I’m just back from a few double-bill shows in London with my good friend, Q. I’m exhausted, but managed to peel myself from the carpet in order to write a little about our adventures and post a few photos. Enjoy!
(… for the more pictorially minded of you, the gallery is at the bottom of this post.)
Q & I arrived in Crouch End, after a long drive navigated with the help of my new sat nav system. I was debating buying one at all, but after the first long trip, I’m already very glad of it. After a quick load-in, and brief intros to Robbie’s lovely family, we high-tailed it to the Royal Albert Hall for The Swell Season’s show. Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s band “The Hare’s Corner” was supporting, and Liam O’Maonlaí was playing before them.
I have to admit that the show was supreme. Their account of the intimidating space that is the Royal Albert Hall was hilarious… “it’s just a f%^&ing room!”. It’s awesome to finally see the place on a concert night. My main experience of the Hall previous to this was an old double LP of Neil Sedaka playing there in the 70s. It’s a grand old place.
The best story of the night belongs to Graham Hopkins. His Da’s a drummer too, and predictably the garage is filled with kits and bits and bobs from lives spent hitting skins and metal. On the most recent Swell Season tour, Graham took some of his Da’s old hi-hats and cymbals which had a slightly duller sound than the usual ones… Not expecting too much, Graham absolutely loved them, and ended up playing them in the Albert Hall… The cymbals had been in the Albert Hall before though. Back in 1979, Graham’s Dad had played the very same cymbals with his showband, and later that night with Val Doonican. So it was a triumphant return for the cymbals. A most unlikely anniversary…
Early in the morning, Robbie kindly gave us a little tour of David Gray’s Church studios (which once belonged to Dave Stewart of Eurythmics). I failed to bring my camera, as I did quite a lot during this tour (shame on me!) so I had to resort to my phone’s little camera for evidence of our shennanigans. The live room in this place is colossal. And so many toys!!!
We then loaded up and headed to Watford. Bar Bodega in Watford was the venue for Tuesday night. Iain laid on a veritable feast for us, and after attempted digestion we played for a few hours. Despite our lack of heavy metal we managed to entertain a few heavy metallers from Poland, and a total wind-up merchant out on the razz after a hard day’s accounting.
So we drove out to the Cotswolds to see Q’s brother Johnny and his girlfriend, Amba,… and of course the brand new addition to their family. It’s a gorgeous part of the world, but we a bit too mesmerised by it’s beauty, because we completely mistimed our return to London’s Camden Lock for Balcony TV. We missed the filming altogether, which is embarrassingly unprofessional. Lesson : always allow more time for driving abroad!
Our show that evening in the Three Blind Mice went down a treat. The obscenely fashionable crowd were in great form, and we really had a ball with our sets. Maighréad who runs the night down there, was very good to us, so, thanks Maighréad!
We ended the night in a place called Mother around the corner on Old Street. Our conversations were interrupted every now and again by another madser being escorted from the club by swarthy security guards. It was a little distracting! Johnny Q’s friends were great craic though, so it was worth the danger.
So we located the London Irish Centre, after a trip on the train from the suburbs to St Pancras International. We’ve been discussing St Panras recently. There’s two weird things about it. I find it really strange to put International beside a train station name… I know this is not very European of me, but as an island dweller, I can’t help it. The second strange Pancras related thing is… nobody seems to know anything about this saint. Perhaps he/she was like the pancreas, in that everyone knows about it, but nobody knows what exactly it does or how it came in to being. It turns out that St Pancras was martyred at the age of 14 by the Romans (he was a Roman himself). He’s the patron saint of children, and is invoked against headache, cramp, false witness and perjury… Headache and cramp… Perfect for a transport hub really, isn’t it? He should be made the patron saint of aeroplanes.
The setup for the show was intense, with a bit of an face-off between the performers and the crowd… but it was defused early on by the brilliant Kal Lavelle, and everyone relaxed a bit. It ended up being an amazing night of music.
We eventually parted from the stragglers after a hot dog on Camden High Street around the corner from a recently severely toasted pub. I met tonnes of old friends, which was a great surprise and an unexpected bonus. Thanks to everyone for coming down, and huge thanks to Gary & co. for putting the night together!
After a muggy post-gig-head start to the day… we wandered the streets of London, and around the Brick Lane area we came upon a lovely little place called “The Duke of Yuke”. I had my eye on a gorgeous tenor Gold Tone guitar. It was fabulous. I didn’t make the purchase, but Q bought a lovely ukelele. I think I’m going to have to steal that at some stage. It’s got a fabulous sound.
We visited Jonathan Quearney’s tailoring shop in Fitzrovia. I took some interesting shots while planning to one day buy a suit that would befit my status! We swapped stories of chinese feet binding and the old English dandy’s who used to chop their little toes off so that they could fit into their pointy shoes… The phrase “don’t try this at home folks!” springs immediately to mind. Along with, “I’m not really hungry right now”. I took a funny shot of the different shirt collars available… For some reason, everytime I look at this, I think of ducks. Is there a rational explanation for this? Please do let me know. Maybe it’s Mallard-related?
Waking up in the Cotswolds immediately felt like a scene in Withnail & I. This isn’t a reflection on our hosts at all, but more to do with my imagination. I can’t help feeling the need to don wellies and march down to the nearest farmhouse and ask for some food and fuel. (“We’re not from London, you know!”, “Ah doone care were yer frum!”)
After a (farmer-free) walk in the countryside, and a lovely breakfast of tea, toast and quail eggs (which was a first for me), we entertained or scared the bonny baby with some ukelele and harmonium tunes. We made a dash through perenially foggy A40, making a lightning quick pitstop at my uncle’s house, where we had stayed and stashed some of our gear before. We made it to Hackney Wick with a bit of time to spare. We loaded in, set up and we managed to relax a bit before the show started.
Katie Eary is a hot young fashion designer and a good friend, who’s responsible for tonight’s debauchery. We have a little history now of strange shows. On my last foray into the land of living room tours, I played in Katie and Ana’s kitchen in Leicester. It was wild, as university parties tend to be. Tonight’s gig is not as insane, and no explosions ensue, but the music goes on for hours until much, much later, and when Q and myself finally finish it’s about 2am, and I’m getting a cramp in my back (using one microphone is great for that Bluegrass vibe, but unless you’re both the same height, the taller singer will suffer in the end!).
These shows are always a strange one to take on, but ’twas a crackin’ night. Big thanks to Katie, Katie’s housemates and Ana for pulling everything together and for letting us run wild.
Thanks a million to everyone for their wonderful hospitality, help and encouragement on the trip. See you next time!
London A Go Go – November 2008 – Gallery – featuring Q and Tadhg Cooke