Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Come on up for the rising...'


It's a funny old life sometimes isn't it? One minute you're on stage with a songwriting genius, the next you're selling flip flops emblazoned with the image of a snooker legend. Or maybe that should be snooker giant? - after all Bill Werbeniuk was a big lad... that's Scott taking the photograph with Dave just visible behind the 'portable white background' that is actually the back of a sign that needs to go up on the front of the shop one day. And it will go up on the front of the shop, just as soon as one of us works out the best way to hang it. It's advertising the fact that we're now stocking more and more musical instruments and accessories, and to this end Chris and myself travelled up to Yorkshire last week to attend the John Hornby Skewes trade show - we met Mr. Skewes (it seems that's what everyone calls him!) and managing director Dennis Drumm, and I briefly met acoustic guitar maestro Gordon Giltrap as well as spending 20 minutes or so talking to Trevor Wilkinson, designer of Vintage and Fret King Guitars as well as various pieces of guitar hardware. We also ordered a fair amount of stuff from Dave the rep - it'll be very interesting to see how the next few months at the shop goes.

In the meantime there's more sad news with the death of Clarence Clemons. I saw him play with Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band on several occasions - the first time was in 1981 at The Wembley Arena on their tour to promote 'The River' album which remains probably the greatest rock performance I've ever seen and indeed am ever likely to see. (I've considered writing a piece on it here several times but never feel as though I can put into words what the evening did for for me. Maybe it's time I got on with it!) As well as being a fine musician he always seemed to be a great character - the sight of him and Springsteen together on stage is one of the iconic images of rock music don't you think? - and it's sad to see him go. First Danny Federici, now The Big Man - these are bad times for The Boss and his band.

Last Friday Awaken played at The Dolphin. I arrived just as their first set was ending to find the place full of people - normally a good sign from a band point of view, but since most of those present had spent the day at Royal Ascot and were therefore both over-dressed and overflowing with alcohol it made for a rather strange evening. There was much dancing and general merriment although it all reminded me of those corporate events that I sometimes find myself playing at - you just know that they're not actually taking very much notice of the music and will forget that you even played virtually as soon as the show finishes, the lads being more concerned with looking down the front of the ladies' dresses and the ladies being more concerned with whether or not they liked the lad that was doing the looking. The band played well but nowhere near as good as they can - it all looked a bit too much like hard work. Maybe it was?

Sunday evening it was time for Pimp My Jazz at The Load of Hay. Now I must admit that since seeing 'Jazz Club' on 'The Fast Show' I often find it hard to keep a straight face when I hear jazz musicians (and indeed fans) talking - it all gets far too serious (not to mention pretentious) for me. Then again most of the musicians involved are much better players and a great deal more successful than I am so what do I know? Anyway Pimp My Jazz are based around the songwriting talents of Gavin Sparkes and Kay Shelly, both of whom I first met when I was working in The Music Shack in Uxbridge back in the late 1990s; the shop was run by Terry Peaker who in addition to playing fretless bass in Pimp My Jazz is also in The Uppercut with your humble narrator. Small World eh? Their two set show included most of the songs from their self-titled debut album alongside a few standards ('Fly Me To The Moon', 'Autumn Leaves' etc) and if nothing else they made me realise that no, I don't know enough about the style of music involved and no, I probably never will. Still they went down well with the jazz fans and that's what matters. Nice!

Incidentally Sunday 10th July sees Blyth Power main man Joseph Porter and acoustic troubadour Wob visit the Load of Hay - it should be an amazing evening!

And the last few days in Balcony Shirts have mostly been spent unpacking and displaying (and indeed selling) the musical merchandise that we bought last week - as I say, it'll be interesting to see how the next few months go...

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