Hey, you!

Was it you?

I’m sure it would be one of you, probably you.

You look the sort.

One minute it’s February, then you look up – May.

I do wish you’d stop doing it, it’s getting scary; in fact, unless you pack it in, Mr. Bottom will have a quick visit to Spankytown.

Be Welcome Other Gentle Readers, and read on…

 

Another week of musical frolics and fun, a bit less than the previous weeks, but that’s no bad thing as it lets us get on with other FG related shenaningans, more of which later.

 

We were pleased to be asked to lead the singaround at Croxdale Folk Club this week.

As many of you will know, John, longtime head honcho of the aforementioned folk club died suddenly earlier in the year. The club had been slowly declining for some time, and it was no great mental jump to think that with John’s passing, it would become the subject of a song, not the venue for same.

However it has been rescued by Jackie and Mark (with Sheila too) to live to warble another day.

That was good news.

Better news was the arrival of singers and a few audience on the night – and it’s been a while since you could say that. Turns out, this was the first resurrected folk club night, so we were pleased, and not a bit relieved to welcome a few singists.

The Wrinkly Wroadies were on hand to Wrecord the whole thing with their magical digital dexterity – you try holding a camera steady when you’re that drunk. The images they captured that did not feature the floor, ceiling or bits of table are appended here somewhere.

A special mention goes to Raffaella, who made her debut singing. Good job she chose nice easy stuff; a capella versions of Loreena McKennit and Blackmore’s Night.

Crikey.

And the lass did brilliant too.

Stop me if I’ve told you this before.

It’s just senility that causes it, so you can’t blame me.

We did a show recently and a blokie came up to Carol afterwards.

A very most properly Port Out Starboard Home Gadgie was he, and he objected to Our Heroine in stentorian tones of outrage, disbelief and annoyance.

‘This was meant to be acoustic music – you used electric guitars[1] and a PA system.’

This clearly means that it wasn’t acoustic.

I suppose he had a point.

He also had a hearing aid.

And sat at the back.

Of a very large hall.

That had 110 people in it, all sat – logically – in front of him.

If we had done it acoustic he wouldn’t have heard a thing.

Does that advance the debate?

Thought not[2].

 

All of which nonsense brings me back to FG. We will be selling our Fender Passport 250 PA (old model, big, and plenty of push – nice sound too). That’s the one that clips together and makes one large box to transport. It is good, but not for the faint of muscle. I think I might mark it up as ‘collection only’, as the Postie might have a coronary[3].

 

We have been asked lots of times after ‘Stories’ shows, if we have a CD.

Naturally, we do.

However, the CD has the songs on it and not the stories, and some folks want both. The obvious answer seemed to be a live DVD, but that was fraught with technical issues and a hefty price tag to get it done, so we thought about a CD and book combo.

We didn’t have one of those either; but we do now.

Or almost.

The artwork is done, the words about 90% completed, the cover wrap is going to the printer this week, and you, you lucky little punter you, will be able to take away the music CD and a book of words with the stories in it. Sourcing images that won’t get me arrested for copyright infringement has been fun, but achieved[4].

Some new songs bubbling at the back of me bonce, and a couple of shows this week, plus the website to update and the book to finish.

Good job I’m not teaching this week.

Oh; it seems that I am.

 

And with that bombshell the Grim Reaper of Grimly Grimness romps into the singing room and surveys the Folk Club Faithful of Fetid Fatality and decides not to bother, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next week, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

[1] I don’t think explaining about electro-acoustics or the Fishman system would have helped.

[2] I’m glad that’s all cleared up.

[3] And a hernia.

[4] …Honest, Your Honour

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Of Beds, Baths and Obamas…

To suggest we have been ‘on tour’ seems, on the face of it, to be somewhat big-headedly grand. Being on tour means staying in hotels, eating lots of curry and drinking beer whilst only occasionally being interrupted by the business of playing music.

 

Hang on; I think we’ve been on tour…
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

We have become experts at the verb to ‘Travelodge’. If you believe the telly, this has something to do with a miniature Gonk[1]-like version of oneself, singing a song about being happy, whilst snuggling into bed alongside you.

If that happened to me (and it usually takes a fair bit of whisky before it does) I’d be out of there like a greased whipped with a bowel condition.

That notwithstanding, there are a few things we have learned. Firstly most clients of Travelodge are of the dwarf persuasion. I know this because of the bath. It is always fun to have a bath in installments. The rooms are huge. Empty, but huge. This is of course a Good Thing, as we can’t leave the gear in the car, so it has to make the trip from the car park to the room. In this case on the second floor.

But there was a lift.

No wonder my back is giving me grief again.

The one we use is actually very good. It’s right next door to Stanstead Aerodrome, and is well appointed. It has a bar and boasts a restaurant. I am aware that ‘Restaurant’ is a much abused term, conjuring as it does visions of Baccahnarian repast, but all too often turns out to be a McDonalds. If they are restaurants, then I am a musician.

But the gaff was nice enough; clean and warm and the aforementioned bar was nice after a gig. And, we had a special visitor too. Nice Mr. Obama flew past the window, preceded, subtly, by two other jets and several attack helicopters. I know customs can be rough, but…

I’m sure he waved, or was it his missus, Calzone?

 

First up this week was WI booking near Sunderland. It went well, the ladies enjoyed the show and sang, laughed and generally joined in which was grand. The show was notable for another reason though; at the end as they all left (thankfully via the merch table) one lady stopped to chat:

“My brother’s a Folk Singer – plays and sings and that”.

“Oh yes?” Quoth I, conversationally.

“Yes, he’s called Jez Lowe, have you heard of him?”

 

 

Three shows in deepest Hertfordshire followed, two with big audiences (170 and 70) and they seemed to have gone well. The last show was for a 61 club in Essex, which we wanted to play at as the lovely gentleman featured in the song ‘Bevin Boys’ goes there. At 90+ and not too well, Francis turned up specially – I hope he enjoyed the song – he was certainly singing!

The journey home was long, probably made longer by the prospect of another (albeit much shorter) trip on Saturday evening to play a big Rotary event somewhere in Unfinished Darlingtonshire.

This turned out to be a Geet Posh™ country hall retreat, wif bow ties ‘n long dresses ‘n fings. It also turned out to be an absolute riot, as they were all out for a good time, with thankfully everyone seemed to have, it was a slightly unusual, but great fun FG gig.

 

The gear has all behaved well thus far, the big PA getting a good run out and sounding very nice indeed. I have found that I’ll need to add some boost to my PRS for the solo bits. Not that I exactly shred, but Carol’s tenor is talking properly through the PA now, and I need to just lift that little bit over the top for solo bits. This will probably meant pressing my very old Boss graphic pedal into service, as it runs off an old-school battery. Setup time is at a premium for us, so whatever else gets added to the set, it will have to be very quick to set up[2].

Which rules out the greased-up fire-eating dwarves dressed as Dante’s minor demons; as they take too long to get ready, and are not, as it turns out, actually fireproof[3].

 

We do quite well with the merch at the moment. The CDs themed round the show we are doing seem to go very well. We reckon that if you flog to about 10% of the bodies in the room, that is a reasonable batting average. This proves that 90% of our audiences:

  1. Do not own a CD player
  2. Are skint
  3. Are music lovers.

 

It’s not about the cash sales (although, that is undeniably a nice bonus), it’s more about getting FG songs out and listened to. So we need to develop that side of things. T-Shirts are an option of course.

An option that lasted about five seconds.

We do however have a cunning plan.

Printers have been contacted and a large job awaits my steaming computer.

More anon.

 

Next week is more giggage, a bit less than this week, but still busy. Some work for the Man in there too, but hopefully more music, more frivolity and more baths – with or without the dwarfs[4].

 

And so as the Tour Bus of Eternity heads off to the Great Big Gig of Eternal Pleasure, only to be diverted at Doncaster and terminate – as so many do – at Peterborough, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until Next Time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

[1] If you remember gonks, you must be as old as me. Or Scottish. In which case, that’s not what I meant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonk

[2] Has anyone got a water-cooled Halogen laser they don’t want?

[3] Always check the label for the kite mark. That way you won’t get burned, and neither will your dwarf.

[4] Where’s the fun in that?

The Digital Jump

I have made the digital jump, and you can blame the decorators. Given that the decorator was me, this means I catch it in the neck, but then: I probably deserve it, for I, the ‘Fool’ bit of Fool’s Gold, have made the digital jump.

Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

For years I have made the religious trek to the record store. I have a pile of very probably mouldy vinyl in the garage, all that remains of a much larger collection plundered by Scotswood bandits many years ago[1]. I have only recently sent my huge collection of cassette tapes to Jesus, largely on the rounds that I no longer have a cassette tape. And they sound rubbish: that too. And this week, following the redecoration of FG Towers, and the consequent streamlining of large racks of CD towers, the CD collection has followed.

But not to landfill.

At the moment they are in huge boxes and adorn the dining room still with their silent digital legacy.

We have spent significant amounts of time ripping all the CDs in the collection and dropped them onto a large external drive, also backing them up (or at least, soon). This renders the CDs themselves obsolete. They could go in the garage with the vinyl, possibly to occupy the space so recently vacated by a large box of cassette tapes, but no – Mes Braves – this shall not be!

Technology shall ride to our aid on a white iPad. We’re planning to scan the barcodes and send them off to an online place who promises, yes promises, to pay us substantial Wonga for our old CDs. So far about 50p each seems to be the going rate.

Bargain.

The best bit though, is the fact that the company offers a Freepost service. I wonder what will happen when we struggle up to the Post Office with a wheelbarrow and the first installment of Eighteen and a half tonnes of CD’s?

 

This week has been another very full one for FG. Last week was six gigs, this week only five (I think), but busy and in the main, great fun. There were some disappointments along the way, however. We did our show at the Alun Armstrong Theatre in Stanley on Wednesday night, and the turnout was – to say the least – disappointing. We made double figures, but not by much. This has brought home to us the importance of marketing and promo, and the importance – nay necessity, of overseeing it even when it’s really someone else’s parish. The show itself was good and everyone there enjoyed it – we actually sold more CDs by percentage than usual. During the interval, I was talking to a bloke who’d seen us last year and come along again. At one point he said:

“I don’t know what’s wrong with this place (Stanley) when it comes to live music”.

He went on to inform me that he’s recently been to the same theatre to see the Acoustic Strawbs.

Apparently we had more in than they did.

I know it’s very wrong of me, but it did make me feel a wee bit better.

 

The pictures this week are the work of our venerable wroad crew, the Access All Areas (especially the loo) wretainers that are The Wrinkly Wroadies. They turned out for the Stanley show, although it was hard getting them in, as you have to walk through the bar first. They did make it for the second half, but had to leave early to avoid the bar crush at the end.
As far as I know, they’re still there.

Other gigs included a show at City Library, which was really nice, and Care Homes and something at Gibside for the National Trust.

I fear that the job at Gibside is our swansong for that event. We’ve done their evening beer garden shows for a few years now, and it has always been unremittingly freezing. This week it was down to 2 degrees, outside, under a Gazebo that offers as much protection from the elements as a Nun’s honour is protected by her wimple when there’s a randy Borgia about.

It was bl**dy cold. The flute refused, the whistle was so out of tune it sounded like a squirrel announcing a deathly flatulent fanfare, my fingers packed in and the lead runs all wandered astray[2]. The rain and snow (yes, it did) got on the gear. The instruments didn’t like it.
And you don’t get paid.

So I think that next time it comes round, it may be a game of soldiers that we do not play.

Everyone seemed to have a good time though.

 

This week coming should be good fun. It is we for Hertfordshire and Essex, to play some big U3A shows. Last year was great so we’re looking forward very much to this one. We will probably drop in to a couple of clubs if time and curry allows.

 

And so, as the digital drive of MP3 Destiny spins into life and the PC of Fate looks at it through the USB of Circumstance, then digitally shrugs it’s shoulders and decides it’s not really there, I notice it is the end of this blog.

 

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

[1] When I think about it, it was many years ago. One of the most recent albums to get nicked would be something like Marconi’s Greatest Hits.

[2] How fortunate, then, to have the weather to blame.

What could possibly go wrong?

So there we were, on the Tour Bus[1], heading for the North Lakes to do a show at Lazonby Village Hall. The sat nav, which has recently developed an acute sense of humour decided to take us over Hartside Pass, after an interesting tour of Weardale. As we climbed in the evening sun, the distant hills showed that winter is not done yet. Snow piled in white caps reflected skyward the orange glow of dusk. The effect was very picture postcard.

Still, eh?

Distant snow. If that’s the worst that happens, it’s not too bad.

Right?

 

So, as we drove home several hours later, into the teeth of the raging blizzard, we climbed Hartside via a rough country track (I swear the sat nav was giggling), we could hardly see through the windscreen.

Still; the last hurrah of winter.

Nothing else could go wrong.

Right?

On the way down to Alston, it became apparent that the road had not been gritted, so we did a Torville and Dean, albeit very slowly, all the way down to England’s highest Market Town.

Still eh?

Nothing else bad can happen.

Right?

Stanley Sm

The Fog was utterly impenetrable on the other side of Alston. It was crawl along time, and we had to hope that the world in front of the car was made of road and not constructed entirely of bits of field or lumps of Farmhouse.

Still eh?
Right?

 

At Killhope the road disappeared altogether. The snow had stopped; but it had evidently been this way before, as the only way to get across the moor was to follow the dwindling wheel tracks of a tractor which had slithered down earlier.

Nowt else surely?

As we went slurping past a particularly black lump of countryside just outside Lanchester we both caught, out of the corner of the eye, a strange white construction, glowing in a manner that spoke more of Dennis Wheatley than roadworks. It was quite an unsight, and there was a definitely as strange smell in the car, although I think that was Carol.

The end, yes?
On the final hill up to home, the car suddenly sang the most eerie siren song, all by its little self. This time the smell was attributable to the entire band.

And the gig itself?

Nothing wrong there surely?

 

While doing the soundcheck, I went plug in my guitar. As I fiddled with the jack lead, it became apparent that, while the hole was present in abundance, the socket itself was rather more noticeable by its absence. I had a hole, but no jack plug pluggy in bit[2].

Mucho Le Panic[3].

However, on the road adventures abound, so out with the Swiss Army Knife, and a quick, pre-gig dismantling of the electrics, a judicious amount fiddling with a pair of pliers and we managed to somehow, shove it in[4].

And the show itself?

Surely nothing could wrong with that?

Correct. It didn’t.

 

It was a brilliant show, we really enjoyed playing, the sound was good, the hall was nice, the audience really enjoyed it and gave us a great reception, encores, and plenty of CD’s sold.

Worth it or what?

I should Co-Co.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

 

This is the last short form blog, normal service will be resumed next week. The reason is the decorating, which is nearing the end, but still not quite completed. We were offered assistance from a certain well-known bass playing decorator, and we were tempted, but then remembered that the only thing more dangerous than a bass player with a bass is a bass player with a paintbrush.

Until Next Time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] It’s a car, really, but it makes us sound more Rock ‘n Roll.

Sad, really.

[2] I hope this isn’t too technical.

[3] Who is, as you recall, a French Jazz improvisational pianist.

[4] Please don’t snigger lie that; it does you no credit.

Short, but still as sweet…

Here’s a thunk to get you thunking on a Sunday morning.I’m sure you welcome the idea of getting the little grey cells from 0 to 60, it might help you avoid the decline into a grey and meaningless existence, devoid of joy or reason. 

Of course not all melodeon players are like that, just the ones who can still stand.

Anyway, back to the thunk of the day; if you were a bird (no the feathered variety ), which spuggy would you be.

As for me?

Be welcome, gentle reader and read on…
I am not, by nature covetous. I may see an acoustic chum wielding an expensive and shiny guitar, but it doesn’t make me want one myself. I am not especially greedy – at least, I hope not. I always know when I have had enough to drink as I have a built in early warning system called marriage- it never fails.

However, I am very acquisitive, if I were one of our feathered friends, I’d be a magpie.

It is a matter of purest coincidence that I hail from the northern playground of the rich, Newcastle. That magpie association is best denied this season anyway. No, in my case the shiny objects hidden away in my nest tend to be musical, and often, music technology.

This week we have had the builders in. Or at least a plasterer, which is very nearly a builder. This has of course has meant the turning out every cupboard and box that we possess, and the consequent realisation that we have enough kit – unused kit – to start a shop.

So it looks like that’s what we’ll do.

It will be an eBay shop, probably without the shop bit, but we hope to see if we can turn some gear into a few pennies (it will be pennies) and create some space while passing on some wonderful kit to a new home, safe from my ham fisted efforts.

So, what sort of gear?

Well, there will be some instruments, maybe a mandolin, maybe some guitars. But there will be some music tech kit, most of which will rejoice in the advertising title of ‘retro’.

Yes, I know it really means ‘old’, but it can also have flavours of ‘desirable’ and ‘sexy’.

I’m quite retro myself.

However, it can also have an aftertaste of ‘knackered’ and possibly ‘not entirely working’. So some stuff will have to go in the skip.

Just to flavour the pot, there will be a Tascam 488 mark II, a Yamaha QY 700 and a Roland D-10. All lovely and working.

Such fun.

The plasterer previously mentioned has left the building, we don’t like to keep them once they’ve done as they clutter the place up, but young Dan has done us proud. 

The only problem is that we now have a lot of decorating to do. And next week has six gigs in it.

And two of them are big.

And one of them is very big.

And the admin for FG is backing up.

Which is why, you lucky little acoustic minx, this is a very short blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep strummin

Easter Greetings

Easter means different things to different people. For some it is a time for family, others embrace the religious significance attributed by whichever branch of faith to which they adhere. Still others see it as simply a holiday, and a few – very few, run to all three.

It should come as little surprise that in FG land we cling to none of the above. We see family all the time, not just at Easter, the religious significance we leave to others better placed to resolve, and every day, Acoustic Chums, is a holiday.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

Oh, I forgot about the chocolate.

 

This week has been another one of those weeks.

Five shows in four days, three Care Homes and two ‘Stories’ shows kept us busy enough. We are becoming adept at fast turnrounds, which has been very useful this week, as one outing left us outside the hall (probably the best place for us) until ten minutes before the advertised start time.

To be fair, the rest of the audience was outside with us so we weren’t lonely, but it did make for a slightly rushed setup. The show, naturally, went on.

A few more bookings have turned up, some Care Homes, some bigger U3A shows, and gratifyingly, more stuff for 2017.

All of which means that we’ve also been looking to the show and thinking about what can be done to improve it. All the new songs are not yet in the current show, but we’ve still begun to looking at what goes in, what stays in, and what we like to play. Writing has just about started and the visual aspect of the stories show has been revisited, with a mammoth sequence added for a certain North Eastern song.

Now, it may be that you’d think this little lot was enough for two people of less than average ability for one week.

Not so, oh my hearty chum.

For this week is the Week of The Plumber. And Next week, if the portents be true, the runes speak and the stars align; is the Week of the Plasterer. Even musicians go to the loo, and without putting you off your Easter Bunny, our plumbing situation, instead of involving a super-silent soft flush with instant refill, has been operated by something much more like a bucket. Plumbers operate to their own astrological time system, so it’s been a while, but this week, normal service has been resumed, allowing us (flushed with success) to start emptying a few rooms ready for a Plastering type to drop by this week and make our walls as smooth as a Malteser’s bum.

We shall soon be completely plastered, meaning that we can chat to the Wrinkly Wroadies on their level.

Add to that lot all the live gear, the extra furniture, the display cabinet fastened to the stairs with a piece of string and the large tools employed for the purpose of braying off skirting boards, and you may understand, Gentle Reader, why I am pleased that it is the holiday weekend.

And so, as I realize that you have better things to do, possibly involving chocolate, alcohol and perhaps even prayer, we bid you all a very Happy Easter.

Whether you want it or not.

Until next time, Acoutic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

Spring II?

They tell me that Spring is in the air.

They tell me many things, and they’re not always quite right.

On this occasion, however, there may be something in the rumour, as the Stanley fog is lifting ever so slightly and the natives go abroad clad only in three layers of oilskin t-shirts instead of the customary winter five.

Lambs gambol gaily in the field, clearly unaware of what Easter means.

The fair Lady Carol has begun spring cleaning. In our case that means stripping walls, but also digging the allotment. I am not given to the outdoor life at 5.30am, so my spring cleaning has led me to undertake a full stock take of the FG big show. A check of all the equipment, and an extensive and exhaustive shopping list of all the bits we need to replace or get in order to improve.

Sound fascinating?

Be Welcome Gentle Reader and plough on…

 

The dining room has once again become a sound room, and all the gear set up. Every lead dragged out, everything set up, everything plugged in, plugged out and shaken. Every coil uncoiled and then, just for fun, recoiled. Every plonk we possess has been plonked, and in some cases plinked too. At the end of my exhaustive enquiries, I think we need to get…

…some cable ties.

I found one mic xlr that has died but otherwise, everything works pretty much as it should.

Of course Carol sneakily managed to circumvent the process by buying something before this stocktake. Her uke bass (wonderful machine that it is) is struggling with some of the more adventurous basslines, and drops volume in some parts of the upper register. It has consequently been reserved for the care home set, while she now sports a Squier Jaguar Short Scale bass for full FG shows. It’s great and has a lovely snap to it and it really helps, especially through the big PA.

It looks like I will get a bag of cable ties.

B*gg*r.

 

This week has been the usual round of rehearsing and shows. We’ve been to Leeds to do a U3A and a couple of local bits too. It’s interesting to note that sometimes the biggest shows (while good) are not necessarily the standout shows memory-wise. We did a show for a small group of Ladies in a church hall, and although there were only maybe 40 in the room, they loved it and let us know that they loved it. Carol even got flowers.

And I didn’t even get some cable ties.

B*gg*r.

 

This week there are no pictures as The Wrinkly Wroadies have not been to any of our gigs. This is not because of a sudden outbreak of musical taste on their part, but because one show was a Care Home, and while getting them in would be easy…

…the other two were booked functions so turning up with two relative piddled rellies is not good for the reputation.

I can report (as I know you’re bothered about it) that Pauline Wroadie can drink quite a lot of red wine before she falls over. Being a bit little and a lot p****d, I can report that piddled Wrinklies simply bounce and continue drinking.

 

The week ahead looks like being dominated by stripping walls as a plastering chum’s visit looms. However there’s four gigs to fit in somehow including a ‘Beat The Drum’ show which we haven’t done for a while – I must try to remember how to play in open G.

 

Regular readers will have followed my little comments about Folk Clubs over the past few weeks. These have caused the kind of opinion you might expect. Some people agree, some people disagree, most people, especially those not currently in possession of as much as a Marmoset, couldn’t give a monkeys. I will however refrain this week, as it could just become a club bashing session, and that’s not really what I’m trying to say.

So I’ll haad me gob.

Actually, I think I may open me gob on other subjects, but possibly not here.

I quite fancy starting a new blog somewhere, where I can freely moan about anything that takes my little moaning fancy.

The FG blog is not the place for me to inflict upon you my views on nice Mr. Gove (saintly man, or should be), nor my opinions on any matter other than music.

So I might.

I just might.

If I get time.

B*gg*r.

 

And so, as the sweet smell of spring drifts through the open window, I am reminded of what Farmers do to fields in springtime. It’s very similar to politicians.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’