Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ramsgate Music Hall: Vic Godard, The Bitter Springs, Helen McCookerybook

It's getting a bit Septemberish this autumn, or perhaps the other way round. What better season and better reason than to drive down to Ramsgate in deepest Kent for a Friday night gig?
The Ramsgate Music Hall is an industrial building that has been converted into a neat and bijou music venue. The live area is small (but gets much larger when the huge mixing desk is restored to it rightful place at the back of the hall); it can hold more than a hundred people but feels pleasantly full at 50. Upstairs is a large bar area, and in the basement, a very welcoming band area with a fridge with real food in it, a proper coffee machine, and sofas that don't make you feel the you're going to catch whatever band infection is doing the rounds at the time. It's sufficiently rock'n'roll though; the drummer Neil Palmer was really excited about the traffic lights on the wall, and almost leapt into the air with joy when he realise that they did actually work. The amber light goes on when it's time to get ready, and the green one when it's time to go up the stairs and through the trapdoor to do your gig.
For bands, it's the ideal gig. There's a fantastic fish and chip shop round the corner (really fantastic: they even know which trawler caught your haddock) and Al the sound guy is really, really good at his job. Julian, the venue manager, is completely on the ball too, which made this one of the best gigs of the year so far. Ramsgate is indeed fortunate to have such a venue: it was well worth the journey behind 100 slow tractors with strange little green round things bouncing off their loads.
There was even an autograph hunter, just this side of scary.
It is so great to play a gig and be able to hear what you are doing on stage. Al made me loud, and also made the guitar sound bassy, so everything felt right. You guys in the audience, that was a rousing chorus to The Sea and bless your cotton socks Simon, I could hear you singing along to almost all of them!
The Springs sounded fab too; the music was was crystal clear and they managed their musician-morphing seamlessly before providing a scorching backup for Vic. It was a bit disappointing not to hear The Addison Brothers ( I was all ready to screech along, but will have to do that to the recording at home instead) but there is that to look forward to the next time.
Rumour had it that BobAndRobertaSmith was in attendance. I talked to a man in a hat at the bar; was that him? I'll never know. It was great to see Lee Edgington there (last seen at a Helen and the Horns gig in 1984) and all the jolly chaps and chapesses in the dressing room, smiling and band-chatting.
I had to leave a bit early to drive back because I didn't have a co-pilot and didn't want to fall asleep the wheel, but as I left Born To Be A Rebel was swirling across the car park in a joyous cloud of f*ck-everything Northern Soul noise. The happy feeling of the audience was pouring out of the door and into the street; there was something incredibly romantic about the night that summed up everything to do with getting up off our bums and going off to do gigs, despite the crap that life throws at you.
Thank you again to Mandy for doing the CDs. My next gig is Nasty Women this Saturday, then in Newcastle supporting Laura Cortese next Thursday at the Little Live Theatre.
I am happy!

Photographs all in the wrong order: Vic and Ruth; Vic and The Bitter Springs; Ruth photographed me photographing Ruth; Kevin Younger under the traffic lights (should he be going up to the stage?); Kim Rivers upstairs stands next to Simon, who is downstairs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Song

Couldn't resist arranging a new tune for these three plastic fantastics at the airport on the way home from a weekend break.


Catching Up

Review of Ramsgate to come, and remember it's loads cheepers to buy your tickets in advance for the Helen and the Horns gig at the Lexington (with Katy Carr and Honey Birch) on Sunday 1st October!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ramsgate Music Hall Tonight With Vic Godard and the Bitter Springs

Come out and join us in the amazing Ramsgate Music Hall tonight! Vic Godard with The Bitter Springs, and I'll be supporting. Three for the price of two, and lots of fun 4 U (that almost rhymes)
Tickets here, or on door:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

With Ruth Barnes on ResonanceFM Tomoz

Tomorrow afternoon at 3.30 I will be on Resonance FM talking about songs that have inspired my own song writing, and playing a couple of songs too. Tune in on

Monday, September 11, 2017

Feather Stolen In Camden; An Exciting Story

I went to Katy's to do an interview this evening. I took her a big feather to put in her hat. To keep the feather clean and flat, I put it in a little clear plastic bag to carry it.
I walked through Camden tube station, and changed on to the Edgware line.
There was a peculiar looking man on the train. I tried not to stare.
'Anyway, I look peculiar too, because I am carrying a large brown feather in a plastic bag', I scolded myself.
I looked down at the plastic bag to admire the feather.
It had gone.
Someone had nicked it at Camden!

Two Gigs Coming Up....

September gigs- Ramsgate Music Hall supporting Vic Godard and the Bitter Springs this Friday
Newcastle Studio at Live Theatre supporting Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards next Thursday 28th September

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Musician, Leicester: with Vic Godard, and Bitter Springs

This was the first of two gigs I am playing with Vic and Bitter Springs (in fact they are playing tonight in Brighton with the fabulous Asbo Derek supporting them); the next one is at Ramsgate Music Hall next Friday.
I met Vic in February just as I started booking the tour; by September, I reckoned that touring on my own would become lonesome, and so I booked these gigs back then. Actually, touring has been the opposite of lonesome, but after recording and gigging with Vic and seeing Bitter Springs live a couple of times, this was bound to be fun. The Musician was a surprise; I thought I'd played there before with Martin Stephenson but actually, that was a pub called The Donkey (someone told me later).
The sound guy on Thursday, Malcolm, was incredible. He really knows the venue, and got the band sounding really good. Some good friends turned up and the general atmosphere was great from the outset. It was fun. Lolly turned up, having chucked her mobile with the e-ticket on it down the loo. It makes me laugh every time I think about it; the plaintive email! I really enjoyed playing in spite of Simon heckling for Thrush every five minutes. No way, hosepipe! I did play Let's Make Up for Lolly (there were some other Chefs fans there but I didn't realise till the end). And peeps sang the backing vocals for The Sea magnificently. Thanks to June for the vid:

Bitter Springs next; every time I hear their songs, I like them more and more. They were playing at the Lexington a couple of weeks ago, but have gained a guitarist and Kevin-the-keyboards since then. It is impossible to mentally map these bands. At Vic's retirement do, there seemed to be about a hundred drummers pacing up and down itching to get at the sticks. At this gig, Simon broke a multitude of strings, but they carried on and played a a storming set with Love Rat being a real stand-out.
After a short break, Vic and the band started up; soon, Vic was down to his vest (inside out, as a member of the audience shouted). The microphone was collapsing, lyric sheets were spread over the stage, anecdotes were spilling out of everyone (The Wizard used to be the fattest, but he left, and now Simon is the fattest, or possibly Paul, the drummer). Vic told us about writing a song called A Challenge For Robin Hood because he knows no-one's written a song with that title before (except me. I'm writing one tonight to beat him to it. He's gigging tonight. I'll get it finished by midnight!). The singalong songs came thick and fast: Born to be a Rebel, The Addison Brothers (sung with Simon, and with much ado about harmonicas).
I've just remembered Simon's impersonation of Vic answering the phone at the Royal Mail when he found out that Vic was also a postman! Pure Dot Cotton! Ha ha! It was so funny! And then the story of the club with the revolving stage with an awful covers band, and then the stage revolved and there was an even worse covers band. It was like being at one of their rehearsals, except it was a gig with proper songs going on. I think they felt that too. 'Someone fucking start!', shouted someone, and they fucking started the next song. They finished the set with Retirement Day; by this time Vic was showing us his dance moves (what a mover!) and Simon was sporting a very fetching Benny hat. They got a deserved encore; it was a really great night with such fantastic songsmithery from both bands. I am so looking forward to Ramsgate!
After we'd all had a good old yak with audience people, the band all packed up and drove home; I stayed in a hotel as I was worried about falling asleep at the wheel. There was an unfortunate acoustic effect caused by the hotel courtyard. I could hear every single bonking couple amplified to full volume- an orchestra of orgasms- followed by every Loud Bloke argument in the car park in the cigarette corner. Then after what seemed like five minutes sleep, a mega, mega, mega loud bin lorry started wheezing and clashing at maximum volume. I looked at my phone: 5.30 a.m. Nearly just got in my car and drove home, but finally nodded off. Not staying in Ramsgate under any circumstances!
Ticket link for Ramsgate Music Hall next Friday: