Monday, June 13, 2011

Stella's album launch in Lewes (my birthday!)

Stella gig poster

The perfect musical birthday treat, Stella Homewood invited me to her candlelit album launch gig in Lewes (in the upstairs room above the Lewes Arms pub).

Support came from Stella's best friend Louise's housemate Matthew Bird (a couple of powerful songs) and Jaime Regan (a mini-set of John Martyn-meets-Thom Yorke emotive songwriting, sounding perfectly fine without the loop pedal he usually uses, but which wasn't working that evening).

Stella had made her usual effort to create a beautiful space with vases of flowers, paper candle-lanterns, dangly strings of tinfoil stars, fairy lights, lacy wallhangings, calligraphic art, etc., turning the room into a kind of faery grotto (with the incongruous, but weirdly reassuring, sounds of a Saturday night pub crowd smoking on the pavement from the window below).

Before she started her set, Stella's partner Colin read some of his Sufi-inspired poems (there was an astonishing synchronicity: just as he spoke the words "infinite light", someone standing against the wall accidentally leaned on a lightswitch, suddenly flicking the light on and off...Colin stopped, everyone gasped and then burst into joyous laughter...he then resumed reading with perfect, unphased, timing). This poetry brought a wonderful atmosphere of stillness and calmness, a perfect way into Stella's musical world.

She was accompanied throughout on acoustic guitar by old friend and local luthier Richard Osborne (whose workshop is across the road). Matthew Bird returned to play Spanish guitar on "In My Mother's Garden" (in lieu of Stella's harp playing). I joined in for the last song, "Rainbow Skies" (after hurriedly relearning it from the CD in Stella's kitchen an hour or so earlier!), happily sat on a sofa along the side of the tiny stage. No covers — just songs from Ordinary Day (and one new one about birds, which I'd not heard before), all as beautifully rendered as could be. The audience listened attentively (a nice change from what seems to be the norm these days), and even the noise from the street below (Stella suggested opening the windows as it was getting quite stuffy up there) just seemed to anchor the magic of Stella's words and melodies in the "real world", rather than being annoying or distracting.

A recording of this may eventually surface (mine was lost due to file corruption, but Colin was filming, and someone from the local Oyster Project was recording so that disabled residents of Lewes could also hear our Stella!)

The whole event made me feel incredibly proud of her for what she's accomplished in recent years (having drifted away from songwriting and performance for quite a long time after the Spacegoat years). The next day we wandered around a village-fête-type event in The Paddock across the road from her cottage with Colin and Louise. This was a fundraiser for the Waterloo Bonfire Society (these Bonfire Societies being a big part of Lewes local culture). All the traditional English stuff: hoopla, tombola, coconut shy, crockery smashing, etc. (but no Dwile Flonking, sadly!)...and persistent drizzle (of course). Stella suddenly remembered that it was at the same event a couple of years ago where she timidly asked Porchlight Smoker, a Brightonian country/bluegrass-type band, if she could sing "Wildwood Flower" with them, the first time she'd sung in public for quite a few years. A satisfying way to complete the loop before getting the train back to Canterbury.


Anonymous Silke said...

oh, matthew - your birthday!! i remember last year being in landmatters unfortunately missing your birthday party. sounds like you had a lovely time this year as well!
so after all, best wishes and a gorgeous upcoming new year!!
love from silke

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Stella Homewood said...

Ah, just found this on your site ;-) Such lovely words and memories xx Stella x

1:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home