Archive | November, 2010

Photos, funk and fiddling with amps

15 Nov
Worlds Rarest Funk 45s Vol 2

Worlds Rarest Funk 45s Vol 2

Another busy week – aren’t they all? Mostly off-stage but there’s always plenty to do like website updates, booking gigs, maintenance of leads, guitars, harps, amps, etc. In this day and age a regular gigging musician has as much to do behind the scenes, if not more, as they do in the public face. When I say ‘regular’ I mean the ones that mostly manage themselves and don’t have an entourage taking care of everything for them, so in other words probably 95% or more of musicians out there.

Since getting back from Gran Canaria I’ve been tracking down photos and video from the Sons of the Delta performance at the Playa Viva Blues Festival and letting everyone know about it via Facebook, our website and my own website. In case you still managed to miss it, here are the links – the videos are here and there are some great photos here and also here. I’ll let you know if any more surface. I was so taken with the little amp I played through at the festival, provided by Alberto of the excellent Los Gumbo blues band, that I decided to find one for myself. I should warn those of you of a non-technical persuasion that the rest of this paragraph may get a little boring for you ;) Alberto’s amp was a combo but I managed to find a head and cab on eBay for a great price. It’s a Harley Benton GA5H, made in the same factory using the same parts as the acclaimed Epiphone Valve Junior. The plan is to modify the head to voice it for the harmonica and also add a line-out, a switch to drop it from 5w to 2w and various other tweaks. My soldering iron has already been busy and I want to have the work finished in time for our next overseas gig as the head is coming with me in my hand luggage (yes, it’s just small enough). “I love the smell of solder in the morning”, to mis-quote a famous film line.

I have had a few gigs this week and especially enjoyed the Sons of the Delta acoustic duo gig at the Golden Fleece in Stroud. They didn’t have the open fire roaring – it’s not quite cold enough for that yet – but it still had the intimate, cosy country living room feel that it always has. I would challenge any musician to feel pressured or nervous in such a warm welcoming and homely venue. We do tend to end up playing a fairly laid-back set there but it seems to fit the bill perfectly. I must also mention that the Jigantics had a great rehearsal this week and worked on an interpretation of a Tom Waits song to add to the set.

One last mention of the Gran Canarian gig. After sound checking we had a coffee outside a bar very near the festival stage and heard the most fantastic funk music coming out from behind the bar. The guy making the coffees was dancing away to himself and I couldn’t help tuning in to the sounds. I found out what the CD was and I bought one on eBay. It’s so good that I’ve got to share it with you. Not literally of course – go and buy your own! The photo above of the cover tells you all you need to know to track it down.

3rd Playa Viva Blues Festival

4 Nov
Sons of the Delta at the 3rd Playa Viva Blues Festival, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Sons of the Delta at the 3rd Playa Viva Blues Festival, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

I’m still recovering from a fantastic weekend in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, where Sons of the Delta headlined the 3rd Playa Viva Blues Festival. It was a weekend of late nights, relatively early mornings, travelling, relaxing, beer and wine, coffee and great food and, most importantly, great music.

We met Javier, our Spanish agent, Friday evening at Madrid airport. It was great to catch up with him after having not seen him for the best part of a year. We arrived at the hotel well after midnight and resisted the temptation to find a bar. Saturday was spent mostly chilling out and late afternoon we headed to the Plaza del Pilar to set up and soundcheck. The Plaza was the ideal location and boasted a permanent concrete and marble stage, complete with underground changing rooms. The PA and lights were already set up, the first acts on had already soundchecked and so it was our turn to spend a sticky half-hour in the 31º sun. Thanks to Alberto, the harp player with the excellent Los Gumbos blues band who were first in the bill, I had a nice little Harley Benton GA5 amp to blow through, which for the amp nuts out there is a re-badged Epiphone Valve Junior but cheaper, so I was a happy man. In fact I liked the amp so much I’ve bought one to fly out with me on future overseas gigs. Before the festival started we met up with Javier, Bill Lyerly and his band for a great multi-course meal, each course about the size of a small starter. A a great way to try out lots of different local dishes.

All the bands at the festival were excellent and the organisers had done a great job in putting on a variety of blues styles. The first band on was Los Gumbo Blues, an excellent Canarian band who played a great mixture of swampy funky blues. After them came the Bill Lyerly Band, a tight blues-rock three-piece featuring Bill on blistering guitar, then the Perinke Big Band who played – as the name suggests – big band jump blues plus old swing classics, mostly instrumental but a few numbers with a great female vocalist. At 1.15am we started our set and kept the 2,000 strong crowd partying til 3.15am when, after a short downpour, it was time to bring things to a close. One of the gig highlights for me was inviting Alberto from Los Gumbo Blues up on stage for some dual harp blowing. I think the crowd loved that bit too. We recorded our set and there may be some useable audio, either for use on video or just to add to the website as a free download. If it’s really good we may save it for the next CD.

After the festival it was back to the hotel to unwind with more wine and beer on the rooftop terrace. Somehow we all made it down in time for breakfast on Sunday after about four hours sleep and the rest of the day was spent relaxing in bars and cafes along the beach promenade or in the hotel spa. We did our best to get an early night but ended up on the roof again, finishing the beers left over from saturday night. We grabbed a few more hours of sleep before getting a 5am taxi back to the airport. A tiring but thoroughly enjoyable and successful weekend. We really look forward to working with Javier again, hopefully in the near future now that Spain’s economy is starting to pick up a bit.