Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Pelicans, Complete

Phew. Just needs to be ironed. 

This is the fastest I've ever completed an embroidery- largely because I'm busy, and I want to get on and write some new songs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Edinburgh Bannermans on Sunday with Jeanines

After playing Glasgoespop with Robert on Saturday (how exciting! Loads of bands I want to see all on the same bill!), I'll be heading over to Edinburgh Bannermans on Sunday to play with Jeanines.


Saturday, July 22, 2023

More Art And Things

On Thursday morning I'd been invited to talk about my art and music at the ACM research conference at the RSA in Charing Cross. It was interesting to go to an academic event after such a long time. There were some interesting papers and I enjoyed meeting Ngaire Ruth after being an online friend for a while. She adeptly foresaw that someone might try to derail her paper by asking an irrelevant question afterwards and had a slide prepared to circumvent him. Classy!

Later on I made a two hour pilgrimage to Brockley to see Darren Hayman's night paintings at the Artdog Gallery. Darren started up the Sunday Drawing Club and there were actually four of us there at the opening IRL- but only three at the same time: Sophie came along later. The gallery is small (nice to see Pete Astor, John Jervis and other friends, albeit briefly) so after a look at the paintings, small and very effective paintings on board that you may have seen in The Observer last week, we repaired to a local beer garden to yak. Here's a photo of me, Darren Riley and Darren Hayman, and a rather wonky one of Darren's paintings, which are really disconcerting in a good way when seen en masse. Painting noir, I suppose!

It took another two hours to get home on a slow bus which took an interesting tour through newly gentrified south London, just as imprisoning in its shiny new brick as it had been with the tatty old bricks. I often feel that it will grab me in its concrete tentacles and pull me back into the past. Urgh- scary!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Looking and Talking

Yesterday evening, I went to the final year show of the niche art college Turps Banana, which is based on a floor of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark. East Street Market was packing up, which was a show in itself, and made for a really enjoyable stroll through to the show.
Charlotte Worthington has progressed from being a documentary film maker to a fine artist, and a Fine Artist. Since being at Turps Banana, she has moved through gigantic drawings and paintings (the loud voice of an introvert!), to gorgeous, colourful autobiographical paintings on silk, and now to sinister woven tapestries that hang from the ceiling in a brooding and threatening manner. The work-womanship is fabulous, and I could imagine these pieces hanging as sort of 'consciences' in all kinds of different contexts. 
One of the great things about getting older is seeing what your contemporaries pull out of the bag. I've know Charlotte since we were both teenagers in Brighton, and witnessed her evolution from young revolutionary film-maker to mother, carer, lecturer and now artist. How wonderful not to give up, and to keep being a person of ideas at one's core throughout everything that life throws at you: and to remain glamorous and forward thinking to boot. My Champagne Friend was also there, who also keeps learning, evolving, participating in life. I feel honoured to be part of this generation. 
Well today, I was talking about my own practice that ricochets between art and music as so many of us do. This was for the private music college ACM, who had a research day at the Royal Society of Arts. It was challenging because I've been at arms length from education for months, but there were some great conversations and I hope to be able to support some of the emerging research that I heard of this morning. I'm relaxing at home before more art this evening. More on that tomorrow!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Out And About

I have been rehearsing (for Glasgoespop with Robert), portraiting (a protesting nurse as a gift for a protesting nurse), drawing (Sunday Drawing Club on Wednesday), going to art exhibitions, writing (a talk for a University at the RSA this week), knitting (helping out in the Craft Tent at Folk by the Oak in Hertfordshire), protesting myself (won't say where or who), embroidering, and writing music (for Dexter Bentley's One Minute Song project).



Monday, July 10, 2023

A Future For Funerals

Dave Mac was a fixture at so many gigs, and I had no idea how many until yesterday; he literally had gig buddies all around the world. I'd last seen him and his friend Chris at the Betsey Trotwood gig we did on Burns Night this year, although he'd turned up unexpectedly at the gig in Oxford with The Flatmates last autumn.

Chris contacted me a few weeks ago to say that Dave had been very ill for a long time and had finally gone. He was arranging a gig at The Lexington to celebrate Dave's life, and would I be willing to play some songs alongside some of the other musicians that he had been keen on in his life.

No-brainer: where would we be without people like Dave? Chris remembered coming to see The Chefs in Lambeth walk in a pub where we played at least twice, once with a band called The Underaged who were actually all 15. 

The pub owner refused to let them play at first, until we guaranteed that they wouldn't drink alcohol!

That long ago... Dave had particularly liked Helen and the Horns, which was diametrically opposed to the almost hardcore punk bands he also followed. He just was a mega fan of live music, and this gathering proved how much he was appreciated not just by his gig-going friends but also by us, the musicians.

I arrived far too early. I'm not sure why: I just did, but I'm glad because I could chat with Chris and also, because I went on my own, feel at home in The Lexington which kind of feels like home anyway to so many bands and musicians. Hats off to Delia, the heart of the venue, who never puts a foot wrong. This was the perfect place for a 21st Century funeral.

The whole room was decked out in Dave's well-worn t-shirts, offensive slogans and all. This alone was a stroke of genius, because t-shirts are a type of diary in themselves, reflecting a wearable jukebox of favourite bands, political causes and of course personality. Chris had put together a slide show of Dave at gigs, with friends, with his constant companion a pint glass, which was projected at the back of the stage. His presence was very much felt.

A friend came to the microphone first, telling us a hilarious story of Dave being the first person to be arrested on Eurostar, appearing small and triumphant in handcuffs escorted by gigantic French police on a visit to see her. His brother stood next to her, with a white cardboard tube containing Dave's ashes. the had little bags so friends could scatter his ashes all over the country, which was apt considering how much he travelled.

It was mildly chaotic. Musicians turned up to sound check at random points, but the sound guy was very patient. I went on first and described the experience of just turning round at gigs, and there was Dave with his pint, just there smiling. He could find a gig at the back of beyond and show up, one of maybe fifteen people in the audience. He had been a printer, like me. Small world.

I sang Northbound Train for him, at Chris's request. It was oddly difficult to play, like chewing something very tough, but I think I managed OK. And I played Saturday Night with the London Set, bringing the song home to where it was first conceived and singing it to an audience for whom it was written, because it's about going to gigs until the very end. This funny community. I knew so few people there yesterday, but we all have the same feeling about the live music scene and how much it sustains us.

After a DJ set, we were treated to Music in Our Underpants, a hilarious, camp duo with a ukulele and a thrashy backing track and more costume changes than anyone I've ever seen in my life. What feats of engineering! They sparked, they shone, they energised the room, and they did a great cover of Plastic Bertrand's Ca Plane Pour Moi.

Paul Laventhol, one of the King Kurt guitarists showed up. I haven't seen him for ages. He's playing guitar for Tara Res now, and although I saw their sound check, I ended up having to go home early because I think I ate something bad on Saturday. I did manage to see a really great band who were punky and fun and really, really tight. I will revise this and put their name in as soon as I find out who they were.

Anyway- before I sign off for the morning, by coincidence there were two MA students in the bar downstairs, one of whom was researching grief and how we manifest it. I asked Chris if it was OK for them to come to the gig upstairs, and he was more than happy for them to join us. As I left and said goodbye, I saw these two people who had stumbled on a really warm-hearted and wonderful musical celebration of a much-loved character whose whole life had been measured out in going to gigs. 

Music, love, and a certain spirituality! Beyond ritual, this was a wonderful celebration of Dave's life. He would have loved it.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Hew Locke Tells Us How He Ticks

Just a few words about the wonderful Hew Locke, whose sculpture Parade drew me like a magnet every time I went to Tate Britain. There was an interview with him on Wednesday at the Royal Academy to which I had to go. It was short but so very sweet: we saw his drawings of a cinema, a Mosque and a Hindu temple in Guyana, that country with town-names that reflect Dutch, French and British colonial occupation, where the population has south-Asian, east-Asian and African-heritage people.

There was a print of a statue of Queen Victoria which he had drawn on. Once situated outside the courthouse, she had lost her nose and an arm when she was dynamited, and she was relegated to the back of the building. Eventually, she was placed out front again, where she was liberally decorated with yellow paint and just left like that as a comment. He told us about the Queen Victorias being shipped all over the world, and made it seem comical, even.

He'd done a decorated facsimile of Colston in 2009 (I think) and told us what an attractive statue it was; an attractive statue of a horrible man.

He had found it impossible to get any commissions because of the nature of his work; eventually, the proposals became the work. He bought old bond certificates (including a Refugee Bond) on eBay and painted over them. There was a particularly beautiful Chinese Imperial Gold Loan certificate he'd doctored in 2010, with a critical map of the UK.

He told us about his store of titles, and about moving to Guyana from Edinburgh after so many episodes of racism, and keeping the sound of bagpipes in his head- and his mother not allowing him to wear a kilt when he got there.

It was being webcast, and the text translator couldn't cope with the occasional use of the word 'piss', translating it as 'business'. Oh dear, the indoctrination of these services!

He was humorous, spontaneous and genuine. Let's put our wee hands together and pray that he doesn't end up getting showbizzified like Grayson Perry, and end up as a Personality on Have I Got News For You. Seeing what's to come, I sincerely hope that he remains in the world of art and sculpture so we can benefit from his reflection of our silly selves rather that being 'entertained'. There is something in what he said about battlefield spoils, and the other side of history is more interesting than the main story itself, most of the time.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Donkeys and Funerals

How excruciating. The BBC has started to underpin sad stories about death with the same sort of cheesy piano-twiddle music that Ads use under appeals for sad donkeys by sanctuaries, funeral plans for elders, and... the Liberal Democrat Party.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Back to The Hub

Sol Sato, the artist-in-residence at Earl's Court whose three months followed mine, completed his residency today and I went down to see the work of his art group (brilliant). The new artist Adam Hennessey started and I went along to his workshop. There is going to be a different life model from the local community every week. This week's model was Stefan, and it was really nice to draw from life again.

I was intrigued to see that my blue soap was still in the toilet in the studio.

Song Desert Revitalised

After a personal song desert (just one since January), ideas started flooding into my head about a month ago. I need to organise them all; I can't dictate what's going to appear and when. some are just lines, some are just ideas and some are more musical. They are the hardest ones, because fitting words into them sometimes feels fake, which is why it has been so great to work with Robert because he's very good at that. Sometimes, I've stripped all the words out of a song and given it to him to completely re-lyricise, which he is absolutely excellent at, because he's not only a poet in the German language but also in English.

However, having read an article on hoarding this morning, I'm about to decimate a pile of papers'n'things that came from my office at the university. The rest of it's in the boot of my car because I don't want it in the house. I thought I might need some of it, but I so don't. I can't think of a decision in my life that has ever been better than to leave that job: it had become completely toxic. So bad that it sizzled!

Monday, July 03, 2023

So Many Sounds, So Many Places

One of the best things about being a musician like me who doesn't really fit into any boxes (it's a Worst thing sometimes, but let's be positive), is that I get to see so much music being placed by so many different people.

Friday night was no exception. I had been invited on to the bill by the Hannah Barberas, who I'd never seen live before. I listened to some of their songs on Youtube and really liked their stuff, and because I like Jetstream Pony's songs and their sound, I knew it was going to be a really good night.

There was an addition to the night, a keyboard player called Partisan Way. He had a very good voice, and his set heralded the fact that the sound engineer at The Amersham Arms really knows what he's doing. Everyone sounded really good (I hope that I did), and actually Jetstream Pony had the best sound I've ever heard them with. Beth's vocals rang out as clear as a bell. I wonder if it's because the venue gets really stuck in the covers-band groove? Apparently not many bands playing original material can fill it up but there was a pretty good-sized audience there, at one point seeming largely to consist of my friends and family who turned out in quite substantial amounts, which was rather sweet of them all.

There were some loud talkers at the back during my set but there were plenty of people down the front listening and joining in lustily (fnurr, fnurr!) with At The Bathing Pond. I also sold a few CDs but have come to the conclusion that I'll need to get a card reader, because for the second time in a row a person paying by Paypal has put in the wrong email address and inadvertently not paid.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed my bit anyway, and then of course I got the chance to watch the other bands. The Hannah Barberas not only have the keys to the magic chord cupboard, but they also benefit greatly from Lucy's consistent and lovely voice. At times she reminded me of Nena of 99 Red Balloons fame, but mostly I think she's a Bobbie Gentry soundalike. There were some lovely harmonies floating off that stage, and they really did themselves proud. The fact that they were so excited really came across in their playing and I was chuffed to walk out of the gig with two of their CDs, which I've been playing all afternoon. Turns out they are perfect for embroidering pelicans to.

After the Hannah Barberas Jetstream Pony ripped through their set with intensity. They have a unique sound; although they fit into the indie box in some ways in others, they are a genre apart on their own. Oddly, their actual sound, though not necessarily their songs, reminds me a little bit of a Phil Manzanera record that I used to have. There's this slightly menacing timbre behind the tunes that arouses the curiosity in your ears. You don't know what's coming next, so you can't go home early, and you miss the train. That's quite a compliment really, isn't it?

Well, it was lovely to see my family members, Karina and her pal, my Champagne Friend and her husband, Rocker all the way up from Bristol, and various other assorted people. It was also lovely to spend an evening listening to great music and thanking my lucky stars that I get to be part of all this.

Big luv to all the bands for making life really special on Friday night. Long live live music!