It’s not often that I use this blog to actually write about the shows we play or what we’re up to - either through the belief that no one really cares, or the fact that what occurred wasn’t that interesting. However, after the weekend we’ve had I feel an urge to relay some of our experiences from the show we played in Nottingham for Deborah Stevenson and the Mouthy Poets called Say Sumthin.
This already started as off as one of the more unusual shows we had embarked on. We knew we were going there to play a short set in the evening (2-3 songs) and a day-time show in a more transitory space than the usual sit-down-every-one-watch-and-listen type of show. However, the most unique part about this show was the fact that we were asked to be the backing band for some of the performing poets. We weren’t quite sure what to expect on the drive down and the occasional joke about beret’s and turtle-necks came up (we even had a set of bongos in the back of the van!)
We arrived on the Friday for a rehearsal with the poets. We were blown away by the quality of what they were doing. There was a diverse array of performances, styles and experience but their drive and passion was a constant. Initially, we agreed to play alongside about 3 poets (out of 15).
We were very kindly put up by Patrick Liddle and his family - another overwhelming experience thanks to their generosity and hospitality. To sidetrack briefly, speaking as a member of a touring band: payment, travel expenses, food and accommodation are essentially gold dust. Often we’re lucky to get a free beer and half our travel money (not because we’re not worth paying but because the funds simply aren’t available). Speaking as a promoter I know that sometimes you’re profit margin is razor thin and you can’t pay the band much as much as they deserve. Anyhow, I digress…
So, we arrived in this beautiful converted barn house and were given steaming hot plates of sweet potato curry and wine. Whilst talking to Patrick’s mum Elizabeth it comes out that she, like Fynn, plays Cello. But this wasn’t any kind of cello, it was essentially a 7 string instrument from the Baroque era. I don’t know enough to talk about it confidently but needless to say Fynn was in his element.
Not least when discussing Fynn’s time at University. It came up that she performed with one of them on a recording that we had literally just listened to in the car on the way up. And we’re talking a niche, rare, obscure little recording that Fynn just so happened to burn it onto his mix CD for the road.
The thought that you would be sitting across the table from someone who you didn’t know, but had heard hours earlier playing cello on the most obscure record was one of the most absurdly brilliant parts of our trip.
Things were wrapping up and we were soon heading off to bed. I had mentioned earlier in the course of the meal that I wanted to go out and get a new shirt as I felt a bit under-dressed for the Saturday evening performance as I was only wearing a t-shirt. As we’re about to retire for the evening , Patrick’s Grandfather hands me a neatly folded cotton button up shirt saying: ” I don’t need this, you should have it for tomorrow , it’s a spare anyway. “
My heart strings tug and I politely refuse (mainly due to the fact that it’s a large and my svelt lady like physique wouldn’t quite do it justice ). It later dawns on me that these people are so generous and giving that I am literally getting the shirt off an old man’s back!
Saturday rolls on and we get packed up and ready to go for a 9:30am tech run and rehearsal. We’re set up in the 750 capacity main auditorium and the sound reverberates beautifully so much so that Fynn plays without his DI and Jeff doesn’t need to mic up the amp.
We do our soundcheck and stick around for the tech run for the poets as we’re involved in a couple of the poems.
During this tech run we get at least another 4-5 poets say “…Could you perhaps just add something over this bit?” And little by little we’re in half the show. Everything ranging from ethereal, ambient Sigur Ros’esque noodlings to cacophonous, dissonant God Speed You Black Emperor’esque drones. It was an amazing experience for us as musicians as it presented us the challenge of really listening to the poetry and trying to capture the mood as well as not over-shadowing their work and complimenting it without subtracting from it.
For any budding poetry based musical improvisers the Wooden Arms advice of the day was : “Less is more.”
There are some more, less interesting facts, about this trip that I could ramble on about but I fear i’m becoming tedious. We played the show and made a whole host of new friends and (hopefully) fans who we hope to see in July when we come back to support our debut EP.
Essentially the reason I wanted to put some words down about this last show was because we all felt deeply honoured and privileged to be part of it and what Mouthy are doing. They provide such a great back-drop and support structure for budding poets and creatives that it’s hard to not get swept up in it all. This was potentially my favourite show so far, but not necessarily due to anything that WE as a band contributed, but because we were a part of something that meant so much to so many.
Please go and check out their work here:
And if you’re in the Nottingham area do please support them and get involved. Another huge thanks to Deborah for putting us on and to Patrick and his family for their generosity.
~ Alex Carson