Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ju's Garage

The shared house on the Hales Place estate in Canterbury where Juliet's living has a garage which has recently become a hive of creative activity. It started with her painting on the walls, then inviting musicians back for jams after gigs in town, then it became the HQ for the "Binnewith News" project (Tom H, Aidan and I playing acoustic music with Juliet as visual/conceptual director).

13th December 2015

After a Sunday evening rehearsal with Tom and Aidan (Juliet sitting in the corner, sketching ideas for visuals), we ended up down in The Shakespeare (a new extension at the back that's accessible from The Buttermarket). Jules (who co-organises the Bramleys fortnightly jazz jams) and Josh (a young dreadlocked busker from Whitstable who's been getting into playing a lot of gypsy jazz lately) have a weekly residency there — just two acoustic guitars. We caught a little bit of their second set, after which Josh was curious to see my saz and we ended up jamming together for a while (he plugged me into the spare input on his amp so I didn't have to play too vigorously to hear myself). That went really well, and he seemed very interested in doing more.

A couple of night later, Josh was playing guest guitar and Jules playing keyboards with The Pinocchios, a wild, chaotic "soul-folk" collective based around Callum Sutton, a singer-songwriter and prolific busker who showed up in Canterbury not too long ago. Meg Janaway was on backing vocals (the two of them just howl together, it sounds great), Callum's busking pal Sam Brothers played harmonica and sang a bit, the ubiquitous Dan Sayer was playing a soprano-type sax he recently designed and 3D printed himself(!), the drummer I recognised (it was Neil who was in the briefly reconfigured Famous James & The Monsters with Tom), there was an older, very skilled lead electric player with a bluesy touch, and a newly recruited bass player who I've seen at the Bramleys jams. With that many players and no one mixing, it was bound to sound a bit ropy, but with a bit of advice from the small, friendly audience, they got the mix into a vaguely acceptable shape. But the whole thing felt more like the most exciting rehearsal session ever, rather than a polished performance. Which suited it perfectly. There may have been a cover or two, but it was basically Callum's writing, the one that's stayed with me being called (I think) "We're All Gonna Die Some Day". Powerful stuff, and it will no doubt sound even more powerful if they can keep the band together for a few rehearsals and get someone behind the desk mixing. Here's an earlier lineup playing on the same stage a few weeks earlier:

Afterwards, almost everyone involved, plus Toby from Lapis Lazuli and a couple of others, traipsed up the hill to Juliet's garage (interpolating a long sojourn outside an off-license in St. Dunstans and another in Beverley Meadow while various people got lost and refound). An all-night session then ensued (songs were being sung and played almost as soon as someone had time to get a guitar out of its case). This was fueled by Polish lager, Scotch whisky and countless rollups, with Juliet's Bulgarian housemate Yanik coming out to join us and do a bit of MC'ing at one point. I lasted until about 5a.m., I think, but it carried on after that.

Songs I can remember jamming along to at various points through the night: Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey", "Moondance" and "Sweet Thing", "Got My Mojo Working", old-time American songs about the Blue Ridge Mountains and lonesome whistles blowing, "King of Bongo", "Cocaine Blues" → "Silent Night" (Sam discovered that they segue surprisingly well), some gospelly stuff like "Hold On", "Ain't Got No Home In This world Anymore" and "Down By the Riverside", Django's "Minor Swing" and "Nuages", some of Callum's songs including the sublime "So Far Away From Me", "St. Louis Woman Blues" (Toby singing) and similar one about a "Crazy Mama", "Hit The Road Jack", Dylan's "I Shall Be Released", "Banks of the Ohio", "Shady Grove" and "St. James Infirmary". And that was just a small fraction of it...


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