Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vintage and rare guitars

And it was indeed a very long day. By lunchtime it was becoming all too apparent that I was developing the hangover that I'd up until that point managed to keep at bay with toast and coffee (either that or I was sobering up!) and by talking total gibberish to customers. Somehow I got through the afternoon - just! - and then went home and fell asleep. You knew I'd say that didn't you? But it really was a great night, with The Upper Cut giving a fine show which ended with a worrying amount of young people dancing wildly and quite a few drinks being drunk. Several kind souls bought me cards and presents, Mad Jock and his mates Brian and George came down all the way from Glasgow for the occasion (really!) and, well, quite a few drinks were drunk. The long-suffering Shirley eventually got East and myself out of the building sometime before 2 a.m. (oh yes!) by which time quite a few more drinks had been drunk. And why not?
The day itself had been relatively quiet (although you may argue that pretty much anything was 'relatively quiet' compared to the evening) with my Dad and brother coming round for the afternoon and your humble narrator showing heroic restraint when it came to alcohol. Given the mayhem that followed this was definitely a good move - I didn't have anything alcoholic to drink before 8.30 in the evening which might seem a bit serious, even (gulp!) sensible but I wanted to be able to play a decent show. Ooh, I am getting old... in the meantime Shirley and her family managed to surprise me - and I mean surprise me! - by getting me a Vintage Lemon Drop electric guitar, which was sitting on the front room table when I stumbled downstairs in the morning. Hmm... that'll be the same guitar that was in the shop a few weeks ago; given the amount of subterfuge that has clearly gone on over the last few weeks I may never believe anything that anybody anywhere ever says to me ever again!

The last gig of my 40s (sounds dramatic doesn't it?!?) was with The Chicago Blues Brothers in Sutton Courtenay near Abingdon, at the same venue / enormous house that we played at last August. As Richard arrived to pick me up around 6 o'clock the news of the death of Amy Winehouse came on the car radio - another casualty, another member of the dreaded 27 Club. Sad. I saw her at 'The Strat Pack' concert where I heard that voice for the first time - the guitar obsessives around me complained that she shouldn't have been there as she wasn't a guitar hero or something, I thought she sounded extraordinary. I wasn't sure if I liked her or not, but she certainly sounded extraordinary. There seems to have been a grim inevitability about her death, which it seems no one around her could do anything to prevent. A great shame.
It was the first CBB show for ages to feature a 3 man horn section - joining Richard on sax is John on trumpet who's not played with us before, and Andy on trombone who last played with us at Leeds Castle back in July 2007 when he distinguished himself by falling over on stage whilst pretending to be galloping around on horseback. Strange but true. Roger returns on keyboards, Tracy's on vocals, Marc and Squirrel are on drums and bass, Pete and Mike are in the hats 'n' glasses and our 90 minute set goes down well with the assembled multitude, quite a few of whom had clearly been enjoying the hospitality of the host to the full. Well the ones dancing in front of and indeed on the stage certainly had been. I seem to remember this happened last time too. Excellent!

Yesterday I had a rehearsal with T.V. Smith for our gig at the Rebellion Festival next weekend, today I'm playing a Blues Brothers show in an Italian Restaurant in Leeds. No, really, I am. This 'being 50' lark is off to a good start...

Monday, July 25, 2011

The morning after the night before

It's Monday morning, and it's far too early for me to be awake. But I am, because I'm working in the shop today. This could be a mistake.

I was a great night last night. I'll write about it here when I can remember what happened, or indeed when somebody tells me what happened.

I fear that it's going to be a very long day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Humble pie

Well well well - 2 high ranking police officers resign, the scary woman with the red hair is arrested then appears alongside the senior and junior Murdochs in front of a commons select committee, the 'whistleblower' is found dead - can all this really be happening? As previously mentioned here I doubt that this will bring the whole Murdoch empire down but these are certainly extraordinary times. I watched a bit of the hearing - it seems that nobody knows anything about anything. I had a feeling that might be the case. And as for the 'comedian' that couldn't even manage to put a custard pie in the right place - you would have thought a clown could have managed that? Anyway well done Johnnie Marbles, you've just given all the right wing toadies in the media a chance to write pages and pages of sympathy along the lines of 'brave and humble 80 year old is protected by his loyal wife in the face of a senseless guerrilla attack by previously unknown and unfunny alleged comedian'. I bet they're writing that while I'm writing this. But here's a thought - these days it's practically impossible to take a tin of shaving foam onto an aircraft, so how on Earth did he manage to get some into somewhere with a name like Portcullis House?

Meanwhile back in the real world it was sad to hear of the death of former Motorhead guitarist Wurzel earlier this month. I spoke to him briefly at the Paul Fox benefit gig back in July 2007 (can that really be 4 years ago?!?) and he seemed to be a really nice chap - and anybody who played on a track as great as 'Killed By Death' is alright as far as I'm concerned.

It was a cracking evening on Friday when The Flying Squad supported The Small Fakers at the Tropic At Ruislip. For reasons best known only to the little pixies that live in the madder parts of my mind I decided to wear a suit, t-shirt and hat for the gig; the same little pixies also told me that it was a good idea not to take the hat or suit jacket off during the show (don't worry, I'd have kept my t-shirt on - the little pixies aren't that mad!) meaning that I was the hottest on stage that I can remember being for some time. With Phil the usual soundman (presumably) busy elsewhere Mick the surrogate soundman insisted on my guitar being quieter on stage than usual (I learned a long time ago that the last thing you do at a gig is get in the soundman's bad books so I didn't argue the point; with hindsight I think I should have asked to play louder as I was only on 2 out of 10, and valve amps sound better when they're turned up, honest!) but I guess there's no point in worrying about that now is there? It wasn't easy for me to hear what I was playing which could have accounted for some of the more, shall we say, experimental moments of my performance (along with the sweat in my eyes) but again there's no point in worrying about that now. Overall we played better than at last month's show with Andy on particularly good form up front, and we went down well enough to get an encore, which is always a moment for a support band to savour. And The Small Fakers were terrific, playing some very - make that very - obscure material next to the expected hits and classics, while their set finisher 'Tin Soldier' (surely one of the greatest pop songs of all time) had grown men fighting back tears such was it's excellence. The Small Faces were a fabulous band, and the Fakers made the job of playing their music look easy. Great stuff, and it was wonderful to see so many people at the gig, a testament to the Tropic team's dedication to live music.

The Rikardo Brothers played at The Load Of Hay last night, a little loose here and there (Pete couldn't make Tuesday's rehearsal) but still sounding good to me. We sounded good to the people I spoke to afterwards too - it's interesting to play songs more usually heard performed by much bigger bands with a relatively simple vocals-and-two-guitars line-up. Some songs inevitably work better than others, and it's definitely a case of 'less is more' on most occasions. We're starting to get offered a few gigs here and there, and all three of us enjoy playing together so there will hopefully be quite a bit more to come from The Rikardo Brothers in the future - even if I'm still not sure about the name...

I'm playing again at The Load Of Hay this Sunday evening with The Upper Cut. It's my 50th birthday. Now there's a sentence that I'd never thought that I'd write... if you're in the area then please drop in - it should be fun. Well, I intend to have a good time anyway!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fantasy island

Last night myself and Big Andy journeyed to Southend to see Roger Daltrey perform 'Tommy' at The Cliffs Pavilion. As we neared Southend I saw a motorway sign that made me suddenly ask the big man the immortal question 'have you ever been to Canvey Island?' When he said that he hadn't we both realised that it was time to leave the script (and indeed the A127) for a while...

As we negotiated the magic roundabout that takes you to the road to the island I remembered one of the other times that I'd visited what is an almost mythical place for Dr. Feelgood fans like myself. We were playing a Blues Brothers show at, I think, a 50th birthday party (I can't remember where it was either; it's at moments like this that I'm reminded that one of the reasons why I started writing this blog was so that things like these wouldn't get forgotten!) and Squirrel and myself were outside the venue; as we stood talking a car came around the corner on the opposite (rather wide) pavement. This stuck me as a little odd and I was about to say as much, when another one followed it round. They weren't going slowly. Squirrel (a local lad) looked at me with a slight smile - 'things like that happen on the island'.
As we pulled up in the car park I was babbling on to Andy about the classic photos on the cover of 'Down By The Jetty', and that maybe he could take one of me for use on the Flying Squad website; as we walked up the slope to the sea wall a young man walked across our path. He was wheeling a bicycle and had a slightly scary-looking dog on a lead. He was wearing a vest and shorts, and it was therefore easy to see that he was tattooed pretty much from the top of his shaven head to his sandaled toes. He looked extraordinary, and Big Andy looked astonished. I was tempted to use Squirrel's line, but didn't.
After taking a few photos looking out across the estuary and getting a bit of (very) fresh air we got back into the car and drove around a while. Andy loved it, and so did I. The Monico, The Oyster Fleet, The Pandora's Box Guest House, the sign saying TANK FOR HIRE - Canvey Island really is a one-off. Fantastic, and as good a reason as any to watch 'Oil City Confidential' again. Not that I, or indeed you, really need an excuse...

We made our way back to the mainland (now I am getting a bit over-romantic don't you think?!?) and found The Cliffs Pavilion reasonably easily, although it certainly helped having Squirrel on the end of a phone line. After getting a lucky parking space on the road near the venue we walked along the seafront into town - Andy hadn't been to Southend before and I hadn't been there for what seems like ages so it was good to have a bit of time to look around. Squirrel had reminded me that occasional Chicago Blues Brothers keyboard man Dave Dulake runs a pub in town - once again we needed a bit of moblie phone help but found The Railway Hotel without too much trouble. As we walked in Chuck Berry was blasting out from the record player on the bar (yes, you read that bit correctly) and a young lady with blue hair came over to serve us. I ordered a couple of drinks and then asked if Dave was about; she said he was busy but he'd be out shortly - when he did emerge he looked rather worried, came over for a few minutes then said words to the effect of 'we might not be here much longer'. This would be a shame as it's an extraordinary place. Let's hope it keeps going.

Back at the venue we meet up with Squirrel and his wife Lindsay (and bumped into Rick Dawson, another sometime CBB keyboard player; we really get through them!) before catching a bit of the support act. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar Paul Freeman played a half hour or so of his own material with a cover of 'Handle With Care' thrown in a couple of songs from the end. He was a bit sweary, very Welsh and shouldn't have played the Traveling Wilburys song as it showed up how relatively ordinary his own songs were in comparison. That said he worked hard and got the audience on his side when he invited a young lady called Kelly up to join him on backing vocals, so I won't be too cruel about him here.
At 8.30 Mr. Daltrey and co. walked on stage to a warm if not over-enthusiastic reception; as the band readied themselves the man himself explained how that after the show at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year he'd realised that 'there isn't any other music like 'Tommy'' and so he'd decided to carry on singing it. A simple enough sentiment, and one which over the next 70-odd minutes was pretty much proved to be true. The band sounded much more familiar with the songs, the back projections worked well and Daltrey was in fine voice. The audience stayed fairly subdued throughout, politely applauding until the end of 'Listening To You' when they all stood up together and went crazy. Even Daltery seemed a bit taken aback. The next hour-and-a-quarter saw rarely heard gems from the Who back catalogue (an excellent version of 'Going Mobile' with Simon Townshend on lead vocals was a real standout) alongside Daltery solo songs, a Johnny Cash medley and songs from the likes of Taj Mahal. It got a bit chaotic in places - some songs sounded more rehearsed than others, the backing track for 'Baba O'Riley' played too fast and 'The Kids Are Alright' went completely wrong in the middle when the guitarist broke a string - but both Daltery and the band seemed to be really enjoying themselves and that feeling certainly translated across to the audience who gave them a great reception. The show ended with Daltery playing 'Blue Red And Grey' on a ukulele, and somewhere during the show I decided that the afore-mentioned guitarist looked a bit like Mickey Dolenz. I also decided that this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Well, it's not is it?

Monday, July 11, 2011

None for ages and then two come along at once

So - the News Of The World has been closed down by it's owner, who in doing so has once again shown a typically callous disregard for the men and women unfortunate enough to be in his employment. Presumably it's an attempt to avoid further scandal - rather ironic given the nature of said publication don't you think? - and to save his own (and no one else's) skin. However you look at it this is a sad state of affairs - each day a new revelation, a new victim, a new reason to never buy anything that Rupert Murdoch has anything to do with ever again. There's an old saying along the lines of 'you can't keep a good man down' - I fear it's even harder to keep a bad one down, which is why Mr. Murdoch will no doubt evade prosecution personally and re-emerge from the whole business completely spotless. Still, we can always hope that commonsense prevails and people stop supporting him and his empire. In the meantime here are a few words from Attila The Stockbroker (actually rather a lot of words, this is Attila after all!) on the subject - excellent!

Friday in Uxbridge saw The Good Old Boys playing at The General Elliot while Midnight were gigging across the road (literally!) at The Dolphin. This presented a situation that was too good not to take advantage of - your humble narrator (aided and abetted by Pete from Awaken, Roger from The Uppercut and the venerable East) journeyed back and forth between the two venues in an attempt to catch both bands, on a night perhaps best described as 'bass dep evening'. The Good Old Boys featured Bill on bass in place of Nick Simper while Midnight had Terry from The Uppercut on 4-string duties, and both bands sounded excellent to me, although how much of this had to do with the 'lets-have-a-quick-pint-here-and-then-go back-over-the-road' nature of the evening is difficult to ascertain. We finished up in The Dolphin where Simon and Darren of Ace! club fame were enjoying proceedings; Simon enjoyed it even more when I introduced him to Midnight keyboard player Chris Holmes who played in '60's cult heroes Timebox. Chris gave him a DVD of Timebox clips (I must get one of them myself!) as well as regaling us with tales of the likes of Mike Patto, Ollie Halsall and John Halsey. Great stuff.

Talking of depping I found myself in the wonderfully-named Preston Bagot (sounds like the name of a member of the House Of Lords that's just had his phone hacked doesn't it?) on Saturday evening for an Utter Madness gig. Tony's on vocals and Jon's on bass but aside from them it's deps all round - I'm on guitar (obviously!?!) while everyone else (Aaron on vocals and dancing, Dan on drums, Liz on saxophone and Dave on keyboards) are all from the ska covers band Big 10, and all of whom made a great job of what turned out to be a very enjoyable show. As Jon and myself pulled of junction 15 of the M40 Tony phoned to ask where we were; as I said 'just a few minutes away' the sat.nav. sent us off down the wrong road which we were unable to turn off for several miles.This was doubly unfortunate as we then were informed by Tony that we were supposed to be set up by 5.30 - we thought we had to arrive at 5.30 and were therefore late. Bugger! When we eventually arrived at The Crabmill we could set our gear up but were unable to soundcheck or rehearse anything as the guests were already arriving. It's a 50th birthday party for Andrew organised by his brother Steve - waitresses wearing t-shirts with the letters AFO and the words 'Alcohol Facilitation Operative' on them dispensed free drinks (always a dangerous thing with 2 1/2 hours to showtime!) and cheery smiles. Food on the other hand is thin on the ground for the band; eventually an AFO brings us several bags of very gratefully received crisps. Hot dogs appear not long before we're due on stage - when I look sad at the lack of a vegetarian option the crisp-bearing AFO brings me a spicy lentil sausage version. Excellent!
Andrew makes a short speech just before our set, explaining how an accident when he was 17 had left him confined to a wheelchair and how among the many things that it had affected in his life it made him realise that family and friends are more important than material processions and that it was 'great to see so many of you here tonight'. He handed over to us with the words 'Now let's get pissed!' - Tony was straight in with 'don't watch that...'
As we began 'One Step Beyond' I was suddenly aware that although I'd only done the show a few times that was a few times more than the majority of people on the stage. Situations like this can go either way - triumph and disaster are almost as likely as each other, and there's no telling which one you're heading for. This time it was the former rather than the latter, with everybody playing well and plenty of dancefloor action throughout. A chap repeatedly asked for 'Michael Caine' (sadly we didn't know it) but we managed 'Happy Birthday' at the start of our second set and judging by the comments we received in the interval and after the show it all went according to plan. A good gig all round.

And it was a good gig last night too, when The Load of Hay was host to Joseph Porter and Wob. I think I first met both gentlemen when The Price supported Blyth Power some 20-odd years ago - Joseph is the band's omnipresent songwriter and frontman and Wob was then playing guitar, a position that's held these days by Stephen Cooper who I met when I was gigging with T.V. Smith just before Christmas. It had been quite a hot sticky day which might have accounted for the low-ish (20 or so) audience turnout, but those who were there saw a fine show from both artists. They arrived just as I finished setting the P.A, system up which gave us plenty of time for soundchecking before Joseph asked the question 'do you know where I can buy some apples?' I directed him to a petrol station not far from the venue - he returned looking pleased with himself and with the words 'I can have these now so that I won't spend the gig burping into the microphone'. He's a brilliant songwriter although I don't recall having seen him play a solo show before - with some very funny and indeed thought provoking introductions the songs came over brilliantly in guitar-and-vocal format. Wob then gave a splendidly energetic performance which concluded with him walking around the audience singing 'Has Anybody Seen My Gal?' accompanying himself on a ukulele whilst attempting to cajole people into doing the Charleston. Strange but true. They then joined forces for a set of Joseph's songs to begin a highly enjoyable evening to a close. The only downside to the things were the 5 or 6 blokes at the bar who insisted on bellowing things like 'OOOH LOOK 'EE'S GOT 'IS BANJO AHT!' at every available opportunity. 'I see you've double booked the gig with a Mensa meeting' said East ruefully; I decided that they'd been drinking all day to mourn the loss of their favourite newspaper. Scandalous.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I'm a hog for you baby

Following on from our time in Belfast it's been 3 gigs in 3 days with 3 different bands for your humble narrator...

Friday evening saw The Uppercut return to The Dolphin for the latest in our 'once-every-six-weeks-or-so' series of gigs. We'd ran through several potential additions to the act in rehearsal on Monday night - in the event we added 'You Wear It Well' (a bit scrappy I thought) 'Feel Like Making Love' (much better) and 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' (the best of the bunch) as well as bringing back several songs that we'd not played there for a while. It had been a very hot day and with Wimbledon on the telly audience numbers were down a bit on our last gig there but there were still more than enough people to make it all worthwhile - indeed as we were leaving Noel the guv'nor asked me to call in the next few days to add some more dates through the Autumn; he aslo said that he'd been running the pub for 24 years on December 3rd and that he'd like us to play on that night so I guess we must have done something right. I thought Roger played particularly well - his drumming in 'Superstition' drew a lot of compliments from all and sundry, and the number is becoming a real highlight in our show with much improvisation from all concerned.

A hog roast may not be the most obvious event for a mamby-pamby poncey vegetarian like myself to say that they found enjoyable, and it's fair to say that I probably wouldn't have found myself at such an event if I hadn't been playing at it; that said Andover Rugby Club on Saturday night was the scene of much merriment, due in part to the appearance of The Briefcase Blues Brothers. Joining Mario and Chris (Jake and Elwood) were Kylan on bass and Wayne on keyboards, along with Scott on drums (he normally plays for Pendragon!) and Gabriel on trumpet. There was also an anonymous saxophone player who didn't seem in the least bit interested in talking to me, even when I told him during the interval that I thought he was playing well. Perhaps I wasn't jazz enough for him? ('I'm a blues trumpeter' said Gabriel cheerily when I recounted this to him. Good man.) The promoter Steve distinguished himself by referring to the Elvis act that was on before us as 'Dave The Plumber'; Dave himself was a bit of a character who told me afterwards that he recently did a 10 hour Elvis show in aid of Help For Heroes. When getting changed for the show Chris discovered that he'd forgotten to bring a white shirt (essential for a Blues Brother if you think about it) and at one point it was looking as though he'd have to go onstage wearing Wayne's grey polo shirt. Eventually the asking around paid off and a suitable garment was found, and with him and Mario at the helm we played 2 sets to an increasingly appreciative audience, many of whom began our performance sitting on bales of hay neatly arranged in rows in front of the stage and ended it dancing wildly down the front. Judging by some of the audience antics I'd guess that the all-day bar had been popular... excellent!

It's been ages since the last Chicago Blues Brothers theatre show (come to think of it, it's been ages since any CBB show!) but Monday night's gig at The Eden Court Theatre in Inverness was a great show to come back with. Our flight from Luton Airport was delayed for an hour but was generally fairly uneventful apart from that - well, I thought it was, although the couple with the sporadically noisy baby in the same row as me declared it to be the 'worst they'd ever experienced'. We did land with a it of a bump but I didn't think it was too bad apart from that. When we went through to collect our baggage an announcement informed us that the 'baggage belt had jammed' - Squirrel and myself joked weakly about it being caused by our guitars, which fortunately turned out to be untrue although the security man wouldn't let us have them until we'd opened them to 'show him what was inside the case'. Not necessarily a bad thing I suppose, but a very serious chap all the same.
Matt and Mike are in the hats and glasses, Squirrel's on bass, Chris is in for Ian on keyboards, Steve's behind that drums instead of Marc, Pete's along to keep everything running smoothly and for the first time we've got local lads Matthew and Glenn on saxophone and trumpet. Equipment has been provided by the excellent Highland Backline Company - I've got a Fender Hot Rod Deville combo to use, a fabulous-sounding amplifier which inevitably proves to be too loud for the job in hand. It ends up with the volume set at just over one out of ten, with the soundman worried that 'it still might be a bit loud'. Bah! In the meantime with four deps in the band (albeit with two that have played the show many times) sound check is more of a rehearsal which seems to take ages, although we all agree that it's worth it to get things sounding good. We finish with an hour-and-a-bit to spare before the show is due to start so there's time to get something to eat and drink before getting ready for the show - and what a show it is. Matt and Mike are on fine form, getting the audience involved more-or-less from the word go, and the band rise to the occasion giving a performance that has pretty much the whole audience on it's feet by the end. Great stuff.
After getting changed and saying goodbye to the theatre staff it's off out to see if anywhere is still open. Mike was in town a couple of months ago and suggests we try The Hootanany which turns out to be a good choice - when we arrive a young man called Fash is entertaining the audience (who are once again seated in neat rows) with an acoustic guitar and what were presumably his own songs. For his last song a couple get up to dance which amuses both him and the rest of the assembled multitude. It seems that we weren't the only act in town to have a good night.
Monday morning and after a few hours sleep at the local Travelodge it was back to Luton once again - this we were asked to open our guitar cases before they'd let them on to the aircraft - and after a slightly bleary afternoon it was time for a Flying Squad rehearsal. We're supporting The Small Fakers at Tropic At Ruislip next Friday (15th) and if we play as well as we did in the studio we should be in for a good show, although somewhere in the back of my mind is the saying 'good rehearsal - bad show, bad rehearsal - good show'. Something like that, anyway. I think I'll leave it in the back of my mind. Best place for it.

And yesterday I recorded some guitar for... well, more about that another time.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ships in the night

This posting was written more-or-less as soon as I arrived home, and it's somewhat disjointed structure reflects my tiredness at the time. I've thought about re-writing it but it seems to sum the previous 2 days up for me. See what you think...

Arriving at an airport at 6.45 on a Wednesday morning isn't always an enjoyable thing to do; on this occasion it wasn't too painful, and as I picked my way through several gangs of holidaying lads I half expected them all to wearing t-shirts that we'd printed in the shop. (We've been doing rather a lot of that lately!) I was just paying a small fortune for a thimble full of coffee and a plastic croissant from The Stansted Landslide (that's what it said it was called on the till, honest! You may know it better as this...) when a text message arrived from Pete - 'How are you doing mate?' was the cheery question; my reply of 'bored, tired, fed up - usual Wednesday morning, except I'm at Stansted Airport' seemed to go down well. I was sat attempting to drink coffee that was hotter than the surface of the sun when Pete, his wife Jayne and P.R. man Paul arrived. When we checked in with B.M.I. Baby I received the surprising news that I was allowed to carry my guitar on to the aircraft as hand luggage. I don't recall ever being able to do that before, although it may have had something to do with the fact that there were only 30 or so people on the flight. The flight to Belfast passed quickly due in no small part to the latest copy of 'Vive Le Rock!' magazine, and it was strange to walk straight out through arrivals without having to look for outsize baggage. A short taxi ride later we were checking in at The Stormont Hotel - I'm sharing room 234 with Matt who's arrived on another flight, and we've got everything from Them Crooked Vultures and Howlin' Wolf playing on the iPod dock in our room before very long. We're here for a showcase performance of 'White Star', a new musical based on the story of The Titanic. Pete and Paul are involved in promoting this and another show called 'Celtic Dreams' which is also being showcased at the same event at The Andrews Memorial Hall in nearby Comber. The music for the show has been written by Sam Davidson and John Wilson, both of whom play in the reformed version of Rory Gallagher's old band Taste. (John is the original drummer in the band.) I met Sam when we played in Belfast a couple of years ago (click here for the story) and had been given some demo recordings to learn the songs from as well as talking to him a couple of times on the phone. I spent much of the afternoon with Sam at Holywood Studios (which he and John run) going through the multi-track recording of 'The Road To Paradise' deciding which guitar parts we would play live and which ones would be left on the backing track. He also played me some recent Taste recordings - they're about to change their name to WMD and release a new album which judging by what I heard should be well worth hearing.
After returning to the hotel and catching up on some phone calls we all went to The Ganges Indian restaurant in Holywood where my vegetable masala was both very red and very nice. Myself and Matt then spent a couple of hours in the hotel bar (oh yes!) before retiring to our room for some cans of lager (Matt bought them earlier - good boy!) and to watch an excellent live set from Beady Eye on the television.

Hay fever meant that I woke up on Thursday morning with sinus-induced deafness. Matt bellowing 'BREAKFAST FINISHES IN 15 MINUTES!' finally got through to me and a stumble down to the restaurant more-or-less woke me up. A lazy morning followed (good!) with punk rock on the iPod and tennis on the telly before Walter the driver took Matt and myself to The Andrews Memorial Hall for our allotted 3 o'clock arrival time. As we arrived 'Celtic Dreams' were running through their part of the evening so I walked down to the shops to get something to eat. Back at the venue everything's set up and ready to go - we're D.I.-ing into the P.A. rather than using amplifiers and after a couple of run throughs 'The Road To Paradise' is sounding good.

The evening's event lasted about an hour; I was on stage for around 4 minutes, by far the shortest performance I've ever been part of. Pete gave a short introduction during which he referred to the show as 'Maiden Voyage' - looks like he's changed the title? - before leaving the stage. He walks past us with the words 'listen out for the seagulls'; on our cue we walk out on to the stage, pick up our instruments and await the start of the track. As it begins we exchange anxious looks when we realise that our guitars aren't audible - they finally come on during the second verse to our collective relief. Our harmonised solo goes well, and then suddenly the song is over and we've completed our part of proceedings. As we walk around to the front of the hall we smile and shake hands - it went well. Good. With an audience largely consisting of potential investors it was a night to give a good performance, and from what I saw and heard everyone did.

Back at our hotel there's food and drink a-plenty; I'm given a bowl of something that's supposed to be a vegetarian meal although it looks and smells a bit fishy (literally!) to me. I end up with a few roast potatoes, a dollop of coleslaw and, since there's no cutlery left, a teaspoon. Sitting in a roomful of millionaires (well, that's what I decided that they were!) I felt angry, sad, depressed - eventually I retired hurt to room 234 where Pete came and found me, asking if I was alright, looking really worried... yes I'm alright, just want to be on my own for a while. I laid on the bed gazing absentmindedly at an episode of 'The Mentalist' on the T.V. - I reflected on the previous day or so, mostly spent in a very expensive hotel for a few minutes on stage followed by a plate of lukewarm spuds. What was all that about? And why hadn't I noticed how good looking the woman that plays the head detective in 'The Mentalist' is before now?
Matt arrived back in the room and snapped me out of my introspection with the suggestion that we go for a drink. Good man.

As I fought to switch my alarm off at 5.15 this morning I realised that it probably hadn't been a particularly good idea to finish working your way through several pints of Guinness less than 4 hours before you're due to leave for the airport to catch your flight home. Oh well. I shook myself awake and decided that with a flight this early it doesn't matter what time I'd gone to bed, I'd still be tired. Probably. We weren't quite so successful at getting my guitar to qualify as hand luggage this time, although that may have something to do with the flight being nearly full. One of the check-in girls tell me that they can walk it on for me and if there's a spare seat then it can go in that, otherwise it will have to go in the hold. Hmm... I once read somewhere that B.B. King always buys an airline ticket for his guitar in the name of Lucille King and sits next to it during the flight - when I was asked if I'd like to move from my seat in row 19 to sit next to my guitar in row 3 I jumped at the chance. Childish? Me? Yeah, right... as I fastened the seatbelt around it I thought about asking the stewardess to take a picture of me and my guitar for a laugh but instead contented myself with a bleary smile. It's a simple life sometimes.
Just before 8 a.m. I was back at The Stansted Landslide (why on Earth is it called that?!?) paying a small fortune for a thimble full of coffee and a plastic croissant; I then sat in the same seat that I'd been sitting in when I met up with Pete, Jayne and Paul just over 2 days earlier. And so it goes.

I got home just after 10 a.m. - I'll let you know what happens with the projected production of 'White Star' (or whatever it ends up being called) as soon as there's any news...