Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Canterbury to Exeter via London and Bath

I've come back to Exeter for another Orbis Tertius? gig (again at the North Bridge Inn), having travelled via London and Bath.

London involved a very enjoyable picnic with some old family friends in Ravenscourt Park. I've discovered that I'm now the Godfather of my friends Mark and Catherine's little son Charlie (pictured below).

me and my Godson Charlie

During the course of this, Mark's friend Bernard (who lives in Essex and runs a construction firm) somehow got talking about Zimbabwe - he'd travelled there years ago. I mentioned loving the Zimbabwean music of the 80's and early 90's, and it turns out that Bernard, almost completely randomly, ended up at a Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited concert in Harare! One of the best nights in his life, apparently, and he was as taken aback that I'd heard of them as I was that he'd seen them.

From London I headed on to Bath to catch up with Percy (from the 1997 Treewalk) who now has a boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal. I managed to convince both him and his son Jack (an aspiring prog rock/black metal drummer) to come along to The Bell to see Fraggle's band Gadjo, which we all enjoyed immensely. I noticed Jack drumming along to the 7- and 11-rhythms with his hands on the tabletops (this kind of music being quite unfamiliar to him, I think) - he even took a little videoclip on his mobile phone (the last couple of minutes of Fraggle's song "Fish"):

Here's a much better quality video of Gadjo busking at Street Festival Novara (Italy) earlier this year, if you're not familiar with them.

It was a particularly good night, very energetic audience (amazingly busy for a Monday night). I was also able to hear Xabi the guitarist properly for the first time and was well impressed by his style (blending Django style jazz chords and Fela Kuti-style minimal jangliness). The new disco-funk intro to "Can Masdeu" is hilarious. Respect goes to Dan the soundman (called in at the last minute) who had to work with a mixing desk which is strapped to the pub wall upside down! He was craning his neck and using a cigarette lighter to see what he was doing - "The Michaelangelo of sound engineers," as he put it. There was one moment of sonic chaos where a massive blast of feedback brought everything to a standstill, but even that somehow managed to sound fantastic (being so extreme, and not overly shrill), getting a huge round of applause.

Having turned up in town with just a sleeping bag and hoping for the best (on a rainy day), I was glad to end up sleeping in the big white truck that the band have been touring in for most of the summer, along with Fraggle, Sam (its owner) and Sydney (his dog), parked by the canal at Bathampton. We returned to The Bell the next day for hot chocolates and some Bossa nova and Billie Holiday in the background (perfect for a drizzly Tuesday lunchtime in Bath) while the band plotted their next moves. I'm hoping to see them again in Chagford on Friday.


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