Here are some videos – my first attempt at a multi-camera thing. Well, I say camera, my phone and my cheap zoom recorder. And yes, I could have framed the shot of me better, but meh, who cares right? It’s a scratch recording of a rehearsal.
Specifically it’s Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, and Black Water. We’ll be playing both at upcoming gigs – have a look at the sidebar for more gig info!
Last Sunday I wasn’t too well. Overwork, a summer cold and a lack of sleep had laid me low. But Mothertongue were playing on Sunday in Balham, so I wasn’t staying in bed were I belonged. I was heading to south London.
The other motivation, along with supporting Mothertongue and fellow BEM acts Under a Banner and Verbal Delirium, was to find and punish a man named Tony.
Tony claims he’s a fan of my music. That might be the case, though if you can decipher this sub-Joycean melange of a review you’re more clever than I. He is however guilty of the most egregious, violent punning on the internet. He’s, let’s be frank, a twatbadger and one I was determined to deal with, despite my cold induced fug.
Mothertongue are everything I want in a band. The moment I heard the opening lyrics to Tyrant of the Lizard Kings – “I’ll work the pedals and the devil can steer, things are gonna change, gonna change round here” – I was hooked and the rest of their album Unsongs is an absolute delight.
What do they sound like? Well, at Midsummer Madness, the gig in Balham, they were sans drums, so this gig wasn’t exactly typical. On record, with the full electric set-up they’re all catchy choruses, hooky trumpet lines, catchy choruses, interesting guitar parts, catchy choruses, amazing lyrics, and songs you want to dance, jump and down and singalong with.
I like a singalong chorus and Mothertongue have got ’em by the bucketload.
Acoustic, obviously things were quieter which meant the melody writing was highlighted, both in the vocal harmony parts and the lead guitar and trumpet. Frontman Louis was a delight, thanking David Elephant of Bad Elephant Music was signing them, thereby taking them from obscurity into further obscurity.
As a teenager, as well as my metal, I loved Britrock stuff like Mansun and Gomez and so on. Having got older, I also like clever muso things, and I’ve always liked a singalong bit. Mothertongue do all of that and this gig was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Before them I caught the end of Under a Banner’s set and was surprised by the cover of Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which they performed with gusto and skill. Broken down trains had kept me from the venue for the start of their set, but I really enjoyed what I heard.
Verbal Delirium from Greece were clearly the audience’s favourite of the three and I can see why. There’s was a performance of real class and skill, and much closer to a traditional prog act – albeit with goth and metal ingredients as well – which explains the enthusiasm given the prog bent of the rest of the bill.
By this point however, I was flagging and had gone deaf in one ear – a hindrance more related to illness then loud music. Tony by this point had already heckled me from the stage, which I’m sure is not the right way round for heckling, but other than giving him a warm friendly greeting (see the picture above) I decided that it was time to head home and find my bed.
What with a summer cold that has gone straight to my ears (I am currently deaf on one side), the day job being madly busy, one or two things going on in my personal life and rehearsing for gigs with another human being for the first time in years, I’ve not had much chance to stop and breath. Add to that the fact that I really don’t get on with the humid weather we’ve been having recently and I’m generally feeling a little tired.
So this blog post is a bit late.
On 7th July I played a lovely little gig in Darlington. What’s more, it was the first gig of what will probably not come to be known as the Tom Slatter duo as Gareth Cole joined me on guitar.
I first worked with Gareth when we both played on a track called Wounds from Mike Kershaw’s last album. When I mentioned online that I was gearing up to get gigging again, Gareth offered his services, which I thought sounded grand. I have a lot of songs, particularly on Happy People, that just can’t work as a solo song. With an extra player we had the option of including all the melodic lead guitar stuff that I can’t play when it’s just me.
Gareth Cole, live in Darlington, photo Courtesy of David Stook.
We managed to find time for two rehearsals before the gig, a total of about 6 hours playing together which isn’t a huge amount considering the complexity of some of my songs. We even had a stab at So Far From The Shore, which was stupidly ambitious, though we kinda pulled it off.
I was originally booked to play at an event called Airship Northstar, a steampunk festival in Berwick Upon Tweed, on 8th July. It seemed sensible to book another gig up in that corner of the world, so I got in touch with Jack Arthurs who suggested have a word with Emma Roebuck of Progzilla fame. A few facebook messages between friends and a gig was organised. Isn’t the modern world great?
In the end, Airship Northstar was cancelled due to poor weather making the site unsafe – one of the hazards of outdoor events, and a real shame as Dan who was organising the event is genuinely one of the nicest blokes in the world.
So it was just the one gig, but a bloody good one as far as I’m concerned. Jack Arthurs was great, as I wrote on this blog already and so was Andy Tillison. Andy, of The Tangent fame, is a bit of a prog legend and was rightly the headliner, but as an injured hand meant he had to play a slightly truncated set Gareth and I ended up with the closing spot.
Andy is a great singer songwriter, and a great keyboard player too. To my ear his songs have hints of jazz and American songbook mixed in with the prog. He also writes about the real world, something I’ve never been able to do.
Of course the audience is the main thing at any gig, and this was a great one. Not full – about 30 odd people, which isn’t bad at all – but enthusiastic and very proggish. Prog audiences share characteristics with classical audiences in that they really listen and pay attention. This is good, though it does mean you have to get things sort of right. Which we kinda did.
Live in Darlington. Photo courtesy of David Stook.
Our set went well, considering the limited rehearsal time, and Gareth played a blinder. Emma had contrived an encore for the two previous acts, so we lied to the audience and claimed ‘Wizards of this Town’ was the last song we had ‘Set Light To The Sky’ was left for the final song. It was very gratifying to get that song to stage for the first time.
And then it was back to the hotel for the heady rock n roll antics of having a quiet couple of beers and a chat before bed.
Lots of fun and we’re doing it all again in Watford on August 1st and New Malden August 4th. Come and heckle!
“Tom is a bit of character, and his warm smile and quirky delivery certainly resonated with me and the gathered masses. Catchy songs, with enough charm and whimsy to have you singing along – despite the underlying darker nature of much of his material.”
Jack Arthurs in Darlington, displaying an elephant bag he hopes will mollify our evil record label boss
On Friday 7th July I played a great gig in Darlington, in the North of the UK.
The opening act was Jack Arthurs, a singer-songwriter who I’d not really listened to properly, despite being on the same label as me.
I was very happy that I caught his set, because he really is a great songwriter. His set-up was dead simple, just himself and an acoustic guitar in an open tuning. The songs themselves were evocative of the Northeast, inspired by trips to the coast and full of hooks and proper choruses, as well as great guitar playing.
Over the last 12 months or so I’ve acquired a little stack of CDs by independent musicians. Most of these I acquired from acts I shared a bill withhh at last summer’s gigs.
Being a rubbish music fan (I make music far more often that I listen to other people’s), I have not listened to all of them. To make amends I thought I’d do some proper listening and write some little mini reviews.
First up is Tom Stedman’s Little Blue Dot.
Tom is a solo guitar player and Little Blue Dot showcases his guitar playing across 4 tracks. The recording is very simple – a solo steel string guitar, a good mic, a bit of reverb, no metronome or click track to be found. Lovely.
Tom is a virtuoso so the guitar playing here is full of fingerstyle twiddles, lightening arpeggios, harmonics and all sorts of cleverness. For all the technical skill that’s not the point of the music however. The technique is there to serve the music which sketches and meanders its way through modal chord progressions in an almost improvisatory way.
Little Blue Dot, the title track, is 7 minutes of bliss. B the second track has a great melody. Pootle, the third track has some lovely little excursions. The closing track, Eye of the Observer features percussive guitar paying to accompany its minor key motifs in way that really works well.
If you like soundtracky instrumental guitar stuff, Tom Stedman is for you. For reasons I don’t understand, Tom is literally the only indie musician I know who doesn’t use bandcamp, so you’ll have to head over to cdbaby to grab a copy. Alternatively, get yourself over to Tom’s website where he has a new album available too.