Sunday, November 19, 2017

Last Night With The Flatmates

Aha! Flatmates, you have a new fan! Not much time for writing blog postings today (Sunday=writing-lectures-day and technological determinism and Marshall McLuhan are taking up my brain space) but here are some photos from yesterday, to be going on with:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Finborough Arms Tonight (and The Railway, Southend last Thursday)

Tonight's gig is at The Finborough Arms with The Flatmates, Lucille and Lonely Tourist. Four acts for a fiver can't be bad! It is a small venue and it's probably a good idea to get tickets in advance. The Flatmates are on tour and there will be a lot of people there:
The gig in Southend on Thursday was great. Sundown Arts used to promote a lot of gigs but have cut down recently which is a great pity. I met them at an event a couple of years ago at Metal in Chalkwell Park, then played the Leigh Folk festival last year, which was massive fun. Offsprog One came with me and after the gig in the Scout Hut, we wandered through the festival, stopping to listen to sea shanties, watch Morris Men, eat fish and chips, plodge in the mud and just generally hang out in the atmosphere. Southend has a unique take on music that is very welcoming to outsiders like myself. Here's a link to some photos from the festival:
Jo and Ray from Sundown started the evening off with their wry poetry, followed by Simon Blackman, and then Cherry Scott, whose poetry is sharp and perceptive. After that Tom Cusack played a set of acoustic songs (his guitar sounded gorgeous: a Martin, I think) and then Tumbledryer Babies, who are a guy called Andrew who plays short songs on an Omnichord, which is an electronic autoharp hybrid. There was something emotionally affecting about the sounds of an instrument that has now been superseded by all sort of fancy technology, singing out into a room full of gentle people with no agenda apart from to support live events and enjoy what they were watching and listening to. I loved it.
At one point, sitting on a comfortable old wing chair between Zoe (thankfully out and about again after her accident) and Dave (who plays trombone for Helen and the Horns), with Rob filming to one side and the fairy lights and standard lamps twinkling warmly, it felt like being in another dimension, far away from the stresses of normal life. This was the birthday celebration of the organisation (and also of Shangri-La), and all that was missing was a cake, but I baked one of those for them in my imagination.
It was a shame to miss the headliners, Diamond Family Archive, but I will definitely go to see them in London because they play here a lot, apparently. Big thanks to Jo and Ray, and I hope to see you soon; also to Rob Ellen for filming it, and of course to the audience, especially for their lusty seafaring singing!
Finally, just in case you were wondering about Omnichords:

Friday, November 17, 2017

I Have Got A Website

This went live this afternoon. Thank you to Ross Barber-Smith for designing it:

In The Mojo Playlist!

Thank you Wendy May for letting me know about this- I subscribe to Mojo, but it was still in it's wrapper on the side.
I am now officially an ex-pun, and very proud to be one!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tonight at The Railway, Southend

Listening to Ari

We are starting to work on the documentary again, by picking up where we left off, reviewing what we have and working out where the gaps are. Yesterday Gina and I listened to the interview that I did with Ari for the book- so this would be probably around 2005 or 2006. The interview was done in the back room of the 12-Bar (that's a bit of history in itself) and in the background you can hear the venue gradually filling up as the afternoon progresses into evening.
Tessa and Nadya are there too, and Ari's replies gradually become more thoughtful as the hour passes. She talks about how helpful the guys in the punk scene were- but also how dangerous it was to walk around in public dressed the way they were. It took The Slits a long time to get a deal that would give them control over the way they looked and the sound of their music, and by that time they had evolved sonically away from punk and more into the dub reggae influences that they later became so famous for. Keith Levene was heavily involved in the production of their first Peel session.
Revisiting the interviews is going to be very interesting in the context of the absolutely deafening silence from women in the music industry about bullying, both sexual and otherwise. You have to feel very stable and powerful to call out bullying from people who can destroy your career either directly, or through whispering campaigns. One of the best things about writing music history and documenting it on film is allowing female performers and producers to have a positive voice and speak about their own history and experiences. Some of the people we spoke to for the film have well-documented pasts, but others who have maybe retired from the music business still have interesting stories to tell. We didn't even touch on the harassment issue, actually. Who wants to be famous only for being a survivor? People have a right to thrive.
It still fills my heart with joy just to think about her: I feel like laughing out loud at her sheer defiance and originality. Ari was a fantastic person.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Old Helen and the Horns Poster

Historical Teeth

I took a group of students to The Wellcome Collection this afternoon. They have a really interesting free exhibition on medical graphics with a particularly interesting section on smoking propaganda and anti-smoking propaganda; it was also fascinating to hear how Florence Nightingale had so much to do with the understanding and promotion of statistics in the treatment of soldiers' infections.
My favourite thing, however, was Napoleon Bonaparte's toothbrush (up in the first floor permanent collection).

Telephone Box Library

Paul Eccentric came round to pick up some books last night. He and his wife Donna have bought a village telephone box that was about to be removed, cleaned out the ivy that had taken over, given it a coating of new red paint, and are setting up a miniature library for the local community. A local school is going to help out, and it's a wonderful idea. Wishing them great success, and lots of users and lots of books!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pet Plant

I bought an Arum Lily in the market today. I love them; they are so evocative. I imagine Moses floating in the water surrounded by bullrushes and the lilies growing between them, and I think of the road between Treviso and Venice, where they grow wild in the ditches alongside the houses, bustling and bursting to be the liliest lily of them all. My lily is just small, in a plastic pot. It hasn't flowered yet; I gave it some water and put it on the windowsill at work to keep me company. It's still rolled up and not ready for the sun.
My next song has got lilies in it (don't worry, I haven't turned into a hippy), which is probably why I noticed them on the stall. There were bigger, bushier, greener plants, and plants with flowers that shouted in extremely loud voices, but the lilies looked calm and collected all lined up and ready to go. They were irresistible.
I was thinking about when I go to Southend on Thursday to play at The Railway and something made me want to take the lily with me to keep me company. I wondered if I could get hold of a little red trolley, and trail it along beside me like people do with a dog on a lead. That would be nice.

Playing 'Oh Bondage, Up Yours!' at The British Library, Summer 2016

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rumble and Jamboree

The Doc'n'Roll film festival is one of the highlights of the year; it allows you to see the inner workings of the music industry by exploring the lives and backgrounds of a hugely diverse range of musicians from just as diverse range of perspectives.
Last year I came away from the Ramones documentary feeling simultaneously sad and exhilarated by their story. I went with Gina and she had met Dee Dee back in the day and said he was as sweetheart. he was very perceptive, although obviously off his face on some substance or other. Personally, I fell in love with Joey, who seemed slightly astonished by their success right up till the end. He demonstrated that it is possible to be a successful musician and remain genuine, in spite of the pressures to embrace a false persona and perform it to the cameras.
Yesterday I went to a showing of Rumble, a documentary that traces the origins of Native American heredity in US rock and folk music genres. Link Wray's music introduced the film and we saw the shack where he was brought up, and heard archive interview recordings where he described the spontaneous creation of his musical style. There were a few talking heads affirming Wray's influence, but mostly it was left to the music to speak. As the film unfolded, we met many different musicians: Robbie Robertson, Rhiannon Gittens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and more), a group of women who presence Native American singing styles, Buffy Sainte Marie, Jimi Hendrix. As each person spoke, their tribe appeared on the screen beside their name.
When the English invaders flooded the continent, they sent the male members of the tribes away- to Africa, Haiti (and probably massacred as many as they sent away). As they 'imported' slaves from Africa, relationships formed between these (mostly) men and the Native American women, and many mixed heritage people in the USA can trace their lineage back to those days.
The significance of the Dockery Plantation to music is explored: Charley Patton worked there for a while and honed his guitar playing skills in the musical catalyst of the Dockery environment. Charley Patton was a showman and gave it everything he'd got as a performer (interesting stuff about the Dockery Plantation here:
Somewhere further down the line, Native Americans began to wonder if they needed to hide their origins. During the 1960s, musicians felt comfortable enough to 'come out'. Taj Mahal's guitarist, Jesse Ed Davis, was around at this time and there's some great footage of him playing. Wow. What an incredible man.
I can't tell you much more except to go to see it if you possible can. It's an amazing documentary and the festival is on tour at the moment. Details here:
I'd been feeling under the weather and not sure if I was up to doing the gig at Jamboree, but after seeing the documentary I suddenly remembered why I'm doing all this. The tubes were completely f*cked but I marched down to Embankment and met my Bruvs at the venue. There was not time for a sound check, alas, but I enjoyed playing even if the sudden influx of 50 people halfway through put me off my stride. Note to self, next time play The Sea and get them to sing it! For no real reason I was giving that song a rest last night, and you're always wiser after the event but it would have been a good thing to do.
Balothizer, the headline band, are a Cretan electric folk rock band who play traditional songs in a rock style. Their bass player plays a Rickenbacker and the bass lines sound almost punky. He also sings the bulk of the vocals, which soar over the energetic and busy music with a wistful and melancholy feel. Instead of the guitar they have a Cretan lute, a Lauto. All three musicians are ace instrumentalists and the crowd loved them. Hats off to Neil Jones for organising yet another successful event and I'm looking forward to reading the zine he gave to me, Fishin' Rod Reel Handle.
Jamboree is such a unique venue. It reminds me of Time Bandits and I have never seen a boring band there. They have a big money problem and there is a fundraiser benefit to help them out at Jujus just off Brick Lane on Saturday 18th November between 4 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.
I have a gig at the Finborough Arms with The Flatmates that night but will try to get there beforehand. More details here:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Website Soon...

Finally, after ten years, I'm having a proper website built. It hadn't been much of a priority before this year, but I'm doing a lot more gigs than I used to and although it's been a busy time, gradually things have been coming together and it's almost ready to go.
It will make things a lot easier when people ask for information. It has taken ages to decide what to put on it and what not to, because sometimes it's best to be as simple as possible. General life can seem chaotic and the site itself looks a lot more damn peaceful than I feel a lot of the time, rushing between gigs, lecturing and other stuff; then writing lectures, organising gigs and writing and rehearsing songs rather than doing the laundry and the shopping when I'm at home.
We are going to restart working on Stories from the She-Punks: music with a different agenda next week after an extended break- of almost a year, actually. It's imperative to get it finished and out there so people can see it, and making the decision to keep it's DIY feel was a sensible one. I think it has already stimulated a lot of discussion, creativity and also renewed respect for some of the participants, which is very positive. No, it's moving, actually. Bugger the corporatespeak!