Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Oh what a wonderful year! (2013)

The year began with plans loosely in place for a mini tour of Iceland. We had skipped off the stage after our third consecutive New Year's Eve giggle at The Gurnards Head, wiped the sweat from our brows and talked eagerly of exploring this frozen land. Or rather I had. "It's never going to happen" said the guitar player, "get your priorities straight, first thing's first, we need to sign the bass player up on a permanent basis!". He was right, our sometime bass player had become an integral part of the jigsaw, on the few gig's he'd played with us he had demonstrated 4 string dexterity of the highest order, he was punctual, level-headed, multi-instrumental and knew the songs better after only 4 months than we did after 4 years! "Plus we'll need him if you're really serious about Iceland!?"

JANUARY was rather empty; a bleak and frosty landscape with a whinnying wind that whipped the walls of our worlds, where everybody was detoxing and hibernating, with hot water bottles on their bellies and long john'd legs, where watching a band play was a far off dream of spring or summer. We didn't play a single chord. We barely spoke. We certainly never made it to Iceland.

FEBRUARY was even colder but people had gotten bored of detoxing and had begun to drink to combat the grinding weather. They ventured out, still clad in long-johns, still pregnant with hot water bottles! We played twice in this the smallest of months; a BBC Radio Cornwall slot live on air, under the guidance of the disk jockey David White, followed by our London debut at The Rattlesnake which was one of our biggest and best gigs to date, and not to be bettered as the months fell away. 

'The MARCH wind roars like a golden lion in the sky, and makes us shiver as he passes us by' reads the quote, rather fitting as we took our long awaited Bristol bow at The Golden Lion; it was a busy affair but it took us a wee while to settle into our stride. We later achieved this by sipping red-bull and ended with a roar! A cosy sunday slot at The Boogaloo in London was a nice way to end an eventful month in which we'd signed to a leading music agent and parted ways with our sometime drummer.

APRIL saw two more bristol gigs, one in a crammed bar in the centre, the other in a rambling old church. Both gigs were eventful and without a drummer I trialled my new stomp box which proved hit and miss and had the habit of cutting out mid-song. The Looking Glass was a smart venue in the centre and very busy. I remember we borrowed a keyboard as the piano player had misplaced his. I also remember we got a parking ticket and as the venue didn't pay us and we'd forgotten our CD's we made a loss of £30! The Big Sleep Out was run by The Big Issue and was a charity event for the homeless where 100's would sleep on cardboard boxes in a beautiful old church in St. Pauls. The gig was lovely though the piano player, who was going through a faze of growing his hair and beard, was constantly being mistaken for a tramp and was surrounded by security every time he walked onto the stage!

Still drummer-less in MAY we played two stompin' gigs nonetheless, with the stomp-box discarded and the box-drum reinstated, we rocked Portbury Village Hall and then travelled down to Cornwall to play at The Spring Ale Festival which is contender number 2 for gig of the year; a typical Cornish affair, a packed barn with familiar faces, plenty of ale, hot and sweaty audience participation and foot-stomping sing-alongs.

JUNE we did nothing. I turned 30 and span-out, the piano player didn't leave his valley, the guitar player recorded a solo EP, the bass player worked an office job in London and the drummer didn't exist.

JULY we very nearly did nothing; a solitary giggle at The Lost and Found in our hometown at the start of the month and then the sun came out and we went to the beach for 21 consecutive days until it rained again.

"Just make sure you get the cheque!"
AUGUST saw two giggles, two weddings, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens and then a shoe-foot up to the The Rod and Lion in Tideford. I was late for both and as I remember, soaking wet. I had been acting in a play most of the month and driving very fast after the show to make the gigs. We were back to being a threesome, as the bass player was office-bound in London and the drummer still hadn't found us. I want to say we rocked both gigs but I have very little memory of either, other than my rain-soaked punctuality! Weddings are tricksy; remembered forever by the bride and groom and forgotten in minutes by the the band. You fein delight at playing them but really you only come for the cheque! 

poster by Mae Voogd
SEPTEMBER was the biggest month we'd ever had, our first tour; a 900 mile scramble across the country in a silly car that we couldn't reverse. The bass player was back with us and we had a brand new drummer! We began in Praa Sands; another typical cornish giggle with amps on hay-bales and cows joining in on the choruses. We then travelled north, our furthest north, to the famed Illuminations Festival in Matlock and on this part of the tour we were followed by our friend the filmmaker Paul Mackeson as he filmed the documentary How NOT to be in a band! We did a radio slot on BBC Radio Derbyshire where we found out our album was album of the year! We swerved south playing The Underbelly in London, headed west to Bristol for a brilliant stomper at The Plough before rolling back home to Cornwall's Little Big Festival. 

We only played once in OCTOBER, an unforgettable evening at The Islington, in London, on the night that Hurricane Jude whipped the country.

NOVEMBER saw us return to our spiritual home, The Acorn, in our hometown of Penzance in support of folk legend, Steve Tilston. It was a beautiful sit-down event and our third finest show of the year, where some of the slow paced numbers got a showcase and we pinched some of Steve Tilston's fans!

poster by Mae Voogd
And here we are in DECEMBER, back in the cold and dark on the lead up to christmas and our final giggle of the year at The Acorn with local bluegrass hero's Flats and Sharps. We will deck the halls with tw*ts and fiddles and play a folked-up repertoire of Christmas shanties to our adoring fans. Then we will close the year after 20 gigs, a new drummer, an agent, a film, a quirky tour bus, having travelled thousands of miles, broken London, cracked Bristol, made money, spent more, had our dear old piano player mistaken for a tramp, lose his piano, leave a chainsaw on the train, and then most surprisingly of all, finally move to Bristol. We are complete. And we're ready for next year.
I'm thinking Iceland!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Side Projects

'What are you up to tonight?' it was the piano player, his voice fizzed down the phone waking me from my daydream.
"Nothing. Why?"
"Well I'm playing a gig at this African event, you should come!"
"Huh? with who?"
"My new band!"
"What new band!?" I sat up intrigued.
"I've joined a reggae band!"
"I've joined a reggae band!" he said again. 
"Yes, I heard you!" I snapped. After being in Bristol for all of 3 weeks the piano player had certainly wasted no time, by day he had been selling paintballs on the streets and by all accounts making a decent wage for himself and now he'd joined another band!?
"It's a side project." he said proudly.
"A side project!?" the word seemed alien; for years he'd struggled with any kind of project let alone having projects on the side. 
"Where are you playing then?"
"In the Umb centre in St. Pauls" he answered.
"The what?"
"The Umb centre. I dunno, it's like this African place, I'll text you later."

A side project! After years spent idling away in a sub-tropical wilderness, deep in the valleys of west cornwall, in a state of premature retirement, cocooned in a valley, relying on lifts to and from town, living in a lackadaisical lull; he'd exhausted his friends and family and relied solely on the band for any outbound excursions! Sure he'd talked of Bristol ever since the band had relocated. But years had gone by; years spent on trains and mega buses and us driving down to a gig in north Devon via south Cornwall just to pick him up! The logistics didn't bear thinking about. But now, suddenly, he was here, and not only that, but he had a job, and a job that paid more in one day than I earned in a week! and not only that, but he had a side project! A new band! They'd been together for all of one day and already had a gig! I suddenly felt a fierce twang of jealously and wondered momentarily if he was already overtaking me; I didn't have a steady job or a side project! 

As the day progressed I gathered a few friends and tentatively awaited a text from the piano player. It came in a blaze of enthusiasm; 'I think you guys should definitely come, it's WOMAD standard, this band's incredible, there's food and alcohol and it goes on till 2am!'. We stepped out into the rain, bundled into a cab and in minutes were standing outside The Umb Centre and i was nervous. What if this side project became his main project? What if The Odd Folk became only a side project? We entered the slightly rundown community centre and met with a wiry Rasta at the reception who told us it was £15 a ticket! We backed away and called the piano player who I could see through the small glass window was in the midst of a soundcheck, he stood out like a sore thumb, clad in a shiny white suit surrounded by black people in black suits! He answered his phone mid-song. Evidently multitasking was part of his new skill set! We explained the problem and he jumped down from the stage and exited the auditorium, his band seemingly unaware of his departure. After a lengthy negotiation with the wiry Rasta we were ushered into the near empty hall and confronted by rows and rows of chairs with purple ribbons tied to them. Was this a wedding? Where was the bar? And the food? And the people?

Back on stage and his piano had stopped working and he was starting to get flustered! We searched around for a bar, realised that the warm cans of Red Stripe at reception were the limit and decided to return in an hour when things may have picked up a little.

An hour later and the hall was marginally busier, the band had stopped sound checking at least. I noticed the same eight cans of Red Stripe sat at the reception. The piano player was nowhere to be seen. "The music starts in an hour!" lilted the wiry Rasta at the door. We slipped back out into the rain and returned to the same cider bar we'd gone to the first time around!

An hour later and the hall was scarcely any busier but at least there was a queue of people. We waited only to find we weren't allowed in any longer as we hadn't got stamps and the Hall was very busy. "It doesn't look it!" I said.
"I'll speak to Profit, he's the boss!" said the wiry Rasta and disappeared through the door. I peered in through the small glass window, there didn't appear to be any band, and the piano player's phone rang through. I slipped outdoors and walked round to a large window on the side of the building and peered in; and there on a purple-ribboned-chair sat the piano player, sleeping soundly. The Hall was maybe quarter-full, the warm Red Stripe had failed to seduce anyone as they still sat untouched at the bar. This 'Profit' chap didn't look like living up to his name on this event. The stage was empty; the reggae band nowhere to be seen. This little side project didn't seem to have got off to a flying start. I smiled to myself, reassured, then gathered my friends and returned to the same cider bar for the third time that night.


"Sorry about last night!" said the piano player.
"That's OK, shame to have missed you play." I lied.
"Yeah, it was a bit of a weird event."
"Anyhow, what you up to tomorrow, fancy a jam?" I asked.
"Can't, I'm selling paintballs." he answered proudly.

"Ah, of course! Well what about tomorrow night then?"
"I'm rehearsing." he answered.
"With who!? For what!?"
"With my reggae band, we've got another gig at the weekend!"

It seemed this little side project was set to continue. All hopes I had of him being disgruntled by the non-event at The Umb Centre and ditching his new band had vanished. He'd added resolve to his skill set now! The piano player, in one month, had morphed from a sloth-like gutterpup living in a state of wooded oblivion to a highly motivated, multi-tasking salesman with two bands! 

I walked aimlessly around the house searching for some kind of side project of my own, and finding none, made a crumpet and sat back down on the sofa.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Richard Milligan

A friend of ours suggested that the gap between blogs was too wide, so i wrestled some time and here lies a 2nd blog within a fortnight. This one's for you, Richard Milligan - photo, title and all! Richard Milligan is the name of our artist. Now you're probably thinking, 'wow, you guys are really odd, your artist is a panda!' Sadly, no, this is the sole photo I have of Richimaru Millizaki, or Tricky Animator as he's also known. 
And he's not just our artist either, a more fitting title would be... 'art.manager/!'
He does so much more than artwork; he uploads and downloads, rushes about at our beck and call, lends us drums, pedals, wires, cameras, gins, tonics, he films us, he edits us, he offers enormous support for very little in return and for a while was our most constant fan! Sadly, as we've been lucky enough to explore the UK a little more, his presence has depleted, understandably. He only comes to the cornish giggles. Actually sometimes he even misses them! He strolled up to me outside The Acorn at the Steve Tilston gig and asked me what time we started. We had just finished! So perhaps he's not our most constant fan after all. Perhaps he's actually sick of us? or perhaps he's actually a panda!?

Since the last blog; the end of the tour; we pulled ourselves together and managed to organise a rehearsal, and upon completion deemed ourselves ready to showcase our talents to a manager in London. We drove into the capital mere hours before Hurricane Jude was due to hit the west of England, failing to think about the consequences of driving back headlong into the storm! The gig was a disaster; the booker had changed our time so often that nobody knew what was going on. We'd planned around the info in the last email, with a start time of 8pm but at 7.30 we were bundled on stage despite our best efforts, minus our bass player and with the manager not due to arrive for half an hour! We partook in some fantastical procrastinations (try saying that really fast!); we dilly'd and we dally'd, the bass player turned up as did the manager and we began. But after only three songs we were told 'one more!' much to our disbelief; indeed it tipped us over the edge and we let our frustrations bubble out of the microphones. We'd driven all the way from Bristol to play 4 songs for no money! We finished up, apologised to our baffled fans but the manager was nowhere to be seen, he'd slipped out into the rain. We made it home, the drummer drove us in his smart black car, though inside we were crammed tight like sardines; myself and the piano player literally in each others arms in a single seat! The storm raged and the rain lashed down, drops the size of golf balls, drumming on the windscreen. The drummer stared staunchly ahead, the guitar player in the passenger seat keeping up the small talk while the piano player and I cuddled in the back.

Fearing we'd missed the boat with the manager and preparing to offer Richard Milligan yet another role in the above position, we were surprised to receive an email which stated that although the event was a disaster, the management were still keen to see us live in the capital. Another showcase was to be arranged with haste!

The following weekend we departed further west to the land of our birth to support folk legend Steve Tilston at an event that my uncle had organised, which, with 30 years experience would run as smooth as butter; no chance of changing timeslots on this one.
The gig was beautiful; a sit down event that gave us a chance to play many of the old songs that had been left behind as we've increasingly upped our tempo. It allowed us to concentrate more on the FOLK than the ODD! After the gig we were inundated with middle-aged ladies wanting album's signed, this was both fulfilling and frustrating, as the obvious ideal is young girls circling you as you step off stage! But it was very touching and any fans are welcome.

Outside on the steps our most constant fan approached me all smiles dressed as a panda with a stick of bamboo. And this blog's for him! Richimaru.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The piano player lives 3 miles away!

Photo by Liam Arthur
It's been a good few weeks since the tour ended. 900 miles completed; no lasting damage to the car and everyone still wants to be in the band! There were dramas of course, everything that goes wrong, went wrong. We were physically and mentally drained. The mishaps and miscommunications; I'll list them. It reads like this:

Couldn't reverse with the trailer, each time we'd have to get out, turn it round and reattach it.
Forgot the guitar; sent the drummer back 100 miles to get it.
Forgot the mic stands; used branches.
Forgot the CD's for at least two gigs.
Put diesel in the petrol car.
Drove off with the petrol cap on the roof.
Went fantasically over budget.
Forgot bedding; bass player slept in a rug, piano player slept in his case!
Record producer stood us up.
Piano player caught meditating during soundcheck.
Audience member wouldn't leave stage after being called up to fan us.
Bass mysteriously cut out during 1st bass solo.
Piano player then played all over 2nd bass solo.
Guitar player broke strings and forgot his shoes.

After the tour the guitar player and I fled to Spain and the piano player went to France and had a nervous breakdown. He arrived back in the UK and promptly moved to Bristol. He now lives 3 miles away!

Having 4 out of 5 of us in the same city is very handy, although as yet we haven't managed to practice; indeed i wonder if any of us have picked up our instruments, we're all still scarred by the three wknd tour!

Ah, but it was a great success; we played to 100's of people, made new fans, sold CD's, made a film, went on the radio. But because we had never done such a concentrated block of dates, in a very slow car with no heating, with lack of sleep and very little time, travelling great distances with no money, and eating bad food from expensive services, by the end we were pale and giddy, we were half our strength, we were ready to throw in the towel.

Spain did a lot to heal my mind, a while away from the whirling bite of England, although the guitar player spent his holiday with a fever. We returned to The Odd Folk HQ somewhat tentatively; we were all still a little fragile. When a new gig came through in London, we were all unnerved, we glanced at each other to gage if we were all still keen. We were.

It's coming up this Sunday 27th at the Islington, in Islington, obviously. We haven't practiced yet, we haven't summoned up the strength. After London, the following weekend, we travel to Cornwall to play with one of folk's great: Steve Tilston. In december we're hosting a big christmas party with a local bluegrass band, Flats and Sharps. 

So, it's picking up again. And we're almost back to full swing. The piano player lives 3 miles away, and our CD is on repeat at the dentist in Clifton; stardom is calling! Makes you think though, being this out of sorts after a three week UK run, what would we be like after a world tour? Destroyed.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The three wknd tour!

CAR'S PACKED. Stuffed to the gunnels.
Piano on the roof-rack, amps and PA in the trailer, guitars strapped on the trailer roof. Violin and mandolin, tents and tarps crammed into the boot of the car. The four of us squashed inside. Costa coffees and cake crumbs. The piano player's rambling on, nonsensical ramblings, about this and that, mainly inaudible as the car's humming loudly and straining under the weight. The bass player's reading the map in the back, trying to remain calm while I'm driving, trying to keep the ship from sinking. The guitar player, seldom flustered, is now flustered, he's got a sweat on, trying to liaise with the film crew up ahead where we can get a few shots done. But he doesn't think we're on the same road and the bass player's confused as to which direction we're going! The engine's gone soprano as we try and overtake a lorry and the piano player spills his Copella apple juice on his lap. It's mayhem. The Odd Folk on tour. 

The poor drummer, a new addition, is travelling up in an air-conditioned estate with the film crew. They're up ahead, preparing to set-up and shoot us hurtling around the corner, or so they think, but we're on a different road, heading in a forgotten direction, all four of us talking at the same time about completely different things.

It's quite conceivable the car will break down. Or the trailer tyres will pop and we'll come to a halt on a lay-by somewhere on the A9000 near the the town of Shittington. After numerous phone calls we'll realise the AA membership has run-out. The film-crew and drummer will be out out of signal as they climb into the Peak District and approach the town of Matlock for the evening's gig, none the wiser. We'll either hide the trailer in the bushes for the evening and continue with the car, or if the car has given up we'll continue on foot arriving 2 days late for the concert and 1 day late for the radio interview the next morning!

I hope by writing this I am not temping fate! We're hoping for a crammed but smooth journey, and a fun little insight into our world and our music. We're very blessed to welcome Paul Mackeson on board to film the 2nd leg of our tour and excited by the new addition of our drummer, who is hoping his first gig isn't a drum solo in Matlock!

We're on a 900 mile, three weekend tour that began in rural Cornwall with amps on hay-bales and cows joining in on the chorus, and after Matlock, we shoe-foot up to the big smoke of the capital (that's if the car still works!) for a gig at the Underbelly in Hoxton. Last time we did London we actually were on foot, carrying drums, keyboard, amps etc at rush hour on the northern line! Never straight forward, always a little odd, prone to taking the longer and roundabout routes. It's not how we planned it, it just kinda happened that way. We bought LX tape so we could tape our leads together but we've never used it and the lead bag is like a bowl of spaghetti. My guitar case is held together with gaffer tape and bungee's and the piano player uses an ironing board as he's long since lost his stand. Ramshackle at best!

The tour then takes us back to Bristol for a German folk magazine interview where we have to take the nice lady to our two favourite places in the city, although none of us can decide where to go, the piano player keeps suggesting places that aren't even in Bristol! The guitar player, always one to cut corners, reckons the 1st should be our house and the 2nd should be the venue of the gig! Simple. We play at The Plough that night before tramping back down to Cornwall for The Little Big Festival.

So far so good. The car and trailer made it to Bristol so we know it works. We're confident we'll make the 2nd leg, from Bristol to Derbyshire. Fingers crossed.Tightly crossed.

Follow updates on the website 

poster by Mae Voogd

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The world's most quirky tour bus!

It's summertime and the living is easy. The British Isles have basked in 19 days of consistent and spectacular sunshine; and being in Cornwall, next to some of the world's best beaches, has been the cherry on the icing! We've all forgotten that we're in a band; every man has ditched his dreams of world domination and taken to the seas; lazy days splashing around in turquoise shallows, building sand villages and playing water goalie. I speak for myself and the piano player, we're the ones that have being messing about in boats and getting salt stains on our sandals. The guitar player, as far as I know, has been up at The Odd Folk HQ spending his days gardening for Bristol's middle class, while the bass player (and I hate to think of it!) has been working in an office in London!

World domination has been put firmly on the back burner... until yesterday!

Yesterday I had a brainwave.

I was sorting through some admin; working out logistics for the upcoming giggles. I was focusing on September's Illuminations Festival in Matlock and scratching my salty head wondering how we'd all get there and in what vehicle, when I suddenly had a very silly idea.

For my recent 30th birthday I was given a very special car. A vintage renault 4, circa 1986, complete with it's own little trailer. I thought about the 4 of us cramming in it with all our stuff and trundling off into the Derbyshire sunset and immediately laughed the idea off as a romantic dream. I steadied myself and resolved instead to borrow mother's van and how best to tackle this as she is not particularly keen on the idea. I could bribe her with a day's work! I could give her the £40 I've owed her for a year! But all the while the image of us in my little french car kept popping up and saying, why not?

I wasn't thinking straight, I grabbed my shorts and towel and headed to the beach with the piano player for a dip in the sea and a fresh perspective. While immersed in a game of water goalie, I mentioned the idea of us travelling up in the little Renault and he smiled back and said "That'd make a good film!"

I raised an eyebrow. Almost convinced.

What tipped it for me was this; on the way up the cliff to the car-park and as my phone hit signal again I received a text; it was from my friend the cameraman and it simply said: when are we gonna shoot some stuff?

And that was that. My mind was made up. We'd travel 190 miles up to Derbyshire in a 27 year old French car, with our gear in the little trailer, the paino on the roof-rack and the cameraman could follow us up and shoot a film about how crazy we all were.
He texted back: I'm in!

"You're not borrowing the van by the way!" said mother as I re-entered the house.
"It's alright we're taking the french car and trailer" I smiled.
"Are you mad!?" she barked.
"Yep, plum crazy!" I smiled.

I busied myself, fully immersed in world domination, drawing up a story-board of the film, imagining the finished product propelling us to the main stages of the biggest festivals!

-----------> > >

Today the sunshine rolls on and the baby seagulls are practicing flying from the kitchen roof. I can see my shorts and towel on the washing line and the football is sitting there waiting for another lazy day on the beach.

Not today though. I'm busy with world domination; booking campsite's where we can stay in the peak district and finding out whether my car can tow the weight of all our gear!?

Don't let me down now! I'm enjoying this break from the sand villages; 19 days and my skin's like leather.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The nearly boys...

It's been a typical start to the summer - not just with the unpredictable weather (blazing sunshine and hailstones in May!), but the higgledy piggledy nature of our management and planning; leaving us with a rather hit and miss summer of festivities, a little like sunshine and hailstones. 

Our Agent has confirmed their first 'giggle' for us; at a summer illuminations festival in Matlock. This sounds quite fun and it'll be the furthest north we've ventured (sunshine). We have a very cushy support slot with Steve Tilston (big sunshine!) followed by a few weddings for friends of friends (hailstones). We play The Little Big Festival in September (sunshine), and then lug all our gear to a random pub in the arse end of nowhere where our fee is bulked out with cheap cider and pub-grub! (big hailstones!). 

Much of our imagined summer spent performing at the many quirky festivals on the UK summer circuit hasn't quite materialised; CD sales are low, we still owe 4 arms and a head to the debtors and continue to be drummer-less; the piano player still lives 300 miles away; we haven't shot any footage yet and we've still not fixed the mandolin! It's easy to get downbeat and trudge home with hailstone bruises when the suns just a cloud or two away; patience. We absolutely rocked the Ale Festival at The Gurnards Head last month! The music is good, we may all be getting older, but I do think we're getting better! We're the nearly boys, we just need a break in the clouds man...

Luck does play a part; we were offered a slot at The Secret Garden Party but it clashes with WOMAD (ouch!). We were offered a slot at Glastonbury Festival's Greenpeace stage (glorious sunshine!) but no tickets to get in (death by hailstone!). 

Ah well; keep your pecker up, turn your face to the fun, keep on keeping on. 
Shambala and Green Man could confirm next week and then it's a pretty busy programme. Steve Tilston. A nice review in Rock n Reel. A new drummer. 
The Illuminations Festival, that does sounds fun. It doesn't hail in Matlock does it!?

Lady luck!x

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Chainsaw Boy!

When I went to meet the piano player from Bristol Temple Meads the first thing I asked him was 'have you got the chainsaw!?' to which he smiled and nodded his head. This was a huge relief as I had been worrying about it all day; the piano player being well known for misplacing things, indeed seldom does he arrive somewhere without having forgotten something!

'Don't worry, I got the chainsaw but I forgot my bloody coat!' he said and laughed.
'Typical' I said and smiled. 'So, where is it?'
'Oh, it's in here' he answered handing me a large bag. The bag was light as a feather, I knew even before I opened it that was the wrong bag. Inside was ladies clothes, underwear and a small bag of makeup. 'You fool!' I sighed in despair, 'Didn't you realise how little it weighed!?'
He looked dumbstruck.

Back in the station and we established where the train was headed, obtained a number for the rail company and handed in the wrong bag; whose owner was sitting on 14.25 to Edinburgh none the wiser that her bag been taken by our piano player.

I phoned the rail company and reported the chainsaw fiasco to them -
'Hi, I left my bag on the train!'
'Ok, describe the bag'
'It's blue and heavy.'
'Ok, and what's inside it?'
'An orange chainsaw and a can of petrol.'
- They told me to phone Edinburgh station lost property instead, so I did. Edinburgh lost property told me to phone back at 11pm when the train had arrived, by which time they'd shut the office till Monday morning!

There was nothing to be done, we played the gig at The Big Issue regardless, without the chainsaw, so crucial to our sound! I jest, but it did put us on the wrong footing somewhat, we pulled through and played well enough though, we even managed to find amusement in the fiasco in the pub afterwards.

The bass player drew three signs saying 'THE' 'ODD' 'FOLK' and the four of us did a silly photo shoot in a tunnel on the way home, with the piano player the only one who didn't have a sign. It worked quite well. He was the odd one - the one who owns the heaviest keyboard known to man and leaves chainsaws on the train!

On monday morning I phoned the lost property in Edinburgh -
'Hello I left my bag on the train on friday, I'm hoping it's arrived with you?'
'Ok, and what kind of bag, sir?'
'Well it's big and blue and...'
'And what, sir?'
'And it's got an orange chainsaw inside it!'
'Ah, you're the chainsaw boy!' he laughed in a strong Scots accents.
'Um, yes, so you have the bag?' i asked.
'No, it's been handed to the police, sir, it's illegal to travel with live fuel!'

I phoned the police -
'Hello, I believe you have my chainsaw?' I asked tentatively.
'Ah chainsaw boy!' he roared with laughter, 'you've made my weekend! The curious case of the orange chainsaw!'

In the end I had the chainsaw couriered back down to Bristol, the police never charged me, just laughed a lot down the telephone.

We played another gig the following weekend at The Looking Glass, a new music venue in Bristol; the piano player arrived on time and didn't leave anything on the train this time. He was very proud of himself.

He left his shoes behind when he departed though!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Bang go the drums!

official logo by Tricky Animator
As the dust settles on our recent stint of world domination (our two-venue Easter tour); a 600 mile scramble across southern England, we reflect upon another exhausting weekend, failing to raise much enthusiasm for the handful of new fans we've gathered and instead focusing on another large financial loss. The piano player has returned to his sub-tropical valley having somehow persuaded us to store his unimaginably heavy keyboard at The Odd Folk HQ! This is most unwelcome. So to is my mother's demand that we return her drumkit immediately which adds another inconvenience to our next stint of world domination, due this weekend.

Sometimes it all seems so impossibly far away, but then...

We are on the verge of 'signing' - this is unofficial news as we haven't actually received a contract as such, so we haven't been crowing it from the rooftops just yet, indeed part of me wonders whether we ever will - sign that is, not crow from rooftops! Already we're on said person's website and having eagerly sent them all of our online existence, contact has... stopped.
I figure they are just very busy sorting out our summer of world domination! Large stadiums and transatlantic tours! Air-conditioned super-coaches from The Big Apple to The City of Angels! Or maybe they've just forgotten about us!?

We have had to part company with our drummer! It is with sadness as he is a lovely player and an old friend, but with very limited money and car-space (not to mention lack of a drumkit!), we have conceded defeat. The search has begun for a player who a) can drive b) owns their own kit and c) doesn't live 100 miles away! Or at least someone who can tick one of those boxes! The bass player suggested we broaden the search; for a beautiful female drummer who can sing and drive, lives around the corner in a large recording studio and owns an air-conditioned mini bus! We met our first applicant the other day. Myself and the guitar player drove over to his studio, "I like that he's got a studio!" said the guitar player as we parked the car. "I know, and he's a drum teacher so he's bound to be amazing!" I added. Wrong. He was very disappointing. Lacking any natural rhythm which is important if you are a drummer. Obviously! God knows what he's doing teaching if he can't play! "Perhaps that's why there's so many bad drummers out there if all the teachers are like that!" said the guitar player as we made a quick getaway back to The Odd Folk HQ. The search continues... but in the meantime we are back to being a quartet, with my feet tapping the rhythm on a kick-drum.

Our next stint of world domination is this Friday at St. Paul's Church in Bristol, as part of the Big Issue's 'Big Sleep Out' - a charity evening to raise awareness for people who sleep on the streets. The church is beautiful and we're looking forward to getting some decent photos with our photographer, plus we'll get a nice article in the magazine too! The bass player, who's the most punctual member of the band, will be late for the sound-check, he's already told us. But I'm more worried about the piano player after our brief conversation today. 

             "What time is the gig on Saturday?"

             "You can make it right?"
             "Err, I think so."     
             "Right. See you Friday then, yeah?"
             "Err, yeah... I think I've lost my piano!"
             "It's here!"

He's coming on the train, not with his piano, but with a chainsaw. Yes, you heard correct. In order to chop the large amount of logs that are stacked on our lawn, I am borrowing mother's chainsaw and the piano player is the one entrusted with transporting this dangerous machine. I'm not so much worried about him getting here on time, more that he gets here in one piece. "Err, hello!" he'll say as he hops off the train with the saw in one hand and his leg in the other. As long as his fingers are in tact!

Travelling on trains with chainsaws! That's a good tongue twister. Try saying that really fast again and again and again...

Yes, we are The Odd Folk and this is world domination with a broken mandolin, no drummer, a photographer who can't make it cause he's gone on holiday, no time to sound-check, no money and not enough beds in the house. But we do have a chainsaw!
But no doubt it'll all be worth it; for those stolen moments after Whisky Drunk, when the crowd of homeless drunks at The Big Issue convention congratulate us and then ask us for some Scotch! It'll all be worth it. We've signed now. Or verbally signed. Surely it's only a matter of time before we break America!?


Thursday, 21 March 2013

The piano player lives 300 miles away!

   We have a two-venue Easter tour! and this weekend we will be rehearsing with the band in preparation - this means summoning them all from the far flung corners of southern England and ferrying them here to Bristol. It's a rather unwelcome and costly activity I must say; the piano player living 300 miles away in a subtropical valley in the far west of Cornwall. He doesn't drive a car and owns the heaviest keyboard known to man, so heavy in fact that he can't even lift it! This is very unwelcome indeed. His journey will involve persuading disgruntled family members to drive him half an hour to the nearest town where he will heave his enormous piano onto the train (but knowing British Rail as I do it'll probably be a replacement coach service!) and spend 5 hours+ chugging his way to Bristol. Never one to travel light, he will, of course, have packed too much stuff and one of his many plastic bags (containing food he'll never eat and clothes he'll never wear) will have broken and he will be frantic and frayed on his arrival. The bass player lives 100 miles in the opposite direction (!) in the smoky plains of the capital. His journey will be sleek and fast, carrying only his bass and a good book, he will be here in less than 2 hours. Manageable. The drummer, who's not our permanent drummer and doesn't own a drumkit or a car (this too is very unwelcome!) will accompany the bass player on the same journey from the concrete jungle. He will read Shakespeare and dress very well. The guitar player, thank god, lives here at The Odd Folk HQ!

So we are due for a weekend rehearsal, and as we have a limited budget we can afford a rehearsal room for only one of the days, with the other being confined to our lounge. We chose the space for sunday, figuring it's best not to make an enormous racket on this holy day of rest. Saturday will see us squeeze into the bigger of our two front rooms; all 5 of us with our heavy piano and our drumkit that we borrowed from my mother! We will then play through our repertoire of songs, forget most of the structures and after a while spent arguing over them, we will huddle around the bass player's little dictaphone trying to hear the recordings we made back when we were good! The Sunday will be easier, despite the cross-city lugging of all our gear in our little french van, we will at least have space to manoeuvre and won't be driving our neighbours mad! We'll manage to play through the set a few times and then worry which waistcoats to wear for the video we are shooting that afternoon. After the costume hype has calmed down and we feel comfortable in our attire we will have most probably forgotten the structure to the song, or in some cases, which song we're even shooting! We'll shoot the track three times, playing it completely differently each time we do it, thus giving the cameraman an impossible edit, and then carry on rehearsing by ourselves. Evening will arrive by which time we'll be so infuriated with each other we'll call it a day. The bass player and the drummer departing back to the capital while the piano player spends another night kipping on the sofa before his 300 mile journey back to the subtropical wilderness from whence he came.

Throughout the course of the week we'll keep in touch via a web-based message board, discussing set-lists, relaying the structure of the songs and generally prepping ourselves. We'll keep checking the Event Page hoping that more than 28 people will turn up, and wondering if indeed those 28 people will even turn up themselves! We'll try to ignore the recurring nightmares of a largely empty arena and us performing the songs naked to a couple of bewildered on-lookers, none of which we know! The day of the gig will arrive, a Thursday, and the guitar player and I will organise all of the gear in prep for the evening and then spend the afternoon worrying whether or not the piano player will have missed his train and if the drummer will have forgotten that he has a lecture that evening and can't make it after all. We know the bass player will make it, he's punctual and on the ball. That gives us hope, at least the three of us can play naked to the handful that do turn-up!

The gig itself will surpass our expectations, they mostly always do. After the initial stress of the set-up and sound-check and the nerves of the opening number, we'll relax into it, buoyed on by the smiles of the crowd, far exceeding 28! There'll be a couple of wobbles, mainly unnoticed by the audience. I may well forget some of words and make a few up, we'll mumble a little between songs, but generally we'll pull it off, culminating in a euphoric encore of our best known song, Whisky Drunk. We'll be all smiles as we mingle with the fans, sipping a sweet rum and for a few stolen moments we'll feel like we really can make it after all! But then reality will dawn, the crowd will disperse, the liquor in our bellies will exceed the limit and we'll be left with a cross-city taxi ride with all our gear, having forgotten to sell any CD's and reluctantly forking out of our own back pockets! Yes, this is a long way from making it we'll think as we unload the gear in the rain and worry about where everyone is going to sleep! 

Next-up; the London leg of our two-venue Easter tour. Already the nightmares have returned and song structures are somewhat shady, the piano seems heavier today, we've forgotten the mandolin and the drummer can't even do this gig! This is how NOT to be in a band - but then this is all we know, and despite our frantic and ramshackle nature and our logistical nightmare of living 300 miles apart, it's somehow all worth it for those sweet stolen moments after Whisky Drunk, when the crowd erupts we feel on top of the world...