Aug 13 2008

Maggie Reilly Sommersted Festival: A Field Report

Well it’s been another hectic weekend folks.

On Friday night I drove out to Wells to play a little jazz gig with sax legend Pee Wee Ellis. This was the first time I’ve played a gig with Pee Wee (we met a couple of weeks previously when he came to sit in on Clare’s gig at the Frome festival) and, I must say, I was a little nervous. Now, I don’t normally get nervous before a gig but I am a big fan of Pee Wee and I really wanted to make a good impression. Gareth Williams was on piano and he was fantastic. I’ve wanted to play with Gareth for a long time now; he’s one of my favourite pianists. Pee Wee was great fun and sounded great. We were playing at Cafe Piano, a gorgeous little venue in Heritage Courtyard, just off Sadler Street. The place was sold out (this was the forth gig Pee Wee had played there) and the trio went down a storm. Really hoping to play with Pee Wee again in the near future, it was a real privilege and a pleasure.

It turns out that Wells was a lot further away than I originally thought and it took an incredibly long time to get back home after the gig. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem but I had to get up early the following morning in order to catch a plane out to Denmark for a festival gig with Maggie. As I may have mentioned before, I find it very difficult to sleep if I have to get up early to catch a plane. It’s that terrible thought of waking up late and missing the flight. So no sleep for me!
We arrived at the airport in Arhus (in the middle of ar street) to be driven out to the festival site. Now I’m not overly sure of the exact whereabouts of the gig, but I’m guessing it was Sommersted as that was the name of the festival. It was an outdoor show for about 1800 people. We were headlining at around 9pm following a rocky blues band. After us was to be a well-known Danish covers band who would be playing on late into the night. I’ve discovered that having a covers band on festival bills is quite common in Denmark (you may recall my mentioning a similar band at the Struer festival in one of my previous posts). Still doesn’t sit quite right for me…
We went to check in at the hotel as we discovered they weren’t quite ready for us at the festival site. Very odd hotel this one. It really wouldn’t have looked out of place in the middle of the Slough Trading Estate. Imagine something resembling a low-rise office block crossed with a dodgy backstreet pub and you’ll be halfway there. We retreated straight to the bar for a little drink, but the promise of a decent meal at the festival site quickly lured us back into the van. 
Back at the festival in the dressing room, we eagerly awaited our evening meal. In came the cheese and speckled ham platter. Should have seen that one coming really. 
They did keep the coffee flowing though so we were at least awake for the show if a little under-nourished!
Having been a rather fine day, the heavens opened up as soon as the previous band came off stage. Luckily our gear had already been loaded backstage so we managed to avoid the rain whilst setting up. The audience seemed really excited to see Maggie and refused to be beaten by the rain. Fantastic stuff. This was to be Gordon’s second gig with the band (we’ve still yet to have a proper rehearsal all together!) and Chrys had improvised a keyboard stand with various bits of metal bolted together. As we set the stage up it lasted about 10 seconds after the keyboard was lowered onto it! A couple of empty flightcases were swiftly dragged on as a last-minute replacement. Wish I’d had my camera at that point, it was quite funny watching the little frame slowly buckle under the immense weight of the keyboard!
The show itself went down a storm (Literally. It was pouring down by this stage). We played pretty much the same set as Slupsk, with a few of the quieter numbers taken out to save time. Probably about half of the audience had retreated under cover towards the back of the site, but the rest of them braved the rain in a sea of anoraks and umbrellas. Chrys had decided to drive all our own gear over to the show this time. It was great to finally have both my basses to hand as well as my pedalboard (I use quite a lot of bass effects with Maggie). I much prefer playing the little solo spots on my fretless, although my chorus pedal decided to emit it’s sporadic ‘I don’t like 120 volts’ hum, as did my amp. O well, at least it was my hum!

I had to leave alone early the next morning in order to get back to England for a gig with Symeon Cosburn at the RAC club in Epsom. This was no mean feat as we were in the middle of nowhere in deepest Denmark on a Sunday. Chrys had very kindly organised a series of train connections in order to get me to Copenhagen airport so I could get back in time. The hotel’s one saving grace was it’s being situated opposite the local train station. As I sat on the platform at 7.45 in the morning the station attendant informed me that the train times are completely different at the weekend and I’d have to get on a much later train. Bugger, I thought. Luckily the train I eventually caught an hour later went straight through to Copenhagen, so with a bit of last minute improvisation I was able to get to the airport on time with only one change. 

It took me nearly nine hours in total to get to my gig in Epsom (phew…), but it was well worth it in the end. It was a great little quartet gig with Dave Ohm on drums and Anthony Strong on piano. Symeon isn’t doing too many shows at the moment so I was really pleased I could make it. The RAC club in Epsom is a beautiful place. The main building is like a huge mansion in the middle of some stunning grounds. We were playing in a huge ballroom for a crowd of about sixty people, most of whom ended up buying a CD in the break. I swear this must be some kind of record; almost four fifths of the audience bought one of Symeon’s CD’s. A fantastic result. Hopefully we’ll be doing some more in the near future. Keep an eye on my gig list on my MySpace page for updates.
I’m going to be playing at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Maidstone on Saturday with Clare Teal if anyone’s in the area. Do let me know if you’re coming along so I can say hello. I’m off to play an orchestral show with Duke Special in Dublin the following week, with another gig at the Roundhouse on the 29th. Seriously not to be missed. 
Hopefully see you at a show soon.