Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kipper Tie and a Butter Pie

PlanB's London adventure was followed by a trip to England's second city, Birmingham. Despite the distance, it was just over an hour away by train.
Collectively, the band didn't have any great expectations of the two-day visit; we were booked to play one show in a small bar outside of the city centre, on a Tuesday night. I couldn't imagine the line to get in stretching around the block.
We arrived without any drama around Monday lunchtime on the direct train from London. It was a pleasant, sunny day. We were lugging our gear from New Street station, in the general direction of our digs and, who did I spy? Jim Paterson from Adelaide's BordererS, leaning against the wall, eating his lunch. Not only was he a long way from home (as were we), but he has the same name as our fab trombone benefactor. The world gets smaller every day. We had a bit of a chat before continuing on with the baggage.
The hostel accommodation was OK; our double room was pretty good but I'm not renowned for my fussiness. I'm not sure that everyone's room was as nice as ours.

The venue, The Actress & Bishop, was actually OK; a few of us spent the Monday afternoon there, sampling the ales and checking out the ambience. Bass player Pete went off to undertake a pie-eating challenge, after visiting one of Kevin Rowland's old addresses with superfan Neil. I had a great meal in the Italian place across the road from the pub. Gnocchi and gorgonzola sauce, if you are at all interested...
After doing a bit of shopping in the morning, we appeared on BBC Radio Birmingham during Sunny and Shay Grewal's show on the afternoon of the gig. The interview went pretty well. Not quite as witty as The Beatles but we had our moments.
The gig was beset by the usual issues. Only half a drum kit for Dave, no working amp for guitarist Peter... We were getting used to this kind of nonsense and, once again, it was sorted out at the eleventh hour. The show also had an odd feeling about it because our keyboard player, Adrian, had taken ill and needed to spend a couple of nights under observation, and therefore missed the concert. Performance-wise, we tried to plug the gaps but our thoughts were understandably with him.
In any case, we still did a sterling job as far as the small but interested crowd were concerned. We met some good folks; some who'd planned to be there and some who'd just heard the music and come on in. Including a couple who were over from Australia. Everyone I spoke with had enjoyed the show, and the pub put on a few beers for the band.

Onwards to Cambridge!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Beer Hunter 2016: Part Two

Doesn't include repeat beers in same pub (same session). All pints, all cask ales except where indicated by * or (bottle). Comments are minimal as the majority of the beers have been excellent.

26. Truman's Runner Bold Best Bitter (4.0) - The Wellington, Covent Garden, London
27. St Austell Nicholson's Pale Ale (4.0) - The Wellington, Covent Garden, London
28. Backyard Brewhouse Blonde Hand Crafted Ale (4.1) - Actress & Bishop, Birmingham
29. Sharp's Brewery Doom Bar (4.0) - Actress & Bishop, Birmingham
30. Salopian Brewery Lemon Dream (4.5) - Actress & Bishop, Birmingham
31. Worthington's Creamflow* (3.6) - Actress & Bishop, Birmingham
32. Black Country Ales Pig On The Wall (4.3) - Cambridge Rock Festival
33. Leather Britches Brewery Hairy Helmet (4.7) - Cambridge Rock Festival
34. Greene King Olde Trip (4.3) - Cambridge Rock Festival
35. Belhaven St Andrews Ale Smooth (4.6) - The Scotia, Glasgow
36. Wellpark Brewery Caledonia Best* (3.2) - The Duchess of Duke Street, Glasgow
37. Drygate Pilsener* (4.0) - The Duchess of Duke Street, Glasgow
38. Timothy Taylor's Landlord (4.3) - The Basement, Glasgow
39. Marston's Pedigree (4.5) - The Basement, Glasgow
40. St Austell Tribute (4.2) - The Basement, Glasgow
41. Caledonian Brewery Three Hop Lager* (4.5) - Oran Mor, Glasgow
42. McEwan's Export* (4.5) - Old Harmony Bar, Govan, Glasgow
43. Birra Moretti Toscana (bottle) (5.5) - Kelvingove Bandstand, Glasgow
44. Birra Moretti (4.6) - Kelvingove Bandstand, Glasgow
45. Gower Brewery Best Bitter (4.5) - Grand Hotel, Swansea
46. Guinness Golden Ale (4.5) - Olde Cross Keys, Swansea
47. Brains SA (4.2) - Yates, Swansea
48. Brains SA Gold (4.3) - Yates, Swansea (not so good)
49. Brecon Brewing Welsh Beacons (3.7) - Yates, Swansea
50. Robinsons Brewery Trooper (4.8) - The Office Pub, Swansea

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beer Hunter 2016: Part One

Doesn't include repeat beers in same pub (same session). All pints, all cask ales except where indicated by * or (bottle). Comments are minimal as the majority of the beers have been excellent.

1. Madness Brewing Company "Absolutely" finest pale ale (4.2) - The Victoria Comet: Newcastle
2. Ruddles Best (3.7) - The Rohan Kanhai (Wetherspoons): Ashington
3. Big Lamp Brewers Prince Bishop Ale (4.8) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend
4. Allendale Brewery Wagtail English Bitter (3.8) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend
5. Black Paw Brewery Polar Paw (4.4) - The Rohan Kanhai (Wetherspoons): Ashington (almost tasted off)
6. Sharp's Brewery Doom Bar (4.0) - The Rohan Kanhai (Wetherspoons): Ashington (uninspiring - not convinced it was a Doom Bar)
7. Allendale Brewery Wolf Strong Ruby Ale (5.5) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend (a bit too sweet)
8. Hadrian Border Brewery Grainger Ale (4.6) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend (adequate just)
9. Wylam Bitter (3.8) - The Cluny: Newcastle
10. Greene King Abbot Ale (5.0) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend
11. Allendale Brewery Wagtail English Bitter (3.8) - The Free House (Wetherspoons): Wallsend
12. Courage Directors Superior Ale (4.8) - The Old Ship Inn: Bridlington
13. Wold Top Yorkshire Brewery Wold Gold Blonde Beer (4.8)- Manor Court: Carnaby (Bridlington)
14. Wold Top Yorkshire Brewery Golden Summer (4.4)- Manor Court: Carnaby (Bridlington)
15. Guinness* - The Hare and Hound, Croydon
16. Guinness* - The Fiddler's Elbow, Camden
17. Sharp's Brewery Wolf Rock Exceptional Red IPA* (4.5) - The Asylum, Chelmsford
18. Jennings Cumberland Deep Golden Ale (4.0) - The Minories, Tower Hill, London
19. Adnams Broadside (4.7) - The Minories, Tower Hill, London
20. Westerham Brewing Co. British Bulldog (4.1) - The Walnut Tree (Wetherspoons), Leytonstone
21. Black Sheep Ale (4.4) (bottle) - The Luna, Leytonstone
22. Fuller's London Pride (4.7) (bottle) - The Luna, Leytonstone
23. Greene King London Glory (4.1) - The Shakespeare, Victoria, London
24. Skinners Brewery Betty Stogs Brazen Cornish Bitter (4.0) - The Warwick, Pimlico, London
25. Greene King Handcrafted IPA (3.6) - The Warwick, Pimlico, London


Luna exploration

Next we were out to Leytonstone on the train/underground for a Friday night show at a place called Luna. We weren't sure what to expect - were we back on the toilet circuit or would this one be something special? Most of the band had arrived before us and the looks on some of the faces didn't fill me with optimism. No drums for Dave, in fact no gear at all, no-one seemed to know anything... This was becoming the norm.
Of course, it all eventually got sorted out and we went to the local Wetherspoons for a beer and something to eat, relatively happy with the situation.
Showtime. It was a "pass the bucket around to pay the musicians" deal, which the staff did a few times, and the money was pretty good. Because there wasn't a stage as such, we were free to roam around a bit; something the horn players and myself took great pleasure in doing.
The Friday night crowd loved us, playing on street level obviously helps to bring people in, and the venue manager was really happy. So happy in fact, that he offered to pay our cab fare home if we'd play longer. So we did - no mad dash to the station required! We dragged a couple of covers out, and repeated a few songs from our first (of three) sets, and played until nearly midnight. Singalongs, beers, dancing and fun.

After the show, we hung around chatting with folks; the manager was particularly keen to talk about how he'd enjoyed the show. He was a great bloke. Not only did he pay for the cabs home, he topped up the bucket with some of his own cash.

The drive home was pretty easy and we (once again) stayed up for a while, celebrating our continuing adventures.
The remainder of our London stay involved the usual things: catching up with friends, enjoying a few beers, window shopping in Carnaby Street and its environs, wandering along the Thames, drinking coffee at Bar Italia in Soho and generally just being a tourist. On Sunday we watched and listened to my friend Pete as he provided the piano soundtrack for a Charlie Chaplin short film. Once Pete had finished his shift the three of us visited Gordon's Wine Bar, reputed to be the oldest in London. Then it was on to the India Club for a feast.
Frankie says Relax!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chelmsford 123

Our fourth show was out at Chelmsford and we'd hired a couple of cars to get the band out there. The roads were busy, we were totally reliant on the sat nav, and it was drizzling. I was a little apprehensive.
The outward journey took two and a half hours; 50% of that time was spent stuck in slow moving traffic. Oh well, at least we had time for a nice chat...
The gig was in a small venue called The Asylum and it was built into a railway viaduct. The folks who ran the place seemed very pleasant and greeted us on arrival with a free pint.
It was a decent enough venue although it was pretty small. Unfortunately it was upstairs and not particularly easy to spot. And it was a very warm room.
We went out to have a look at the town but there didn't seem to be that much to see where we were. A few of us had pizza for tea. Some of the others had what only could be described as a heart attack on a plate...

We were supposed to be the headline act but, with a long journey home expected, we asked the local support band if they minded going on last. They didn't.
Professionals to a fault, we put on another no-holds-barred show, much to the delight of the modest audience (basically the other band and a few locals). I sweated right through my shirt, it was boiling on stage. We all worked hard to shine like diamonds.
After the show we watched the other band put on a decent show for a while, but decided that we ought to make the long journey home before the night got too late.
I was relieved to get back to Croydon, a much quicker trip, and we spent a few hours relaxing and reflecting. Guitarist Peter and I stayed up into the early morning, drinking wine and giggling away like 12-year-olds.
And I got an Asylum t-shirt!

London Calling

London. The capital. Occasionally swinging. Full of history, expensive beer, tourists, and tat. And quite a bit different to both Wallsend and Bridlington.
Another share house; a bit more nicely appointed than the last, and the 12-person touring party was doing pretty well managing a dozen different approaches to cooking, eating, sleeping, rising, washing etc.
We played three shows in London; two were fantastic and one was perhaps a little low-key, but an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Our first gig was at the Fiddler's Elbow in Camden Town. This is a great London venue and has hosted many great acts over the years. We caught the overground and underground out to Chalk Farm (changing at Balham) to get to the gig; an adventure in itself. The venue was empty when we got there but that wasn't surprising as it was barely 5.00. A few of us had friends coming along so by the time we started, the place was pretty busy, with PlanB fans everywhere.

Earlier in the day, our trombonist, Patrick, discovered that he'd left his instrument on the train the previous evening. Luckily for PlanB, long-time friends of the band, Sandra and Big Jim Paterson (Dexys) were able to not only come to the show, but lend Patrick a trombone for the duration of the tour. Brilliant, lovely people...
It turned out that the other three local bands had very few folks come to see them, and we had pulled the bulk of the crowd; not bad seeing as we'd come from the other side of the planet. Thus, we got paid while the others may have missed out. The Fiddler's Elbow is one of those classic venues that you hear about but have no idea how small they are until you get there, a bit like the Hope & Anchor back in the early 1980s.

The gig went well; I sensed that we were hitting our straps. Not bad for the third date of the tour. The punters were into it; we put on a solid show, and most would have liked us to play on. But, we were part of a strict running order, and we had to stop after our allocated set length.
The only slight dampener was that, in order to make our trains home all the way to Waddon, we had to leave immediately after the gig. Even then, it was a bit of a madcap Hard Day's Night-style dash to the station. But we made it, and in some style. We were on a high all the way home, and well into the small hours.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

In between the planned musical adventures in Wallsend and London, we departed from band activities to spend a couple of days with relatives in the lovely town of Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast.
We were still getting into the overall groove of the tour, and I felt that I was still chasing the game a little in terms of personal organisation, but it was an easygoing time. Walks along the beachfront, local pubs, a bit of shopping here and there, and catching up with family. Donkey rides, a penny a glass...

Bridlington, like most seaside towns, is always a little more cheery when the sun is shining, and I am happy to report that the weather was with us throughout our visit. The place we stayed was lovely; it was our second time there and probably won't be our last. Sue and Terry are great hosts and The Malvern is a fab place to stay.

OK, so that's our mini-break done. Time to get back into rock 'n' roll mode.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Northern Soul.

After a couple of days spent locked in intensive rehearsals, and also including a characteristically chaotic session on the crazy Mr Scurf's Koast Train FM radio show, PlanB's first performance of the tour took place at The Cluny in Newcastle.
The gig was opened by local hero and Lindisfarne legend, Steve Daggett. Not a bad support act! It was just him and his guitar (with a little bit of harmonica and stompbox), and he was great. We got to chat afterwards and, apart from liking his music a great deal, I was also taken by the pint holder he had attached to his mic stand. He told me where I might get one. He also gave me a copy of his album; I can't wait to listen to it.
The other band was pretty groovy too: The Pat McMahon Trio. Good lads playing good music; a kind of late-sixties electric blues vibe.
Our turn came and we were introduced to the modest crowd by long-time friend and supporter of the band, Mr Scurf.
The gig was a belter. Our first performance of the tour and we pretty much nailed it. The biggest challenge was not clattering into each other on the smallish stage. The punters were into the music, and so were we. Like most good gigs, the time flew. We'd been working towards it all day and it passed by in a flash. Afterwards, we caught up with friends old and new, and had a beer and a chat.
Back at the house, the merriment continued into the small hours.

On Saturday, we were booked to play a 5.30 spot at the Woodhorn Lane Music Festival, at the home of Ashington CFC (Bobby and Jackie Charlton's club). We caught a couple of big cabs to take us there and we arrived around lunchtime. Some of the bands were hella-loud and we wondered how we'd go down with the increasingly inebriated crowd. No problem. We just did our thing and they loved us. Women appeared on stage and started dancing, my tambourine took various excursions through the crowd, and Mr Scurf toasted his way through 'What's On Your Mind?' with north-eastern aplomb. It was lovely chaos. At one point I yelled out "Toon Army!", much to the merriment (and approval) of the audience. Gan crackers, all of us!
A little lad called Callum had befriended me along the way, ever since Peter, Dave and I enjoyed a lunchtime kickabout with a spare ball we found. He wanted something to remember his day so I got all the band to sign a setlist for him. By the end of the show he'd buggered off. Callum, if you are out there, I have a memento for you...
We hung around after our show for a while, once again catching up with folks.
Another good day, and another good show. Definitely worthy of another long celebration back at the house.