Paul Goodwin

Folking muddy

3 Aug 2012

Last week was the Cambridge Folk Festival. It was absolutely brilliant when I first started going in the late 90s but I've fallen out of love with it a bit in the last 5 or 6 years. I'm not sure if it's changed or I have. Probably a bit of both. The first time I went Nick Cave was playing. You wouldn't get that these days. On the other hand I'd have been dead excited about John Prine at one time and I couldn't even be bothered to go the night he was playing this year.

We got there just in time on the Thursday to see the end of Benjamin Francis Leftwich's offensively inoffensive set. I lasted exactly one line, which is pretty unfair of me really. I don't remember what it was, but it was enough to make me go "oh wow, sod this" and go over to look at mandolins (thankfully they were much more expensive than the one I got the other week). Next up were Dry The River, who I'd heard good things about and sounded a bit like Midlake. It wasn't really possible to get in the tent because the main stage wasn't open so there was most of a festival's worth of people trying to get into less than half a festival's worth of space - might have been better if I'd managed to because the sound wasn't really travelling well. It was the same story for Billy Bragg. I might have tried a bit harder if he'd been doing his own songs but, "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" excepted, I'm not really fussed about the Woody Guthrie stuff. He did a nicely updated version of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" at the end which, weirdly, we could hear better for being further away. It was good to run into some people I'd not seen for ages, and find out that Clannad managed to make an album called "Magical Ring", presumably with straight faces.

Like I said, I didn't make it down there on the Friday. Saturday had quite a few moments. Keb Mo was brilliant at doing what he does, and the guys in his band were all incredibly good at playing. It's always fun to see people who are good, even if it's not something you really like. The Unthanks with a brass band was absolutely beautiful for the first song or two, but then got a bit strange. Brass bands sound great but I guess need to be used sparingly. The Frank Sinatraesque number that some guy sang was particularly misjudged I thought. Not sure who he was either.


Nanci Griffith was really disappointing. I was concerned as soon as she came out dressed as Wally.


She was one of my favourites during my mid-90s country music phase and I still listen to her albums from time to time. I was hoping she'd do what Mary Chapin Carpenter did last year and steal the show, but she just played most of her new album. Which I will not be buying. We got two "hits" - "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" which I never really liked, and "Listen to the Radio" which was nice to hear, but I wish she'd done more. You would think you'd do your strongest material to a crowd who mostly don't know you. She's got some properly good songs. I'm probably not going to get to hear her do them now. Also I was a bit annoyed by this guy, who did that thing where you get someone to move out of your way by pretending you're going to the other side of the crowd and then stand right in front of them. Anyone recognise the back of this head?


Didn't really watch Roy Harper, and I kind of wish I had, because it sounded interesting but didn't really work at a distance. I was too busy getting the hottest jerk chicken known to man. It was still making its presence felt on Monday.

I was excited about seeing Clannad, because they did the theme tune to Robin of Sherwood. And they played a medley of that and some of the other incidental music from the series. "Ooh this is what they play when they're riding horses!" "Ooh the Normans are coming" we didn't get "Aww Marian's sad and they're shooting flaming arrows into the lake" which was probably my favourite, but it was still a treat. If I'd been a bit drunker I'd have probably just kept yelling out "Magical Ring" though.

The Proclaimers were headlining. I know it's not cool to like them, but I don't really understand how you can't. I chose them over Coldplay at Glastonbury 2005 and loved every minute of it then. And it was the same this time. Easily the most I smiled all weekend. Despite my view being blocked by a robot of some sort.


They played "Letter From America" "Cap In Hand" "Sunshine on Leith" "I'm on my way" "Then I Met You" and of course "I'm gonna be (500 Miles)" and loads more I know I'm sure. As I left the site there were isolated pockets of "da la lun dah" or whatever they sing for a good half an hour. That's how it's done Nanci.


On the Sunday I was playing keys for Annie at the nice new little stage they have for up and coming people. Before our turn we saw some very talented very young acts in the open mic they have there, and I went to watch my old mate Greg McDonald on the Club Tent. He's got folkier over the years, but I always really enjoy him. As soon as we finished our bit the heavens opened in biblical fashion. Lightning and hail. It had been relatively mud free up until that point but I guess the soil was wet just under the ground because huge puddles formed really quickly everywhere.


We were pinned down in one steamy tent or another for a few hours, but made it to the second stage for Anais Mitchell. I've seen her a couple of times before (once supporting Ani DiFranco and once in New York) and not really liked it, but this time I was nearly in tears on several occasions. I don't know if I'm more used to her voice, or the songwriting has improved (all of the stuff of hers I've liked has come out in the last 2 years) but I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking before. Unquestionably the best thing I saw all weekend. "Young Man in America" was devastating and I've listened to it 10 times a day since. It completely made the festival for me. It also made me wonder if part of my problem with it has been that I haven't got near enough to much of the music to really get into it. All the festivals I've really loved (Way Out West, End of the Road, Primavera) in the last few years it's been easy to get near enough to be involved.


On our way out I saw a bit of Nic Jones. I'd not heard of him until everyone got excited about him playing at this. Apparently he was a leading light of the folk scene and an amazing guitar player until he was in a car accident. It's always moving seeing frail looking old guys singing and I will probably give his old albums a go when I stop being addicted to Anais Mitchell. He did a decent cover of Fake Plastic Trees. I'm not sure what I'd have thought about it all if I'd just seen him down the Folk Club without having heard the hype/legend though...

Anyway. I'm glad I got to go this year. Saw some good things.


Muddy Nora

26 Jul 2012

Busy weekend!


On Friday we played at the Secret Garden Party. I was on at 2.30, and what with it only being a 30 minute drive from our house we thought that leaving at 11 would probably be ok. In the end it was pretty close. There was an accident on the A14 and it looked like we were going to be stuck on there all day until they let us go back up one of the "on" slip roads and we muddled round the smaller roads to further along than the accident (modern technology eh?). As if that wasn't bad enough they were only letting one car at a time park at the festival site (cars kept getting stuck in the mud) so there was an enormous queue. We got there in the end though and after a mad dash across the site got backstage in time for a soundcheck. They had a thing I've never seen before where they do the monitor mix on an iPad, allowing them to hear what you're hearing. Pretty swish. And, unlike every other application of an iPad I've seen, really useful. The tent was almost completely empty at the start of my set because the guy who was meant to be playing was still stuck on the A14 but it filled up a little as I went on. I thought I played well - it's nice having a big PA - it's easier to lose yourself. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, So Finally a Love Song, Magnetic or Rhetorical, Closure, Soaked to the Skin.


I didn't manage to see that many bands - a bit of Scanners (who sounded great) and a bit of Beth Jeans Houghton (who had an interesting costume, and played what sounded to me like a series of children's TV themes - not that there's anything wrong with that)


before we got driven to the crushingly expensive beer tent by the rain. I also wandered past this bluesy band from Manchester 


who played some great guitar solos but I never found out what they were called, and managed to catch a bit of Alabama Shakes making the sun come out before Annie's really nice set.


The Secret Garden Party has grown a lot since I was last there and everything that was good about it is even better than it was. There are still a lot of annoying posh people slumming it in fancy dress, and the acts seem pretty weak considering the ticket price, but to be fair, of all the festivals I've been to it's the one that seems least about music and most about atmosphere. Look at the size of the fox sculpture. The Living Room Tent (where we were playing) has also grown a lot - it seems like a fairly major stage. They had two people with songs high up in the charts playing on the Sunday apparently. Pretty good going!


Shame about the mud this time, though if you're there for the whole weekend and accept that you're going to get muddy, even that can be fun. Top hats seem to be in this year in case you didn't already know.


We were back in time for me to pop over to The Cornerhouse and catch the end of Tellison, who've been high up on my Bands I've Never Seen But Really Want to See list for a couple of years now. They keep playing here (or London) when I can't go. I thought I was going to miss out again this time, but I'm really pleased I didn't. They were every bit as good as I'd been hoping. Everything was spot on. Normally with gigs when there's a weaker song I get a bit annoyed that they're wasting time when they could be playing the best ones, but I realised as I was watching that there isn't a single song of theirs that I wouldn't have been really happy to hear. I don't think there are any other bands like that.

The next day we went up to Yorkshire for the Deer Shed festival (via OK Diner) where I was playing keys for Annie.


It was much smaller than the Secret Garden Party, much more family oriented and much, much less muddy - I guess because it was on higher ground - apparently they'd had loads of rain there too. We got the same kind of treatment as the more famous acts (dressing room, catering etc), which was both nice and an interesting insight. Turns out it's really boring backstage at festivals when you're too shy to talk to anyone. Even just for an afternoon. It kind of made me glad I've never got anywhere.


Though the food was nice.


I did manage to see  bit of The Staves who are very good at that harmony singing that people seem to like these days. I've always felt like that kind of thing can take away from the songs themselves a bit, but it is very pretty. I also saw most of Los Campesinos! who were brilliant. I'd always thought they were American and really twee (I think because someone told me they have a glockenspiel), but they're mostly British and really clever. And he beats the shit out of the glockenspiel. Though they did back their van into a soft patch of ground and have to rope some muscular looking steward in to help push it out again so maybe not that clever. I've been listening to them a lot this week. Oh, the set was fun too. I was nice and low in the mix so felt fairly uninhibited. At one point a toddler came to the front and started dancing, then clapped just as the song finished. One of the cuter things I've seen in my life.

We got some funny looks on the way home because the car was completely caked in mud. It got fixed.


The weekend before last I got a new mandolin! We went down to London and after a quick trip to Portobello Road (I'd never been there - it's good! Doesn't feel like London though) went traipsing round every music shop in the vicinity of Denmark Street and played all the f-style mandolins in each. Twice. Fortunately they are fairly rare. I wanted one with a pickup but apparently that's not the done thing, according to the guy in the shop I did eventually buy from. He was good fun actually - imagine if Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons had worked in a music shop instead. But you don't mind being belittled because he only works in a music shop and clearly has issues. Trying stuff out in shops is intimidating at the best of times - partly because I feel like I'm being judged (presumably I am) and partly because I never know what to play (though on mandolins I always just fumble through "Regular Guy" by Steve Earle). I got immune to it in the end and the one I ended up getting was so, so, so much nicer than all the others that even though it was a bit more expensive there wasn't really a choice. It's also really pretty to look at. Maybe I will play it out one day.


Road Regrets

8 Jul 2012

It's been ages and ages since I've written anything here. I wish I could say that it's because I've been too busy having exciting adventures, but I've actually just been watching hundreds of hours of Kardashian based reality TV. It's more enjoyable than you'd think. Or maybe I've not been out enough lately. Anyway I'm going to blast through some bits that I have actually been up to. Bit of a list I'm afraid. I don't have nearly enough time to write these properly any more. God help me if Bruce Jenner gets his own spin off.

A few weeks ago we had a road trip to Newcastle because Annie was playing with Lucy Wainwright Roche. I like going up north by road because you pass the OK Diner on the A1. I think it's a very nice touch that they made it out of metal like a real American diner (and everything else in America) and it reminds me of good times on that little tour with Flay (later I even won a soft toy in the same machine that he won Muffin. Prize Every Time For The Win. Geddit?). Their milkshakes are incredible, but it turns out the breakfasts aren't so good.  


We had some of the craziest weather I've ever seen on the way up there. Bright sun one minute and then apocalyptic rain minutes later. Here is a photo of us approaching what I was a bit worried would turn out to be Mordor. It was in fact Pontefract, which was even less pleasant ("Excuse me is there anywhere nice to get lunch near here?" "What, in Pontefract?!"). One of the better pictures I've taken I reckon.


The gig was good. Lucy Wainwright Roche is very nice, and far and away the best of that generation of Wainwrights if you ask me (though I'm really not a fan of the others - I remember seeing Martha in a tiny shop in the Grafton Centre and she couldn't even hold my attention there). An incredible voice and some really good songs (check out "Open Season" if you can find it).

We went to the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre on the way back. I went there as a child and there were these sticker dispensers dotted around the woods that gave you pictures of all the characters from the stories. I had them on my wardrobe for years. Not surprsingly (but sadly) they seem to have been replaced by a walk through display of speaking life sized Merry Man models, some stocks and an ice cream van. 

Here is a picture of the Major Oak where Robin Hood supposedly hid (even though it would've been a sapling at the time he was supposed to have lived). Can you tell I succumbed to Instagram? paulg232 if you're on there.


I learnt a good FACT: the use of the word "hood" to mean criminal originated from Robin. Though thinking about it there seem like several more plausible explanations.

I went to one of the university balls the other week because I was playing keys for Annie. I'm sure they were more impressive in my day, though to be fair we missed the contortionist, the cheesecake was good, the casino was good (it's hard to get into it when the chips are free) and I'm thinking of getting one of these for the house:


I enjoyed my microcylon too.


We went to The Globe Theatre in London on Saturday to see The Taming of the Shrew. It was really enjoyable - I wouldn't expect to like that kind of thing, but every time I've been there it's been great. This one was genuinely funny (if a bit politically suspect) even though you couldn't always understand exactly what they're on about. I guess they do have the best actors so if it's not good there it's unlikely to be good anywhere. I'm always surprised how easy it is to hear with no amplification, especially as it's outside. Projection dahling.

I did a gig at The Cornerhouse on Sunday, which, like all gigs during periods like this when I'm hardly playing, I was kind of dreading. And like (almost) all gigs I'm dreading, it turned out nicely. Even the regulars were being quiet, which is almost unheard of. Setlist: Take it All, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, 60 Miles with a Slow Puncture, So Finally a Love Song, This Place is Dead Anyway, Black Coffee and Bromide, Closure, Cold Case. The first decent length set in years that I've not played Watertight. I enjoyed all the other acts (B-Sydes, Neil Morris and Jackrabbit Parole) and am grateful that Ben (B-Sydes) asked me to play - I feel like I'm at an age where it's getting a bit undignified to try too hard.

There was a country fair on Parker's Piece the other week. In many ways it couldn't have been improved, but "Jive Pony" didn't seem to involve either any dancing horses or any kind of megamix. Here are 3 pictures from it. I didn't manage to get any of the medieval reenactment guys but you'll get the idea.



Long weekend

8 Jun 2012

The rest of the New York trip was fun. Other than a nice round of minigolf and ending up in a crowd of One Direction fans waiting for them to play across the road from where we were staying, this is most of what happened:


I wanted a Shake Shack (the penultimate photo is one of their amazing burgers - the last photo is what passes for a baconator there - who would have thought that the American version of anything would be disappointingly small?) dinosaur t shirt but unfortunately they only come in child sizes. Pretty stupid if you ask me - it's far and away the best design they have.

Also I got introduced to the delights of frozen margaritas (though I prefer them in the rocks), and frozen yoghurt of Pinkberry and Sweetfrog varieties. Pinkberry was superior but both are pretty great. Someone should open a bagel, pizza and frozen yoghurt shop here. It'd make a killing. Also with minigolf and Shake Shack standard burgers. Gourmet Burger Kitchen does not cut it.

Mike Doughty's book was strong until the end, though I liked the bits about his band and Jeff Buckley best. The Josh Ritter one is a bit flowery but quite gripping so far. The Marina whateverhernamewas one ended as weakly as it began. It's made nicely though and the cover is good, which is the most important thing really.

At the weekend I did a set at Strawberry Fair (a local one day festival with a slightly more threatening atmosphere every year and a very high dog on a piece of string to person ratio), for the first time in a decade. The sound was great considering we were in a tent, but there was quite a lot of noise from a drum and bass act on a nearby stage and it was a bit early in the day for me really. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, The Forked Tongue and the Blind Eye Turned, Magnetic or Rhetorical, So Finally a Love Song, 60 Miles with a Slow Puncture, Closure. This wasn't the official programme, but still, quite a good misprint.


On Monday I played a short set as part of an all day thing at the Cambridge Folk Club which was a bit nearer my comfort zone (though still too early in the day). I played pretty well, though my guitar was out of tune for the entire thing - every time I thought I fixed it I hadn't so I ended up playing it more and more quietly and the sound guy turned it up and up. Oh well. I had my best CD selling hit rate for a long time, which was nice. I need to get another box of Scars from the loft. I've not been going to the Folk Club nearly enough lately. Everyone's so nice. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, So Finally a Love Song, Magnetic or Rhetorical, Phosphorus Burn, Edinburgh.

Other than that the holiday weekend was pretty relaxing. On the extra bank holiday we had pretty much my perfect day's activities with a trip to the seaside,  fish and chips, crap little bowling, a quiz machine win, a visit to an aquarium, a round of crazy golf and a visit to a castle in exactly the correct amount of disrepair (Castle Rising - you can go on all the levels, but there aren't any boring furniture rooms. The only thing I'd change is that the moat is dry now).






You can tell it was proper beach weather.


19 May 2012

We've been in New York for a week or so. Its weird - I've not been here for 6 months but it feels like yesterday. The touristy stuff is pretty much used up now so we've mostly been wandering round, eating overpriced food and shopping. Thank God Urban Outfitters has free wifi or I would've gone mad by now. If only every optician in the city did too.

The films on the plane were: Moneyball, which was very enjoyable but doesnt really hold up to much looking back at, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was great, but not as complicated as people made out (unless I missed something) and What's Your Number? Which I didn't (and won't) see all of, though it had one really funny moment involving a screensaver. Just call me Barry.

I tried out a couple more contenders in the great mandolin hunt, assuming they'd be better value here, but none of them (including a white one from 1922!) were as nice as the one from Hobgoblin the other week, which is beginning to look reasonably priced.

We went up to Albany for a few days which was very nice, except for getting woken up at 5am the first morning by this.

It turns out that robins are both much bigger here, and territorial to the point of attacking their own reflection. For hours. You can imagine him thinking 'I don't understand, he anticipates my every move. And is very hard' he looks pretty crazed.


I've been getting a little obsessed with what people call their wifi. Here is the hall of fame. Spot the reason I recorded it in each case.


This was the best of all. Simple and elegant.


I went for a walk the other night which ended up with an expensive trip to Barnes and Noble - I got The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty (Chris made me listen to him a few months ago - I didn't fall for the music, but something made me pick up the book) and Brights Passage by Josh Ritter. The Doughty one is nearly as addictive as the drugs he's on during the course of it. I've spent the last two days trying to sneak a page or two while nobody's looking. I like it when im reading books that are set in the place I am. I brought "We are all made of glue" or something by Marina something for the plane, which is one of those books that convince me that being able to write is not a prerequisite for getting a book published. The plot is pretty heavy handed too, but I do at least want to know what happens. After I've finished the Mike Doughty one.

Here is another series of my you know I love it really aren't the foreigners funny photos.


The last one is a bar in a pharmacy. Nice.

Preaching to the converted

13 May 2012

We went on a work trip to Exeter last week, proving once again that even after all this time mobile internet isn't really a thing when you get west of Reading. Nor is drainage it seems.


I bet they have a hosepipe ban too. We stayed in a proper old school hotel. I would have been in big trouble if I'd booked it for a gig.


Exeter is a pretty nice place - we did a little team building treasure hunt of local landmarks, which proved once again that even after all this time BlackBerrys aren't a real option.

The morning journey back was livened up by a heroically drunk guy talking nonsense the whole way while reading Scootering magazine. I think the only explanation for that is that Scooter, Scooter Rider, and Pootle were already taken. I stayed in London for the afternoon working in Camino's by Kings Cross like a proper new media person (and trying not to earwig on the wideboy dickheads that hang around in places like that). Top tip - the octopus leg there looks creepier than it is tasty...

The point of hanging around was to go and see Dan Mangan at Bush Hall in the evening. His gig at St Pancras Old Church was by a distance the best thing I saw last year, but, as nice a venue as Bush Hall is, it's not an ancient church, and I'm not quite as in love with the new album as the one before so I was curious to see how this would compare. In the event it was great, but not as great as that other one. The sound was less intimate and there was a lot more avant garde noisiness. The solo version of 'Basket' was absolutely brilliant though. Here's a less intense approximation of what it was like.

The feeling of career progression was palpable too which was great for him because I think he's one of the best around at the moment.




The support band were also one of the best (and most Canadian) I've seen in a long time. A really tight psyche (maybe - never really figured out what that meant - in this case it means a bit weird) rock thing called Zeus. My friend Mike said they were like Dr Dog, but I liked them more. I think because the bass player did a policeman leg bending dance and reminded me of a moustachioed Bruce from Kids in the Hall. Though I've only seen Dr Dog at a festival which rarely does a band justice.



I did one of the most gratifying gigs I've played in ages on Wednesday, supporting Chris T-T at The Portland. Things didn't look promising at the start - my lucky necklace has disappeared so I only had the little bits that had already fallen off. I hope it's not permanently lost - I'll have to finally give up playing live. Though actually this one went really well so maybe it wasn't all down to after all. Except my set was delayed because one of the two plectrums Annie brought along at the last minute because I forgot to bring any broke and I lost the other one in the guitar strings for a while. It picked up pretty quickly mind you - I felt like I played better than I have for a while and the (modest, but there were a LOAD of similar gigs on for some reason) crowd was absolutely lovely to me. The delay at the start meant I only got to do 6, which is a shame because I wanted to give Black Coffee and Bromide a go. I decided it was going so well that I didn't want to risk finishing with it. Set list: Take it All, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place Is Dead Anyway, A Folly or a Fortress, So Finally a Love Song.


Chris T-T was on top form and played almost my perfect set (missing Tomorrow Morning and The English Earth, but I guess those are pretty old songs now). A string broke in A Box To Hide In, which was a shame because it was giving me the spine tingles, but there's nothing to be done about that kind of thing. His new one about being the last of the fraggles left after Jeremy Clarkson bought their lighthouse and his wife thought they were vermin was genius. Who said that all the songs had been written? There's a whole concept ep on the way apparently. He also said very nice things about me on stage, which was very generous. Another one of those nights that makes me want to play more. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I bought a poster of 72 photos he'd taken of toilets which I'm going to frame and stick next to Chris at work. I enjoyed the other acts a lot too.


Off to New York now.

The Birds Will Still Be Singing

23 Apr 2012

It's been a more music and blast from the past-filled week than I've managed for quite a while. On Tuesday we went to The Cornerhouse to see Kyla La Grange who is another in an increasingly long list of people I did quite a few gigs with on an equal footing back in the day who are now zooming off towards stardom. I wonder if that happens to everyone or the universe is just trying to taunt me. Or if I should've tried harder. Her style has become a bit more epic over the years - it was comfortably the biggest sound I've ever heard there. Properly professional. The fairy lights and plastic foliage they brought with them made a real difference to the way the room felt too. Good gig.

On Wednesday Annie and I went to Camden to do a gig with Jinder, who I met when we both played round the corner at the (then) Canaervon Castle in 2004. That night had been hosted by a guy who used to be in Neighbours. It's been downhill ever since. It came up in conversation and I was trying to explain to some of the younger people who came along exactly who he had been in Neighbours but we didn't have any of the same points of reference. It was Cameron, Mrs Mangel's motorcycle riding earring wearing lawyer nephew. Oh my God - some wikipediaing has revealed that he's in Neighbours again playing someone else! I guess he must be related to someone high up in the production team. I never thought I'd reach a time in my life when I wasn't addicted to Neighbours. I blame Channel 5 for taking it over and turning the saturation down. 

Anyway, Jinder and I have kept in touch off and on ever since (though I paths hadn't crossed again until this) and he was nice enough to suggest Annie and I to the venue - The Green Note which, is a really nice place. They treated us well too (tasty vegetarian food - I went for a salad with every type of cheese available), but for some reason I felt a bit uncomfortable during my set. Not sure why - there were a lot of friendly faces in the crowd and the sound was excellent too - my guitar sounded nicer than I can remember (they put a mic in front of it as well as pluggin it in). So I dunno.

Set list: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, A Folly or a Fortress (ably helped by Annie), So Finally a Love Song, Black Coffee and Bromide (new song - might be a bit intense), Edinburgh, You Won't Break My Heart. I meant to play Muscle Memory but forgot.

Jinder is quite the raconteur, both on and off stage. Some of his stories reminded me of the late great Jackie Leven (who was a friend of his), though they were more convincing. Not that I didn't believe the ones that Jackie told. Apart from the one about sneaking in to Mick Jagger's house and having a party. And the one about hiding under a table with Sarah Ferguson at a fancy dinner. Admittedly I was hugely drunk when I heard that one, so it might be a tall tale of my own. Anyway, I particularly enjoyed the tour de force that was Jinder's tour of Britain in accents. He's also one of the most positive people I've met. His new album is for sale on his website and getting a proper release in June. I hope it does really well because he deserves it. And I think there are a lot of people who will really like it if they get to hear it.

Here's a video of 'Edinburgh' from that night. Watch me feel awkward and get annoyed by people talking loudly in the other room and consequently play it a bit too fast.

On Saturday we were teaming up with Jinder again at The Stables in Milton Keynes. We got the coach over after lunch because I wanted to go to Hobgoblin music in Newport Pagnell as part of my search for a new mandolin. The shop is not as big as it looks on the website, and their range of f type mandos numbers precisely two. Unfortunately I tried out the dead expensive one and noticed that it was nicer than any other mandolin I've played. Hard to justify buying one worth that's several times as much as my guitar. Newport Pagnell is kind of nice at first but there is nowhere to get food. If I'd realised we were staying within a short distance of a safari park I think we'd have probably gone to that instead.

The Stables is one of the most proper places I've ever played. Probably there, The Junction here, and Aeolian Hall in London Ontario. We got a green room with sandwiches, fruit, fancy crisps and a small amount of booze. And a gigantic octagonal conference table, complete with projector. We were in the small room, with a David Bowie tribute in the main room. We heard a bit and they sounded good, though the singer was doing his own thing rather than a proper impression. There was the traditional debate about how you pronounce Bowie. I think it's Bowie, but Jinder thought it might be Bowie. I pointed out that his son was called Zowie so it had to be Bowie to rhyme with that. Potato potato tomato tomato.

Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, Muscle Memory, A Folly or a Fortress (again with excellent backing from Annie), So Finally a Love Song, Edinburgh, Waiting for You (dunno why - I meant to play Phosphorus Burn but it was an older audience and it has generally gone down well with older audiences), You Won't Break My Heart.

Hungry Horse breakfasts are not good and not as cheap as you would expect. The sausage and bacon tasted of too much and the eggs tasted of absolutely nothing. I've never had such untasty eggs.

Bloody hell, I had a feeling Chelsea would do it tonight. Should've put my money where my feeling was.

Breaking the Yearlings

9 Apr 2012

A few of us went to see Shearwater at The Scala last week. We went to a backstreet pub I'd not been to before (something about King Charles) for pre gig drinks/sheltering from the crazy rain and it was how pubs should be. Cramped, wooden, with stuffed animals everywhere, bar billiards and a toilet designed with the size of people in the 17th century in mind. They also served a beer called Bethnal Green Bitter which led to a series of jokes about German taxi drivers.


We got in about halfway through My Sad Captains, who I'm pretty sure I saw playing with The Broken Family Band once. They were pretty good then, and they are pretty good now. They did have their sound slightly shafted in that way that support bands at "proper" gigs always do. Boomy drums, overly intrusive bass. You'd think that society would've grown out of that kind of thing. I get that headline bands don't want to be upstaged, but there was never really much danger of that. I suppose they weren't to know.


The second act on was Julie Doiron, who I'd not heard of, but, based on the number of requests and reverential atmosphere, lots of other people had. She varied between charmingly ditsy and annoyingly ditsy. I can't remember much about the songs, but I do remember enjoying it, despite the crowd treating her (and her coming across) a bit like a child doing a party piece rather than someone who's been playing for 20 years.


I spent most of the Shearwater set trying to pretend that Jonathan Meiburg wasn't the only member of the lineup left who'd been playing when I saw them play at a tiny club in Gothenburg. A lot of what I love(d) about them is how obviously great at playing music the entire band are (were). And the variety of instruments. And how cool Thor Harris is. This line up was much more standard and the new guys mostly seemed to be trying too hard to show how into it they were (I think the drummer had the wrong end of the stick about the Animal in the album name) they and had an air of "oh look, we're in a real band suddenly, that makes us great". Especially the keyboard/guitar sideman who was mean to someone making a request.

"It's not about you!"

"Its not about you either mate - where's Thor?" 

They were very rocking to be fair, which was great for about half the set, especially on the new stuff (I think the new album is the first that's captured the intensity of the live show) but it got a bit wearing by the end. I think the rest of the band are only having a year off. I hope so anyway.

That all read a lot more negatively than it was meant to. It was a very enjoyable show. Just not quite everything I'd been expecting. Check out the new album "Animal Life" if you haven't - I really like it.



I finally made it to my first Cambridge game of the season, which was fun, but unusually relaxed as neither team had anything to play for (Cambridge are safe but too far from the playoffs, and Kettering are down). Cambridge won and the Kettering keeper got sent off for handling outside the area.

I've got two gigs next week! In real venues and everything! I'm not sure when that last happened. Please come!

I've put some more videos on the video page too - check em out.

Everything's Getting Older

30 Mar 2012

We were in Liverpool and Manchester at the weekend because Annie was doing a couple of gigs. I've not been to either place for at least a decade. Liverpool is supposedly a lot nicer than it used to be, and to be fair the dock area is pretty grand (though we were bothered by a herd of acting students at one stage making some ham fisted political point), but the whole place felt slightly aggressive. And the Zizzi's tasted a bit funny. And we spent a while looking for Underwater Street, which sounded amazing but turned out to be a children's education centre. I took a lot of nice photos of the shimmering river and the Liver building and the statue of Billy Fury (there are a LOT of statues there) but my camera has misplaced them. It's happened before, and I expect they'll turn up again. But not in time for this. All I'll say about the gig is that I reckon 90% of the unsigned things I've been to this year have had at least one act from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, and I don't reckon the entry requirements can be that high. But then I've always felt that training drains the feeling out of things. And writing good songs isn't really something you can teach. Not that either of those things are what you need to succeed, and I guess that is the point of stage school.

We couldn't find a hotel in Liverpool for under £150, so we got a late train over to Manchester, which was full of people who think Jersey Shore is some kind of religious broadcast. There was more eyelash per person than in an entire trainful of people from south of Birmingham. Still, it's not so long a journey. We were staying on Hilton Road, and still feeling nervous from spending 10 minutes on the street in Liverpool, decided to get a cab, which took us to the Hilton hotel, 15 minutes in the wrong direction. The driver was a good sport about it though.

Next morning we went for a walk after watching a bit of The Sorceror's Apprentice. No, not that one, this one was even worse. Manchester seemed a lot more relaxed, nicely run down rather than threateningly run down, with some cool little cafes and restaurants and some dubious grammar.


We got "brekkie" which only really works in a northern accent, hung around in a music shop until the guy showing off on the piano got too much to bear, and had some Guinness and chocolate cake, which sounds like a great idea, and was nice, but on balance probably wasn't as nice as the chocolate milkshake I was considering instead. The day was made more relaxed by the venue being nice enough to let us leave our stuff there.


We also met up with my old mate Cavan, another of the friends I've made at the Folk Club over the years. He's still living the dream and it was really good to see him. The gig, which was great, finished in time for us to wander past the canal district which, maybe not surprisingly, reminded me of Amsterdam, get a pretty good pizza, and still make the train. Sitting on trains, doing the crossword with the sun setting is one of the nicer things in life.



I went to see Bell Wells and Aidan Moffat at The Portland on Tuesday. Support act RM Hubbert mostly played very impressive and emotional instrumental guitar pieces, with the occasional song thrown in. He seemed like a very nice chap. I'm not sure why he looks like a painting in this photo.


Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat was comfortably gig of the year so far, though I was expecting that, as "Everything's Getting Older" and their "Cruel Summer" EP must be two of the records of last year. It's not the kind of thing I'd like the sound of if you described it to me - lots of spoken word over almost jazz backing, but the words are so brilliantly funny and moving, and the voice so full of character. I doubt he'd get into LIPA. This is what gigs should look like. 


They turned around while waiting for the encore rather than going offstage. Nice.


I feel like Scotland and Canada are making most of the good music at the moment.

On Wednesday I did my first gig in Norwich in 3 1/2 years, having had a very traumatic experience last time. Fortunately this time everyone was much nicer to me. The night is called Grapevine@Bedfords and Steve who runs it must be one of the nicest promoters out there. It's so much better when people are doing things for the love of it rather than to make money. Little things like giving us food and convincing people to come make all the difference... The venue is lovely too - a big room above a bar with wooden beams and wonky chimney breasts. And great sound. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past (I forgot some words - though I'd not even touched a guitar since the Portland gig 6 weeks ago, so maybe it's forgiveable), Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, So Finally a Love Song, 60 Miles with a Slow Puncture (someone requested it before the show!), Edinburgh, You Won't Break my Heart. Here's a video of So Finally a Love Song

Annie and The Willows were great too. Here's a picture of Cliff pretending he's the banjo player in Kiss.


They were nice enough to give us a lift home because we'd missed the (just too early to be properly useful) last train. Mostly due to their soundcheck (just kidding). It's been a long time since I was last in a car on the A14 coming back from a gig at half past midnight. I got a bit nostalgic.

Here's something you've probably never seen in real life. Can you guess what it is?


That's right - it's a dessert from an Indian restaurant. It wasn't bad either. I'm glad I didn't get the funky pie.

Devine Intervention

9 Mar 2012

So, the Kevin Devine gig the other week was brilliant, though we left early because a rail replacement bus service would've meant a really, really late night. The support act, JayMay had a nice voice and everything but was Not My Cup Of Tea At All. I'm becoming almost completely intolerant of the slightest hint of jazz I think. I thought people descended into liking jazz as they got older? Maybe I'm just intolerant of competent but boring songs. I thought people descended into liking competent but boring songs as they get older? Anyway. Kevin Devine had the Goddamn Band with him, which was a nice surprise as I was expecting it to be solo like it had been the other time I saw him. They were as tight as a bastard, but weirdly, the sound was very similar from song to song. I'd have thought a band would lead to more variation. Maybe it was just that most of the songs were from newer albums than I know well. Cotton Crush was worth the travelling and ticket alone. I particularly enjoyed the bass player (visible in the picture below, but you don't get the sense of his movement). And I really love The Borderline. Every other venue in London seems to be sending me exhortations to vote for them in some "best venue in London" competition. I'd only vote for The Borderline.

We went to Berkhamsted last week, which seems like a much nicer place than I'd imagined. It has a castle and everything!

Ruined castles are among my favourite things. If I could spend all my time looking at ruined castles and dinosaurs, that'd be ok with me. We stayed in a pretty swanky hotel - I got the thickest of steaks for dinner and the toilet was square. I'm not sure square toilets are either as stylish or as comfortable as oval ones, but a change is as good as a rest. This is a bit Chris T-T, but here's a picture.

There was some confusion among the people I overheard about how to say Berkhamsted. I'd instinctively say BerkHAMsted, and I did hear that, but I also heard a lot of BERKumsted. I asked someone and he just said "well, mostly we say Burko". Fair enough.

Did a chocolate tasting last week, which was good fun. I learnt that Galaxy is better than Cadbury's because Cadbury's replace cocoa butter with vegetable, but the absolute best chocolate comes from the shop that the woman running the tasting owns. Though to be fair, having tasted some, it's hard to disagree with that. I also learnt that pure cocoa is gross. I got 4/6 in my tasting test. Someone got 5, but I don't see how that's possible without cynically putting the same answer for 2 of them.

Most of the rest of my non-work time has looked like this:

Though I recently discovered Draw Something, which is amazing fun, and I did (just about) finish a song! First of the year! Probably first for a year.

Guess which of these meals was mine.

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