summer saz adventures
As usual, I made my way to the Avebury area for summer solstice, cycling in along The Ridgeway from Goring. I stopped to play a little bit beside the White Horse of Uffington, looking down at the amazing landform known as "The Manger" and Dragon Hill. A bit further on I stopped to play at Waylands Smithy, being rewarded with a dried rosebud and £4 spontaneoulsy gifted to me by a couple of cloaked characters who seemed genuinely moved that I was playing music at what they described as "this sacred space". Solstice eve was spent down in the Stones, my saz being elsewhere (a bit of a logistical thing, I ended up having to look after some other peoples' stuff, but quite contentedly), playing a percussive shakey egg semi-obsessively all night. Stef, Peni and Aaron were doing their usual pipes and drums thing, sending the party people into a frenzy. A very peaceful vibe, despite quite a lot of people in various states of intoxication, with a beautiful silvery full moon hanging over the stones. I managed a bit of twanging up on Windmill Hill after sunrise but was rather hindered by someone else deciding to tune a guitar at great length. Hmmm. But later that day, Stef, Peni and her sister Fearne wandered back down to the stones and we sat up on the henge bank jamming with saz, "ukeladle" (a stringed instrument Stef made, a bit like a very large wooden spoon) and wooden flute — nice tunes, nice feeling, flowing music. Later that evening beside the track up to Windmill Hill we had a barbecue, me jamming with Nathan, then more music around a fire. A lot of Welsh tunes. I was feeling a bit rusty, but enjoying being there doing it nonetheless.
23-24 July 2016
Lammas Eco-village, Pembrokeshire
A month later I was back in Stef and Peni's company. She'd secretly organised a surprise 50th birthday gathering for him, and old friends came from all over — Scotland, Cumbria, Cornwall, Barcelona, Canterbury... A lot of Glastonbury-area friends, and a lot of people from our travelling days in the Southwest. Nonstop music for the whole weekend, in a beautiful setting. All the old Breton, French and other European folkdance tunes we used to play, except everyone's playing is better than ever, and there were loads of us, an orchestra practically. There was a wonderful feeling of warmth, of time having passed but yet certain essential things staying the same, and a kind of (sub)cultural evolution still rolling on. So many lovely moments, I can't begin to go into detail, but among the loveliest were seeing Fraggle and Mandy (once 2/3 of Bristol's cheerful activist Trolley Theatre) reunited and singing the wondefully silly "National Anthem of the Ancient Britons", and Selena and Marnie singing Galician songs together in the sunshine. I got involved in quite a lot of playing (when my saz was likely to be audible over all the bagpipes, etc.) and even managed a bit of freeform jamming with Stef and Stevie P. Oh, if only there were more of that in my life...
First half of August
I undertook a rather ridiculous coach-based journey out to the West Coast of Ireland, then down to the French Pyrenees. A lot of time spent on coaches, but it didn't seem as grueling as I'd expected (a good book, earplugs, a neck cushion, enough water and sleep definitely helped). I spent a few days with Kris, Birgit and family out in Sneem, Co. Kerry. Kris and I managed a little bit of jamming (he with electric guitar, jazz chords and loopstation), but mostly it was walking, talking, playing Scrabble, hanging out. Nothing got recorded.
I had a few hours between coaches in London, so made my way to Primrose Hill and played a little bit of sOlo saz there. Another long coach journey later, in Lannemezan (in the foothills of the Pyrenees) I recorded 5-6 hours of saz/mandolin (and a bit of saz/fiddle) jamming with Inge. I've yet to start editing that, but it should be interesting. On one hand it felt like we were completely locked in, as if no time had passed since we used to jam all the time... on the other, it felt like a bit of a struggle, my playing being rather rustier than it's been in a while. We had a pretty spectacular drive in mountains one day, to go and visit Zymbii, the mule I bought in Ireland 20 years ago, who we travelled around Ireland, Wales and Cornwall with, and who she continued travelling with down into France after we separated in the spring of 2000. Beautiful sunlight in the lush valleys, listening to Garcia and Grisman's Pizza Tapes (which I'd somehow not heard before) and Culture's International Herb. Zymbii's retired now, being well looked after, and seemed quite happy to hang out with us in the corner of his field while we played music. I have not idea if he "remembered" me or not, but he did look at me in a certain way a few times to suggest that perhaps he did...
Back from my mad trip to Ireland and France, I had a couple of days at home in Canterbury before rushing off again, this time to Devon to give a talk on "retrocausality and other reverse time phenomenon" at the Weird Weekend, a kind of cryptozoology/Fortean conference up near Hartland. I got to spend a few days with Vicky, her son Thom and his very cool Italian noisenik girlfriend Joanna, helping fix up a garden shed. I managed to squeeze in a jam with Henry and Keith, playing mostly our old Orbis Tertius? material — all a bit wonky, but perhaps worthy of preservation:
Back for a bit longer, I was very happy to join in the first Bramleys Psychedelic Jam on 23/08/16. There's been a regular fortnightly jazz jam down at Bramleys for a while now, which spawned a blues jam (to keep the blues players from taking over the jazz jam) and even a funk jam. Jules, who's behind all this, had been pushing for a psychedelic jam for some time, and despite some hesitance from the management, finally made one happen:
Lapis Lazuli (minus Phil) acted as the house band, with various other people joining in (Sir Richard of Sealand on theremin and electronics, Ellen from Bearded Sphynx on flute, someone from Witchdoctor on guitar...) I played for about the first half before my tiredeness got the better of me... I spent the second half perched at the front of the stage on the cusp of sleep, the heavy psych vibrations washing over me. I felt very connected, able to lock into Luke's crazy basslines, Adam's frenetic drumming and Dan and Neil's intricate guitar work. I really hope there are more of these to come, as it's a rare opportunity for me to be able to get out and jam with all these amazing local players who are usually otherwise occupied rehearsing, recording or gigging. Here you can just about see Adam behind the drums and me (pink-orange-red shirt) playing my saz:
Neil recorded all this on a Zoom H4 but set the levels too high so it clipped badly. The quieter bits are pretty listenable though, he assures us, so hopefully those will eventually make their way to me. [Update: They did, and you can hear them here.]
The saz made it to Smugglers Festival, as usual, but only emerged from my tent on Sunday night for a very sleepy/wobbly jam with Leonie, Graeme, Conrad, et al.. The next morning was more promising, with Andrew Prowse (helping sister Rosy with the chai dome) got his guitar out and we jammed a bit on various fragments he's composed. He's planning to move back from Devon soon, so there may be more of this to come. We'll see...