As I think I mentioned a posting or two ago in the midst of various gigging expeditions both near and far over the last couple of months I've also been (somehow!) managing to do some days at Balcony Shirts. With the gigs a bit fewer and further between for the next few weeks it's been back behind the counter for your humble narrator, and I'd all but forgotten how busy it can get in there, with stag and hen parties, holiday shirts, corporate work wear and more alongside the t-shirts that the shop usually produces. Back to work in the real(-ish) world then! Still not playing as much myself gives me chance to get along to see some bands, starting with Lee Thompson's Ska Orchestra at The Dublin Castle in Camden Town on Tuesday evening. A great show saw the band joined by Bitty Maclean for a few songs including their excellent new single 'Fu Manchu'; fellow Ruts D.C. man Seamus Beaghen is on Hammond Organ, and with eleven people in the band the stage was almost as crowded as the venue. After the show Seamus introduced me to former Stiff Records boss Dave Robinson, who I met briefly many years ago when I was playing with Neck - he did a good job of remembering me, although I somehow doubt that he actually did!
Wednesday it was off to Bonners Music in Eastbourne to check out a secondhand Marshall Vintage Modern 2266C 50W combo. My good friend Paul Cope had lent me one when Ruts D.C. played in Southampton last month (you can see and hear the amp in this clip of 'Staring At The Rude Boys' from the show) and I had been so impressed with it that I immediately started looking for one - I found this one on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and as luck would have it Big Al Reed was doing some shows in the area - he went to the shop, tried it and on finding that it sounded good suggested that I went down to try it. Somewhat extravagantly I not only bought the amplifier but got myself an Electro-Harmonix Neo Mistress Flanger pedal as well. There go the wages! Well - the amp sounded great and the pedal will be useful for the dubbier parts of Ruts D.C.'s repertoire. Now I've just got to sell my Fender Blues Deville combo as quickly as possible...
Talking of Big Al Reed I played two gigs with him this weekend, the first of which saw The Blistering Buicks visit The Three Mariners in Bagshot. With Dave the drummer gigging elsewhere Howard made his first appearance with the band, and he did a very good job in my not-so-humble opinion. Mind you he usually plays for Shakin' Stevens so he must be pretty good if you think about it... as a show it was definitely a game of two halves - in the first set it was a case of 'if anything can go wrong, it will' - I had a faulty lead, Big Al's acoustic guitar wouldn't work through the P.A. system and then his electric guitar wouldn't work either before a drink was knocked over all-too-near to his effect pedals; most spectacularly of all Chris's keyboard stand collapsed during 'Hoochie Coochie Man'. He did a heroic job of putting everything back together, to such an extent that he was set up ready to play a solo before the song ended! Fortunately the second set could hardly have been more different, and it was definitely a case of 'all's well that ends well' - in the end. Compared to the dramas described above Sunday's duo gig at The Feathers in Chalfont St. Giles was a straightforward affair - three 30-odd minutes sets, some songs with backing tracks and some without, and good fun all round. As always Al conducted the meat raffle - he pulled the first number out with the words 'and the winner is - Big Al', then when he read what was actually on the ticket he discovered that he had indeed won; I was asked to pull the next ticket out and, you've guessed it, I'd won too. (Yeah I know a vegetarian shouldn't buy a meat raffle ticket - but I thought I'd try to support the pub. Would anyone like some steak? It's no good to me!) From there is back home to make my latest appearance on the Music Scene Investigation podcast. Tom was unavailable due to illness so has place was taken by John who along with Ian and myself reviewed three excellent tracks by new artists - I say it every time I'm on there but the standard of the material submitted really is very high as you can see if you watch the latest episode here - I don't think I was too hard on Ian... was I?
Yesterday it was another busy day in Balcony Shirts followed by a visit to the jam night at The Three Wishes in Edgware - all good stuff, and there's hopefully a good day in prospect today, as Ruts D.C. are rehearsing. There are no gigs on the immediate horizon so we're getting together to run through some different songs from the band's back catalogue and to try out some new ideas. Should be interesting... actually I'd better get going or I'll be late!