Archive | October, 2010

Gigs and guitars

27 Oct
Shitocaster Les Pawn

Shitocaster Les Pawn

Not a lot to say about this last week. I was screwed over by my bank, NatWest, with regards to my debit card but I won’t go into detail as these days, now that we’re following the American trend of litigation, I might find myself getting sued.

Last week’s highlight was a duo gig with my good friend Keith Thompson. I had a great time performing with Keith and managed to use some instruments I don’t get a chance to play very often, including an old Supro lap steel and a Turkish darbuka – a sort of aluminium djembe with a tambourine ring inside. I kept the rhythm going with one of Bryn William’s excellent foot stompers and a foot tambourine. I played harmonica on many songs of course and I took the mandolin along as well. David, the landlord, made a few complimentary one-man-band comments and the whole gig went down very well with the crowd. The material was mostly Keith’s songs with a few covers and I’m really looking forward to the next one whenever that may be.

Talking of looking forward, the Sons of the Delta are playing at a blues festival in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, this coming weekend. We are flying out on Friday, playing saturday night, then flying back on Monday. It’s very good of the promoter to get us over for so long for just one gig. Plenty of time to relax in the sun and actually see some of the location we are playing in. It also gives us time to really catch up with our Spanish agent, Javier, who we haven’t seen for a while. The only downside is this time we are flying budget (the promoter books the flights so it’s out of our control) and so I’ve had to get a new flight case for the guitar which has cost me a big bite out of what I’m getting paid. Still, a free long weekend in Gran Canaria and a great festival slot is well worth it. I’ve modified my travel guitar ready for the trip (a home-brew which I’ve branded Shitocaster Les Pawn) and changed the pickups for a really hot overwound P90 on the neck and a dirty dual rail humbucker on the bridge. She sounds hot, sweet and dirty. I will resist the urge to comment further on that…

Right, I’m off to find my swim shorts just in case we find ourselves on the beach.

Brozman and Browning

18 Oct
Bob Brozman's stage setup

Bob Brozman's stage setup

Another quiet week on the performing front which gave me the opportunity to go to a few gigs as a punter.

Monday night I saw Boz Brozman perform at the Blues Front Blues Rooms at the Miners Arms in Whitecroft, a well-established blues club and a great little venue. For some reason no-one else wanted to sit in the front centre seats where you are about six feet from the performer, so even though I got there just as Bob was about to start I was able to watch Bob up-close and marvel at his playing and his warm, humorous showmanship. He had three or four National tri-cone guitars, a Weissenborn lap steel, a uke and an Australian made steel resonator uke, which looked like a mini National tri-cone. very sweet. I didn’t buy and CDs or DVDs – there were far too many to choose from, especially as Bob plays so many different styles of music from Hawaiian through African to blues and tends to theme his CDs. For me, half of what he does is visual so if anything a DVD would be the way to go. I left there keen to try experimenting with different tunings for slide guitar.

My bi-weekly turn at hosting the Cross Keys Inn open mic was fun as usual and I returned there Thursday night to see the Steve Browning Band. Steve is a much-in-demand guitarist and covers a wide range of styles – blues, jazz, funk, soul and probably much more. He plays in a number of bands in the Gloucestershire area, most notably the Patsy Gamble Band, and it’s great to see him fronting his own. The band was really tight thanks to the rhythm section of Lee and Alan, and Steve had a great tone on his Hamer Duotone guitar, played through a Fender Vibroluxe.

Had a techie weekend upgrading my PC, fitting a new TV aerial and stripping down the electric guitar I use in Spain ready to find and fix an electrical issue. The worse part of that job was getting the green shrink-wrap off it (don’t ask…) I have some new pickups on the way so while it’s stripped I’m going to experiment and see if I can get an even better tone and break-up. I’ll keep you posted.

Whitstable and the Jigantics

11 Oct
the Jigantics - set up and ready to play

the Jigantics - set up and ready to play

Mostly a domestic week last week. Well, it has to be done now and again. I still need to get round to a major CD and CD-case re-uniting session but that can wait. Anyway, I’m sure you are not here to read about stuff like that – you want intrigue, controversy and dirt from the heady intoxicating world of rock’n’roll. So with that in mind Friday night was the inaugural gig for one of the new bands I’m in, the Jigantics

Ade and I had a lazy drive to Whitstable, via Reading service station on the M4 to drop off a bass cab which Ade had just sold on eBay, and arrived at the sea front an hour before the time arranged to go to the theatre. Not sure if it was the main beach, but the shingle and old wooden wave breaks were very typical of a lot of smaller English beaches. It struck me as more of a small fishing town, with their specialty being oysters. No good for me as I have a shellfish intolerance. Nonetheless it was a pleasant place to have a coffee and sandwich after the long drive.

The Playhouse Theatre is a wonderful little theatre, originally a United Reformed Church, and although it was only converted to a theatre in the early 1980s it has a very Victorian look and feel. We sound checked first, without Rick our guitarist as he wasn’t able to make it that early, and then relaxed in the dressing room with some great food and local beer provided by Debs, our agent and the promoter of that evening’s event. I really enjoyed listening to the first two acts, the Acoustic Architects and Luke Jackson, and also enjoyed their company backstage – fine musicians and fun guys to have around. Our turn to perform came and everything pretty much went according to plan apart from a few first-gig teething troubles with the on-stage sound. Nothing we can’t overcome and certainly didn’t affect the enjoyment of the audience. They all seemed very receptive to what we were doing and if we’d had any CDs we would have sold quite a few. Some people had already got their money out before realising we had no merchandise. All we could do was watch them put it away again. Sigh. But joking aside, it’s good to know that people are keen to get hold of a CD and fortunately we are working on one. All in all a successful and enjoyable debut gig.

Right, I’m off to get ready to go out. Bob Brozman is playing at the Blues Front Blues Rooms at the Miners Arms in Whitecroft tonight and there’s a seat with my name on it. Bye!

Swanage Blues & Roots Festival 2010

4 Oct
Loaning my signed Alamo Fiesta to the European Blues Association. Me with Michael Roach.

Loaning my signed Alamo Fiesta to the European Blues Association. Me with Michael Roach.

Very much a blues weekend, which is appropriate as it International Blues Week this week – part of Black History Month. If you don’t know much about the blues, this week is your week to change that. Immerse yourself in all things blues related. Buy some blues, read about it, hum a blues tune in the shower. Act now! ;)

Things went well at the EBA on Saturday with the guitar presentation. Photos were taken of handshakes and smiles. It was good to see plenty of people there for their monthly blues jams. Check out the EBA here: http://www.euroblues.org/

After the EBA presentation Rick and I headed south to Swanage for our Sons of the Delta Duo gigs. There are two things you can do in an English seaside town on a dull, wet and windy day – get fed up about it or laugh at the stereotypicalness of it. I decided on the latter. Swanage is a lovely little town on the South coast – heaving in the summer and considerably quieter out of season, although it certainly wasn’t that quiet this this weekend thanks to the 2010 Swanage Blues and Roots Festival. Our first gig was upstairs at the Country Foods Kitchen. The gig was a sell-out and many people were turned away at the door which is a shame for them but great for us. The acoustics in the room were perfect and we really had a good time with an enthusiastic audience. The chef, Mark, got up and blew some great harp on a few songs, much to the delight of everyone there. Afterwards we headed back to the caravan park where we were staying, hoping to park up the cars and spend and hour or two in the bar which, we had been told, stayed open til around 2.00am the night before. Not that night though, so more than a bit disappointed we sat in the caravan with nothing to drink and nothing to do. We could have headed back into town but that would have meant unpacking one of the cars and we didn’t fancy that, especially as it was 11.45 and we had no idea whether we’d get a late drink anywhere.

After a noisy night with the wind howling and the rain beating down on the caravan roof, we headed back to Country Foods Kitchen and had a huge and tasty English breakfast. We remarked on the music that was playing in the background and were told “that’s you from last night”. Lex, the guy who had recorded the gig, came and joined us on our table and we talked guitars and recording. He left while we were still eating and came back a short while later with the copy of the recording for us. It sounded pretty good, so I’ll have a proper listen to and see if there’s anything we can use.

Our afternoon gig was back at the Herston Camp Site in the bar and it was good to finally sit down with a beer there. Considering the weather and the fact that the camp site is a mile or so out-of-town there was a good turn out for the gig. By the time we were scheduled to finish people were still up on their feet dancing and so we decided to keep the place rocking for another half hour. A very successful weekend. Plenty of CDs sold and both venues were keen to get our details. We’ll try to work them in to our south coast schedule for next time we are down that way, hopefully early next year.

Busy week

1 Oct
the Jigantics

the Jigantics

It’s been a week of rehearsals, hosting open mics, updating websites and making plans for 2011. I’ve even managed to squeeze a bit of songwriting in.

We have our first Jigantics gig in a week’s time at the Playhouse Theatre in Whitstable. We’re only playing for forty-five minutes but it’s going to be great fun. The first of many I’m sure. The Jigantics rehearsal last night was great fun as it always is. We’ve decided what numbers we are going to play. Just need to decide in what order. I’m especially having fun in this new band as I get to play squeezebox again after quite a few years and also mandola which otherwise doesn’t get much of an airing. Because we’re all so busy, getting us all together for anything other than rehearsals is tricky, so I managed to persuade everyone to hang around at the end of the evening for an impromptu photo shoot as our agent is keen to get a photo to use on publicity. This one was the best of the batch and I think it reflects the fun aspect of the band very nicely. Visit our website to listen to some songs we’ve uploaded and get an idea of what we’re all about – www.thejigantics.com

This weekend is a busy one. Tomorrow morning I’m going into the offices of the European Blues Association to hand over a guitar I’m loaning them for display. It has signatures of some big blues names on it, collected when I was over in Clarksdale, Mississippi, back in October 2004 with the Sons of the Delta. There will be a bit of a presentation, handshaking and photographs. It’s not a guitar I use often so it’s nice to know it will be on display for others to enjoy instead of just collecting dust at my house. They have some other very nice guitars there and in exchange for the loan I can borrow them if I ever fancy using them to record with. After the presentation I have to drive down to Swanage for a weekend of gigs at the Swanage blues festival with the Sons of the Delta duo. Looks like it’s going to be a wet one but I’m sure the die-hard blues fans will still turn out in large numbers.

Plans are afoot for a return visit to Clarksdale for the Sons of the Delta in April of next year for the 2011 Juke Joint Festival. Looks like the whole band will be going this time for some Southern hospitality, great music, great food and a chance for me to catch up with the Myers Brothers again. Can’t wait!