Dispatch from behind the guitar

I've enjoyed two very different types of gig this week.

At St John's Church, I arrived early with friend John, anxious about setting up. The stage manager couldn't have been more helpful and, instead of the two guitar amps I'd used previously, put me through a PA, with monitors. She offered to record me – I hesitated, wondering if it would inhibit improvisation, then accepted. I started just before 9:30, the church lights fully dimmed. In a WaveForms gig I have a few semi-structured pieces: use this synth voice, this delay, then change to this guitar voice. Within those structures everything is improvised. I started with a short structured piece, which went well. What does it mean to the player? It means (a) I didn't overplay (b) the guitar synth didn't glitch and feed a glitch into the loop and – this is the magic (c) –  I had space and time to feel the next thing to play. I knew what was 'necessary' including when it was right to stop and let the loop decay. Encouraged by this, I went into a fully improvised loop. That went well too. And so through the evening. Alternating structure with improv, and at one point changing one structured piece into another. Between each piece I sat and let the loop decay, sometimes for three or four minutes. It's not easy to sit doing nothing in front of an audience. By the time I knew I'd hit the last note of the last piece and it was time to let go, I felt a bit emotional. A sense of gratitude – to whom? to what? That's how it was for me. How was it for the audience?  I don't know. I rarely dared look, but at one point there seemed to be around 20 people there. Most weren't there the full time, but that's not to be expected. This isn't easy listening. At the end I knew I'd played the right stuff so I was happy.

Last night at Pivo was a completely different story but equally satisfying. First of all a great sense of community among the musicians – Mary, Fi, Lindsay, Nelson and Sam. But what could have been a nice public rehearsal for ourselves only turned into a good night – an audience materialised as the night went on, and even good vibes from the other part of the pub. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the two-piece Storm as for once I could hear everything Lyndsay was singing and her guitar was amplified just right to capture her delicate and unique fingerwork. Her second set was all the songs I discovered were familiar to me, like old friends, presented anew. Fi was in a manic mood for some reason and her sets were knockabout and lots of fun. She's a great songwriter and I've been admiring her contributions to the Flowers for Algernon 'lost album'. After the deep, dark, doomy stuff from Roadblock I'd decided long ago that any Festival gigs I did would be upbeat and rocking. The aim was not to appear 'interesting' or 'thought-provoking' but to make people feel better than when they came in, So Mary, Fi and I charged through most of – ok, let's be honest – all my upbeat songs to a sweating funky Nicole at the end. I haven't completely abandoned oversensitive melancholia, but let's just say I've put it in its place! 

Next up is The Wright Brothers at Siglo tomorrow (Saturday) night. Here's hoping we get the amplification sorted out. This wil be a guitar/mandolin/harmonica night, all acoustic and melodic with the unique charm of Nelson's urbane observations and some wry stuff like The Last Man' ('a sordid song': OOTB review) from me.

Free mini-album!

Stories_my_killer_told_me_350

Free to download - Stories My Killer Told Me: Five surreal story-songs from my Edinburgh Fringe show.



  • I Am Not The One For You
  • The Ever Open Door
  • New Eyes
  • A Forest Trail in Autumn
  • The Portobello Slam

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