Sunday 29 June 2014

Yesterday at the Bombed Out Church, and a plea.

Yesterday we had our second gig at Liverpool’s Bombed Out Church, also known as St. Luke’s. Our first had been wonderful, but the weather not so much. This time, we had glorious sunshine.

We also had a very special guest this time in the form of Tom George. Ruth worked out that she first met Tom when she was about half way through her first year of university, so, in 1997; 17 years ago. Talk about way back when! Back then his wry and poetic observations on life took him around various open mic events; he was a singer/songwriter even back then, too, and ran his own open mic event at the now long gone and much lamented Hub Café on Berry Street. Tom opened the event with a wonderful set including one of our personal favourites, Drifter.

Tom also introduced his friend George Roberts to us; an incredibly talented flautist, we spent a while trying to work out if his performance, in perfect harmony with Tom’s songs, was rehearsed, improvised, or a bit of both, before deciding it didn’t matter and just sitting back and enjoying it.

It was wonderful to listen to Tom on his own, and Tom & George, whilst sat on the grass amongst the sunflowers (part of the Flores de Mayo exhibition) with a group of friends. The music was laid back and chilled out, though like a swan’s grace is powered by its legs going ten to the dozen underwater, it’s obvious that Tom & George have put the hours in to become this good; they make it look a lot easier than it is!

Then it was our turn. We were lucky to have a sound man this time around; Jake, a new addition to the Bombed Out Church’s coterie of helpers, was wonderful, setting everything up and being on hand to make sure that everything went smoothly during the various instrument changes! We opened with our mash up of Sumer Is Icumen In and Miri It Is, and took it from there.

We included our single, Shepherd’s Delight (It’s Not Time To Go To Bed) and were touched to see that many of the audience, who’d bought or heard our single, were singing along! We also threw in a cover or two, including our a-cappella take on the Prodigy’s 1994 hit Poison, and folky version of the theme from 1980s kids’ cartoon, Mysterious Cities of Gold (but with a surprise ending. You’ll Never Believe What Happene… okay we’ll tell you. We played an instrumental version of Gaudete for about two bars).

What was especially lovely was seeing many of our friends come along to see us, but also that those who’d come to see Tom George had stuck around, and that people came into the Bombed Out Church after hearing the music from outside… and stayed. We sent a little helper (Ruth’s 7-year-old son, who we must say is amazing at our gigs; not only does he sit and watch, or read a book if he’s bored, but he’s even answered queries before now, and never makes a fuss about having to share our table on the train with more than half a dozen musical instruments) to give out badges to anyone who wanted one.

So, if you came, thanks for coming, and if you didn’t, but helped spread the word, thank you, too. But there will be other opportunities to hear us this summer!

But now, a plea. We’ll write more about this at some point in the future, too, but for now, we’ll just say this. If you want to make sure that you can continue to hear live music in the Bombed Out Church, please, please consider giving what you can to their crowdfunder. In fact, it’s a lot more than just live music on sunny afternoons, but don’t fear, there will be blog posts coming on exactly why the Bombed Out Church is so important.

For now, though, just ask yourself these two questions:

1. Do you want to support one of the most amazing live music venues in Liverpool?

2. Do you have just £2?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, please give that £2 to the Bombed Out Church’s crowdfunding appeal. Of course, you can donate more than that if you like. You get various reward options depending on what you pledge. (We now ‘own’ a brick!)

Thank you!

Moss & Jones

Friday 27 June 2014

A review of our single Shepherd's Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed)

Link: Moss & Jones - Shepherd's Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed) - The Liverpool Gigs Pig

We had an absolutely lovely review of our single, Shepherd’s Delight (It’s Not Time To Go To Bed). Why not read it, and if you like the sound of it, download the track and help support independent music?

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Marc Needs To Talk About Glastonbury...

Marc writes:

Ah, the last Wednesday in June. Round about now on this day in many past years I’ve been orbiting the Bristol ringroad, looking for the right exit, or heading blindly towards Bridgewater, looking over every rise in the hill for tell-tale flags, or the reflection of sunshine on big tops.

[Oh God, he’s going to do a blog post about Glastonbury, isn’t he? At long last someone has the bravery to break the omerta that surrounds this little-discussed event.]

I first went to Glastonbury in 1994. I was eighteen and had spent weeks convincing my worried mother that it was just a big gathering of people enjoying music, in a beautiful natural setting. Nothing bad would happen. It was a totally safe environment.

Aside from a slight attack of nerves before we left (‘What do you DO at a festival?’), I had a wonderful time, heard, saw, felt, drank and tasted things I’d never done before and came back Slightly Changed (albeit cross at having slept through the Beastie Boys’ set). Being that type of teenager, I wrote a letter to the organisers that week, saying (with only slight exaggeration) that being at the festival was the first time I’d really enjoyed music again since my dad died the year before.

[Oh, it’s one of THOSE blog posts. If he’s going to try and be ‘deep’ I’m going to stop reading.]

After that first, startling, visit, I went back to Glastonbury as often as I could. At that time, when the festival wasn’t so much of a big thing, getting a ticket was pretty much just a matter of having the requisite money and knowing where Probe Records in Liverpool was. Some years were marvellous, some were pretty awful. However, a year didn’t go by when I didn’t, at some point, witness something truly magical while on Worthy Farm, whether it was a man jumping off the back of a moving double-decker ‘bus and walking away unharmed, the best live gig I have ever seen, a perplexing-yet-beautiful shrine to the Virgin Mary up by the stone circle or a hundred other things.

[Is he going to make a point here, or is this just going to be ‘This one time at Glastonbury…’?]

As the nineties ended and the following decade began, it became more of a struggle to get tickets for the festival, to the point where it was no longer a fixed point in my yearly calendar, but a thing to be cautiously hoped for and worried about.

[First. World. Problems.]

This increased demand for tickets was, I think, due to a number of things, the first of which was the BBC acquiring the rights to cover the festival on television. Glastonbury had been televised since the year I’d first attended (1994), but by Channel Four in mostly late night slots. In 1997 the BBC took over the festival’s screening rights and since then has made more and more of its coverage.

This has had the effect that far more people have seen the festival on television and have some idea of what goes on there than before, and a fair proportion of them, quite naturally, decide they’d like to go.

[He’s going to tell us these people are somehow wrong now, isn’t he? I bet he is.]

There’s an argument which says that because the BBC mostly covers a certain side of what is in reality a vast performing arts festival, ie big bands playing on big stages, that there are more people now who think that’s what Glastonbury is all about and who get there and set up in front of the main stage for three days, ignoring the thousands of other things there are to do on site.

This is an argument I’d agree with to some extent, although there have always been people who were just there for the big bands, and good luck to them. If people come along to modern day Glastonbury unaware that you can also spend the weekend, say, listening to poetry, watching theatre, or learning stone-carving, then that’s the fault of the broadcaster for not including these elements in its coverage.

[Oh, don’t be ridiculous. The BBC has paid a fortune to cover this event, and devotes prime-time slots to it. What are they going to show: Elbow on the Pyramid Stage or Woody Bop Muddy’s Record Graveyard in the Cabaret Tent?]

As a consequence of the BBC going so big on Glastonbury, the past decade or so has also seen a new phenomenon: The Festivalisation of English Public Life. Glastonbury receiving widespread coverage on the BBC has made it a part of the nebulous ‘national calendar’ in the same way that Wimbledon and the Last Night of the Proms are. It’s no longer thought of as hippies and oddballs in a field, only making the news when someone gets shot.

This has led, as we’ve seen, to vastly increased demand for tickets, but also to a mushrooming in the number of festivals during each summer. Writing in 2014, Peak Festival may just have passed, with a number of big events either cancelling or downsizing in the past year or so, but there are still hugely more festivals taking place every summer than there were ten or so years ago. And to look at them, with their flags and bunting and spoken-word stages, it’s not Reading or T in the Park they’re aping.

This spread of festivals has now gone so far as to move into things that aren’t even festivals. What would, five years ago, have been a recruitment fair is now a Recruitment Festival and what were farmers’ markets are now food festivals. Ukuleles on advert soundtracks and the winsome nonsense on the back of Innocent smoothie bottles: this all, ultimately, comes from Glastonbury or, more accurately, the BBC’s version of Glastonbury.

[‘Not like it was in my day’. Boo-hoo, Gramps. I bet he’s going to tell us it ‘lost its soul’ when they stopped letting people jump the fence.]

Actually, no. Fence jumping seemed to have been tacitly allowed when the number of people doing it was manageable. In the aftermath of 2000, when as many people bunked in as paid for tickets, doubling the number of people on site and making for some genuinely dangerous crushes, the organisers had to do something, or the festival couldn’t have continued. Since that year, they’ve substantially increased the camping capacity, allowing many more people to attend than would have been able to pre-2000.

Unlike some people who started going to Glastonbury before it was BBC-massive, I don’t think the festival has changed all that much, and many of the ways in which it has changed have been for the better; site drainage is greatly improved, meaning that no matter how much it rains, there’ll be no repeat of the ‘sloshing round, shin-deep in  liquid mud’ delights of the late nineties, there’s more stuff going on ‘after hours’, in an area of the site where there are no close neighbours to be bothered by noise, and there are more performance areas, filled with stuff you wouldn’t find at any other big festival.

The only thing which has really changed is the number of people who want to go, and the concomitant decreased likelihood of getting a ticket.

[See? He’s just bitter! All this ‘Festivalisation of English Pubic Lice’ or whatever is just covering up the fact that he’s pissed off he didn’t get a ticket.]

That’s true for some years, but not this one (see below). I’ve been trying to think of an analogy for this situation, and the closest one I can think of is Doctor Who-related.

[You don’t say.]

I feel a bit like full-on classic series Doctor Who fans must have felt in 2005. The thing I loved when it was a minority interest is now really popular and lots of other people love it, although perhaps not for the same reasons as I do. Actually, for this analogy to really hold, the BBC would have to give out a limited number of TV licences per year and if you didn’t secure one you couldn’t watch Doctor Who. Perhaps it’s more like having a long-time favourite restaurant which suddenly becomes wildly popular and you can’t get a table any more.

[‘…and the new people like that thing you like but in the WRONG WAY and they shouldn’t be ALLOWED to like it!!1]

While I’ve been cheesed off in previous years at not getting a ticket for my favourite festival, I’ve tried not to get bitter towards people who do get to go. Why shouldn’t someone who’s seen Glastonbury on the telly get to have the same life-changing

[Did he just say ‘life-changing’? I think he actually did, you know.]

…experience as I did? Perhaps if more people were lucky enough to have three days of beautiful surroundings and wonderful, imaginative performances and being able to pretty much please themselves, the country would be a happier place. Perhaps the tickets that I’ve missed out on in previous years have gone to the 2010’s eighteen year old equivalent of me, who’ll get so much more out of being there for his first time than thirty eight year old me, there for his umpteenth.

[So what are you saying? That we should round up people and MAKE them go to Glastonbury? Should there be ‘out-reach’ to help young people who can’t afford the tickets to go? You really haven’t thought this through at ALL, have you?]

Perhaps this is something I should try to achieve: to try harder to put the values I associate with the festival (tolerance, freedom of expression, the power of art to effect change) and my experience of it, into my daily life and my interactions with other people.

So there we are: I love going to Glastonbury but I’ve not been since 2010. Since then, one year the festival wasn’t on, and the other times I didn’t get a ticket. This year, however, I’m not going for a different reason; I didn’t even try to buy a ticket.

There had been talk last year (and the one before, I think) about me, Ruth and Cherub  going to Glastonbury together. We’d done Ye Olde Traditional Broadbande Competition two Octobers running, to no avail. Last summer I went with my brother to Boomtown Fair, (a pretty good festival run by people who used to be involved with Glastonbury. Although it’s for a younger, slightly more drug-orientated crowd than me, its heart’s in the right place and the two times I’ve been there so far have been good fun. I’ll be going back this August, in fact) and with Ruth and Cherub to the Just-So Festival (which Ruth wrote a lovely account of here).

During the weekend at the Just-So, as we enjoyed the various activities on offer, it became clear to me that this was a rather different experience to Glastonbury, in terms of size if nothing else. The comparison made me think about the wisdom of taking a six or seven year old to somewhere like Glastonbury, and brought back the memory that most of the children of that age I’d seen there over the years had looked either exhausted, miserable or both.

So Ruth and I decided not to even attempt to go to Glastonbury this year, a decision aided by the local education authority’s utterly insane attitude to children being taken out of school in term time. We’ll have another wonderful time at the Just-So in August.

So, how will we be entertaining ourselves this weekend, and avoiding ‘#Glasto’ tweets and witless ‘How Glastonbury lost its soul and went middle class’ newspaper features? By hosting our own outdoor event, of course! We’ll be playing some wonderful music in a beautiful setting and hoping to create a bit of magic. Sounds familiar…

Ruth writes about Constellations, by the Moulettes

Well, gosh. It’s a while since I wrote about music on here (with, I suppose, the exception of our own music). To be fair, rarely a day passes on twitter when I don’t squee over some musician or band or other, but on here it’s been a bit quiet. I’m not a music reviewer, you see, just a music fan who occasionally likes to go into more depth than “oh em gee this is the best album EVER”.

And it’s with that in mind that I feel I ought to say something about Constellations, the latest album by the Moulettes (is it “The Moulettes” or is it just “Moulettes”? I don’t know).

I found out about the Moulettes about two years ago, through a friend, and bought myself their eponymous album, which I lapped up, over and over again. I adored and still love that album. My son loves it too, and dances around the house with me to the strains of Going a Gathering. In fact, at Hallowe’en last year we played the album to a bunch of kids as background music to many of our activities and they loved it; it was spooky, and fun, and dancy. (Unfortunately, we then ramped up the scare factor with Penderecki’s Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima. It was a bit much for one girl who burst into tears and asked to go home. Needless to say, we turned it off pretty quickly.)

I was also lucky enough to see them live, last year, at the Just So Festival, and they were every bit as amazing as you’d expect… and then some.

But, as happens, life moves on, you discover other bands, and so it was that I never did get around to buying The Bear’s Revenge, or managing to catch them live again …

But I did follow them on twitter to keep up with what was going on (and they followed us back too which I thought was lovely. We’re a little unsigned acoustic duo who gig locally and have only just released our first studio single. They’re a massive band with accolades coming out of their ears … so yes, we were more than a bit chuffed by that) and it then happened that they released their album Constellations, and there seemed to be quite a bit of hype surrounding it. I added it to my mental wishlist, and as soon as we had a bit of dosh, I bought it from iTunes.

[One tiny, teeny thing here. I wish more bands would consider using Bandcamp to sell their music/merch. It’s not just for small outfits; the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Amanda Palmer use it; and it is fantastic because it enables fans to pay as much as they like to support the musicians they love, to buy a CD/record with access to the digital download immediately, and the ability to listen on their mobile device via the app, which bypasses iTunes. Not completely unlike Amazon, but some of us prefer to avoid Amazon where possible. Anyway, that’s just a musing, and not a criticism!]

And it is amazing. The first thing that struck me was the sheer craftsmanship (or perhaps “craftswomanship”) that had clearly gone into it. It is note perfect. Every sweep of the bow across the ‘cello, every toot on the bassoon, every delicious close harmony, every vocal trill, every bit of fingerwork across the harp (wonder if Emma fancies playing a wedding? We’re looking for a harpist…) and so on, and so on, was just perfect. Nothing out of place. The amount of work that has clearly gone into the arrangements (for example, on Between Two Mirrors, there’s a motif for various lyrics; the birds of paradise, the echoes, tokens left to find, chaos of the aftermath… think Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and you wouldn’t be that far away) is astounding. The lyrics are intelligent and moving and fit perfectly with the music. And everything hangs together so exquisitely.

To pick standout tracks from something like this is difficult, but everyone has favourites and my top three tracks are:

So It Goes (the video for this is fabulous too). This is possibly the most “dance around the kitchen” song from the album. The sudden changes from minor to major and back again, the soaring strings, the way the song seems to echo the lyrics, with the “so it goes” part of the chorus feeling like a sauntering journey … oh it is perfect. And yes, I said I’d pick three songs, but I can’t talk about So It Goes without mentioning what I thought of as its companion song, Glorious Year, which has the lyric “all is far from being forsaken”, making it sound like someone trying to cheer and console a friend. If you’ve been feeling like things haven’t been going so well, listen to this. I felt like I’d had a little cry on the Moulettes’ combined shoulders, and come away feeling a lot better.

The Night is Young. A simple, beautiful, wistful waltz with piano and strings combining to make you feel like you’re at some outdoor afterparty in Vienna. And just when you think it’s finished, it hasn’t; it has to come to its sad, humming conclusion. (Actually I think one of the reasons I love this track so much is that I could imagine it appearing on an album by The Magic Theatre, and they’re my favourite band ever, so there’s that.)

And then. And then. There is Lady Vengeance. Imagine, if you will, “chamber music does dubstep”. Imagine “hell hath no fury”. Imagine an intricate arrangement but with huge sound, and more of those amazing musical motifs paired with the lyrics. Imagine a guest appearance by no other than Arthur Brown (yes, that Arthur Brown). Imagine a song that goes from sinister to terrifying by degrees. “I have met you before, but, I think this time you will remember.” Tell you what, I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the Moulettes. There’s a suitably creepy video too. I know what the kids will be watching this hallowe’en. And if you buy the deluxe edition of the album like I did, you’ll also have access to the various remixes of this track, some of which are mind-blowing!

Every single track on this album is brilliant. If you like folk, if you like rock, if you like prog, if you like chamber music, if you like dubstep, if you like good music… you’ll love it.

As I said on twitter, the Moulettes are the kind of band, and Constellations the kind of album, that makes you think, “all other bands: stop now. We have a winner”. You can buy the album here.

Friday 6 June 2014

Quel Beau Jour (video)... and a gig alert

The wonderful Tom George made this video of us playing Quel Beau Jour (“what a lovely day!”) in Liverpool’s Bombed Out Church …in the tipping down rain.

Anyway, something must have gone right because we were invited back! Yes, we’re playing again, this time on Sunday 29th June. We also have a special guest, the “drifter" himself, Tom George, with his brand of melodic folk pop, who will be playing a set to start the afternoon!

We’d love it if you could come along and bring friends and family … but even if not, please do reblog/retweet/share so that those who might be interested can put it in their diaries! Entry is just £1 on the door and it all goes to the upkeep of St. Luke’s.

Finally, if you’d like to buy our current single, Shepherd’s Delight (It’s Not Time To Go To Bed), it’s just 50p to download from bandcamp and includes a bonus ‘b side’, lyrics, and individual track artwork!