Tag Archives: music

21-01-2019 – Plankocasters And The Wig

Good grief, Charlie Brown…

That was an exciting week and no mistake!

For one thing, I had a birthday in the middle of it – for the curious amongst you, I can reveal that my age is now officially “not dead yet”.

And I was particularly delighted to be sent a large and luxurious custom birthday card from my favourite Pighillians, featuring a stunning Triumph Bonneville with a fetching blonde lady (actually somewhat reminiscent of my dear Dem in her younger years) astride it, and – this had to be pointed out to me – a rather handsome chap lurking in the background. 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.

Guitar

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
A

*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
A

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
A

05-12-2018 – Swanky Vowel Shortage

Wotcha!

My, that was an interesting evening we had on Saturday. A journey up into the wild and wet hills of Wales, to play a birthday party in the charming little town of Ynysbwl.

No, really, that’s not a typo!

The sad fact is that there is a national shortage of vowels in the area; since the alphabet mines were shut down some years ago, and all the best letters were loaded onto trains and shipped off for swanky Londoners to enjoy, all the locals were left with was a collection of the less popular consonants – mostly “w”s, with a few “b”s and “l”s.

They managed to find a few “y”s left over amongst the spoil heaps, and had to make do with those for vowels.

To make up for it, though, the fortunate denizens of the valleys are especially well blessed when it comes to rain.

But I digress.

We rolled up, and were greeted by charming hostess Natalie, who has arranged everything for her birthday boy spouse (whose name I’ve forgotten already [Editor’s Note: senility settling in]). What I do remember clearly is being led to the buffet after we finished the first set; we turned a corner and behold a room the size of a small aircraft hangar, tables laden with comestibles, the like of which I have not seen for many a year. We are particularly impressed to see two large silver platters, one piled high with Frazzles, the other with Chip-sticks. We are musicians, and this is free food, so we pile in and stuff our faces until we can’t move anymore; and oh dear, now it’s time for the second set.

We haul our bloated corpses onto the stage and start playing; and, fuelled by the magic of wine, the valley girls are immediately up and dancing all over the place. I can see Ben is particularly impressed by a couple of ladies.

The third set passes without major incident; the birthday boy has requested to sing a number with us; so this he does, carefully shepherded by Emma.

After we’ve run out of encores and run out of time, we pack up, have a lively natter with the friendly party goers, and head off into the rainy night.

Coming up – something a bit different, and with a few more vowels…

Friday 7th – Packhorse, Bristol
A new one for us. This always used to be a bikers’ pub, and for all I know, it still is. We may finally get to wheel out that Metallica number we’ve been keeping in the cupboard.

Saturday 8th – Xmas Party, Cheltenham
We don’t normally do business corporate thingies, in case we scare them; but in this case we were booked for the gig by somebody who saw us up in Cheltenham a few months ago, so they know exactly what they’re in for. And still they booked us….

Thassit for now…

Square on
A

26-11-2018 – Chicken Drumkit

Ahoy there shipmates!

Well, after lord-knows-how-many weeks without us playing, we were all rather relieved at the Blue Lagoon on Friday to find that we can still do this stuff.

Mostly. I think every one of us had a minor memory blackout at some point or another, but happily these didn’t coincide, so every song we played was basically not guilty, based on a majority verdict.

Perhaps this is why they have so many people in the orchestra for classical music – it is, after all, quite complicated, so if they have a lot of people then it doesn’t matter so much if one of them screws up.

Yes, that must be it. Also, as somebody pointed out to me, the other reason they have (say) 25 cellos playing the same thing is to make it louder.

Somebody really should go up to the Royal College of Music, and suggest they google the word “amplifier”. It’ll save them a fortune. I mean, after all, if I didn’t use an amp, then to be heard at a gig, we’d need probably at least three hundred of me.

Imagine that….

…Saturday night, and a birthday party agency gig for the lovely Louise, who turned out to be absolutely delightful, as were her many guests (and the caterers).

We were particularly taken with one of the guests, Jean, who was from “Upstate Noo Yawk”, looked exactly like Grandma out of Thunderbirds and was decidedly mischievous.

“I used to live with a rock musician, years ago”, she tells me during the break, “I gotta say, that was some nice playing”.

“Why, thank you”, I say.

“Yup, not bad considering you ain’t no spring chicken… …Just kidding, I guess you’re not even sixty yet…”

Ben has difficulty breathing for a while after hearing this. I can’t think of a suitable reply, so settle instead for getting Jean a beer on the band’s tab.

After we’ve finished, we are slumped down to get our breath back, and Jean pounces on me from behind and grabs me in a vertebrae-crushing headlock.

“God, I love you, you fuckin’ hunk”, she informs me, as I struggle for air.

Ben appears to be suffering a reprise of his earlier breathing difficulties.

Anyway – a jolly fine night – and, coincidentally, it was also our very own Stuart’s birthday. As a special treat, we bought him a new drumkit….

Chicken Drumkit

Chicken Drumkit

Which turned out to be just the right size for our rubber chicken to play…

Anyways – next weekend, just the one gig; we’re over in deepest darkest Wales, for a birthday party in a hotel somewhere up in the valleys.

Square on
A

12-11-2018 – Archery

Aloha, compadres!

Since we’ve not played a gig for two weeks, we have nothing really to report on. I mean, we could provide you with a run-down of our various domestic lives over the past fortnight, but that would be getting dangerously close to being like The Archers – albeit an everyday tale of rawk’n’roll folk…

Although – actually, speaking of archers has reminded me that Emma still needs to make arrangements with my beloved Dem, they were planning to go and spend an afternoon doing archery together. What could possibly go wrong?

Don’t worry, I’ll let you all know once they’ve agreed on a date, so we can get everybody else out of the county, just to be on the safe side.

Also fraught with risk- although arguably less life-threatening – is announcing our next gig, because after two weeks off, there is a very real chance that we won’t actually remember what we’re doing. At least a quarter of us, anyway – last time we took a break, I couldn’t even remember how to plug everything in, let alone how to play it.

Oh well – what’s the worst that could happen…?

Saturday 17th – The Swan, Thornbury
It’s only up the road from me, so I rather like this one. Not sure why that would make a difference – after all, the kit is all still just as heavy. Maybe I just rather like this one, then; possibly because you never quite know what’s going to happen…

That’s it for now – hopefully next week we’ll have a little more to tell you….

Square on
A

29-10-2018 – Beer Yoofs Adventures

Good morning!

Winter draws on, I see – although frankly, vicar, I don’t see what business it is of yours – and I have to report a very, very messy weekend’s gigging.

Friday night at the Woodland’s Edge, and our poor Emma turns up looking very unwell indeed, having picked up a nasty stomach bug from somewhere. “I’ve not tried singing yet today”, she tells us, “just in case it makes me vomit”.

“Well, if it does”, I tell her, “Drumkit”.

As we start loading in, it is apparent that there is a plague of yoofs upon this house, boisterously ensconced right next to where we need to set up. I’m sure their mummies love them, but they’re a pain in the arse for everybody else.

Poor Ben is stuck with them for the night on his side of the stage, so constantly has to try and stop them treading on cables, falling over mike stands, spilling beer on expensive equipment, and accidentally getting punched in the face. It’s not easy.

At least Emma is feeling rather better once we get started, and we manage to get through the first set without incident.

Partway through the second, disaster strikes as one of the arsehats drops a pint right in front of me, leaving my pedals awash in lager and broken glass. Over the course of the next two songs I watch as the indicator light on my overdrive pedal begins to glow ominously, despite being switched off, as the foul fluid seeps across the circuit board, shorting out the switch contacts…

Luckily I’m able to remove the pedal from the chain before any hideous screaming noises happen, and finish the set without it. THIS is why we never have use any mains power at the front of the stage.

By the next night, Emma is feeling much better, and following an hour’s careful cleaning and half a can of contact cleaner, my overdrive is happy again, so it’s off to the noisy Trout in Keynsham – another notorious haven for pint-spillers.

In this case, however, although a lot of beer goes over the floor in front of us, the only thing that actually goes all over my pedals are (a) an entire pint of water, which doesn’t seem to do any harm, actually washing off some of the lager from last night, and (b) a rather jolly lady, who somehow as she falls and lands manages to switch off every pedal that was on, and switch on every one that was off. I almost feel guilty as she is being bodily lifted away that, instead of helping her up, I am feverishly tap-dancing beneath her supine form to get the sound back on track.

Didn’t miss a note, though 🙂

After the gig, Emma goes one better than even her previous “sultry temptress coiling up speaker cables properly” performances – having acquired a cloth from behind the bar, she is now actually wiping the cables clean as she coils them up. Ohhh, it’s magnificent to watch! There must be a specialist website somewhere for this kind of thing.

We now have a couple of weekends off coming up, which will give me a chance to repair and clean up various bits of damaged and beer-soaked musical equipment and peripheries.

And for Ben to try and get some sleep, in between dreams of bronzed cheerleaders lasciviously cleaning the lime jelly off of cables as they oh-so-perfectly wind them up into immaculately regular coils, and neatly fasten each one with a perfect clean cable tie…

We’re not weird, you know.

Square on
A

22-10-2018 – New VanOfAlan

Aloha!

Right folks, this’ll be a short one (as they say)…

Saturday night’s gig at the Hunstman in Downend – which I see from their website has the “style of a modern pub, and the atmosphere of a traditional inn” – was greatly cheered by the presence of a few chums; and almost nobody else.

It often seems to be the way in here – doesn’t really seem to be a music-y pub – nonetheless, they keep asking us back, and they keep paying us, and it actually makes for a nice relaxing night from our point of view. Plus, it means we can run through numbers we haven’t done for a while, to see if we can still remember them, without too much risk of public humiliation – and so, when requested for an old Fleetwood Mac track we haven’t played for many months, after a quick head-scratch as Ben and I tried to remember what the first chord was, we agreed to have a go at it.

Rather to our surprise, we got to the end without major disasters, although the middle eight guitar part was rather unusual… 🙂

Coming up this weekend, a double whammy of jollity:-

Friday 26th – Woodland’s Edge, Swindon
Usually pretty lively in here, and enough space for us to have a jolly good prance around, so all in all it’s rather good.

Saturday 27th – The Trout, Keynsham
It will probably end up being another mental night, here at The Fish – we’re not sure whether it’s because of the shape of the room (which is theoretically all wrong for putting bands in, with dancing space restricted to right on top of the band), or the clientele are just clumsy – but the floor always ends up awash with beer. This is about the only gig we regularly play where I have to dry the monitors out afterwards.

…And, that’s it for this week. Apart from the news that I have now acquired a spanky new van, musical equipment transport for the purpose of, which features noticeably more space than my sadly foreshortened one.

So – now, when loading up for each gig, I have to choose – in addition to the regular array of equipment, should I take the extra stack of guitar amps and speakers, or the industrial drum of lime jelly and the coterie of giggling cheerleaders?

Decisions, decisions….

Square on
A

16-10-2018 – Dick Thunder And The One Way System

Aye oop

Not too much to report this week; after eventually finding our way to Saturday’s gig at the Albion House club in Cheltenham (it took Em and myself two satnavs and three laps of the one way system to actually find it), we rolled in to see Stuart and Ben already unloading.

Stuart, who used to live in the area, knows the road system, you see, and so was able to get straight there.

Unfortunately, as he discovered after the gig from the doorman, the one way system has recently been changed, and it seems that Stuart drove in on what are now heavily-camera’d bus lanes – meaning he can presumably expect a swingeing fine to arrive in the post over the next few days.

We have agreed that this will fall under the category of “business expenses”, and thus the bill will be paid out of band funds as supervised by our Chief Financial Officer, one Richard Thundercat (who is, of course, a cat).

The gig itself was pretty successful – Em and I achieved our goal for the night, which was to get the lady in her seventies in the rockabilly skirt up and dancing – not once, but three times – and the rest of the punters pronounced themselves well pleased with the night.

“You’re the best band we’ve had in here”, we are told by at least five different people, leading us to wonder how starved of musical entertainment Cheltenham actually is*.

As usual, I spend the entire drive home telling Emma how much I’m looking forward to a large whiskey or three once I get in – and as usual, by the time I actually get home, have a quick shower to wash off the worst of the glitter (occupational hazard for anybody sharing a stage with Emma), I actually end up retiring to bed with a mug of cocoa.

Which I only manage half of before falling asleep.

Rawk’n’fuckin’roll, eh?

More shennanigans coming up this weekend, a bit more local this time: –

Saturday 20th – The Huntsman, Westerleigh Rd
It always feels like the wrong kind of pub to have bands in – but they keep asking us back, and it always somehow seems to work out all right, so we keep coming back. Oh,and they give us money, which is always handy for paying off percussionist’s motoring infractions.

Right, thas’ it for now

Square on
A

*They’re certainly starved of entertainment. When we packed up afterwards, we discovered that some bugger had waltzed off with one of our flashy light-up tambourines. So – should you be at some time wandering the streets of Cheltenham, and happen across a buffoon wielding aforementioned item, please do feel free to hit them across the back of the head with a shovel, and retrieve the item. In fact, if you do that, you can actually keep it. It’s yours. No problem.

Just watch out for somebody else coming up behind you with a shovel…