Step on it…

Ah, the great British Summer. It can always be relied on to deliver. Just not sunshine, warmth, blue skies or anything that resembles the summers of children’s fiction. Especially around the Glastonbuty festival.

However, the poor state of the weather means that damp folkies, moist acousticians, or even soggy singers can seek solace in a page or two of tripe.

By good fortune, that is exactly what you’re reading.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

If you are a petrolhead, it will be alloy wheels, go faster stripes or furry dice. If you are into DIY it will be the latest power tool, if you are female, it will be everything in the shop[1]. I refer of course to toys, trinkets and gadgetery, the shiny geegaws, appurtenant impedimentia, which, while not strictly necessary, are much sought after.

Guitarists are well catered in this regard.

Any amount of trinketry is available for the gullible[2], easily led[3] and cognitively challenged[4] plank spanker. As I’m currently playing with our live sound, I am losing hours of otherwise useful time gazing at YouTube videos of products. I’ve found the weirdest stuff imaginable, roughly as useful to Fool’s Gold as a tin of gold paint is to a Parrot. However it is fun, and I’ve found two things:

  1. You can pay the earth for pedals
  2. You don’t have to pay the earth for pedals.

It’s probably just me, but I like pedals. They will figure in my developing rig, but only very subtly. However, that doesn’t stop me dribbling over pedal websites like a Vicar in Amsterdam.

Hence acoustic chums may like to head over to the wonderfully named http://www.donnerdeal.com. Not, as you may suspect, an online emporium of loosely Turkish comestibles, designed to give you loosely Turkish tummy, but a Chinese company who cheerfully buy pedals from other manufacturers, take them apart, and make their own versions, to the same standard, at about a third of the price.

This week has been another week of FG madness, and therefore highly enjoyable. A Care Home, a Village Fete, a ladies group, a Primary School, Armed Forces Day in a park and a Concert venue.

Keeps you off the streets and on the road, I suppose.

All lovely times and good shows, highlight for me? Hard to choose, we were honoured to support Armed Forces Day, the Care Home Folks are always nice to do something for, nice to be back in a school for a bit, but I think Newbiggin Maritime Centre was the highlight for me. A full FG two set performance of Stories with Strings, the big PA, a big projection wall, lights, all the gear in other words, and even, heavens be praised, an audience. Not a huge one, granted, but they all enjoyed it bought CD’s and signed up for the newsletter, which, unlike this blog, is sensible(ish) and written in English.

Pictures this week are, as usual, the creative work of our ever supportive mobile (mostly) road crew, The Wrinkly Wroadies. In fact we quite often celebrate (or lament) a gig with a curry in our local emporium of fine Indian cuisine. So much so, in fact, that we are tolerably well known. The waiter passed by our table last time we were in;

(this waiter comes from the great Indian state of Byker)

“Howman; is that yor Muttha in Laaa pished again?” he asked, conversationally.

“Why not likely” sez Ahhh, “It’s the forst time shiz been pished th’daay”

Next week is slightly less insane, although only a bit. Hopefully we will be working on some new songs, and also resurrecting a couple from the back catalogue – we did ‘Sundown’ a couple of times this week and it was tremendous fun to play it again – even if I am now playing a slightly different lead as I can’t remember the original part.

So, we’d better get on with it.

As the clouds of inevitability cover the hopeful Glastonbury skies and the first big drops fall upon the upturned faces of the masses, it seems that God really doesn’t like Florence and the Machine.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] The first shop.

[2] Me

[3] Me again

[4] Guess who?

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A box of mixed confections…

“Life”, said Forrest Gump famously, “is like a box of chocolates”.

Equally well known, is the follow up line “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

Less well known perhaps, is the last line, which ended up on the cutting room floor “Unless you look at them little pictures under the lid”.

This week our chocolates have held a few surprises, some nice, others simply surprises. Acoustic Chums too have fumbled in life’s bag of Revels and drawn out some soft centres which, on the whole, should never have been in the bag – they certainly weren’t written on the wrapper.

So, Gentle Reader, let us, hand in hand, skip lightly down to the Sweet Shop of Acoustic Music and see what’s written under the lid.

Be Welcome, and read on…

This week one of our tastiest treats was at an evening organised by Acoustic Chum John ‘The Power’ Jeffrey. He simply got a room sorted out and asked a few Acoustic Chums to drop in and have an evening of round the room musical goodness. So it was that a few of us turned up and did exactly that, many exploring the bottom layer of Acoustic Chocolate, just to see what centres lay in store. Longtime chums jiva, who in fairness should send their box of choc back to the maker with a stiff complaint – THAT wasn’t on the lid – were a welcome treat, laying down several of their famous messhuggah-tinkle grooves to an appreciative room. Jim Wigfield (Soft center with nuts) gave a few of his self penned highly original songs, Trev and Renata[1], found some local confections to please the audience with and of course, Mr. Power himself showed that he has lost none of his joi-de-plunk and produced some very well done songs. Full Circle, that is Paulene and Ian Young also delved into the box and found some praline delights to lay before us. Ant Wilson played a grand selection using, to my interested ear, what looked like a baby Taylor – I should’ve asked Jimmy and Val, not only could they have told me the model, they could probably tell me the serial number and the colour of the luthiers boxers. I believe a local prog-folk-experimental-fusion duo also attended but they probably just lowered the tone.

The photographs are hand tinted by the Wrinkly Wroadies. They have finally grasped how digital photography works now that I have explained that it is simply magic.

Earlier, we had another surprise centre, delivered to us by the Great Confectioner in the Sky. We’d been booked at Horden Methodist Chapel, for what we took to be a church do. Certainly the venue was in the Church, and a lovely building it was too, but the good worthies of Horden had simply organized a gig round FG, and thrown it open to the community. We had a large room, filled with punters curious (presumably) as to what the show was all about. A couple of hours later they left, (presumably) the wiser and (hopefully) the happier.

They certainly should have, as we had an excellent night – people sang, laughed and generally made all the “I am having a good time” noises that we could have wished. We’re going back next year, thanks to all the organisers as it was a great night.

I have been known to chunter on a bit within the pages of this blog, often (but by no means exclusively – no-one is a better chunterer-onnerer than I) about gigs and attendances. We’ve certainly had our best year ever and part of the definition of best is ‘learning’. And sometimes that can be expanded to ‘learning what not to do’.

We had a gig at Fuse media Centre on Friday, the third I think we’ve had there. The Fuse cannot be faulted – the venue is fantastic, the main theater is absolutely brilliant. The staff are great, supportive and helpful. The facilities are really good and so the list goes on. It has however got one time flaw – which the staff cheerfully acknowledge – which is that it is in the wrong place.

Originally constructed to help the school next door deliver high end media courses, it struggled when the course (and the associated funding) were pulled soon after opening, and became a community resource. Sadly, although very near to the school, it isn’t near the heart of the community, requiring a long walk or car journey to get there. With the other delights offered by the fleshpots of Prudhoe nearer to hand, it is not surprising that the good Burghers of Prudhoe take their custom to a more convenient elsewhere.

However some folks did turn up and we had a good show – but it would have been so much better had the place been filled – it is another regrettable instance of use or lose it, which in this instance looks like having an inevitable outcome.

But we do hope not.

In other news this week I notice that it is time for the election.

Yes, The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs committee is up for re-election, as is the post of Chairman.

Chairman Dave has been at the helm now since the sixties and has developed an iron grip on folk club policy, which is re-enforced and encouraged by a specially made pair of blinkers so he can’t see what is going on around him. In most cases, Dave has been elected un-opposed over the years. Maybe the job he was doing was respected and appreciated by all, maybe no-one felt they could do it better, maybe no-one knew there was an election – Dave often found it easier simply not to tell people – it was so much quicker. However, this year, a copy of the club rules has been found behind the cistern in the gents where it has been for safe keeping these last twenty years. Upon (very careful – it’s a bit soggy) perusal, it seems there should be a free and open election every year to vote in a new committee or approve the old one.

Dave has got competition.

Little Sid, known as a reformer, a rebel, a revolutionary for change – has put himself forward to stand against Dave.

Sid, now in his early nineties, is a firebrand. He wants new blood, new music, new faces in the club. As long as they don’t do anything noisy, or use them guitars, or sing songs they’ve written themselves, Little Sid is all for it.

Sid is on the left wing.

Dave wants no truck with change. Things are all right as they are. Things don’t need to change. The club will be fine and next years guest list should be the same as this years.

Again.

Dave is on the right wing.

What no-one has noticed, among the seismic and titanic battle that has erupted between these two giants of the local folk scene, is that sitting quietly in the corner is young Fiona[2]. She plays the pipes, rather nicely if you like the sound of a sack contain seven fluffy puppies being prodded with a selection of hot knitting needles, has been quietly observing the opportunity. She and her partner, have an interest in music. They have travelled. Last year they went to Sunderland and saw new acts, heard new sounds, had their eyes opened to the possibilities that lie beyond the melodeon and whistle horizon.

And they liked it.

If she stands, she may not win. Actually she won’t win, Dave will, but that’s by-the-by[3], but if there is no clear majority she may hold the balance of power.

Maybe she should stand on the Hot Puppies Platform and see what happens?

And so as the wind of change blows through the folk scene only to be defeated by the air-freshener of conservatism, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] New CD available now. It’s Happy, so it can’t be folk.

[2] Fiona is in her mid forties, which is why, in club terms, she is young.

[3] The election scrutineer is Dave’s neighbour Gerry Mandering.

Some days…

My old Headmaster was Mr. W.B. McMenemy. A canny old scot, he was known and revered by staff as Bill, and not entirely reverentially by the pupils, as ‘Jock’. Obsessed with errant dinner money, he would prowl the corridors in search of a boy who ‘had’nae paid yer dinner money’.
However he did have an adage, which he used often enough to remain with me and turn out, sadly, to be true.
Dressed in the finery of gown and cowl, he would stand on the stage, rosary in hand and sonorously intone to the bored masses below “Some days yer up…”. And because he said it so very often, the pupils, under their breath of course, would join in with the next line; “…and some days yer doon”.
Unfortunately, he was quite right[1].
Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

This week has been an up and down week in the life of Fool’s Gold. Some disappointments, some highlights, plenty of laughs and a few sombre moments too. Some unfortunate news concerning blog reading chums closed the week, and our good wishes wing out to those concerned. Immediately prior we played our long awaited gig at Newbiggin Maritime Centre.
This is a great venue, the room is really good, full lights rig, great projection system for us, and a bar, café, all nicey, nicey, nicey.
However we discovered that the best laid plans of mice, men and machines, as Jock might have put it, “gang oft astrae”[2].
The gentleman who organized the show with us is in receipt of ill health – really quite seriously so it seems, and has been off work for a long time. Since shortly after the gig was arranged as it turns out. Unfortunately, no-one else on the staff was able, or knew, enough about it to organise publicity, information, or the room, or the bar staff or… A last minute scramble managed to rectify some of these issues, and our thanks to the staff who made a herculean effort to get the night on.
Unfortunately, the lack of publicity somewhat hindered the public appreciation that the event was happening at all, and the only folks who turned out had seem our stuff. Only 11 people were about for the night, but, with the able assistance of Chris Milner, the night went ahead. As many an acoustic chum will be painfully aware it is hard to be ‘up’ in the face of a (mostly) empty room, but we did our best in the circumstances.
We are slated for another show there in June; we will see if that works out better. The Centre seems to be behind it and keen to push hard on it, so, we shall have to wait and see.

Better news (and some days yer up) from the Alun Armstrong theatre in Stanley as they have been back with a revised date for the ‘Stories with Strings’ show; we will be playing in the main auditorium on Friday September 25th. I think it’s still £8 in advance, but I’m sure that Chris Milner will, once again, do us the honour of opening the night.
Elsewise this week (ups and downs), three Care Home shows, some working with people for whom being up or down is no longer an option – it’s nice to unlock for them, if only briefly, a window to what once was – and a visit to the Foggy Furze Folk Club in Hartlepool. Now in a different location in the back room of The Causeway pub in the town, the club is still running, despite the gradual disappearance of some regulars. However, they gave us a very warm welcome and we played what was basically a short gig for them. We’d taken quite a bit of gear, which gave us an interesting logistical challenge in the small room! Good fun to play though and we were well received.

We’ve also been flat out daft busy rehearsing the ‘Waters of Tyme’ show, the premier (sounds grand dunnit – it’s just the first booking really) is Monday 13th April at Bede’s World Museum at 2.00pm. Admission charges to the museum apply, so you’d have to look upon us as the icing on the museum of cake[3].
One up and downside of the week is the inability I have to stop thinking. A new project idea has blossomed and grown and I’ve been unable to get it out of my head at all. However, the fog is clearing and I think I can see what we might be doing later on.
Much later on; as we still have the WOT CD to finish off.
Then there’s the Harland project.
And the next FG CD (or whatever it will be).
And a new Care Home set of songs, oh and some new songs for us – and have you seen the gigs page?
Some days yer up.

Pics as always courtesy of the Wrinkly Wroadies, the Doddery Descriptors and Wrecked Wrecorders of all FG activities.

Chairman Dave sat in the back room on club night, vaguely aware that something was not quite right. Five minutes to nine (official start time 7.30, but everyone knows it’s nine, don’t they?) and Dave was puzzled. Time for a check – pint of Guinness in fist – check, lights down – check, stage area cleared – check. Audience in seats, eager to get stared – ch… oh bugger, the room is empty.
Unless you count Mildred, otherwise known as Mrs. Dave, sitting on her usual perch by the door, ready to peck unsuspecting music lovers upon entry.
A quick look under the tables – no, the room is definitely empty.
Poke head round the corner and a quick glance into the bar.
Empty, except for Sid and his dog, and Sid is not a folk lover, which you can tell by reading his t-shirt, which as well as bearing testimony to his diet says something about heavy metal rolling. It is home made, and Sid was never a good speller.
Dave returns to his seat, confused. He announced the club singer’s night last week didn’t he? Yes, but hang on, there was no-one here then either so that probably wasn’t very effective. He’d mentioned it in the Post Office, he was sure, and then there’s that advert in ‘Folk Fairground’ – yes it’s a bit out of date, but only by ten years, two telephone numbers and a couple of day changes.
Why is no one here?
Surely, in this day and age there must be some way of letting folks know what’s going on?
H’mmm.

And so as the Sun of Fancy sinks below the horizon of Fate allowing the evening of destiny to fall darkly upon our hopes, let’s remember – it’s easier to dream in the dark. Until next time Acoustic Chums, Keep Strummin’ [1] The Catholic education is therefore not a failure. Except possibly in my case. [2] Actually, he wouldn’t as he was too obsessed with dinner money. [3] If you go, do not expect cake. If they give you some, look upon it as a bonus, not and entitlement.

Origins

Another one bites the dust. No not another departed folkie to lament, but rather another set of seven days disappear over the hill in a cloud of dust and hoofbeats. If Time rides that horse any harder, we’ll all be in Sundown by the time the morning comes.

On which poetic note, I had better bid you Welcome, Gentle Reader and invite you to read on.

The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs public house was built in the late 1950’s, embracing the ‘bloody miserable’ style of pub architecture then prevalent. It retains much of the original warmth and character to this day.

As well as the lino.

In its heyday the pub sold rather poor beer, at rather inflated prices to rather fed up customers who had strayed from rather more welcoming establishments elsewhere.

The heyday has long since passed, however with a stubbornness that makes one proud to be British, it continues to sell poor beer at inflated prices.

There are less customers.

In addition to the darts team (membership two) it also has a vibrant Leek Club (membership four), which meets regularly to discuss leeks, using descriptions that are, frankly, a double-entendres aficionados dream.

The final draw to the establishment is the long-standing, or at least long-wilting KH&WL Folk Club, resident on the premises since the foundation stone was laid.

Some stuff sticks and refuses to wash off.

The club has been run, overseen, dominated and generally cudgeled into shape by Chairman Dave. Chairman Dave has been in charge since the first chairman disappeared in 1959, whilst on a lone trip to the loo.

Dave has firm views on what a folk club should be.

Warm, welcoming, open, inclusive and friendly are watchwords.

They are words that Dave watches carefully, to make sure that none of them accidently apply to the club. Dave formed his views about folk music in the 50’s and has seen no reason to update his thinking, on the grounds that you’d have to think first. Chairman Dave regards Sandy Denny as a young upstart and reckons that if Fairport Convention stick around a while longer, they might be worth a listen.

You can spot Dave easily if you ever go to the club. You will need to go with a regular; not because it is hard to find, but because you will not get in without one. He’s the lad at the front, with the big beard, a large leather hat, wearing a waistcoat of black, somewhat eggy material and corduroy trousers that make your legs itch just to look at them. His white granddad shirt is not a stylistic choice, it’s just that it belonged to his Granddad[1].

The club runs on traditional lines.

Or tracks, if you prefer.

The first half of each evening is a sing-around. Regulars take turns, in the same order, to sing[2] the same songs each week. They do this out of a sense of duty to ‘the tradition[3]’. Then after the Beer Break, there is often a guest, who will be well known to the club members as he (always He) is usually one of them.

Singer Songwriters, funny songs, guitars (anything with strings that isn’t a fiddle) are discouraged[4]. There is a raffle and in keeping with ‘The Tradition’ the winner is ‘in the bar’.

Regular guests from further afield visit annually, you can set your clock by them. Of course they’re getting on a bit now, and one could be forgiven for feeling that not only do they know the songs because they’ve done them so much, but because they were there at the time.

It’s usually a grand night; you should get yourself down.

It’s a lot nearer than you think.

This week the world of Fool’s Gold has been as gloriously daft as ever. Bookings in, bookings out (we’ve had a couple of cancellations, double booking and illness – it happens), good news from museums and libraries, recording project still moving slowly forward – the Narrator arrives this evening to record his parts. Two Care Homes and two club visits to report on. Monday saw us at The Iron Horse in Newton Aycliffe. Genially hosted as ever by John, it was good to meet up and sing along with friendly regulars. I am very pleased to report that the resident star (and he is too) Mr. Bert Draycott is up and about and as entertaining as ever. Only Bert could get five minutes of top quality material out of reading out his medical notes. A grand impromptu spoons solo from him and John finished the night.

Thursday was Ashington FC upstairs in The Portland, which the barmaid informed me was ‘probably the most expensive pub in Ashington’. She was right too.

A small room turned up which was shame as they missed the heating, which was on tonight.

As it happens, it was an easy, gentle evening, we did a couple of sets as there is a rule about ‘no show without Punch’, and resident trio Greenheart Junction did a feature spot – well done them for their individual take on classic folk songs. Other spots from regulars concluded the night, which you can see in the documentary photographs captured by our own Primordial Paperatzi, the Wrinkly Wroadies, who once again show what you can do with a camera, even when you’re too *****d to stand. I must admit, I hadn’t expected them to do that with them.

The final event of the week was a concert in Hebron Village Hall. We had the privilege to meet Gareth Davies-Jones and play support to his fine set. This was a village social night, despite the interesting ‘Snatch Raffle’, which encouraged the social niceties of The Somme. There was also a small drumming troupe, and (not kidding) cotton wool provided. Hailing from the favelas of Hexham, the group pounded the… seventh bell… out of their drums to excellent rhythmic effect. From what I could tell behind my cotton wool.

A lovely venue, the church has lovely acoustics and we enjoyed playing to a good house. Jim and Allyson Wigfield, well known on the local folk club circuit are to be commended for their sterling work.

And so as Time and his horse disappear once again on the road to Destiny, leaving behind only the faintest whiff of Dobbins’ legacy, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] There is a story that Dave’s Grandad was due to be buried in the shirt. He wasn’t, so it makes you wonder if he’s hanging around in the wardrobe.

[2] Unaccompanied. What do you think this is; fun?

[3] …as is Traditional.

[4] By being broken in two, while the owner is stripped naked and flogged through the streets. At least that’s what it says in the Constitution.

Positivism

Every Silver Lining, warbles Alison Krauss breathily, has to have a cloud. That must be true, but only the same truth that every lost fiver must have a finder, and somewhere, for every broken heart, there’s a tube of glue. Not being much for resolutions, at New Year or any other time, there must be a reason for me deciding to (always) look on the bright side of life.

I wonder what it is?

Be  welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

The weather thwarted our live playing aspirations this week. Medically, you see, I have been diagnosed as a Wuss, so the thought of driving back over an hour from Hartlepool in freezing fog and getting home at what me Granny used to call “Yon Time”, made us stay indoors on the appointed evening. However we fully intend to get out and about as soon as possible; there y’go, the bright side again – what goes on I wonder?

However we did get up to Netherton Village Hall on Saturday night to play at Jack’s wonderful club. For those not in the know, not in the North East or not of this world; Netherton is a small village in upper Coquetdale, where it is beautiful (but not in the dark) and the concrete village hall hides a lovely wood clad chamber which is home to Jack Wilkinson’s Folk Club. The place has a wonderful ‘down home’ feel, accentuated by the lack of bar, so everyone brings a hamper. There are some great local musicians, however, the club also attracts artists of national and international renown, doubtless beguiled by the famous Wilkinson Twinkle. Honoured with an extended closing spot, FG delivered half an hour of the newer arrangements, to, it seems, general satisfaction. We left with an invitation to return, perchance on more formal arrangements. Excellent.

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We managed to get a practice in this week with our esteemed Nugget on bass, as we prepare for our guest night gig at The Croxdale Folk Club at The Daleside Arms Croxdale on the Tuesday 28th Feb.[1] It was nice to play with Steve again, and it’s a little sad that this gig will be the last of Trio formation for the immediate and foreseeable future. However the gig will be good, the choons rousing and harmonicified and we will go forward from the point as a new start. Blimey, there I go again – must get Carol to check and see if I have been sneaking more of the Positive Pills than the local Shaman prescribed.

In Stanley, we still have Shaman. Granted they wear ties and work out of the Health Centre[2], but the sick, halt and lame of Stanley don’t feel mended unless the blood of a virgin rat and some moonlight is involved. Prescription counters round here are more like an Offal House come Friday; careful you don’t slip on those entrails.

In between gigging and rehearsal, we turned our creative energies (such as they may be) to rehearsing new duo songs and arrangements of the old stuff – some quite different – and of course developing our new project…

…you know the old conundrum; which came first, the Chicken or the Egg. Well; apart from being obvious,[3] in this instance I refer to our Help for Heroes Charity CD project. Our People are talking to their People, and if they get a window, they’ll do a conference call, run a few ideas up the flagpole and see who salutes.

The problem is that we need to get permission to use their badging. To get the badging we need the artwork and to produce the art work I have in mind I need the badging. Chicken or egg?

Still no matter, we will work it out.

Lummee, more positivisim; this is getting serious.

So we decided to get down to some recording and try to get a representative sample of one of the songs down.[4] Upon the simple application of a bottle of electricity and with a sound like the Starship Enterprise booting up[5] the studio came to life, and we began.

The CD will contain three songs – our World War One trilogy, and we began with ‘Far Greater Thing’. Recording went as usual: down blind alleys, up cul-de sacs, and sometimes the wrong direction down a one way tune. However we ended up with something we are quite pleased with. We have been tarred with the label ‘Prog Folk’ – a label I like a lot – and maybe this recording nods to the direction I’d like to take our music (at least in the studio, but in some ways, live too). Sound FX, two guitars, one mandolin, one bass, one or two voices, two or three keyboard tracks, a nice story, and some great fun doing it. Is this the future for FG?

Hope so, ‘cos it’s great fun – and that’s why I’m on an up.

Onward and upward Mes Braves.

If you’d like to hear the results of our labours:

http://soundcloud.com/foolsgoldacoustic/far-greater-thing

The story is of one of the unfortunates that did not make it back home, and that’s why we are doing the charity CD.

And so, as the virgin performer on the stage of destiny reaches a peak of nerves and the concert chairman reaches for the mop of fate, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] As plugs go, I’ll grant you, not subtle.

[2] ..and in our case is two foot six and falsetto – honestly, you feel better just looking at the guy.

[3] The Chicken came first or there could not have been an egg. Ah-ha! I hear you say; then where did that chicken come from? It came from the egg, obviously. Please do at least try to keep up.

[4] Ahhh; I begin to see where this is going. (hope so, I’m @&%$$£ writing it)

[5] Sit is the dark, slowly chant “whooooooooom” from low E up to Middle C while waving a joss stick round your cheeky bits. Sod all to do with the Starship Enterprise, but takes your mind off the pain.