Monday, 10 February 2014

On The Road Again

This Saturday saw our return to the live circuit with our first gig of 2014..
Hard to believe we haven't played together since 31st December.
January is traditionally our quietest month and this year was no exception, but it gives the four of us the chance to catch up on those things we can't normally do when we're out and about entertaining the nation's newly-weds: family time, Saturday night TV...and sleep.
As you can imagine, after five weeks of Saturday night TV...we were raring to go with the start of our gigging year.
Worries that the lay-off may have made us a little rusty soon dissipated - it seems the break has done us good. Muscle memory is a marvellous thing, and all those songs you have played a thousand times but not given a moment's thought in weeks all come flooding back to the fingers as soon as the beat is counted in and the first number kicks off.

Sometimes playing an instrument can make you a little jaded towards even the music that you love.
It's a bit like watching a magician...but you know what's up his sleeve, or you know where the mirror is, or the hidden trapdoor. But other times, you believe in the magic again and it feels like flying.

And so begins a year, no doubt, of highs and lows. Of great shows where music sweeps us up on a magic carpet ride, of lousy on-stage sound that batters our eardrums into submission, of cheering crowds that let us play "rock star" for the night, of Monday mornings that come too soon, of seeing the same motorways, with the same roadworks for months on end, of the pride of being part of a couple's big day, of losing precious time with those nearest and dearest..those we do all this for. High notes, low notes, blue notes, sweet notes. Like all the best music.


Thursday, 22 August 2013

In At The Deep End

Please say hello to my weapon of choice for my latest gig.

The sharp-eyed and mathematically astute amongst you will have spotted that this is a guitar with only four strings on it, and yes, it is confession time: I have crossed over to the Dark Side and for one show only, I have become....(whisper it) ...a bassist.

Indeed, due to our regular singer being away at the V Festival last weekend, we had a shuffle around within the band and went out as a three-piece rather than our usual four, a shuffle which necessitated me switching instruments and...ahem...taking care of the bottom end, as it were...Stop sniggering at the back..

There are many similarities between the bass guitar and its more petite sibling - they are tuned similarly (albeit with two less strings on the bass) and hence notes are in the same place on the fretboard and so forth, and it's relatively easy for a guitarist to transfer to bass and bluff his or her way through the basics...(bassiscs?) but really there is so much more to the arcane world of the bass that I must admit to only dipping my toes in the very shallowest parts of the deep end.

For those of us more familiar with Rock music, the bass is often underplayed, holding down simple root note patterns, but imagine Funk without the busy, driving basslines, imagine Reggae without the fat, lolloping groove. Bass playing really is another language, and for one day I was a tourist getting by on a few stumbling "Bonjours" and "Dos cervezas por favors." I shall glad to get back to my familar home territory this week, but for one night only it was a pleasure to paddle in the vast and unchartered waters of Bassland....I'm just relieved no-one was recording the show....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Guitar Upgrade...Part I

I like guitars. A lot. I own six electric guitars (not to mention a couple of acoustics and a couple of basses), so I certainly have enough to be getting on with.

But there was one guitar that I thought could do with a bit of TLC and a few upgrades here and there.
My PRS SE EG is one hell of a guitar for the price…but there’s the rub, it is a cheap guitar and whilst the build quality is way beyond what one has any right to expect from a £300 guitar, the weedy, thin sound and the tacky finish were letting the side down.

So, I decided it needed new pickups (the bits that convert the movement of the strings into sound, in a nutshell).
And a new paint job. Eek. I am not experienced in either of these areas, so this could get messy….She started out looking like this…

The first step was to remove all of the moving parts and electrics, and start stripping the finish.
I didn’t want to risk using dangerous chemicals with my total lack of knowledge in that area, nor did I want to use a heat torch and end up cremating the poor girl, so it was down to a lot of sandpaper and even more elbow grease.
Took a long time just to get the back of the neck and headstock back to bare wood. Then it was onto the back of the body..:

Eventually, she looked like this..

As you may notice, I had to fill a couple of holes by the bridge, where I'd made a misguided and botched attempt to install a different style of bridge...oops.
Still, sanded down it was time to mask off the cavities, the fretboard and the face of the headstock (I wanted this to remain black) ready for the first coat of primer... 

Look out for Part II to see how I get on with the spraying....Wish me luck!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Tent what you do, it's the way that you do it

As I say, we have played some unusual venues...

Wedding reception in a marquee? Pffft, ten a penny those are! Everybody's doing it. 
What you really want if you want to stand out from the crowd, is a teepee.

Oh yes, indeed.


Not unlike the Tardis, it looked way too small from the outside, but proved to be surprisingly roomy inside.
Very nice. Not just a random choice, either, there's a story behind it. The couple met on a ski-ing holiday and wanted an "apres ski" feel to the party, but rather than try and transport a whole alpine log cabin across to Birmingham, they settled for a teepee done up in much the same way, cue much log and goatskin decor. 

Kept banging my head on the fairy lights, mind you....

Friday, 26 July 2013

"We're going to need a bigger boat....."

Bookings for our band cover the length and breadth of the country and as a result we have played all kinds of interesting and odd venues. Most often, our shows are booked by our agent and the beauty of playing shows that are arranged by a third party is that you never quite know what you are letting yourself in for until you arrive...

Take that time we played a wedding reception on a boat. 

Yes, a boat.

The rather nice "Under The Stars" venue in Bristol: 

The only slight issue with this is that the toilets are at the very back of the boat...right behind where the band needs to set up, necessitating a clear gangway right through the band's equipment. Eek!
Quite odd to be playing on one side of the boat with the drummer across on the other side and the bassist perched halfway up the stairs...but it worked well and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Are you the band...?

Welcome to the first post of my blog! 

Together we shall explore the triumphs, trials and trips to the buffet table of a working wedding band from the UK. Don't worry, I'll not be endlessly plugging the band, I simply want to share some of the good, bad and frankly bizarre things we come across in our travels as we criss-cross the country playing rock stars (to other people's songs) in front of the ever-inebriated throngs.

But...why "Are you the band...?"....?:

Much to our never-diminishing bemusement, as we're unloading what are clearly drums and guitars and speakers and amplifiers from the vehicles into the venue, this is the one question that we are asked on a remarkably regular basis, by venue staff and wedding guests alike. 
But where I once was totally confuddled by the question - I mean, we're carrying musical instruments into the place, of course we're the band, durrrr - I have now learned to see it for what it is, it's an interest in what we're doing - most folk immediately go "..oh sorry, of course you're the band, daft question", but they can't help saying it's shorthand for "Hey, a band! Wow, that's cool, I wanna talk to them, see what they're like..."
And so these days I take it as a compliment, rather than a daftness. And hey, at least they talk to us, it's the ones that DON'T ask us if we're the band that we really worry about...
So next time you see a bunch of guys taking drums and guitars into a venue and you find the daft question spilling from your lips before you can stop yourself...YES, we are the band, and you are most welcome.

Come on in, let me tell you all about our adventures......