Monday, 27 May 2013

Jazzy Bluesyness

Well, Newcastle Jazz and Blues weekend arrived with all the extravaganza and ceremonious pomp that is part of the heritage of this lovely market town in Staffordshire. On the back of the old Newcastle Carnival, which was extraordinary in its day, and sadly came to a close some years ago.. the brainchild of the Newcastle Jazz and Blues came out of its embers rising like a pheonix from the flames. What Newcastle Jazz and Blues does mainly is showcase heaps of local talent, and people leave their homes and generally celebrate it in style...

So... the weekend arrived, and with it, some little spots for us to play..

Saturday 25th May, we played an impromptu spot at The Blackfriar's Open Mic evening, hosted by the very smiley Joe Bennett... We ran through a whole bunch of covers, and went down a storm, which was lovely and a pleasure. One guy in particular took to thanking us in person after each track, as it appears we may have actually found someone who listens to and has a liking for the tunes we picked to play! Either that, or he was full of the spirit of the Festival, which is based in pubs, so consequently leads to people drinking rather a few sherries. We were all done quite early on.. which was nice, giving us the rest of the night off.. We could have stayed in town, but promised we'd see a couple of friends... you know how it is.. hectic social lives... plus we had to plan for the next day.

Sunday 26th May, took us to The "Little" Vic, a rather friendly and welcoming hostelry in Brampton, to attend The Friendly Campaign's alternative to the Jazz and Blues weekend. Our PA was being used all day by the various acts.. and we took a sly opportunity to play early on, just to make sure that the sound was right.. as you do. We were deftly followed by John Oakes regaling songs of love with his 12 string. Clair Brennan, our local songstress, continued in the acoustic theme with her wonderful songs... and she went down a storm with the crowd. Interspersed between the acoustic acts was "London" Paul and his Rhythm and Blues collection, heaven knows where he found half of the songs from, no doubt some dark dusty cupboard somewhere! But it got the crowd dancing! As the sun began to slide low in the sky, the electric set began.. The Seers were set to play, however they were without their drummer!!! As luck would have it, in the room was a chap called Rob, a regular metronome and possibly one of the most natural drummers ever. Usually paired with "Tornado" Pete, Rob and he deliver fantastic Bragg-esque tunes about trains! Rob, having a day out in the pub to watch the bands, on his own was least prepared, but happily agreed to step in on drums. What a star, The Seers played their set, including a rather awesome version of "Neat Neat Neat"! Rob didn't miss a beat, placed all the fills deftly and without pause!! Think it was one of the highlights of the day!
Up next, The Friendly Campaign, a rather rowdy bunch of "N'er do wells", delivering their usual Pop/Punk songs with aplomb and deftness. (I hasten to add, both G and I are in The Friendly Campaign as well, so we are rather biased!). Taking things to another level, with the crowd merrily dancing away, some even dancing as aeroplanes, during "She Flies" was as sight to behold. TFC were testimony to the adage, practice loads and you'll get it right.. Managed to get through the whole set without a blip... "Sorrow" a perennial favourite, had the crowd singing along! TFC just know how to do it, and can pull the rabbit out of the hat every time!! More gigs now!!
Lastly and headlining were The Black Widows, down from the usual 7 to a 6 piece, they squeezed into the covered area and managed to pull out the stops and keep the mood lifted.. with their new additions to the band, and apparent CD release, they'll probably go quite far now!!
MC for the evening and general inbetween act during the evening sets was "Nervous" Dave, somewhat of a poet, recited his poetry and had the crowd in stitches!! Rather cleverly put together, with marvellous play on words Dave should get this work down onto CD and out there!!
Overall a wonderfully entertaining day!

Monday 27th May. Folk and Foam @ The Old Brown Jug, as part of the Newcastle Jazz and Blues Festival... Organised by the ever hard working Andy Tranter from Headsticks, we managed to sneak down earlier than our set to watch the fantastic Sons of Clogger, formed from the family of "Cloggers" Neil and David Owen... joined by Dave "Dougey" Brown on Bass and Rich Raizada on drums, we can be assured that if these guys don't make it big, then no-one will. They have raised the bar to which the rest of us have to now attain to achieving!!! They are full on, energised folk, with supercharged mandolin and lyrical stories, with a new CD out (which we just HAD to buy!!) and promoted onstage several times! We love the Cloggers! We had to follow them.. which is a tough job, as far as I'm concerned.. But we did quite well. Pulled out "The Telegram", which is a new song for us, at only 2 weeks old, its a veritable baby of a tune. Obviously having Rich from Sons of Clogger in the room, meant that we called him up for a few tunes, he's playing on our tracks which are in the studio, patiently waiting for us to go and finish them off! It was great playing on a proper stage again, inside a marquee, with the sound provided by Wayne from Artisan music in Hartshill, its one of the joys of playing different events, is the differing sound/stage set-ups you have to deal with. This one included proper fold-back monitors, which is not something encountered by acoustic acts in a number of venues, so it felt like being in a proper band. Cheered on by Dave and Dougey in the front row, we managed to get through the set with only minor giggles! Greeted by rapturous applause and lots of positive comments once leaving stage, it has once more given validity to what we're doing.
We stuck around for a couple of acts, namely Lucas Marks and Baxter, both giving it their all. Elsewhere in the pub itself, The Barrelhouse Jukes have a couple of hours of their time playing downhome Delta Blues and  their usual array of tunes. A chinese takeaway and a desire to warm up while watching Baxter (who is a duo comprising the enoromously talented Hayley Strangelove and the amazing Paul Senior of Sons of Shinobi) was just the ticket. We would have loved to have stuck around for the rest of the evening, as it featured Phil Maddocks and Nick Bayes, Giro Junkie and Headsticks, among others.. But family matters and time were against us, and something has to give sometimes.

Rightio.. that's the blog up to date again!! Phew!! I told you May was a crazy month for us!!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Mad Month of May

Well, May has turned out to be a crazy month in Rainland.. Seriously, its been mad. We've bee trying to learn new material, compose new songs, etc, but have had a plethora of gigs to do! Each weekend in May we've had at least one gig, more often 2-3, sometimes 2 on the same day!! But we, as ever, take it in our stride and just want to bring you more of our unique brand of craziness..

Sunday 12th May saw us going to The Gresley Arms Folk and Ale Festival, which is a fantastic event, brought to you by the Lovekins (yes that really is their surname, how ace is that??). They run a folk group at The Gresley, which is a kind of sing around session, which we had been to in April and they kindly asked us to come along and do a spot.. which we were more than happy to oblige. We managed to pack out the room, which was filled to the brim with enthusiastic faces and encouraging applause. Considering we only did 4 songs, we went down really well and were given a free meal and pint as a reward.. which is so wonderfully generous of them. We shall endeavour to return to the singaround night soon, as it was such a lovely welcoming atmosphere, and a truly lovely pub.

Saturday 18th May took us to The Olde Queen's Head in Talke. Have to say we were a bit anxious at going there, as we had never been there before, and were a little worried at what the reaction would be. Its never easy trying a new venue, espescially one that is used to having "pub singers/entertainers". We couldn't have been more wrong, what a superb crowd and fantastic reception! Apparently, according to some of the locals, who had drank rather a few beers, we made a refreshing change an they thought we were amazing!!! Something totally different to what they were used to, as they were a bit fed up of "those that sing along to backing tracks"... Even Graeme was asked to showcase his guitar playing, when someone asked "Do you know, Angie?"... he had to oblige, and dazzled the assembled crowd with a rendition of that and Albatross. We were definately on a winner there!

Sunday 19th May took us to Stafford Rangers Football Club, for a Health and Healing Day.. not the usual place you'd find us, but definately a fun day. We managed two sets, even after I (Sheena) fell unceremoniously off the stage and down the steps, bruising not just my bum, but my pride! And again, went down really well... We shared the stage with Clare Palmer, who is a truly lovely lady and who has written a song in aid of Stafford Hospital called, "50, 000 People Can't Be Wrong"... Let's hope she raises loads of money for it, she's someone we'd count as a new friend, as she writes lovely sings, and has a really powerful voice, yet is so unassuming. Also on the stage was Stuart Woolfenden, who had travelled up from Worcestershire to play, at only 15, he's already a singer/songwriter, rather punkish and definately someone to watch out for. All in all a fabulous day.

Next week we're at Newcastle Jazz and Blues weekend.. should be a good one.. watch this space for updates!! :-)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Featured on a website!

Yes folks, you heard it, we've been featured, albeit very briefly on the Leek Post and Times website for the event that we performed at on Sunday 5th May! Nice couple of pics and a mention. Which is nice and of course good to be a part of something so positive.

Here's the link anyway...


Monday, 6 May 2013

Mayday Mayday! Well, Bank Holiday weekend

Well folks, I know the title of this posts suggests a cry for help this last weekend and it certainly felt like that at times, however, we've just had a rather different kind of Bank Holiday weekend in Rain-land.

Saturday's gig at The Cumberland Arms had to be postponed, due to Graeme spending the day in bed, feeling all "fluey". He was sent to bed with painkillers and orange juice and ordered to stay put, Sam from The Cumberland is a top bloke and has postponed the gig till August, we'll post the date at a later point..

Sunday and Graeme had made a recovery of sorts, and despite still feeling offside, we went to our two gigs of the day! (Which later became three.. of a fashion)

The first gig was at Leek Arts Festival, in the Market place.. despite the sunshine, it was in fact really rather chilly, due to a nice Easterly wind blowing down the High Street... We suffered the chilly breeze, wrapped up in coats and gloves and gave it our all, thankfully a crowd gathered and we were applauded every step of the way, which is lovely, feeling the warmth and appreciation from the crowd.

Second gig of the day (after a brief lunch) was at Burslem Arts Festival, we had been told we'd be playing the "Acoustic Stage" outside The Swan, however, upon arriving, poor Lee (one of the orgnisers) was running down the street, having frantically tried to get hold of us all morning to tell us that we were in fact playing on the mainstage!! How about that then??

The mainstage at Burslem was rather akin to a bouncy castle... well, the outside of it was.. the temptation to run and bounce off the walls was tempting, but we simply didn't have the time. What was refreshing was playing through a very large PA!! A very lively monster of a machine that picked up every nuance, but sounded beautiful.. Decent equipment is always worth it, in my mind, rather than just scrimping by.. The stage area felt huge and I felt that we were a little lost on it really, but it was a rather enjoyable experience, seeing how more popular musicians live, as it were. (A short aside, we can now say that we have played on the same billing as Simon Townshend, as he played the Festival on the Monday, but we don't really go in for all that kudos collecting.) Again we were well received, particularly by our good friends Pete and Paul, who had come along to lend support with raucous applause.

Sunday evening we decided to pop along to the ever popular Acoustic night in the Swan in Burslem, which is run by the multi talented Arthur Righteous, a warm and welcoming man, in an equally warm and welcoming pub. It was a bit of a surprise, to be honest, as we kind of expected a somewhat smaller audience, but the place was packed!! Which was lovely.. A great number of musicians, and three showcases..Graham Dawson, Pickering White and the utterly brilliant Sons of Clogger... a fantastic night, everyone on top form, with a few songs from us for good measure.. Just makes me remember how lucky we are to have such a plethora of creativity in this great City of ours.