PF Hot Seats here, just stoking the virtual fire and sipping a cup of very real egg nog (careful about that one!). We’ve got our stockings hung, here at Hot Seats central, and we are wassailing and wailing, caroling and crying. Some of us got exactly what we wanted, while others of us . . . no so much. Think you can guess who among us has been naughty and who’s been nice?
If you said that we’re all nicely naughty, you’re almost right! We’re actually naughtily nice!
Anyway . . . it’s been a fairly good year for us, how about you? Admittedly, we’ve played less gigs than in previous years, but they’ve been great ones, and we’re very proud of the reviews and attention that Feel has received. While our spring will probably also be slow, we’ve already booked a 3 week trip back to Scotland, including a trip to the Hebridean Celtic Festival and some other old haunts in beautiful places. We hope to line up some other good gigs in the US this summer, so if you have some suggestions, drop us a line, eh (email@example.com, if you don’t know).
We hope to have a new piece of product (that’s an industry term, folks) in the next year, perhaps digging backwards, perhaps looking forward, perhaps seeing what’s been lost in the couch cushions of Hot Seats central. You’ll be the first to know, of course.
OK, enough chit chat, two things:
1) As a special Holiday treat, here’s a link to a free download of our little mini-set at the Shetland Hotel as part of the Shetland Folk Festival Foy. Download HERE.
- Saturday, December 29th
- Ashland Coffee & Tea – Ashland VA
- 8pm, $10 in advance, $15 at the door.
- Come begin closing out the year with us at one of our most favorite venues!
- Monday, December 31st (New Year’s Eve!)
- Friday, January 4th
- Saturday, January 5th
- Saturday, January 12th
- Cristina’s Cafe - Strasburg, VA
- $7, 7:30pm
- Come join us for some tunes in this sweet little haven in the Shenandoah Mountains!
OK, that’s enough for now. See you soooooooooon!
PF Et Al.
As you know, we are early technology enthusiasts. Ben prefers to do his drawings using a sharpened stick and carbon-rich dirt; Jake uses deer femurs as opposed to drumsticks; Graham’s neighborhood is strangely cat-free (and his fiddle is never string-free); Ed exclusively eats hot dogs; and I, PF, use a sharpened rock to shave my face. Nonetheless, we realize that many of you are addicted to the internet and love listening to music that doesn’t exist. Therefore and hence, we have uploaded our two newest albums, along with all of the rest onto the imaginary world of websites and ladies’ parts, and you can get em, either in hard copy form or in the form of streaming electrons.
Here’s our online store. Soon it’ll be it’s own page, but for now, check it, yo! Also, our music is also available via iTunes, emusic, Spotify, Pandora, etc etc.
PF et al.
What’s the definition of concentration? Two words. Jake. Sellers.
We’ve been sooooooo carried away with our summer vacation. You know, sweating, dodging tornados, laying around, swatting bugs, and concetrating on getting our abdomens to light up. Anyway . . . we’ve been so busy with our avocations that we have been neglecting our scheduling duties.
In short, here come some gigs – two of the most beautiful locations on the East Coast this weekend – Damascus, VA and Thomas, WV! Next weekend, we’re back in my (PF’s) hometown scene with a gig on the steps of the Leesburg Courthouse.
- Tomorrow – Friday, July 6th
- Quincey’s Pizza - Damascus, VA.
- $5, 8:30pm
- Back in the divine mountain town of Damascus! Come creep on the Creeper Trail! We hope to see all of our Bristol pals out tomorrow!
- Saturday, July 7th
- Sunday, July 15th
- Bluemont Concert Series - Courthouse Steps – Leesburg, VA
- $5 suggested donation
- Like the old timey days of dunkings witches, come watch us shake it for the masses (and maybe at least one of our moms).
And that’s all she wrote. We have some festivals coming up at the end of the summer, and some big plans for the wintertime, so stay tuned!
PF Hot Seats et al. over and out.
Tuesday, May 8th/Wednesday, May 9th. . .
Eyes tired, legs tired, feet wet. Strange images come drifting into my consciousness like the strange squiggles on one’s eyeballs, lingering in frame and then drifting out again . . . cacophony of fiddles and tenor banjos and voices . . . strange and twisty Finnish and Belgian melodies . . . many cans and bottles, bottoms tipped skyward . . . hundreds of clapping Shetlanders . . . sensational musicians in every direction and from all corners of the Earth . . . Ed in a black dress, festooned with Tiger-lilies . . . shaggy ponies with stubby legs . . . watching six dawns in a row on the back end of the evening . . . Scottish breakfasts . . . Ed in a lilac bridesmaid dress and bloomers . . . could this be real? Have we been dreaming?
No, not a dream in any literal sense of the word, but certainly a music lover’s dream and a musician’s dream – the Shetland Folk Festival, you know? It would be a fool’s errand for me to attempt a day by day breakdown of our time, but let’s attempt a synopsis . . .
The whole festival begins at the ferry terminal in Aberdeen. We were greeted by a number of the organizers and staff of the festival, who had gone so far as to find pictures of each of us so as to know our names when we arrived. This level of care and attention to detail was with us throughout the entire festival; rarely to never before have we been treated with such a degree of warmth and welcome. After loading onto the ferry and stashing our stuff in our cabin (a 4 bedder, with Graham and Shannon in their own (I assume) palatial double cabin), we walked up to the main deck to see what was what. Jamming had already begun throughout the ferry bar and lounge, mostly of a Scottish nature. There were some familiar faces, and a lot of new faces to be seen and some excellent music floating through the air. We ran into Andrew – promoter at the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen and a Shetlander by birth, and shot the shit with him in preparation for our weekend. He portended the same scene that others had before him – 6 days of non stop music, boozing, and general madness. No one could say that we weren’t warned, no?
We took to jamming on the ferry, mostly in an old-timey fashion, much to the pleasure of those within earshot. It’s a particular mental exercise well-known to all veterans of fiddler’s conventions – to tone out 360 degrees of alternate melodies and focus in exclusively on the one that’s happening 2 feet from your head. Di-synchronous listening, they call it (or something . . . I heard a BBC Radio 4 article on it), wherein you focus on one sound but keep your ears open for the possibility of a predator attacking from behind or above. At one point, a fairly enthusiastic and well-besotted fellow came bursting into the lounge where we were playing, rolling around on the floor, upending chairs and tables. We later learned that his name was Stefan (“Hurricane Stefan” to his friends), and he plays bass with Rory Ellis. Try as hard as we might, we find it nearly impossible to be the misbehaving-est band at most fests; though, if you listen closely, we may be the shit-talking-est, mostly about one another.
We played music and caroused well into the evening, chatting with some of the other musicians and getting ourselves into festival mode, eventually retiring to our cabin for a few hours of sleep. Imagine, if you will, the heat and atmosphere of a 5x12x10 room after four full grown, strapping, well fed, and somewhat inebriated gents practice deep inhalation and exhalation in it for 4 or 5 hours. Kind of a musk-sauna, if you will. Around 6am, Ed began his sonata of snoring (as described in the May 3rd blog entry), and I awoke to pace the deck. We docked about 7pm.
Upon landing, we were greeted by even more of the festival staff and taken to the festival club, and from there, we dispersed to a variety of host houses. One of the cool aspects of this festival is the host housing. Rather than put the musicians up in a single hotel or some such thing, we are basically integrated into the community for a week. Perhaps this seems like a mushy or hyperbolic statement, but it really works to make us feel at home to be staying in a home, rather than a random anonymous room. Thanks to David and Jennifer, Colin and Ruth, and Zoe and Neil (and Crystal and Abby) for allowing us to invade your space (the truth of the matter is, given that we were rolling in around 5-10am and rolling out around 3pm each day, we didn’t interact as much as we would have under more normal circumstances).
After settling in, we went back to the festival club – the central point for all arrivals and departures, and took part in a slam-bang production wherein every band at the festival performed a single song. This is no small feat, given that there were 50+ bands at the festival, both local and visiting. One thing that struck us in this moment, and that would continue to prove true, is the utter calmness of the staff, soundmen, and volunteers throughout even the most time-sensitive occasions. It’s often the case at festivals that the behind the scenes crew can get a bit . . . worked up over every small deadline and backstage call, but the folks here have clearly worked with a rabble of musicians before, and know that we have a particular kind of punctuality. Rather than fight against it, they worked with it, and everything went smoothly and no one had a freak-out. In other words, this was not their first rodeo.
Let’s pause and just talk about the bands. So many bands. Certainly, many of them fell into the Scottish/Irish persuasion; but, of course, within that distinction there are many variants – pipe duets, fiddle bands, killer tenor banjo players (including a fellow with an X-Ray stretched over his head – the coolest skin I’d ever seen), accordionists, and singers. There were also some modern, “neo-trad” bands who marry rock, jazz and funk with Irish, Scottish, Cape Bretonese, and other traditions (ManRan, Sprag Sessions, Treacherous Orchestra). There were Scandanavians with twisty melodies (Baltic Crossing, Kan), and a killer Belgian jazz trio called KV Express that featured the astounding Sophie Chavez on diatonic button accordion and a bassist named Cedric who played a 6-string fretless bass the size of a coffee table. Let’s see . . . there was a group called Kasai Masai that featured musicians from Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo who played what they called “Sunshine Music,” and there were a few other bluegrass-y troupes, specifically the totally virtuosic J.P. Cormier & the Elliot Brothers, and The Alison Brown Acoustic Quartet with John Doyle and Casey Driessen (enough said). Phew! And that’s just a little glossing over.
And then there were the Shetland groups. The Shetland style of playing features really peppy fiddle melodies, similar to other brands of Celtic music, but backed by rhythm guitar straight out of the Eddie Lang playbook. It makes for a highly enjoyable sound – complex but completely approachable. Much like the stories of old time Appalachia (and the truth of a lot of modern Appalachia), nearly everyone plays some music. Many of the localities provide free instruction to kids, and music is highly valued throughout the community. This also makes for some of the best audiences in the world – highly knowledgeable about music in general, and very receptive to those of us who like a little parody and pageantry (parogeantry?) with our performance. And speaking of the shows . . .
Unlike what many of you dear readers probably envision when you hear/read the word “festival,” this is an entirely different scene. The whole of the festival was based out of Lerwick, the largest town in the Shetlands (roughly 12,000 of the Shetlands’ 22,000 residents live in this town), however, the concerts take place in small to large village halls throughout the islands. See, while people DO travel to the Shetlands for the festival, the majority of the shows are put on for the benefit of the residents of the islands (when you live in the middle of the North Sea, you sometimes have to import entertainment, no?). A 3-5 band lineup is picked up from the Festival Club and driven hither and yon, sometimes taking additional ferries to get to their destinations. Nearly every show was sold out, and the crowds were intensely appreciative, which gave us a great amount of motivation to provide our highest level of entertainment.
And I like to think we provided just that. We played a show every day, sharing the bills with many of the bands I mentioned. Without going into great detail about each performance, I’ll say we kept it somewhat close to the vest for most nights, only venturing into the slightly left of center material (Peaches, Perugia, Old Trash Can), and supplying a good deal of old time, ragtime, and bluegrass-y business. It was all received well, I think; many of the staff and audience members were especially taken with Peaches, and by our 3rd concert, we were getting requests and folks were singing along. We are not, as you may know, the kind of band who excels in writing sing-alongs or in having folks make requests beyond “play Oh Brother Where Art Thou!”, so this was heartening and unusual for us.
I say most nights, because we did find ourselves itching to get a little strange, so on Sunday, our final day of performances, we did stretch out and treat the audiences to a little bit of the Beefy Cheese Boogie and Don’t Worry About The Poor. As usual, we were worried about nothing, they went over like gangbusters and made us wish we’d been feeding more of that side of ourselves into every performance. You can read a good review of on of our shows at the largest venue, the Clickimin Sports Centre, HERE.
Sunday was also the day of the “Festival Foy.” “Foy” means, I believe, “fun” in Shetland-ese (more on this in a bit). This is an amazing event that happens in three venues and involves EVERY visiting band playing a 15 minute set in each venue. You set up, play a set, then take down, get driven to a different venue, and do it again, and again! It was an amazing dance to witness and be a part of, and it gives people a chance to see every band, in case they couldn’t make any other show. Brilliant and also absurd. We love the 15 minute power set, however. It’s kind of an art to itself. Personally, we decided to have no repeats, which worked out pretty well for us, however, other bands crafted the perfect synopsis of their full set and ran with it for all three shows. Either way, it was a super fun experience on our end.
Now, after every night of gigs, all the musicians would end up back at the Festival Club, generally between 10 and 2 am, depending on where on the Shetlands that night’s gig took place. The Festival Club then turned into basically a condensed version of a fiddler’s convention (though it was mostly celtic jams). Every staircase and empty room contained a jam or two, and there was a busy busy bar and bottles being passed every direction. It was great to get to pick with many of the players we were watching perform. As old time players, we generated a fair amount of interest. One stark difference is the length for which we play a song. Generally, a Scottish or Irish jam consists of sets of 3 or 4 tunes, each played 2 or 3 times through. This definitely keeps the flow going, but for those of us who don’t know the tune, it can be kind of vexing – as soon as you begin to grasp the structure and notes of one tune, they’re off to the next, often in a different key and time signature (especially challenging for us 5-string banjo-ers). By contrast, as many of you know, an old-time tune goes until you can see through time, giving all participants plenty of time to learn, forget, and relearn the tune.
The long story short of it is that the schedule for the Shetland Festival participants runs as follows:
- 4pm – assemble and load up to get to a venue early for sound check, etc
- 8pm – 12am – gig featuring 40 minute sets form 5 different bands
- 1:30am – arrive at festival club, begin general carousal
- 5am – Festival Club closes, at which point you can either
- A) head to the Harbor Cafe for a greasy full Scottish breakfast, or
- B) head to an after party for more carousing before then arriving at A)
- Anywhere between 7am to never – go to sleep
- 3:30pm – stumble into Festival Club for coffee, and repeat.
This is a schedule that guarantees an increasing level of manic behavior and general hilarity. As the days went on, you could see a kind of feral quality creeping into all the musician’s eyes as we transformed from normal humans into sleepless party zombies. Lurching from bar to jam to venue to bar, feasting on all content that lay in our pathways. All of our Galax pals should be very familiar with this schedule. Personally, I haven’t seen so many dawns in quite some time. And, of course, interspersed with the music is all of the talking. Perhaps one of the things I love most about being a musician, and specifically a touring musician, is the fast friendships that can be achieved amongst you and your fellow road-weary comrades. Maybe it’s the shared experiences, maybe it’s some genetic component, maybe it’s booze. Whatever, we made some friends at this fest who are the kind of folks that we may not see for another 18 months, but with whom the rapport will remain fresh when next we meet.
It’s worth, at this point, singling out two folks with whom we had an especially great time – Tim and Una. Tim is one of these aforementioned road pals we first met in 2008 at the Famous Spielgeltent in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He is possibly one of the best soundmen we’ve ever gotten to work with, and also a hilarious, erudite, and almost superhumanly positive person. He is also a talented fiddler and multi-instrumentalist with some great bands. We ran into him while boarding the ferry, and it was a great pleasure to reconnect and socialize with him. Tim had, as his assistant, a woman named Una from Belfast who proved to be equally fascinating in different ways. An astrophysicist, an acoustic music engineer, a squeeze boxer and harpist, and a grade-A shit-talker to boot. Combined, Tim and Una were a fabulous mobile sound team and a great duo with whom to kick it.
What else . . . I feel like I have to expel all of this from my brain before it disappears forever like a recent dream. If you’re curious, this is my current position in life.
Ah, I feel I must amend previous statements that I’ve made concerning the full Scottish/English/Irish breakfast. If you need a refresher, it’s:
- Baked Beans
- Tattie Scone/Potato Cake
- sometimes sauteed mushrooms
- sometimes a baked tomato
- black pudding/haggis
- and, in the case of the Shetland Islands, the newest edition to our meat obsession
This is a breakfast designed for the hard working laborer, not the slothful musician. But see, I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. For us laypeople, the full breakfast isn’t designed to be eaten upon waking in the morning, it’s designed to be eaten before going to bed in the morning. Two days in a row I stumbled with companions to the Harbor Cafe for breakfast and ate a week’s worth of salt, protein, grease and beans, then promptly walked to the lodging and passed out, more from exhaustion than any alcohol fueled blackout. And, each afternoon, I awoke refreshed, nay, powerful, all thanks to a meal that no sane person should ever consider eating. The scene on Tuesday morning, following the Final Fling on Monday night, was especially lively. The place was queued out the door with revelers, loudly cheering and hooting each time someone else’s number was called to pick up their breakfast (two exhausted and somewhat terrified women were cooking for this horde of famished and bleary Visigoths, and to them we extend the heartiest thanks imaginable). We were picking tunes in line and acting up in every way imaginable. I was number 83. When 84 was called before me, I began loudly lamenting the lack of proper counting and was shouted down with a hearty “in your face, 83! That’s the luck of the draw!” Which had us all cracking up. Maybe you had to be there . . .
Shetland Phrases that we learned:
- Greth – “A piss,” i.e. getting drunk.
- Muckle – big; as in, “I had a muckle greth last night! Oh my head!”
- Peerie – small
- Ett a yun – eat up!
- Tooms – thumbs
And now we are traveling home: a somewhat harrowing ferry ride through a Force 8 gale, a flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow, and now we are somewhere over the Atlantic. It’s amazing how 6 days can seem like 100 years. Sometimes quality time whizzes past, but in this case, we were able to soak up every moment in its fullest, and we can only hope that we get the opportunity to return again.
Oh, wait, how could I forget. ED AND GRAHAM RODE PONIES!! Followers of our FaceSpace page may know that we were seeing ponies. In fact, there were two ponies (named Disney and Rover, we came to find out) that we walked past daily. Anyway, on one of his morning walks home, Ed was able to befriend and hop onto Rover, the brown one. He later regaled us with this tale, and was, of course, not believed in the slightest. However, Graham then reenacted the moment and got photographic evidence to back his claim! Never let it be said that we are not wild adventurers, folks. We have the Viking blood, coursing through our besotted and greasy veins. Is that the second time I said “besotted?” Well, there’s probably a reason for that.
Other moments/thoughts of note:
- Ed swapped clothing with Lisa, one of the festival organizers, somewhat late in the night on Saturday. This led to him wearing a full out bridesmaid gown on stage during the Final Fling
- During that same Final Fling, we were lucky enough to have the closing slot, which we used to get super weird. We also sang Peaches (which many staff told me was the “Song of the Festival”) and had many folks singing along. Additionally, we were able to get J.P. Cormier to rip up some mandolin with us, Bill Elliot to do the same on guitar, and, a special treat, Mike Elliot playing honkytonk piano for a number of tunes. We were also joined by our new Belgian pal Michelle on ancillary percussion duties, and Gary from ManRan on accordion.
- Hey, did you know that the Shetlands are fucking georgeous? Sure, it may be an acquired taste – wind-burnt hills and rocky cliffs, snow showers in May, foreboding seas, etc, but we definitely acquired that taste for it.
- Big thanks and love go out to all of the festival staff: Davie, Mhari, Lisa, Shirley, Eddie, Stephen, Kristie, and the myriad of names I can’t conjure in my current travel-addled mindstate.
That’s probably enough. If anything else springs into my consciousness, I’ll be sure to include it. For now, I’ll just reiterate how much fun we had and how flattered we felt to be chosen for this opportunity, and to be received in the manner that we were.
Next time . . . we’ll ride a puffin!
PF Here, aboard a Shetland Bound Ferry. It’s 6:45AM, and I’m feeling somewhat rested and definitely restful after a few hours of rolling slumber. I was awoken bright and early in our comfortable, four man cabin, by the awe-inspiring snores of Ed Brogan.
Have we talked about this man’s nocturnal emissions before? There’s nothing like it. To hear it out of context, one might think to oneself, “walrus fight?” or, “underwater accordion?” Every inhalation is like a mighty bellows, and every exhalation brings a slightly new variant on an old theme. A regular old Charlie Parker with his snores, our Edward. Sometimes he trumpets triumphantly, other times it’s more of a chorus of whistles and whines. I put the man’s sleep noises up against any that you’ve ever heard. This is not to say that Ed is inconsiderate, folks, as nothing could be further from the truth. The man would, literally, sleep outside on the porch rather than fear waking you. Seriously, I’m using the term “literally” in a completely literal sense. However, last night was a evening full of . . . liquid sleep aids, and so no amount of prodding or pushing or threatening could get him to roll over or budge from his entrenched snoring position. And so here I am . . .
Not much in the way of music news to report on over the last three days, but there is certainly some excitement to report.
First, an addendum that I can’t believe I overlooked. On Friday night at Douglas’s house, we had a couple of young ladies sitting right in the front, thoroughly enjoying themselves. For the 2nd encore, I asked who the crowd would rather hear play the banjo, Ben or me. Most of the crowd was dumbfounded by the question, but these two emphatically shouted “Ben!” They later told me that he was their favorite, and in addition to being a fab banjoist and artist, he also “looks like a Russian athlete.” Yup . . . they said that. Ben. Russian athlete.
Moving on . . .
Sunday’s gig with Dr. Mango and the Chickpeas was, as expected, a great deal of fun. A small but appreciative crowd was at the Universal, and we felt that our raucousness was matched well by Dr. Mango’s lovely tunes. By the end of our set, we had a floor full of wild dancers, also, which always spells a good night. See Paul Kerr’s review of the show, just below, for the full scoop.
Monday through Wednesday we just kicked it in Edinburgh, lazing through the days, walking about, hitting museums and pubs, and catching up with all our old friends in the evening. I’ve gone on at length about how much we appreciate our road friends, so I’ll not bore you with that, except to say that they are all, each and every one of them, the very best!
The most exciting thing to happen over the last few days is as follows. Ben, Jake, and I (PF) were walking home late night from hanging out with our pals the Johnstons (leaders of the Scottish trad-rock group Rock Salt and Nails, see former blog entries for more on them). We’d been “sampling” Paul’s whiskey’s and talking music til late in the evening/early in the morning. Nearly home, we spied across the Leith Walk a near drunken altercation – a small stocky guy was being restrained by another fellow, his girlfriend shouting at him to not fight.
Anyways, we walked on, commenting on the differences between one man’s goofy drunk and another’s violent drunk. Jake and I went into our lodging and Ben headed for his. While on his walk, and speaking on the cell phone to his lovely wife, Esmerelda Campbell-Volcano, Ben walked right past these same folks, and found himself on the receiving end of an errant drunken fist to the face. Our Benny! The Russian Athlete! He made a swift and wise tactical retreat and made it home to nurse his bloodied face. Accosted in the street!
I issue this as a promise . . . whoever this late night drunken Benny assailant is, he better watch out. If ever any Hot Seat or member of the Hot Seat retinue spots him, he’s in for a serious talking-to!
We’re now docking in the Shetlands. We’ve already seen some old Spiegeltent friends aboard, and had a fun but not too crazy jam last night. I’m sure I’ll be checking in again, probably from Heathrow airport in 5 or 6 days . . .
The Hot Seats. Glasgow. 29th May.
May 2, 2012 by Paul Kerr
Sadly the desire to see The Hot Seats led us to leave Woody and his band at half time in order to hoof it on up to The Universal and due to crossing the Glasgow dateline we caught most of their set. Another band who drink from the old time music well The Hot Seats are a (mostly) bearded raggle taggle crew who swap instruments with gay abandon and to great effect. Anyone who’s heard their latest live album would know what to expect but in truth the humour and sheer vibrancy of their set has to be seen live. The first song we caught, Trouble in Mind was a steamroller of banjo, fiddle and guitar flailing away, a great start. In full flight the five-piece band serve up an unplugged wall of sound that can make the hair on the back of the neck stand up. No Plans from their next album was an outstanding example of this, forget the cinematic Soggy Bottom Boys, this is the real deal. Playing tunes by the likes of Gid Tanner’s Skilletlickers and Earl Scruggs there was plenty of bluegrass action and even a turn by Shannon Dunne, an American “flatfooter” who whetted the audience’s appetite for a dance. The sly entendre of Peaches allowed the band to wallow somewhat in a vaudevillian humour fully realised on Soft John Blues, a fabulously louche country slouch that pays tribute to that old viagra.
Earlier on Woody Pines had commented on the somewhat cramped confines of his gig lamenting the lack of dancing space. At The Universal there was no such problem and by the closing and rousing Another Day, Another Dollar you couldn’t see the band for the dancers.
If this had been a battle of the bands then I’d declare it a draw and the only loser was the reviewer who haplessly missed out on the second set from Woody Pines. It’s safe to say however that both bands are smoking hot and if you get the chance to see one or both then do so.
And so it comes to this . . .
I have been shamed. SHAMED, I tells ya! Jane Anne, our gracious Edinburgh venue co-host, and main blogger for the House Concerts at Douglas Robertson’s House, called me out by name! Specifically, she said, “your blog is like this: (INSERT THE SOUND OF WIND BLOWING ACROSS A BARREN DESERT).”
It’s true, I have been derelict in my duties, and for that, I apologize. All I can say is, baby (babies), please don’t go! We still love you and need you all to share in our non-adventures and eating mishaps. If I don’t share them here, and you don’t read and enjoy, perhaps they never happened at all? If a band plays a gig and doesn’t blog inanities thereafter, did they ever really gig at all? Wow . . what a koan. In that same vein, Eddie is curious if you order a pizza, and it doesn’t have a HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST, was there ever a pizza at all?
And so . . .
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I’m sitting in the dressing room of Brookfield Village Hall, languishing after a savory meal from our favoritest take-out in all the world, the Bombay Deli of Paisley. The sun is shining (I know, what are the odds?), and I’m overlooking a pristine bowling green. We need more of these in the You Ess of Aigh . . . bowling clubs. Not bowling alleys, mind you, but a lush, closely mowed lawn on which one can toss a few balls. We can all wear white outfits and cultivate our mustaches, also. Sounds like heaven.
We arrived in Scotland two days ago, after an uneventful 13 hours of travel. We enjoyed a few hours of time-killing in the fabulous shopping and people watching mecca of Heathrow Terminal 5 (worth it), and walked around in the rain upon arrival in Edinburgh. We are once again being hosted both by the fabulous Sue and Bill (“Banjo Bill” on my UK cell phone), and by our good friend Leonie. I cannot say enough, as usual, about the generosity of folks who would put up a group of haggard and road/air-weary musicians. It is a pool from which we dip our ladle of despair on a relatively frequent basis, and we can only hope we will never see its bottom.
Anyways . . .
Last night (April 27) we played at Douglas Robertson’s excellent venue/house/studio to an overfull house. It was our first full band gig in nearly six weeks, and there were certainly some momentary rough moments, we plowed through them with our usually bulldozer-like approach to stringband music. It can be summed up as follows: make a mistake once, and it’s a mistake; make that mistake multiple times in a row, it becomes a genre decision. We are, if nothing else, pioneers in the genre of slop-time music.
The crowd was super appreciative, and it felt very good to see so many familiar faces in the crowd. There remains no show as fun as the intimate ones like those at Douglas’s amazing space. Highlights of the show include many of Ed’s unintentionally hilarious between-song quips. More and more, we are working to get the whole band making banter (guess who still bears the lion’s share of the work . . . the same one who’s tap tap tapping away right now, while the others lay about and whistle sweet tunes of sloth and skullduggery. But who’s complaining?). There’s no joy like compelling Ben Belcher or Graham DeZarn to break their vows of on-stage silence and let fly a riotously funny burst of words. They’re usually like the stoics of old – stony-faced and unsmiling – but every now and again, you can get Ben to crack one of those famous smiles, or Graham to open his oft closed mouth, and those moments, folks, make it all worthwhile! What was I talking about?
The show ended, as so many of these shows do, with a double encore – so flattering. After all the folks left and the living room was reassembled, we lounged about, “tasting” a variety of whiskeys that Douglas pulled out of some deep dark place in his house. It was great to have the majority of our accumulated friends all in one place, conversing loudly and imbibing freely. We heard about Douglas and JaneAnne’s trip to Mali and their stay with Toumani Diabaté, which sounded pretty excellent. It was right around then (somewhere in between making fun of our Facebook presence and chiding Jake for flirting with her Spanish friend and tenant (he’s a passionate man, folks, who can blame him?)) that JaneAnne equated this blog to a barren wasteland. And it hurt, it hurt deep.
Tonight’s show at Brookfield Village Hall was a great success. It always takes us a second to get used to the more subdued crowds that we sometimes encounter over here (or in the states, for that matter). A pitfall of attempting new banter every night is hat sometimes it crashes and burns in the most spectacular of ways, an exciting but unfortunate hazard of the trade, indeed. Better than the alternative though, no? Don’t know about you folks, but there’s nothing I like less than when it’s obvious that a bandleader/front man is spewing out well-worn aphorisms and repeated content. It makes the whole presentation feel completely insincere. So, the next time you see us and some piece of awkwardness comes out of one of our mouths, know that it is done with the most noble of intentions.
Last night, however, we had an ace in the hole – Graham’s sweetie, Shannon Dunne – flatfooter extraordinaire – has joined us for the duration of our trip abroad. While it was clear that the audience was enjoying themselves, when she got up and danced for us, there was a marked change in the feel of the room, and the hoots and stomps increased exponentially. I never would have guessed that we’d be the type of band who could attempt to employ a flatfooter as part of our stage act, but it works out pretty well; just not during songs about cheeseburgers or gritty Atlanta dive clubs. Don’t worry, we’re a long way from suspenders and sepia-tone. The show ended out nicely and we got to spend some quality time with Loudon, our main Scotland liaison, and then we drove back to Edinburgh . . .
Oh, how could I forget? I’m driving!! On the wrong, er, other side of the road! That’s right folks, we are without a driver on this tour. No stories of Gerald “Wrong Turn” Roche (out on the road with Pokey LaFarge), or David “Better Out Than In” Rollo (not sure where he is). So we are left to provide our own transport. Not so much of a problem, as we’re not doing much traveling. Only we DO have these two gigs in and around Glasgow, and so to the rental van we go. It’s a beaut, a 2012 Mercedes Vito. Ooh la la! We are fancy, aren’t we? With a Sat-Nav and everything. I’m the designated driver, and everything’s been going pretty well; I only ended up on the right hand side of the street once yesterday. My biggest problem is that I feel a great amount of pressure to provide hilarious and insulting banter while we listen to BBC 2 at incredibly high volumes. Unfortunately, I’m proving unable to muster the proper level of vitriol at either the other drivers or at the other denizens of the van, and also, I can’t bear the inanities of BBC 2. Oh Gerry, I’ve failed you. Perhaps we should start the “Gerry Roche School for Aspiring Gritty Road Managers,” so as to propagate the confusing combination of extreme negativity and competence, to say nothing of the odors (sorry Brits, odours).
And now we are gearing up for the 3rd gig of our short mainland visit – The Universal in Glasgow with Dr. Mango and the Chickpeas (another “And Band,” a term coined by our pals in Dick Buttkiss and the Tight Ends). It’s going to be a hoot, and I’m sure I’ll be back with more stories of non-action and adventure for you, soon enough.
Addendum: What kind of things do you folks want me to talk about? I have had a number of people compliment the blog recently, and I’d like to keep doing so. But usually I only blog when we tour, and, as you know, we’re touring less and less these days. Are there other related subjects you feel would be appropriately inappropriate for this blog? Let me know!
PF, Over and Out and Off to Oink!
We’re in a Family Way!
Hello Doomed Earthlings!
The picture above should provide you with a combination of warmth and also dread, the two emotions best suited to the upcoming year. Yes, if the doomsdayers and naysayers are right, our time consuming and subsuming is coming to a close this year. Because a calendar ends . . . ohhhhhhhhhkay. If you’d like to see more from our Hot Seats Family Holiday Portrait Session, check ‘em here! Notice how Jake’s expression never changes!
In recognition of this very likely event, we’ve gone back into the studio to record some of our final thoughts, squeaks and squalls. We invited our good pal, Lars Prillaman, to come in and help us in our goal to double up on America’s two most popular instruments – the banjo and the fiddle. Think I’m lying? Check it out here!
It’s not all double fiddle/double banjo, though, we’ve got a grip of new songs recorded, and are planning at least one, if not two albums to be released in the fall.
We had a fabulous set of gigs at the end of the year, especially our New Years Eve show with the Seldom Scene. Were you there? Did you enjoy it? It seems like we’re building a nice relationship with the Birchmere, so expect to see us back! There’s some pictures of New Years Eve here, and some of our great show at Ashland Coffee & Tea here.
OK, enjoy these pics and vids, and we’ll be back with more more more!
PF Hot Seats et al.
It’s been a while, I know. I figured that after the inundation of messages and blogs from our not so distant UK tour, you might like a break. Give the old yuk yuk muscles a chance to heal. Or something. Also, quite honestly, we haven’t been up to that much. Yes, like the mighty phoenix, the Hot Seats awaken, flame out for a while, then recede into the ashes, awaiting our next opportunity to spread twang and slang to the masses. And those opportunities are fast approaching! Can’t you hear it on the wind? Smell it in the trees? My advice, watch for the birds and squirrels, somehow the animals are always the first to know (likely because, as you know, Ed’s favorite food generally contains at least one of every animal).
If you want to know about upcoming gigs and don’t wanna hear about miscellany and randomness, just skip to the bottom now, please. However, if you view your brain like a vintage shop, full of mental oddities and doodads, please continue.
But what, you might ask, have you Hot Seats been doing? Do you retreat to the Ice Palace in the North Pole? Do you burrow underground? Do you work simply disintegrate into other dimensions? Do you work menial jobs in order to pass the time between gigs, your one chance to lick that shiny brass ring?
Well, one of those is true.
Most of us have been simply enjoying some down time here in Central VA. Playing little gigs, working little jobs. You know, just surviving. Obviously we had a great time in the UK, sold out of our old timey “Knife and Fork” album, and spread music far and wide!
Edward has been doing a lot of work with the Lincoln movie here in Richmond. He was just walking past the set and Senor Spielbergo saw him and said, “Hey, you look unkempt and malnourished! Wanna be famous? Do you like hard tack and salt pork?” And our Eddie said, “Yessir!”
Graham has been “slaving away” up at Monticello (sorry, bad joke?), the home of Virginia’s number one ultra-prudish holistic libertarian, Thomas Jefferson. Every time I see him, he’s just dirty and carrying root vegetables, munching on a potato like an apple, and carefully looking over his shoulder for lawmen searching for errant fieldhands.
Jake has gotten himself an office job and spends a lot of time looking at his watch, lurking around the secretary’s desk and charming the pants off all the civilians. There’s really no way that people who are used to normal office demeanor can handle the 150 watt beam of our very own Jake’s personality. He’ll probably be CEO within a week.
I (PF) have been doing a number of little things. Primarily taking kids out on rivers, bending them to my worldview. In a side project note, I’ve teamed up with Alison Self, a local Richmond folkie, and started a little duet called Starch & Iron. These are verbs, not nouns, people. It’s from Say Darlin’ Say! Check out the music if you want to hear a Hot Seat do actual pretty music.
And, finally, our Benny Baby missed the plane home, and has been living near Gartly (site of the fabulous Tin Hut Sessions) with his little wifey, Annie Campbell-Belcher. Ben’s been doing, oh, ALL kinds of stuff. You know, like . . . things, and . . . stuff. I’m not really sure what he’s been doing, truthfully. Not much of a communicator, that boy. A few things I know: he worked on a drawing for the Carolina Chocolate Drops; he and Aaron Lewis just played a gig in Edinburgh at Douglas Robertson’s excellent house; he’s still just as KEEEEYEWT as a button! If you want to know more, Annie has been keeping a great blog HERE.
As many of you know, we “released” a Live album in September, right in time for our UK tour. Most US audiences haven’t had much of a chance to buy it, though it’s available HERE. We, of course, will have them out on the road.
OK, so now we’re all caught up, so let’s talk about December and January!
As you guys all know, we’re really cutting back on full band gigs, just due to the nature of our activities and locations. There will still be gigs, hopefully fun festivals in the summer, but just not as much during the week. Alas, so it goes. For the time being, seeing the Hot Seats on a Tuesday in Milwaukee is a no go. That being said, we have some fun fun gigs a comin’!
Saturday, December 24th
Cafe Nola – Frederick MD
Two sets – 8pm and 10pm, $5
Josh, Ben, and Graham will be joined by Ben Townshend and Lars Prillaman of the Fox Hunt for a night of raucous unrehearsed entertainment! Come play the magi with us!
Monday, December 26th
Hoss’s Deli – Newport News
Come out for the FIRST Hot Seats show in months! We’ll be working out the kinks and lubing up the joints!
Thursday, December 29th
Shepherdstown Opera House – Shepherdstown, WV
A great time will be had on this night! We are playing with The Acoustic Burgoo, and it WILL be fun.
Friday, December 30th
Ashland Coffee & Tea– Ashland, VA
$10/$12, 8pm, all ages
Back at Ashland C&T for a little pre New Years warmup! Get your tickets early! They’re cheaper, and it may very well sell out!
Saturday, December 31st
The Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
$39.50, 8pm Sharp!
And then, in the year of 2012 . . .
Saturday, January 7th
Franklin Park Arts Center – Purcellville, VA
8pm, $15/20 (get tickets at the website)
We’ll be back in the studio in very early January as well, so expect some new album news soon!
OK, there we go! A little refresher, and now we’re back on the same page.
So, make yer plans now, come see us play!
PF Hotseats Et Al.