Monday, March 19, 2012

'It's music based on fear...'

So - I still can't hear very well, but things do seem to be improving. Good! It's definitely a case of 'it gets worse before it gets better', but at least it does seem to be getting easier to hear. It's been a busy week in the shop and at times I've had real difficulty hearing customers but most people have been very understanding - indeed many have their own 'oooh that's horrible isn't it?' story of the times that they've had a similar problem. And I managed to play a rather muffled gig on Saturday night, with Big Al Reed at The Feathers in Staines. It's not the biggest pub in the World and we were a bit cramped to say the least, but the people there were friendly and seemed to enjoy our efforts. It being St. Patrick's Day I'd expected there to be Guinness posters (and indeed drinkers) everywhere but there were none to be seen; there were a few likely lads who thought they could put Al off with a bit of heckling but he was having none of it (he's also a stand-up comedian and as a result is pretty fearless once he's in front of a microphone) and our second set saw Barry joining us once again to play some slide guitar blues and tables being moved to give people more room to dance. A good gig - well, the bits I could hear of it were anyway.

An interesting evening at The Load of Hay last night saw the first public performance in many-a-year from Graham Barnes, and the first public performance ever from a Brunel band led by Michelle De Jong.
I remember Graham from way back in the late '70s when his band I Jog and The Tracksuits (oh yes!) released the 'Red Box' single on the short-lived Tyger Records which was based at the Unit One youth club in Uxbridge. John Peel played it often, and the band got to the stage of playing venues like Dingwalls before it all ended; he went on to take a more folkier path musically, including a stint in The Ministry Of Humour, who I remember seeing at The Load of Hay when it was home to Uxbridge Folk Club in the 1980s. His pre-match nerves were not helped by his electro-acoustic guitar not working ('I haven't plugged it in this century!') which meant him having to sing and play with just a vocal microphone set up in front of him rather than D.I.-ing his guitar and using the microphone solely for vocals; however his times in the folk clubs stood him in good stead, and his 20-odd minute set managed to more-or-less hold the attention of the assembled student multitudes. No sign of 'Red Box' (shame!) and he did make the grave tactical error of including a song by the hopelessly - make that criminally - overrated 'songwriter' Robb Johnson (*who I believe is still pedalling his overwrought, arrogant, self-righteous twaddle to the sheep who are scared to criticise him for fear of being called 'politically incorrect' by the hopeless sycophants that surround him; still, you can't fool all the people all the time...) but he has every reason to feel very pleased with his comeback to showbusiness.
Michelle De Jong introduced her band - an engineering student on cello and two fellow music students on guitar and keyboards - and began her first song, very laid back, very quiet, with vocals that a local wit back at the bar later described as being high enough to shatter the glasses behind the bar. Before the second number an audience member (presumably studying sound engineering) took it upon himself to adjust the P.A. in some way which made no audible difference to my ailing ears (mind you I suppose it wouldn't - maybe they were deafening!) and my fears that their material was sounding 'samey' by the third song were confirmed a few seconds into the fourth. As the keyboard player smugly took the cello from it's owner and played it like a bass guitar in their last number the afore-mentioned local wit groaned the words 'multi-talentless' before gleefully returning to his hobby of confusing the barmaid. He had a point - he usually has - but I've no doubt that their SoundCloud (whatever that is) has infinitely more followers than this blog will ever have, and that they'll all go on to have musical careers that will dwarf mine, so what do I know? Perhaps I should cheer up and leave the overwrought, arrogant, self-righteous twaddle to the Robb Johnson's of this world?

Either way let's finish this missive with some words of wisdom from the legends that are Spinal Tap. Click here for their thoughts on music played quietly - many a true word is spoken in jest, as they (whoever 'they' are) say...

*Sorry about the ranting about Mr. Johnson - I'll tell you where it all stems from one day. He's not that bad really... actually thinking about it, he's probably worse!!

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