Tag Archives: music

Feel The Fear : And Do It Anyway

The Brook is a lovely community arts venue, bar and restaurant, owned by Andy and Thea Brook. As a family we started visiting The Brook about two and a half years ago. Since then Keira has had a birthday party there, I’ve hidden free art there several times, and we’ve enjoyed food, drink and music more times than I can remember.

On June 1st 2017 – having dithered over the idea of performing live there for several weeks, I delivered my first faltering open mic night performance at The Brook. I survived week one, and came back again, and again, and again, having resolved to persist, and over time, to experiment with an ever expanding body of songs.

Since that first performance in June, there have been 32 open mic nights, and I’ve only missed four of them. Despite being a nervous performer, I’ve persisted with this project largely because of the welcoming atmosphere, nurtured by everyone in the room, and led chiefly by Dan Smith. Dan takes care of sound and set up – and is a master cajon player, regularly providing the beats for numerous acts. The crowd offers encouragement, any criticism is left to the performer. As the weeks progressed I noticed I became more accepting  of this encouragement and began to use it as building blocks for more adventurous work.

Life has been pretty up and down (in some ways much more down than up) over the past year or so, and open mic night has served me well as a safe and encouraging place, sometimes just to relax, other times to go nuts. I’ve enjoyed the experience enormously, and while I felt sad when hearing the news of the closure – I quickly decided to make the most of the time left, rather than mourn the passing of something I’ve grown to love.

On December 28th 2017, I and many others, played there for one last time. After serving the local community for five years, The Brook in Wallington closes its doors tonight (Dec 31st) – before reopening in Hackney in January 2018.

This has been an excellent adventure. I’ve grown to enjoy performing, I’ve made some good friends and listened to lots of amazing live music, thanks everyone. This chapter now closes, and we are looking forward to what promises to be one hell of a New Year’s Eve party.

Photo above by Peter Ball

Footnote: Songs I can Remember Playing.

  • When I Grow Up* : Tim Minchin
  • Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush* : Reverend Horton Heat
  • Bankrobber *: The Clash
  • Wreck Of The Old 97* : G B Grayson, Henry Whitter
  • I Met A Man : Various Artists
  • Midnight Special* : Traditional (I played guitar, accompanying Keira)
  • Royals : Lorde (I played guitar, accompanying Keira
  • Sound of The Suburbs : The Members
  • Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour : Lonnie Donegan
  • Watching The Detectives* : Elvis Costello
  • Speed of The Sound of Loneliness : John Prine
  • Pretty in Pink : Psychedelic Furs
  • Green Green Grass of Home : Curly Putman
  • City of New Orleans* : Steve Goodman
  • Good Year For The Roses* : Jerry Chesnut
  • Down In The Tube Station : Paul Weller
  • Bela Lugosi’s Dead : Bauhaus
  • Top Of The Pops : The Rezillos
  • Wallington Prison Blues* : Johnny Cash
  • Highway To Hell : Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott
  • It’s A Long Way To The Top : Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott
  • Pablo Picasso : Writer Unknown (I played as guest guitarist on this one)
  • Disco Man : The Damned
  • Dozen Girls : The Damned
  • Sound of The Suburbs : The Members
  • Peter Pumpkinhead : Xtc
  • Ever Fallen In Love : The Buzzcocks
  • Wait For The Blackout : The Damned
  • There Ain’t No Sanity Clause : The Damned
  • White Christmas : Irving Berlin
  • Sign Of The Times : Harry Styles and others (I played guitar, accompanying Keira)
  • Stay Free : The Clash

* indicates a song played on multiple separate occasions over the seven month period.

 

Stretch Your Canvas

This is one of many lovely art works I’ve collected over the years, made by people who I work with who tell me they cannot draw. Apologies, I don’t currently know the name of the artist, but what we have here is a visual response to the question ‘what brings you joy?’.

A lot of my work is about encouraging folk who talk about creativity and innovation, to talk a little less, and do a little more. Take some action – convert your thoughts and ideas into objects and artefacts, learning from what that feels like. Something I observe in the work, is it needs repeated practice. Doing things differently often doesn’t come easy, and when you and I cannot respond positively to the ‘so when was the last time you did something you felt uneasy about?’ question, we undermine our ability to encourage, to influence.

In the coming weeks I am particularly busy, playing in the space where people’s desire to progress meets the stalling effects of uncertainty. For me – I feel better equipped to help people move through these feelings, into participation, when I am also pushing myself. In order to refresh this desire, at the beginning of last week I decided to take part in an open mic event at The Brook, a lovely venue just down the road from me. As the big day drew nearer I realised that this was no ordinary open mic night. A band called Love Zombies were visiting the UK to record a new album at The Brook, and the venue announced the band would be taking part in the open mic evening.

I arrived and the place was packed. I nervously approached Dan, who organises/encourages/sets up/pretty much does everything to make these evenings work well, and asked for a slot. 9.15pm it is then. At 8pm I take my seat and watch the venue come alive.

Love Zombies played first, then a series of talented local musicians took to the stage, as each one concludes their short act, my time of reckoning draws nearer. Heart thumping, 9.15pm comes and goes, things are understandably overrunning a little, it’s hectic in here. I lost my bottle at around 10pm, and went to find Dan to apologise before leaving. He said sorry for the delay, I realised I was being a chump, and we opted for a 10.15pm start.

At the reallotted time I took to the stage, nervously, and played two songs. I fluffed the first (When I Grow Up – by Tim Minchin), picked myself up and finished it, and the second (Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush – by The Reverend Horton Heat) came out better, in the right order at least! I did what I set out to do. Sure, I made some mistakes along the way, and I got it done. I’m as certain as I can be that further mistakes will occur in the coming weeks too, and I’m also certain that when someone asks me ‘so when was the last time you did something you felt uneasy about?’ I can respond positively, currently, and authentically.

Whatever you’re up to this week, go well, have fun, and maybe even make a mistake or two? 😉

Music to Die For

Today is my birthday. Somehow I’ve made it to 48, the age Mum was when she died. Today is a day for celebrating, for being happy, and thinking ahead.

If I have a faith, it is in people – past present and future. My funeral won’t be a religious affair, so in place of hymns, there will be music instead. Currently, here’s what will be on offer and why:

1. I Fought The Law

Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun 
I fought the law and the law won

This song is carved into the heart of my late teenage years. Mum died just before I turned 19. She not only endured my interest in the punk movement, she encouraged it. The prospect of stomping around Croydon in shiny black ten hole Doctor Martin boots sporting a black Harrington jacket and a bad attitude is what used to get me out of bed on a Saturday morning. That and the fact that my £1 weekly allowance was enough to get the bus to and from town, buy a copy of the Cost of Living EP from Virgin Records, and have change left over for a Mars Bar. Happy days.

2. Rock O My Soul

My soul is weak
Rock my soul
And thou art strong
Rock my soul

Before Elvis and The Beatles, there was Lonnie Donegan. Donegan was born in Glasgow in and began playing in London clubs in the late 1940s. With his simple guitar rhythms, powerful voice and rock solid band he chalked up 24 consecutive top 30 singles. This quote of his speaks volumes to me in terms of making music accessible:

“In England, we were separated from our folk music tradition centuries ago and were imbued with the idea that music was for the upper classes. You had to be very clever to play music. When I came along with the old three chords, people began to think that if I could do it, so could they. It was the reintroduction of the folk music bridge which did that.”

My Dad grew up listening to Lonnie Donegan, and as is the way, so did I. In my teenage years, my interest in Donegan waned in favour of bands like The Clash and The Damned, and when Dad died in early 2012, I rediscovered Lonnie Donegan’s simple power, and humour. Listening to his music has been a significant part of evolving grief into cherished memories.

3. The Garden

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give

In the fullness of time,
It’s the only return that you expect

Earlier this year I took myself and two very close friends off to the O2 to see Rush on their Clockwork Angels tour. We took the riverboat down to the venue, treated ourselves to seats right down the front, drank beer, spilled beer, and watched the band play. This song was a highlight and since that day it has pencilled, painted, inked and now tattooed itself into me. I love this song because it reminds me of my shortcomings, and of how far I still have to go. I love the idea that life is a garden to nurture and protect.

I have much nurturing to do. I’m off to do some now.

Have a great day.

There are successful bands all over the world with average guitar players, and singers that can hold a note, but every great band seems to have one thing in common. This post is for drummers and percussionists everywhere. To those who keep the rhythm, so the rest of us don’t have to.