Tag Archives: downend

29-04-2019 – Deranged And Other Excellent Words


[Editor’s Note: I accept that the image that goes with this post may be in bad taste; I just can’t figure out in what context.]

Well well well, three gigs in a weekend, it’s getting just like the old days. We arrived at the Millhouse in Emerson’s Green, bagged the cheeky last parking spaces, and hauled in. As we suspected, this was a “family pub”, not used to having bands on – although I did like the fact that we were told “You can store your empty cases in the Wacky Warehouse”… READ MORE

23-04-2019 – Owls and Easter

Helloo there, my little Easter bunnies.

We hope you enjoyed the extended weekend, and trust you were all suitably solemn in remembrance of what this important religious festival commemorates; the true meaning of Easter, that time of year when Jesus skips merrily around the countryside with a basket of chocolate for all the little children.

Something like that, anyway; I must confess I wasn’t really paying attention to that part in school.

Right, well we had a fine couple of evenings gigging; although, having had at least two sleeps since then, I can’t really remember anything much about them. Except the owls. The owls… READ MORE

15-01-2019 – Told You So Special

Yo homeys

Well, that’s back to normality (or what passes for normality, at any rate). Friday night at the Blue Lagoon was gratifyingly busy considering it’s early January, and I managed to wangle just enough stage space to be able to use my pointy guitar for a change; something which makes me rather happy.


If only because it gives me an excuse to show a picture of it… Ain’t she purty?

“Our clients” behaved just as expected, i.e. with much dancing around, spilling of drinks, and dropping of glasses. For entertainment value, Em and I mentally awarded the prize to a group of gyrating lads who had obviously had dancing described to them at some point, but had clearly never actually seen it done.

Saturday night, and a jaunt out to the very welcoming Golden Fleece in Bath, to wheel out some of the noisier side of the repertoire. And we had an absolute blast, with much messing about and tomfoolery going on. The crowd were lovely, and even the table of somewhat senior customers (and this is me saying that) right at the front seemed to being enjoying themselves. We were particularly impressed by the nice white-haired lady who was jigging around in her seat and singing along, pausing only occasionally to get up and hobble across to the bar to get herself another beer in. “I’m seventy nine next month”, she told me as she came past, “And I’m having a lovely time”. We’re considering adopting her as the band’s official mum.

Even a technical hitch, involving my lovely guitar sound disappearing and being replaced by an ominous rhythmic buzzing didn’t slow us down; Emma simply went out to harassed the “clients” individually, and sang some impromptu requests while I frantically tried to diagnose the problem, failed, dug out the necessary leads to plug in to my spare amp, set it up only to find the fault was still there, and only THEN eventually figured out the actual cause, disconnected the offending pedal and reconnected the main amp again before being rewarded with my beautiful restored guitar tone [Editor’s note: this was a told you so moment as yours truly said it was a pedal at the start of the problem]. Just in time to save Em from having to attempt an a capella version of the Oasis song she’d been requested to do.

So we were able to happily romp through the rest of the set, and play a couple of hugely fun encores, before slumping into a happy exhausted heap while we mustered the energy to pack everything up.

Hooray for rock & roll!

Coming up next weekend – two more rather fine outings…

Friday 18th – The Packhorse, Lawrence Hill
Lovely cosy and friendly biker’s pub. We played here a while before Christmas, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We think they did too, ‘cos they asked us back.

Sunday 20th – The Crown, Staple Hill
Next door to Ben’s gaffe, and a 6:30 start so we can all still be tucked up in beddy byes by ten*, ready for school in the morning. Rawk and roll, hey?

Right, that’ll do, I’m off to see the wizard, now.

The wonderful wizard of Beer…

Square on

*Contrary to popular belief, Angel Up Front do NOT in fact all sleep together in an oversized bed, each wearing a set of blue and white striped pyjamas and a nightcap. #thetruth.

07-01-2019 – Ice Say, It’s The End Of The Year

Well, a Merry New Year to all our readers, and possibly even our reindeers, come to think of it.

Sorry we didn’t manage to get one of these out last week – I nipped away for a few days; in fact, I’ve been to the land of the ice and snow (of the midnight sun where the hot springs flow), and mighty good fun it was, too – and only just got back.

We hope you all had a splendiferous festive season – I think we did, it was all a bit of a blur, really. I do recall that I had some very strange technical issues at the Farmhouse in Yate, in that my rig made a horrendous loud buzzing noise, but only when I stood in front of it – the noise went away completely if I stood to one side facing the wall; and since we could find no other solution, that’s exactly what had to do for most of the gig. So – apologies to anybody that was there, who just assumed I was being aloof and moody all night; I wasn’t (at least, not more than usual) – it was down to technical necessity.

Christmas Eve at the Sandringham in Downend featured no such technical difficulties, and a mighty fine audience of under-sevens, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves and made the most of playing with the various finger lights, tambourines, and inflatable guitars to be found in our toybox. We appear to have morphed into some kind of rock’n’roll daycare organisation – a situation not helped by Ben, the Uncle Chuckle-Trousers Of Rock, singing Sharp Dressed Man whilst sporting a woolly hat with elf ears and a full set of beard baubles.

If you have seen Angel Up Front’s credibility, please contact us via the website. A small reward is available.

A night at the Queen Vic up in Stroud didn’t disappoint either. Although it was lovely to see some old chums there again, once again our Ben seemed to be the centre of attention. During one particularly crunchy number, I found myself alone and unnoticed on one side of the stage, playing an intricate (and, I thought, rather artful) solo. Meanwhile, over on stage left, Ben is surrounded by an appreciative coterie of whooping and hollering middle-aged ladies who are transfixed by his “waving his long hair about” technique.

Emma and I have decided to get some business cards printed off to hand out on future occasions, bearing the legend, “Ben Brook – Entertainer Of Ladies – bass-player, vocalist, and mane-tosser”, with his phone number.

That should keep him busy for a while.

New Year’s Eve up at the Royal Oak in Chipping Sodbury was an unmitigated delight, we saw out 2018 with a pub-full jumping up and down to Blitzkrieg Bop, and a few minutes later brought 2019 in with Tenacious D’s “Tribute” – because we can. I mean, it’s not the greatest song in the world…. Except when sometimes it is.

Right then, coming up this weekend, a couple more doozies…

Friday 11th – Blue Lagoon, Bristol
You may not know (I didn’t) that Blue Lagoon is also the name of a famous outdoor geothermal spar pool in Iceland, where indeed I spent most of last Friday, neck deep in toasty warm water, clutching a cold beer and watching the sun set at 2pm over the mountains. That was nice. This one is also nice, but in a completely different way.

Saturday 12th – Golden Fleece, Bath
Lovely little bikery pub, but everyone’s welcome. Think we’ll probably dust off some of the rockier numbers for this one.

Right, that’s your lot for now, I have many real life things to try and catch up on. If anybody remembers real life, do stop by and feel free to give me a few hints…

Square on

18-12-2018 – Last Blast For This Year With Stairs

Ho, ho, and, indeed, ho.

And a warm welcome to this festive, and almost certainly last edition this year, of our regular-ish gig blog.

I didn’t manage to put one of these out last week, which I shall blame on time constraints, as “incompetence” is such an ugly word, isn’t it? I can, however, dimly recall a few snippets of the last couple of gigs…

It turns out that the Packhorse in Lawrence Hill is indeed still run by the Angels, and a mighty friendly bunch they were, we all had a jolly fine time, and will be back there again next year. As I write this, it’s only just occurred to me that possibly one reason we were so popular was that – due to driving constraints – we didn’t take too much advantage of their mighty fine   “free beer for musos” policy (one which, as regular readers will know, I have been a staunch supporter of for many years).

The following night, a corporate Christmas party in a posh bistro right in the centre of swanky Cheltenham, had a rather different vibe.

We arrived, and, miraculously found two parking spaces right outside the back of the venue. Hurrah! Then upon gaining entry to the place, we find that we are to be playing in a function room up two flights of stairs. Boo!

Ben pales visibly at the thought of exercise. I decide we must invoke what is known in the band as “Rum Bar protocol” (named after a venue for which access is gained only via three flights of rickety iron outdoor fire escape), which basically means all spare and not-absolutely-necessary equipment is sifted out and left locked in the van at Base Camp, so that no backup amps or speaker cabs, leads, etc need be manhauled up to higher altitudes. Spare batteries are grudgingly permitted, as is the muttered refrain “I wish I’d learned the $%^ing piccolo”.

After a prolonged period of stumping up and down, we decide there is just enough kit up there, and slowly moods improve as we set up.

Once we start, it turns out that the crowd are very much up for it; we particularly enjoyed one very serious-looking lady (think “senior librarian”) who, immediately we started, began dancing in a most extravagant and enthusiastic fashion – we suspect she doesn’t get out that much. After a while, everybody else joins in. Finally the very pleasant staff are begging us to stop playing so that they can pack up and go home.

Having packed up, and taken full advantage of their expensive-looking buffet to give us the necessary strength, we have just enough energy to haul all the kit back down to ground level and bully it back into the vehicles before shambling off into the night.

Right then, coming up next – here’s our full Festive Season Itinererererary, for your delectation and delight: –

Saturday 22nd – Farmhouse, Yate
Not played here for quite some time, and what with it being the official drinking season, should be rather lively. And there are no stairs involved.

Monday 24th – The Sandringham, Downend
Christmas Eve at the Sandy (as I am pretty sure absolutely nobody calls it), we did this one last year and had a very fine time. So we’re expecting to do the same again, frankly. And there are no stairs involved.

Saturday 29th – Queen Vic, Stroud
Ooh, I’d actually totally forgotten about this gig until I looked at the list to write this. Marvellous! One of our favourite regular gigs, I’m actually beginning to get excited already. With a bit of luck, I might be able to get my beloved Dem along as well, just to scare the locals a bit. And there are no stairs involved.

Monday 31st – Royal Oak, Chipping Sodbury
New Year’s Eve, a nice lively little pub, and us. What’s not to like? And – now here’s a thing – there are no stairs involved.

And, that’ll be about it for this year; I’d like to say thanks to all the lovely and entertaining people we’ve met along the way, we’ve had a blast – and I like to think that maybe on the odd occasion we’ve actually managed to entertain some people along the way (in addition to ourselves).

Finally, I have to say huge thanks to my bandidos Stuart, Emma, and Ben, who make the whole enterprise such a joy and a delight – despite the occasional stairs, I really don’t know what I’d do without the opportunity to regularly prance about making a dreadful noise with a bunch of like-minded idiots.

Very much looking forward to doing it all over again next year….

Square on

20-08-2018 – The Difficult Week

Good morning peeps!

Well, it’s been a – shall we say – “difficult” week in rock…

Our poor Em’s spakky knee is starting to get better, but slowly, so the poor darling is still having to resort to using what we know call The Apparatus to hold her leg together during gigs; Ben managed to cut his thumb in half, whilst engaging in the unfamiliar practice of cleaning his flat – but I trumped them both; whilst I was innocently waiting at a red traffic light, some <> drove into the back of the van, and then drove off before I could get his number. <>

Apart from a bit of whiplash stiff neck-type stuff, I’m okay, but my poor little van will have to be written off – it’s exactly two inches shorter than it used to be. I know this, ‘cause there used to be two inches to spare when it was fully loaded with all the kit – and now there isn’t. My local garage managed to hammer it out enough to be able to open the rear doors so I can still use it for now, but it’s not going to last; and it’s now impossible to drop the spare wheel out, ‘cause there’s some chassis in the way where there didn’t used to be…

Still, after a fractious week arguing with insurance companies and modifying bits of van so I could actually lock the doors once they were open, we were able to fulfil our gigging destiny.

The birthday party gig on Saturday went rather well; although the nice big stage to prance about on was rather wasted as Em was not really prancing fit, and I was somewhat restricted by having to try and play the entire set without moving my right shoulder… nonetheless, they all seemed to enjoy it, and Em did a magnificent job of diplomatically shepherding a teetering drunk lady off the stage, back to the safety of the floor, without damage. We’re going to get her a hi-vis to wear for such occasions in future.

Sunday afternoon at the Sandringham was rather quieter, shoehorned as we were between the Sunday lunch crowd and the mid-evening pub quiz; one of those gigs where it’s best to adopt a philosophical attitude, and think of it as being paid to practice.

Right then, we’re off on various holidays for a bit, so you’ll just have to do without any rawk’n’roll malarkey for a while. As I’m not here, you won’t be getting one of these missives next week, so I’ll tell you know about what’s coming up in a fortnight’s time…

Friday 31st August – The Swan, Thornbury
This is actually the very day I come back from my hols, so I’ll probably be arriving breathless and slightly late, with sand between my toes, and no idea how to play the guitar. So – apart from the sand, business as usual, then!

Saturday 1st September – Dolphin, Oldland Common
It’s been ages since we played here, so much so that I can’t really remember anything about it. Like so much of my life.

Right, that’s your lot for now, I’m off to pack my bucket and spade.

In the meantime, if anybody does want to buy a recently customised, particularly short-wheelbase Renault Kangoo, do get in touch, won’t you….

Square on

15-08-2018 – Lech


Wassup dawgs

After not having played for a couple of weeks, it was with some trepidation that we approached the Crown in Lechlade… Could we remember the new songs? Could we remember the old songs? Could we remember how to set up the equipment? And who’s that huge beardy bloke with the long hair?

When we reached the pub and walked in, the following sight met our eyes…

Pig head

Our minds were immediately set at ease – these are people who will understand us. [Editor’s note: Now, I personally do not approve of decapitated heads on walls, pigs or otherwise but I guess I’ll go with the sentiment, gotta call it out just the same!]

And, it turned out to be a jolly fine evening, they were up and dancing from the off, they joined in nicely with Emma’s Drinkng Game, and afterwards they we got lots of very nice compliments. And some money. Best of all, we got some beer, too. We’re rather looking forward to coming back.

If only I hadn’t played like a twat-handed fumblemonkey*, they’d probably have liked it even more.**

Coming up this weekend – one or two gigs, we’re not quite sure ourselves.

On Saturday, we are most definitely playing a 40th birthday party bash in Compton Bassett.

On Sunday, we are booked to play at the Sandringham in Downend; however, we’ve been told that the gig may not be able to go ahead, as the pub is having some “budget issues”, and has to wait for their senior area financial manager to come back from holiday before they can give us the definite green light. We’ll find out in a day or two. Obviously our fees have now become so eye-wateringly reassuringly expensive that we are in danger of plunging the mighty Ember Inns financial empire into bankruptcy. I feel rather proud, actually. [Editor’s Note again: It’s a go for this gig but starting at 6pm.]

Anyways, we’ll keep y’all posted on that one.

Although – here’s a thought – if enough people were to phone the pub between now and then “just to check whether Angel Up Front are playing next Sunday”, it might sway them towards actually paying us more.

I have to go now, I’ve suddenly realised I have a lot of different voices to practice…

Square on

*This, and many other custom-made derogatory conjunctions are available from our new website artisan_insults.co.uk. Lovingly hand-crafted personalised insults for your loved ones, friends and work colleagues, for very reasonable rates. From the people who brought you “Stumpy McFuckwit”.

**Actually, no they wouldn’t. The thing that went down best was the Ramones cover we accidentally learned for a laugh a fortnight ago. And to think I spent years trying to work out how to play guitar solos in Phrygian mode…

[[[ STOP PRESS ]]]

A late announcement – while we’re here promoting fine music – next Monday (20th), down at Mr Wolf’s in Bristol centre, there’s a rare chance to catch my beautiful daughter Lily playing a solo gig. I highly recommend getting yourselves down there. The other night, she played me the new song she’d just written – it was stunning, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that by the time she finished, there were tears rolling down my soppy face. READ MORE

23-04-2018 – Chrono Error 23

Well, that was a scorcher of a weekend (as the Super Soaraway Sun would undoubtedly have it); very hot indeed on Friday night, which probably accounted for the reduced turnout at the Old Mail House, with a huge percentage of potential punters still in their back gardens quaffing stubbies of lager and giving themselves food poisoning from eating blackened raw chicken.

To be fair, there were still quite a few merrymakers in, boosted by some old chums of Stuart’s who were there for one of their number’s retirement party. Retirement? But Stuart claims to be 23…

Not having been at this venue in living memory, it was a pleasant surprise to find a large raised stagey area with positively oodles of room for leaping around like a bunch of twats. So we did. Except for Stuart, who for some reason remained steadfastly sat on his drum stool right through both sets. He’s 23, you know.

Saturday at the Jolly Cobbler was very nicely timed, at least from the point of view of managing to load in and out in between thunderstorms. On the other hand, our successful effort to finish bang on 10:30 (due to noise-complainy neighbours) was rather scuppered when landlord Mike came up to us after our final number to tell us that the finish time was in fact 11:00…

“Oh. Well, that’s all right, then. Let me just turn this back on again…”

So we played on for another half hour, plundering our catalogue of songs-we-haven’t-played-for-ages and aren’t sure we can remember – but it seems that, on the whole, we can. Clearly our collective dementia is not as bad as we feared; particularly Stuart’s. He’s only 23, you know.

Finally, a special mention for youngster Jake, who went over and above the call of duty on air guitar, to the point where at one point I was actually fired from the band to make way for him… only being reinstated when I pointed out that Jake was too young to drive the van.

Coming up this weekend…

Friday 27th – Old Bank, Keynsham
It’s a bit snug in here, but we have fitted in smaller places before now, and they’re a friendly bunch; maybe we’ll even try out a few new songs on them…

Saturday 28th, 1pm – Banshees Charity Bash, Barton Hill RFC
Basically, it’s a village fete for bikers. Whole bunch of bands on (we’re opening proceedings at around 1pm), there’s stalls, food, beer, and a Viking re-enactment society staging a battle. I’m hoping that none of them puts an axe through Ben by mistake…

And that, my friends, for this week at least – is that.

Square on

Note – anybody who remembers last week may recall that I was threatening to bring along my bonkers new theremin-simulating effect pedal to a gig this weekend. In the end, I didn’t do so, because it suffered a mysterious and inexplicable complete functional non-operational-episode-scenario, such that I left it at home. Now, following a detailed strip down and technical investigation, including a microscopic examination of all my solder joints to try and trace the fault, I can reveal that the problem was that I had plugged the input and output jacks into the wrong sockets.

I would like to remind you that I possess a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering – which, YOU, my tax-paying friends, paid for…

That is all.

16-04-2018 – That Thing That Makes The Spooky Sounds

Yo homies

Right, this one’ll be nice and short then, as I’ve done nothing of interest at all this weekend; well, nothing that’ll interest anyone else, anyway – unless they have an unhealthy fascination for tinkering with obscure guitar effects pedals, or…

…No, that’s about it, really, tinkering with obscure guitar effects pedals was pretty much the full story of my weekend. Emma went swanning off to Paris, I sat in my kitchen and tinkered.

On the plus side, I can now make noise like a theremin,though, which I think counts for something.

I’m not entirely sure what, thought.

But, if you’d like to hear it, you could do worse than roll up to one of our gigs this weekend..

Friday 20th – Old Mail House, Staple Hill
I think that once, many years ago, I played a duo gig here. However, I can’t remember anything about it. And that’s all that Forrest has to say about that.

Saturday 21st – Jolly Cobbler, Kingswood
It’s an 8:30 start this one, because we have to finish a bit early, as landlord Mike has a grumpy neighbour. He won’t tell us which one though, just in case. Maybe, though, the grumpy neighbour would enjoy being serenaded by swoopy theremin sounds being driven full-tilt through a 120 watt guitar amp. I’m rather looking forward to finding out.

Right, well I said this would be a quick one…*

Square on
*Insert double entendre of choice

09-04-2018 – Blood!

Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!

Well, another three-gig weekend, there really is no rest for the wicked, and we have clearly been very naughty indeed…

Friday at the Back Bar in Weston was rather good fun – we were warned that apparently sometimes it gets really busy, sometimes it doesn’t – and this turned out to be one of the “doesn’t” nights – still, we had a good giggle, and everybody that was there seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, so that’s all right then.

And this despite clumsy Alan having sabotaged himself earlier in the day…

Unbeknownst to me, helpful daughter Lil had decided to sharpen all the knives in the kitchen on Friday. I found out, though, when making dinner – I pretty much sliced the end off a finger.

Happily it was on my right hand, so I figured it wouldn’t affect my playing – until I got to one of those right-handed Eddie-Van-Halen-style-showoff-hammer-on solos at which point I suddenly remembered. Ouchie.

It did make rather a mess, though – I have subsequently found blood spattered on my guitar, amp, leads, equipment cases, and – inexplicably, van windscreen. Although maybe I just ran somebody over and didn’t notice.

Saturday at the Golden Fleece was definitely a more vigorous affair; having spent an hour or so during the day applying my soldering iron to the wiring on Ben’s bass it was back up to full functionality; unfortunately I couldn’t do anything about his voice – which has almost completely disappeared due to the ongoing infestations currently plaguing most of the band.

I’m not saying I wasn’t prepared to have a go, but for some reason he seemed very much against the idea of me opening up his chest cavity to check for loose wiring.

Thus it was that had to rely on the crowd for her backing vocals, a task to which they rose admirably. We noticed one particularly enthusiastic, and rather attractive, young lady, whose dancing intruded onto the stage several times.

Mid-song, she bellows into Emma’s ear “I love you!”

“Well, that’s nice, sweetheart, and I love you too” replies Em diplomatically.

“No, you don’t understand”, replies the young lovely, gazing deep into Emma’s left ear. “I REALLY love you”.

“O-kay, well, thank you very much..” answers a slightly nonplussed Emma.

Five minutes later, the young lady in question – who we are beginning to suspect may have been drinking – suddenly collapses into a chair and passes out.

She manages to sleep right through the second half of “Sweet Child Of Mine” – which is no mean feat, it’s a bit noisy – and we become slightly concerned for her safety. Em captured the two sides of the scene rather well…

Golden Fleece

Golden Fleece

Dutifully, as we play the last few numbers, to check on her health, I make sure she’s still breathing by keeping a close eye on the rhythmic rising and falling of her breasts.

Between each song, I relay the health monitor status to Emma.

“They’re still rising and falling”

“Good stuff, keep watching”.

“Yup, still going”

“Excellent. By the way, have you named them yet?”

This thought had not occurred to me.

“Er… no. But I have chosen a favourite one”

“Which one?”

“The nearest one. Actually, I know, I’ll call them both Barbara, to avoid confusion”

“Good call. Are they still going up and down?”

“Oh, yes, no problem”

Finally we run out of encores to play, and the young lady’s friends finish dancing, and scoop her up to take her home. Fondly we wave her and the Barbaras goodbye.

As expected, Sunday afternoon at the Bulldog in Filton was a rather more subdued affair, enlivened only by a chap who kept on coming to stand right in front of the stage, sticking his fingers in his ears, and mouthing the words “It’s too loud” at us. At first I thought he was actually expressing an opinion, but after third time, when he stood right in front of the speakers for a full five minutes doing this, I realised that this was in fact what in his world passes for witty repartee – and having found something which amused him, he was reluctant to let it go; in fact, it seemed to keep him happy for a full two hours.

Takes all sorts, I suppose…

Anyway – no gigs coming up this weekend, so with a bit of luck, by the time we get there, we might actually have everybody fit and well.

We shall see…

Square on