Thursday, June 04, 2009

Devon, again

I got back from a week-and-a-bit in Devon about a week ago.

This included a couple of nights at the low-key music camp at the undisclosed Dartmoor which I've blogged about a few times before. These were the first two nights, so things were only just getting started - not so many musicians and a fairly mellow vibe. I was glad to see Jon E. Aris was there (I help him set up a his ridiculously ramshackle tent - one rescued from a post-Glastonbury festival site about a decade ago and had a real laugh in the process). He's got a new, very little, accordion, which he was just getting used to, so his songs were performed in a hilariously chaotic way (he's one of those people who can get away with that - it's all in his energy...and he's 74!).

Several of the wonderful South Hams Boogie Band, having taken everyone's advice and adopted a new name - they're now called The Three Radicals (despite there being loads of them) - were present: Kris playing very tasteful acoustic bass throughout, affliate Dave-the-luthier playing his hybrid mandolin thing and Shane doing his vocal thing. My saz accompanied a lot of their familiar songs and a couple of brilliant new ones ( a wild instrumental called "Vlad the Inhaler" and another sort of Gadjo-like piece with the call-and-response lyrics "How'd you eat your elephant?/one mouthful at a time""). Shane's 13-year old son Pedro seems to have suddenly become an excellent guitarist, and seemed to be able to play most of the White Album (as well as some rather inappropriate Zappa material!).

On the second day, I took advantage of the fantastic weather and went up the nearby hill to sit in a stone circle and practice my parts for some Inge tunes that we're going to record together later this year (we hope). I had an earphone in one ear with Inge playing fiddle and accordion, and at times it felt like years ago, sitting together jamming in a stone circle (as we used to do). Every now and again a skylark would hover directly overhead and sing, so I'd just have to stop, lie back, and be awed by its endless musical inventiveness. (I also heard my first cuckoo of the summer at camp - which inspired me to play a sparse version of "The Cuckoo" around the fire that night, during a lull - I'm almost always accompanying other people's stuff when I'm there).

Mardon Down stone circle - photo by M. Mitchell
(part of) Mardon Down stone circle - photo by M. Mitchell

I headed back into Exeter for and extended Orbis Tertius? session with Henry and Keith - an afternoon jam, a shared meal, and more jamming into the evening. No gigs on the horizon (perhaps a brief slot at a tiny festival in early July), so it's not really clear where that project is going, but it's still fun to get together and play.

Also, while in Exeter, I watched a terribly edited amateur documentary called Rock My Religion with Vicky and Thomas. It contained a lot of interesting threads, but they were tangled together into a dreadful mess - comparing the 19th century Shaker movement to punk, etc. - lots of quotes (largely uncredited) and footage worth checking, despite the appalling editing job.

What else? Thomas switched me on to Bibio and Vicky to Super Numeri. We enjoyed the lovely acoustics in St. Catherine's chapel near Abbotsbury after a walk along the Dorset coast from Bridport - no saz, so I just had to whistle. There was an evening up at CCANW (Haldon Hills, COTD played there once without me) celebrating the work of Devon-based sculptor Peter Randall-Page - several films featuring the man, including one involving a percussive/sculptural collaboration with deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie, another called Rock Music Rock Art involving PR-P stone carving on Lolui, an island in Lake Victoria while a handful of London Sinfonietta musicians (somewhat stiffly) attempted to collaborate with some groovy Ugandans banging on monstrous naturally formed stone "gongs", etc. (I imagine that oboe player must have had a nightmare with her reeds out there!)

Back in Kent, on Monday I finally got to see Eric and the Acoustic Alliance at OSMC (Dom, (Miriam and numerous friends) - covers and originals, continually shifting line-up, loose, busky approach to performance (they're almost all drama students, or were). Every song in an entirely different style, including a reggae song written the night before, a Django-inspired sing-a-long and a cover of a Mumford & Sons song with Dom on guitar and lead vocals, the rest of the band just singing backing. Ubiquitous Canterbury soprano sax player Jimmy Ross was packing in the solos, Dom playing some great bass, and teaching the other bass player how to play blues in mid-set (they'd run out of material!), Miriam speed-reading E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World and singing scat. Lots of fun, but the levels were all over the place (couldn't hear a lot of the vocals, nothing of Miriam's fiddle).


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