Aug 4 2008

The Bass Player’s Fear of the Pollen Count

Just a little rant, followed by a sigh of relief….

It seems we have come to the end of the hay fever season. Thank god for that is all I can say.

I must admit to being one of those people who hates the summer and all it brings. Every year I have a hard time and can’t wait for the cold weather to return.
I don’t function well in hot weather. I like a good crisp and dry winter’s day. I like to go out wearing a jacket and ideally a hat. I find the lack of pockets in the Summer an immense pain in the arse. The man-bag has made another appearance this year to accommodate  all my various bits and bobs that I cart around with me, but in a gigging situation the last thing I need is another bag to lug around. I can’t stand being too hot because there’s literally nothing you can do about it, whereas you can always layer up in colder weather.
Every summer brings with it the usual spate of outdoor gigs which I very rarely enjoy. Wearing a suit in that kind of weather is a surefire recipe for playing discomfort. The run of garden parties and the like never fails to take it’s toll on me upright bass. I’ve just had to spend a considerable amount of money having my bass overhauled due to the effects of the weather. For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, double basses are fixed together with a special glue that melts under heat. This is to facilitate easy repairs. It doesn’t take kindly to direct sunlight though, and every year without fail my bass decides to come unstuck right in the middle of my busiest period in the summer. My instrument plays best in the winter, and so do I.
I also get terrible hay fever. This usually comes on around March and stays with me to varying degrees until early August. Anyone else who suffers with this ailment will understand what an inconvenience this can be when you’re trying to work. It’s like having a cold all through the spring and early summer months, with the addition of itchy and dry eyes to really finish you off.
I went through the rigmarole of going to my local GP for the latest antihistaminic placebo. This proved, as always, a complete waste of money yet again. Every year this happens. Next spring I’m not going to bother, they never work and they’re not cheap. I’ve been taking chewable Vitamin C this year, which has eased some of the symptoms. Not the soar throat and the itchy eyes though…
So as you can see, the summer is not the idillic picture of fun and excitement it is for most people. They announced on pollen count section of the weather forecast that the hay fever season is now officially over. And as I look outside, I’d say the hot weather is over now too.
Great. Looking forward to lots of lovely sensibly indoor shows and the relative comfort of a hat and scarf in the not too distant future.
Is it just me who hates the summer?

Jul 3 2008

A Busy Couple of Weeks…

Well it’s been pretty hectic in the Little bass world. I’ve been up and down the country with Clare Teal and I’ve just got back from Julie McKee’s album launch at the 606 in Chelsea. I’m sat here suffering with dreadful hay fever (always spoils this time of year for me), so I thought I might use this opportunity to fill you in on what’s been going on. Those of you who have been following my Twitter updates will have some idea of the driving involved if nothing else!
The first gig in Clare’s run was at Iford Manor (is it near Frome?) on the 20th . They put on music throughout the summer in their beautiful grounds, from jazz to opera. We were in the ‘Cloisters’; a very old stone building not much bigger than a double garage with a well in the middle of it. We were playing opposite the Jive Aces who were in a tent up the hill. Apparently the intended vibe was that people would scatter themselves around the grounds with their picnics and would be able to hear/see the live music from wherever they were. But of course it rained. Quite heavily in fact. But in true British style this did not stop the eager music lovers from enjoying the show. We performed in front of as many people as could squeeze into the little building, all in their wellies and wax jackets and everyone had a great (if rather damp) time. The boys even managed to do all their dance moves in the cramped space!
We then moved on to the Taliesin in Swansea. They always look after us at the Taliesin, it’s a great venue (although I can never find it in the middle of the University campus, I was driving around forever looking for signs… there are none). I went down early to meet up with my friend Dan who lives in Swansea now. I haven’t seen him since I was about 10 years old (!), we were best mates at primary school and lost touch when my family moved to Dorset in 1990. We got back in touch via the wonders of Facebook and it was so good to see him again. It’s really funny how some people never really change. He was exactly as I remembered him and we had a great time catching up at the pub down the road. The Swansea show was great and the sound was amazing. The drive home however was a nightmare. Torrential rain made progress very slow. In fact AD (who had decided to go to Swansea on his bike) and I eventually decided to stop for half an hour on the way home to wait it out.
We played a charity gig in Bath on the Monday for Myeloma UK at the St James Memorial Hall. There were a few people there who’d been at Iford Manor and as well as putting on the show Clare donated all profits from CD sales on the night to the charity.
On the 25th we played Stamford Arts Centre up in Lincolnshire. Stamford is a beautiful little town; old limestone buildings and churches, about 100 miles north of London. Well worth a visit if you’re up that way. The Arts Centre is a great resource for the local community, putting on everything from music and cinema to workshops and comedy shows. Again we were well looked after by the staff there and we played in front of a packed crowd.
On Saturday we all drove up to Barton Upon Humber, near Hull. That was a long way. Managed to spend about seven hours in the car that day, maybe eight. In fact, I dread to think how long I’m spending driving at the moment (or indeed how much I’m spending on petrol- is it me or does the price of petrol go up by a penny every couple of days?). We played at St Mary’s Parish Church, a venue we’ve played before. It’s always a tricky acoustic playing in churches (anyone remember The Divine Comedy at St James’ on Piccadilly?), especially with bass and drums. Bass frequencies just disappear into the ether whilst the drums reverberate for days… We managed to get over this as always and had a great show.
It’s interesting to note at this juncture how atmospheric conditions affect the double bass (not to mention my hay fever). A couple of recent shows have been rather damp (to say the least). Even the show in the church was cold/damp enough to have an adverse effect on my instrument. Double basses are far more susceptible to this than electric basses and it’s a constant source of frustration to me. The neck seems to soak up all the moisture in the air, as well as the fingerboard, making the instrument incredibly unpleasant to hold and play. I’ve got a proper outdoor gig tomorrow (the ones mentioned thus far have been technically indoors), and to honest I’m dreading what it’s going to do to my bass. I feel another trip to see bass-repair maestro Roger Dawson in the near future…
Last night was the official launch show for Julie McKee’s new album ‘What A Woman Shouldn’t Do”. Those of you familiar with solo-bass supremo Steve Lawson may well have heard her before. She’s got a great voice and is a wonderful song-writer. We recorded the album a while back at the Cowshed in Bounds Green (a great studio if you’re looking for somewhere to record, I’ve done several albums there already). Last night’s lineup included Nigel Price on guitar, John Blease on drums, Rob Gentry on keyboards and Sam Chaplin on trumpet, with club-owner Steve Rubie sitting in for one tune on alto flute. If you are not yet familiar with Julie’s music, she’s well worth checking out. Her album is available at her official website, as well as Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes. Or you can have a look at her MySpace page to have a listen to some of the new songs.
Well, that’s just about all the news for the moment. If you haven’t already had a listen to my solo bass podcast, you can check it out here. There’s been a couple of new posts since my last blog and as always do feel free to leave your comments and suggestions on the Podbean page.
Until next time…
Here’s a little photo of Colin and AD soundchecking at the Cloisters in Iford Manor