Saturday, 25 June 2011

New material evening

Last night we tried out some new plays at our regular venue, CB2 in Cambridge. Was good fun, very eye-opening, but also what I expected; some of it didn't work at all, some of it really did, I'm happy enough. 'Trying To Like Greg' was a little too wordy at times - I think it will work as a radio piece if I ever find the time, but still not sure. It was saved by some brilliant acting by Emma Spearing - she put everything into it, she probably made it look better than the script ever was to be honest. 'How About You?' - the play I had the highest hopes for, really worked a treat. Yes, so it's still very much a first draft, but it's got a nice tempo to it. The thing that annoys me though is that it's a very 'standard' Paul Richards play - awkward young man, gets confused by the crazy world around him, gets disoriented, falls in love, gets rejected, has a happy ending...maybe I am getting a bit samey, or maybe I've just got a style and I should just accept that's who I am as a writer? It's probably no coincidence that it was the first play I've written since Oscar Pike, and there are strong similarities (especially because both myself and Izzy were in it), but equally it's still an original piece and some of my better lines in there too. I think we'll take that one to the Lodestar Festival, it's probably one of the best things I've written in a while. The final piece, 'Some Kind Of Family Business' worked on paper - it's a nice concept, but it didn't work at all last night. This could be because I was playing the lead - a gangster, and as we all know I can only play myself and this was a step too far. It just seemed too dark (it's about office gangsters, there's a shooting, there's a slightly predictable punchline), my mate Andy Higson thought it was the best piece of the evening but he was very much in the minority, as much as I appreciate his compliments. I think the real problem was that it was one joke stretched out for half an hour. Not sure, but glad we performed it anyway just I know that it's not a goer for the future.

It was a good evening I thought, even though it was just a new material session we had a good crowd in, and it was a long old show (well over 2 hours) but they stuck with it, very supportive and I'm very grateful. After the plays Andy tried out ten minutes of new stand-up comedy which went down (deservedly) well, and Aidy tried out some new songs, both of which sounded great, before ending on his own anthem, 'Fuck Like A Washing Machine'. I'm also very grateful to be working with such brilliant actors, it's a big ask to get quality talent in to perform material they've only read for the first time an hour and half before the show, but Emma, Izzy, Kimberly, Vaughan and Steve did me proud.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Gig report: Aidy @ The Cornerhouse, Cambridge

Band: Aidy (duo set)
Venue: The Cornerhouse, Cambridge
Date: 23/06/11
Audience: A nice small crowd, mostly the other band
Set: Not sure, some new stuff in there, and a cover of 'Novocaine For The Soul'. As with most recent gigs we opened with 'Make It Happen' and ended on 'Washing Machine'
Notes: We took on this gig at a couple day's notice, as a favour to Jo the venue manager who was stuck for an act, Jo does a lot for all bands around here to returning the odd favour is the least we could do. Also, it worked out well as I had a rare free evening, and we've got the tour kicking off in just over a week's time, so any opportunity to play and get in shape is welcome. We were supposed to be doing this one as a trio, but we had to go on later than planned thus meaning Dave our bassist had to leave and go to work to run his tuck shop, we got a soundcheck out of him at least. Aidy tried to convince the crowd that Dave had an overdose and was in the toilets, they didn't seem to believe him though. The gig itself was good fun, I thought playing the same venue I've played at a million times on a week night would be soul destroying, but there was a lively feel to it, Aidy was in good voice tonight, tried out some songs we don't normally play, the Eels cover was good fun, it was nice and edgy and the crowd took to us well. Before our set, and before Dave had to leave, we worked out some logistics of the forthcoming tour - accommodation, food, promotion, that kind of thing, and suddenly I'm feeling very excited about it. It really could be fantastic or disastrous, but I know that in Aidy and Dave I have good touring buddies, we all seem to have the same mindset and goals. At best we'll play to big crowds and get these tunes to a wider audience, at worse we'll play to a small crowd, get drunk a bit and enjoy ourselves in a different city every night. It's a win-win, really.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Recording with The Prisoner Of Mars

Had the pleasure of once again recording with The Prisoner Of Mars (aka Bryan Shore) this evening - popped by for a quick hour after work and managed to play congas on six tracks. I love artistic freedom, I appreciate the need for structure, but sometimes it's good to let loose, and it really works with these songs. This is for the fourth Prisoner Of Mars album, the third collection of original tunes, and the second one I've appeared on. From what I've heard this is his most adventurous offering to date, very much looking forward to hearing the results. Got back from recording, ate some pizza, had a shower then finished all the script material for Friday. I've taken on a lot, but I reckon it's all coming together rather nicely.

Aidy tour poster

I like this.

Gig report: Flaming June @ Cambridge105 Radio

Band: Flaming June
Venue: Cambridge105 Radio, Cambridge
Date: 21/06/11
Audience: It's a radio gig, I have no idea
Set: Nerves Of Steel, Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade, The Boy I Knew Before I Met You
Notes: I liked this one, Cambridge105 is a new station for the area but seems impeccably well organised from it's modest studio, confidently run and with a real sense of friendliness about the whole thing. We were in and out pretty quickly (which is perfect for me - I love gigging, but the waiting around kills me...), played well, I got a bit over-excited on the last track and overplayed it a touch but nobody would have noticed, that was a nice and easy bit of exposure ahead of the forthcoming EP release. Lovely.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

New material, old material, lots of gigs

It rained yesterday and I liked that a lot, this hot weather has a knack of slowing me down. Anyway, it hasn't slowed me down too much because these have been a busy few weeks, so now when I finally get a chance to a have a weekend in which I'm doing very little (apart from a friend's leaving drinks last night, reviewing a gig tonight, being a good son for Father's Day and finishing new script material for next week) I feel a little restless. I'm enjoying myself though, I think. The last few weeks have seen me play a good few gigs (gig 'reports' below, but in short I didn't really enjoy any of the Cambridge shows, but the out of town stuff has been brilliant), the Oscar Pike performances at the ADC which I still feel was a little under par on my behalf (but well received all the same, in Edinburgh we'll do alright I think), do some record label work (Tom Tilbury's excellent album, 'Skull Island' is now available on Cracking Tunes, Jon Orchard's debut is next) and lots and lots of new writing, both by myself and also with Rich Conway.

At very short notice, I've agreed to put on an evening of new material next Friday in Cambridge - my mate had the venue booked and realised he couldn't fulfil it, so instead of cancelling I excitedly agreed to take the space instead and try out some new material. Perhaps, given that my new material is so very new it's not suitable for public consumption just yet, this was a foolish move, but it's deadlines such as these that keep me working and I'm pretty happy with some of the stuff I've been coming up with recently. Next Friday we'll be trying out three new plays, well - hopefully three - just need to re-write one of them this weekend, and having spent so much time on the Oscar Pike script, re-writing, learning etc it feels nice to get some new material out there. My favourite piece is a play called 'How About You?' - yes okay, so it's a typical Paul Richards romantic comedy set at a party, but I'm really happy with the touching conclusion, ending plays has always been a struggle, but this one feels very satisfying. The other two pieces are both scripts I've had for a long time but never really pushed through, but a re-write or two later and I think they're both so outrageously different I'd like to give them a run-out. They're called 'Trying To Like Joanne' and 'Some Kind Of Family Business' by the way. Just need to confirm a couple more actors now - Izzy, Clare and Kimberly all replied really quickly and I really appreciated that, but no male actors so far, and the last thing I want is for me to be up there again...

The whole writing process still confuses me somewhat though, which considering I've written countless plays over the yeara is probably an odd statement. But I've had this idea for what could be my best ever project for ages now, it's called 'Your Magnificent Flaws', and even last night - whilst at drinks with friends, I felt the need to leave early to get home and add some more dialogue to it. But as it stands it's a pile of rubbish, which is a shame, but maybe like two of the three plays I've got going on next week in time it'll grow into something.

The next few weeks or so look particularly manic - next week I've got a radio gig with Flaming June, recording congas for Bryan Shore, recording a podcast with comedian Andy Higson and then the new material night. After that, in between intense rehearsals for plays, and with the Dowsing For Sound band/choir, there's a festival with Flaming June followed by a week-long tour of the UK with Aidy, then my other new play - 'Probably The Greatest Goal Ever Scored' gets it's first airing by WriteOn at the ADC Theatre Bar, then it's the Secret Garden Party, then we start filming our YouTube series - 'Some Plays By Paul Richards' (to be filmed by the excellent Emily Blickem), there's a massive gig with Dowsing For Sound, and then suddenly it's August, where I return to my role of Oscar Pike for the Edinburgh Fringe. In between that there's other gigs, and everything needs rehearsing, and I still need to write the musical for September's Lodestar Festival, it's titled 'Relationships, Eh?' - but at some point there needs to be more than a title. Anyway, back to trying to relax, not that I'm clearly any good at that.

Currently listening to: Bill Wells/Aidan Moffat - Everything's Getting Older, Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous, Joe Jackson - Live Music
Currently reading: Nothing at the moment as my head has too much going on already, but I'll get back to the Dawn French book at some point
Currently watching: Family Guy, Friday Night Dinner (on 40D), and underrated sitcom, Coupling, whilst on my exercise bike
Currently eating: Junk food, I need to get my diet in shape soon
Currently missing: The football season

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge

Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: The Portland Arms, Cambridge
Date: 14/06/11
Audience: Small-ish but very nice
Set: Not sure - opened with All Alone, ended with Heroes Fall, about 5 songs in the middle
Notes: As I walked off tonight I said 'that was horrible', but I think that was probably an over reaction. There was a lot of nice things about tonight, hanging out with my Eureka chums beforehand is always nice, this is what I like about being in a band sometimes. It was also nice to proper rock out - having done lots of acoustic things recently (including the Strawberry Fair with Eureka Stockade which was a quieter one) it was nice to hit those drums hard. Having been about for a couple years now we've built a nice set, so a half an hour support slot sees us being able to pick and choose rather than play everything we know, so we played our rockier set tonight - 'Violence' (still our most popular single) and 'Erotomania' thrown in ahead of the ballad-ee material. That was probably why we weren't the tightest tonight though, as we've not played those songs in what feels like ages, so it was a bit of a rough one, but the crowd seemed to respond well anyway. The 'horrible' feeling though was just from the heat, it was ridiculously hot up there tonight, that felt like a proper work out.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Gig report: Trevor Jones Band @ The Water Rats Theatre, London

Band: Trevor Jones Band
Venue: The Water Rats Theatre, London
Date: 11/06/11
Audience: Scattered but enough of them to make us feel appreciated
Set: All I Am, Badman, Shine A Light, I Don't Wanna Talk About It, Alive, Roll On The Rain, She Was Me, Old Fashioned Woman, Falling
Notes: Well that was better. None of us really enjoyed Friday's gig, but we all came out of Saturday's show absolutely buzzing. The Water Rats is a lovely venue - small but extremely friendly. We were the first on, at the very early time of 7.15pm, but it didn't seem to matter as we had a good crowd, the best the Trevor Jones Band has had I think, they seemed really into it. It was just a lovely show, the sound on and off stage was top notch, the sound men extremely complimentary and patient, the house kit was tuned perfectly, and we were really in the zone throughout. It's the first time we've played 'Shine A Light' at the correct speed, whilst 'Alive' - often the favourite track of the night anyway - was proper fiery with the sharpest, tightest ending yet. I'd even go as far as to say that was probably the best I've ever played, ever, on stage. That's possibly not true, but it felt like it last night. Got drunk afterwards, watched the outstanding Koasound (who we supported in London a few weeks back) and made some really good contacts. More gigs like that, please.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Gig report: Trevor Jones Band @ The Haymakers, Cambridge

Band: Trevor Jones Band
Venue: The Haymakers, Cambridge
Date: 10/06/11
Audience: Minimal, polite
Set: All I Am, Badman, Shine A Light, I Don't Wanna Talk About It, Alive, Roll On The Rain, She Was Me, Old Fashioned Woman, Falling
Notes: Our third gig as Trevor Jones Band, I've got mixed feelings about tonight. I shouldn't let the lack of audience get to me, but it's the third gig in a row where our crowd has barely met double figures. A lot of people, friends, promised they'd make tonight's gig because it was being filmed by some professional cameramen and it's kind of essential for promotional material to have a good crowd whooping and all that. I know people have lives, and I know I do a lot of gigs and theatre stuff, and I know I can't rely on people because as a band you can't always depend on your friends to be the audience, but apart from Rich, Jack, Ken and James the audience was the other bands. I feel sorry for the venue - it's a wonderful venue run by a fantastic team, and seeing it this empty annoys me...don't people go to gigs anymore? Have all of my friends actually grown up into a world of Friday night television and cosiness? As I say though, it shouldn't be about the audience, it's about the music, and we were tighter than ever tonight - we're a good band you know, really sharp, and tonight was probably the best we've played so far. The banter afterwards kind of made it worthwhile, I love this bunch of people. But as a gig it was soul destroying. London gig tomorrow, which will probably be exactly the same situation, only with the inconvenience of having to travel to do it.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Gig report: Flaming June @ Stowfest, Stowmarket

Band: Flaming June
Venue: Stowfest Festival, Stowmarket
Date: 05/06/2011
Audience: Lots of them, a lot of kids
Set: Rejoice, Under My Skin, You Do Moody So Well, Rumplestiltskin, Nerves Of Steel, I Know What It's Like (no drums), Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade, Stop The Ride, Wednesday's And Weekends
Notes: Of all the festivals I've done recently this certainly has to be one of the friendliest. A family day out really, but meticulously well organised with two stages running well together and a really nice vibe to it. Because of the nature of the audience we couldn't play 'The Wizard', but other than that it was typical fiery Flaming June doing what we do best. Having not played percussion for a while as I've been back on the drums recently, my hands hurt a little after a couple songs but by the end of the set they'd toughened up again. We played well today, we generally always do - FJ are a very consistent band, although if I'd known there was going to be so many photographers I would have warn a nicer t-shirt. All in all a good day, good sound, good crowd, relatively easy drive home too.

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ Strawberry Fair Festival, Cambridge

Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: Strawberry Fair Festival, Cambridge
Date: 04/06/2011
Audience: Packed, friendly
Set: She Got Good, All Alone, Without You, I've Been There Before, Caught In The Fire, Resistance, Through Every Darkness
Notes: Having had a year off, the Strawberry Fair returned this year and we were lucky enough to be offered a slot in the acoustic tent. It started off feeling like it was going to be hard work, the whole festival is pretty big and very busy so access with cars is a bit tricky. As a result having to carry my hardware, snare, cymbals, bass pedal and sticks from the nearby multistory across the site was a struggle and I felt knackered before the gig even started, probably also because it was scorching hot and sweaty summer's day. But a pint and a chance to watch a bit of the lovely Fred's House later and I felt refreshed and we played okay I think. To be honest we couldn't hear too much on stage, such is the nature of festival gigs generally, so I'm not sure how we sounded, but there was a nice big crowd and they all seemed to appreciate what we do. As like the previous last few gigs the new material, 'I've Been There Before' and 'Caught In The Fire' seemed to go down particularly well, and we managed to give out plenty of copies of our new single, 'Without You' so it was a worthwhile experience. I was a bit 'cave man' in my own playing I reckon, a bit too bashy and less off the trickery, but some gigs you just have to hit things a bit harder and it seemed to work. It was also great to have Dave Greeves (from Paul Goodwin's band) join us on steel guitar, he's a fantastic musician and we're looking forward to recording with him again later this year.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Gig report: Aidy/Trevor Jones Band @ The Cornerhouse, Cambridge

Bands: Aidy, Trevor Jones Band
Venue: The Cornerhouse, Cambridge
Date: 03/06/11
Audience: Minimal, enthusiastic
Set: Aidy - not sure (opened with 'Make It Happen' ended with 'Washing Machine', with about 4 songs in the middle), Trevor Jones Band - All I Am, Badman, Shine A Light, I Don't Wanna Talk About It, Alive, Roll On The Rain, She Was Me, Old Fashioned Woman, Falling
Notes: This gig was initially booked by Trevor as another chance for the recently formed band to get some gig experience, ahead of next Friday's filmed gig (for promotional purposes) and next Saturday's London gig (which is also being filmed by some Canadian TV company or something). Short on an act, Aidy stepped in at reasonably short notice, complete with Dave the bassist and myself on drums. It was a modest affair, none of us really advertised it, it was incredibly warm outside so why anyone would want to come in to a heaving pub is beyond me no matter how good the beer, food and music is, but we had a few in tonight. A nice easy show that, as a trio it's probably the best we've played Aidy's songs - sometimes we're a little too ramshackle for our own good, but tonight I felt we were really in good shape and when they work like this it's a reminder that they are really great tunes - witty lyrics, punchy, unpredictable, he won a few new fans tonight like he always does, and rightly so. That was followed very quickly by Trevor Jones Band - I'm pretty sure it was the same set as last week's London gig but we keep on finding more intricacies within the music and it just gets better every time, we're really starting to sound like a proper band, it's a big sound, it was very well received and rightly so. A nice gig, that was, I've got two more this weekend (tomorrow with Eureka Stockade, Sunday with Flaming June), if they're as good as that one I'll be happy enough.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Oscar Pike - show 4

I can barely keep my eyes open so I'll keep this brief. That was hard work tonight, but we did it. My expectations changed from last night where I wanted us to do the 'best show ever' to simply 'getting through it' when I woke up this morning feeling sick, dizzy and lacking in a throat. During the course of the day I drank 8 bottles of water and a litre of orange juice and by the end of the working day I was communicating freely again and knew the show was a goer. I coughed a lot on stage tonight, but still got the show done - in fact my over eagerness to keep the pace up lead to me really rushing things, my monologue about 'everything I hate about working here' was so fast I think it was lost on most people. Michelle reckoned last night's performance was better, I disagree and thought tonight was marginally stronger, either way they're fairly close. The audience seemed to laugh more tonight, but that's probably not a reflection of the performance, as much as I probably wanted it to be. Feel sad that I was too ill to even make the post-show drinks with the wonderful team, all of whom I respect enormously. Mustn't grumble - fourth performance of Oscar Pike, fourth sellout, so we must be doing something right. I guess my desire for perfection in myself though will have to wait until August when we hit Edinburgh.