27 October 2010

Fareham & Banbury

Fareham Arts Centre
We've been coming here for as long as I can remember and the gigs are always brilliant. James, the technical manager is like an old friend now and makes us feel so welcome and at home. It was a sell-out so we knew we were in for a belting night. There was an underlying sadness for Chris and I though, knowing this was the the last couple of gigs on the tour and all the songs that are so played in will have to be put away until the next duo tour. Still, it didn't overshadow the concert and the audience as always were very giving from start to finish. Lovely. We've been selling our very first While and Matthews shopping bags on this tour and they've been a great success as you can see by the photo of a friend, Leek who bought one then sported it on her holiday to Sicilly - 'Hitting the ground shopping'!

The Mill - Banbury
And so to the last night. The Mill is such an appropriate gig to finish on. The audience never fail to deliver and the atmosphere was almost celebratory, and why indeed not, it's been an amazing tour, the best yet. It was lovely too to see our Aggie brother Chris Leslie in the audience, won't be long now 'til we're dusting off the fairy lights! Our wonderful soundman Simon surprised us at the end by having a bouquet of flowers each presented to the three of us (Chris, Jil and I). What a darling man he is, can't imagine going on the road without him, his friendship, his unflappable manner and his incredible talents on the sound desk. Chris and I never take for granted the very special team we have in Simon and Jil, thank you guys, you really are the best.

So that's it for now. Time for a few weeks of home life now before we fill the bus up with all things christmassy. Thank you to all the promoters, venues and especially the thousands of people who came, sang, cheered and made every night one to remember. The tour diary will be back in December, until then, hope you've enjoyed the journey around this beautiful country, we certainly have.

23 October 2010

Norwich, Birmingham & Didcot

Norwich - The Assembly Rooms
This is our last run of gigs on this tour which always makes us quite sad though we can console ourselves knowing we've got so many more things to look forward to in the coming months - St Agnes Fountain, Rejoice the Voice and a tour with our own brilliant band in April, we're hardly going to have time to get bored are we?

We haven't been to Norwich for a few years so it was a lovely surprise to see we had plenty of people on seats in what is a very elegant and grand venue. It's a long old schlep to Norwich but it worth the journey, lovely gig. Special thanks to our lovely friends Richard and Lin Patterson for inviting us to be the first house guests in their beautiful new home which was like something off Grand Designs - wow, beats a travelodge any day of the week!

The Red Lion - Birmingham
You can't fail to have a great night at the Red Lion. It's brimming with history and atmosphere and is run by a brilliant team of people. The gig has always been on a Friday but unfortunately they've had to move to Wednesdays and it's really affected numbers. We're used to the place being rammed so it was a bit of a shock to see empty seats but those that had braved the midweek more than made up for their lesser numbers and it was a cracking gig. Lovely again to stay with our friends Jo and Emma and chill the following day before the short journey to the next gig.

Cornerstone Arts - Didcot
New venue for us but what a find, absolutely superb art centre and one that I hope we'll return to for many years to come. We had a brilliant audience and though a couple of late nights had taken their toll on our energy levels, they kept us going with their singing and cheering. Thanks Didcot, we'll be back.


17 October 2010

The Rock at Maltby

Formerly The Rockingham Arms at Wentworth, this gig has been run by my old pal Rob Shaw for nearly 40 years and as a young budding singer songwriter I cut my teeth on this audience a shocking 30 years ago! The Rock relocated here to the community centre at Maltby a couple of years ago but it is still an ace gig to play and tonights sellout was no exception. It was brilliant to also catch up with so many old friends, some I haven't seen for 28 years (am I really THAT old?!) and one in particular who hasn't been well lately but it was good to see he's looking much better now.

Three days off now and while Chris and I head to Birmingham for a friends Civil Partnership tomorrow, Jil and Simon get time off at home for good behaviour! After Birmingham it's back to my Mum and Dads for two days of family bliss, lovely.

15 October 2010

Pontardawe & Ellesmere Port

Pontardawe Arts centre
At one time, Pontadawe was a thriving industrial steel town, it's size and wealth was even greater than Swansea  and interestingly, the roof of the White House was made in Pontardawe. Alas those glory days are long gone under the demise of British steel and Pontadawe is now a small service town nestled in glorious countryside. What remains however from those bountiful days is the magnificent concert hall that is now the arts centre. It too has gone through it's many changes - cinema, bingo hall, council offices but now thankfully restored to it's former glory. You won't find a nicer staff or crew anywhere and the audience were equally as lovely. Fab night, thanks Wales, our only visit on this tour.

Incredible journey up through mid-Wales, avoiding the dreaded boring motorways and stopping off for a delightful lunch at the Saracens Head in one of our favourite places, Symonds Yat. If you've never been it's well worth a detour, tiny place cut down the middle by the glorious river Wye and east and west of the village are connected by a very sweet pull over ferry. Great to break the long journey up like that, I'm terrible for getting my head down and only seeing the destination but thankfully, Chris is always eager to do the scenic route and pull off the road to discover a hidden treasure.

The Hungry Horse - Ellesmere Port
The Hungry Horse is a gem of a club with a team of committed, lovely people who run it week after week. It was jam packed and hanging from the rafters with some unfortunates turned away as it was sold out, sorry to them as it was a brilliant night, loved every minute of it but it's always hard when you know people have travelled to see you only to be left in the cold. Thanks to the wonderful team of Helpers at the end of the night who carried everything down the several flights of stairs and to Kirstie for the set-up and strip down.

11 October 2010

South Petherton & Maidenhead

South Petherton - David Hall Arts
Well as predicted it was like Hades in the Travelodge so all emerged from our rooms unrested and a bit grumpy! To cheer ourselves up on route to the south west we took a minor detour to one of our favourite spots in the country, Avebury. We had a lovely lunch in the pub and a wander round the stones. It's so much more accessible and impressive than Stonehenge and I have so many great memories of stops there on tour with just about everyone I've worked with over the years; The Albions, Daphne's Flight, all the different bands, Aggie's, all lovely snapshots in my memory banks.
Now suitably cheered up and revitalised, we headed off to one of our favourite gigs, David Hall. What a great place this is, community based and run by volunteers who are always so delighted to see you and look after you from the moment you arrive til you drive away at the end of the night. There is no doubt this is a special venue but the audience that we're privileged to play for each year are the best you'll find anywhere. From the moment you step on stage they are so energised, cheering every song, singing every word and truly having the best time. We are so lucky to not only play this venue but to have such brilliant, loyal followers, thanks South Petherton you really are the tops.

Maidenhead - Norden Farm Arts
Gorgeous journey up the 303, Chris pulled off the road just before turning up the A34 into a little village called Thruxton where we found the White Horse pub with a grand thatched roof, beautiful beer garden and the best mushroom soup ever! It was a beautiful Indian summers day, the autumnal colours looked spectacular and we had a lovely time basking in the sunshine in the beer garden, perfect.  Chris and Kellie have played Norden Farm Arts before but it was a first for me. Gorgeous venue, lovely and really helpful technical staff and another sell-out gig. What a great tour we're having.  Loving the songs both new and old and really enjoying how many chorus type songs there are and how everyone is singing to them night after night.

We've got a couple of days off now so we're spending it with our lovely friends Jan and Sand in Gloucester. Time to chill.

09 October 2010

Bristol & Thames Ditton

Cabot Circus - Bristol
The day started off pretty badly for me. We checked out of the hotel and I stupidly left my iphone on top of the car. We'd driven a mile down a busy dual carriageway before I realised and returned to search the car park but to no avail. We drove back down the dual carriageway and pulled back into the lay-by, from where I set off walking in the grass bank next to the road. Yes. I know, it was a stupid and dangerous thing to do but unbelievably, after about half a mile, there she was in the tall grass, minus her cover and with just a few minor scuffs but working perfectly none the less. I now had to continue walking the rest of the way
and if I'm being honest I don't think I'd repeat such a scary journey. Still, this time it came good for me.
Lorraine Carpenter and Ian Storrer have been putting us on in Bristol for years. As far back as I can remember they were at the Albert Inn which became a must play venue for acoustic roots and jazz musicians alike. There's nothing that each of them don't know about their choice of music (Ian - Jazz, Lorraine - Folk) and after all these years we're proud to have them as dear friends. After they sadly left The Albert, they had a few years at Bordeaux Quay which they rapidly transformed on Sunday nights to yet another brilliant gig. Now Ian manages events at the Future Inn at Cabot Circus which we played last year to only a handful of people on it's opening night. Now a year on, the build of the new venue has been a slow one but gradually people are starting to venture here and we had a cracking night. The venue is brimming with atmosphere and beautifully set out and decorated. Come on Bristolians, keep supporting Ian and Lorraine in their tireless support of live music.

The Ram Club - Thames Ditton
Although Chris has played here in the last couple of years, it's years since I've been. The club has changed venue since then and I have to say it's a much better place but still retains it's brilliant unique atmosphere. They've brought the longstanding stage backdrop from the old venue and it still gives me the heebie jeebies, its a giant rams head and I can't help but think of Rosemary's Baby when I walk in, just as well I have my back to it all night! We had a storming gig, really jumping atmosphere, big choruses and lots of fun at the climax of the concert. We're still suffering a bit from our colds but managing to eek out the top notes - just! Now we have a night in the hottest, noisiest Travelodge in the world (believe me we've stayed in a few). Oh joy!

07 October 2010

Marlborough & Hitchin

St Mary's Church Hall, Marlborough
We love everything about coming here, the town itself, Andrew and Sarah Bumphrey who put the gigs on and then cook a beautiful meal for us after the show and the gigs themselves are always great. Tonight however was exceptionally memorable and one of those brilliant exchanges of energy between us and the audience. There is a genuine truth in saying the more responsive the audience are, the more we give back, it just lifts us to a different level. So - thank you Marlborough you were brilliant.

The Sun, Hitchin
Really bad start to the day, I put my back out (reaching for a tissue!) so was pretty useless to everyone and in agony all day. Chris and Jil kindly made me sit out of the load in and then helped me set up my stuff. A hot bath and a dose of painkillers later we were raring to go if a little stiffly and fairly restricted (no clog dancing). Regardless of the bad back, it was a splendid gig as it always is at Hitchin, it is the cream of British folk clubs due in no small part to the amazingly resilient Maureen and Keiron Jones. Our big love is with them, they know why and how much their friendship is cherished.

03 October 2010

The Met, Bury & Porkies, Poynton

Bury Met
Chris's history with Bury Met goes back some 25 years when it was then the Derby Hall and Chris joined the amateur dramatic society there - The Derby Players. She delighted in telling us she was given the role of Prince Charming's mother (she was 25!) in the Panto! Wish I'd had a ticket for that! No doubt there were some in the audience that night that did though as lots of people came up to Chris in the interval from those old days and the rest of the crowd that packed the Met were brilliantly welcoming and enthusiastic. It's a top gig and we love playing there, thanks Bury, you were brill.

Porkies - Poynton
We stayed with our lovely friends Vanya and Graham after Bury as it put us just 25mins away from Poynton. Just as well really as Simon had a dreadful nights sleep and woke up full of cold so got to spend the day in bed, sleeping and sweating it out and when he re-emerged at 3pm felt much better. We were thrilled to be joined on this gig by Howard Lees, our best friend, big brother and guitarist extraordinare on just about all our albums. What a treat, all those lead guitar riffs from the albums as well as Howards creamy 3rd part harmonies, bliss. The audience at Porkies are always a joy, singing like a well rehearsed choir and cheering for TWO encores. All round top, memorable night, thanks Howard, thanks Porkies.  It's also worth noting for anyone living around or passing through the Poynton area, we had a superb Indian meal that we can't recommend highly enough - Purple Pakora - check it out!

27 September 2010

Kendal & Hull

Kendal is such a lovely town and the Brewery Arts centre is an exceptional venue. Really friendly crew and a brilliant restaurant where we were treated to a beautiful pre gig dinner. It's one of those great centres where lots of things take place and so is always bustling with activity. Our concert was in the Malt room, brimming with atmosphere as the good people of Cumbria and beyond filled the room and raised the proverbial rafters in voice and good cheer. It was a cracking gig, thanks Kendal, we loved ya!

We've been doing gigs for Will Richardson in the Hull area for years now and I have to say he is one of the loveliest blokes you could ever meet. His enthusiasm for live music and his care for how he looks after you at a gig are second to none. Unsurprisingly then, he put on a great concert for us at Elloughton Village Hall and even lined up a top opening act for the show who was a complete find for us. Paul Lidell is a young singer songwriter from the North East who not only is a great singer, musician and songwriter but is also a techno master of the loop box which makes for a really modern and interesting sound whilst maintaining and not masking his natural skills. We loved him and hope to see more of him in the future. Our gig was lovely, the audience a little more reserved than the previous 3 gigs but sometimes you just have to accept that different audiences respond in different ways and it doesnt mean they enjoy it less.  It just means for us, we have to create more energy on stage rather than feed off what the audience is sending you. Different strokes.

Night in a hotel before another 4 days off then 3 weeks on the road. Better get our bigger cases out!

21 September 2010

And we're off!

Well the tour got off to a cracking start with two old favourites. We couldn't have had a better opener than Carlisle Folk and Blues Club; sold out, great atmosphere and fantastic reaction to both the new songs and the reworking of some of our oldies. We spent the week running up to the first night, choosing the repertoire, rehearsing and generally preparing. We’ve got a full complement of instruments on this tour so the car will be groaning by the end of it all but it did make a varied, fresh concert for us. It was also great to not have a long journey for the first gig (well done special agent Barke!) so we were suitably rested for the next day which turned out to be a tiresome journey down the M6 to Lickey. This would normally be a straightforward run but as the Pope decided to clash dates with us in the midlands, the road closures and traffic were a pain in the backside. Still, everyone managed the diversions and the audience came in their droves bringing their enthusiasm and good cheer with them. It’s always great for us when we’re touring the release of a new album, there seems to be a real buzz about it both on and off stage. This tour we have TWO new albums; our new duo album ‘Hitting the Ground Running’ and ‘All Along the Wall’, the CD of the Hadrian’s Wall project I (Julie) did earlier in the year, so double the excitement!

Anyway, a few days off now. The beginning of the tour is a bit spasmodic with two weekend blasts before the body of the tour takes us away for three weeks. Time to take advantage of the sofa while we can!