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!