it in 2D because whenever you watch a film in 3D all you're thinking about is that. I remember watching a rollercoaster one when I was small and it worked with different coloured glasses, and I could tell you as much about that as the plot of most 3D films. Except G Force obviously which is a masterpiece. Especially when the fly comes out of the screen and you feel like he's going to fly right into your nose. Anyway, Life of Pi had its moments, especially at the start when they were still in India and the scenery was stunning, but there's no getting away from the fact that mostly it was a boy on a boat trying not to get eaten by a tiger. I expect if I'd seen it in 3D I'd think it was a masterpiece, especially that bit where the flying fish comes out of the screen at you feel like it's going to fly right into your nose.


1 Jan 2013

A round up of last year then... My one resolution was to make progress with another CD, which I kind of did, releasing a "live" band recording as a digital download, but there was no great movement on another "album". I'm resolved to get one finished this year, just for my own satisfaction, but I may not bother "releasing" it if I do (and I'm not hopeful that I will). I don't really feel like someone who writes songs any more, and anyway the morass of crushingly shallow "folk" music that's popular at the moment is too annoying to think about, let alone trying to wade into. I blame the sheer number of smug blogs with weak puns for names. Or maybe I'm just getting old and every generation is far too easily impressed with itself when let out into the world. Either way, that's a lot of quotation marks in one paragraph.

I actually managed more solo playing than in 2011, possibly due to not being away all the time, and a couple of them were great. I think my favourites were the annual band one, supporting Chris T-T and supporting The Dawn Chorus, all at The Portland Arms. The gig at The Leper Chapel was probably the one I was most excited about but I decided to play entirely songs that I'd not really tried before, despite knowing full well that people respond to confidence rather than songs. A very pretty venue.

I also played keys for Annie at some nice places. We're doing a bit of a tour at the end of January which I'm looking forward to. We've just finished making her EP which sounds great if I do say so myself.

I got a little bit of international travel done (Copenhagen, New York, Crete, Paris)  and added one country (Denmark) to my world tour of McDonald's restaurants.

I only saw 48 different bands this year, and a lot of them seem to be people I know. There weren't many things I was interested in - 2012 was not a good year for new music. There were some highlights though (as ever, I thought they were pretty good unless I say otherwise):

The Cornshed Sisters, JayMay, Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band (brilliant), RM Hubbert, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat (gig of the year I think - just incredibly good),  Lucy Wainwright Roche (lovely), My Sad Captains, Julie Doiron, Shearwater (good but Thorless), Kyla La Grange, Jinder (quite the raconteur), Sophie Jamieson, She Makes War, Chris T-T x2 (wonderful), Zeus, Dan Mangan x2 (and great both times), Scanners, Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny (the emperor's new stupid costumes), Alabama Shakes, Tellison (everything I was hoping for), The Staves, Los Campesinos! (brilliant), Benjamin Francis Leftwich (boring), Dry The River (boring), Billy Bragg, Keb Mo, The Unthanks (had their moments), Nanci Griffith (hugely disappointing), Clannad, The Proclaimers (lovely), Greg McDonald (still great), Anais Mitchell (won me over at last), Nic Jones, The Dawn Chorus (wonderful), Paul Kelly, Alyssa Graham, Lester Allen (still great), Dave Gerard, Jamie Lawson, This is the Kit, Sharon Van Etten (wonderful), Jay Brannan, The Robbie Boyd Band (urgh), The Mutton Birds (wonderful), Craig Finn, Patterson Hood and Will Johnson, Hope and Social (brilliantly joyful), Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, Jason Collett.

Resolutions this year: Finish one last record. Learn to drive. Blog more (it's been a bit half arsed for a little while). Cross at least 2 bands off of The List (I managed Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, Sharon Van Etten and Tellison this year).

The List (bands I've never seen but want to): The Front Bottoms, The Gin Blossoms, Bruce Springsteen, Brand New, Say Anything, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, The Retrospective Soundtrack Players, Swans, The Wrens.

We'd rather be pleasantly surprised than expectedly let down

8 Dec 2012

I've been into London four times in the last 4 weeks to see gigs, which is pretty good going I reckon. I've talked about the first 2 already, but the third was Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo at Union Chapel. We got there about halfway through Chris T-T's support set (having missed Johnny Kearney and Lucy Farrell entirely, sadly, though I suspect they're a bit folk for me) and saw a couple of songs from his charming A.A. Milne album, the genius "What If My Heart Never Heals" and a new song that was absolutely brilliant. I'm very much looking forward to the next album.

I've seen Emily play a lot over the years, as I'm sure I've mentioned here many times before. I've always been a little confused when people I've known do well, as if success is something that happens in a different world you can only see on TV. Not sure it's an attitude that's helped me much in life. Anyway, it was really nice to see her selling out such a big and prestigious venue. They'd roped in a rhythm section and extra guitar player (I think it was the guy from Clayhill) I guess to make a bigger sound for the bigger venue, but I'm not sure they added a great deal, other than to make the songs without them really shine. The highlights for me were, like they have been most times I've seen them, "This Is How It's Meant To Be" and "Home". Lovely. Frank Turner made a little cameo too. I hope he and or they come back to Cambridge soon.


As good as that was, Dan Mangan at The Scala was a different level. Bizarrely I ran into my brother there - I didn't even know he'd heard of him. I don't see my brother all that much but every time I run into him in an unlikely place (Glastonbury, The Ben and Jerry's Festival, my wedding) it feels surprisingly unsurprising. Support act, Jason Collett did an OK line in not especially clever but alright Dylany songs but didn't really hold my attention. People seemed to like it.

Dan Mangan seems to be getting more and more experimental as time goes on, which is the opposite to what normally seems to happen to people. I've never been a fan of the jazz odyssey, and like "Nice, Nice, Very Nice" best of his albums, but the newer stuff is pretty intense. The band had gone through some changes since the Bush Hall gig earlier in the year (there was a violin and a different bass player) but I guess that's bound to happen when everyone in the band is in about a million other projects.


 My highlight was (and there seems to be a pattern emerging) "Basket" which was the solo song and was worth the ticket price and hassle of going to London all on its own. It was all pretty great though. His guitar player is ridiculously good at both playing and shape throwing. The encore was "so much for everything" which involved him coming into the audience and standing on a chair while leading us all in choral harmonies. Pretty special. Despite the bored looking girl in blue.


On the way out I got handed a flier for chess boxing, which is apparently alternating rounds of speed chess and boxing - winner decided by knockout or checkmate. Surely that must've started as a joke. I've heard since that it's quite the spectacle. Maybe Spain vs The World should be a thing that happens in football too...


We went to Paris for my birthday (35... It really is all over now...) and because Eurostar were doing cheap, cheap tickets. The apartment had a top 10 things to do in Paris list, but they'd all been crossed off years ago so most of the time was spent wandering round looking at chocolate shops, trying to visit things that were closed, eating crepes, drinking really good coffee and generally being reminded what a nice place it is to be. I also got to look out across the city from in front of Sacre Coeur, which might be my favourite view in the world. Certainly of a city. There was an incident not unlike the one that happened the first time I visited Jason. I'm getting better at turning off my higher brain functions at times like that. And in general. The one new thing I saw was the 15 foot high statue of Zidane headbutting Materazzi that's been put in front of the Pompidou Centre as a "monument to failure". I might get a 15 foot model of the cover of Scars for outside the house.

A monument to failure

I also had my first French macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) from the fancy floor of Printemps. They're ok but I  prefer my chocolate (and any sweet) more chocolatey. So pretty though!



A Finn Well Made

14 Nov 2012

It's been a relative quiet couple of weeks, notable only for a growing obsession with Masterchef Australia. It's making me want to cook Fancy Things, but in practice I've just upgraded from microwave in a bag popcorn to cook in a pot popcorn. Which is fairly Fancy to be fair.Talking of popcorn we went to see Skyfall the other week and I enjoyed it a lot. Though, like I always say, I always enjoy films at the cinema. Apart from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and Tree of Life. The Vue kids meal wasn't up to much mind. Terrible popcorn.

Last night Annie had a last minute gig supporting Hope and Social at the Hertford Corn Exchange. The Satnav took us what would've doubtless been a very pretty route during the day but was winding and scary in the dark. Not sure what it was playing at given there's a road that goes directly between the two places. The venue itself reminded me of places we used to play in Logan sometimes (Club 85 in Hitchin, the Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange) - a cross between a village hall and a social club, with clientele to match. Everyone seemed nice though.

Hope and Social were excellent. A proper big sound. Great brass section who were as entertaining when they weren't playing as they were huge sounding when they were. Everyone was wearing light blue blazers for reasons that I don't really understand. I guess one of those jokes that took on a life of its own. Extremely good fun songs with the odd cover medleyed in. Go and see them if you get the chance - I think they're touring a bit this week.


I'm on the train back from seeing Craig Finn, Patterson Hood and Will Johnson at The Union Chapel. I didn't really know what to expect, having not heard Craig Finn's solo record very much and not knowing who the other two were (Patterson Hood is the guy from Drive By Truckers I now know). It turned out they were doing a 3 person on stage each taking turns in playing a song and helping each other out from time to time kind of thing. The only song I knew was the first one and, to be honest, it was only really the Craig Finn ones that I thought much of (and even they lacked some of the genius of The Hold Steady stuff I think). Will Johnson had a wonderful voice and was really effective backing up the other guys and had a few nice lines, the Drive By Truckers songs were generally a little bit obvious for me, though his accent is great.

Craig Finn, Patterson Hood and Will Johnson at Union Chapel

Everyone's storytelling was excellent - almost better than the songs. The stuff they've seen/done makes you feel bad about yourself. The Union Chapel is a lovely if unusual venue (specifically, it's annoying that they won't let you take beer in from the bar - especially when it's the only chance you'll get to sample "Craig Finn's Clear Heart" - brewed in Stoke) and it was really nice to have nothing to do but listen and drift away a bit. I used to come up with a lot of lyrics at gigs back when I used to come up with lyrics.


A thing well made

7 Nov 2012

I did what I reckon will be my final gig of the year last week supporting Jay Brannan at The Cornerhouse. I'd not come across him before but his Spotify bio compared him to Ani DiFranco and I can see why. He has a pretty devoted following (some people had come a long way) and I felt very much like a support act. Even after all these years it still affects me quite badly if I don't think things are going brilliantly, which makes them worse and I just end up trying to end the set early. Like I did this time. If you ever see me play clap really loudly after the first couple of songs.

Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, So Finally a Love Song, Edinburgh, Soaked to the Skin

I enjoyed Jay's set a lot - the songs are mostly quite touching and his voice is great. The version of "Your House" by Alanis Morrisette was both surprising because I didn't think anyone had listened to it in 10 years and surpringly good. We spoke to him a bit before and after the show and he's a really nice guy.


I went to see The Mutton Birds playing their first UK gig for 10 years at the weekend. The Shepherd's Bush KFC is one of few things that has remained constant through all my years of gig going (it's where I bought the chicken that was stuck between my teeth and stopped me going up to Steve Earle in the street outside the Empire back in 1996). I got there just in time for the support act The Robbie Boyd Band. I'm sure they're all very nice and they did what they were trying to do absolutely perfectly, but I can't believe that anyone who likes The Mutton Birds would go in for suspiciously Christian sounding even more twee than Noah and the Whale happy clappy standing up keyboard player dancing goblin from the Stonehenge scene of Spinal Tap bullshit. The lighting being almost uniformly Spring Harvest Purple didn't help. The last time I saw The Mutton Birds Tom McRae was supporting. Not quite the same league.

I discovered The Mutton Birds at a listening post in Edinburgh HMV in 1997, the same day I discovered Joseph Arthur. It was a pretty formative week that to be honest - I wandered round listening to Counting Crows on a walkman, and bought a Wallflowers single the combination of which made me decide to get an accordion. Anyway, looking back, The Mutton Birds were the band that made me realise that good lyrics make good songs. Maybe if more people had heard them more people would realise the same thing and the youth of today wouldn't be blown away by posh boys in waistcoats going "ooh ooh aah aah" over banjos. Saying that, I think Don McGlashan in his prime was above and beyond what most people could do. There are a few of the songs that I don't I don't think you could improve. "A Thing Well Made" for example is, appropriately, absolutely perfect.

10 years on, and jetlagged (the bass played lives in London now - I wonder how they rehearsed?) the drummer looks exactly like he ever did, McGlashan is starting to go a bit Ray Davies, but doing alright. I never saw the original bass player I don't think, and I don't remember anything about the guitarist. The sound didn't blow me away like some bands have, but the songs very much stand up. Even the ones they wrote in London have (to my mind at least) New Zealand running right through them. They sound like they come from mountains. This was billed as a never to be repeated show, but I hope they play again. I'll go and see them again. People had travelled from Belgium - I bet they'd go and see them again too. This was filmed by someone nearer the front than me.


10 Oct 2012

A few of us went to see Sharon Van Etten at The Junction the other day. She's a singer/songwriter who lives in Brooklyn, but actually has some substance. Her latest album was produced by one of the guitarists from The National and she sounds not too unlike them, but a little more raw. I go through occasional bouts of being addicted to it (moreso than any of the National albums actually) so I was quite looking forward to this, even though The National themselves have been a crushing disappointment both times I've seen them. Also on my mind was the fact that I'd managed to save up the 10 stamps required for a free whole chicken on my Nando's card. In the end I shared it and got some halloumi, but I was tempted to give it a go. Next time. I tell you what though - the discovery of halloumi on the Nando's menu has been a force for good in my life. Or at the very least a force for salty cheese.

After a longer than usual meal, which was made worse by a bunch of lads deciding they didn't quite fit on the table they were on and annexing the one they were cleaning up for us, we got the the venue just in time for the support act This Is The Kit. It's a name I've heard around quite a lot in slightly-pretentious-folk-that-I'm-probably-not-going-to-like circles and it sounded much like I thought it would, except that I did quite like it. Ethereal harmonies over atmospheric banjo/guitar and unconventional drumming. The bass sounded really nice too. It was being played by Rozi Plain, who I saw supporting Withered Hand almost exactly a year ago. I much preferred this to her band, but the not-that-fullness of this room made it easier to pay proper attention. I think almost half the songs were about geese though. They'd driven 750 miles from Germany that day where they'd been on tour. Like migrating geese. I was a bit jealous.


I had tears in my eyes within about 10 seconds of the start of Sharon Van Etten's set, and she hadn't even done anything. The melodica/keyboard intro of the first song sounded so nice. And then when her guitar was meant to come in it transpired that someone had got the plugging in of the pedals a bit wrong and they had to stop becaue it wasn't making any noise. Which was a shame because it was building up nicely. But I only cared about that for a few seconds once it got going again.

Sharon Van Etten

It takes a really good voice for me to care about how good someone's voice is, but hers and her very similarly voiced backing singer's were spectacular. And they made it look so effortless. The harmonies. I remember seeing Smoke Fairies at End of the Road a few years ago and thinking they would've been a lot better if their harmonies had been completely in tune instead of very nearly in tune. These were almost beyond completely in tune. It was like it was one person singing two notes at the same time. I don't remember seeing anything quite like it before. I really like most of the songs too (I can't think of any she played in the set that I didn't love), and they're even more building and intense live. My favourite is "Give Out" - here's (pretty much) what it sounded like. Imagine it bigger.

The banter was sort of endearing but wasn't amazing, mostly consisting of telling us off for not being noisy enough, though everyone clapped pretty loudly in all the right places. People who are used to playing in America don't seem to think things are going well unless they're getting stuff thrown at them.


She was on Jools Holland last night. It sounded ok, but nowhere near how they were in person. That programme sucks the life out of everything decent they get. And that's a very small percentage of what they get. And it's so smug considering how shit it is. I guess it's good that there's some music on telly, but when they (and you can only assume deliberately - the Junction's OK but it's not exactly the BBC for goodness sake and they sounded incredible there) make everyone sound rubbish (maybe to make Jools sound better?) you have to wonder if it's really helping. I may have gone on about this before...

I'm on the train back from playing at Grapevine@Bedfords in Norwich, which Annie and I had a wonderful time playing at in the spring - it really is nice when people are putting things on for the love of it. Tonight was another example of what I've started referring to as The Goodwin Curse, which is a weird effect where if I'm involved with a gig, people don't show up even when you'd think they would. Normally it's just audience members, but in this case it was all the acts that were meant to be playing as of 4 weeks ago. In the worst recorded instance, which was at Folk Modern in London about this time last year, only one out of the 5 acts that were on the bill as of the previous day showed up, consequently no audience came, consequently the only act other than me to have shown up went home in a huff without playing. That turned into a good night in the end, and, less surprisingly, so did this. Maybe it's not so much a curse as a phenomenon. Anyway, Steve who runs the thing and is an extraordinarily nice man had worked really hard to bring in replacements at short notice. And reprinted the posters several times.

I was up first and, despite having greasy hands and a case of the burps from eating too much scampi too soon before playing, thought I did one of my best sets in a while. It helped that everything sounded amazing on stage. When you're listening to your voice and thinking "wow, that sounds good!" it makes you sing better. My chat was better than it's been for a bit too. Shame I've not got anything else sorted out. The crowd were extremely attentive, though you can never tell how you're doing when that happens - they could be paying rapt attention or silently wishing it would end. I don't think things are going well unless people are talking and then stop talking.

Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, Magnetic or Rhetorical, Muscle Memory, Edinburgh, A Happy Ending, This Place is Dead Anyway, So Finally a Love Song.

I've seen the second act Alice Walker a couple of times before, but this was by far the most engrossing. In the past I've got the feeling they've been less important gigs and she's been trying new things out, but she played consistently good stuff tonight. Wordplay just kind of spills out as fast as you can process it over an unpredictable piano. I don't know how she remembers it all.


The headline act, Jamie Lawson, is one of very few acts that I saw supporting people in London in the early 2000's that stuck in my mind (Tom McRae and The High and Lonesome being the other notable ones. McRae was brilliant and rose to fame pretty quickly and The High and Lonesome I remember because I already had the album for some reason - I didn't especially like either the album or the live set except for one song called Two Tall Trees). It's nice that he's still doing it full time, though I'm surprised he didn't get further because he seemed to be on the up back then and he was really good. I had to leave after four or five songs to catch the last train back to Cambridge, but he's still really good and comes across really well. The music industry is stupid. Though I think the fact it's referred to as an industry at all is a sign that people have the wrong attitude. You don't hear about the sculpture industry or the fresco industry or the plonking a urinal on the wall and calling it art industry.


Leper of Faith

30 Sep 2012

I did a gig at The Leper Chapel in Cambridge last Saturday, which is somewhere I've always wanted to look around having walked past it loads of times on the way to the football. For reasons I can't really remember I decided to play as many songs that I don't normally play as possible. To that end I managed to rope Geoff from the excellent Jacqui and Geoff in to play keyboard/harmonium and we only practiced new songs. Not that the old songs have many keyboards in anyway I guess.

It really is a cool building, both outside and in. The walls had been adorned with art and the path down from the road was lined with tealights, which made it look nice and cosy as it got dark.



Leanne Moden started things off and very quickly won everyone over with a series of increasingly amusing poems, then acted as compere for the rest of the evening. First musician up was my old mate Lester Allen who did a wonderful set, with some really old stuff I'd not heard before, some of the normal favourites and a couple of well chosen covers. I've gone on about him before, but here's a video of him playing at Buckingham Palace.

Next up were Dave Gerard and the Watchmen. They were originally meant to be "headlining", but their violinist needed to get a train, so we swapped. They played completely unplugged to avoid making the setup too complicated and make a really smooth, cultured sound. Perfect harmonies, great playing.

I hadn't taken the legs for my keyboard to try and avoid carrying extra, but, predictably, it didn't really work replacing them with 2 chairs and the case:


So I went home and got them.

Our set went alright - there were a few cock ups on my part (I forgot how to play the guitar for about a song and a half) but Geoff did a great job and the audience were extremely polite, staying silent the whole time and clapping in the right places. I felt quite detatched - it's stressful playing one song for the first time, let alone 3 or 4 in a set when you've dropped lots of songs that you're confident in. In retrospect it probably wasn't the best choice of gig to try it at because a lot of the audience didn't know the old songs and it was such a cool venue.

Setlist: Muscle Memory, Shelf Life, Wasted on the Young, A Happy Ending, Cold Case, Never Better, Guilt Edged Opportunity, Black Coffee and Bromide, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight.

Wes who organised it (and a lot of other wonderful things round here) has put some more pictures up on his blog.

I watched the entire last day of the Ryder Cup the day after, which was one of the most intense 6 hour periods I can remember. I wish I'd put some money on a European win because I had a sneaky feeling they would. It felt like destiny the whole time. And the odds were still pretty long even when they'd caught up. When Justin Rose made those long putts on the last two holes it felt completely inevitable. It's weird how often seemingly impossible stories play out in sport.

On Monday I went to Dave Gerard's studio to record some keyboards for Dan Wilde's album, which was a lot of fun. It's sounding really good and I think it's nearly ready. Then he and Dan came over on Thursday to record some real piano because the Nord's piano sound didn't pass muster! It was quite an exposed part, and it is definitely preferable to have an imperfectly recorded real instrument over a sample. I'd do the same thing except I can't ever really be arsed to move the gear downstairs... It's been a musicy couple of weeks what with all the practicing, playing and recording. It's been nice.


Food and shopping

14 Sep 2012

It's been a fairly fun filled few weeks. We went to London for the weekend last weekend, and had a nice time, despite the weather and being kept awake by a bazillion Brazillian paralympic athletes doing the South American equivalent of "Oggy Oggy Oggy" until the early hours.

We went to the BP Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which was very cool. I'm always impressed when people manage to paint something that could easily be a photo if you didn't know. I'm also impressed when people manage to use really wide rough brush strokes to make something that still looks lifelike. There was plenty of both. I wasn't sure about the winning paintings though - they seemed to mostly have been chosen because they featured nudity. I don't know much about art, but I know what I like etc. etc.

Devan Atmys by David J EichenbergThe Skateboarder by Erik Olsen

Other than a bit of pampering the highlight was a meal at Sushisamba, a (wait for it) Japanese/Colombian/Peruvian fusion restaurant at the top of Heron Tower (which is next to The Gherkin). The view was incredible, the service was incredible and the food was incredible. They had this orange painted tree too.


We may have gone a little over the top with our ordering, but I don't regret it. I'd not heard the word ceviche until that day, and now it's everywhere (I might be slightly addicted to Masterchef Australia and they're always at it). I think we got through about 6 different dishes, each of which was a proper explosion of taste in the mouth. I can't remember what we had now apart from that I had chocolate and chilli ice creams for dessert. Chilli ice cream is surprisingly nice, especially when eaten with a bit of chocolate ice cream, though I was only brave enough to try it because everything else had been quite so delicious. That wasn't the only encounter I had with surprising ice cream this month. 


We went to see Jeffrey Lewis at The Junction 2, where I first saw him, very nearly 6 years ago (as he pointed out - that it was that long ago, not that I first saw him). I can't believe it was that long ago and that I was writing this blog back then too. It was the full band "Junkyard" line up this time, which I really enjoyed last time I saw them. They were good again but they mostly played the noisy upbeat songs that tend to be silly rather than clever and blur into one. I also found his brother who was playing bass a bit annoying with his constant interrupting and setlist choosing. He "showed" some of his great "movies" though - the one about the Cuban Missile Crisis was lovely and the 10-15 minute history of punk on the lower east side was also great (though I've seen it before). We got "Don't be Upset" which I loved immediately and seem to appreciate more and more as time goes by but no "Roll Bus Roll" and I think "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror" might have had its day now... 

We went to Midsummer House the other week, which I think is generally considered to be the best restaurant in Cambridge. We had the 11 course "tasting menu" which might have been a mistake because I think it was designed to give you challenging flavours rather than necessarily enjoyable ones. It started well enough with a "foam of bloody Mary" and some delicious goats cheese in a tube of celery (wasn't so sure about the horseradish ice cream) and then some wonderful scallops, followed by turbot which was ok but not amazing, and some sweetbreads that were nice (as long as you don't think about what they are). The main course (pork belly) would've been lovely I think, if I hadn't been quite so full by that point. I didn't know what a pousse cafe was - turns out that (this one at least) was a shot of whisky a shot of Baileys and a raw egg yolk. It tasted ok and made me feel a lot less full. Who would've thought it on either count. The (three) desserts were pretty weird. Especially the lovage ice cream. I think the correct technique with dessert is to try and get the highest density of chocolate into it as possible, which wasn't really the case with any of these. I decided about halfway through that the trick with this kind of food is to try and get some of every flavour in each mouthful because they're designed to complement each other, but taste pretty strange on their own.

I've done a few fun gigs recently playing keys for Annie. The first was in York in someone's kitchen, which sounds less good than it was. A whole host of pretty great people have played there (Dan Mangan, Jacob Golden to name but two). I've never been convinced about the whole house concert thing, but based on this there's really something to it - the sound was great, there were plenty of people there and we got a wonderful breakfast. We had a quick wander round York the next day (they've moved the model railway from next to the station to Lincolnshire, which was the main thing I wanted to see) then went to an outlet mall just south of it. We were pretty sure we parked next to someone getting a blowie in the car park. They suddenly sat up looking sheepish. It's a slightly surprising place to do that kind of thing. At least go to a part of the car park that isn't right next to the entrance.


The second was at a small festival at a cricket ground in Berkhamsted. It was the first time they'd put it on and all things considered seemed to be going extremely well. Except for the beer queue, which this photo shows a small part of.


I was quite taken with this weather vane.


Seth Lakeman was headlining, but we had to get going well before that. We nearly went to Butterfly World on the way home, which promised a huge biodome in the shape of a butterfly's head, but on closer inspection (when you've gone through the huge gates, along the half mile drive and crossed the vast car park) it wasn't opening until 2013. What they did have (according to the girl at the till) was a small butterfly house and Ant World. Ant World.  

We did one in Hot Numbers, a cafe off Mill Road in Cambridge, supporting Alyssa Graham who's also from New York. It was sweaty, and they were very nice and sounded great and we had a very tasty curry after.


I went on Radio Cambridgeshire on Friday to talk a little bit and play some songs. It's been a while since I've been on the radio so I was pretty nervous the day before, but when I eventually plucked up the courage to listen back it wasn't too bad. Especially the playing. I did The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight and Muscle Memory. I'm hoping to get a recording of it to stick up on here.


When the carnival leaves town

4 Sep 2012

I did two gigs in the space of three days the week before last, both at The Portland Arms. Seems excessive even to me. Both were really nice in their own way. On Wednesday I supported Paul Kelly, who is apparently a massive star in Australia (someone told me his last gig before going on tour in Britain had been the Sydney Opera House). I'd not really heard of him, but the gig was sold out, and I haven't played at many sold out gigs. Admittedly it was full of Australians who were only really interested in seeing Paul Kelly, but still it was good fun inflicting myself on them for a bit. There was a wonderful moment when I had a couple of songs left that I wanted to play and I asked what time it was. Rob the soundman who I first worked with at The Boat Race more than 10 years ago (still the best in town I reckon) said "8.35" and 3 or 4 members of the audience piped up "Aww look it's 8.40 mate. Strewth. You great Galah". They were friendly though really.  I should've worked harder to sell stuff because quite a lot of people came up to me to say how much they liked it. Ah well.


Setlist: Take it All, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, A Happy Ending, Soaked to the Skin

I enjoyed Paul Kelly's set, though I think maybe it helps to have grown up knowing all the songs. I spoke to him and his nephew (who was on guitar) after and they were really nice.

On Friday I was supporting The Dawn Chorus who are one of very few bands that I've seen knowing nothing about them and have completely blown me away. And the only one ever to do it in the inauspicious surroundings of The Globe pub (which has slightly improved as The Emperor, mostly because the beer garden is now a beach). I've been lucky enough to play with them a few times and they've been brilliant every time. Sadly they're splitting up in a couple of weeks because being a 7 piece band who don't live very close to each other and have real jobs got too annoying. The whole reason for the gig was that Steve and I wanted to see them one last time and we figured that even if nobody came, putting a gig on would be cheaper and easier than going down to Portsmouth to see their last one. In the end plenty of people came. God knows who they all were - at least some were from one of the US Air Force bases. Whoever they were, they were very nice.

Sam Inglis went on first showing off his surprisingly good (surprising because it's trad folk, not because of him) new trad folk direction. My set went pretty well on the whole though I did forget how to play the guitar during Cold Case, and my voice was going by the end...

Setlist: Cold Case, This Place is Dead Anyway, Watertight, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, 60 Miles with a Slow Puncture, Closure.

The Dawn Chorus were far and away the best I've seen them, even though they didn't play my favourite song of theirs ("Heartbeat in 5/4" for the record). The sound was big and clear and joyful and I was grinning from ear to ear and singing along to every word. Their albums are great, and you should buy them while you still can, but don't quite capture the exuberance of the live sound. Which I'll not get to hear again. They're all in other bands now though so maybe one of those will play here at some point. Onwards and upwards.



That was also the last time I'll be in the gig room at The Portland as it's been the entire time I've been playing. It's being extended to twice the size in the coming weeks. It's weird to think of, as it's been one of few constants in the local music scene. It's got to be a good thing, as there's nowhere in town for small to medium sized touring bands to play, but I wonder if I'll get to play there again and how it'll feel if I do. It is/was absolutely my favourite place to play in the world. Probably 5 of my top 5 gigs have been there. I've seen some great things there too. Onwards and upwards!

The quest for the orange Calippo

16 Aug 2012

Had a nice relaxing break in Crete last week. I've not been on an all inclusive holiday before. It's a bit of a risk I guess paying for all your food in advance from a single place, but in this case it was great (and good value) and the amount of time you save not having to find/decide on somewhere to eat effectively doubles the length of your stay. I also think I might have finally developed a mature attitude to beer, what with there being a limitless supply and me not having very much or wanting more than I had. I got to do some of my approximation of swimming, and some reading, which was very enjoyable.


I got a Terry Pratchett book (Snuff) and a Wallander one from Tesco in a 2 for £7 deal the night before we left. I read the Pratchett one first, having not read anything by him since I was at school. I wasn't expecting to love it, but actually it was fairly engrossing until about 3/4 of the way through and despite some cack handed references to other books in the series (must be difficult to know how to handle that kind of thing - making a book stand alone while not repeating yourself) not as geeky as I was expecting. The Wallander one is even better, and it is pretty apparent where Steig Larsson got his (inferior, though maybe it's in the translation...) style. I've not finished yet, but I'm expecting to soon. They drink a lot of coffee over there in Sweden eh? I'll be reading more. Though I know what happens in the one before due to some cack handed references to the denouement in this one...

Crete is an extremely beautiful place, if a little bit run down. There are a lot of construction projects that have ground to a halt either as the shell of the building or as a 1 storey building that's being used with steel rods sticking out of the top ready for the second storey to be built at some point in the future. Presumably people keep trying to build hotels and running out of money. I wonder if you can still build another storey on a building once the steel that was meant to be for reinforcing the concrete above has all rusted and flopped.



Mostly time was spent lounging around, apart from one day when we made it into Chania. The old part for the city is lovely and reminded me slightly of Barcelona for some reason.


They have a fun market


and a harbour that was built by the Venetians and they seem very proud of.



We came quite close to doing a glass bottomed boat trip, but they guy lost us when he said "and you'll see up to 5 different types of fish!" I can east more types of fish than that at the chippy.

Other than a fun day trip to the water park that was the only time we ventured from the hotel. Here are some things I thought.

  • Vauxhall/Opel still use the snippet from "Layla" in their adverts. I'm not sure if "once bitten forever smitten" sounds as good in Greek.
  • The entire country's economy would probably be drastically improved if anywhere sold orange Calippos. Seriously - not one to be had anywhere and they are the best of the ice lollies. I found a few lime ones. Why would anyone want a lime one?
  • Another thing that would make everyone's life easier would be if buses were numbered according to where they're going rather than by which actual bus it is. Chania bus station was insane. Can you imagine if they did that with train platforms? "No we're not going to tell you where to go for the London train, but it's engine number 36421."
  • The stones on the beach at Tavronitis look like they would be absolutely perfect for skimming, but it's virtually impossible. I think it must be something to do with the temperature of the sea messing up the surface tension, or maybe the sharp slope of the beach meaning they're falling too fast before they hit the water. I did manage 5 bounces on one throw but I'd have expected twice that.
  • I still love land trains. I think it dates back to a childhood holiday in Spain.
  • Even though it's extremely hot, there are a lot of very pretty flowers and plants.
  • Painting all the trees white so they don't get as hot is something that hadn't occured to me before.
  • The sunsets there are amazing - you can see all the colours of the rainbow in the sky. Only the week before I'd been wondering why you never see green. Turns out you do.
  • There are few sadder sights than a derelict minigolf course. So much hope. So much potential....





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