Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two weeks in Exeter

As well as the session with Tim and the Drone session, there was quite a lot of music happening around me during the last couple of weeks spent in Exeter.

There was a jam with just Henry shortly after arriving, and a couple with he and Keith (i.e., Orbis Tertius) near the beginning and the end of the period - the first of those felt pretty incoherent to me, the "group mind" not having quite gelled, and also due to the fact we tried a load of new material; the second session felt really good at the time, I look forward to getting a copy of Henry's recording. Orbis were meant to be playing at The Globe on Wednesday 13th, but that got cancelled (which meant I got to see MV&EE in Bristol, so I wasn't too upset about that).

Vicky's getting into playing the guitar, so I accompanied her on a few occasions playing "Bonny at Morn" (the Northumbrian lullaby I play with Orbis), "Lowlands" (a Scottish ballad we know via Anne Briggs via Alisdair Roberts) and, for some reason, Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow". Excellent fun, and she's improving with every strum.

We also went to The Phoenix to see Laura Veirs, who I'd never heard before, but was very impressed by. She's from Portland, Oregon, seems like an exceptionally nice person, and writes beautiful abstract lyrics which she accompanies with imaginative guitar playing (both she and Clyde from Your Heart Breaks, her support act, made use of loop pedals to make up for the lack of band). She also threw in a couple of American folk songs: "Freight Train" (which I know from the considerably more warped-out MV&EE version - interesting to hear it played straight) and "Cluck Old Hen" (which I've played with Sloppy Joe over in Wisconsin). I was expecting a more conventional singer-songwriter scenario, which would probably have bored me halfway through the set, but I was right there with her throughout.

Phoenix Digital Funfair flyer

Something I missed at The Phoenix - Simon Drone was performing as part of as "Digital Funfair", part of the Animated Exeter Festival. He wired a Big Mac up to his PlantChant device and processed the sound, with a friend reading the list of ingredients. He originally asked me, but I was off walking in the Mendips - we've done something like this once before. Ben Goldstone, a.k.a. George Lazenbleep, The Phoenix's resident circuit-bending wizard, was also heavily involved - the flyer above appears to be his doing.

FYC in Wonderland flyer

This flyer, on the other hand, I found on the pavement across the railway cutting from St. James Park for an event at The Cavern billed "FYC in Wonderland" - it was the same evening (Tuesday 12th), and the incongruity between the gentle psychedelic artwork and the implausible sounding genres of music mentioned ("Ghettotech"? "Rubslap"?? "Niche"???) made me think it had to be some convoluted in-joke. So, of course, I had to go and have a look. Immediately upon arriving, a duo wearing ties announced got on stage, the singer remarked that he seemed to know everyone there, but still, helpfully, explained that they were half of "Tissø Lake" (not a made-up Scandinavian "fastcore" DJ afterall) and played some beautiful sombre folkie stuff on acoustic guitar and fiddle, before switching to accordion and drums. I've since checked out Tisso Lake online, and they appear to have an album out - the tracks here are really gorgeous - who are these people? The audience of a few dozen more-interesting-than-usual-looking students were largely in Alice in Wonderland-themed fancy dress (rabbit ears, playing cards, a Mad Hatter compere). A band called Right Turn Left, who would have sounded really original in about 1979 then played some energetic pop songs, not really my thing, but perfectly competent. Then the DJ's started up, playing stuff I really couldn't get my head 'round. Strange - it didn't sound exciting or original, just indistinct. A few of the DJ's friends danced seemingly to show moral support, then drifted off to the bar leaving the dancefloor empty. Three or four records in I managed to recognise Saul Williams' "List of Demands". FYC turns out to be a collective spawned by some Exeter University DJ's (I can't bring myself to tell you what it stands for). And Vicky's teenage son Thomas has assured me that almost all of those genres really do exist ("Niche" he tells me, is like speeded up "8-bit" - dance music based around '80's arcade game sounds - mixed with dubstep, and is "terrible"!)

I also found myself at two Tuesday jazz/funk jam sessions at The Angel on Queen Street (listening, not playing). These seem to be based around a core of three young men playing drums, bass (particularly good bass player) and electric jazz guitar, with various others coming and going. The first week it was just them - not bad. The second session they were joined by a second guitar and an excellent keyboardist (with all the right choices of keyboard sound), which was really grooving along nicely - great stuff.

There was a different sort of jazz session on a Sunday night upstairs at The Globe, again with a sort of house band (drums/bass/guitar trio who are part of a 5-piece called Monkey's Uncle) and guests, including a superb flute player called Ruth. A bit fusion-y at time, some standards, people of varying abilties having a go. Simon Persinghetti from Wrights and Sites stopped in (it's his local) and mentioned that they get some completely amazing players dropping in out of the blue from time to time. It's good to know all this is going on in Exeter. Lots of pubs have blues jams and folk sessions, but this is all a bit more interesting.

I was back at The Globe on my penultimate night in the city, to catch part of Spin 2's second set there - Mick Drone's been playing bass with them for quite a while now (also Iggy, who's Droned with us and Ali, who I've played with in Dub Magnitude on fiddle and accordion), so I've been meaning to catch them for a while now. It was a bit more country/cajun/generally American sounding than I'd expected...I suppose I was hoping for more of a wild Irish, Pogues-y energy. But they're very good at what they do and had the place packed out and rocking. From there, I wandered on to the North Bridge Inn. Usually on a Wednesday night it's open mic there, but it being Eddie the landlord's birthday, he'd hand-picked the participants. I just the last three songs from the last act - a hilarious trio called The Dueling Kazoos, who'd reformed specially for the occasion. Blokes in suits and trilbies playing ukeleles, tea-chest bass and kazoos, utterly chaotic and hilarious. It felt like a really good evening 'round someone's front room (the NBI is a bit like Eddie's front room). To my complete amazement, a dreadlocked character (turns out to be one of the DibDub DJ's) asked me if Orbis Tertius would be gigging there again soon. I was genuinely surprised that anyone remembered our name (let alone could pronounce it correctly), but he'd been working behind the bar when we played there a couple of times and seemed really into it, so that's encouraging. There was a total lunar eclipse that night (well, 3a.m. the next morning), but I didn't know until too late - I got to enjoy wandering around Exeter in the light of the full moon, though, everything seeming somehow more strikingly three-dimensional than usual.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hei! I couldn't see an email to send to so this seemed the best way to get in touch.

i played in the accordion/fiddle band you saw at the cavern recently, a friend showed me your blog entry - we do have a record out soon and are finding places to get it reviewed. If you email me your postal address at I can make sure you get a copy?

take care!

12:40 PM  

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