Hand of Stabs

It struck me that the year is almost over and I haven’t actually posted many music pictures this year and I’ve seen some great performances in 2013. So in order to remedy that I’m starting with Hand of Stabs. I saw them 3 times this year – firstly at Rochester Library and then as part of their Month of Sundays tour at Grain Fort and finally at the launch of the film they made on that tour on board LV21 in Gillingham.

Hand of Stabs

HoS-rochester

The Music Tree

HoS-LV21-2

HoS-LV21

The Vinyl Solution!

I finally got my record player out of storage! I’ve been slowly clearing enough space in the shed for it over the past couple of weeks and now I had enough room to put a table next to the stereo unit and enough shelf space for a small number of records. So on bank Holiday Monday after lunch I popped up to the garage where we have a load of stuff stored and dug out the record player. I had two up there – the first is my Hitachi which I bought when I was at university the other is a rather nice Thorens TD 160 but that is in need of a new stylus so for now I went for the Hitachi.

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So the first thing I noticed was that it didn’t have a plug on it – I felt sure that I would have one in the house because I remembered taking some off old appliances before we took them to the dump – obviously the plug wasn’t where I was expecting it to be but after much searching I did eventually find one. I spent a short amount of time going through two boxes of records picking out a few to fill the available space. As I opened the boot when I got back I did worry that I had more records that I had space for but in the end I was about right! It dawned on me though that there must have been a third box because I ended up without any Dylan LPs and I know there are several of those! I’m working on the carrot and stick approach! The more I tidy up and make space the more records I can get out of the garage!

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So after a bit of a clean I was able to listen to some records! I love that satisfying click as the needle drops into the groove – even the odd crackle and pop were welcome! I even managed to find my old record cleaning brush which I thought I’d binned. I was actually quite surprised how many records I actually own and after looking in the boxes at the record fair the day before I did wonder how much they’d all be worth! I even managed to find some records I didn’t think I owned – A live Spirit album that I almost asked my brother if he still had and that I’ve been looking all over trying to find on the net! Another one I didn’t know I had and was a pleasant surprise to see was a Reggae compilation called Front Line Volume 2 – and indeed my records would show that I also own Volume 3 but sadly not the original first volume!

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Although they had been in storage for about 6 years in an old garage they were all still in good shape with one exception! Wake of the Flood by the Grateful Dead was a bit damp – but I think this happened in the “Bloke Zone” in the old house which was quite damp – worse than I’d thought and this particular album cover is made out of a quite porous material and had come of the worse for wear. The odd pattern of damage was I believe because a 10″ single had been sitting in front of it!

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Go ask Alice I think she’ll know

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar has given you the call

I have to confess upfront that I’ve never been a big Jefferson fan despite being a somewhat obsessive about their San Francisco, Summer of Love contemporaries the Grateful Dead. It’s not for the want of trying and obviously I know the two big hits but they’re not a band I would normally reach over to put an album on by. I had the same problem a few years ago when Arthur Lee and Love came over to the UK I just don’t get it in the same way that I get the Dead or the Doors say. They’ve toured over here a few times recently and I haven’t gone to see them. I would like to have caught the tour when they had former Dead keyboard player Tom Constanten touring with them but I think I was on holiday at the time! So when I found out the were playing in of all places Chatham I thought this was the excuse I needed to get out and see them! A front row ticket helped as well!

However first i had to get there. I had it all planned out to get back from an event in London and get to the gig but it all started to go wrong and it was getting later and later. I rang the venue and was told that the band were expected to be on stage at 8 and as it looked like I wouldn’t get there till 8:45 it was starting to look like it wasn’t worth going. However as I getting back to the house I reasoned that if, as the woman had said, the support band were on at 7:30 it was in my mind unlikely that Jefferson would be on at 8. Even if the support band only played for 30 minutes there would still need to be time to move their equipment off stage. So I reckoned that even if I got there at 8:45 I’d still see at least an hour and a quarter of the gig. So I decided to drive down and hope I hadn’t missed anything good!

Eventually I arrived at the venue and just as I was walking up the stairs I heard the familiar opening notes of their mega hit White Rabbit so I dashed down to my seat in the front row. At least I assume it was my seat, there were two spare ones on the end so I sat in one of them, I never did check if I was in the right one and if I wasn’t then I wasn’t about to argue in the middle of White Rabbit! As if it wasn’t confusing enough to arrived so hassled, having missed the start of the show it was also a bit of a baptism of fire in my head to hear the singer Cathy Richardson sing White Rabbit as the first song but she has a great voice and fills the Grace Slick position in the band very well.

Obviously there’s a world of difference between the original Jefferson Airplane from those heady san Franciscan days and the Jefferson Starship I saw in Chatham! There’s only one original member from the Airplane left in the band in the shape of Paul Kantner and as it turned out the band were missing their regular guitarist Slick Aguilar who is quite unwell and was replaced for the tour by Jude Gold who is in a band with Cathy Richarson. The song choice were a bit odd at times given their back catalogue and that of David Freiberg who was also in Quicksilver Messenger Service. One of the things I missed before I got there was a rendition of Brain Damage from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon* and they did another Floyd number Set the Controls for the heart of the sun a bit later. Pink Floyd played at the Central Theatre with Jimi Hendrix back in the 60’s so maybe it was their spirit that forced their hand! Another oddity was the inclusion of David Bowie’s Space Oddity at one point. A more welcome interlude was David Freiberg singing a Robert Hunter song – his voice is still very good despite the passing years.

(*although not the entire thing as someone told me they’d played after the gig!)

He’ll be so kind in consenting to blow your mind
Fly Translove Airways gets you there on time
Fly Jefferson Airplane gets you there on time

On the far side of the stage Paul Kantner’s voice hasn’t travelled as well but he is still an interesting performer despite the fact that he has reached the ripe old age of 71. He occasionally had to prop himself up on a flight case behind him while playing but according to a friend of mine he doesn’t do this as much as he did a few years ago. He also headed off for a break in the middle of the set leaving Cathy and David to sing some songs as an interlude. One of the things I had worried about was that I recalled from reading a review of an earlier gig a week back that Wooden Ships had preceded White Rabbit but thankfully the set list had changed and it was later in the set. I know the song mostly from the CSN version but this was good too with some fine harmonies.

The only down points for me were the venue – not right for the gig with the audience seated throughout and the sound which was a bit wishy washy. Having said that there were no “bouncers” in the hall so once I’d plucked up the courage to get my camera out I could happily click away to my hearts content! I also thought the band could have extended the jams a bit on some of the songs as well, there were points where they just seemed to be getting going and then they’d change tack or the song would end. I think if they’d dropped some of the odder cover versions (the can keep the Hunter song and, if they work on it, Set the Controls) and spin out the songs from their back catalogue then they’d be outstanding.

After the gig I got talking to a guy who had just grabbed a copy of the set list off the stage who told me they’d played “all of Dark side” which did make me wonder how much I’d missed. I recently acquired a recording of the gig and it turns out that it was about 15 minutes during which they’d played a track I would have liked to have seen which was from Kantner’s 1973 “solo” album Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun. I think it may have been this track, Your Mind Has Left Your Body, which segued into Brain Damage that lead to the confusion about how much of Dark Side they played! Cathy Richardson was selling albums and signing things outside and while I waited I was accosted by someone, who’d obviously had too much to drink, who informed me that it was the best gig he’d ever been to! I decided, but didn’t say, that he probably hadn’t been to many! Another friend who was there, but I spectacularly managed to miss, told me it was the worst gig on the tour that she’d seen – so take your pick!

Riders of the rainbow
Let it grow let it grow
You can exercise your mind on where you want to go

If you want to see the full setlist click here and the rest of my photographs are in my photo album

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Hot Nights, Cool Jazz

In June I ended up in Budapest for a week working on a conference in one of the big 5 star hotels in the city centre.  I knew it was going to be a very busy week but in advance of going I thought I’d look into seeing if there were any gigs worth going to while I was there. I did a Google search and it turned up a couple….Sting, don’t think so!…..Duran Duran, oh my word it gets worse. Anyway I decided that these weren’t the sort of gigs I fancied anyway so I started looking for something a little less mainstream. What I was really hoping to find was some sort of underground avant garde club presenting an evening of impenetrable improvised music but nothing like that showed up on a search engine! So I decided to look for Jazz clubs and this was a little bit more fruitful.

There seemed to be a number of different places but the one that looked the most promising was the Budapest Jazz Club which was in Múzeum Ucta and was about a twenty minute walk from the hotel. I knew there was no chance of getting out on the Monday and Tuesday nights so I looked to see what was on on the other two nights I was there. As luck would have it both nights sounded interesting.

So on the Wednesday evening after we finished at around 6pm I went back to the hotel and changed. I decided to put shorts on despite the late hour as it was still warm outside but put a sweatshirt on as well. I had decided to head down to the river first to do a bit of sightseeing and then head over to the Jazz club. I knew it was a straight line to the river bu had printed out a Google map to find my way to the club later. I set off and had only been walking for about 10 minutes before I realised that he sweatshirt wasn’t really required! It took me about 25 minutes to reach the Danube and then another 15 or so to walk along the banks to reach the famous chain bridge. I was disappointed to find that the lights that illuminate it at night weren’t on yet but I spent a while taking pictures in the hope they would come on while I was there. I knew if I walked away I’d get halfway back and they’d come on but it got to the point where I was about to admit defeat and head off but I decided to cross the bridge and have a quick look up the river from the other side. Amazingly as I stood there the bridge suddenly came to life and I then spent another 5 minutes or so photographing this famous landmark.

As time was moving on I set off for the jazz club and decided rather than retrace my steps it would be quicker to cut across  through the backstreets at an angle to get there. It was only after I set off that I realised the combination of darkness, a google map, foreign street names and no glasses didn’t make for easy navigation. I did know however I that if I kept going in a certain direction I had to come to the road I’d walked down so that’s what I did. I eventually crossed it and headed further south until I came to a junction where a quick double back deposited me at the end of the road that the jazz club resided in.

The street had buildings down one side and a small park on the other side and as I wandered down the street looking for the club I could hear loud music blasting from a building further along. That building was the jazz club but the music definitely wasn’t jazz! I figured the club shared the venue with other establishments and hoped that the music wasn’t about to drown out the jazz being played elsewhere in the building. I walked up the steps and past a small sparsely populated bar area to a desk that had a sign saying Budapest Jazz Club above it. I asked the girl behind it if she spoke English and thankfully she did. I asked if it was ok to go in and she laughed and said of course. I handed over 1000 Huf (£2.78) and she gave me a ticket and pointed me towards a stone staircase.

As I walked up the stairs past jazz based murals I could tell that Marton Fenyvesi’s egotrip were already on stage but when I reached the top I entered into a bar. I could see that the performance area lay through some doors on my right but I thought I’d get a beer first. The barman wasn’t exactly over worked but he was bemused by my request for a receipt! I took my beer and went through the doors. The room was quite dark but I could make out down towards the stage there we tables set out cabaret style and then towards the back there were about 10 lines of chairs. I sat myself down in the front row and looked around. There were probably around 30 people in the room scatted widely between the tables and the seats. On the stage were the band, my internet investigation had led me to expect a trio but there were 4 of them possibly with the addition of a percussionist.

Marton Fenyvesi was  left of the stage playing guitar and across the back were a bassist and drummer with the percussionist on the right. I have no idea how far they were into their first set but they were certainly into their groove. Marton plays the guitar as if it’s alive and trying to get away from him and he keeps having to wrestle with it to bring it under control! They played a mixture of their own compositions and cover versions which included the Police’s Message in a bottle and Nirvana’s Come as you are. I had arrived just before the end of their first set and this gave me a chance to get another beer before their second set. I did feel that the second set ended rather abruptly but it had been an enjoyable evening anyway.

On the way out the loud music was still going strong downstairs, luckily it had only affected upstairs between songs as the band drowned it out for the rest of the time. I took a peek through the door which it was coming from and it seemed to be some sort of dance club or class going on. I headed back to the hotel but stopped outside a bar to watch the penalty shoot out that was going on in the world cup match taking place that evening. At the last minute I headed up to the bar we had drank in the previous two evenings and found some of the crew so I stopped for a beer (or two!)

Before I’d gone to Budapest I had found it easy to find information about Marton Fenyvesi but the only thing I had found out about the act the following night was that it was part of a series of collaborations between Hungarian and Rumanian musicians called Jazzmozdony and I had guessed that this was the 9th in the series as it was called Jazzmozdony9. I liked the idea of a collaboration so I had thought that if I could only go one night I’d go to this one but I was glad I’d gone the night before and having done so was keen to go back. I had hoped that as it was a collaboration it might be a bit avant-garde or experimental but this idea faded when I looked  in the brochure I’d been given the night before and saw that  (translated by Google)  the band consisted of drums, double bass, piano and a singer.

I set off later than I’d expected as I spent ages on the phone talking to Sarah so once again I arrived when the band were already on stage. This time entry was free so I just headed up the stairs to the club. Once again I paused at the bar for a drink but this time I headed towards the tables nearer the front that I had sat the night before. I grabbed one near the window because if anything tonight was even hotter than last night. On stage there were 3 musicians playing what I guessed was the opening number. There was a piano player sitting at a huge grand with his back to the audience, a bass player and a drummer. At the end of the song a singer came on stage and stayed for the rest of the evening.

The music was much more laid back than last nights manic guitar meanderings but the bass player was really good (actually they all were). The singer Gabriela Costa (who I presume was Romanian) introduced the songs and what she said was translated into Hungarian by a guy in the audience with a microphone. It was weird to have all of the announcements in two languages and one of them not being English! They played two sets of jazz standards like Favourite things, Funny Valentine and Fly me to the moon while the sounds of a hot Budapest evening drifted in through the open window. Oddly for the second night the show ended rather abruptly!

I decided not to go and see if any of the crew were drinking in the bar afterwards as I knew the following day was going to be a long one so I headed back to the hotel but not before I sampled one of the kebabs from the many Turkish kebab shops that line the streets around Budapest! I really enjoyed my time in Hungary and hope to return one day soon.

I note that the Jazz Club has since moved to another location in the city, not sure why but check out their website or Facebook page for their new address.