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Monday, 24 August 2009

Gig Report: Worcester Music Festival

On Friday afternoon, Ash Surrey of Danse Macabre and her partner came and picked up me and Hoops of Helen's Evil Twin. We set off for the Worcester Music Festival where both our bands played gigs. Worcester is in the Midlands, somewhere near Birmingham. The rural area around it, the shire, is, of course Worcestershire, and is the region where Worcestershire sauce originates. Alas, it usually contains anchovies, so I did not eat any of it while away.

Anyway, Friday afternoon traffic on the M25 is a drag and we arrived in the evening and met up with the remaining members of HET and Danse Macabre. They came separately in a 70's-era VW minibus, which apparently has been on many music tours. The van is affectionately known as Camper van Helsing, a joke that never stops being funny.

After checking in to the Travel Lodge, we went out to drink and catch some live music. The festival organizers went to just about every bar and café in central Worcester and asked them if they would host live musicians for three days and not charge admission. Every event was free and there were many participating venues. The one we went to was the one HET was to play the following night, the Marr's Bar. On Friday night, the BBC was there broadcasting live. They had a big canvas BBC banner on the wall behind the stage, ringed by fairy lights and posters up explaining that this was all live on the radio.

One guy that was playing was Nigel Clark, a Brummie who was a member of the 90's pop band Dodgy. They were very popular in the UK, but I don't think I'd heard of them in the states. He was quite good. I like his music a lot and his stage chatter was also very entertaining. He explained he was going to leave the curse words out of one of his songs due to the radio broadcast. And on one of his songs, during the intro he said that all the home listeners would be wondering why so many people in the bar were talking while he was playing (the background chatter level was kind of typical for a bar) and he improvised a verse about not talking during the performance. The room fell very quiet. It was nicely done.

I was really excited about the BBC being there, but they only do live broadcasts on Friday nights and would not be back for our gig, alas. After the music was over, we went back to the hotel and got drunk and then started horsing around with ukuleles and other instruments until about 2 AM. I felt kind of guilty about this, but I think that we didn't keep anybody else awake. I hope.

We woke up kind of late Saturday morning and after breakfast went to Danse Macabre's venue. They're a goth band. Their drummer is Helen of HET and they have the same violinist as HET, but their own bassist and lead singer. The lead singer put on black renaisance faire trousers and ruffly white shirt and a black jacket and top hat and a lot of skull-related jewelry, including a large, sparkly skull belt buckle. She put on black lipstick and all that. Watching her transform from slightly eccentric street clothes to goth was kind of amazing.

They played some songs from their album "The Golden Age of Ballooning" and a song about Worcestershire sauce, which included such facts as the inventor of it and the typical ingredients. And they played some songs from a rock opera about evil squirrels. The subject matter was very eclectic.

We hung around for one more act, which was Smiley Mic, a guy with some looping pedals, making pop music by looping himself. He was was musically very good, but his lyrics all tended to be about how he was one guy laying down loops. Then we went to Marr's Bar for HET's sound check.

The bar has a really good stage, a great PA and a good sound guy. I had my own monitor speaker. We did the sound check and it was amazing because we could actually hear each other, which is not something that happens often on stage. I was kind of nervous, but we were on second and so the audience was people who came with us and other bands waiting to sound check and that was it. The first guy was on for maybe 10 minutes and was really good. I had a bunch of mistakes when we actually played and didn't feel good about it, but the rest of the band was very happy. While I was putting my bass away, a bloke from the audience approached Helen and started talking enthusiastically about how great we were. I guess it doesn't matter that I forgot the bassline to our song summarizing Jane Eyre?

I caught another band, who was also very cool and then left to get some food and then put my bass back into the hotel and caught the last few bands of the evening, on 4 and 5 hours after we started. The crowd had grown a lot. The last band, And What Will Be Left of Them, was playing their last-ever gig and they and the audience were both getting kind of emotional about it. Understandable as they were really good. Actually, all of the Worcester and Midlands-based bands on were really good. Really fun, really musically strong. Worcester is cool.

So I was highly impressed by the Worcester music scene. I suspect we will play there again and will probably also play in Birmingham and Manchester around December and January when we expect to be selling our album. Anybody who wants a rock band to play a show and then kip in their house around that time is highly encouraged to leave a comment or drop a line, because free lodging really helps with the going-into-debit thing that can be a downside of touring.

On Sunday, we headed back into London. I arrived at my flat in the afternoon, too burnt to do much but veg out. I'm quite enjoying the rock and roll life style, but my next major task needs to be to really really memorize the nine songs on our set list. I've got them, but not as solidly not-having-to-think-about-it as I'd like. And then, our set list should grow longer as things get recorded. Also, some of the songs could use better basslines, which requires time and thought and stuff, something I should be able to manage before our next gig on the 25 of September in Whitechapel.

Synthesizer My personal next gig is not with the rock band, but is a noise music thing coming up on Wednesday at the Foundry in London. I'll be playing my synthesizer. Starts at 7pm. I don't know what time I'll be on, but it's free. In the basement.

1 comment:

Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

Note to commenters:

If you want to include a URL, you're going to have to say something specific or else i will assume you're a spam bot. sorry. vague praise is nice, but untrustworthy, alas.