Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The calm before the storm?

Over the past few days I have, among other things and in no particular order :-

Worked at the Balcony Shirts t-shirt emporium in Uxbridge.

Spent an evening with Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes at The 12 Bar Club in London's Denmark Street during which Barnsley punks System Of Hate played an agreeably noisy set.

Rehearsed with Ruts D.C. at The Music Complex in Deptford

Played 'Sweet Home Chicago' and 'Why Me' with Big Al, Pete and the house band at The Three Wishes jam night in Edgware.

Fought off a painful sinus problem. Hopefully.

Watched The Good Old Boys play a fine set at The General Eliott in Uxbridge.

Seem Lead Shot Hazard (who feature Balcony Shirts t-shirt printer Dave on bass guitar) come third in a Battle Of The Bands competition at Brunel University, also in Uxbridge.

And tomorrow I'm setting out with Ruts D.C. to support The Damned on their British tour :- 

- oh yes!

If you're going to a show then I'll see you there...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

At the edge

I've got no gigs this coming weekend - it's been quite a while since I've heard myself say that so I'm not going to complain too much (for once!) as it'll hopefully give me time to get all my stuff together for the upcoming Damned / Ruts D.C. tour. With this in mind Dave, Segs and myself met up on Thursday to discuss tactics for the shows - we also found time to look at some new song ideas, and with Segs and myself trading ideas on acoustic guitars the songs are shaping up to be much rockier than the 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' material. All good stuff, and lots to look forward to.

Friday night Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played at The Three Wishes in Edgware. With England playing Chile down the road at Wembley Stadium we didn't start our first set until the game finished as it was on television in the venue and they were hoping for people who had attended the match would be coming down later - in the event we started to a fairly empty bar and finished to a fairly full one, which has to be better than the other way round doesn't it? It was my last show with the band until after the afore-mentioned tour (my good friend Pete will be depping for me in my absence) and it was an enjoyable enough affair without being anything too out of the ordinary, if you know what I mean. Still that's much better than it being a bad show!

I went to Tropic At Ruislip on Saturday evening to see Roadhouse. I've seen their name around regularly over the past few years and had always heard good things about them so it was good to get chance to finally catch a show - it would be churlish to suggest that the inclusion of two female vocalists in their line-up also effected my decision to attend, but I will admit that it didn't count against it... I guess you'd describe them as a 'blues rock' band, and overall it was a good show although it was rather hampered by a less-than-excellent sound - the girls's voices we often far too loud and had a somewhat 'boxy' sound while the guitars were nowhere near loud enough (after all, whoever heard of a guitar being too loud?!?) meaning that the band had less power than perhaps they might. Still as I say it was a good show - and it's always great to see a band that plays mostly it's own songs rather than cover versions. Well, I think that it is... and while I was there I spoke to the promoters Philip and Dave about a Gypie Mayo tribute show that'll be happening on March 2nd. It should feature The Flying Squad and The Band Of Sceptics, with the proceeds going to the hospice that cared for Gypie during his illness. I'm helping to organise it with Band Of Sceptics mainman Pete Sargeant, so expect any amount of increasingly desperate 'please come to our gig'-type publicity from me nearer to the time.

And last night I once again returned to The Three Wishes jam night with Pete and Big Al - this time we corrupted Howard and Andy from the house band into playing 'Sweet Home Chicago' and 'Jilted John' with us - yes, you read that correctly. It's hard to imagine two more diverse songs isn't it? Well, that was the idea!  

Right - only a week-and-a-bit to go...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Train in vain

Well with the Damned / Ruts D.C. tour approaching there seems to be more and more things to do and less and less opportunities for blogging - so it's just a short missive this time :-

Friday night saw Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks visit The Crown in Cowley. The band had played there while I was away with Ruts D.C. earlier this year - Pete was on guitar then (and he was with the band again the next night at The Paddington Packet Boat which peculiarly is only a few hundred yards down the road from this venue) and he joined us for a few songs at this show, which took a while to get going but developed into a highly enjoyable gig. With Dave away elsewhere Mac Poole did a fine job depping on drums, and the band must have done something right as we were offered four more gigs next year. We're playing there on Christmas Eve too - excellent.

Back to Zero played their first gig since August on Saturday, at The Railway Hotel in Southend. Now I for one had been looking forward to this for quite some time, and while I won't go so far as to say that it was a let down it wasn't quite as enjoyable as it might have been. Maybe I'd been looking forward to it a bit too much, if you know what I mean? When we arrived Daddy Long Legs were roaring through a splendid set of supercharged garage-y blues in front of a fair-sized audience for a Saturday afternoon; things were obviously overrunning a bit as they were still playing as our stage time of half past four came and went, but no one seemed to be too concerned. We were due to play two sets, the first consisting of covers and the second of original songs - the first set was a bit of a struggle but the second really came together, to the extent that we could have done an encore - but suddenly time was tight with The 45s due on at 7.45. Shame - I was really enjoying our show. They played well, very tight and slick - but am I the only person that thinks that covering songs like 'I'm A Man' and 'In The Midnight Hour' can be a risky business? Whilst they sound good in themselves they can sometimes serve to show that the band's own songs are somewhat lacking can't they?

And last night I joined the afore-mentioned Big Al and Pete at The Three Wishes in Edgware for the regular Monday jam night. With Andy from the house band on bass and Howard on drums we played 'Born To Run' and 'Peter Gunn' with Al blowing up a storm (literally!) on saxophone and the audience reacting as if we were the headline band - let's hope they're all there on Friday when the band will be playing our full show there... 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fight for your right to party

Another busy few days then...

On Thursday work continued on the Back To Zero album. Not for us a multi-million pound budget in a huge expensive recording studio; oh no - myself and Squirrel overdubbed our guitar and bass parts in his kitchen as Sam sat at the kitchen table manning his computer. Isn't technology amazing? We've now recorded all the backing tracks and even though I say so myself it's sounding really good and I for one can't wait to hear the end result.
That evening I found myself at The 12 Bar Club with John King, Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes and his mate Laurent. After a suitably entertaining evening myself and Esso left in good time (we've both missed our last train home after similar evenings at said watering hole) only to be thwarted by problems on The Metropolitan Line. We sat on the (stationary) train for what felt like ages listening to 'we're being held at a red signal' / 'a train up ahead has broken down' / 'there are trains backed up along the track' - type announcements - still it gave us even more time to put the world to rights...

I spent part of a rather bleary Friday running through some songs for the weekend's Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gigs - somewhat worryingly I found myself with more than a few 'how does the middle bit go?' moments when I played the songs - maybe it was because I was tired or maybe I wasn't quite on the ball? Either way I fell asleep mid-afternoon - not something that I like to do, but sometimes you just have to don't you? Well it had been a long day on Thursday and I was aware that the next couple of days were going to be very busy; also my back was still playing up a bit. Not good!
I'd not been to The Chippenham Hotel in Maida Hill before - according to it's website Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band The 101ers used to play there regularly, and I must say that looking at it on Friday evening you didn't need to use much imagination to see that it could well have been quite a thriving venue back in the day. It's still a pretty good place now, and although there could have been more people in attendance those who were there were an enthusiastic bunch with a fair amount of dancing and general jollity all round. A good gig, made even better by the fact that we were rebooked for January 25th at the end of the evening. Excellent!
There were a lot more people at The Dolphin in Uxbridge the next night - when we arrived the party was in full swing, with plenty of young people looking as though they'd been there for quite a while... I wouldn't say that the atmosphere could have been called hostile but I definitely got the feeling that things weren't quite right. Then again our first set was well received, and I began to think that I was worried about nothing - but three songs into our second set I saw a couple of likely lads squaring up to each other at the bar just a few feet to my right. There were a couple of young ladies trying to separate them and maybe it was all going to be ok - but no, the shouty guy on the left won't let it go, I started to think that maybe I should say to Al that we should stop playing as sometimes these things get worse if people can't hear themselves - but then again if we stop it draws attention to the situation which could accelerate things... suddenly Noel the guv'nor stepped in and removed the shouty guy from the premises in no uncertain terms. It takes a lot of guts to do something like that in my opinion (like all six foot tall men I'm a complete wimp!) and Noel did it in seconds. He definitely knows how to run a pub! Thankfully the rest of our show proceeded without incident, and if anything the band played even better than they did the night before. Good!

It was an early start for your humble narrator on Sunday - after three late nights in a row (and Saturday in the shop) I was feeling rather bleary, and with a 10am kick off to contend with things were only ever going to get blearier. When Back To Zero arrived at Mushroom Studios there seemed to be some confusion as to whether we were booked in or not, but thankfully room 2 was available so we set to work preparing for this coming Saturday's show at The Railway Hotel in Southend. Over the next four hours we worked up a set of BTZ songs and an eclectic selection of cover versions, and by the end of the session pronounced ourselves pleased with our efforts. An amusing moment occurred when Barrie Masters of local heroes Eddie and The Hot Rods suddenly appeared in the room with us - he'd been told that Squirrel was there and as he hadn't seen him to talk to for many years he'd called in to say hello. Good job we hadn't been playing one of his band's songs eh?!?

And last night it was up to Madame JoJo's in Soho for the last of the Monday punk and reggae nights - myself and Esso got stranded in The Ship for rather longer than we thought we would meaning that The Duel were already on stage when we arrived. They were sounding good and there were plenty of people in the club - these nights seem to have been a success, which can only be a good thing for live music in my not-so-humble opinion. We left as Segs was getting going with his DJ set - well after Thursday night we were taking no chances...