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.

video

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!
Tickets: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/411451


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:
http://www.ramsgatemusichall.com/events/event.php?s=2017-09-15-vic-godard

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 https://www.resonancefm.com

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
and
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:
video

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: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/vic-godard-bitter-springs-ramsgate-music-hall-tickets/7473925?pl=ramsgatemusichall&edpPlParam=%3Fpl%3Dramsgatemusichall


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Leicester Musician, Tonight

In case you missed it, I'm heading to the Musician in Leicester tonight for a support gig with Vic Godard with the Bitter Springs. It will be a really good night, on of the first nights of Vic's autumn tour, some of which he is doing with the Bitter Springs and some with Subway Sect. He will be playing in Brighton on Saturday (with the hugely entertaining Asbo Derek) and Ramsgate a week on Friday (that's another one I'm doing).
A bientôt!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Lovely Loos






Rehearsal

We had a really good rehearsal last night; the guys are on top form and the arrangements for Summer Days and Back Street Luv seem to work. All that blowing and singing takes it out of you! We are talking about maybe recording an EP early next year with some of the new songs on it, but let's see which way the wind blows.
Or the horn blows!
Don't forget to come and see us at the Lexington, with Katy Carr and Honey Birch, on the 1st October. Rumour has it that we may be joined by a special guest on Back Street Luv.

Left to right: Dave Jago, Paul Davey and Steve Joy. We haven't played together since 2014, we discovered. As rare as hen's teeth.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Weird Dreams With Sound Tracks

I have been having weird dreams with sound tracks.
One was about an annoying baby in a highchair. It wasn't my baby, which was a relief because it looked a bit like an old man, and may have been an impostor.
I woke up to get away from its annoyingness and I was singing the sound track to the dream, which was a reggae song (completely inappropriately).
By the time I thought to record it on to my phone, I could only remember the first line.
This keeps happening, and there are a few first lines there. I'm hoping to remember a whole song one of these mornings.

Accordions, Camden, Sunday

A chance meeting with Anja McCloskey at Katy Carr's on Tuesday led to an invitation to this very unusual concert at the newly-refurbished Diorama in Camden today.
Anja plays in an accordion orchestra, the London Accordion Orchestra, and this afternoon's concert also featured the Akkordeon-Landesjugendorchester Baden-Wurttenburg, who you may have guessed, are from Germany.
The sound of the two groups was really different; the Londoners sounded lyrical, and their arrangement of the Venus movement of Holst's Planets was exquisite. Delicate traces of sound fluttered between the players like lacy birds, and you could see that the players knew they were making beautiful music; they floated along on their sea of sound. Their final piece was written in four days by the director, Ian Watson, after the original composer was offered a Hollywood score and pulled out. They were joined by Eliza Marshall on flute. It was also a lovely piece of music.
After the interval, the young German players took their seats. This is their first visit to the UK although they have been to many other places in the world and by rights they should have been tired, after travelling from Ireland in a bus. But they were strong players, and their conductor, Fabian Dobler, was full of energy. They started with a Frtiz Dobler composition, Ballade. Dobler wrote especially for accordion, and I enjoyed this. However, the most exhilarating pieces were those by Astor Piazolla, which hit an emotional spot that almost brought me to tears. I started to think about awful Brexit, and how we might close our stupid little island off from all the wonderful culture, people, and even food that being part of Europe has brought us.
As soon as Douglas Yates, the all partially-sighted baritone who sings with them, got up to sing, everything felt better. He was humorous and it was intriguing to hear a classical Texan voice after meeting Chuck and Libby last week. He sang Britten's folk songs, and finished the afternoon off with a rousing version of Joshua by Mark Hayes, a song that I used to sing at school.
It was a really uplifting afternoon- what an unusual sound, and what great musicians, both the Londoners and the Baden-Wurttenburgers! Music can make you feel just great sometimes.
Who cares about the rain on the way home? Not me!
(it was lovely to see you Jacob)





Saturday, September 02, 2017

From The Kitchen: These Streets

Grayson Perry at the Serpentine Gallery

On the way there, a black squiggly shape in the distance on the water seemed incongruous. Not a cormorant, surely? But it spread its wings to dry in the early morning sunshine, and sure enough, the most peculiar of sea-birds had found its way into Hyde Park, probably to try to visit this exhibition.
It is a small, sweet exhibition that doesn't take long to go round. You're met by a piggy bank with different slots that allow you to self-define. You can be us, them, female, male, rural: there are various choices. I chose 'HOPE'.
There are some enormous woodcuts, with gorgeous design and contrast, and of course the familiar pots. The textiles are fantastic, and after seeing Dispossession, the Red Carpet seemed particularly appealing, with it's insincere-slogans-of-the-times and map of gentrification. The Durham banner was brilliant. Me and the Offsprogs love Trade Union banners; I felt like jumping up and down with excitement.
And the motorbike! Ah, bliss!
It's on till 10th September; it will inspire you. Go!







Thursday, August 31, 2017

Art College Days


A self-portrait project from first year Fine Art at Brighton Polytechnic, and my small section of the massive room that about 30 of us shared as a studio. It was lucky to get a bit of a wall; some people were stuck in the middle. All the boys with northern accents built themselves a plastic tent to hide away from the Cockneys who laughed at them and thought they were thick. Judy Littman, who later started the fashion label English Eccentrics, sat next to me and played Stevie Wonder's music all day on her cassette player. She made herself fabulous clothes, like cowboy shirts made from children's patterned fleecy pyjama material, and she knitted pictures of bathrooms all day. The lecturers, all men, didn't understand her at all, but she was brilliant, as well as beautiful- she looked as though she had walked straight out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. Some of us used to go dancing every night in the Art College Basement- starting at 6.30 and finishing at midnight. My friend Mandy and me did etching so we always had inky hands and enormous appetites (it takes a lot of strength to wind round those massive handles on etching presses).
I went back twenty years later for an interview and the canteen lady recognised me.
Typical dinner: cottage pie, chips and cabbage, followed by a huge dry rock bun. Yum yum gimme some!

Surrealism Is Everyday Life

A football fixer was on the ginger line, bargaining, and dealing in young men. He was a young man himself, and looked like a footballer, and he was obviously very good at his job.
If I knew more about football I could spill the beans on all sorts of third-division transfers; sorry not to be able to. It was remarkably indiscreet of him though. Imagine if I'd been a secret fixer myself! I could have swooped in and bagged those bargains from under his nose.

And someone has contacted me about the Leicester gig next week because their mobile phone fell in the toilet and they have lost their electronic tickets.
It actually made me laugh- not because I'm nasty, but because it was such a peculiarly contemporary problem.
It's made me laugh again just writing about it!
Of course she can get in to the gig!
Ha ha!

No-One Knows Us

Never got on Top of the Pops; did get on Pebble Mill At One, a deeply uncool but somehow, cool, alternative option. This was a bonus- having the mickey taking out of the music for No-One Likes Us, We Don't Care (composed with Lester Square), by Private Eye:



















Memory

I've just bought two terabytes of memory; I stuck the little wire that came with it into my ear, but so far it hasn't made any difference.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Seagulls At The Baltic

I used to take loads and loads of photos of the Martin Stephenson and the Daintees on various tours; these nesting seagulls at the Baltic in Gateshead somehow sneaked into a session:




Rummaging

I am going through loads of files looking for old stuff because someone's making me a website. So much stuff- so much life. The girls when they were small, relationships, music, art.
This is from Foundation at Sunderland Art College, all made of paper and card.



Not-Going-To-Carnival

Every year it seems so tempting, but then I remember the year the police went bad and cornered my friend Kim and scared her so much. How can you tell when they've decided that's what's going to happen? I don't think anything more than usual had happened to provoke them.
In my head, in my head, I imagine the sound systems and remember the year I saw Aswad play- what a magnificent band they were.
There were four invitations to parties this weekend, apart from that, and only so much energy. As a single non-drinker, I opted for what I thought was the closest and socially safest one and ended up making a five hour round trip, having to leave after a very short time and just as everything hotted up in order not to get stranded. It reminded me of driving Martin to all those far-flung west London gigs through endless traffic jams; wealthy people don't need public tranport, but I did!
Asbo Derek made my laugh my head off; riffs and humour together make perfect entertainment, and the silly stuff round the edges (Brian the drummer grumbling 'get on with it' in the background) made it even funnier. The party was full of Postmen, as it was Vic's retirement do, and featured a cake judging competition.
Monday was spent on a long urban walk along the Regent's Canal, and writing a song. This was only the second one this year, but that's OK because I have been out playing, recording, and making a life. It is a very intense song, which is not surprising as there is a lot saved up to say but it has to be right when it comes out. 'Write a rocky song with a riff', said the alter-ego instructor. What came out sounded mediaeval and bore the influences of listening to the harp player at The Edge of the Sea festival. And yesterday Katy invited me to Hampstead Ladies Pond, a completely new experience. I'd heard stories of kingfishers flying overhead and catching fish but they weren't about; there was plentiful tranquility, cool water with weeds tickling your toes, an elderly male voyeur pretending not to be one, and plans to co-mentor songs for each of our new albums.
Today is rest day; soon the students will be back and it will be time to give them all my time and energy (well, almost).

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Random Listening

Procrastination... I have an article proposal to submit, and four o'clock's the time to finish it and send it off.
Amazing how fantastic music sounds when it's illicit listening.
Jacques Brel has rocked the foundations of the house with his 'r-r-r-r-r's, and TLC are Diggin' On You at the moment.
The voices of the schoolchildren from primary school song-club evoked such good memories. Might bung one of their songs, Fresh Air, up on Soundcloud later.
Muddy Waters has been along.
I moved along from Ivor Cutler pretty sharp.
You have to be in the mood.
Aww here's Kath Tait's song Lentils. What a tender paean to stasis!
The Crusaders. Part of me would quite like to have made music like this.
One of my arms, perhaps:



Friday, August 25, 2017

Musicking

Ahhh!
Tonight I'm being lazy and watching Shetland, or half watching it.
I like it: it feels like being in Scotland.
This was a creative week, staring with recording at Dave and Ruth's on Tuesday (Ruth put a fab bass line on Saturday Night With The London Set, and we recorded a dark song called Let Me that is sounding very Velvet Underground). Wednesday was spent recording a horn arrangement in the kitchen for Summer Days to send to the guys, and beginning another song that we are all going to do at the end of the gig at The Lexington, a cover of Curved Air's Back Street Luv. And Rob had messaged me about the gig at The Green Note (reviewed a couple of days ago), and that was a convivial and entertaining night. Thursday was art round at Gina's, followed by going back to Dave and Ruth's to re-record the vocals with Vic on Rendezvous D'Automne, the Francois Hardy song that we have done a cover version of.
Today, I went down to look at The Betsey Trotwood's stage to see if it's big enough to get the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy on to, but it's not!
There are half-written songs lying about all over the place waiting to be finished, but I've been writing some really, really short songs (songlets), because that's what's happened.
Tomorrow is pyjamas day, and so is the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that....
No, not really.


Leicester Musician


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Libby Koch and Chuck Hawthorne at The Green Note

Texan American artists Libby and Chuck have been touring round Scotland, England and Ireland for a month, ferried by that ramblin' promoter Rob Ellen in his mobile studio/home The Moose. They have played house concerts, festivals, radio shows, you name it; there are only a few more dates to go until it's time to fly back to Austin on Monday.
Rob invited me along to The Green Note last night to play a couple of toons, and then to watch the show. It was an invitation too good to miss, and after my slot I settled down to watch Chuck's short set (he is doing his own show there tonight).
He sings the Texan landscape, invoking space and drama as soon as the music starts. The life of an itinerant musicians is conjured up in our imagination; starting with Leaving Amarillo, he sets the scene and takes us to the Southern states. 'That might be the best I've ever sung it', he told us.
Well, it's a perfectly crafted song and he delivered it impeccably. He sang about the Silverline train that slices through the mountains, and Libby joined him on backing vocals. At this stage of the tour, they are both tired, but you couldn't tell and they were very much in a groove with each other; they sang as one with voices blending an a particularly country favoured timbre. Chuck has a strong, powerful voice and you're in for a treat if you go along to hear him tonight.
In a short interval, we looked around the basement of the club. There is something really 1960s Camden about it: metallic patterned wallpaper that you can see all sorts of weird faces in if you look carefully enough, red velvet curtains, little stools around wooden tables with candles. It is a charming baby version of the upstairs room, ideally suited to an intimate evening like this.
Libby was the headline artist tonight. Trained as a lawyer in Nashville, she sat at her desk one day and wrote her song of freedom: and here she is, free (and occasionally broke). She's not straight-laced country. Some songs have a laid-back swamp feel, others are immensely powerful and in-your-face.
There were some real stand-out songs and me and my chums all picked different favourites, which is surely a good thing. Her gospel-tinged song about the bid for freedom was loved by all of us: 'I'm gonna walk this road and see just where it leads', well, that definitely chimed with me because that's exactly what I am doing. I loved the idea of setting her grandfather's stories to music, and best song of all was the song about time passing, Stakes, which showed off her flexible and lustrous voice beautifully and struck an emotional chord; it was a real woman's song. I'm looking forward to listening more to their music, and big thanks to Rob for inviting us along. What a thrill to meet real Texan musicians! I think they was a reciprocal thrill (from Chuck especially) at meeting real punk rockers!


Big thanks to Rob Ellen for introducing us to each other. I hope the rest of the tour goes well, I hope we all meet again, and long live travelling music men and women!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Arachnids

Lots of little spiders have decided that the back yard is theirs. It is difficult to argue with them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Crush by Violet Violet

From The Kitchen: 'Yeah Yeah Yeah' By the Wedding Present

If you listen carefully you can hear the IKEA catalogue thumping on to the doormat close to the end of the song.

Dress For Helen and the Horns Gig

Last year in Whitby I bought this fabric. I love JCBs, cranes, trucks and all that stuff, and have a date with the little boy along the road and his mum to go to JCB world when he is old enough. This dress was made by Wendy May, former Boothill Foot Tapper and now a very successful DJ and seamster. She has done a brilliant job and you can contact her here if you have a design idea that you'd like made up for you:
 https://www.facebook.com/wendymaysgetshirty16/?hc_location=ufi
It will be getting it's debut at the Helen and the Horns/Katy Carr/Honey Birch gig at the Lexington on Sunday 1st October. Advance tickets are much cheaper, and the ticket link is here:
http://www.wegottickets.com/event/411451
Katy is a Polish/English singer and ukulele/electronica artist whose songs translate political Polish folk tales into a different medium. She will be playing uke on the night and bringing something very special to the evening. Honey is a 17-year old emerging singer-songwriter who has previously supported The Raincoats and Angel Olsen at The Assembly Rooms in Islington. This will be only her third gig, but she has confidence and poise well beyond her years.
Come along and join us!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

At The Edge Of The Sea


For a person travelling on legs, Brighton's Concorde 2 was surprisingly far from the station, but it was a beautiful sunny and breezy day, and once the crowds of town had been negotiated a blast of fresh sea air provided an energising lift that was a precursor of everything that was to come.
The opening act was Ellie Ford. She has a lovely open personality and a clear and unaffected voice that flowed through her songs like a stream picking its way through the landscape of arpeggios and staccato chords that she plays on her harp. It is a luxury to see and hear a harp player who writes their own songs. Living in the 'burbs means that every so often that bloke sits outside the supermarket with his backing tracks, box of CDs and cheesy harp tunes, doing the instrument a massive disservice. Rescued by America's Joanna Newsom and England's Serafina Steer, the harp has become a setting for respectively, wildness and suppressed fury; here, however, the harp is part of a conversation which is partly sung and partly played by an artist whose gentleness belies an ability to draw the audience into her own emotional space and make them really listen to her. It could be very difficult to be the opening act for an exciting and busy day like this one, but Ellie carried it off with aplomb, and I think everyone who watched her felt the same delight at being there early enough to catch her set.
And of course, The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy had arrived. Whenever they arrive or depart from gig, I am reminded of John Peel's description of Captain Beefheart's band getting off the coach at Eastbourne the first time he met them, when he was there to do a DJ set. He described them clambering off the bus one by one, each one a different character, and being mesmerised by the quantity of people in the band. There are seven Charlie Tippers and they are a bit like an enormous family always at risk of losing one member, or leaving one behind (coming from such a family, I know what I'm talking about). They have their own world, the Charlie Tipper world, and every so often you see one of them drifting off on a mission, always mysterious but never evil. As soon as I saw them on Saturday, I stopped being nervous about playing and felt that everything would be OK, and it was.
The festival was really well-organised: band in the big room, followed by a band/artist in the small room, with the audience getting into a rhythm of moving between the two.
In a strategic coup, David Gedge had scheduled his band Cinerama to play next, and we flowed into the big room into an atmosphere of 1960s film music, a huge soundscape of female harmonies with flourishes of organ and punctuated by David's authoritative voice. There was no chance of slipping away for fish and chips: the music was far too good to leave, and at the end of the set there was a funny little section that was almost showbiz (maybe I'm sensitised to this because Bruce Forsyth has just died), where the raffle was announced and a chap called Andy, who had won the raffle last year but not stuck around to collect the prize, and who has apparently never forgiven the band for re-drawing the ticket and awarding the prize to someone else, was reminded that if he won this year, he would have to collect the prize in person. Ha ha! The informality was really endearing, and you could feel the crowd relaxing and getting into the spirit of the afternoon.
I can't write about everything that happened and every band I saw, but here are a few highlights. The Popguns, on the big stage in the afternoon, were great. Years ago, I did a gig with an acoustic line-up of the band at the Prince Albert, and earlier this year in Congleton played on the bill with just Wendy and Simon as a duo. I had never seen the full band before. They are a proper 'songs' band and Wendy sings absolutely flawlessly and with complete honesty and lack of affectation. She has a truly lovely voice reminiscent of Sandie Shaw; there was not a note out of place, yet she sang with a huge amount of passion. 'Bugger off, Britney', I thought, perhaps rather uncharitably, but there is nothing like hearing a singer who is authentic and strong and devoid of fakery.
It must be noted here that the sound engineers in the venue deserve a prize. It would have been so easy to mess things up faced with such a different array of line-ups and instrumentation, but boy have they got good ears! Back in the day we used to suffer a lot from engineers who had what our driver called 'ears of cloth'. Add that to crappy PA systems with bust speakers (it was the era when heavy metal was giving way to punk rock), it was a miracle if you ever sounded good live. At Concorde 2 we had in-house engineers on a mission to make the sound work, and they made it work for every single act or artist who played.
Let's move on to the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy. Sound-check time was necessarily short, but probably after the experience of the 15 minute sound check at The Cavern for a band with seven people, the business was done in nanoseconds and they went on to play the best set I've ever heard from them. The audience loved them and I felt a sense of sisterly pride from the sidelines! We had all been asked to cover a Wedding Present song and they did a cover of Dalliance (the Popguns had also done a version earlier) and the audience sang along which was incredibly endearing. Their guitarist was wearing a pull-on hat and was the butt of an 'Edge' joke as he looked suspiciously similar to U2's guitarist. Luckily I had a similar hat that I could wear to sing Femme Fatale so we were double-edged (sorry).
Flowers played next, in the big room, and it was possible to catch a tiny bit of their set after a sound check. Through the doors I could see the audience listening with rapt attention; I want to go to see them properly soon because their sound was wide, sparse and very exciting.
So we start up as the band next door finishes; I was ready, and despite finding that it was for some songs one of those occasions where somebody else's fingers attached themselves to my arms, I really enjoyed it. What a friendly crowd! Even the guy with the mohican was tapping his feet, everyone helped out with Yeah Yeah Yeah (my cover) which was good, because I bloody needed it; and when it came to The Sea I took Jerry Thackray's advice (he had come along as my guest, only the second time  he'd been out to a gig this year) and invited people to sing. Whoosh! They charged in, in full voice! Oh, it made me so happy! It is scary going to do gigs on your own with no 'infrastructure'; in the morning I had been so anxious I'd almost decided to give the whole lot up and just be a person living in a house and watching TV and eating. I am not an extrovert and I have no idea what drives this urge to go out and sing to people. But on this tour I have experienced such friendship and support that the adventure, in spite of flat tyres, late trains and alarming bunk-shares with male French cyclists, has been hugely positive. I plod into unknown venues with the guitar on my back and never know what is going to happen; what happened on Saturday has filled my heart with happiness so much that I'm still smiling.
To cap it all, the Wedding Present played an absolutely storming set. Bravely, they started with two songs that were really soundscapes, and that again showed off the vocal harmony skills of the group. They played their 2016 album Going, Going... in its entirety (more about the album here: https://scopitones.co.uk/going-going) and proved their authority as one of Britain's leading indie bands. They are well-rehearsed without being so slick you can't catch them, and hugely powerful sound-wise yet they can switch from that full-on rock sound to absolute delicacy in moment. There are so many ingredients to play with: those voices, two guitars, keyboard and drums: and songs!
You got the impression of a great sense of playfulness behind the arrangements, although this never materialises as quirkiness; it's more that observation of life has translated seamlessly into music and song without cleverness kicking in and spoiling the show. Somehow David drives the whole experience, without overpowering the band with a rock-star's ego, which is a skill in itself. By this time there must have been more than 600 people there and the atmosphere was electric, even at the very back of the room. I loved the encore-that-wasn't-an-encore. It was such a pity that it all had to end!
Thank you so much to David Gedge for inviting me to participate, and to the Charlie Tipper Conspiracy for putting my name forward, and thank you for the friendliness everyone, from Jessica who does the Wedding Present's merch stall, through the staff at the venue, to the other bands and to the wonderful audience who came with open minds and happy hearts. It was an unforgettable day, and nice to see Jerry out and about too: I hope the good start of a new phase in your life.

Photo of David Gedge, and H McC, by James McCauley. I took the photo of Ellie Ford and the crowd; a kind person took the one of The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy, At The End of the Edge of The Sea.