Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Woman With Umbrella

This was at an Extinction Rebellion march last year some time- the same one with the gaggle of pelicans at the edge of St James's Park with their chicks (Ducklings? Peliclets? Piglets?).

I've been in Brixton today, conversing with my friend Rowen in the Black Farmer Café, all drifty music and peace and quiet. On the way there and back, Philip Oltermann's book The Stasi Poetry Circle has been my companion. Craftily, the book changes face as you read it, just as a member of the Stasi might. It's surprisingly inspirational as well as being intriguing. I've had it for ages on the book pile, but I've found secondhand crime novels too addictive to put down. Unfortunately (or maybe fortuitously), last night I finished both of them (one for home, one for away), and had to read a 'proper' book instead, and now I'm glad.

There is so much more information, or food for the imagination, in a book than on that-there-internet. Scrolling is like treading water: a sort of exercise, but it doesn't take you anywhere. Three cheers for movement, both physical and intellectual.

Now to chase the big pigeons off the bird feeder. They are brazen, and just look at me all innocent with their round, unemotional eyes as they grasp at the gutter. Look, guys, why not uproot the aerial garden that's taken root in the gutter mud? How the hell did that get there? There's a thriving row of greenery that could be usefully cleared by the clumsy birds and their destructive, clasping claws. But no, they have taken the easy route and insist on flappily hanging on to the frail plastic bird feeder that eventually falls to the ground where, triumphant, they guzzle the seeds meant for somebody else. 


Oh yes, I almost forgot. This is yesterday's one-hour drawing! Doesn't look like her at all and the umbrella is too scribbly, but you sacrifice finish for speed.

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Weekend's Gigging

It's a day of rest today for me. I'm not nearly as tired as I thought I'd be and I had a look to see if I could get a ticket to The Girl With The Replaceable Head's gig tonight, but it's sold out so I'm staying in and drawing instead.

Well. the journey to Newcastle wasn't bad, and I decided to walk from central Toon to The Cumberland Arms and got completely lost in Byker. That was a good thing and a bad thing; bad thing to be lost, but that little area around the Ouseburn is completely charming. It reminded me of an adventure playground for adults; little bridges, reeds, trees, oddball shops and bars. I didn't even really mind the thousand steps up to the pub (not that many, you say? I'm not so sure!). David's drummer, Daren, was outside in the sunshine because TGWTRH were sound checking.

Later, upstairs, the promoter Michael Clunkie was setting up the merch stall. It was freezing up there (and in Newcastle in general), which was a bit of a shock. The fluffy jumper was back at the hotel waiting for Manchester. Silly me! I just always remembered the Cumby as being boiling hot. No matter, the frozen fingers gradually thawed and I think my set went down OK. Lindy liked it, anyway!

Next up was David and Daren, who blasted the wax out of a few people's ears with their complex rhythms and sometimes almost swamp-rock music. I'm fascinated by David's guitar style, which often harks right back to blues playing and knits his singing and Daren's drumming together seamlessly. Excellent fingerpicking there.

Phil Ogg, Simon Brough and a couple of their friends turned up and thankfully, Michael let them in (this gig was sold out too). I was delighted that my friend Carol Alevroyianni came along; Pauline and Rob from Penetration were there too of course, and I had a rapid catch-up with Pauline about writing songs. I hope to be interviewing her about her book at Rebellion in August. 

The room was packed when TGWTRH took to the stage. They were absolutely wonderful. Most of the first part of their set was new songs from their just-released album. All of the musicianship was excellent: Lindy's drumming was tight and polished, the bass was strong and melodic, Taff's guitar playing was fab and had that Ennio Morricone atmospheric feel a lot of the time, and Sylvia was note-perfect and honey-toned, sounding like a cross between Francoise Hardy and Dusty Springfield. 

Anyone going to their gig at The Waiting Room tonight, you are in for a treat! I have looked for their new album on Bandcamp but it's not there yet: I'm definitely adding that to the shopping list for when I get a proper record player (soon, I hope). They were so fresh-sounding and energised; it was completely inspiring to see them. 

Lovely to see Tony Crawley and his partner again too, and quite a few other people who live in this bubble of music!

The hotel was bloody freezing when I got back. There was what I thought was a dying orchid in my room, but it turned out to be a fabric one (that was still dying). There had been an air of hysteria (crying receptionist) and the bed was covered in a variety of cushions, so many of them. It was like a cushion zoo! I piled my coat on the bed and caught enough zeds to enable a brisk walk around the Toon. 

Oh, Newcastle's still a mad place! The homeless man reading a paperback with the title 'SERIAL KILLERS' on display in bright colours on its covers. And when I came out of a side entrance of the Eldon Centre and was admiring the Victorian statue heads inset into the wall, a man walked up from the street and said 'I'm a Geordie and I never even knew they were here, and I've been drunk all my life. Thank you!'.

Newcastle, I love you. You have my heart forever!

In Manchester, I hopped on the 192 bus to the Talleyrand. David and Daren were there already setting up. It's a smaller venue, and Saturday's promoter is a musician in a local band. The pub has a real community vibe, and I bumped into Ian Lowey and Suzy Prince just outside. They used to run a magazine called Nude together a few years ago, and now run a bookshop opposite the pub; Ian came to the gig later on. I was thrilled that Jamie McDermot came (who kickstarted this whole second post-wifehood music career of mine, has the fabulous band The Irrepressibles and gives the best hugs); so did Juliet (long time no see!), Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad (and we reminisced about the weird book event we met at with the flirty alpacas, and the miniature goats who trotted casually into the dressing room), Cazz Blase of course (thank you for the perceptive review), Derek Tyman (who put on the Beefheart musical at Bury Museum), and a young woman who said we'd met when I was busking in the street in London, and afterwards I'd sent her a postcard. It was a very friendly night. The sound guy, Tommy, was a guitarist and seemed intrigued by both mine and David's playing styles. Rather than that being a pressure, it was confidence-inspiring, and I think we both had a good playing night.

Raucous bus journey back into Manchester, mad hotel experience (bouncers on the door, boiling hot room with no windows), but that's all part of the adventure. Photos later on!

Photo by Nik Cockshott

Fight Back Against The Baddies

Always get your guitar out from under your bed, your crayons out from the drawer, the paints out from the back of the wardrobe, the pencil and paper you bought just in case! Live, create, document your feelings and your life. Always encourage other people: there is room here for all of us.
And it's the best way to Fight Back Against The Baddies!

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Newcastle, Manchester, Home

Friday's hotel was so cold I slept with my coat on the bed, and Saturday's was so hot and stuffy that I spent the night sweltering. I'm too tired today to write up what were two really nice gigs, but here is Cazz Blase's review of last night, which neatly sums it up. And I have to say that at both gigs I was knocked out to see so many people turn up from back in the day. And the 192 bus from Levenshulme to Piccadilly is a riot!


Friday, April 26, 2024


Heading north today to the sold-out Girl With The Replaceable Head gig! I went to see Galen and Paul on Wednesday, they were fab. No time to write a review but here is some of their music from the night:

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ghettotech Track By Sistah G

 If you listen all the way through you'll hear one of my jingles! Sistah G is from Utrecht and makes her own mixes to play at street parties. I'm honoured to feature in one of her tracks, especially alongside America Ferrera whose speech in the Barbie movie makes me cry every time I hear it.

The rest of the jingles are here: https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/feminist-jingles

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Delivery Drivers

This is last night's one-hour documentary drawing, of some very cold delivery drivers-in-waiting in Stratford outside Tarbucks. I've removed the 'S' until they pay their taxes- that's not a spelling error.

This morning I recorded backing vocals for Toni Tubna's band the Grensons, under the pseudonym Weejun Startrite. I couldn't decide between that or Ravel Camper, but chose the former name. I've still got Hay Fever so the top notes are tough, but I've gained at least a note down there in the chest area. Gruff, gruff!

He edited yesterday's bass line (I didn't know the chords and hazarded the wrong guess in one part of the song) and added my vocals; now the track has gone to Robert. Let's see what he comes up with!

I've been getting my hands used to playing a solid body guitar for the weekend. There's going to be a lot of travel and I think the Gretsch is too bulky and fragile to take on numerous train journeys this weekend. Thankfully, they recognised the grip of the different fretboard but I'll rehearse again tomorrow just in case.

The Chefs album has gone to the pressing plant, I believe. Update as soon as I hear anything.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Something New: A Break From Editing

My inbox zinged this afternoon with a message from Toni Tubna: could Robert and me add bass and vocals to this tune by the new band The Grensons?

Well, I'm off on my travels to The Toon and Manchester this coming weekend, so I sat down straight away with my bass and played along with the song. In my hurry, I sent an mp3 with the metronome click still on it. Silly me! Primary School level mistake. It was nice to think about a bass line: I still haven't really thought whether to put bass on my new music or not. I'll decide next week.

Tomorrow, I'll have a shot at some backing vocals on the track. It's nice to have a new collaboration and stretch my brain cells.

Meanwhile, here's the drawing from last night's Marc Riley listen-in on BBCRadio 6. I can't remember where I took this photograph. Weirdly I think it's from Earl's Court rather that Whitby, which might make more sense as it's obviously from a hotel or bed and breakfast. Anyway, the dog seemed to think that its toy was extremely important to passers-by. 

It was! I took a picture and drew the scene. Nice and simple for a Monday night, drawn along to Kathryn Willians, The Lovely Eggs, Nadine Shah and Laura Marling. Perfect.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Stephen Lane and The Fenestration at Hertford Museum

Well, I spared you the distress of the flat car battery, how annoyed I got with the AA and all that two weeks ago. The upshot of all this was that I was told to run my car every week, I saw this gig advertised on Facebook and running the car to a destination seemed like a great idea. We missed the first act, Afternoon, which was a shame, but saw Stephen Lane's quiet set. His style is appealingly simple: picked notes on a Spanish guitar with storytelling-in-song integrated into the music. I was also impressed by his matching music stand, lead and socks, presumably chosen to match the lyric about the colour turquoise. He even had a blue biro in his breast pocket. Now that's attention to detail!

The Fenestration have A TRUMPET!! What a perfect addition to a Sunday afternoon! With vintage guitar, vintage bass, a small Gretsch kit and Gina Davidson on vocals, they played a set of garage-influenced music. I particularly liked the song they ended their set with, or so it seemed until they found a song called Grass on a band member's mobile phone, had a brief listen, and then played it as an encore. I loved their informality- the backing vocals were the shouted instructions between the band, almost as though the songs were being reconstructed in front of our eyes: "Do that twice at the beginning, then four of them...". Such fun! I can't imagine a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There were lots of friendly people to chat with, including Looking Glass Alice who had DJ'd at the gig me and Robert did at The Betsey Trotwood last year. It was lovely to hear Gina singing, and I do so love these gigs with a Youth Club vibe. Yes I do.

The Jasmine Minks and McCookerybook and Rotifer at The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington

Remember The Jasmine Minks? They were signed by Alan McGee to Creation Records back in the pre-Oasis days, and I'd met Jim Shepherd at Glasgoes Pop last year and had a really nice chat with him. It was an honour to appear on the same bill last night- a gig to play and a gig to watch at the same time, my favourite sorta gig.

The sound engineer, Tamara, was incredible. They had seven people on stage and she took the time to get everything sounding perfect for them, and apparently this was also the first time some people could properly hear my guitar for our set. I think we won the crowd over with our exuberance as much as anything else; despite rehearsing there was the odd duff lyric and chord here and there. Basically, though, we enjoy playing these songs together so much we can latch into that groove and really do the stuff. It's a pity we play so rarely in this duo format, but we both have other things keeping us very busy so gigs like this are a treat.

The Jasmine Minks have a lot of singers (they were augmented last night by a female singer with a gorgeous voice). It's unusual to hear so many male voices singing together and swopping lead vocals at a gig. I suppose Jim is the main guy and he was in fine voice last night. I fully expected to see yet more personnel appearing as the night drew on... seven... eight... nine; but they remained a seven-piece, telling anecdotes between the songs (nicking the demo tape they made for London Records was one of them), and delivering a hearty encore to the extremely enthusiastic crowd. Here's a photograph of Tamara, one of the essential people who rarely get a shout-out, checking the sound.

Excellent evening, big thanks to Caryne and Dave for putting it on, and lovely to see Ruth and Dave out and about! Oh yes- Stewart Lee was there, too.

Video Of McCookerybook and Rotifer From Last Night's Gig


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Monday, April 15, 2024

Wylam Institute

When I was a child the Institute felt like the centre of the village. There was a yearly village show upstairs, and I went to dancing classes up there for a while. The village shows were a hoot- one of the primary school teachers, who ran the school choir, wore very short mini-skirts and the Dads jostled to sit in the front row. The village choir, starring Mrs Hibbert (scourge of Mr Sleightholme, whose bantams I used to feed when he was away), always sang 'I've got a bonnet trimmed with blue, do you wear it, yes I do!'. They were mega-coy, and most of them seemed to wear that bright coral lipstick so we could observe just how heartily they articulated the words. The jumble sales were brilliant: I'd buy stacks of vinyl singles with no sleeves, tied up with hairy string, and take them home to see what I'd bagged. You could only see the top and bottom labels. I bought a fencing foil once, and a wooden Robert Thompson 'mouseman' ashtray which I sold on eBay in 2018 for £95 when I was selling stuff so I could go to New York. I think it cost sixpence! I also once bought a long 1930s pale green coat with bell sleeves and a satin lining; my friend at the time refused to walk down the street with me when I was wearing that.

And downstairs, that's where I went to Girl Guides every week. Sometimes I'd take my Spanish guitar and me and my friend Anita would sing the song that seemed to be ubiquitous at the time: I think it's called 500 Miles and was released by Peter, Paul and Mary. I was the patrol leader for the Kingfishers, and we got told off for doing art stuff all the time. Weird co-incidence- I don't think I've heard that song for 40 years, and it's just appeared in an episode of Professor T that I watching online!

Much later, there were a couple of discos there and even a live gig: there was a young chap called Gabriel Schuster who wore an academic gown and played long guitar solos, as I remember. So here is a gig in the Institute, alongside Floppy Posture, a band formed by my friend Simon Brough who used to do bellringing in Wylam Parish Church as part of a young posse. I joined first (McMum told me I should because I found the bellringing practices so annoying). His brother Andy, one of my best friends, died a couple of years ago. What a pity he can't come too.

Friday, April 12, 2024


I bounced everything down last night to make mp3s of the demos, just to see how they're doing. I wasn't intending to do any recording today but one of the tracks had a few lumbering guitar mistakes which I had to re-record this morning so I can relax over the weekend. I know the next couple of weeks are going to be busy: Robert's coming round to rehearse for the support gig with Jasmine Minks next Saturday, then I'll have to rehearse my own set for the gigs in Edinburgh and Manchester the following weekend. 

I'll have to record the lead vocals at the beginning of May when the hay fever season has calmed down a bit, but I might have a go at tidying up the backing vocals before then. Half the time, I think it's sounding really good, and the other half, I don't. It's funny how the tracks that sound best are often unexpected ones. I've written a song that sounds like A Proper Song. There's another that is possibly too sweet for this record; it's sounding quite energetic! 

I think you can hear in the music that I've left my lecturing job. Working there was like wearing a concrete hat that was compressing everything bouncy and joyful in life, and a mask of insecurity that nibbled at your face all the time because nobody ever said you did anything well, or appeared to notice if something you did outside the university environment was successful. It was all one big downgrade, designed to make you feel like an impostor for not going to a posh university or conservatoire to study music formally. What an upstart I must have seemed! 

In a world of my own, where I'm happy, I can spend 24 hours being creative and another 24 being political if that's the way the cookie crumbles. I will always treasure the relationships that I had with the students, the majority of them. I miss being surrounded by their ideas.

Anyway, I think I have a poster for the gig a week tomorrow. Oh yes, I do.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Talleyrand, Manchester, 27th April


Knowle Constitutional Club, May 5th


Chefs Album Doings

In between recording and meeting friends, I've been sorting out various things with Ian from the label Damaged Goods for our Chefs vinyl release. It's going to be a double album, without the Skat songs (although Femme Fatale will be there, from our Richard Skinner session); the unreleased album will be there, warts and all (there are a few of those: almost inaudible vocals on some of the tracks), plus the track Locked Out from the WNW6 album. The email communication line is red-hot with details which have to be checked and double checked. It's incredibly useful having taught a music industry law module during lockdown, though at times like this I wish I had a manager to sort out all the advantages taken by huge publishing companies. Energy vampires, they are, gobbling up the energy that creative people put into the world and trying to leave them as dried up husks by the roadside as they prowl around looking for their next juicy victims.

Still, today I've succeeded in making a demo for what I think will be the last of the tracks for my own next album. I've rejected a few of the songs already, and may possibly invite a previous reject back into the fold, but it sounded meek in comparison to some of the others. Tomorrow will be the last day of working on them for a week or so, because I'll need to start rehearsing the McCookerybook and Rotifer songs for our gig in ten days supporting Jasmine Minks, and I also need to sort out some gig dates around some orphan venue shows. 

Tube workers, Embankment

This was last January, the day before the residency at Earl's Court started. I'd explained to the tube workers what I was about to do, asked if I could photograph them to draw, and they said yes. I spend an hour on each of these drawings, and will have to choose simpler subjects- it's frustrating to want to re-draw and finish some parts of them. Listening to Riley and Coe as usual, with an absolutely hilarious track by Vic Reeves called I Remember Punk Rock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVF_Pui1lAs

Monday, April 08, 2024


That guitar-pickin' fingernail! I wonder if I can go into a nail bar and ask them for just one fingernail?

I want to get on with my recording; I've been editing a lot today but need some fresh playing on the songs. I also have a gig with Robert in two weeks. The offending nail grew back, but now it's splitting again. I'd think it was a diet issue, if all of my other fingernails weren't completely fine. 

I worked on one of Gina's songs this morning, and have backing-vocalled my own songs to extinction, at least to the point at which I have to stop because it's so hard to subtract music from music: you have to build it like a house of cards and not let it topple over.

It really does have to be guitar next. 

John Singer Sargent at Tate Britain

Hobnobbing with the stars (or at least, the rich), Singer Sargent had access to beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes, and became an absolute expert in conveying sumptuous wealth in all its glory. Not all of his subjects were conventionally beautiful, but he painted them all as if they were. My favourite painting is there: Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Now there's a song title, if I ever heard one! I remember being really upset because I read somewhere that the little girls were actually little boys, but in this exhibition they are girls. I felt like he had painted me, outside in the greenery, concentrating. It's absolutely fantastic.

He was good at hands and ears (I noticed because I'm finding them particularly difficult to represent at the moment), and also the fact that most people don't have matching eyes. It was mildly upsetting that the only woman who didn't have a name was the Japanese one, an unfinished painting, but the fact that she didn't have a name like the Western women emphasised the snootiness and privilege of the more formal paintings.

That being said, there was a wonderful painting of Vernon Lee (or Violet Paget as she was known as), a lesbian who preferred to reject as much femininity as possible. The painting took only an hour to do, apparently.

Saturday, April 06, 2024


I've now got to the point with two of the songs where I'm thinking 'But the other songs are going to sound crap compared to these'. 

It's because I've been sitting there editing and editing on one of them (still not finished yet), to get everything tight and lined up. What started off being quirky and floppy is now sounding smart. No lead vocals yet, because of the wind blowing the pollen around so much, but...

Dammit, I've just remembered that I meant to tidy up the backing vocals of another song before I stopped for the night, but I guess I can start with that one tomorrow morning. Editing is weird: I dread it, but as soon as the song is up on the screen I get as absorbed by it as I do with playing guitar, and time just flies. It's like digging really deep into the song and coming out the other end with a layer of it on you like a tree ring or something; you're almost wearing it. And it's amazing how much difference shifting a note a nanosecond along the timeline makes in terms of sonic power.

I've got a really good 'bad girl' song but I think it might be a bit too gruesome for this album, which so far is wearing its anger lightly. That's not to belittle the anger, but more to emphasise the subtlety of the way it's expressed.

Roll on tomorrow, more vocals and a guitar part to repair. All bits, bits, bits until the lead vocal holds it all together and makes it into a song!


Well, I've been singing today, and playing guitar. What a pain in the botty to have to re-string my guitar yesterday but miracle of miracles, it was bang in tune this morning. I'm not sure if it's made that much difference, apart from a morale boosting one. 

I started with singing some harmonies for a lovely song of Gina's which I've probably sung too much on, but at least she has plenty to choose from. I thought that might be all that I did today so I went outside and did a bit of gardening, or yardening as I prefer to call it, snipping the spent yellow flowers from the small and beautiful New Zealand tree that's waiting to be re-potted in a humongously giant pot. It was me and the bees (they love it). If I was an entomologist, I'd count the bee varieties around the tree because there are loads, possibly all the bees that are missing from everywhere else in the world: honey bees, bumble bees, furry black ones. I dodged them as much as I could in case I got stung, then bottled out and did a bit of pruning instead. It looked so horrible and straggly out there about a week ago, but everything has started growing and it is my favourite garden in the universe, so small and imperfectly formed.

Sometimes I look around and think 'Why is everyone so much richer than me?'. This is perfectly counterbalanced by the times I look around and think 'Why is everyone so much poorer than me?'. I've concluded that it's so anxiety-inducing comparing oneself to other people that it's best not to do it. I have health problems, like a lot of other people. I worry a lot about the health and wellbeing of not only people close to me but also those far away. Music and art are therapy for these things. 

It's possible to be fabulously angry in a song and know you've hit the nail on the head lyrically, which is a million times more legal than hitting the person on the head literally. It's possible to be tender in a drawing and to show how much you value undervalued people. This makes you feel engaged, if not powerful.

There was a fair bit of mud to scrub from my hands, which is possibly why my fingernails keep breaking. But I went back and did some guitar repairs then the singing devil got into me and I did some backing vocals on a song that I vowed not to do backing vocals on; I should know by now that it's always the best thing to do.

Hay fever has made me wheezy and although I'd like to never stop recording ever, it's time for Come Dine With Me and a tempting pile of crisps. Looks like a thoroughly awful group of people! Tally-ho!

Friday, April 05, 2024

Wiping Tables At The Laing Art Gallery

This is last night's drawing.  There's something not right about his arm, but some drawings are made to learn from. As usual I was listening to Gideon Coe's show on BBC6, but this time a lot later than normal. Funny how you get to recognise people's music and voices immediately. He played everything from Swansea Sound to Extreme Noise Terror last night, an utterly different palette of music to the night before.

Anyway, this chap was wiping tables in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle about 18 months ago. There wasn't time to colour him (the drawings take an hour, or in this case, less). It would be lovely to go to life drawing classes again, but it's unaffordable at the moment and making drawings from photographs will have to do for now. 

Bandcamp Friday

I found this preview online of the gig we're doing at The Cumberland Arms in Byker at the end of the month: The Girl With The Replaceable Head, David Lance Callahan and me. I think it's going to be a zinger! what I like about this is that the writer acknowledges the fact that I produced the Drawing on my Dreams album, and that means a lot.

Mandy Austin told me on Saturday that Steve Lillywhite (the producer) still really likes Beachwalk and said it was one of his favourite tracks from last year. What a huge compliment! 

It's weird starting to build the foundations of the next album. I really didn't think I'd do another one, but then the songs turned up and tapped me on the shoulder. I have the tedious task of re-stringing my guitar this weekend because after recording the demos I'm ready to replace those original ones with the 'proper' versions. I have asked Lester Square to guest on one of the tracks too: I'm not sure about other guests this time around. 

The problem is, I start inventing little riffs and I've already started playing them into the songs. Yesterday, I started adding backing vocals. Because I don't like 'oohs' and have already done some 'aahs', I decided to hum instead. I'd got halfway through the second harmony and started sneezing uncontrollably, couldn't stop and had to pack up for the day. Who knew that humming triggered sneezing? You live and learn.

Anyway, today is Bandcamp Friday and here is Drawing on my Dreams, with the track Beachwalk on it. Please do invest in a copy to cheer you up on this grey rainy day! https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/drawing-on-my-dreams

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Morning Prayers

Commuters one winter morning at Embankment Station on the District and Circle Line, heading west. Nearly everyone is completely absorbed in their phone.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Rachel Love and the Lovables, Panic Pocket, and Me

This is almost difficult to review because it was such a good night. It was an absolute delight to be opening this gig, because of playing a good few gigs with the Dollymixtures way back in time, and having been aware of Panic Pocket for a long time and not actually ever having seen them. It was an early start, and that could have been a worry but audience members started showing up even before the doors opened. There was such a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, mingled in with a bit of a buzz of excitement. Amanda Austin came to do the door, and she knows us all anyway. Three cheers for my own friends and family, who showed up in force, and also a couple of surprises- Rowen, Tom and Jo, Mandy and Simon, and Alex. Hello Caryne and Dave, Damian, Isobel, Andy, James and Jenny! I felt very well supported from the start, and Tony the promoter did the perfect intro, where he actually invited the audience to step forward towards the stage.
This broke the ice straight away. Every kind of people was there: some from the Old Days, some from the New Days, and according to Amanda, a few guests from the local Youth Hostels who had come along on spec. This was a night when I could happily play Women of the World and know that it would resonate with people; and Three Maple Men, which I rarely play, had an unexpected resonance with a woman in the audience, whose Mum had moved to the USA from England when she was fourteen.

Panic Pocket's sound is unique: they have a blend of electronica and electric guitar, topped by an almost country vocal sound (with occasional girl-group harmonies). This means that they span simultaneously retro and very contemporary definitions of song writing, and they were intriguing to listen to, especially because of their very smart lyrics. They are definitely worth seeing; there are layers of meaning in their music and lyrics that make them a band you could se more than once and hear entirely different things each time.

And headlining the night, the wonderful Rachel and her boys. They were great at the Lexington, and even better here, a more intimate venue that they filled with their positive vibe. But they have also been rehearsing a lot. Indie audiences don't necessarily expect bands to be tightly-rehearsed, because sometimes this implies a slickness that ruins the feel and spontaneity of the music, but in this case the band provided a sure and firm foundation for Rachel's own playing and singing. This time you could hear even more clearly the care that had gone into the arrangements of the instrumentation and vocals. Weirdly I felt incredibly proud, not just to have been on this bill, but of women song writers, and also the women of our generation who are still out there creating music. I look at all this positivity as an antidote to the horrors of real life, which of course we are processing in our lyrics while giving people a night out. Rachel's songs are, and always have been, really special. What a privilege to share a stage again after all these years. 

Shouts out to Debsey, who was going to be singing but had a sore throat, to all the musicians, to Tony for organising it, to my pals and family for being there, to the chap who draws my portraits from photos and who brought along some more, to the woman who said I sounded like Pentagram then swiftly realised that she meant Pentangle (and  got a CD for her mum), to the woman who got a CD for her four-year-old niece, and last but not least, to the venue cook who said he really liked my voice. Now that's a real compliment.
Hear Rachel below- I lost my grip on my camera halfway through because I was trying to dance and film at the same time!