Until yesterday, I had not been out of Wales yet this year (as far as I can remember).
Last night, however, I was in England for a gig and I will be there again tomorrow for a brass band competition. I am temporarily back in Wales as I write this.
It’s not very often that I go to gigs in which I’m not playing, but last night was an exception. One of my favourite bands, Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies, was playing at Moulton village hall in Cheshire. This was the closest they were due to approach North Wales on their current UK tour, so I took the opportunity to go and see them.
I was introduced to this band about a year ago by my friend Jon, who had known Harry at university in Durham, about 10 or 12 years ago. He lent me a copy of the band’s first album, Long Way to be Free, and I was so impressed by it that I soon bought a copy for myself. I have learned one of the songs from it and have several more on my “songs to learn soon” list.
When Jon discovered, several months ago, that Harry and the band would be playing in Moulton (which is a couple of hours’ drive away from where we live but conveniently close to where another of Jon’s university friends, Dave, lives in Knutsford) and suggested that we go to see them I was very happy to agree to the suggestion. Dave came to the gig with us and he and his wife, Lisa, kindly put us up over night.
The gig was every bit as good as I expected it to be and I also got a chance to meet and chat to Harry and Christophe, the only other member of the band who was present for this gig (they are often joined by other musicians for gigs and recordings). In addition to having very impressive facial hair, they are both lovely guys and I’d love to have a chance to jam with them sometime. Apart from ourselves, more or less everyone at the gig seemed to be residents of Moulton but they too seemed a nice, friendly bunch and one chap, Kev, was especially helpful when we discovered that Jon had accidentally left his headlights on and drained the car battery.
As well as getting a chance to hear live versions of probably about 15 songs (selected from both their albums, as well as their newly released single – out on vinyl as well as an mp3 download!), including most of my favourites, it was good to hear the stories behind these songs (including, from the first album, Beard Snood, which was based on Christophe’s experiences working for a bakery which made him wear a hairnet over his beard, and La grietita – one of several songs in Spanish – which is about being a metaphorical crack in the wall of a darkened room, letting in a chink of light) and also to be able to watch Harry’s guitar playing and find out what chord shapes he was using (most of the songs were played with a capo and, in any case, I would probably need to sing them in a different key to accommodate my slightly lower vocal range, but it’s good to have a starting point for finding the chord voicings needed to recreate his sound). I was also able to pick up a copy of their second album, The Bones on Black, which previously I’d only heard a couple of times when I borrowed Jon’s copy of the CD.
I would definitely recommend checking out Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies if you get a chance to see them live (their website, linked above, has a list of the dates on their current tour). There are also, apparently, quite a few videos of them up on youtube, though I haven’t yet watched any of those.
As I mentioned, I’m heading back into England tomorrow for a brass band competition. This is over in Buxton, where I will be playing (Bb bass) with the Menai Bridge Brass Band. We will be playing the same test piece that we did at our last competition, the North Wales Rally in Llandudno last November – I managed to write about this without getting round to mentioning the title of the piece: Philip Sparke’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Symphony. This is, in my opinion, an excellent piece and it is quite challenging for a band of our calibre, although I feel a lot more confident playing it now (with about 6 months’ more playing experience under my belt) than I did last time (about a month after I’d restarted tuba playing after a long break, when I was not very experienced in the first place).
This competition should be quite fun and we are certainly hoping to give an excellent performance, regardless of where we come in our category (apparently there are due to be 9 section four bands competing, and it would be nice if we come in the top half, at least). The only downside is that we are due to be on stage at 10am and we have a rehearsal room booked for 8:30am, to give us a half hour warm up and then plenty of time to get across to the competition venue (Buxton Opera House). Consequently, our coach will be leaving Menai Bridge at 5:30am, which means I have to get up somewhat earlier in order to get down to the band room in time to meet it. 😦