What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Tag: music (page 1 of 2)

Around 1:30am early this morning I fell through the door after touring the show Rainbow Heart around the UK, a self-booked and self-promoted series of gigs which sought to relate the whole coming-out thing and the search for gender and sexual identity.

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Yesterday afternoon the news rolled across our local media that Unity Works (formerly Unity House), one of the larger venues in Wakefield had been placed into administration resulting in all future gigs being cancelled and events and weddings left without a venue. The reasons for the collapse will be speculated upon for years to come as it’s all unpicked and analysed but I’d like to share some personal memories of the story.

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Last March I wrote about a project which had been a rework of a direction that didn’t sit right post-Debut. A lot has happened since then, and tomorrow (31st July) my new album Rainbow Heart hits online stores, with the show premiere on Saturday 12th August in Wakefield. It’s a coming-out album, yet not specifically my coming-out album.

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Now the immediate post-album launch haze has died down and I’ve got the bug back, I’ve returned to the studio for a couple of projects.

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Three weeks to go until the album launch gig (got your tickets yet?) and a little pile of press coverage has come in – mostly positive, the odd bit of “yeah she dropped the ball at that point”, but generally damn fine. Colour me pleased!

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It is done, sent off, completed. The studio is once again quiet and tidy – I’ve even managed to hoover the rug. Even so, it’s littered with soldered makeshift instruments and lyrics scribbled, printed and sellotaped to random surfaces: they adorn the shelves, the mic stands, even the back of my chair. But my first solo album is finished and out of the door – it’s a wrap!

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Those of you who are regular readers will know of my love of all things Eurovision: the song contest which, despite being about us all getting on and loving each other is quite the global battleground. I threw Eurovision parties alongside my ex for around ten years, then in more recent times hosted small intimate get-togethers while friends watched the show. Last year I said I wouldn’t host another one, so throwing caution to the wind I booked myself a ticket to Stockholm for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016.

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Having a bit of spare time on my hands over Christmas last year I started writing music again, all leading up to an album release on 17th November 2016, a year after the first song was written. It’s a bit of a mix of genres and styles, but I play most things on there, involving talented pals when it feels right.

You can find out more about it (including a rather nice interview written by student journo Andy Carson) over on The Bleeding Obvious website.

There’s also a Facebook page, and a Twitter stream – of course there is, this is 2016…

Last weekend Simon and I revisited our Eurovision Song Contest 2015 submission “Mirrorball” (which didn’t get picked, obviously – that laudation going to Electro Velvet). We did however decide it needed to be released properly, and when better to do it than Eurovision season itself?

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Similar to last year, I contributed an article for Leeds independent Jumbo Records‘ fanzine to commemorate Record Store Day 2015, carefully put together by my lovely pals Reb and Antonia – given lots of people won’t have managed to get a copy, I’ve reproduced the article here…

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Two bits of music for you!

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unity_logo_800pxHey everyone, I’m in a girl band.

Yeah, I know, it definitely wasn’t on the plan, but here we are… I’m part of an all-female act called Unity from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK, who are hoping to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 with our song Mirrorball.

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A rollercoaster of a year and, frankly, a bloody awful one. Major things happened this year in my life and although I’m not going into them publicly, it’s left me a shattered wreck of the person I was. 2014 doesn’t hold much promise either. I left my New Year’s Day entry for 2013 hoping friendships wouldn’t change and in actual fact nothing could have been further from reality.

So instead of going into it, here’s 12 music videos and a brief note why each one.

January


January’s choice happened at about 3am on 1st January 2013 in the aftermath of our (then annual) New Year’s Eve party, with a friend in a Freddie Mercury outfit dancing with a hoover.

February


I photographed Spizz Energi at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Wasn’t too bad, but the reviewer was a bit confused as to why I’d shown up there.

March


Space singing Burn Down The School. They were being supported by a friend’s band and this one turned out to be a fantastic gig to photograph as well. Bern did a review with pics by moi.

April


I discovered Adam Buxton’s BUG and went to the National Media Museum for a lecture on the evolution of music video. This is one of the more brilliant ones.

May


One of the highlights of Live At Leeds 2013 for me was Darwin Deez. This video was actually also part of the BUG lecture but deserves to be here in its own right.

June


All hell breaks loose and I make some serious life decisions. This was playing on the dancefloor on my first night ‘out’.

July


Dutch Uncles performing Bellio. A highlight of Tramlines 2013. I spent a lot of time this Summer talking to Joe Sheerin of Leeds-List who tolerated me talking a lot of stuff at him. We sat sidestage and watched Dutch Uncles groove as it got colder on The Green.

August


By August, I was photographing festivals almost every weekend and gradually coming out of my shell. This one reminds me of Beacons 2013 – my first camping festival in years – not because John Grant was there but because it was playing in the car both to the festival and back from it.

September


The final festival of the year was Bingley Music Live. I ended up talking with Nile Rodgers backstage for a short while; I was in a bad place psychologically, and he helped. So it can be claimed that 1st September 2013 was the day Nile Rodgers saved my life.

October


The last time I went to a gig and ‘maled-up’ for it. I was a wreck. I tried though, I did honestly try and get through it, but it was very difficult.

November


Finally caught They Might Be Giants. Had fun. It took place on Transgender Day Of Remembrance, and I bought a purple band t-shirt.

December


A song from a friend’s band who don’t perform any more, and this was one of the last songs they wrote a few years ago. For some reason I latched onto it again in December, and danced to it in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. You should always dance in the kitchen – it’s law. If you watch the video carefully, you can see my head bobbing up and down in front of the stage – I was photographing it.

And there you have it. 12 videos, 12 months.

There came a flurry of news just before bedtime last night that high-street chain HMV was going into administration. It’s been on the cards since at least 2007 and while it’s extremely unfortunate that mismanagement of the administration led to staff finding out via the media (accompanied by scuttlebutt and faux-sadness on Twitter) I can’t say I’m surprised in the slightest.

This morning there’s a lot of punditry flying around regarding HMV’s business model, competitors, the inevitable comparisons with online vendors (and HMV’s own failed foray into online sales some years ago), the links to piracy, MP3s, iTunes, and tons more. Yet however you look at it HMV’s business model is completely and utterly flawed: the chart CDs stocked are sold cheaper in bulk to Asda so margins are nonexistent, racks are full of ‘classic’ albums you can find chucked out in Oxfam, there’s very little (if any) stock of local music, and when you want something out-of-the-ordinary you’re bang out of luck unless you want to order it in and wait a week. Just like Jessops before them, they’re box-shifters with stock even Del Boy would find hard to pass on.

It hasn’t always been so. Contrast it with the mid-90s when HMV stocked dance vinyl and had entire racks of ‘interesting stuff the staff found’ complete with a small sticker telling you what it was like – comments like ‘big farty bass and a synth line your mum will hate‘. That was brilliant – it’s how I discovered artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and labels such as FFRR, but that disappeared at the turn of the century and I found other outlets.

(Exception to the rule: the last CD I bought from HMV was This Sporting Life by Skint & Demoralised. I bought it there because I knew one of the lads worked at the Wakefield shop and if anywhere would have a copy, they would…)

I’ll admit I’m a marginal case: I like physical media. I browse CDs, I play vinyl, I buy from small shops such as Crash and Jumbo, I order from independent online stores such as HTFR or Norman Records where possible, and I pester local record labels for CDs rather than downloads. I love exploring liner notes and artwork just as much as listening to the music. The local independent record shop in Cottingham made a fortune out of me in my Uni days, and when we lived in London my wife used to curse because I’d go to Tower Records (RIP), browse the bargain bins and return at 11:30pm with two carrier bags full of stuff I quite liked the look of. Controversially nowadays I also use Amazon – most commonly at music festivals and gigs where I’ll 1-click order a load of the support act’s CDs (well, when they’re not on the merch stand anyway) – but it’s still physical media. I guess I’m in a minority now; not ‘down with the kids’.

The folks who have the bargain-bin physical media philosophy bang-on are That’s Entertainment, which is where your Music Magpie CDs end up (it tickles me that they spotted an opportunity to have a pop at HMV in Manchester). There’s one in the Ridings Centre in Wakefield where I can spend a happy (but costly) hour digging and finding CDs I didn’t even know I wanted, sometimes at five for a fiver. They participated in a small way in Record Store Day last year and it’s somewhere even my kids with their limited pocket money can buy a computer game or a bit of music. Winner.

Will I miss HMV if it does completely disappear? Nah, I can’t even think of a company who might want to pick the chain up other than for the HMV.com domain name. Perhaps it’ll leave a void which can be filled once again by the small shops it killed in the late 80s and early 90s, and although I doubt Wakefield would provide enough business to support it it’d be nice to see a JAT or EGS return to Wakefield’s streets. While browsing Twitter I came across @charlottegore who hit the nail on the head in one sentence: “HMV are a company that wasted lots of money paying rent to keep unsold CDs and DVDs on public display in prime locations.”

No flowers.

Edit: There’s another perspective from Banquet Records which is well worth a read (thanks Martin for pointing me to that).

Right, so there’s this pub which isn’t exactly on the way to anywhere (unless you’re going to the Double Two factory shop). Used to be The Jolly Sailor in Thornes, but more recently became a bit of a restaurant-pub called The Wharfside. They’d put out a shout for bands to play at a one-day free music festival: Obvious Pseudonym put ourselves forward as did The Tracks. Time passed, we heard nothing, eventually with a fortnight to go Dorian and Faye (keys and bass players in The Tracks) headed down there to see what’s going on: they discovered from landlady Vicky there was no PA and no marquee and no lighting and… well, it could be disastrous. So we got involved…

Really it was all a bit ‘Challenge Anneka’: build a decent-sounding PA using kit I’d got in the garage, get the lighting rig down there, borrow a van, and work out how to use the digital desk with a full band. Dorian and Faye did the street-team thing with posters, and we put out calls for more acts to perform. In the end though it sounded and looked ace – definite proof to myself (if nobody else) that I can do it.

So came the day: I disappeared off at 8:30am to pick up the van, diverting via St Michaels to pick up Dorian and Mac (The Tracks’ drummer) who are both young lads with muscles. We loaded the van with every bit of kit under the sun (it just fit) and headed to Wharfside to find Graham and Harry of StagePro sitting outside waiting to unload the drum riser we’d hired. A bit of huffing and puffing later, we’d got all the tables out of the way and the riser was in place. Next up: the marquee.

Now, this damn marquee wasn’t in the best of nick – it had obviously been used a lot and the plastic poles were cracking from stresses unknown (presumably in the course of its life at Diamond Studios, who’d kindly lent it to us). Mix in the complication that it was so windy getting it erected was going to be a bit of a mad job! It took six of us to get it upright at which point it became evident something was wrong as the wind was whipping it up far too much (“it’s going to end up flying across the Calder!”) and no amount of of gaffer tape was going to fix it. Fearing a Pukkelpop moment, Vicky and I passed the buck between us on whether we’d have the marquee at all. Then…
     “‘ang on, this isn’t right…” opined John J, who’d turned up mid-erection (fnar).
     I stared, trying to work out why the guyropes were on the inside. “Er. Oh. The roof’s on upside down, it’s meant to fasten up.”
     “Right. Let’s flip it over, might work, and if not then we do without it!”
It was a bit more stable after that!

I built up the PA using amplifiers I’ve had kicking around for ages and various other bits of stuff, all lashed together to a programmable digital remote desk FOH where I could also control the lighting rig. I had the usual bits of EQ and had a discussion with a few folks to try and get the best mix. Consensus was that it sounded excellent, and we’d easily packed enough power for the event. Maybe if anything it was a bit mid-heavy at the sides of the venue but you can’t have everything can you.

So to recap, 3pm: marquee’s up, PA is in place (7KW of stuff with an exceptionally heavy amp cab and borrowed tops from OP’s bloke Pete), lighting rig is in one piece and working, we’re surviving the onslaught of quips from volunteer Chris and there have been no disasters yet. Hooray! We soundcheck with The Tracks, who are the first full band and due to hit the stage four hours later at 7pm.

First act was up: Dorian and Tom doing an acoustic set, 20 minutes of songs to get things going. I wasn’t expecting it to be busy at all until about 6pm although the beer garden started to fill up once the music began. Sound was good, a couple of tweaks on the EQ but nothing serious. Nicky arrived and started taking photos, so it was documented – excellent! At this point Chris grabbed me and pointed at the left sub speaker which was lying on the floor having been blown out from its cabinet by the sheer air pressure involved in moving a 1KW high-end Celestion 15″ driver. Oopsie, I guess building a new cab for those is on my job list this week!

Callum Macintyre next: one mic, one guitar. He was excellent, no disasters, place is filling up nicely. I looked across to see Rob Dee (Philophobia music boss) had arrived with Mike Ainsley and Harry Rhodes ready for their slot, plenty of friends milling around and other luminaries from the Wakefield music scene. We were running to time – maybe slightly ahead of it, good. I rigged and line-checked for a duo called ReaderMeetAuthor who announced this was their first gig and they’d only formed as a band three hours ago: cue epic muddling through some covers, but it sounded OK (Mathieu’s other band The Ran Tan Waltz is a lot more polished and I recommend a listen). Nice to see Jon Pinder and John Jowett photographing lots.

Almost 6pm: level-check for The Cullens and they’re on. I see Danny Cullen in town quite a bit (especially at Open Mic Monday) but I don’t think I’ve actually concentrated on their sound before which was wonderfully polished, and by this point we’d got some folks dancing. The beer-garden was full, and looking across towards the river there were people lying on the verges in what Summer sun was shining, having a beer and enjoying the afternoon. Taxis arrived ferrying new listeners, still no disasters and still no rain despite it being forecast for around 5pm. As we were a little ahead of time, the Cullens got a couple of extra songs: sound-man’s privilege 😉

Mike Ainsley was up next, together with Tim and Harry from St Gregory Orange. They insisted on sitting down and we couldn’t find any chairs or stools so we pulled up a few unused guitar amps – very rustic. No major adjustments on the desk, maybe a little bit of EQ on Harry’s guitar. A really rather splendid set from Mike (another act I’d been remiss in not listening to previously) and that was our acoustic acts done! I spotted various OP followers in the audience including Jayne and Bez, and felt a little buzz of pride that they’d come down to the out-of-town venue to see it all.

The Tracks were on at 7:15pm and I was all-on to get the sound right so didn’t stray far from the FOH post. They’ve got lots of dynamics in each song with thrashy crashy guitars followed by quiet thoughtful passages, full drum kit mike-up and all 12 XLR channels on the sound desk which lit up like a Christmas tree. Lots of dancing, two scruffy old blokes have shinned the fence and are trying to get people to buy them beer, and some nutter in the audience has got hold of a tambourine. Tom’s face is a picture. Good reception and an encore was demanded: the band did not disappoint their fans!

All of Obvious Pseudonym were present and accounted for by now, so while The Tracks got their stuff offstage we loaded ours in and tarped it at the side. Still no rain although there were a couple of reports of it spitting a little. Nothing blew up: always the important thing. Meantime the next act (“I R Hero”) set up with a little bit of a problem in that the drummer only had one working arm and needed an extra snare mic for his kick-snare. No problems I guess, especially since they’d initially asked for a 10-mic setup on the drums – er, no chance boys…!

I R Hero launched into their rock-pop-punk set, but no sign of the snare kick on the sound-desk… I sent Dorian up to investigate but we ended up replacing the mic. It was still a bit touch-and-go with the monitor mix not being brilliant, but again the sound out front was ace. I left to find a pint of Guinness, and came back just as the drummer resigned from the band. A bloke in the crowd stepped up and drummed on their last song… the drummer wasn’t seen again.

9pm, we were running to time, nothing destroyed, no disasters, no rain; I bravely ventured an opinion that the whole thing seemed to be going OK. Vicky glared at me: don’t jinx it sunshine. We plonked Obvious Pseudonym’s stuff on stage and I set up the keys on the drum riser so I had a little stage of my own, woo! Dorian familiarised himself with the desk to do our sound. I admitted to myself I was nervous, this was the first time I’d trusted someone at the controls who wasn’t a professional sound engineer or music technician: be strong, lad!

We went on at 9:20pm, five minutes late, bouncing into Westgate Run and doing the Summer set we’d mostly done for the past four weeks on our International Tour Of Wakefield with one notable exception: Eclipsed had been replaced by the new song Dad Dancing. People danced, genuinely and ironically. It sounded good from where I was, and we got some excellent comments: one couple even came across from the flats over the Calder to see us after hearing what we were like. New fans!

We came off around 10pm and by midnight everything was back in the van. Nicky and Jayne were dispatched to find curry and I sat in the bar with a (fresh) pint of Guinness (after not getting around to drinking the last one). Still no disasters, still no rain, and we’d managed to put on our first full festival; thoughts of next year pervaded through the exhaustion as Dorian, Jim, Faye and I came down off the ceiling. Pretty damn good for amateurs and the sound was ace, I just hope the desk recording is as good: I’ll find out later. Uberthanks to the people who helped by lugging, lifting, erecting, removing and all that stuff including Chris, John, Jim, Nicky, Ben, Carl, Tom, Rob and Mac. You guys were ace and made the job so much easier; I’m exceptionally proud of what we achieved.

…now, I’m off to unload the van and collect the drum riser!

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