Immeasurable Numbers – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 26/08/2014

As a substantial tally of big tunes were metered up by my compering interludes at this week’s club like the filling of some incredibly edible multi-storey arse-burger of a sandwich, I reflected on the difficulty of being the host.

The regular compere makes it look easy. He invents little games to break the ice. He introduces a nugget here for a later comic reference there. He looks comfortable.

For me, it’s about being able to handle the verbal absence. The briefest pause and I’m ready to blurt out the first phrase making itself cognitively available, and hastily get the next act on the stage. But you have to let it breathe; inhale that radio silence. Become calm, start to flow and let the audience in. And that takes balls. I need to grow balls.

As it were.

There’s an instructive dichotomy that manifests to the performer. The performer learns that his show is justifiably termed an act.  At times, you feel a unity between audience and performer (the bond of concert). At others, you could stick a whale between what they’re thinking and what you are. Anyway, I’m leaving Tuesday with the attitude of ‘job well done’, even though this last effort places in the latter category. Big shout out to the guy in the audience who prompted for me a compere’s applause at the end.

And the size of the numbers was outstanding. I literally ran out of superlatives. Songs were enormous; collaborations were colossal. The magnitude of one contributor’s effort was ‘of boundless enormity’. As one bright spark noted, this incremental trend could not continue indefinitely – still, it was indeed a pleasure to play host to such breadth, and remind myself why I love The Acoutic Club.

Which is why I’m happy to be returning next week as performer.


Back at the Shoulder – Shoulder of Mutton 09/08/2014

Saturday night saw a return to the splendid Shoulder of Mutton in Shelf, West Yorkshire.

When first I played the Shoulder, my two forty-fives of originals were reasonably well-received by a smallish group of family supporters. Stakes were raised at my second visit when, switching to cover songs, genuine smatterings of modest applause erupted once or twice from small pockets of regular shoulder-goers. But Saturday’s gig was clearly the pick of the braid; my shoes came off, impromptu Metallica requests were indulged, and an old matey appeared to popular acknowledgement.

Something in the water, me reckons – not that anyone was drinking water. One chap was so enlightened he felt moved to perform the entire Them Bones solo break as a vocally-embellished piece of air guitar, and all this from his seat in the audience. Clearly this maverick trend-setter was leading the way with his slick moves, demonstrating the correct way to proceed and paving the way nicely for his next trick. For in an hour’s time, as Karma Police sounded throughout the venue he was to be found holding discarded footwear over my head while we posed for pictures.

And so the evening passed by with a steadily heightening glow of high spirits, good-humoured banter and athletic codas; from old Kenst tunes like Bill From Above to the themes from Blackadder and Red Dwarf; through Can You Imagine an Imaginary Menagerie Manger Imagining Managing an Imaginary Menagerie? and How Much Wood Would Chuck Woodward’s Woodchuck Chuck If Chuck Woodward’s Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood?; lastly to She’s Electric spliced with Creeping Death, via a double-entendre detour and the claim that I might, if allowed, ‘put one wide’.

Big thanks to all involved in making this easily the most memorable solo gig I’ve done. I think in large parts that’s due to the promotion of the wise heads at the Shoulder. No mean slice of gratefulness goes out to sound engineer Daniel Wilson for taking care of the audio recording and front-of-house.

This is the first show I’ve filmed and selected tasty nuggets are to be sampled here.




Debutants – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 19/08/2014

This post will be in the spirit of artistic therapy via the medium of mass brain data dump.

Debuting a composition is always scary. Seldom does it just flow out nicely first time around, even if it’s been aired to the rehearsal room walls a dozen times in the preceding week. That moment of first presentation always instills within me a sharp sense of panic; it’s the Juggling Effect.

The Juggling Effect: You rehearse a trick meticulously until it’s perfect. You perform the trick. You drop all the balls.

On this night I managed to hold all the balls. Playing Clock Handshake, something unexpected occurred in the old psychological realm, just prior to the third verse. I began to question the worth of the composition. I bottled out, hastily recompiliing the only loosely-defined structure of the back-end of the number, so as to end it with minimum fuss. I am calling it the Third Verse Crash.

Lucidity Indicator, in the second half, went the same way. This was a more severe tumble, during a tune which had been aired once before, in which the whole song suddenly seemed worthless. Even worse than worthless – kitsch; pretentious, forced and over-decorated. A collage of too many intricacies that just looks uniform and bland. Empty. I literally hated the song in that instant. Is that the power of Third Verse Crash? I mean, I had spent many hours lovingly crafting this one, during which times I felt it meant something.

Definitely a confidence thing. I was removing the word ‘I’ from the lyrics where possible, worrying that the song appeared too self-centred. I had revealed too much.

I didn’t sleep well. I resolved to take some positives. At least I had debuted, and pushed myself. I had felt like I couldn’t go on, like I would forget the middle eight when it came, but I had carried on and my fingers and vocal chords had found it. I had held the balls. Perhaps I had even thrown them well.

How to solve the Crash? Is it a problem of structure? I get bored repeating myself; I can’t write choruses. I have always held in high regard my mate Chris Lynn’s principle that as a musician, you have to be comfortable repeating yourself. I know I am not comfortable. Is that because I dislike repetition, or is the discomfort elsewhere? I have been flirting mentally again with the ‘I’m not a natural performer’ train that leads to jacking it all in. I am absolutely not going there again. I have worked hard to get back to enjoying doing this. There must be a solution.

Maybe Lucidity Indicator doesn’t need a third verse, or that elusive bridge that finds it nicely. Perhaps the whole tune can just be sliced in half, curtailed abruptly after chorus one, when all the useful prose has been spouted. And of course, no one’s obliged to perform every song they’ve created.

Accepting the compering duties at next week’s meeting was the evening’s best move. I am looking forward to it!




Introduce Yourself – Acoustic Club (Bar 1:22) 12/08/14

This week at the acoustic club: a fine attendance! Big smiles as I entered, casting eyes over the solid throng of players and watchers, seeing staff members retrieving emergency furniture from back rooms and then searching for a free slice of floor space to add my instrument to the impressive collection already set down.

And a new game; a fresh piece of banter from the compere, inviting individual members of the audience to tell the remainder about themselves, receiving in return a collective greeting. A finely woven piece of intermittent interluditude. This was the gravy to the night’s sausage: it gets the crowd geed up, endowing the stage with a warmth for the whole room to get high off.

A nice mix, methought, this evening. Two solo saxophonists, some poetry and ‘spontaneous interpretation via the medium dance’, a couple of duos and the long-standing 1:22 tradition of good vibes added to the stock of singer-songwriters comprising the acts’ bulk.

A bloody good reason must be found if one intends not to find oneself there next Tuesday.