Sunday, June 06, 2010

Adventures in Gigland

I went to Ayr for two days to do some work at the University of Scotland; the guys up there are really nice but the work was hard and the weather was hot and the wheelie suitcase (tripper-up for the frail and vulnerable) lost its charm as I got buffeted by backpacks and tripped-up in turn. I'd spent the train journey transcribing part of Viv Albertine's interview, which is fascinating, and reading Matthew Bannister's book, White Boys, White Noise.
I had my guitar, too, and was relieved to get to my friend Carol's in Seaton Delaval and sleep.

Friday night's gig was at the Gosforth Hotel. We set up the P.A. and said hello to Mike and June (they gave me a lovely BSA badge to go with my motorbike, thank you!) and they set up the CDs.
Giovanni's disco arrived and set up- they have the most fantastic rare vinyls of 1950s and 1960s soul and rhythm'n'blue. All the singles were in neat white card sleeves and once they got going, the evening started with a bang. There was a real air of excitement and anticipation!
Here come the Kentucky Cow-Tippers (, and here come double-bassist John Cavener and his family of musicians: his son is 15 and plays a mean sax solo (he earned the title 'One-Take Johnny' when we did some recording in Embleton village hall a while back) and his daughter, who is a bit younger, plays trumpet.
It was boiling hot and the windows didn't open, and as people started arriving it got hotter still. Taff (from Hurrah!) and his partner Sylvia were there to cheer on their son Rupert, who mandolins/vocalises/harmonicas for the Cow-Tippers. I had met them in Shipley two years ago and really enjoyed their band (
I played a set to begin with (snapped by Juan: I'm worried because I look like an elderly fish when I sing) and then the Cow-Tippers did a fantastic almost acoustic set.
Their line up is double-bass, banjo (nimble-fingered lad with long tumbling curls), guitar (nimble fingered lad with long silky-straight hair, because he's worth it), Hannah on vocals and fiddle (she's a brilliant musician) and Rupert who holds them all together with charm and vitality (later, when he and Martin were standing next to each other singing, I though that he must be very like Martin when he was young). They went down a storm, playing everything from straight bluegrass to a beautiful rendition of The Willow Tree.
Bit more disco, then Martin and Fin McCardle got up and played a couple of songs before adding to the duo bit by bit; double bass, electric guitar and then horns, joined by a grown-up on sax too (sorry, I don't know anyone's names, it was a mad night). There was a moment when the horn section and the double bass were conferring on something that seemed to sum up the whole night: they were close, father, son and daughter, swaying in time with each other, in that little magic land of total lack of self-consciousness that musicians have sometimes. Beautiful.
The Skifflecats stormed through the evening, joined by all the others in turn.
I went up and did Sweet Saviour with Martin; I'd brought the horn parts for Freight Train as well but we were a guitar lead short. And I did Loverman with the double bass and electric guitar, Fin percussing behind me, and I really enjoyed that.
All of the Kentucky Cow-Tippers went up for a couple of songs and they did a walkabout for Will the Circle be Unbroken until the miserable manageress sent them back upstairs again.
It was a hoot, a scream and a roaring success, bringing out even 'Round-eyes' Ray who used to sing with Martin years ago, and the manager of The Band of Holy Joy (, whose flat in Wallsend we'd recorded in with Joe Guillan earlier this year (it was his son Nick playing the electric guitar tonight).
Mike and June dropped us off at out hotel before heading back to Goole. They are Martin-fans extraordinaire and I was glad they were there at such a good night!

Next Night

Of course, I was knackered when I got home but I'd promised to go to see Gina Birch play at a night called Girls Girls Girls at the Old Blue Last in Great Eastern Street. Earlier in the morning she'd called to ask if I would play guitar with her, and surfing the energy of the night before I hoiked the Telecaster out from under the bed where it had been buried in the year's future birthday presents (I'm fearing poverty and have started stockpiling) and drove down there, arriving just in time to see the end of a very good all-female support band playing.
I can't remember how to play the songs we played at the Stella Vine exhibition in Oxford, but she wrote out some chords for me and although the projector was playing up, I reckon she held it all together really well.
It was boiling but it was still fun and I loved playing in a different style and shouting 'I WILL NEVER WEAR STILETTOS' at the top of my voice with her!
I'm Glad I'm Me Today is my favourite Gina song and she did a really moving version of that and we actually managed to do quite a slick version of the last song with duo guitars.
There were lots of Raincoats fans there and they all came up and told her how much they had enjoyed it.
I am going to learn the guitar parts for her set properly; in the morning I'd thought of learning to play snare'n'brushes to accompany her and maybe even play some rockabilly but I honestly haven't got a spare centimetre in  my house for any more musical instruments so that's a no-no.
Gina had a really good gig, in spite of the heat and humidity. As I left, the skies opened and I splashed through the absolute downpour back to my car, feeling bloody glad I'd gone and done it.

Today? Achey body from dragging the wheelie-case through Glasgow from Glasgow Central to Queen Street and back again (a common mistake, I believe); happy heart though!
Great few days.

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