Monday 26 May 2014

Our gig at Liverpool's Bombed Out Church (St. Luke's), Sunday 25th May

Well, this was the moment we’d been waiting for. Pretty much since we started making music as Moss & Jones about 18 months ago, we’d thought to ourselves, “imagine what it would be like doing a gig in the Bombed Out Church?”

… then, after asking, and emailing with, the good folk at St. Luke’s, we got the gig.

We practised like folk possessed, obsessed over our running order (“let’s not have those next to each other. Three ukulele duets one after the other? It’s a bit much for people.” “Two traditional folk songs in a minor key? Nah, let’s break that up a bit”) and pontificated over posters, invited everyone we knew, people we’d never met, and people in-between, encouraged people to share our posters and thanked so many lovely people for promoting our gig.

Finally the week came, and the weather forecast looked bad. As the week went on, it looked worse. On the night before our gig, we updated every bit of social media we’re on to say BRING WELLIES AND BROLLIES. Still, we visited poundland to buy some spare ponchos in case anyone had need (they did).

Then it was the big day! We, and the kid, set off for Liverpool on the train with eight, yes eight different instruments in various bags and cases. The weather was glorious, but we weren’t fooled, and as the morning turned into afternoon there was a distinct change in the air and we could almost smell the rain.

With help from Ambrose, Adam and Ash at St. Luke’s we set up. Marc had a very steep learning curve in “how to be a soundman” as we figured out which lead was plugged in where and what was for which volume and so on, but the ukulele pickups really helped the sound and our set up, two vocal mics and an ambient mic, was perfect.

People started to arrive, and we played our first song, a mashup of “Sumer Is Icumen In” and “Miri It Is”, two mediaeval songs about how summer is wonderful… while it lasts.

… and in fact, the “Sumer” lasted right until the end of the first half, through the interval, and until the start of the second half, at which point the heavens opened. Hard, full-on rain. But people who come to see Moss & Jones seem to be made of some pretty stern stuff! Very few got up and left and in fact, some of the little kids seemed to take great delight in running around, dancing in the rain.

For all our running order plans, because of the rain we skipped two songs from our second half (one cover, Moonlight Serenade, and one original, Solemn Macramé Owl) so as to finish that little bit sooner.

The awful thing was that about ten minutes after we’d finished, the rain stopped, and didn’t start again until about six o’clock that evening! Ah well!

We thoroughly enjoyed that gig. We had a chat with Ambrose after, the curator of the Bombed Out Church, and he said he’d love to have us back as our peaceful, folky vibe fitted in well with the surroundings and we did seem to draw people in. We’d love to come back too, possibly with support from a few other musicians, perhaps those with that same kind of quirky, family-friendly, festival-ish folk music vibe that you don’t tend to hear all that often on the local (indoor, evening) acoustic music scene. But as yet, there isn’t anything planned, and we’ll be sure to let people know if and when there is.

What we’ve learned from this gig, because we think you always learn something from your gigs, is that we need to ask a friend to hand out flyers and the like during the performance, and ask another (or the same) friend to take some photographs. We’re also wondering if it’s worth actually asking people something along the lines of “if you’re enjoying the gig, why not tweet about it?” because lots of people said how much they’d loved our music, but with nothing online it’s hard for us to give that feedback to others. We also learned that the new setup with the ukulele pickups works wonders, and that with a bit of practice, we can certainly add the mandolin to our repertoire more often as it went down a storm. We’ve also realised that although we are a bit offbeat and quirky with it (and use ukuleles rather than guitars), we’re definitely more ‘folk’ than ‘indie’ or ‘pop’ or ‘oldie’ or ‘swing’. So many people there thought of us as a ‘folk duo’ that we might as well embrace it.

We’d like to say, once again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. To all at the Bombed Out Church, and to everyone who came to support us. Also, to all the people who helped us promote our gig on twitter and on Facebook, even though some of you weren’t coming and even live miles away! It means so much to us to have all this help and support.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Open mic at Hopskotch

Last Wednesday, 14th May, we went to a new-to-us open mic! It was at Hopskotch, which is a bar on Mathew Street, Liverpool. It’s a lovely looking bar with a good selection of drinks (we’ll go back one day to see what the food is like) including coffee and sparkling water for those of us whose drinking days are pretty much over.

Now, we love open mic nights. They’re a wonderful idea; listen to loads of different types of music (and in some cases, poetry and other types of performance) all on the same night for free; if you don’t like something, you only have to listen to five minutes’ worth of it and if you do like it you can find out more by chatting to the artist/s afterwards! Playing open mics is great fun too; try out new songs, practise performing in front of an audience and just generally have a wonderful time without quite as much of the pressure as a full gig (although any performance comes with a bit of nerves and we’d probably be a bit worried if it didn’t).

This particular open mic was a bit quiet; the fella organising it, Terry Gray, who was a lovely, amiable chap, told us that it was normally a bit busier which we can imagine, as these things tend to come and go in waves. It was pretty quiet that night but we think that it’s just as important to play sincerely and well in front of an audience of one or two as in front of hundreds.

Terry opened with some wonderful, imaginative covers and an original song, and sometimes at an open mic it’s easy to think, “gosh, how to follow that then?” We really enjoyed listening to him play and sing.

Next it was our turn and we sang a couple of originals and folk songs. One thing we’ve realised as a result of that open mic is that we really need to have pickups for both ukuleles, as it constrains playing hugely when trying to point the ukulele at an ambient mic at the same time as sharing a vocal mic. There were points where we felt we weren’t giving it the best that we could simply because we had to stand very still in order to make sure the mic was picking up the ukes. (Our best performances have in the past been either completely unamplified, or at gigs where a large number of microphones has been available to pick up what we’re playing.) It’s not reasonable to expect that someone running an open mic will have any more than one possibly two microphones, and as such we’re investing in another ukulele pickup (we already have one). The glockenspiel tends to carry pretty well, ditto the accordion, and the mandolin is semi-electric anyway but the ukuleles sometimes can’t be heard over an amplified vocal if they’re too far away from a mic.

This is part of the reason we love open mic nights too; you learn stuff and can take things away that help you improve your performance.

We also had a lovely chat with Terry’s friend and the bar did get a little busier as the set went on. We weren’t sure whether or not they’d come for the open mic itself or just for a drink in Hopskotch but it was great to have a bit of an audience.

We would definitely go to this open mic again; Hopskotch is a stylish venue and the free drink for performers is a lovely, welcoming touch. Terry’s a friendly chap and a talented performer, and hopefully when we go again there will be a few more performers to whom we can listen.

It’s on tonight in fact; for one reason and another we can’t be there at this one but if you’re looking for somewhere to perform in Liverpool city centre, or perhaps just wanting to hear a bit of live music this evening why not pop down?

Sunday 11 May 2014

Gig alert! We play LIverpool's Bombed Out Church on Sunday 25th May

Do you like any, all, or a combination of these? 

  • Warm, cheerful, quirky original songs

  • Folk music

  • Imaginative covers that put a new spin on the original

  • A variety of instruments, including (but not solely): piano, glockenspiel, ukulele

  • Two singers; a lady and a chap

  • Family-friendly outdoor(ish) events

  • Bringing a picnic 

  • Paying just a quid to get in (on the door; no ticket required)

  • Knowing that quid is going to Liverpool’s Bombed Out Church?
Well, if so, why not come to our gig? It’s on Sunday 25th May at 2.30 p.m. and we are playing two sets of about twenty minutes each with a break in-between for chatting, wandering, playing, snacking and contemplating.

If you’re bringing kids, be aware that they will need some supervision (especially crawling babies and toddlers) as there is a little pond in the middle. However, please don’t worry about them having to be quiet or sit still during performances. If they’re in school, they’ll have enough of that there! We don’t want kids to associate music with “boring”; if they want to run around (provided someone’s keeping an eye on them so they’re safe, as it is, after all, a ruin!) and make a bit of noise, that’s absolutely fine. We’ll even sing a lullaby if any of them are tired!

There are steps (as you’ll probably know if you’ve had Silent Sleep’s “meet me on the steps of the Bombed Out Church” as an earworm), so if you’re struggling to get up them, let us know and we’ll see if we can assist. (That said, we’re not insured to carry prams up stairs, we just like to be helpful. It’d be “at your own risk”.)

If you’d like any more information about the gig, you can see our Facebook page, follow us on twitter, or email us: mossandjones [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you want an idea of the kind of music we do, have a listen to our soundcloud or bandcamp pages.

Please reblog, retweet and share away! Thank you very much!

Moss & Jones (Ruth & Marc)


Tuesday 6 May 2014

Shepherd's Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed): artwork

Ruth’s son drew us a picture based on our song, Shepherd’s Delight (it’s not time to go to bed) which we’ve recently recorded in The Sound Loft studio, Leigh.

We’ve used it as part of our cover art for the single, which, just as in the olden days, will have an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side. The artwork for the ‘B’ side will be something quite special, we promise.

The single will be out very soon; we have a couple of jobs we need to do first but it should be available from Bandcamp (and possibly iTunes) by next week.

If anyone wants to review it for their blog, or magazine, or wants to play it on their podcast, or radio show, please let us know and we’ll send you the track for an advance listen.

Also, Ruth’s son is getting paid for his artwork. He might only be seven, but we wouldn’t ask him to work for free.