Saturday, 18 February 2017

Into the wild

It's that time of year again. When nothing much is happening over here. Nothing's been happening for months now. We're all a bit a bored, sitting idling, itching our feet. After the misadventures of last year's musical pilgrimage to Berlin in a 30 year old broken motorhome, this year we've turned our attentions to Scandinavia. Utterly foolhardy. Bold and brassy. Reckless. We do have a decent van this this time, the drummer's bought one and is doing it up ready for the road ahead. That, however, is the only thing we have. We have no money
this year. No new merchandise. Dwindling CD stocks. No new songs. The guitar player has just pulled out. His replacement, the ever dependable Louis Gulliver King, still hasn't received clearance from his theatre contract. The piano player can't afford to come. The bass player finishes his audio contract a matter of days before and is praying that they don't run over. I am having a baby at the end of March and am praying it doesn't come early. Sound familiar? Welcome to The Odd Folk!

Temperatures in southern Sweden could drop to minus 5, with an icy Baltic wind. We have no snow tyres. No breakdown cover. We have no money to book any accommodation and so are completely reliant on the generosity of the crowds in order to get a roof over our heads, otherwise we'll all be huddled together in the van. The drummer will be huddled in the van regardless. NOT because he snores. Just in order to protect the thousands of pounds worth of equipment we carry with us.

This time, even I am pessimistic. There is so much at stake it'll be a miracle if we get through it. To start with; money. We have none. Since the guitar player's paternity leave, bookkeeping has gone out of the window, funds are shared out after every gig and the 'band' (the 6th member) hasn't been paid for months now. This is bad form. Bad practice. No doubt influenced by the fact we were winding down, parking the old bus, putting this baby out to pasture. In many ways we were liquidating The Odd Folk before we walked away. But that didn't happen, as many of you know, we organised a farewell party only to announce we weren't quitting! So, the bank is empty. We can't afford to get to the first gig.

What else? Availability. The drummer is the only one who is 100% sure he can attend. The guitar player has pulled out. There is a chance his replacement, Louis Gulliver King, will be denied clearance meaning we are one man down. The piano player can't afford to come, he owes money in every direction and is being carefully monitored by his landlady, escaping off on tour with us could result in him being homeless upon his return; that would leave us two men down. The bass player's contract could well overrun meaning we are three men down. And finally, my partner could go into labour 2 weeks early (not unheard of) meaning we are four men down!

Anything else? Oh, did we I say we are completely unprepared for a journey of this magnitude. We're effectively driving 1250 miles to Malmö to play in a 'folk kitchen' run by hippies where they will serve us a vegan meal and probably little else. Our gig in Copenhagen is in the autonomous neighborhood of Freetown Christiania, where the police aren't allowed, meaning our two fans in Denmark, both police officers, can't even attend! The booker in Hamburg has gone quite on us, though the venue receptionist says this is normal and just "turn up" on the day and he'll be here. Nice and vague. We haven't sorted a gig in Holland, the only country we have a fanbase, and instead travel to places where we know nobody. At least we're returning to Den Hopsack in Antwerp for the third year in a row. You can always guarantee a bit of dosh there, shame it's right at the end of the tour and not at the beginning when we desperately need it. 

Any amount of scenarios could happen; the worse being that the drummer tours alone because nobody else is available. Now, obviously that wouldn't happen. But perhaps this could...

... Having rounded
all the troops we set off to Tunbridge Wells for our first gig. The drummer's filled the tank with his own money and we're banking on some cold hard cash for the performance. But the gig is a house concert and only a handful of people turn up, probably because we forgot to promote it and we don't know anyone in Tunbridge! We make enough money to pay the drummer back and arrive at the tunnel penniless again, having to re-borrow the money in order to cross the channel. In Europe we make it as far as Holland as night draws in. The drummer's shattered as he's doing all the driving because we can't afford to put anyone else on the insurance! In Holland we have 100's of fans but no gig. We stay with a couple of them, grateful for a plate of food and curse ourselves for not organising a house concert here where we actually know people. Our Dutch friends buy some CD's off us even though they already have them, probably out of pity, just so we have some cash to get to... Herning!? Where's that? DENMARK - 500 miles into the frozen north.

The drummer drives on into a headwind, progress is slow and the piano player receives a text saying 'all of your belongings are in the front garden!' Ouch. We arrive in Herning for our gig but there is no gig. It never got 'green lit' and we hadn't read the email. With no money we huddle in the van, much to the drummer's distress. The next day in Copenhagen, we approach the 'homemade' city of Freetown Christiania; a maze of wooden houses and shacks propped up against each other, workshops and arts galleries and hippies selling hash all along Pusher Street. Our excitement is shortlived when we realise no cars are allowed. Our gig starts in 2 hours and we're late for our soundcheck! We're forced to carry our gear while friendly freetowners ask us where we're playing. Some offer to help but we are unsure whether they might run off with our instruments. The gig is pleasant enough but we make little to no money and to make matters worse the bass player recieves an email from his work saying some of the scenes need re-editing and he is forced to buy an expensive dongle and start work immediately in the van. We cross the bridge to Malmö, to the 'folk kitchen' and play for our supper, but that is about all. From the last two gigs, we've raise enough money to pay the drummer back again. The next night in Hamburg, the booker never does materialise and therefore nor does our fee! We play the gig regardless, passing a hat around the audience and raising just enough for the road ahead. En route to Belgium I receive the call that my partner has started contractions and immediately fly home only to find it's only Braxton Hicks! The final venue is canceled. The tour is abandoned. The piano player is homeless. The bass player is being docked his salary because of unfinished edits and we all owe the drummer money. The guitar player chuckles to himself, glad he stayed at home.

Only, The Odd Folk ;-)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Oh what a wonderful year (2016)

The year began... not with delicious low sunlight that broke through the trees, nor an orange glow sweeping across the bay. There was no light. Just grey light. It was raining. It rained all day. There was no joy. I really think we shouldn't have drunk quite so much! My band-mates and I, strewn across the land like empty bottles from the night before. It is hard to find optimism on these such days. New Year's Eve should be a summer affair really, the whole year is set up wrong. It's hard to find enthusiasm when faced with the worst two months of weather. Surely it would be kinder if January the 1st was on June the 1st. I think I'll write to them.

JANUARY arrived with it's usual resolutions, mostly from the piano player, his optimism outstripped us all. "Perhaps this year we'll get to America?" and "Shall we make another album?". More questions than resolutions I know, but one that does stick out is: "This year I am not going to loose my piano leeds!". All I can say to that is; read on! And anyway, in the words of Oscar Wilde, "good resolutions are simply cheques that we draw in a bank where we have no account.” I used to always make resolutions, eagerly I would scribble them down in a mad flash of clarity and then watch them dissolve slowly by the following month; indeed, mid-February is the place where January's resolutions go to die. Enough of all this; we're not here to talk about promises of self improvement or something slightly nice, we here to talk about the band. But nothing happened, we barely spoke, the online calendar looked unusually empty with only Don't Wake The Fish and Sea, Salts and Sail booked in, both of which we've done to death. There were a couple of wedding offers; Mr and Mrs Panbottom were tying the knot and of course Shambala may well book us for the third year running. But nothing new and exciting was happening, it seemed a little stagnant, a little apathetic, almost a little safe and boring and so, perhaps in defiance as much as anything, I decided to book a 9 day, 2600 mile tour to East Germany and concluded that a 30 year old motorhome with a host of problems was the perfect vehicle in which to travel.

FEBRUARY was the month in which I booked the tour. Endless hours trawling the internet to find suitable venues, then back and forth emails with the owners to find the right deal. And of course you've picked the route already so you are limited to where you can play on what days. It's a tireless process. You've got to book accommodation too with money you don't yet have, and of course nobody can afford to do the tour so the band has to pay but the band's only got £107 in the bank. You call in the debts, collect some CD sales from The Painted Bird, that's another £51. Surely we'd sold more than that? Oh well, better book a gig in London to start the tour, get a bit of money in, only to realise much later that the motorhome you borrowed from your cousin can't even drive into the capital because of the emissions charge. Oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, more importantly the guitar player says he can't do the tour! You sweet-talk him, wine and dine him, offer him things on a whim, a free week of work, that'll do the trick. Meanwhile, the van won't start and your cousin is away in Spain or ignoring your calls I can't remember which. Then, in the midst of important negotiations you and the bass player fly to Sweden on a whim and spend a week living in a Elkman's hut on the snowy tundra with no electricity let alone wifi!

MARCH has got to be the biggest month in the history of this band, and the best. The most exhilarating. The most foolhardy. The biggest adventure we'd ever had. And unless we manage to organise another one, perhaps ever will. I think we would all agree; those 8 days on the road were all we could have dreamed of. Beginning at The Magic Garden in Battersea for some much needed cash, the following night we topped up the coffers yet further at The Gladstone. Following our footsteps from the last tour, we returned to Cafe Den Hopsack in the Belgium city of Antwerp. Much needed record CD sales of 28 gave us the money we desperately needed after the guitar player realised he'd left his wallet with all band finances back in London. The following day we played The Phoenix in Arnhem and the piano player lost his voice and refused to sing. More CD sales, a quick rendezvous with music producer Stephen who found fame in our last movie, The Right Way Round, and we were away to Berlin. With a couple of days off we explored the city, got drunk and the motorhome broke down en route to Kallasch& Moabiter Barprojekt. Needless to say we made it on time and played what we considered to be our finest performance to date. It was short lived as the following night we played at The Hole which was an even better atmosphere and one we were completely in control of. Returning home with a profit, having not spent a penny was a huge achievement, but the biggest triumph was that we came to Germany on a whim, not knowing a soul, and returned with 100's of new fans. It was a huge risk to travel to a place that our music had not yet reached. And as I said before, I hope it gives other small bands the confidence to follow their dreams. You don't need an agent or big bossy manager picking and choosing your gigs. Just find a venue that suits your style and fix it up yourself. Find a bus, plan your route and go out and play for your supper; you'll come home a richer man, in more ways than one. If you thought that was enough in March think again, perhaps spurred on by the success of touring Europe, we organised a mini tour of the Isles of Scilly at the month's end. Beginning with a homecoming gig at The Ritz in Penzance, we all sailed out to the Cornish archipelago for gigs at The New Inn, then the next day at The New Inn II, and then again after getting stranded due to bad weather we hosted an impromptu open mic at The New Inn III

"APRIL comes like an idiot, babbling and stewing flowers". And in this idiotic month, we did sweet nothing. We'd earned it, March's 10 gigs had broken our record that had should since the May Day Tour of 2014. 

MAY was almost as empty, bar of course Don't Wake The Fish where we returned for the 5th year running and performed to a capacity crowd of 600. It is always a favourite of ours, one we can let our wilder side out, get dolled up and prance around a bit, drink ales on stage, that kinda thing. The month's end saw the drummer hand in his notice and call time on his 3 years with the band.

JUNE saw us tour again, The World's Smallest Tour took us to a Dorset Festival in the afternoon and Under the edge Arts the very same evening. The latter was a particularly nice affair, a little under-attended and underpaid but a very attentive audience. Louis Gulliver King had now been drafted in to plug the hole caused by the guitar player's paternity leave. His use of accordion was particularly arresting and more than made up for losing the finger picking dexterity and sweet notes of our founding member. 

We were busy in JULY, sharing top bill at Sea, Salts and Sail Festival with the awesome Sandy Acre 7, who's infectious grooves saw the whole of
fans at Lafrowda
Mousehole up and dancing. After that we were so hot we took a midnight skinny dip. The following weekend we took the stage at Lafrowda Day in St. Just, this time as a trio, as Louis Gulliver King was away on business. Any pre-show apprehensions at how this lesser format would go down were blown away as a capacity crowd filled the town's historic square and danced and swayed in the sunshine. The following weekend saw us up at Womad Festival again as a trio. First up was a Radio 3 slot where we shared the billing King Creosote before taking to the stage that night at Coyote Moon to a tent so packed that people had to sit outside and listen in.

"AUGUST rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. This is an odd, uneven time." So says Sylvia Plath and it was a odd month I must admit. Myself and bass player cycled over to France and spent a wonderful week exploring Brittany only to return to the news that my partner's father had passed away, slipped his moorings, joined the choir invisible. We played one gig at The Knut, the room full to brimming, full of faces old and new. We raised a toast to John Voogd and in my heart I wept; a touching tribute to great, great man.

SEPTEMBER had been long billed as our Farewell month. With the departure of the drummer and the increasing absence of the guitar player we had decided to call time on a career stretching 6 years. Had it not been for the success of the quartet and trio formation, however. They had prompted a rethink. The success of Lafrowda and Womad Festival particularly had given us food for thought, something to chew on. And chew we did. It tasted good so we booked another weekend in the Scillies. This time flying out to the Tresco Island and playing at The Abbey. The following day we took to the stage at The Flying Boatclub and just as in March, bad weather meant we were stranded an extra day. The following weekend we played at Little Orchard Festival at BBC Introducing, then reunited with the guitar player and drummer we took to the stage at The Acorn for A Farewell to Arms, which saw us address a capacity crowd and inform them that we were no longer throwing the towel in. Indeed, we had new towels, new ways to combat the loss of key players. We were once again forced into a re-shuffle the next day at the Ale and Anchor Festival and, despite the hangover from the night before, it worked well enough.

On The Road Tour - poster by Mae Voogd

"OCTOBER has tremendous possibility. The summer's oppressive heat is a distant memory and the golden leaves promise a world full of adventures." And with that in mind we embarked on our second large adventure of the year. With the bass player's father owning a cottage in the Lake District and us keen to climb some of England's largest mountains, we booked a tour up North, a place we've never visited with this band, with a wealth of gigs spread across the southern belt of England, the furthest north we'd been was Matlock which is borderline. The On the Road Tour stretched 1200 miles from The Eden Project to a glorious intimate gig at Totnes's Acoustic Haven. Next we traveled to Bournemouth and played at a rowdy Firkin Shed before heading north into the wide open wilds of the land. The Wassdale Head, The Old Dungeon Ghyll and The Strands Inn were three lovely little alehouses nestled under green mountains in this glorious corner of the England. The days were spent scaling the heights, swimming in frozen emerald pools, drinking our weight in micro breweries and making Ray Mears spoof survival videos. To finish off we ducked into Bristol and played The Greenbank which was the first time we'd played in our home city for over a year.

NOVEMBER and DECEMBER were quiet months, time spent in real life, earning money doing day jobs and the like. So often it's easy to get swept up the game of being in a band, but after a busy autumn came a reality check. What goes up must come down. Life on the road is fun, fast, romantic, but it doesn't pay the bills. Us "coming home with profit" isn't enough to live on, it's just a nice bit of pocket money, like a birthday card from your grandmother! The bread and butter can never be earned from this ship. We had plans for Merry Folking Christmas to return but The Acorn demanded we use bouncers despite selling out many events there in the past and never having any trouble, so we shelved it. They later relented but by then the bass player had returned to Lake District for Christmas.

And so what a year that was hey? To sum it all up... It's funny, really, you spend the whole blog 'summing up' all the blogs from the past year, condensing them into one manageable helping, and then you find yourself 'summing up' what you've just written! Anyhow, a year in which we pushed the boundaries, traveled over 5000 miles to bring our music to 4 countries. We drove motorhomes, vans, cars, sailed ferry's, flew in airplanes, played mainstream festivals, prime time radio shows, saw record CD sales, made money, lost money, lost our drummer, re-signed him, had fist fights, skinny dips, had a baby, conceived another, organised a farewell concert only to inform people we weren't splitting up (that probably looked like a ego-boost!), climbed mountains, conqured the north, overplayed the south, lost piano leads (what did I tell you!), downsized to a quartet, then a trio, played 30 times, equalling our record set from 2014 and more than doubling last year's. And we did a lot of this without our founding member, the guitar player, the band elder, the head of finance, all decisions went through him, and so to loose to him was a huge setback. And of course, credit must go to Louis Gulliver King who deputised 14 times. He was more than a quick fix, more than a hole plugger, he added his own stamp, changed our sound, warmed it up, folked it up. Hat's off to him. Now officially part of the family.

Louis Gulliver King

Saturday, 10 December 2016


Tumbleweed. Radio silence. Dead air. Stock still. It’s the quiet after the storm if you like.
A Farewell to Arms was quickly discarded as we set off on an ambitious cross-country tour, covering a thousand miles to the farthest flung corners of Britain.
And then… nothing. No news. No plans. No updates. No nothing. Tumbleweed. It’s like the band has dis’band’ed. Like we’ve retired. The last piece of official information was some loose mutterings about a ‘Merry Folking Christmas’ return, followed by of a birthday card to our bass player some time in mid October. For 6 weeks now there has been no news.

Now, you've all probably been worrying your socks off, I know! Have they split up after all? Has the piano player been arrested? Has the bass player relocated to Silicon Valley. Has the drummer got stuck in one of his windmills? Is Merry Folking Christmas happening? It says so on the website! Well, I suppose we can clear that one up for you. No, it’s not, sadly, and we’ve lost the password for the website and can’t update it. Our tech guy is either on holiday or impossible to get hold off, and none of us have the required nuance to hack it, or the funds to pay someone else to.

So, what has been happening?

I have been busy, which is largely why all modes of communication are down. Following the news that my partner, Mae Voogd, is expecting our child, we have been, rightly, focusing on that. I now find myself doing a play up in the West End, treading the boards and trying to earn money. But London is hard and fast, the burring bite of winter is a painful one, especially when you don’t own a decent coat and have a hole in your shoe. 

performing in Gatsby

The guitar player, who’s little girl, Lowenna Brookes, must be almost 6 months now, has been gardening in Bristol. He has long since tired of using the band as his workforce and has a full time employee on the books. Or had. I believe he has sacked him now. Life is busy as he juggles running a business with fatherhood and smashing down walls in his house on his days off. In regards the band, he took ‘gardening leave’ in the summer, returning briefly for A Farewell to Arms but sidestepped the On The Road tour that followed.
'smashing down walls'

The piano player, who fled Bristol for Cornwall in the summer, became a painter and decorated, even though he is the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet. God knows how he managed to keep his job after more disasters than an Odd Folk tour! One that springs to mind is the time he dropped a 6 litre tub of white paint from the top of his ladder and it splashed out all over the cobbled street. Needless to say, he was removed from painting duties and became a paint stripper until he stripped the wrong room and Mrs Bansall discovered her favourite wallpaper had disappeared! He is now a sander and so far there are no mishaps to report. 
the piano player shortly before his spillage
The bass player
, who fled London for Cornwall in the spring and suddenly became, for the first time in years, available! Jobless, throughout the summer we enjoyed wild swimming, festivals and cross channel adventures. Eventually all his money ran out and he took a freelance audio editing job that will tie him over till March. He also won an Emmy Award for audio. I believe he was nominated for an academy award, or 'oscar', but didn't win as it would seem like nepotism ;-)

and the oscar goes to... oscar!
The drummer, who left the band in the summer, only to rejoin again in autumn, finally left his cabin in the forest of dean and moved down to Bristol, just in time for myself, the piano player and the bass player to relocate to Cornwall. After almost a year of odd jobs he finally returned to windmills, and, despite severing his right hand on one of the sails, it's been a welcome return to what he knows and loves.   
the drummer shortly before his accident

Louis Gulliver King, though not a core member, but after amassing 17 gigs with us over the last year, has definitely become an honorary one. Shortly after completing the On The Road tour, he took a job in children’s theatre and is currently travelling around the country performing in We’re all going on a Bear Hunt. 
we're all going on a bear hunt

Well, there you have it. All updated. We all seem rather busy really. I guess the tumbleweed will continue. With no big centrepiece this Christmas, it seems the year will dribble away from us with no more than a whimper. Like our year has been a steady fire, but now left untouched, unfuelled, it’s embers are dying out. 
Next year is, at present, unknown. I am having a baby in April and have various theatre jobs lined up. The guitar player is increasingly absent, the piano player planning to go and live on a hippy bus in America and the bass player under contract until April. At least the drummer is available for some solo shows! It's comical timing that a respectable music agent and manager is very interested in the band at a time when the future is as grey as smoke and our availability is as poor as dirt. It is perhaps fitting that as we run out of petrol someone else is there waiting to chauffeur us along. But alas, whereas batteries can be re-charged, fire's re-stoked, if old father time doesn't offer his hand, it'll be difficult to set a course forward. Don't worry, talks will resume in the new year. Time will be found. Gigs gathered. A return to Europe is on the cards.

But for now, you better get used to the tumbleweed.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

"Has anyone seen my leads!"

hmmm.... leads?
"Morg... can you reach down and see if my leads are in the case?" said the piano player from his perch in the front. "You're joking!?" I said lowering my book. "No, no, it should be fine, they should be there!" he said trying to reassure me. They weren't. The backlash that fell about was as predictable as ever, cut and paste from the last 10 times his leads have gone missing. Left in bars, clubs, fields, friends car's, at home, at someone else's home. Not to mention the countless times we've found them slumped in the corner of a stage, and picked them up and played a trick on him. Or the countless times we've started a journey with "Have you got your leads?" to which he runs back up the steps to his house and gets them. Perhaps that's the reason they get left everywhere, as he still relies on us to oversea them. Or perhaps it's because somehow or other, misplaced leads never mean he hasn't played a gig, there is always a borrowed keyboard, or a pub piano, or his mum or dad on hand to drive miles to collect them at the drop of a hat. Brand new ones come all too frequently, he must have spent over £200 on replacements over the years. Perhaps it's all tactical; if we ever play at the Underbelly in London, his leads from 2014 should still be there. Or, if Samuel and Samantha ever get re-married and use the same field in Higginbottom his first set of leads will surely still be there, behind the portaloo. "I must have left them at The Eden Project!" he said, head in hands as we sped north to Bournemouth for a gig that night. "What am I going to do tonight?" he exclaimed. "I'm not worried about tonight" answered the bass player, "you might be able to borrow a keyboard in Bournemouth, it's next week when we tour the Lake District that'll be a problem." There was a pause and then, "If you order some new ones on Amazon now you can have them sent to the Lakes" said Louis Gulliver King (once again in for the guitar player). "I haven't got any money!" came the reply. "Well then you better call your dad and borrow some!" I said and relaxed back with my book.

Arriving in Bournemouth we were welcomed into one of the best pubs I've been in; The Firkin Shed owned by the charismatic Paul Gray, was like a large shed; a quirky, handmade micro brewery scattered with beer barrels and kegs and curious collectables and in the far corner an out-of-tune honkytonk piano! "You're in luck!" I said. We played well enough, the jarring scratchy piano notes sometimes complimenting the rougher and bluesy songs, and sometimes ruining the more subtle numbers. The atmosphere was charged, the beer was delicious and the busking hat we laid out was most generous. We were quite literally playing for our supper and our petrol and that always brings out the best in us.

The tour veered north the next day, 196 miles up country, into wild England, surely one of the last expanses of wilderness in this overpopulated island of ours. The Lake District is the wettest, most mountainous region, with the largest population of sheep and red squirrels, not to mention lakes! Although officially only one of the 16 bodies of water is actually a lake! It is also home to The Odd Folk for a week, and Screes cottage in Glendale has two sets of leads waiting for the piano player on his arrival; Amazon and Eden had both posted and both arrived in the same delivery! The tour took us up mountains, scrambling up rocks in perpendicular approaches. Standing on lofty peeks as the wind blew the wind out of us. It saw us chasing sheep, getting caught in bogs, skinny dipping in icy rivers, making Ray Mears survival videos. It saw us gorging on Kendal mint cake, gulping down craft ales and playing our little hearts out in cosy pubs nestled in the arm of a mountain. It saw us lose phone signal and lose touch with home; we drove to 'signal corner' on the first day but after that we didn't bother. It saw winding roads, criss-crossing the foothills like plaits. Tiny cottages sprinkled about, hardy walkers, but the biggest inhabitants was the space. Empty stretches of land. Mountains like a crumpled blanket. We were welcomed everywhere we went; felt the warm generosity of this corner of England. We drove over Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in England, found the secret Emerald Pool with it's crystal clear waters and visited England's smallest church. Screes cottage was opposite Wastwater; England's deepest lake; at the foot of England's biggest mountain; overlooking England's best view, and the local pub is home to England's biggest liar! Needless to say, it's a pretty big place.

Langdale Valley

 As we pulled away on our 456 mile journey home, we reflected on another wonderful week in the life of this band. We came on this tour with not a penny to our name, every gig was hand to mouth, or purse to petrol. We wanted a walking holiday and thought that a cheap way to do that was to play for our supper. I never expected to return home with a week's wage, having had a week's holiday. That is down to the generosity of the people we met, the kind landlord's and ladies. It was 7 gigs in 9 days, the largest concentration we've ever done. From the manicured gardens of Eden to the wild's of Lakeland to the urban art of Bristol. We've traveled 1000 miles, climbed a 1000 meters, drunk 100 beers, but the biggest achievement of all is that we returned home with 2 piano leads!

Morgan, Louis, Oscar and Shelley outside The Screes

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

He who dares!

"Today's flights are at risk, so we're advising you to get the Scillonian III to be sure of getting out here!" said the lady at Tresco Island Office. Outside the fog was slowly swallowing up the world and it had started to spit. We hung up and sighed in unison. "I can't face that boat again!" I said pleading with the bass player. "There's gotta be another way?". He called Land's End Airport but their answer was just as unhelpful. It was a flight by flight basis, they may cancel at any minute. The risk was too great. We had a gig that night for a wedding, if we didn't make it we'd let a lot of people down. Solemnly we walked to the ferry port, dreading the thought of spending 4+ hours on the 'barf bucket'. The wind had picked up and the rain splashed off the rim of my hat. We hunched our shoulders, as though that somehow makes you drier, but really it just makes you ache. "When I was on that boat the last time, if somebody had said for £250 I can make all this go away, I would have paid it!" I said as we loaded the gear into the containers. Yet here I was about to board the same boat, in a similar storm, for the
Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet.
very same amount of money.
"Call Tresco Island one last time!" I pleaded.
The bass player wiped the rain drops off his iphone and dialed again but the message was just as urgent, 'please take the boat, the chances are your flight will be canceled!'. It was no use, we rolled our eyes and sank our soggy shoulders. Hunching them had clearly made no difference, we were as damp as a church. We sat in silence, the three of us, like schoolboys in the headmasters office. Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet. "I'm calling Land's End one last time" I said and grabbed the phone 

"Hello, is the 11.50 flight still going ahead?"

"It is scheduled to, but it's touch and go." came the reply.
"We are playing a gig you see and we need to guarantee it!?"
"We can't guarantee at this stage. May I suggest taking the boat?"

"We get terribly sea sick, Sir, and there's white horses in the bay!"
"Yes, it'll be a rough crossing" came the reply. And then a very long pause.
"If you come now, we'll hopefully fly you out."
"Hopefully?" I said.
"Come now!" was the reply and the line went dead

What do we do? Stick or twist? This was a huge decision. If we drive to Land's End and it doesn't fly, we loose a sack of money and let down an entire wedding. We'd ruin the good rep we've built up with Tresco Island and it's a dirty black mark on our name. We'd lose friendships. We'd make a lot of people very angry. All for the sake of a tummy ache! The boat was about to sail, it was our only guaranteed passage over. Our instruments were on the boat, why weren't we!? I was bent double with indecision. I knew if we took the boat we'd see the plane fly over our heads mocking us as we wretched into our little sick bags. The plane that left 2 hours after the boat and still got there 3 hours before it! I sighed and sucked my teeth. The bass player looked like a rabbit in the headlights. The piano player laughed hysterically, and then: "He who dares, boys!". And that was that, we were running up through town towards my car, running away from the boat, recklessly, like naughty school boys from the headmaster!
'we ran recklessly!'
We piled in and drove off. Bruce Spingsteen was singing born to run on the radio. Was it a sign? And then another song with the lyrics, 'come to me, come to me', certainly that was a sign! We laughed. High on adrenaline. Carefree. We sped along the empty roads, into the deepening fog, zipping down the final hill to Land's End Airport. Needless to say, we caught the flight, he who dares, wins. Flippantly I told the nice man at reception I didn't really fancy paying the car parking charge for 3 days and so he waived it. Just like that. "He who dares boys!"

The plane took off, it wasn't full, it was quite conceivable that they were flying it just for us. The fog was so thick that we flew just above the water the whole way, getting lower and lower as it descended
upon us. We landed with a bump, skidding across the airstrip
, hearts in mouths. "We were lucky" said the bass player as we gave the pilot a round of applause. "I'm not flying back!" he shouted from the cockpit. We really were lucky. The remainder of the weekend was full of peeks and troughs. Two gigs; one to an empty room. A chauffeur driven golf-cart. Island hopping in a speedboat. A glimpse at how the 'other side' live. A party. A hangover. A skinnydip. Flight delays and I missed my dental appointment.

Back on the mainland, no rest for the wicked, we had three gigs in three days and welcomed back the guitar player and the drummer. With open arms I may add. First up; Little Orchard Festival on the BBC Introducing Stage, was a very windy affair. Nice rig, good sound but any attempts to erect a tent would result in hand-gliding into the Atlantic! The wind made the sturdy big top rattle like a snare drum. Raising a little tent would have been as much use as a ashtray on a motorbike! The next day was billed as our Farewell to Arms, our final hurrah! But it's become increasingly apparent this is no longer the case. We have a further 7 gigs booked in October, idea's for to record a homemade EP and we're in advance talks about an return to Europe in the new year. Even so, not all the fans new this, and so they apprehensively packed into the Acorn's old chapel to bid us goodnight. "Umm... we're not actually stopping anymore!" was met with loud cheers and applause and a great deal of whooping. We played to a capacity crowd and made merry long into the shoulder of the night. The next day we announced a secret gig at The Old Coastguard, we'd been billed as 'special guests' so as not to harm ticket sales the night before and the ploy had worked a treat. As we packed the gear up for a final time that weekend, we paused to reflect on the crossroads we are currently tiptoeing across. Yes, it seems this ship will continue. For now. In some form. As nice as it was to welcome back the guitar player, my oldest friend and with me, the founder of this band, it is unlikely he will commit to all of the up-coming engagements, if any. And just how available he will be in the future is unknown. Even to him. The drummer, who you may remember left the band in the summer, has returned, in some capacity at least. Warmly embraced he is too. It's been an hectic summer; despite all the uncertainty we've played 14 times since May in 4 totally different formations. 'We are the odd folk and it's true, we see green, you see blue' as the chorus begins in one of our best but least used songs. What other band calls a leaving party only to tell people there not leaving? Re-strings a mandolin with guitar strings only for them to break mid song? Risks their finances and reputation because of a tummy ache? Books a tour of The Lake District even though everyone is unavailable? Leaves a thousand pound instrument on the side of the road overnight?

Yes, myself and the bass player had loaded the gear into our separate car
s. The piano player was nowhere to be seen.
We decided to leave his keyboard and numerous plastic bags containing all his velvet jackets, food for the week and
his leads neatly on the roadside. He lived nearby. We explained what we'd done and slipped off home. The next day I bumped into the piano player on his way to work. "You'll never guess what!?" he said with a glint in his eye. "I only went and left my piano on the street last night!" My face screwed up in bewilderment. "He who dares, boys!" he said and skipped off down the road.

"He who dares, boys!"