Friday, 30 September 2011

Gig report: Flaming June @ The Missing Sock, Stow-Cum-Quy

Band: Flaming June
Venue: The Missing Sock, Stow-Cum-Quy
Date: 30/09/11
Audience: Small, but very nice
Set: Rejoice, Under My Skin, You Do Moody So Well, Nerves Of Steel, I Know What It's Like, The Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade, The Devil's Daughter, Stop The Ride, Rumplestiltskin, Little Love In A Cruel World, Wednesday's And Weekends
Notes: One of the quirkiest venues I've played, The Missing Sock is a restaurant oozing with character - the venue even has it's own bus outside. It's been the hottest whatever since whatever (I'm rubbish with actual facts) so a lot of people ate outside, and we played inside, so not the biggest audience but equally more people seemed to hear us than we could see as after every song there was audible applause from other parts of the restaurant. I enjoyed this, we played well, I liked having two congas again rather than one (I've been a bit lazy recently), the set was the perfect length, and a general feeling that we went down well. They gave us very nice food after the set and I was home by 10pm, lovely.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

New projects, and the first glimmers of Christmas

It's been a while since I've updated this properly (apart from the regular gig reports), but I'm now feeling a renewed sense of creativity after the inevitable post-Edinburgh/tour/Lodestar slump. Gig-wise things have been reasonably busy, I keep telling myself to perhaps free up some time and lose a band or two but every time I play live I genuinely enjoy myself too much and it would be impossible to let go of any of these projects. I do wonder though where the time will come from though for my new ventures, and there's a few exciting things in the pipeline.

On Friday evening I went for a particularly brilliant meeting with my mate Jon, I really can't say much more but in short I've accepted a business offer for an idea that could grow into something really rather special - both creatively and financially, it's a wonderful prospect and I'm flattered I've been approached to be a part of this. It does mean a fair bit of work though to be done by the end of January, I know I write quickly but this involves a lot of writing, but if certain industry types sign up (and there's a good chance they will by the sounds of things) this could really be the making of all of us. We'll see though, in the meantime though I'd best get the Red Bull lined up as manic times are ahead.

Last weekend I drove down to Bristol to meet up with Grace, an actress I met here in Cambridge a few months back when she took the lead in my short play, 'Probably The Greatest Goal Ever Scored' that was put on by WriteOn at the ADC theatre. I knew then that I wanted to write more for her - there's an energy about her that makes it very easy for a playwright, and her timing is spot on. We discussed lots of ideas, she initially called to suggest meeting up because she has ideas of forming a film production company (with her brothers and myself in mind), so we chatted about this in great detail and there's a real possibility something creatively adventurous will come out of this. We also went over various film and radio ideas I've had brewing for a while now and we instantly clicked on several of them, just from the initial plot suggestions she was suggesting great things and the more we discussed the more we realised we have much in common (both big admirers of the amazing sitcom 'Him & Her', the love of Christmas etc) so when she's back in Cambs next month we'll get straight down to filming, recording, stage shows, whatever we can squeeze in. I started writing a radio sitcom for this new collaboration last week, it's called 'Technically Single', I've bashed out two rough episodes so far and aim to have the other four done within the next few weeks. After that I went to a party with my legendary mate, Matt, who lives in Bristol, it was fancy dress, we got drunk, met some lovely people, I drove back the next day feeling more creative than ever. I've even booked up the cellar of CB2 for a Friday evening in November to try out some new stage material, most of which is far from ready at this stage, and I'm also meeting Izzy (who played 'Maddy' and other characters so wonderfully in our fringe show this year) next week to discuss all things Oscar Pike as she has some ideas for future development. Exciting times, but so much going through my mind it is stopping me get a decent nights sleep, but it'll all be worthwhile I reckon.

Christmas seems to be very much creeping up at the moment, I've co-written a song with The Prisoner Of Mars (also known as Bryan Shore) called 'I Just Want A Happy Holiday' - it sounds lovely now, big Phil Spector-esque production but also very lo-fi at the same time. We'll get a little video made for it and get it out in good time for the festive season, I just need to finish the lyrics for the b-side now. For the last three years I've put on Christmas shows in Cambridge ('On The 12th Day Of Alex', 'A Fairytale Of Bar Hill/Goldilocks And The Beanstalk' and 'Santa Claus And The Unfortunate Allegations/Dawn Palmer Just Wants To Be Lonely This Christmas') but I didn't enjoy last year's much at all and was planning a break. But it's Christmas, and as always, even though I said I wouldn't do another one, I'm so doing another one this year, especially as so many people (admittedly most of them being my regular cast) have asked me about it. I think the key for me here is that it has to be different - the reason why last year's show didn't work for me is because it was all a bit routine, time to push the boat out this time. The ideas are brewing, and it's an excuse to listen to merry tunes in September. There's also a chance that Helen Arney and I will be putting on a stageplay version of our successful yuletide album, 'It's Going To Be An Awkward Christmas, Darling' in December - we'll see, we're just waiting on the availability of our preferred London venue. If not, we've vowed to definitely do it next year. Either way, the mere thought of it excites me a lot. Christmas excites me a lot.

Currently watching: Him & Her - series 1 DVD, Blackadder The Third, Match Of The Day
Currently listening to: Slow Club - Paradise, Ben Folds - Songs For Silverman, the many entries to the Hunts Post song competition
Currently reading: The Masters Of Sitcom - From Hancock To Steptoe (by Christopher Stevens)

Gig report: Aidy @ Trystonbury Festival, Windsor

Band: Aidy
Venue: Trystonbury Festival, Windsor
Date: 24/09/11
Audience: Scattered but nice
Set: Make It Happen, Pain In My Heart, Down Like That, Maybe, God's Front Porch, 22, I Don't Even Know Your Name, Edinburgh, Washing Machine
Notes: Our second trip to the charming Trystonbury Festival after also appearing last year, this year was notable for the fact that it had sold out in advance. I really enjoyed this - nice relaxed vibe; with the age range in the audience from kids to much older adults so it all felt very diverse. I liked the choice of material our set from this one, some of the songs which are newer to me ('Maybe' and 'I Don't Even Know Your Name') feel fresh and have given it all a bit of a kick, although due to the fact that we were enjoying the good weather and company of friends Hodge and Stuart I think we (well, certainly Aidy and myself, Dave had to drive straight back to Cambridge though) were a little drunk on stage. As a result it was perhaps a slightly more raucous performance than normal, but we'd like to think that just added to the energy of it all, as much as I was concerned that the swearing might not be suitable for a family audience at times. We ended the set by joke trashing our equipment really slowly, no idea why or where that idea came from but we enjoyed it and will probably do that again at another gig. In the audience were celebrity couple Rhys Ifans and Anna Friel (both bonafide movie stars), I saw Rhys' foot tapping along to our set so Aidy and I gave him a free CD later on, he was a nice man, very approachable and not at all annoyed by us. I like Trystonbury, I like the fact that during the course of the evening several strangers started conversations with us, and there was some nice random moments such as a woman climbing up a posh rope thingy to very high levels of a tree, and the whole setting is beautiful. I also really appreciated the fact that it's over a small site, so even when I went for a late night wee I didn't get too lost finding my way back. The food was good, and when we'd finished our rider the bar was cheap anyway. On a personal level that was my tenth and final festival of the summer (to play), and I actually think I've enjoyed them all, as much as I don't like waking up the next morning with a stinking hangover in a tent in the middle of nowhere, me and nature generally aren't friends.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Flaming June @ Cambridge 105 Radio

Band: Flaming June
Venue: Cambridge 105 Radio Station
Date: 21/09/11
Audience: No idea
Set: Rejoice, Rumplestiltskin, The Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade, The Devils Daughter
Notes: Well that was an odd one. We (Flaming June) were guests on the 'Acoustic Sofa' programme this evening at Cambridge 105 radio. The show itself ran for an hour and they dedicated a majority of it to us, with four live songs, some chat, and two tracks from the new EP. It's a madcap show, there's an occasional flurry of panic, some of the equipment breaks, there's mobiles ringing during the show...but it's full of such character you can't fail to like this programme, it's so quirky and fast-paced and we were made to feel so welcome. We were without Clare tonight as she was babysitting (well, they're her (and Steve's) children, does that still make it babysitting? Probably makes her just 'mothering' as Louise pointed out) and we missed her - there was something missing in the tunes, even if we tried to compensate for it. But still, tight performance, and alongside all the craziness of the show it was a typical FJ gig really - I get called 'the happiest drummer', Louise breaks a string etc, the usual.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ High Barn, Essex

Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: High Barn, Great Bardfield, Essex
Date: 14/09/11
Audience: About half-full, sat at tables, nice
Set: Through Every Darkness, Resistance, She Got Good, I've Been There Before, Heroes Fall, Sharks, Caught In A Fire, Broken Pieces, Without You, All Alone, Erotomania, Violence
Notes: High Barn is my favourite venue, I know I say that everytime I come back from there but I mean it - it's a crime more people don't know about it. The acoustics are magnificent, the whole high wooden ceiling thing is beautiful, the stage is the perfect size for being both roomy and intimate, the decor is incredible, the smell of the place...ahhh, it's all wonderful. All of these things made it our number one location to record the live album/DVD, headlining with the oustanding (fellow Cambridgeshire band) Willows also playing and recording their set too. This was the 6-piece version of Eureka Stockade and my favourite - with the four of us joined by Anna on cello and Dave on pedal steel guitar. They add so much to the sound and take it away from the standard indie rock format, and they're both lovely people too so it's always a pleasure. This gig was also sadly our last show with Nathan on bass - he's been with the band for a couple years now but has decided to move on to pastures new, but he ended it on a high - this is the best I've heard him play these songs in a long time. All in all a good gig, I'd be concerned if the whole show was released as there may have been a couple less than perfect moments (the ending of 'Caught In A Fire' for example), but when we hit top form - which we did sporadically throughout the performance (I don't think the ballads, 'Broken Pieces' and 'Without You' have ever sounded so good), there is a real sense that we should be showing people these recordings. I await the final mixes with much anticipation, in the meantime just the thought of being sat behind the kit looking at that beautiful venue in all it's glory is enough to keep me happy.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Gig report: Aidy @ The Jolly Brewer, Lincoln

Band: Aidy
Venue: The Jolly Brewer, Lincoln
Date: 10/09/11
Audience: Passive for the first half, but seemingly really into it in the second
Set: First set (acoustic) - Make It Happen, Pain In My Heart, Down Like That, Guns, God's Front Porch, 3 Years, 22, Magazines, New Song, Washing Machine. Second set (electric) - Not Your Day, Maybe, Miami Beach, Life In Monochrome, Prettyish, I Don't Even Know Your Name, 3 Monkeys, If That's All That There Is, Waiting, Bored.
Notes: Interesting gig that one, nice venue and very friendly, bit tight for space on 'stage' but no issues with volume as the venue itself is a fair size and we had an excellent soundman who seemed to genuinely care. For a Saturday night it was a little quiet at first, and at times I felt I was struggling to get totally into it during our acoustic set - yet as we've played these songs so much recently I still think we sounded pretty sharp as these tracks are pretty much cemented into our subconscious by now. After a short break we then went electric with full drums, electric guitars and everything, and the whole vibe seemed to change. Perhaps it was because we haven't played many electric gigs recently and it all seemed fresh, or the fact that as the evening progressed the audience seemed more interested in what we were doing. There's a few songs in the second half that I'd personally never played live before and had only rehearsed for the first time on the morning of the show - such as 'Maybe' and 'Bored' - the latter actually being one of my favourite Aidy songs now and I'm keen to have it as a regular in the set. By the end of the show, with Dave rolling on the floor (a regular occurrence at gigs now) and with CD's being sold I felt we really won over that audience and it was a long but hugely enjoyable evening. Turned down the kind offer of going to 'Cubes' nightclub with the rest of the band and Dave's old university friends, instead sticking to my very sensible 'if the venue is under two hours away drive home that night' rule, so instead of the usual drunken fun I found myself in a 24-hour drive-through McDonalds with my good mate (and navigator for the evening) Rachel. Perhaps I am getting too old for all the rock and roll, but at least I still feel young enough to get excited about fast food.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Gig report: Trevor Jones Band @ The Ferryboat, Holywell (gig for The Institute Of Videography)

Band: Trevor Jones Band
Venue: The Ferryboat, Holywell
Date: 06/09/11
Audience: A handful of mature students
Set: First set: Badman, Shine A Light, I Don't Wanna Talk About It, Alive, Roll On The Rain, Old Fashioned Woman. Second set: Solid Ground, She Was Me, Can't Take This Anymore, Falling, All I Am
Notes: Peter and his brilliant team at Harrier Digital have done a fantastic job with the Trevor Jones Band live DVD, which was filmed a few months ago at the (now sadly gone) Haymakers. To return the favour, we were the band tonight for his class as the Institute Of Videography were shown how to record and film a live act. It was a slightly surreal evening, but we were made to feel very welcome, and the acoustics at The Ferryboat are pretty good too. After a slightly slow start (me, mostly) we were firing nicely tonight and it was all very pleasant. Although there was only a handful of people in the room we went down incredibly well, and in between our two short sets (and the chats with the tutors) Trevor even sold out of CD's so we must have been doing something right. Lovely gig, then the A14 was closed and I got a bit lost going home, which angered me greatly.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Lodestar Festival 2011

Lodestar Festival returned at the weekend, and for the second year running I was booking the theatre/comedy/non-music acts, this year I even had a title - 'Director Of Theatre', which I liked very much. I'm not sure why I had any doubts this time around, possibly because I've been so busy this summer with the fringe, the tour, the gigs, so coming into the festival I was a tad worried that I just wasn't prepared enough. No need to worry though - Lodestar is an amazing place to be, run by amazing people. I will even go as far as to say this has been my favourite weekend of the year so far, and I'm not sure how it can be bettered. Arriving on Saturday morning, I was instantly handed a walkie-talkie, with my additional role of stage manager for the stage I'd booked the acts for suddenly kicking in. Our stage this year had moved to another part of the site, partly I think because of my request after last year (in which the noise from the main stage was overpowering) but also because Doug the organiser is a bright man and probably knew this himself. Although our stage was a fair walk away from the main attractions (it was in it's own field), it was easy enough to find and had it's own bar, so we were never short of an audience. Alongside the general walking around, getting confused about who is allowed backstage wristbands, and trying to look important, my first performance of the day was with Flaming June, who were the second act of the day on our stage. Fresh from our performance the night before, this was the Flaming June I love - the fiery, slightly manic at times even, the night before we were all a little drained from the excessive heat of the venue, but in the open air in front of a quickly gathering crowd we played our regular set, but played it pretty well if I may say so. Next up was Laura Tapp, one of my label artists. Laura's great - very confident on stage, perfect for the festival vibe, and it was nice to join her on stage for to play congas on three tracks - the three we recorded earlier this year. My old chum, Tracy Harris, then put on another fantastic play, performed by the dude from the Kitkat advert, and then another friend, Paul Kerensa, proved that stand-up comedy can work in a field. I'm genuinely amazed at how into comedy/non-music this audience were, it was a hot sunny day but instead of watching bands on the main stage it felt like we had a good majority of them in our field. Paul has writing credits including 'Not Going Out' and 'Miranda' for television so there's no doubting his credentials, and his performance was perfect for the hot summer's day, it was no exaggeration to say he went down very well indeed. Next up was my final performing commitment of the day - and the one that perhaps I was most apprehensive about, 'Relationships, Eh?' - the musical. Written in about three hours, aided by a four-pack of Carling on a Friday night a few weeks back, I'm shocked how well this came together. The concept was simple enough - take the most inventive choir in Cambridge (Dowsing For Sound), put a storyline around the songs (tried to keep it light and fluffy, failed, it went a bit dark at times, especially the bit about liver failure), bring in two top-notch actors (Angela Rowlands and Vaughan Allanson), a confident and talented narrator (Michelle Golder) and then, once with the actors (none with the narrator) and twice with the choir. The fact that it worked so well says a lot about the talent up there - the choir seem to hang off musical arranger Andrea Cockerton's every move, they're so responsive, they seemed to passionately enjoy being part of this. The band (Andrea, Gav and myself) were fairly tight too if I may say so myself (apart from the odd drum blip, but I was preoccupied with the script/my backstage duties/life in general) and the cast/narrator performed like they'd been doing this for years. Even when Angela was briefly taken away by a security guard who wrongly mistook her acting as troublesome behaviour, things didn't fall apart, the show kept going. The audience - plenty of them, stuck with it, and I'd like to think they felt rewarded by the happy ending. It all felt like a happy ending to me anyway. The excellent Cambridge Improv Factory were next up, Tracy then put her play on again, and comedian Peter Buckley-Hill went from having only an audience of a handful to a packed field laughing at his every word, there was even demands for an encore - again, this is in the middle of a field, it was all brilliantly surreal and probably couldn't happen anywhere else. With my work for the day done, we had burgers, watched the headliners on the main stage (The Datsuns), and drank till the early hours of the morning, good conversations with some of my favourite people in all the world. Woke up feeling rubbish (hangovers, sleeping in a tent, the usual), and a slightly more relaxed day over at the Arts stage ensued. The Gamlingay Players (a generous and warm bunch of people) performed a great little show as the rain poured down making it difficult for audiences (unless, like myself and Clare, Heather and Vorn, you wanted to sit under an umbrella), my new play, 'How About You?' was nice and gentle for a Sunday afternoon (the script was aided by some wonderful acting from Alan, Jules, Kimberly, Steve, Vaughan and Clare), and then my good friend Andy Higson put on his sketch show, 'Firenado', which was rather amusing. I had a small role in that too, I enjoyed myself. With the rain clearing, the Arts stage concluded with another superb performance by the Cambridge Improv Factory, and I could finally hand back my walkie-talkie (big thanks to Amy for looking after it overnight for me in her handbag, guessing I was getting a bit drunk) and enjoy the Sunday headliner - the surprisingly fantastic Magic Numbers. More than fantastic - 'Love Me Like You' is currently my favourite song in all the world, they were heartbreakingly good, and a perfect way to end what was a frankly amazing weekend. Amazing for it's creativity - okay, so I'm knackered now, but my brain is buzzing from the success of it all, and the realisation that all art can work at music festivals if done properly. I was all over the place at the weekend (having written two of the plays, drummed in three bands, cameoed in a sketch show and ran the stage) but I enjoyed every second - probably because I had the pleasure of doing this with some of my best friends in all the world. I was pretty stressed in the run up to Lodestar about how it would all work. I miss the stress now, I'm already looking forward to doing it all again soon. In the meantime, time for some new challenges...

Friday, 2 September 2011

Gig report: Flaming June (EP launch) @ The Cornerhouse, Cambridge

Band: Flaming June
Venue: The Cornerhouse, Cambridge
Date: 02/09/11
Audience: Busy, nice
Set: Rejoice, Under My Skin, You Do Moody So Well, Nerves Of Steel, I Know What It's Like, The Insane Ex-Girlfriend Parade, Rumplestiltskin, The Wizard
Notes: We launched our new EP tonight at the Cornerhouse in Cambridge. The EP, 'Nerves Of Steel' is a lovely little release. The gig itself was hot and sweaty, but the audience stuck with us and we went down very well, a great turnout actually. It felt like a bit of a battle at times because of the heat but we were really gelling I felt, as the energy was seemingly being sapped out of us - we even dropped a song from the set because it was getting pretty unbearable up there and we have Lodestar Festival tomorrow so need to be at our best. A good night though, as most Flaming June gigs are.