Saturday, 17 March 2018

Adventures in Europa

And we’re off. 

Our third European Tour kicks off tonight at The Solomon Browne Hall in the theme park of Mousehole. I say theme park because sadly that is what the quaint fishing village has become, as summer’s kiss brings tones of tourists to the harbours edge crammed in likes sardines with camera’s clicking at the famous ‘mouse hole’. Giant family cars try to drive along the narrow streets and end up stuck in a fug of fumes as they honk there way to catering cottages and holiday homes. “When is the mouse hole open?” ask eager Americans, and “are the Christmas lights on all year round?”.

But to us, those that know the rabbit routes and wiggles, the little alcoves and hidden spots, the village still offers a sanctuary, in the close season, when the hum of traffic is on the horizon and not the doorstep. And so here we are,
using the village as a working/living place instead of a tourist trap, we begin our long journey that will take us 3000km to the far east of Germany and back. 

Of course, all the usual mishaps are firmly in place, I am on my way to pick up the bus, an old Mercedes called Doug, that we are borrowing off a fiend who assured me that despite his list of ailments the old boy will see us good. I am to expect a fair few idiosyncrasies but my friend is confident we’ll make it. 

We are totally skint, indeed we are rather in debt as I write and we’re kicking off procedures tonight in Mousehole tactically in order to actually leave Cornwall. 

We haven’t been in the same room since Christmas let alone played any music, the piano player has only just arrived back from Portugal penniless but purring from his recent new relationship. The guitar player is still absent, I wonder how long I can keep this up without admitting that he isn’t in the band anymore. His replacement is Louis Gulliver King who from now on will be known as ‘the accordion player’ to keep with tradition. This is a massive generalisation as he plays 4 other instruments for us but it seems better than ‘the multi player’ which sounds like a games console. 
The drummer isn’t coming to the launch party tonight because we can’t afford to pay for him to come down, that goes without saying if we can’t afford to leave!

We have a few new songs that are at best ideas without structure and lyrics and have never been played live but in time and as the days fall about they will find there way into our repertoire. I hope. Otherwise we are taking 4 year old material while trying to ‘re sell’ people CD’s that they bought on the last two tours.

We are playing a few new venues at least, a castle in Nümbrecht is one that sticks out and on a farm somewhere near Bremen. 

We have new t-shirts too that we borrowed money to make and need to sell 38 in order to breakeven, otherwise more debt occurs. 

The train is approaching Par now, where I will meet my friend and get introduced to Doug and hope that his symptoms aren’t too problematic. Surely he’ll be in better shape than dear old Walter from the last tour; the old motorhome without windscreen wipers who needed a pint of antifreeze in order to even entertain starting. 

A friend of mine recently asked me why I keep running this ship, at least in such a haphazard manner. I thought about this a lot and yes we could run a tighter ship. We could buckle up and get serious but somehow much of the magic would be lost. And it’s not that we go out of our way to flirt with disaster but you try borrowing a big enough van off a friend with only a pot of homemade marmalade in exchange. You take what you are given. We are just a bunch of Cornish friends trying the best we can with what we have and what we’ve learnt. We travel miles and miles to bring our music to as many of you as we can, not for money, but for the love of the story and sweetness of sharing.

So here we go again.

Looking forward :)



Monday, 8 January 2018

Oh what a wonderful year (2017)

I woke up alone on new year's day in an empty house. I don't want you feeling sorry for me, this was all tactical. My partner was heavily pregnant and wouldn't have taken kindly to me crashing in at stupid o clock. My bandmates and I were scattered like flowers the length of country, from Cornwall to Edinburgh; some sleeping, some sober, some still drunk.
scattered bandmates
We were all split up, as far from each other as the roots from the leaves. Welcome to a new year. We had no gigs on the horizon, no bookings. The sun was struggling to command a new day, let alone another year. And just like the fragile sun, I wondered if I had the drive for yet another one. It seemed as though we could just disappear, slip away quietly without the fan fair. 


JANUARY was long and as slow as an oak. The sense of dis-band-ment lingered like a bailiff. I wondered what would happen if I just stopped, half out of curiosity and half to make a point to the others that without someone's drive this engine would slowly seise up. Sooner or later I'd have one of them on the phone asking where we were playing next, and I'd simply say, "you tell me?". We were delicately poised, you must remember we'd organised a farewell gig only to tell everyone we weren't quitting, but perhaps we'd blurted that out! Perhaps we were quitting!? As is often the case our fans were the ones who reeled us back in. We had promised to return to Europe this spring, I had forgotten, I was supposed to be booking another European adventure! I phoned the drummer and off-loaded half the work onto him and then busied myself with venues in Germany and Denmark. As it happened my Swedish cousin did as much of the work as anybody, she booked us two gigs in Malmo and one in Copenhagen, the drummer found us a gig in Holland and we arranged to return to Antwerp's Cafe Den Hopsack.

FEBUARY was a hard month, I carried a niggling cold around like a lapdog. The harsh reality of trying to book the tour was becoming more evident by the day. We had the venues sorted, the problem was that they weren't offering much of a guarantee of money, and we only had £51 in the bank. Even more of a concern was that we had nowhere to stay and so were trying to book hostels without the means. When the guitar player pulled out, instead of foolishly driving off into the frozen north and leaving it all to chance, I pulled the plug and canceled it.

MARCH came and with it the refreshment of the first days of spring. Indoors or outdoors, nobody relaxes in March, when the sun shines hot and wind blows cold. Still no gigs and no enquiries, and so, hounded by guilt from cancelling the tour, I fled the country and went skiing in Sweden.

APRIL
 fool's day saw the birth of my second son, Enys, who became the 4th child born under the band's watch. We finally took on some gigs, we played at Rik's 70th as a trio and then we signed up to play a monthly residency at Nancarrow Farm over the summer months. Nancarrow was a large organic farm that hosted lavish dinner parties, and we were the background entertainment as people sampled food entirely grown on the grounds. We didn't get off the best start when the piano player forgot his leads and this time not even his father could bail him out. He sat in the field a while thinking about what he'd done, then, always adaptable, came and made piano noises with his mouth and tapped a drum and we just about pulled it off. Interestingly this latest setback inspired him to write a song called 'I can't believe that I forgot my leads' which chronicles the 14 times he's turned up at venues without them!

"All things seem possible in
 MAY". The mood was rosier as bookings finally started to trickle in. We returned to Nancarrow Farm and this time were armed with two sets of piano leads just in case one of them escaped from the bag and ran all the way home! Networking after the performance we collected another couple of gigs too, including hitting financial gold with a Wedding.  

"If a
 JUNE night could talk it would probably boast it invented romance". And romance was certainly in the air as we played twice at Fire in the Mountain festival in Wales. First a Friday night slot at the Traveling Barn and then at The Little Folks Stage on a sunny Sunday. It was gorgeous affair, set at the foot of a mountain and populated with the friendliest bunch of people. We made many new friends from all corners of our island and even some from Germany. Having the guitar player back was a nice addition and the drummer was there too playing with three different groups. Back in Cornwall we continued as a trio at Nancarrow Farm, and what was lovely was the three of us were starting to really gel. These low pressure gigs allowed us to experiment a little, allowed the three of us to jam, something we grew up doing and the piano player really excels at this. Spurred on and feeling creative, we took a gig at The Star Inn and the old pub was dancing like corks upon the waves.

In
 JULY we took our feet off the gas and explored other projects. I went head first into a play and the bass player went off traveling to Berlin. The piano player did stuff too, but I've forgotten what. We did all met up for one gig at the Ale and Anchor festival in Mousehole, drafting in Jack Watson on the guitar.

AUGUST saw the financial gold of a wedding back at Nancarrow Farm. The guitar player and drummer joining up and cherry picking this little payday. But we were forced to draft in another two new faces for Shambala Festival with Theo Black on guitar and Daisy Rickman on drums. Having a female in the band was a breath of fresh air and I must say we all behaved ourselves much more as a result. 

"With all these lovely tokens, 
SEPTEMBER days are here, with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer". Another formation change for a gig at Seasalt saw the cherry pickers back in the ranks. And later in the month we welcomed back Louis Gulliver King after his long absence treading the boards. He lined up for a wild night at The Cornish Barn and somewhat stole the show, indeed we were poached for another gig on the back of his performance!

The other gig came in
 OCTOBER at The Mexcio Inn and back with Mr. King in our favoured quartet formation we stormed it. It was the busiest the old place had been and a timely reminder of the strength of our fanbase in Cornwall. 
Indeed, that gig was largely responsible for us bringing back Merry Folking Christmas after a two year absence.

NOVEMBER served up the news that the bass player was moving to Berlin. And if that wasn't hard enough to take, the piano player informed us that he was moving somewhere too, also Berlin, or perhaps Austria, or maybe Portugal, but somewhere far away from here. That really could be the end of the band! Despite assurances from both that they'd return in the spring, there was a very real chance that neither would and I'd be a solo act!


DECEMBER rolled on with a succession of storms lining up to batter our shores. And the year ended just as it had begun, with me and the drummer plotting another hair-brained dash across Europe. March 2018 would see us return to the low countries and our growing reach in Germany. Or would it? We had cried wold back in February. But things are a little more healthier now. It was all a little rushed and careless back then. We took to the stage a final time for Merry Folking Christmas to a capacity crowd at The Acorn Theatre, and with a capacity lineup of 7. 

And so what a year that was hey? It almost didn't happen. But it was a year of change. We change formations as often as we do instruments now. Are we a quintet, a quartet or a trio? Or a septuplet for that matter! The Odd Folk welcomed it's 20th player up on stage when Anabelle Lainchbury lined up for Merry Folking Christmas. This is a sign of the times, the changing times. It was a year of saying no. A year of reason. Yes, we are still here and we will always chase the rainbows but a certain measure of realism must come into it. We need to put things in perspective. And I know that is not necessarily what you want to hear, nor what we are famous for, but the tides are changing, we're growing up a bit. And I know some of our best gigs have come because of mad-cap dashes to far flung places in silly cars all for the sake of the story! But family and jobs and that ghastly word 'real life' needs it's time too. We can't jeopardise that. And driving off to Copenhagen with no money a month before my son was due was a step too far. I'm no longer hounded by guilt because of it, but glad that I was big enough to admit defeat. This year we had no bookings and we still ended up with 14 gigs. It was the first year that we didn't play the chase and apply for slots every which way. Instead gigs came to us, and gigs lead to gigs, and that was a welcome change, as welcome as a star. We learnt to jam too, we learnt to experiment and adapt and evolve like a butterfly. 
And in doing so we made
brand new songs, organic musical interludes and we weren't scared to play them either. It was a year of growth. And of refreshment. Like the first day of spring.