Celtic Connections: The Once and Mike Vass

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The Drygate
Glasgow
Friday, January 23rd 2019


The Once and Mike Vass set sail from Nova Scotia and Nairn to bring home tonight’s
audience a grand haul of songs. Mike Vass opened the show with his first ever performance as a singer heading up a band. He is already, of course, well known as a composer, Malinky fiddle player, sailor, teacher and musical boat blogger of some renown. These latest songs constitute an autobiographical project transmitted in very emotionally engaging music which was characteristically well arranged for his chosen band of trumpet, cello, bass, keyboards and drums. In songs where the words matter, some are a bit thin on tunes, and some tuneful songs lose the impact of the words, but Vass’s songs strike just the right tune/word balance.

Of course it’s hard to hear everything at a live gig, but what I heard, I liked e.g. ‘I was only right to touch the tiller lightly’. There’s more to singing than the words and the tune, though, and with Mike’s confident stage presence and easy rapport, he might consider upping the emotional investment, as he becomes a more seasoned singer. He could do worse than studying The Once, who have been singing together since 2004. They have developed a very different autobiographical style which I found refreshingly honest and original, but on which my companion wasn’t so keen. It’s horses for courses, I guess. In terms of an imaginary Beaufort scale of emotional engagement, Mike would be a calm Force 2 or 3 (this comparison is maybe a bit unfair because in Vass’s songs the instruments were doing the emotional talking).

The Once, however, would be a brisk Force 5 or 6. Their music is full of strong melodies and close harmonies, more from a country/folk rock/roots tradition. But it was in the stories which precede some of the songs where the band, and its charismatic singer Geraldine Hollett, were most affecting, with both tragic and uplifting stories powerfully told, and later, sung. In contrast, Phil Churchill’s humour was refreshingly quirky. Since the concert ‘By the glow of the kerosene light’ has been going round my head. It’s a country song by fellow Newfie, Wince Coles, but it tells the kind of desperately sad story which did and still does sometimes happen. The Once sing it marvellously, but their own songs are
much more hopeful. ‘We are all running the same race’ is typical, and declares that ‘the
brightest dawn is yet to come’. Even if it isn’t, it’s nights like tonight which make it all
worthwhile. Something very strengthening is born of nights in winter singing songs which don’t shun sadness yet remain hopeful.

Reviewer: Catherine Eunson

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Celtic Connections: LoLanders featuring Fraser Fifield and Oene van Geel

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Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow
Tuesday January 22nd 2019


This concert was made possible thanks to ‘Going Dutch’, a project put together by the UK
and Ireland-wide Jazz Promotion Network with funding mainly from Dutch Performing Arts, and an additional contribution from Creative Scotland. Great gigs like this do indeed all flower from a creative partnership and a good idea meeting a source of funding. The concert marked the culmination of some days of playing together, but the project will continue for 6 more months, so it marks a significant investment in the future. Moreover Fraser Fifield is influential in more than one musical sphere in Scotland, so we can look forward to hearing the benefits of what will happen in the next 6 months for a long time to come. The Scottish musicians involved are Fraser Fifield on low whistle and small pipes (though he is also known as a saxophonist), Graeme Stephen on guitar, and Hardeep Deerhe on tabla. Their Dutch LoLander comrades are Oene van Geele on viola, Mark Haanstra on bass, and Udo Demandt on percussion. At least half of the band are also significant composers. So an unusual and very impressive line up, and one which pulls together an already entwined history of collaborations from its members. At the outset I should say how deftly the tabla and percussion fitted together, producing a marvellously lively foundation for a rhythm section which, along with the bassist, sounded as if they had been playing together for years.

The evening had started with the Scottish based Fergus MacCreadie trio who took us on a
journey full of melody and exploration. The drums of Stephen Henderson and the bass of
David Bowden combined securely and effortlessly and each number provided easily enough melodic charm and harmonic interest so that, as a listener, I felt more than happy to follow the subsequent explorations wherever they wanted to go. Maybe a trio can afford each other space, as keyboard, bass and drums have little need to worry about crowding out the others, or maybe these musicians are just very adept at storytelling. Either way this was the perfect band to introduce the sextet who were to follow. Every number they played was a winner, so it’s also difficult to pick out especial highlights. But just to prove I was there and I was listening, I’ll pick out the unison bass and keyboard melody line introducing the second number as being noticeably effective, as well as the three nameless new numbers before the warmth and spaciousness of ‘An Old Friend.’ Do yourselves a favour and either buy the album ‘Turas’ or go and see the Fergus McCreadie Trio soon. Or even better, both.

The only slight bump in the concert’s road came at the very start of the LoLanders own set, when I missed the spaciousness and easy confidence of what had come before as the energy of the bigger band seemed to jump up like a slightly over friendly dog. But it all settled down very quickly. Or was it that I woke up? Probably both, and the inventiveness and variety of the LoLanders set soon proved, and remained fascinating. It also helps when you have a really charismatic personality on stage like Oene van Geele. He relished every chance to attack a syncopated beat, his solos took flight and his spontaneous jumps landed perfectly. This liveliness certainly acted as a visual focus for the group, as did the drums and percussion. And let’s not underestimate the visual drama, the dance, if you like, of making music. Much in the music was mercurial as in, ‘Chase it, catch it’. Spoiler alert – it got away!

Now I’m not a guitar expert, but Graeme Stephen’s instrument looks and sounds like quite a character. Never once did you wonder why there were so many notes happening. Instead Stephen showed his compositional sense and feeling for the drama of the music throughout. Fraser Fifield’s low whistle and Oene’s viola were also a vibrant combination. Fifield also occasionally and very successfully brought out the small pipes and with them came a couple of tunes from the traditional repertoire. All in all this was a great energetic display of wonderful jazz from a well mixed group of instruments, throughout which the inventiveness and lyricism of Fifield’s low whistle shone. I hope to hear more from them all again soon.

Reviewer: Catherine Eunson

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Celtic Connections: Mariza & Support

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Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Monday, January 21st 2019


I took my seat at the back of the main concert hall, taking it all in. The setting was striking, with the marvellous Celtic Connections signature logo projected in black on the left hand stalls and in red on the stage’s back screen. As the lights dimmed, the musicians of the support act calmly took their places and the magic began.

Spotlights picked out each performer as they embarked upon their tender and emotional musical journey, sometimes individually, sometimes in combination. The theme was ancient Scottish culture, portrayed through poetry – ancient stories in ancient music had the performance travelling through tragedy through to childlike joy. The solo singer carefully stood her ground as she bathed us in her beautiful voice, enhanced by an accompaniment performed in perfect harmony, like an organ being played by several people. Whole songs were written on the one tone like a melodic drone with the instruments effortlessly guiding each other to make the chord swell to fill the hall and dance over its high walls. She was joined by a second singer for two songs of her own composition. A fitting prelude to the main performer.

Mariza and her accompanying musicians, on guitar, Portuguese guitar, acoustic bass – and accordion – performed their first haunting song in darkness. The mood had changed to Fado, an old musical genre with its roots in Mariza’s native Portugal. There was an almost ephemeral quality about the singer’s amazing gown in a light grey/blue which seemed to echo the lightness and ever-changing quality of the music, and to subtly promise an equally well-crafted evening, which indeed it turned out to be, with production values that could not have been bettered.

Mariza held the audience in the palm of her hand as, moving easily in that gorgeous gown, she spoke to us, introducing each song and drawing us in to the stories she was telling through her music, now sad, now joyously happy. Fado seems to embrace many genres of world music, moving between them with mind boggling fluidity as we were continuously introduced to yet another facet, another possibility that the music could embrace. And yet there was a great unity between them which Mariza captained and conducted. We could hear the Portuguese side but could also see the African element of her heritage.

The early promise was more than fulfilled in the performance, from the vocals and the intense musical accompaniment, to the visual impact created by the singer and her band, to the first class set. There was a presence there that lifted and conquered the hall, with a voice and music that was compelling and variable. Her intimacy as a performer was matched by her vivacious vocals. She moved around, she sat on the edge of the stage sharing her heart with us, talking about love and her goals in life, telling us that for her music is all about love. And living up to each and every point of celebration she wished to make in the marvellous uplifting music.

This was a haunting and lovely celebration of the beauty and power of music with a world class performer genuinely happy to be taking part in the Celtic Connections Festival. As she left the stage she took a walk round the hall, greeting friend and stranger alike (friends had come from home to see her). She opened herself up to everyone, come what may. Totally captivating.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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Celtic Connections: The Big Music Society

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Mackintosh Church
Glasgow
Friday, January 18th 2019


The audience which came in from the Maryhill snow to the purple-lit Mackintosh Church soon realised they had entered a very special world. Pìobaireachd, Ceòl Mòr, the ‘Big Music’ is the classical music of the pipes and is like an independent state within a world. Define classical music anyone? Ask Alan MacDonald, really funny as well as knowledgeable in his introductions. According to him classical music ‘raises great expectations that a tune might break out.’ Pìobaireachd music starts with the measured statement of a tune, then repeats it with increasingly complex embellishments and variations before returning to it at the end. In the past the performance of this music has been rather constrained by convention, but Alan has done a great deal to bring it to life, and to contemporary audiences, as have the Big Music Society. In retrospect it was perhaps a shame that we didn’t hear a complete solo pibroch in the fantastic acoustics of the Mackintosh church. But the arrangements were substantial and mostly worked marvellously. One of the most effective was ‘Gabhaidh sinn an Rathad Mor’ a tune which has certainly been about a bit, and which progressed in good style to a grand conclusion, seeming to pick up both the Penguin Café Orchestra and the Vatersay Boys along the way. And if there is anything more exciting than the sound of the pipes, it is the sound of the pipes deferred, so that halfway through a tune you were already enjoying, comes the sight of a couple of guys hoisting the pipes on their shoulders and blowing up the bags in preparation, so you realise everything is about to go up a significant gear. Marvellous stuff, and with a double bass adding just enough to the foundations to support the whole musical structure.

The concert was called ‘Seinn (Sing) air a’ Phìob’ because in Gaelic pipers sing on their pipes. Singing and piping are inextricably linked and indeed singing ran throughout the concert, with the piping coming mostly in the second half. In the first half Maighread Stewart and Ingrid Henderson gave a stunning set of songs and solos with voice and harp. What a partnership they are with the harp sounding so refreshing and colourful you could almost taste it. In general, for me it was in the singing that the greatest highlights were to be found. The song about Deirdre of the Sorrows, the first song in praise of whisky, and in the second half the charismatic singing of Alan Macdonald stood out memorably. Not only were the audience treated to Maighread and Alan’s singing, Mairi MacInnes was there, and her rendition of Maol Donn was unforgettable. Then Kathleen MacInnes appeared as a surprise guest, bringing her soulful impact into the world of the concert. I enjoyed it all and, indeed, if I had to go to exactly the same thing tomorrow I most certainly would. Calum MacCrimmon and John Mulhearn deserve great praise for initiating and, more importantly, growing and maintaining the Big Music Society, making the event what it was. Long may it, and they, flourish.

Reviewer: Catherine Eunson

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An Interview with The Victor Pope Band

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Edinburgh’s finest band are about to release their long-awaited fourth album, THIS IS GOING TO HURT… the Mumble were honour’d to get a wee blether with the band before their highly anticipated album launch


Hello Victor and welcome back to Mumble Towers (read last year’s interview here). This time you’ve brought an entourage, your band, can you tell us who they all are and what they play?
Victor: Well there’s me, otherwise known as Victor Pope, on acoustic guitar and vocals. Roy Jackson, also known as Nice one Man on backing vocals, melodica, mandolin and electric guitar (usually not all at once), Jess Aslan, otherwise known as Terminator Jess, on keys, Graeme Mackay, otherwise known as Grime, on bass and finally Jon Harley, otherwise known as Cuddles McGee, on drums.

Hello guys, nice to meet you. So, Jon, as the heartbeat of the group, what is the true ethos behind the Victor Pope band?
Jon: It’s always a singular pleasure playing a drumkit with Mr. Victor because, quite simply, Vic is Love!

Victor Pope & Graeme chatting with The Mumble in the pub

Hello Roy, this is the band’s fourth album, where, when and by whom was it recorded?
Roy: We recorded the full band with Alan Moffat & co at the old Leith Recording Studios above/next to Leith Depot pub. They drilled through the walls & used the Depot’s gig room as a live room. The council have now chucked them out of their premises though, so Edinburgh Uni can get more students in, but I believe Alan recently secured a new property in Leith & they’re back up & running again. Woo hoo!!

Hello Jess! You bring an interesting sound to the band, what is it and how did your musicianship evolve into the instrument?
Jess: Hi Mumble.I play a mono synthesiser adding some melodies and sometimes harsher sounds to the songs. I joined a few years ago, and love working with the guys. Steve’s pretty specific (demanding) about the sounds he feels works or don’t work with the song. Really it’s easy to implement a sound world if someone’s already got a fixed idea of how they want it to go. Not to make out he’s a control freak about the songs or anything (is that what we’re meant to say Steve?)

That’s great. Bouncing back to Victor now – what would you say are the band’s biggest influences
Victor Pope: We all bring our own unique flavors to the brew but for me it’s songwriters who value truth over musicianship. I’m into me lyrics and a bit of humor doesn’t hurt either. People like Lou Reed, Syd Barret, Billy Bragg, Kimya Dawson, the Television Personalities, Jon Otway, Jon Cooper Clarke, Daniel Johnston and Half Man Half Biscuit.

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Recording the album on Leith Walk, edinburgh

Hello Graeme – the Victor Pope Band are your first band playing bass. How is the experience improving your skill and your style (try not to mention me unless it’s in proper context) and how would you describe the basslines and vibe you supply.?
Graham: Hi Mumble. Indeed, I picked up bass for the first time in order to support the Victor Pope band and their surge to the top! The biggest help above all that improved me as a player are the people around me. Steve, Jess, Jon and Roy are all incredibly accomplished musicians and the music just flows out of them from every pore! I like to watch what they are all doing and take bits here and there to add to what I am doing. I think it’s what all good bands do – learn from each others strengths! My basslines are all pretty simple but I think that gives others the platform to inject a little more pezang into the songs. My vibe? Mr reliable

Back to Victor, can you tell me about the song selection for the band’s fourth album?
Victor: Well, there’s a lot of new stuff on there but there’s also a couple of old classics I’ve dredged up from the back catalog. One song in particular, Voodoo when U smile, I wrote about twenty years ago. It’s kind of a twisted take on a love song. I believe it was Bukowski who said “Love is a mad dog from hell” and I guess it’s my take on that. The rest of the songs cover a variety of topics. It’s not really a concept album. It’s more of a selection box where you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get next. I like albums like that. They keep you on your toes. But I like to think humor and a cynical, almost nihilistic viewpoint on life are recurrent themes. I’m a bit of a miserable bastard really. But I like to laugh about it.

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Jon at the Sketchy Beats Tent, Lindisfarne Festival 2019

This is a question for anybody to answer; You’ve opened up you house during the fringe via AirB&B’ and three famous figures from history are staying – who would they be and what would you make for breakfast?

Graeme: Will need to think about the 3 but they’d all be getting sliced sausage rolls that’s for sure!!

Jon: For me, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin and Grigori Rasputin. When they’re finally all chatted out and snoring wax their beards together and see how they get on with their waffles with eggs poached in vodka

Graeme: Ok. Tutankhamen, Jesus, Tollund Man. Nice mix of historic figures there and plenty to talk about.

The Mumble: Graeme, you’d give meat to Jesus?

Graeme: I’m not sure you could even class sliced sausage as meat!

Victor: Charles Bukowski, The Marquis de Sade and Mr Bean. Chocolate Fudge Sundee.

Roy: I’d invite Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix & Mozart. Not sure exactly what I’d make but it would definitely be something with jam in.

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Jess

Jess: Wow boys, no women?!

Victor: It’d be nice to have a lady there but I’d be worried if Mr Bean started to get a bit lecherous..

Jon: Good point luv… ditch Marx for Annie Jones Elliot.

Jess: Three air bnb guests will be Delia Derbyshire the boss of electronic music, Roberto Bolaño seemed like a pretty cool cat and Mac Miller who just died way to soon and should come back and make some more excellent pop music – Porridge and apple as standard.

Victor: OK. Margret Atwood instead of Mr Bean. Bah humbug.

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The Album Cover (artwork by Mira Knoche)

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Roy

Thanks guys, so back to the new album, I’ve been listening to it & its great work. Graeme, Your bass on festival casualty is really top notch, can you tell us how. It was created and do you think it’s your best work on the album?
Graeme: Interesting you say that as I would say that Festival Casualty is my weakest song on the album in terms of bass. The bass line I am most pleased with is the suicide (specifically the chorus). It kind of came out of nowhere but looking back at it there seem to be some similarities to Rock the Casbah I’ve noticed! It’s all about taking in your influences when coming up with new music. Recycling old material.

Roy, you’ve been with the band since the start. Does this album capture the band’s live sound, or is their a lot of overdubbing. Also, how would you describe the band’s sound overall?
Roy: We always like to record the bones of a track live in the round whenever possible & that’s what we did again for this album. I suppose the more you record the more you begin to think about overdubs though. Certainly on this record there were backing vocals & percussion that we only conceived when we were listening to the live rushes. Also, I would describe our sound as loud!!

So Steve, you’re launching the album this weekend, can you tell us about it?
Victor: Aye. Well it’s set up to be a big night. We’ve got Little Love and the Friendly Vibes supporting us who are one of my favorite bands in Edinburgh. We’ve done a lot of gigs with them, they’re kind of like our sister band, as their sound is quite close to the kind of thing we do. We’re trying to start a scene but so far it’s just us two bands. We’ve also got Lou McLean who writes these beautifully sharp, witty and honest songs who we saw at a previous gig with Little Love and were very impressed. I bought both her CDs! We’ll have merch for sale including the new album of course and the previous one plus some T shirts. And we’re doing 2 45 minute sets. The new album back to back and a kind of greatest hits set after that. Oh, and it’s at Leith Depot, 7pm onwards, Saturday 19th January, a mere 3 pounds entry. We like Leith Depot. It’s kind of like our home turf.


THE LEITH DEPOT

SATURDAY 19TH JANUARY

Review by Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Strengths gather fears and worry dissolve. It had been one of them days January blues. I skipped down Leith walk to the Depot in time for Anne McIntosh’s Birthday gathering. The Depot was packed with creatives that I love and we had a really beautiful start to the nights proceedings. Hugs and kisses at every turn. I first saw Steven Vickers perform as Victor Pope, taking the stage of a Strip Cub on Lothian Rd 5 years ago. It was one of Granny Nessie Radge Romie’s musical spectaculars and the night that Steve first blew me away. Hmmm I thought. He can have a private dance. indeed in the resulting years that followed our friendship would bloom, both being Northern English Urchins gave us a bond. And for a while I became part of the rhythm section of The Victor Pope Band.

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Tonight’s performance was a gig in two halves. The first half was the new album “This Is Going To Hurt” performed in full. The second half was a greatest hits set. Having performed with the band more times than I have seen them, being part of the audience was quite a thrill, Acis As had travelled from London to perform this groundbreaking intimate gig. It didn’t take long to have the place bouncing and it soon became evident that this new album, is to be the release that takes The Victor Pope band to the next level of performance art . The greatest hits set was fantastic in the same way. Knowing the rhythm of each song set my dancing feet on fire. It was a fantastic gig and the perfect tonic. Everyone was buzzing and excited in the knowledge that something legendary had taken place.

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2019 is going to be the year that sees this very entertaining Band reach greater heights of creative and performance success. The Perfect Tonic and Remedy great Rock N Roll and great friends, thanks everyone for transforming the Divine January Blues.

Photography: Anne Macintosh


www.thevictorpopeband.bandcamp.com

 

 

Teenage Funkland 3: Newport

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Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s Retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop: The Oasis gig at Tjs, May 3rd, 1994


The train jump to Wales was a dead easy affair… a simple buffet-trip pass-by move on the conductor found us sitting in the Dead Zone (the area where he had already swept), smiling widely, the next stop Wales. I’d nicked the first ever copy of glossy new lads mag ‘Loaded’ from Manchester WH Smiths (59,400 actually bought the magazine), & was eagerly gorging on the laddisms – I was a lad, too, a young impressionable one, but still a lad. So was Nicky actually, maybe more of a geezer than a lad, but still fuckin’ cool. Marketed with the tagline “For men who should know better”, Loaded was originally published by IPC Media, took its title from the Primal Scream song & was the natural, cooler evolution of the worldscape defined by Viz & its readership. “What fresh lunacy is this?” went its opening editorial, “Loaded is a new magazine dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of sex, drink, football and less serious matters. Loaded is music, film, relationships, humour, travel, sport, hard news and popular culture. Loaded is clubbing, drinking, eating, playing and eating. Loaded is for the man who believes he can do anything, if only he wasn’t hungover.”

One of the highlights of the magazine was an ambitious young actress, the 27 year-old English Rose that was Elizabeth Hurley, looking tough, sultry & damned sexy. “I‘m forever being offered roles,” she complained, “where I wear a low cut dress, mini skirt, have dirt on my face and an AK47 in my hand driving a porsche but whats the point?” Not that famous at this point,  she’d been in Beyond Bedlam – its terrible, shes great – & one of the Sharpe episodes (Sharpe’s Enemy). Her boyfriend was an equally unfamous Hugh Grant – Four Weddings & a Funeral is a few weeks away yet – & in the magazine Hurley complained that while in Russia she found Madonna hitting on Hugh.

Back in my wee world we passed through Cheshire, Shropshire & Gloucestershire before pulling in to Bristol one early afternoon in late April. From there we jumped on a big intercity that was heading to Cardiff, which was so advanced in it’s journey the conductor was sat on his arse… then we came to Newport. Following a cursory inspection of the town to our surprise we found it looked just like England. In a record shop window we saw a poster advertising an Oasis gig in Newport in a week or two…

Buzzin, we’ve gotta go!”

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The NME version of the tour poster

From Newport we caught a train a little train that wound through North through the valleys. Here we were in the heartlands of Wales, where the hills echo the sweetly sung songs of the miners & the chief occupation of the women was getting pregnant as soon as possible & living off benefits. This job reminded me of Liverpool’s main source of income… accident claims. Deeper into those trench-like vales we found ourselves in a small town not far from Blackwood. We went to Michelle’s & were welcomed with a slap-up feast. Suitably fed we caught a couple of buses & arrived in an obscure village. There, she introduced us to her friend Lisa, who gave us the keys to her pad & scarpered. So that was us in Ynyssdu!

The Author revisiting Ynysddu in 2018

Your author outside his old house (number 8)

Ynyssdu! I still can’t really believe I lived there…. What a mad litter place. Firmly entrenched in the valleys, home for a few hundred mad Welsh, it sported a rugby pitch, Mobile chippy & shop. I didn’t see many leeks & I didn’t hear much singin’, but the people were friendly & accomadating, even the very kind woman in the shop giving us credit when we went hungry. Across an Iron bridge over a little river you could walk along a grassy, disused railway that once used to take the coal from the valleys to civilisation. Our home stood on Commercial Street, me & Nick living downstairs & two crazy Welsh guys upstairs. We shared a kitchen, although all they ever seemed to eat were brown sauce butties. Our own fare was hardly better, oven chips, sausages, plumbed tomatoes & fish fingers… a hell of a lot of fish fingers. Everytime we our jumbo-sized box of fish-fingers back in the freezer we dossed a bit on the new-fangled Magnetic Poetry set that Lisa had left on the fridge. Hundreds of tiny fridge magnets with random words typed onto them suddenly became amazing poems. Or that was the theory, me & Nick just competed to make up the rudest sentence we could. There was also Mari-mari. He was a little budgie left behind in the flat & we soon grew hardened to his constant tweetin. It was nice to have a pet & before too long we were firmly attached to the little fella… we were like a family!

A couple of fifteen-year old schoolgirls soon collared us & we were invited to babysittin sessions with them… booze, spliffs & snoggin ensued but me & nick positively refused to assist their quest for child benefit money & housing benefit… but they were dead sound all the same. On a couple of occasions we went to the one-screen cinema in Blackwood, all sat snogging & fumbling in the dark. We saw Ace Ventura rescue the Miami Dolphin’s pet Dolhin (reyt funny) & creased up at a showing of Cool Runnings & the Jamaican Bob Sled team’s Eddie the Eagle Edwards style efforts to win gold at the ’88 Calgary Winter Olympics… again, reyt funny.

For cash we signed on up in Blackwood, about fifty quid a week pocket money seeing as we had no rent to pay. Enough for spliffs on the hillside, pool down the pub & our munchies. Michelle’s mate had left us a stereo, so we listened to Supersonic & this tape that Michelle had given us. It was Bjork’s solo masterwork Debut – released 5th July 1993 – one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop. We instantly fell for her quirky, haunting voice as she grooved away through tunes such as the opening throbbing wonder of Human Behaviour & the epic glory of Big Time Sensuality, which made my ultimate DJ set. An “anthem to emotional bravery,” featuring a bouncing riff sampled from Antônio Carlos Jobim, it contains lyrics described as “simple but passionate”, concerning Björk’s relationship with her co-producer Nellee Hooper.

The hard core, & the gentle,

Big Time Sensuality…

I also got to know one of Michelles’ arty mates, Lisa. She lived in a nice cottage & lent us a casio keyboard to make some tunes on. One day, whilst waiting for our smoke to arrive, we were struck by the muse & expressed ourselves in song, Mari-Mari tweeting along to the tune. Weed is a clear classic… drawin on the classical three chord turnaround, CFG, we told the story of a simple country boy caught by the fuzz, locked up & needin a smoke. We got the chorus from a vocal Nick buzzed off down the Orbit… here’s the lyrics;

Way back when I was a farmer
Growin some marijuana
In the middle of a bush-like-field,
Smokin all the crops I yield,
And you don’t know what I need,
Yes you don’t know what I need,
I need some weed…
Herb a weed an a
Weed a gange an a
Ganja a weed an a
Weed a marijuana

I sold some ganja to my lover,
She was a copper undercover,
Now I drink water with my bread,
Don’t have a reefer to ease my head,
And you don’t know what I need,
Yes you don’t know what I need,
I need some weed…

See what I mean, a clear classic, which ended up as part of one of the songs in my ‘Alibi’ musical.

Splashed all cross the headlines at the time were the forthcoming Presidential Elections in South Africa. (26-29 April) For decades that vasty country swathed across Africa’s southern tip had been the problem-child of global harmony. Apartheid had not eased a fundamentally racist system, where an Imperial white minority once again kept an indigenous people shackled in semi-slavery. But the age of Empire had passed & eventually the voices of the native blacks & a contemptuous world boomed too loudly & Nelson Mandela was freed. He became the leader of the African National Congress & was put up for election… & a democratic one at that. A landslide was expected & despite a series of bombings by anarchist neo-nazis attempting to disrupt them, he became the first black president of South Africa. As he was being sworn in dignitaries from all across the world sweltered in the African heat, but everyone of them was happy as the world seemed to step into a new era of harmony. The three centuries old flag was furled, a new flag raised & the decolonisation of Africa became complete.

In the world of comedy, on Sunday 24th april, the British elite all turned up at Saddler’s Wells Theatre on behalf of the Terrence Higgins Trust to promote safer sex in the early days of the fightback against AIDS & HIV. Steve Coogan was just at the dawn of his immeasurably brilliant career, while the Spitting Image puppets were at the end of theirs.

 

On the arrival of a giro we caught the bus to Newport on a combined scouting & shopping mission. As we passed thro Ynyssdu’s neighbouring village, Cymfeilanfach (pronounced cum-vel-lin) we noticed how much the word looked like Come for a feel and a fuck… called the latter from that moment onwards. After an hour or so of Southerly winding we arrived at Newport. It’s not that bad a place, & I liked the bridge that spans the river. The shops were cool enough & from a record stall at the market I got two tickets for the Oasis gig… After a Maccy Dees we wound back home & slapped on Oasis…

“I’m feelin Supersonic

Give me gin & tonic”

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So, the day of the Oasis gig had come, the 3rd of May 1994. Ayrton Senna had died at San Marino on Mayday, only a day after his friend Roland Ratzenberger had died on the same course. About the same time the dodgy guy from upstairs rolls down Commercial Road in a funky little green Datsun. We didn’t ask where it came from, but bought it fer thirty quid. Nick loves his drivin, how many a cruise had I shared with him buzzin about our homelands. After putting in two pounds worth of petrol we rode the road to Newport… the bus journeys now a distant memory. After parking up we admired our green steed then went to scout out TJ’s, where the gig was gonna happen. It was yer typical small town venue… a stage, a dance floor & a bar, with rock-stars & album covers plastered across every inch of wall space. We found out the time it all kicked off & headed back out into sunshine. Just as we did so a big white van with Salford van hire emblazened across it pulled up outside the venue. The doors slid open & who would cockily burst out onto the pavement but Mr Liam Gallagher. He was inside the venue in a flash, followed a little more casually by Bonehead & Noel. Further up the street we met the rythym section, Tony MaCarrol & Guigsy, munching on a Maccy Dees.

“Good luck with the gig fellas!”

 “O… cheers!”

They said with the novelty of being stopped & recognized in the streets of a foreign country… something they would have to get used to very quickly. These rapscallions from the back stage of Burnage simply had the knack of getting through to normal people They were unpretentious in a pretentious kind of way. When they needed a verse for the soon-to-be-released Shaker Maker, for example, Noel Gallagher found himself pulled up at some traffic lights outside Mr Sifter’s second-hand record shop in Manchester, leading to the spontaneous lyric;

Mister Sifter sold me songs
When I was just sixteen
Now he stops at traffic lights
But only when they’re green

Wildly unoriginal, their music is a museum of British pop culture – Beatles, Kinks, Clash, Sex Pistols – its all there somewhere, woven together by Noel’s great ear for melody & his brother’s unbelievable swagger & voice, it was a winning combination.

People coming down here on a Tuesday, its raining, and it’s like this is gonna be a mega night, it happened to me when I went to see the Roses, know what I mean, to be part of summat
Liam Gallagher

 

 

Image result for oasis tjs 1994Before they’d reached Wales, the boys had been on an extensive tour of smallish venues across Britain; Lucifer’s Mill, Dundee (5th April), La Belle Angel, Edinburgh (6th April), The Tramway, Glasgow (7th April), Middlesborough Arena (8th April) The Wheatsheaf, Stoke (11th April), The Duchess, Leeds (12th April), The Lomax, Liverpool (13th April), The Adelphi Club, Hull (29th April), Coventry University (30th April) The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (2nd May). It was TJ’s, Newport, next – & me & Nick were gonna be there!

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TJs was a legendary nightclub which became a symbol of the city’s burgeoning music scene – dubbed at one time as ‘the new Seattle’ by New York Times critic Neil Strauss. Founded in 1971 by the late John Sicolo, the venue’s stage has been graced by some of the biggest names in music history, developing a reputation that also led DJ John Peel to dub it ‘The Legendary TJs’. For many gig-goers, TJs was a cultural melting pot – a venue that gave unknown bands a chance while providing an electric atmosphere, a community and a place to meet musical heroes.

TJ’s was voted one of the top 50 ‘Big Nights Out’ in the world by FHM in December 1997. TJs closed down a few years ago, but its ‘spit and sawdust’ vibe – there was no stage, it was eight-inches off the floor – was fondly remembered by the thousands who ventured into its den. There is even a myth that Kurt Cobain proposed to Courtney Love on the night her band Hole played TJs in 1991. Catatonia filmed their single “Mulder and Scully” at the venue while other bands which played at T.J’s early in their careers include Manic Street Preachers, Green Day, The Offspring, Lostprophets, Iron Maiden, The Stone Roses, Muse, Primal Scream, The Vandals, The Ataris, and Skunk Anansie.

Oasis had formed in 1992 when Liam Gallagher & Bonehead formed a band called Rain. Apparently they weren’t very good, but when Noel Gallagher turned up in Manchester, flush with cash after roadieing on the Inspiral Carpets US tour, things were about to get better. After playing the other Burnage boys Live Forever they were bowled over enough to let him take over the band. Kitting them out with good gear with his wages he proceeded to write the stuff of Definitely Maybe & gig like hell until that fateful day in Glasgow when they met the Creation Records Uberfuhrer, Alan McGee. He basically fell in love with the fellow drug monkeys that were the musical version of Ade Edmonson & Rik Mayall in bottom, & the rest is history

We’ve got quite a lot of female interest at the moment through the band. Backstage in the dressing room at this one London gig there was this really good looking girl, man, & she says, ‘ Do you want me to like, do anything for you?’ So I said, yeah pass us a beer out of the fridge will you.
Noel Gallagher

After smoking a few spliffs in the balmy evening’ air we handed over our tickets & found ourselves in the gloomy depths of TJ’s. The roadies were setting up the gear & checking sound, while the club begin to slowly fill up… very slowly. On the floor of the stage a roadie taped down the set list & I checked it out. Supersonic was down, as was Ciggarettes & Alcohol, both tunes I knew. Then at the bottom I saw I Am the Walrus scribbled down.

“Yo Nick, they’re playin the Beatles!”

 And on they came, the fifty or so punters not really sure what was gonna happen. They barely spoke a word as they thundered through their set, tune after tune of crunching guitars, loud drums & Liam’s crackling chaunt. Proper buzzin. Miles better than some dodgy rave or a cider-drowned hootenanny. So this was Rock ‘n’ Roll… cool!

I am The Walrus came on to finish, & we had a bit of a dance, as were most of the other fifty or so folk, buzzin’ off the rythmic handcuff swagger of the Mondays dash’d with & slobbering splash of crunchy guitars… then all of a sudden… “Cheers… good night!” And then they were gone. The club emptying in a sort of semi-daze, but all acknowledging that Oasis weren’t bad at all. Outside, Nick skinned up a spliff while I bought a couple of cans of lager & we chilled out under the stars. All of a sudden the temperature dropped & we decided to drive home. Unfortunately, back at the Datsun she wouldn’t start.

“Must be petrol…”

Said Nick & we pushed a mile through the lamplit streets of Newport til we found a garage. In to the tank went our last two quid & I stood nervously waiting while Nick turned the ignition… nothing happened. Luckily enough, a guy who recognized us from the gig passed by. We explained our predicament & he took us to a student party. There, we smoked the last of our weed & talked about the gig with other guys & it was all kinda cool. However, some guy spewed in some other guys bed & we all got kicked out.

“What shall we do now!”

“We gonna have ter sleep in car!”

“Yer jokin!”

What else can we do?

 It wasn’t the best nights sleep we’ve ever had, scrunched up in the back of a datsun, no coat on & cold as fuck. It wasn’t quite sleeping rough but it was pretty damn close. After a few uncomfortable hours Dawn broke & we were at the bus station waiting for the bus. I retold our story to the driver, of how we had bought a Datsun, how we had been to a gig, how we’d had to sleep in the car & how we had no cash.

“On yer go boyos!”

And we were away. On getting back to our little room it was the first time we’d valued it as a home… & it was good to be back. I turned round to Nick, & with a cheeky smile said,

“Yo Nick, we live in fuckin Wales!”

Ynyssdu – 2018


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

———

1: THE MURDER OF KURT COBAIN

2: SUPERSONIC

3: NEWPORT

4: YOUNG ROSES

5: THAT LONDON

6: ON THE ROAD

 

 

Divine’s Hogmanay

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Stramash, Edinburgh
31.12.2018.


Having lived in Edinburgh for the greater part of my life now, Hogmanay I have experienced, the bells and the Fireworks, from just about every location possible in Edinburgh. On Princess Street, Calton Hill, Arthurs Seat, Blackford Hill, last years Princes St Gardens. With the frequency of mega firework displays in Edinburgh. The appeal for the OOOOoo Ahhhhhhh factor wains somewhat. So I wasnae sure what I was going to do this year., however good The Human League, Colonel Mustard And The Dijon 5 and Rag N Bone Man were at last years street party was baltic and not the most comfortable gig I have attended So the musical draw was nae there for me this year.

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The Muse was taking me to the Cowgate and Stramash to witness and groove Three local Bands that I have celebrated in reviews of past years. Sea Bass Kid, who I shared the bill with at Granny Radge’s Hogmanay Bash at The Backpackers in 2014. They were first on, so I made sure that I was on time.to experience proceedings with David Blair and our host Steven StramashThank you for the invite guys  . Sea Bass Kid were the perfect band to bring the Bells in. A Folky Stomp that cover everything from Reggae, Ska, Rock N roll Folk and traditional Scottish tunes. The dance was on and Stramash was packed to the rafters. at the Bells, Aulde lang Sign was the song of choice and everyone in Stramash Loved hugged and kissed. It was awesome. When they did a cover of Underworlds Born Slippy, performed in sea Bass Kids unique Folk Rock way, myself and the celebrating audience agreed, it was absolutely fantastic. 5 stars all round guys. Awesome 

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There were so many people in Stramash last night that I love and had nae seen for a while. there was a really good vibe perfectly created by Sea Bass Kid. The party was on. Bombskare are a local Ska outfit that have achieved great things in recent years becoming festival headliners, with an infectious blend of Rock N Roll and Traditional Ska. Its been a while They always bring my inner Ska Boy out and I was all Walt Jabsco for the occasion. Sea Bass kid had warmed the venue to fever pitch Bombskare set it on fire. Everyone was having the best time. fantastic Gig Another 5 stars.

By 2.00am on The First Of January 2019. I was knackered and my hip was nipping, my boots though, were supporting my sartorial elegance and thoughts of blisters were far from my mind. So my apologies to Jay Supa and his wonderful band for not staying for his performance, But they are a band that have created the funk in my world in years past and I know that you will have continued the delight in my absence. Love you guys.  Divinexx.

All in All 5 Stars All Round

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert