Monday, April 29, 2013

The backblog

Very little time for blogging these days, so a few things I should note down before they fade from memory. This blog acts as kind of external memory device, I've realised (I was reminded by it that I had a brief jam with Rupert Sheldrake's son Cosmo at a festival a few years ago, for example). My brain seems to have reached some kind of saturation/plateau so it's quite useful to externalise like this.

There have been a few situations where I ended up having a bit of a jam or a session but couldn't quite find the right moment to switch on my Zoom H2 recorder (which usually accompanies me if I have my saz with me).

  • There was a very cosy evening at Stella's near Lewes with Melski, Matt Spacegoat and I improvising with harp, recorders, saz, bouzouki and percussion, and Stella's partner Colin reciting his beautiful Rumi-inspired love poetry — the first time Stella and Melski had seen each other in many years, so a special evening that, a bit of a mini-Spacegoats reunion.
  • Sven and Katrijn came over to visit for a week from Gent, so Sven and I played some saz/percussion and saz/guitar jams (ended up talking more than playing though, not seeing enough of each other and needing to catch up).
  • One evening during that week Ed Stevens (part of the walking/folksinging crew with friend Will and occasionally brother Ginge) came over with his partner Emma and their baby Aelfrida (named after his granny!) I met Emma years ago through Glastonbury friends, enjoyed one of the most perfect music sessions I've been part of in her van the very rainy summer solstice of 2008. They brought instruments and we had a little session, various folk tunes and songs with saz, whistles, fiddle, etc. Ed knows a set of words to the Cornish tune "Ryb on Afon" I learned down there in the late 90s, and has also put together a maxed-out version of "John Barleycorn" with all the verses from all the different versions he could find.

Live music has been a bit slow too (lack of venues in Canterbury being one factor), but there have been a few good nights in recent weeks. One was had down in Walmer (on the edge of Deal, down on the coast) seeing Famous James & The Monsters at a friendly pub called The Green Berry. Matt had come down to work on the book again, and needed a night out after being cooped up mixing albums in Sussex. The Monsters played a blinder, Matt was most impressed and also got to see Phil from Cocos Lovers (whose second album he co-produced). We ended up at a party at Wonky Warren's place (an old school) taking turns DJing on a couple of decks (and with a peculiar mix of vinyl) and playing table tennis.

On the weekend of 23—24th March there was a "Fruits of Spring" mini-festival out at Woolton Farm near Bekesbourne (family farm of Sam from the Furthur collective) — "A two day celebration to mark the start of the new fruit season." I couldn't get out there for the Saturday, but cycled out on Sunday, got to check out Tom Langley's art studio space (in one of the farm buildings), hear Liam's stories of playing at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas with Syd Arthur a few days earlier, catch up with Kirby (all Furthur crew) who was demonstrating wood carving and selling his work. There were bands playing, food, drink, craft stalls, etc. all in a beautiful mediaeval timber-framed barn. But it was FREEZING. It had been snowing the day before, and very nearly did that day. It felt remarkably un-spring-like. The apple pressing, grafting, pruning and planting demonstrations didn't seem to be happening, instead people were clutching cups of warm spiced cider and expressing mututal despair at the weather, trying their best to be festive. I missed Hellfire Orchestra, unfortunately, but got to see sets from Ladies of the Lake (Nicola and Natasha from Cocos with friend Jo, harmonising as beautifully as ever), Cocos Lovers (playing their new album in its entirety, minus the superb "secret" track, the almost-krautrock "Song For Jack") and the Poggy Hatton Band.

There were two magnificent Lapis Lazuli gigs, the first with new bass player Toby Allen. On 29th March they supported Nuru Kane upstairs at The Anchor in Wingham, playing three long pieces, including "the tango one" (Phil on accordion) and a new one called "Abracadaver". Glancing at a copy of the little flyer that was scattered about the place with their forthcoming tour dates, I notice that a throwaway line of my blogging had been quoted as an endorsement of the band!

I missed the last train back to Canterbury by a few minutes(ended up using the "information point" on the platform of Adisham station to have this fact confirmed by someone in Mumbai, who I then engaged in slightly awkward conversation). Fortunately, I'd been invited to a party in Adisham by some anthropology students who share a house there and who've come along to several Sondryfolk events. So I cycled to the address I'd been given, went round the back, was just about to walk in when I noticed a group of serious looking Middle Eastern-looking people in the kitchen. Was this the right place? I suddenly became unsure and decided to lurk in the shadows in the back garden until the party entourage made it back from Wingham. I spent what felt like hours sitting surprisingly contentedly in the night air watching the mysterious comings and goings through the kitchen window. What was going on? Who were these people? Eventually the cold overrode my awkwardness and I went to knock on the back door to check that this was indeed Alex and Oli's house. It was. They were a group of Iranian friends preparing a feast for some kind of Iranian cultural festival. I sat quietly in the corner reading until eventually some familiar faces drifted into the house, and the Iranians drifted upstairs.

I spent the party sitting in a big comfortable armchair on the threshold of sleep, a succession of Canterbury friends coming over to chat. Eventually Nuru Kane and the band turned up and started playing a spontaneous acoustic set in the front room, almost at my feet! I was too sleepy to really take it in, and then it suddenly ended when the Iranian contingent upstairs politely requested that the noise levels be kept down. I was the first one up in the morning, tidied the house, washed up, and then got the first train home with Cécile (the French student whose voice is the basis for the ident-sample for my new Canterbury Sans Frontierès podcast, recorded spontaneously in that very garden on my Zoom H2 when Paul Clifford and I played an open mic session in the front room there last year).

On 18th April they played once more, this time at The Ballroom supported by Herne Bay's The Fruit Group? This was the first time I've seen TFG? properly, but I recalled seeing my friend Claire (and no one else) dancing to them at the tiny Caravan Stage at Smugglers Festival last year as I walked past on some forgotten mission... "I like this band," she said, somewhere in between apologetically and defiantly (as if the subtext were "even if no one else does"), and that coloured my pre-conceptions of them in a favourable way. They're a trio specialising in Velvet-y/minimalist/motorik-type grooves... friends more familiar with them were all commenting on how rapidly they're evolving, bringing in the krautrock influences, etc. This was the first date of LL's UK mini-tour, and a joyful and supportive local crowd were treated to "Abracadaver", "Big Bird", "High Hopes" plus an encore of the old favourite (and relatively short, i.e. ten-minute) "Incessant Creakings of Invisible Gallows". No accordion, but you can't have everything.

Thursday nights after Free Range sessions I've been dropping into The Canterbury Tales (pub) to listen to the weekly Irish folk sessions. Aidan, Ben and Andy from Arlet are usually down there, so it's more interesting than your averages Irish session. I've not sat in on one of these with my saz, it's been too many years since I've played Irish music beyond the occasional tune, and a saz would be barely audible in a noisy pub anyway. So I've taken to showing up with a shaky egg which cuts through the noise and can actually contribute to the rhythmic component of the music more than you might think. One evening an Irishwoman in glittery silver dress, shoes, jewellery, etc. came in, unaware of the existence of the session — it was her 70th birthday (hard to believe) and she'd been across the road at the Marlowe Theatre watching a stage version of The Full Monty with an entourage of young nieces, etc.. Rather drunk, but endearingly and almost elegantly so, she cheerfully took over the session, sang "Danny Boy", chatted with all the musicicans, requested various tunes and songs, etc. and was clearly having the time of her life.


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