Paul Goodwin

They don't Mackem like they used to

22 Feb 2012

It's been a busy couple of weeks again. The other weekend we went up to Sunderland because Annie was doing a gig at a really nice venue called The Independent. The guy who runs it has the (rare, but correct) attitude that if you make a nice place and consistently put on good things people will come. It seems to be paying off because the room was packed. Maybe there's not much to do in Sunderland.


The main act of the night were The Cornshed Sisters, and although I'm not convinced they're really sisters, they were good to watch. Excellent harmonies, and falling just on the right side of the suprisingly thin line between traditional folk and musical theatre. I first noticed said line when I saw The Unthanks (at the time called Rachel Unthank and the Winterset) in the early days when they had a comedy pianist who kept trying to steal/spoil the show depending on whether you like musical theatre. Maybe the two styles are so far apart that they meet up again round the back. Other things I enjoyed about the weekend were taking pictures of the snow out from the train, the word Jesmond, the fact I finally got to see You've Got Mail and getting addicted to Bejewelled on my phone. That still hasn't worn off. I used to be addicted to it on facebook and that was pretty bad, but you can take your phone anywhere.



Our retired explorer

Last Saturday we finally did a band gig again with the now semi-classic line up of Mike, Andy and Dave. As with pretty much all band gigs it was at The Portland. We're all too old and too busy to be travelling far, and nobody else will let us play anyway. The night itself was a bit stressful because it was a crowded bill and the soundman (who did a good job in the end, despite his fondness for disco lighting) didn't turn up for ages, but I had a brilliant time while we were playing - the crowd was really friendly and enthusiastic and (for the most part) we played well I thought. Setlist (along the lines of): So Finally a Love Song, The Forked Tongue and The Blind Eye Turned, Watertight, Cold Case, Cabin Fever, Borderline, 60 Miles With a Slow Puncture, Soaked to the Skin, Closure (encore! One guy was even quite forceful about it). We had a new (to the world in general) song to play called Guilt Edged Opportunity but there wasn't really time and I bottled it. Would've probably been a good time to do it though because everyone seemed to be on our side. Or maybe we'd have lost them... There might be video depending on how bad we sound...

All the other acts (Andy Buclaw, Annie, and Lester who I've written about before) were really good. Lester has probably got the tallest band I've ever seen. He's incredibly tall and his brother is somehow even taller. I questioned him about it and he said all the best genes come out first. I'm taller and better than my brother too. They also swapped instruments to the extent that they almost but not quite sounded like a different band with every song. Not a bad thing.

The excitement has worn off again now, which is just as well because it really is a great feeling and it gets frustrating sitting at work wishing that you were doing something else. There's some more music going on in the next few days though. I'm playing keys with Annie in London on Thursday and then seeing Kevin Devine on Monday at my favourite of the London venues The Borderline, which is getting nicely worn out again since they spoiled it by neatening it up a couple of years ago. He was brilliant last time I saw him, so fingers crossed.

Probably the best Carlsberg in the world

30 Jan 2012

We were in Copenhagen last week and having checked my bank balance I can happily report that it's even more effing expensive than I thought at the time. 8.5 kroner to the pound is quite different to the 9.1 I thought I was spending.

It was one of the easier journeys I've made - the flight is only an hour and a bit from Stansted and the airport about 20 minutes on the metro from the centre. I dunno why but I find metro systems much less stressful than the buses you often get at the airports that budget airlines use. Probably because it's obvious where to get off. The whole city centre is only served by about 5 stations though which means there is a good 20-25 minute walk between them, making it less useful than it could be.


The first night we got an expensive but nice burger in a place with slow and surly service and checked out Danish TV. Half of which is American, so that was good. There is one channel which at night has footage of various life sized monster puppets snoring, occasionally cutting to children snoring. Not sure what that's about.

The next day we went for a long (cold) wander around the Longest Shopping Street in all of Scandinavia (why is everything in Scandinavia the biggest/only something in all of Scandinavia? Maybe I exaggerate). It's a really relaxing city, all trendily industrial looking coffee shops and galleries but spotless streets. And a roaming marching band that people were treating like a slow moving tractor on an A road rather than any kind of spectacle.


January may not be the best time to see it though as it was too cold to do any outdoor activities really. The only cultural things we managed (despite the national museum being next door to the hotel and free), having been warned that the Little Mermaid statue is boring and hard to get to, were the Carlsberg Brewery, getting a McDonald's in a new country and a very short expedition to Freetown Christiania.

The brewery was very cool - like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory but with beer - all minarets and concrete elephants with swastikas on (it was the company logo until they had to change it sharpish in the 1940s), novelty cars and giant beerstoppers.




They also have the largest bottle collection in All of The World (only 20,000 - I reckon I could beat it with a bit of determination) and an exhibition about the history of the company, which is more interesting than you would think.


The entry includes 2 free beers and at 7 kr wasn't much more expensive than that beer would've been in a bar. I wasn't as impressed by the taste of it as I was by Carlsberg in Sweden or by other beers I've had at breweries (Steam Whistle straight off the production line in Toronto was gorgeous) but it was much nicer than here. Oh there were horses too.


Freetown Christiania was weird - a squat that declared itself to be outside society in the 70s - read the history on Wikipedia it's quite interesting and I suspect I'll get it wrong. I'd only really heard of it from a zombie shoot 'em up I played once. There was a lot of graffiti and a street where you could buy (elsewhere) illegal substances as if they were different flavours of fudge. We didn't stay long. You weren't allowed to take photos.

Did some playing too. With varying amounts of noise, but exactly the same amount of attention from the audience every time. Night 1 setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, Muscle Memory, So Finally a Love Song, Edinburgh, Soaked to the Skin Night 2 setlist: Edinburgh, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, The Easy Way Out (first time in years! I had to look up the words on the internet. I was surprised they were there) Night 3 setlist: Edinburgh, The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, So Finally a Love Song, Watertight, Muscle Memory.

Oh,there's also a Lego shop, which was pretty exciting. It's always been a dream of mine to go to Legoland, but it was too far away to justify time getting there. One day. To compensate we took advantage of their build 3 of your own Lego men for 5 Kr offer. I made a scared architect. I'm both surprised and impressed that they make Lego theodolites.


So what have I learnt about Denmark? They like candles a lot. Really a lot. January is cold there. There's a lot of free wifi. McDonald's is not up to more central European standards. On one late night tasting. Metro stations are further apart than you really want. Buses run very often but cost a lot. Nazi memorabilia is still acceptable and readily available. They only seem to eat burgers. Food, booze and taxis are very expensive. Clothes and the cinema not quite so much. Not mentioning my surname at any point during gigs is probably counterproductive. Their forks only have 3 prongs, which looks weird. More people than you would think bring ice skates to the bar. Service does not come with a smile. I really like it there. Foreign languages will always be funny.


18 Jan 2012

Its been a while since this descended into Watchdog style consumer advice, but if you're on O2 don't order the white iPhone 4S. After 3 months of waiting we gave up and got them from Apple. I thought if I went on about it on twitter enough we might get some free stuff but no. Presumably because hardly anybody follows me on there, and most of those that do are suspiciously attractive Russians who don't have a great deal to say but are very interested in the outpourings of other people. Fnar.

It is pretty life changing having a phone that works, but I'm still a bit miffed that I had to forfeit all my games of Words with Friends because my phone couldn't run it (paulgoodwin if anyone wants to take me on). Also, my old phone won't talk to computers any more and I still haven't figured out how to get plants vs zombies off it. Ah well I'd finished it anyway. My latest game of choice is Cut the Rope but it's a bit easy. In case you can't tell, the new year hasn't been that eventful so far. Thankfully we exhausted all the series of Vampire Diaries and 30 Rock on demand so in principle things could get done.

One of the other benefits of having a phone that works is that I can be writing this while I'm on the train to Balham to watch Annie play at The Bedford. It's been a long while since I've been there - I played a fair few times a few years back, and always felt like I&nbps;went down well, but eventually they noticed that I don't sound like Paulo Nutini and wouldn't let me play any more. I think maybe the Nutini-only restriction has been relaxed again (albeit maybe not as far as me) but I haven't got the heart to try now. I'm looking forward to the gig though, it's a really cool place and their policy of two songs in each half of a show is great for keeping an audience who are there to see a particular act in the room.

To be honest I'm not really up for playing at all at the moment. A so-bad-all-you-can-do-is-laugh review of Trinkets and Offcuts got me down a bit. It didn't exactly dent my confidence but it did hammer home again how hard it is to get anyone to give anything a proper go if there's anything difficult about it, especially now that the songs themselves seem so far down the list of what most people seem to judge music on (after whether it's been on One Tree Hill, how many retweets it has, whether it's been on a deodorant advert, the shoes that the guitarist is wearing in the promo pictures, if it has a banjo in it). Not that I deserve to get a proper go over anyone else. But if attention spans keep going like this in a few years all the music we get force fed will consist of 30 second versions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in reverb soaked harmony/with a Pet Shop Boys style backing/sung by a cooky girl with lots of handclaps. Actually, that last one has already been in some kind of advert hasn't it? As entertaining as it is, I'm not convinced the internet has been a positive influence on the world overall.


1 Jan 2012

So, the end of another year. One of the more eventful of my life to date, though it feels like there hasn't been that much time for music. My only resolution was to finish off Trinkets and Offcuts, which I managed, so that's good I guess, though I failed miserably to promote it. I was hoping to make some progress with another CD, but I've not. Maybe I'll make that next year's resolution. I'm hoping to do something with the "live" recording we did in a primary school in May if I decide it's good enough to let out. I've not done a great deal of playing, and not much of what I have was especially gratifying (though Jack's birthday gig was good fun and I enjoyed Dalston last week). I've seen quite a lot of stuff I guess - 62 "proper" acts (3 of which are comedians) though that's less than the last few years, mainly due to not getting to any proper festivals.

One step forward I have made is to vastly improve at table football after we got it at work. I'm unbeaten so far in 2012.

The traditional list of what I've seen then, and what I thought. No comment means they were somewhere between not that great and quite good: David Bazan (great), Joseph Arthur (seems to have lost it), Boy Without God (really good), Daniel Kitson (not a band, but wonderful), Wintersleep (x2), The Hold Steady (x2 fantastic), Richard Walters, Dolorean (brilliant), Simon Munnery (very funny), Stewart Lee (very funny), The Golden Retrievers, Katie Costello, Rachel Platten, Bess Rogers, Deer Park (x2, great), Singing Adams (x3, great), John Smith, Josh Ritter (really great), Polly Paulusma, Simone Felice (outstanding), Crazy Arm (great), Two Cow Garage (great), Emily Barker (x2 great), Okkervil River (x3, amazing every time), The Submarines, The Mountain Goats (fantastic), The Pony Collaboration (great), The Wave Pictures (great), Greg Holden, Future Islands, Titus Andronicus, Dan Mangan (gig of the year), The Weakerthans (amazing), Owen Pallett (seemed really good but I was far away), The Vaccines, Beirut, Mumford and Sons, The Arcade Fire, Stephen Fretwell, Rachel Sermanni, The Duke and the King (great), Gary Numan (brilliant), Justin Townes Earle, Frank Turner, Richard Thompson (great), Pentangle (just awful), Raul Malo, Caitlin Rose, Villagers, Femi Kuti (uplifting), Mary Chapin Carpenter (really good), Stealing Sheep, Emmy The Great (great), The Kittens, Rozi Plain, Withered Hand (wonderful), Steve Earle (wonderful), MJ Hibbett, Juan Zelada (really good at what he was doing), Lelia Broussard, Adam Barnes.

I saw this festive scene on the way to work. I'm not sure if it was the wind or if he's just outlived his usefulness and has been put out of his misery before they turn him into glue.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

23 Dec 2011

I was back in Dalston on Wednesday to do a couple of songs at the "Folk Modern Christmas Party", mostly because Steve who runs it felt bad that nobody was there when I played last month (including the rest of the acts on the bill). There were about 15 people doing stuff (not just playing - there was unusually effective (and affecting) poetry and this guy who did some hula hooping and juggling, as well as a song)

with names being drawn out of a hat of who was going on when. Which would be a good way of running open mics. Anyway, the room was full of lovely people this time and when it was eventually my turn I played Watertight and Ghost of Paddy's Night Past much better than I have for ages. People said nice things afterwards and I went home happy. Can't ask for much more than that. Apart from maybe a visit from an inflatable Santa. Which we also got.

Wow, it's been quite a while since I had a chance to write - I'd forgotten about the gig at The Living Room, which was a nice evening. First up were The Half Sisters, who were down from a 3 piece to a duo, but you'd never have known it. They were ditzy and fun and because they're sisters and have the same voice could do a really cool double tracked kind of effect by singing in unison. They also had a tambourine with all but a couple of the metal bits taped up to stop it being too loud, which is a great idea. I was on second, and did OK, though the crowd thinned quite quickly after the sisters were done. Apart from anything else, it was really nice to see the guys who run the night - it'd been ages. I did finish my set by kicking someone's water over on one of the lights. I think it survived, but they unplugged it to be on the safe side. Smooth. Setlist (approx): The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway, Phosphorus Burn, You Won't Break My Heart, Magnetic or Rhetorical, So Finally a Love Song (which I stopped after a few lines because someone's phone went off), Edinburgh.

Headliner Evi Vine was great - a three piece of singing/guitar, cello, drums/bass/guitar as required, all of which were put through looping pedals at one time or another. Really atmospheric.

Talking of looping, last Friday I saw Rob Jackson's latest outfit The Eloi Cole Collective (named after a man they found at CERN who claimed to be from the future). It's going to feature a rotating cast, but this time was Rob on little synth and guitar, Tony on laptop and Peter Chilvers on iPad and iPod. It was all improvised (the setlist consisted of three modes they were going to stick to) and was really engaging (hypnotic even), even over the Friday night Cornerhouse crowd who were there to see some dubious singer/songwriters.

I also did a last minute Portland thing with Aidy, Flaming June and Eureka Stockade (all of which feature Paul Richards hitting things). Just the 4 songs: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Cold Case (only partially spoiled by the sound guy's decision to turn on some disco lighting about halfway through. Bellend), 60 Miles with a Slow Puncture and Watertight. I had to leave before Eureka Stockade unfortunately, but Flaming June and Aidy were both really good to watch.

We had dinner in a restaurant the other day with the most unusal cutlery I've seen for a while. 

We were surrounded by people who seemed to be on first/second dates. Conversations we heard ranged from episodes of The Simpsons to Dan Brown books (I'm surprised people are still talking about Dan Brown books when there are Steig Larsson books to fill the same need for terribly gripping but terribly written adventures) and back to episodes of The Simpsons. If I'd have realised aged 20 that all that mattered in these situations was saying things rather than worrying about what you were saying I think I'd have had a very different time. I suppose it's obvious really. This guy was in the toilet. It was a bit offputting

No key, no plan

2 Dec 2011

Okkervil River were back in London last week and once again, most of Cambridge went. I don't know why they don't just play here - maybe because it'd have an adverse affect the attendances at the London shows. I'd been to Koko 3 times before and the sound had been rubbish at the two that had been full bands, so I wasn't sure how they'd fare, especially compared to the amazing gig at Heaven earlier in the year. I needn't have worried though. There was some confusion about the support act. Twitter suggested it was some girl from Bedford, but it turned out to be a band called A Classic Education that the internet said were from Bologna but confused us at the time by having a Canadian singer. They were alright, but couldn't really take my mind off how smelly the venue was. We could smell the vomit halfway there from Kings Cross. And the sweatiness was quite something too. It was a blessed relief when someone farted.

The Okkervil River set was similar to other recent ones, though we got "Ends With A Fall" which I'd never seen and a jaw dropping slow quiet version of "No Key, No Plan". I've gone on about them enough before. They must be in the top few bands in the world at the moment.

I played keys for Annie at The Cornerhouse in Cambridge on Sunday and the Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday, and both were good fun. The journey to Norwich was one of the more annoying journeys I've ever been involved in though. I called a cab with plenty of time, only for it to take 25 minutes to turn up, leaving just enough time to get to the station for our train, only for the driver to refuse to take my keyboard, meaning that we had to get a second taxi and a non-direct train, leading to a lot of time sitting in the cold on Ely station waiting for the second half of it to not turn up before being given about 30 seconds warning by the announcer that the direct train an hour after the one we'd been aiming for in the first place was about to show up on the other side of the station. The annoyance didn't end there. I'd carefully chosen a hotel about 5 minutes walk from the venue, and planned the green route on the map below in my head. We were about to go down the correct left turn when we asked a local just to make sure. Who said "hmm... the arts centre eh? Let me see...* you've got a ways to go yet... easiest to follow this road here round, then turn left at Tesco and then maybe ask someone else..."

*every single person we asked said "the arts centre eh? let me see...". Not very comforting.


I've marked the route we ended up taking in red. I've marked in blue places where we asked people for directions. I've marked in orange the spot where we were when it started raining moderately heavily. I've marked in pink the shop that used to be a Tesco but isn't any more. I've marked in brown the place where the rain reached monsoon proportions. I've marked in yellow the one person who told us the right way. It's nice that people try and help, but it'd be much better if they'd not if they aren't sure. Or at least give you some kind of estimate accuracy rating. My keyboard is really heavy. I'm going to be ripped if this sort of thing keeps happening.

Anyway, having spent 15 minutes of so rubbing myself up against the hand drier all was good. I've played in the bar there but never been in the big room - it's a lovely old converted church with a great sound, and really friendly staff. We were supporting Juan Zelada who I'd not heard of before. The recorded stuff isn't really my cup of tea, but live it was a lot of fun. The tightest band I've seen in ages (the guitar player did almost the whole gig with 5 strings) and he's quite the showman.

I did my first solo gig in London for what I reckon must be the best part of 2 years on Wednesday night, at the Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston (which is only distinguishable from the outside as not being someone's house from a tiny SJQ above the door). Incredibly, of the 4 acts that were confirmed as playing at 4 that afternoon, I was the only one who ended up doing so. 2 dropped out with a couple of hours to go, and one walked out after a long soundcheck, having realised that there weren't going to be (m)any people watching. I've never seen that before. No way to behave really. It's good to know my knack for being the act that turns a hitherto successful club into a bit of a disaster just by being on the bill is still working well. Places should offer me protection money to not come and play. Or just not book me. Oh... Roll on tonight's gig at The Living Room in Cambridge! Anyway, it was a lovely room, the sound was brilliant, I felt like I played really well and the handful of people that did come were very nice. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, Magnetic or Rhetorical, Muscle Memory, A Happy Ending, Soaked to the Skin, Phosphorus Burn (awkward encore). Steve (AKA Blabbermouth) who was the host of the night did a few songs and, unusually in my experience, was brilliant. Really good stuff. I was a bit taken aback.

I'm not sure the sign they had outside was the best choice of words though - to me it implies the presence of flutes.

The last of the moon horses

20 Nov 2011

I recently tried to figure out how many times I've seen Steve Earle play. I've counted up at least 12, but I don't think that can be it. There are probably a couple of Shepherd's Bush Empire shows that I've missed. The last time was two weeks ago today at the Corn Exchange for the first band tour I've made it to for several years (the name of which has been expanded to Steve Earle The Dukes and Duchesses which I'm not convinced I approve of - seems a bit unneccessary to make it a mouthful just because there are some women in the band). There was no support and the show started at 7.30 (I wish it was easier to find out exactly when things start - tickets always say 7 on them and it can mean anything from 7.30 to 9) so we missed the first song, but I didn't know it. Not that that makes it ok but I'd have been upset if it was one of the classics. The Corn Exchange had, incredibly, run out of pint glasses before the doors even opened, so I had several halves. I don't really know how to explain it, but Steve Earle is The Real Thing in a way that people don't often seem to be these days. There were spine tingles aplenty but it was really great to hear Johnny Come Lately because it seemed to have disappeared. Maybe the tin whistle playing tour manager from years gone by has retired. The only weaker patches of the show were when he let the members of the band (Allison Moorer, The Mastersons and long time bass player Kelly Looney, who is starting to look a lot like late Lady Jane era Lovejoy Dudley Sutton) take turns at singing songs. None of them fared well in comparison. But then I guess they were never going to. Steve Earle has got to be one of the most charismatic performers in the world. I'm not going to turn down any more chances to see him.

In comparison I've hardly ever seen MJ Hibbett (only twice before) but his gig at The Portland last week was just as enjoyable (albeit in a slightly different way). He opened up with a short set of his charming, positive songs (though not my favourite, "It only works because you're here" which made me slightly tear up at work the other day), then his friend Steve joined him on stage for "Moon Horse Vs The Mars Men of Jupiter" - a 2 man 50 minute rock opera about a magical horse and a spaceman who defend the earth against various evils from a base on the moon. That's either a lot more entertaining than it sounds or exactly as entertaining as it sounds, depending on how entertaining you think it sounds. It was very silly and a little studenty, but the jokes were clever and I've not laughed as much for a while. Probably since I saw The Inbetweeners film, which is either a lot more entertaining than it sounds or exactly as entertaining as it sounds, depending on how entertaining you think it sounds.

I did my first amplified gig for about 6 months on Saturday at The Beach Sessions a nice new night at in Waterbeach, a small village a few miles up the river. Annie did a couple of songs to start with and then it was me. The crowd were nice and quiet and I thought I sounded pretty good considering how little I've been playing. The room was really atmospheric (especially considering how it is when there aren't gigs in it), with fairy lights and the translucent torso of a female shop dummy with a bulb inside making it so the sound man could see. My phone isn't good enough at taking pictures to do it justice. The headline band were Straw Bear who all lived in Ely a couple of years ago and now all don't live in Ely. They made me think a bit of late 90's indie acts like David Devant or The Divine Comedy, but I don't really know if that's accurate because I can't really remember what those guys sounded like. They were great anyway. And one of the guitarists had an ebow and those things are cool. Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway (I tried the harmonica again - not as bad this time), Edinburgh, Muscle Memory, Grateful Smile, Soaked to the Skin, break for birthday cake (it was my birthday - they got me a cake - nice!), You Won't Break My Heart. I've got a couple more solo things and a few gigs playing with Annie in the next few weeks, so hopefully I'll get some momentum just in time to lose it all over Christmas.

Jacqui and Geoff did apparently read the last exciting instalment (googling their own names again I bet) and put the video up of my favourite of theirs. Here it is. I particularly love the "it's not your paint you're wasting it's mine" line.


8 Nov 2011

It feels like it's been pretty much non-stop since getting back from New York (which other than one big high, wasn't the best time) though I'm not sure exactly what's happened. My absence from Cambridge United games since the season started has resulted in them having a much better season than expected. I heard at the Folk Club the other day that people have been talking about me not being there. Weird.

I played keys for Annie at a small gig last week, which was fun - it's been a long time since my keyboard got out of the house. The case was actually in the loft. I'd forgotten how incredibly heavy it all is. I think I'm going to be remembering on a semi-regular basis for a while, which will be nice, and tiring.

I went to see Jacqui and Geoff at The Cornerhouse about a week ago, and really enjoyed it, as I always seem to. Here's a video of one of the more comedy songs, but my favourite is still the one about the kid who steals his dad's paint for the purposes of graffiti. Put that up guys, should you ever read this.

I remembered one of the earlier acts from when he was fairly mean to me the very first time I ever played. It's interesting to see that neither of us went anywhere over the years. On the plus side, at least I don't play a keyboard with a massive banner with my own face and a keyboard on it. One of the less endearing stage set ups I've seen.

Various little music things have happened. A few bits of radio play in various far flung places, and Scotland, a couple of interviews (see the press section if you're interested) though I've not noticed any benefit. The internet is too crowded. A country music station in Holland has me in their artist of the month poll, which is confusing but nice. I'm not sure what the winner gets other than entered into the artist of the year poll. It doesn't look like huge armies of people are voting, so if you feel like helping me out go to the starliners network and click on Indie Awards.

Not the most exciting of entries. I'll try harder next time. Steve Earle tomorrow! With a band! Just seen them on Jools Holland and they didn't manage to make them sound as bad as they normally make people sound (God I hate Jools Holland). And he still has the same bass player as he did when I saw him at Shepherd's Bush in 1996. There's something really comforting about that. 

I walk through the rain with my second hand suit on

15 Oct 2011

I played my first reasonable length gig for ages the other night at my old friends' Dave and John's acoustic night at a cafe in Cambridge. I had a really nice time and the audience were pretty appreciative, though nobody bought anything. I miss the days when people would buy things. The change seemed to coincide with me getting a lot of CDs made rather than burning them as I needed them. There was one lovely moment during You Won't Break My Heart when a bottle nosily fell over, and I shrugged it off, only for another bottle to fall over 10 seconds later. I wish I'd changed the words to "you won't break my glass". I think there might be video... Setlist: The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past, Watertight, This Place is Dead Anyway (featuring the harmonica for the first time live. It's been a long time since I tried it, and might be a while again...) A Folly or a Fortress (with Annie singing the harmony very nicely), You Won't Break My Heart, Edinburgh. I really miss playing.

So, despite the fact that I'm off to New York today, and hadn't packed, and work was incredibly busy with something that needed to get done before I left, I've been to gigs on both of the last two nights. My schedule would've been slightly less stressful if I wasn't having to spend an extra 45 minutes a day walking because some little shite nicked my bike on Tuesday lunchtime. I've not had it long (I'd been borrowing it for a while but only paid for it this weekend!) but it's surprising how dependent you become. I've lived in Cambridge for a long time now and peole are always saying bike crime is rife, but I've never experienced any until now. I was bringing it out of my side gate and left it at the back of my (not that small) front garden while I bolted the gate from and went out of the front door. As I came out of the front door I noticed a kerfuffle at the end of my drive as a scummy looking kid in a green T shirt and presumably an earring nearly cycled into a woman, but what I wasn't quite out of my house quickly enough to see was that he'd come out of the drive with my bike. He was most of the way down the street before I realised what had happened, and I made a half arsed attempt at running after, but couldn't catch him. The bike must've been there for all of 30 seconds and he must have seen me leave it there. Only kids would be that cheeky. Anyway if anyone in Cambridge sees a kid with the face of a 50 year old riding a black bike with Claude Butler written on it in red and white, kick him. And take my bike back.

Anyway, on Wednesday a bunch of us went to The Junction to see Emmy The Great, who seems to be riding on a wave of critical acclaim for her new album, which I like, but, as is often the way, not as much as the one before the journalists all jumped on the bandwagon (c.f. Regina Spektor, Okkervil River, Bon Iver). We got a cheeky Nando's beforehand, just because it's there really, and took our seats (seriously, what's with all the seated gigs these days - I'm going to see Steve Earle and The Dukes (and Duchesses) in November and that's seated too. Stuff sounds less good sitting down) just in time for the opening act Stealing Sheep, who were pretty enthralling at the time. 3 girls singing spooky ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh aah-aah-aah-aah harmonies with spooky creeping skeleton keyboards and spooky reverby tremelo bar-tastic guitar and a spooky standing up drumkit that could've been a cauldron. I enjoyed it, but I don't remember any individual songs especially.

Emmy the Great's set was mostly from the new album, or even newer, or a fun cover of Island in the Sun by Weezer - I think there were 3 off the first and one really old song (Canopies and Drapes), but we got MIA so I was happy really. Absentee would've been nice, but I guess you have to promote the latest stuff. The band weren't quite as tight as you might expect (a couple of the songs went distinctly wobbly especially Trellick Tower, which is wonderful on the record) but it didn't matter mostly and watching them did make me really want to be in a band that gets to travel round playing every night and apologising each time for being hungover. There was an old style double decker London bus out the back of The Junction. I wonder if it was theirs.

Last night was Withered Hand at my favourite venue in London, The Borderline. It was nice to see they've put the historical records of who played there in the 90's back on the walls as you go down the stairs. March-April 1993 was ridiculous. First act, The Kittens were charming in a ramshackle way and are the only band I've ever seen with 2 harmoniums (harmonia?). One harmonium would've probably done. My friend was convinced that they also featured the soundman from the previous night. I was convinced that Dougie Anderson off Fighting Talk and the telly was in the crowd, and a bit of Twitter stalking proved me right, so maybe he was right about the soundman too. I didn't really understand what was good about the second act, Rozi Plain, though some of the more energetic drumming was fun, but I wasn't as damning as a guy at the bar who said he'd never seen a gents toilet get so crowded so quickly. Nice. Withered Hand was (were? - I can never tell with these solo act takes another name then enlists backing musicians style acts) even better than I'd hoped. He has a, er, charmingly reaching voice and on the record it sounds like it might be a little weak in a live setting, but it really wasn't. The band were great too, with banjo, violin, mandolin and cello all making appearances. It's been a while since I've been at something where Darren Hayman randomly popped up, but he stood in for a few new songs playing a tiny bass guitar. They were a lot noisier and (I suspect) a lot less rehearsed than the older material, but sounded pretty promising. I had an awkward time afterwards buying a T shirt, because the one I wanted on the table (that I thought was white bt isn't) said "for ladies" on the label so I wanted to check it was a men's one. Then they only had them in small, but they were from America so the size only refers to how wide the neck hole is. Good times.

Folk that

16 Sep 2011

Last month I went to the Cambridge Folk Festival for the first time in half a decade. I can't believe it's been that long. It didn't seem to have changed a great deal, though I think maybe it was even more crowded than I remembered. There was a new little stage too, but I didn't really get to go there. In fact, I didn't really spend as much time at the festival in general as I thought I would. Justin Townes Earle was good on the Friday afternoon, and Frank Turner sounded as uplifting as ever, though you couldn't get near him. I'm definitely going to see him next time he's in town.

On Saturday I got there nice and early and signed up to play a 3 song set in the early evening. The queue was a mix of quite young and quite old and nobody really in between (present company excepted) and was pretty jovial. I went home for a rest when we were all signed up as there was a big gap before the music started and didn't really get back in until shortly before I had to be backstage. I did "The Ghost of Paddy's Night Past", "Watertight" and "Magnetic or Rhetorical" to general indifference, but I was up against Richard Thompson, so there was only ever going to be one winner there. I saw the last half hour or so of his set, and he really is quite incredibly good at playing the guitar. It sounded like there were about 3 of him a lot of the time. The oddest moment of the weekend was during his encore when he wheeled out Stephen Mangan from Green Wing to join in with "Who Knows Where The Time Goes". He was ok!



I was curious to see Pentangle, as my dad had the records (though I never listened to them) but after about 30 seconds it became apparent that they were totally out of their depth.  The sound was awful, the singing weak, the playing tentative. It was like watching one of the X Factor auditions that are put in for comedy value. It still makes me sad thinking about it now.

The rest of the evening was mostly spent wandering round. The Spooky Men's Chorale were apparently really great but were too quiet to hear from outside the tent, and I got to see a bit of Raul Malo, so he's another one put on and ticked off The List in quick succession.

Sunday was mostly spent around the second stage, which was never less than pleasant, though nobody really stood out as being great. I can't remember the names of the modern folky woman, and the modern folky man who went after her (he might have been married to Kate Rusby) but I'm sure you can imagine what they sounded like. Smooth voices, songs about mountains, songs about being a fisherman, occasional bagpipes (I might have imagined the bagpipes). I was quite interested to hear Caitlin Rose having been a bit underwhelmed at The End of the Road last year, but the same thing happened again. Perfectly good straightforward rocky country, but I don't understand the fuss. Her band had played an impromptu set in the beer tent the day and that was much more energetic. Presumably she was still infinitely better than Rumer was on the main stage at the same time though.


Villagers were also nice but not as jaw-dropping as you'd think given the amount of hype (though I have heard the album, so god knows what I was expecting)


and we went off to the main stage after a few songs to watch Femi Kuti, who was both brilliant fun and charming. There is something to be said for having enough people on stage that you have to count how many there are rather than just knowing by looking and I think that might have been true of his brass section alone. It's the kind of thing there is absolutely no way I'd ever go and see off my own back so I'm pleased that I got to experience it. One of the great things about festivals I guess.



The highlight of the whole weekend for me was Mary Chapin Carpenter. She was a bit of a guilty pleasure in my mid-nineties-liking-country-music-ahead-of-the-curve-and-then-going-off-it-just-when-it-became-cool phase but hadn't really thought about her for years, and never imagined I'd get around to seeing her. She started off the set with her capo in the wrong place but after that it was flawless and she played a lot of my favourites ("Stones in the Road", "The Hard Way", but not "He Thinks He'll Keep Her", which is my absolute favourite of hers). It was good to see some of the guys who used to be in her CMT videos are still around. The piano playing was really something too.


We didn't hang on for Laura Marling, which I slightly regret as I was hoping I might finally understand what's so good about her, but not to worry. I had a good weekend and hopefully it won't be another 5 years before I go to the Folk Festival again. They could do with not letting so many people in though I think.

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