30 December 2009

Day 15 - Thoresby
We spent a fantastic 2nd day at Thoresby being proper tourists, as Chris said in her last post, visiting the Major oak in Sherwood Forest. For me (Julie) and Jil it was a trip down memory lane as we each visited here many times as kids and adults alike. Chris Leslie remembers visiting here as a boy and wearing his Robin Hood suit! For the others it was a new and exciting experience made all the more special by the snow-covered forest floor. We got loads of great photos which will no doubt make their way into the forthcoming album booklet!  We had a splendid time at Thoresby, both on and off the stage. Thanks Farnsfield Acoustic, see ya's all next year.

Day 16 - Shaw
What a journey we had. By the time we reached Shaw, crossing the pennines, the snow was falling thick and fast. It turned bitterly cold and unfortunately there was a terrible draught on stage that kept us pretty frozen all night! I even went on with my wooly hat and Jil's fingerless gloves in the second half! Still, it's always a good night at Shaw and big thanks to all who braved the weather and condolences to those who couldn't make it. As we'd picked David's car up on route to Shaw that gave us an extra vehicle so while David, Chris L and the crew went to the Travelodge, Chris W, Jil and me decided to shoot for Chris's house in Southport; a stone's throw from the last gig and a chance for Chris to sleep in her own bed.

Day 17 - Leyland
The next day Chris and Dave arrived late morning for a top nosh: CW special brunch - lovely. We had our Aggie Christmas, exchanging presents and all feeling chuffed with the success of the tour and making plans for our big 10th anniversary next year.  So on to the last gig, Worden Arts, a beautiful venue set in a very snowy Worden Park. It's a strange gig the last one, it's celebratory (Kirstie brought us alcohol free mulled wine which she heated up on a camping stove! And she brought homemade mince pies too) but it's also sad as, at the end of it, we all split and go our separate ways. Again our resiliant audience braved the weather and we had a great last night.

The journey home however was a bit fraught. Jil and I headed north with the minibus and what should have been an hour and half journey took us three and a half! Still, we all made it in one piece and slept soundly in our own beds.

Thanks everybody, promoters and audiences alike for making this the best Aggie tour ever - here's to 2010 when we'll be having our tenth birthday celebrations, hope you'll join us all again. All the best for the new year, with love, Julie, Chris, David and Chris and the crew.

The Aggie Team



18 December 2009

Day Twelve & Thirteen - Banbury

The Mill in Banbury is the home of Folk Rock and is always a great gig. Carl the technician there is always smiling and helpful and the dressing room there serves as our present wrapping station, it’s my (Chris W) third time at the Mill this year alone so it does feel Aggies in Banbury - photo by Kirstie Huntlike home. There are always loads of friends that turn up too. Chris L lives in the Banbury area so all his family come, then there’s the Fairport lads - Peggy and Rick. Judy Dyble came along and so did some of our best friends, Kirstie & Matt and Jo & Em.

It’s so interesting with the two-night experience: each audience is so different.  Both are into the gig but the first night was very polite and quiet and the second gig was loud with lots of cheers and laughter.

We stayed with Auntie Shirl of course in her lovely home in Cropredy. Unfortunately she fell the morning of the second gig and bashed her head so she didn’t see the show at all, never mind, we’ll be back next year.
Day Fourteen & Fifteen - Thoresby
The next day we headed North East towards Nottinghamshire to play two consecutive nights at Thoresby Riding Stables.  Two nights anywhere is fantastic. You set up your gear and don’t take it down till the end of the second night. You can get to your hotel room for 11pm ready for a nice glass of wine or a cup of coffee and the next day you just walk into the gig at 5.30pm instead of the usual 4pm, do a quick line check and go for dinner - Lovely!

As we drove into Nottinghamshire the weather turned bad. We literally drove into the blizzards and the visibility went to nothing. Julie slowed down to a crawl and we got quite excited at the prospect of having snow on the ground at The Stables then, as soon as it started, it stopped and blue skies replaced the thick grey/white sky that had threatened so much snow. It was a lovely night, Christmas is such a great time to tour, everyone is happy when they arrive which makes it a pleasure for us. The towns look all warm and happy and the shops are full of fabulous Christmassey stuff.  When we came out of the gig last night, the ground was frozen solid and it was freezing cold, everywhere looked gorgeous and wintry and we layered up in the bus and hoped the hotel would be warm, it was.

Today we are off to see the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood’s Tree, can’t wait to see it, I feel a bit like a kid. Apparently 34 children can hold hands around the base of the tree, that’s how big it is!


15 December 2009

Day Nine - South Petherton
I've written this a number of times on our tour diaries but I have to say it again, David Hall Arts Centre is a gem of a gig and invariably, one of the best gigs on the tour. It was under threat of closure a couple of years ago but massive public and artist support as well as tireless campaigning by the volunteers there kept it open and it has gone from strength to strength since, receiving lottery funding and making it better than ever. Tonight's gig was sold out months ago, the audience are complete devotees and so enthusiastic from the word go. We had a buzzing night and have decided to put 2 nights on there next year, not only because the public demand is so high but also because we love it! See you next year South Petherton - twice the fun!

Our heroes guarding the parking space!Day Ten - Hitchin
Yet another beautifully run club by Maureen and Keiron Jones, Hitchin Folk club has been running for over 40 years and in our nine years there with 'The Fountain', we haven't played to anything but a packed house with a great atmosphere. We have to give a big shout out and thank you to Paul who's been the manager at The Sun for the last three years and a great supporter of the club, the music and all the musicians who pass through it's doors. Paul is returning to his native Scotland and will be sorely missed but we wish him well in all his future ventures. Buzzing gig, top shopping and great crack, thanks Hitchin.

Day Eleven - Nettlebed
We spent the day of the gig in Hitchin as there's nothing to do in Nettlebed so we had a lovely, leisurely wander around the shops, did a number of coffee stops and were all gobsmacked to see David out on the streets shopping! For nine years David has done his shopping on the last day of the tour, spending the rest of the tour in a cozy pub reading the paper and drinking coffee while the rest of us troll round the shops, finally, we've broken him and he's now succumbed with 8 days to go! Teehee! It was a great relief when we arrived at Nettlebed to discover the Village club had the heating on! Last year it was broken and we spent the few hours from arrival to gig time in our overcoats and gloves! If anything, it went the other way this year, heating on full and over 200 people in the hall and Chris and I were nearly passing out with the heat on stage! Eeee, some people are never happy eh? Great show again though, getting a bit nervous of these high stages though when we come in front of the mics for the encore, I nearly did a bit of crowd surfing in Worcester, now that would have ruined somebody's Christmas!

13 December 2009

On the roadDay Six - Maldon
We discovered on our journey from Canterbury to Maldon that as pub quiz teams go, we're pretty bobbins without Mr Hughes! David's partner Angie came to the gig in Canterbury so naturally he travelled with her to Maldon leaving quite a void in the tour bus. Still, we amused ourselves with our ignorance and arrived in Dave's home town to the news of yet another sell-out at the town hall. Great for Dave, who's a bit of a local hero and legend here. We were also treated to a beautiful meal before the gig from Leon, an amazing chef who caters at Cropredy festival and cooks the most delightful dishes; polenta with truffle sauce, grilled aubergine with tomato sauce, sweet red peppers marinated with chilli and capers, to name but a few of the dishes - divine! Thanks to him and his delightful family for this special treat.
The gig was lots of fun, Simon's doing a fantastic job on sound and the compliments about it were plenty.  We're very lucky to have such a great time with him, Pete on lights and of course Jil, the steady rudder of our ship. Thanks guys.

DavidDay Seven - Marlborough
Big favourite of ours is Marlborough. Andrew puts on brilliant gigs here and Sarah, his wife treats us to a beautiful meal after the gig.  A big joyous gathering around the dining room table with fine company, chat and home cooked food - bliss. St Mary's Church is a very grand setting for the show and with a sell out of almost 300 people, the night was a real highlight. Marlborough is a pretty town at any time of the year but in December the high street looks beautiful. Thanks Marlborough for a top time.

Sound check at WorcesterDay Eight - Worcester
Yet another grand venue, Huntingdon Hall. We've been coming here since Albion days, we always have great, memorable shows but tonight turned out to be memorable for an entirely different reason! Half way through the first half, the duty manager walked up to the stage, stopped the band and proceeded to inform the audience, and indeed us, that the building would have to be evacuated due to a fire alarm and that everyone (300 of us!) would have to gather outside the Cathedral across the road! Well that's a first in my career! Fortunately, we managed to grab our coats (it was freezing) and Chris Leslie also managed to grab his fiddle which came in handy as he went into the middle of the crowd and led them all in a rousing version of 'O Come all ye Faithful' and what singers they were, magnificent. What a hero Chris was, Cliff at Wimbledon springs to mind! Before he had chance to strike up another Carol, we were called back in and eventually the show recommenced. We'll remember those Worcester carol singers for a long time to come!

09 December 2009

Day Three - Totnes
We headed early to Totnes for the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping but to our great disappointment, it was shut! Now, fair enough it was a Sunday but come on, doesn't Devon do Christmas?! Ah well, never mind, plenty more towns are eagerly awaiting to swipe our plastic!  The Ariel Centre is a fabulous venue and with another sell out waiting for us we knew we were in for a good night. We were also treated to a set from the Carrivick Sisters, runners up in this years 'Young Musician of the Year', who opened the show for us. They are sublime musicians and sooooo young, check them out, they are destined for great things. (Chris Leslie was covetting their mandolin, saying it was the finest he'd ever heard and he's got some pretty nice ones in his collection). Brilliant gig, we had a ball and the audience was on top form!

Day Four - Fareham
The journey east from Devon to Fareham was very entertaining as we've discovered the pub quiz app for iPhone so we spent a good couple of hours testing our general knowledge. It has to be said, David Hughes is a genius! Not only is he charming, witty and handsome but he also knows a fair bit too. It was a good laugh, highly recommended for any tour bus.  Ashcroft Arts is a regular favourite of ours and with another sell-out, we had a lovely gig. The songs are getting really played in now, we feel less like rabbits in headlights with the new songs which are all going down a storm. Loving the show, think the audiences are too!

Day Five - Canterbury
Having been deflated by the lack of retail therapy at Totnes, we set off early from Fareham in the hopes that Canterbury would be better! It didn't let us down. What an amazing city, with all the lights up and the shops all decorated it looked beautiful. Boy did we shop! (David opted to read the paper, eat a steak and ale pie and drink a pint in the old butter Market pub!)  Made a good dent in our Christmas present lists and had a jolly nice time doing it too.  The gig was the icing on the cake. It's been sold out for weeks and there's little surprise so many people want to come to Canterbury Cathedral Art Centre - it's gorgeous. A perfect setting for a Christmas show, we even had our photo taken with the nativity outside the Cathedral! Top day, thanks Canterbury!

06 December 2009

Day One - Deepcar
The journey from North Staffs over to Sheffield was pretty spectacular, a lovely sunny winters day that truly showed the Peak District National Park at it's best. Had time at the other end for a lunch visit with my (Julie) Mum and Dad, they're divine and it's not just me that thinks so, the whole band are smitten! So then on to a our first sound check and gig at Deepcar, in a church hall and chocka block full of cheery people eager to get into the Christmas spirit. It was great to have the full sound production again, Simon on the desk is a real craftsman and it's always good to hear the songs you've been rehearing blossom into these big, beautiful tracks. The gig was wonderful, felt like the best sets in years. It was also great to have some lovely friends in the audience, as well as my Mum and Dad I was treated to a reunion with my cousin Mark who I haven't seen in years (except onDavid the tele, he's a great actor!), also our dear friends Ken and Ruth (Ken is making my new gazouki which will be ready in February - whoppee!) All in all, great first night!

Day Two - Lickey
David spent the entirety of the journey in the bus (3 hours), the hotel check in, the gig load in, the sound check and then the pre-show dinner, with his headphones on listening to the football!!  I think he only took them off for the gig because the results were all in!  The gig was great, it always is at Lickey, Paul Edwards does a fantastic job, it was a sell-out so the atmosphere was vibrant. Top mince pies, hot and home made, I made the mistake of not leaving enough room for one after my curry, shame!

05 December 2009

Aggie's in the reindeer hutWe've been in rehearsals for the last three days in the beautiful North Staffs countryside, staying with our wonderful friends Vanya and Graham who open their home to us and spoil us rotten while we beat this year's show into shape in their huge living room! We had an amazing time, Graham is a brilliant cook and one evening we were treated to a party in their newly aquired reindeer herders hut, (it's the genuine article all the way from Lapland). We sang, played and made merry 'till the early hours and the memory of the night will remain with us alaways. Thank you so much guys, you really are the kindest and best of friends. AggieOur stay was made all the more special by the new addition to Vanya and Graham's family, the most adorable puppy and to top it off they've named her Aggie, she is a joy and we were in puppy heaven.

On the last day of rehearsals we've now made it a bit of a tradition that we play a house concert at Pool Hall and all the proceeds go to a charity of V&G's choice. It's a great warm up for the tour for us and it's a nice Christmas box for a local charity. It was wonderful and really got us in the mood, all the new material went down well and the mince pies were delicious! So that's it, we're all set, tour bus packed, farewell to our dear friends and Aggie's on the road again. Here we come!