First Missive from 2014 Summer Fun!

July 20th, 2014

 

july 15/16, 2014

It begins again!

Yes yes yes, PF here, enjoying the spacious accommodations of an Air Canada Rouge flight from Toronto to Edinburgh. You should read the things that people write about this flight! Cramped (untrue), dirty (no), rude staff (absolutely not). In fact, this flight is undersold, allowing for acres of room – I actually got to extend my legs all the way! The plane is plenty clean, and the staff are solicitous to the point of actually apologizing when your feet, in the aisle in a blatant refusal to follow the rules of plane riding, get in their way. The only thing I can glean from the great divide between the internet expectations and the actuality of this flight lies in the reviewers themselves, who are most certainly hairy-foreheaded troglodytes who expect all experiences to be catered to their exacting and impossible standards. I shudder to think what they might say about this blog and website (“grey on black made my eyes hurt!” “this author goes on at length about total banalaties” and so on).

At this very moment, we are converging upon Edinburgh to begin yet another 3 weeks of music, food, and alcohol fueled mania in some of our favorite of places. Who knows what adventures lay ahead of us? Besides us, of course. Some things – doners, whiskey, harrowing van rides, sleep deprivation, tons of picking, yurt sleeping – are inevitable. Other things, well we will just have to wait and see, clutching our faces in anticipation.

I say “converging” because we are in three parts. Jake and I are flying in from Toronto by way of DC. We left Graham and Eddie waiting at the gate, like so many jilted grooms (that makes us the runaway brides, our trains dragging behind us like lacy white tails (and who are WE to wear white??)). Yes, apparently, some airlines (all airlines) will oversell a flight. And then, when you (we) roll up at the very last minute, sweaty and ready for some serious sitting, they tell you “sorry, even though you DID pay for a seat, we lied about there being one for you.” The result of this is that those two are currently en route to Frankfurt, to then double back to Edinburgh. Will Edward find himself a variety of German sausages at the Frankfurt Airport? We can only assume that he will, if they are there to be found. He is like a sausage-seeking missile, a man obsessed.

And meanwhile yet, Benny-Boy is traveling in from parts unknown, having just left Corn Potato Stringband Tour. To find out about his travels, you’ll have to ask him directly. If I had to guess, I’m gonna say he’s been doing a fair amount of banjo playing, but also some real quality sitting quietly, maybe some staring, and some smoking.

But hold on, let me back up a second. What happened to the idea of commerce? Does a receipt and a bit of planning mean nothing in this world? What exactly is the logic behind overbooking a flight? Do they expect that people won’t show up.

“Hello, I’d like to drop some hundreds of $$s on this purchase. What? Will I actually show up to make good on it? Who knows? I just like to hit “Buy Now” on the internet. It really fills the old pleasure holes in my brain!”

Well, we are not those people. When we take part in an internet contract, we honor it! That’s why Ben appears nightly on his bedroom WebCam, he signed a contract!

This just in, according to Air Canada’s Twitter response, apparently they oversell flights to “avoid seat spoilage.”  Seat spoilage. It’s almost too easy a joke to point out that, if they wanted to avoid seat spoilage, a good way to start would be too keep all Hot Seats off the plane entirely.

Two Days Later . . .

Hi all, back again and, where else, in the back of the van!  We are just pulling out of Cumbria, en route to Hawick (Hoick), after having a great time at the Music on The Marr Festival.  First a quick end to the travel saga.

Graham and Ed had a fine time with Lufthansa. Apparently the screens on their flight had access to cameras mounted on the front and bottom of their planes, allowing them to stare into the vast unknown. It really affected them – GFD and EB have been lying in the grass, contemplating their own smallness in the larger scale of the Earth, Milky Way, and Universe, saying really deep things like, “Oh Wow” and “I mean, why are we here? Like, really.” while braiding dandelion stems and stacking small rocks. So, thanks Lufthansa.

We converged on Edinburgh, once again staying with our pals Bill and Sue in their beautiful flat in New Town. We spent the day, wandering aimlessly around town in a state of waking sleep, having a tasty Indian dinner and catching up with old friends. Edinburgh is a very different city in the non Festival months – much calmer and more empty. We will be using it as our home base, which will should provide some needed constancy to our otherwise harried tour existence.

Thursday/Friday, July 17/18th

Gerry picked us up at 9am so that we could swing by Edinburgh airport and grab the bags that were misrouted (of course, what about our airline debacle wouldn’t involve a lost guitar and Jake’s dirty unmentionables?). We then made our way south towards Cumbria and the little town of Castle Carrock for the Music on the Marr festival. The Cumbria region is lovely, indeed, with rolling hills, local cheeses, and the pervasive and comforting odor of cowshit, always lingering just on the edge of whatever else you might be smelling.

There is no castle in Castle Carrock, though perhaps there was at some point. We were the “headliners” inasmuch as we played last on the first night of the Music on the Marr Festival – which is one of the many sweet and smallish fests that happen over here. We were preceded

by a group of Glaswegians called The Chaplains, who played some bluesy originals and a folky cover of “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, which prompted a long and pointless conversation about Foreigner (not sure there is another kind) among our ranks.

Our set – a 90 minute juggernaut – went well. It was the first time we’d played together as a group since May, so there was some rustiness to work through, but even amid the flubs and occasional forgotten lyrics, we pulled out a pretty monumental set. The crowd was great – fairly typical for our UK audiences in that they listened and applauded at the appropriate moments. We even got a few folks up and dancing, which means they must have enjoyed it.

We wound down after the show and were split up between a few folks’ houses.  I can’t speak for the other guys, but Graham and I had a great time staying with David and Shella. We slept well, were fed a monstrous breakfast, and had some stimulating conversation with David, mostly revolving around the asinine nature of politics, both home and abroad. Speaking only for my(our)self, it is so refreshing to be in a country where there’s no misplaced sense of religious morality creeping into areas where it doesn’t belong.

The highlight, or at least most notable aspect, of our stay was that there was something called a macerating toilet. It really adds a sense of danger and excitement to one’s bathroom experience to know that the toilet could, if it felt like it, eat you.  Danger toilet!

After bumming about the town for a while the following mornig, we hopped into our home on wheels – the van – prodded gently by our very own Tour Den Mother, Gerry “Wrong Turn” Roche. NOTE: “prodded gently” can be inferred to mean constant low grade abasement and threats that range from straight violence to bizarre forced acts.  We hit the road for Hawick, the hometown of our agent and UK benefactor, Loudon, and a town we ave visited many times before.

The gig at the Border Club was fantastic – a small room, packed to the gills with enthusiastic audience members who were respectful without being overly quiet. A note to all audiences, please do feel free to shout and hoot and engage in coversation. Yes, we take our art so so seriously, but we also feel like it’s made for a party environment, so go ahead and succumb to our intoxicating rhythms, melodies, and odors. We’ll let you know if you’re getting out of line.

After the gig, we spent some time chatting with various audience members, including David – the president of the Border Club (yes, we have that kind of clout. Did you think otherwise?). We then hightailed it to Edinburgh for the night, watched a bit of Rambo with Sue, and to bed.

Saturday, July 19th:

A fairly early start from Edinburgh, as we had to get to Newcastle for our slot at the Summertyne Festival. It turned out that we, perhaps, underestimated the time required to get to the gig, and we were treated to some highly acrobatic driving by Gerry.

One puzzling thing over here: there are speed cameras along the roads, but there are signs warning you of their approach, and also white lines on the roadway that signify the distance within which the camera is measuring your speed. It seems like an incredibly generous and courteous measure on the part of the UK highway commission – to let drivers know exactly when they must obey the speed limit, leaving us free to burn up tarmac in all interstitial stretches of highway. Thanks, chaps!

We rolled into Newcastle right on time, loaded our gear onto stage (a nice stage, indeed), and blew through 40 minutes of our very best nonsense to an enthusiastic and damp crowd, who hooted and hollered while being dumped upon from above. The British have no fear of rain, and while they don’t necessarily relish it, they certainly don’t let it stop them from doing some day drinking. It’s just another inevitability, like death, taxes, fillings, grey hairs, flat tires, earwax, shoulder hair, 2am doner kabobs, chips and cheese, chicken saag . . . wait, what was I talking about? I’m so hungry!

Anyway, we had a great set and then got accosted by a variety of folks for pictures, autographs, etc. Careful, Newcastle, we might just get used to this star treatment! Unfortunately, we had to almost immediately pack up and get back in the van to cruise back up the road for our evening gig in Coldingham. We did get to chat with Rona, the daughter of Tim from the New Rope Stringband, about whom we’ve spoken in previous posts. It’s always flattering when folks who we think are great think the same about us, so that was a nice little interlude. Ooh, can’t you just feel the ego inflation, just wafting from your computer screen? Never fear, there’s sure to be some abasement in our future.

We arrived in Coldingham just as the mist set in – a portent of things to come? The village hall lies directly next to an old graveyard (everything over here is old, I guess). The mist in the graveyard made for some very eerie views, indeed.

We set up and had some nice chats with Dave, who runs the village hall. The show was about half full, but turned out to be a great night – a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience. I myself, made a new young fan, Onya, who even drew a picture of me, singing Sugar Pudding, which is not the most appropriate song for an 11 year old, though it’s hard to know in this ultra-permissive day and age, what with the free love, hair beads, hand drums, and thong sandals.

We rode home in a misty haze, making it back to Edinburgh with ample time to hit a pub close to our lodging. After some drinks and some foolishness at the bar, we decided to make a bad food decision as a band (usually Ed and Graham bear the weight of these decisions alone), and all hit up a nearby kebab shop for doner meat over chips with chilli sauce. Jake actually got the mixed pakora. Regardless, it was a greasy salty nightmare of smells and sounds, and one that seems like a great idea as long as you can get it all down before any sense of sobriety or self-preservation kicks in, reminding you that it’s 1:30am and you’re shoveling ~1500 calories of nonsense into your face like you’ve been stranded at sea for a month.

There’s almost no chance that this same event won’t happen again. It’s like the tides, just waiting for the right amount of pressure to build up.

OK, let me send this off before it becomes a short novel.  Just one last highlight to look forward to: I have painted Gerry Roche, our beloved driver, in a somewhat single dimensional light. Look forward to a long essay that delves into the complex and fascinating world that is this man. To start with, let me just say that we were listening to Nilsson Sings Newman on the ride home, and Gerry was singing along with “Vine Street” in the most lovely falsetto. It was really quite tender. He almost whispered, “Get the Fuck out of the Van” to us as we parted.

Ah sweet memories,

PF et al.

 

And Lo, The Earth Did Open, and The Hot Seats Ooze Forth!

June 26th, 2014

Hello all you beautiful 1′s and 0′s!

PF HotSeat here, struggling at the controls aboard the Subterranean Moleship, The USS Dirty-Dawg. I apologize for the long break since my last missive, but I assure you, we have not been idle. No, in fact, we have been like beavers in a sawmill, like termites in a sawmill, like . . . well, lots of things in a sawmill, I guess.  What I mean is, we’re covered in sawdust, and full of wood pulp!

That’s right, if you’ve been wondering “where are my Hot Seats?” while tearing at your clothes, wailing, and staring directly at the sun, I’m afraid you were 180 degrees off! In our hiatus, we’ve been traveling through the crust and mantle, searching for inspiration among the CHUDS, Morlocks, and Mole People.  And boy have we found it!

As we speak, we are in the process of putting the final touches on our next album,which we have decided to call “Granddad’s Favorite,” which references a tune we play, as well as a kind of creepy nickname (apologies to whoever is in this pic, but really . . .), dontcha think? It is by far our most traditional in sound, though we feel confident that it can’t be mistaken for any other band. We have a clutch of new originals in the works that we’ll be arranging and playing with this Summer, in the hopes of recording more in the Fall.

We are super excited for our upcoming summer of shows. Admittedly, most of these shows will be located on a couple of islands in the Northeast Atlantic, but we do have some stateside shows in August and early September, and have some things we want to communicate with everyone – specifically “banjo banjo banjo, twang thump screech.”

For those of you in the UK, Ireland, and Europe, you may have already had a taste of sweet sweet Hot Seats summer lovin’, as our Benny-Boy (look at that smile!) has been touring with our pal and former fiddler/spandex enthusiast, Aaron Lewis and the Corn Potato Stringband. If you see him, tell Ben that we all said “Wassup?” and then simultaneously cup-check him and give him a kiss on the cheek.

As always, check the dates page for gig info, and be in touch!

Love and Gloves,

PF et al.

 

Late Posting, last missive from the UK tour

September 5th, 2013

Westward Ho!

(Note: I found this blog, full formed and ready to post. Must have written it on the plane in a sleep addled state. Enjoy!)

It’s PF “Intercontinental Champion” Hot Seats, here. Just where I started this little journey, except this time we’re headed back towards the land of the Red White and Blue, the land of deep fried butter instead of deep fried pizzas, the land of the free . . . refill. Mother America, won’t you once again accept your Hot Seats back into your bosom? Tired, weak, hungry, our loins burning to breath free! Or is that, “our burning loins, yearning for sweet relief”? So hard to remember after such good times!

Yes, Scotland, another summer tour has ended, we’ll be taking our sunshine and warm winds back to Virginia with us, I’m afraid, but we shall return. Yea, like the mighty phoenix, we will fizzle out, only to reflame next summer! Can you handle the break?

Good times in Edinburgh over the last 5 days, including two great gigs at (NAME REDACTED)’s wonderful flat and studio. Why do I keep doing that, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you a story of Edinburgh – a town that is chock full of venues, pubs, and more touristy shops than you can shake a Harris Tweed stick at. In this town, there live two people, we’ll call them “Robert Douglason” and “Ann-Jane”, who decided that it would be fun to have get togethers at Douglas’s flat and have bands play. Now, unlike a “normal” venue, this is an invitation only type event, there’s no bar or restaurant, and similarly no profit motive. Any money collected, and it’s all donation, goes to the artists. The musicians get to play an intimate show to a generally full house of VERY appreciative and supportive people, and the crowd gets a chance to interact with performers in a way that is essentially absent from the modern club or theater scene.

Now, can you see how threatening this could be to city councilors? Specifically ones who *may* or *may not* have controlling interests in venues, restaurants, and pubs of their own? Well, it just so happens that the Edinburgh Council does find it threatening, and has been trying to shut “Robert Douglason” and “Ann-Jane’s” little operation down. Luckily, the two of them are very clever, and have been stymying the council at every turn. Nonetheless, it does require that we use some discretion when talking about these gigs. If you’d like to write the Edinburgh Council and let them know just how absurd they’re being, here’s how . . .

To me, the most interesting thing is this: there’s no reason for any club owner to be threatened by this little operation in terms of its potential for stealing audiences. At most, these shows could hold 60-80 people – hardly enough to worry about in a city of 500,000 (1,000,000 during festival season). On the other hand, these folks should feel very threatened by what these shows represent – a situation where artists are fully respected, where talentless middlemen don’t suck off of the hard work of these artists, and where events aren’t used simply as vehicles to sell alcohol. One might think that venue owners could take a hint from the ethos of the thing, rather than react out of fear and spite. Just a thought, mind you . . .

What else . . . we had some exciting busking action a few days ago. Whilst on the Royal Mile, shaking our thang a bit and twanging it up for the delighted onlookers, a fellow performer who was set up across a VERY busy street from us became indignant at the noise we were making. Apparently, though there was a piper caddy corner to her, and a massive street of buses, cars, and tourists between us, our mere caterwauling and plunking was disturbing her to no end. Furthermore, as she was promoting Scottish culture, we should be quiet and allow her to sing her songs and spin her loom. Furthermore, she was doing her act “for the kids,” whatever that means. Mind you, this is a frightening looking woman with a mohawk, wearing a tattered outfit composed of random pieces of a Tartan.

Now, as you all know, we are a very accommodating lot. Why, we’re step over ourselves to do the dishes, lay our jackets across puddles for ladies, and generally be as mensch-y as we can. However, sometimes when busking, I find that a certain amount of aggressiveness goes a long ways. It’s dog-eat-dog out there, ya know? I contested that, during the Fringe especially, there was plenty of space for all of us to do our things, and that we had as much right to be there as she. Additionally, she was doing it for the money, just as we were. As these things sometimes go, it escalated, resulting in her calling me a “Money Grubbing Yank,” and wondering in amazement that I hadn’t “had my eyes blacked” for me. Ever supportive, the rest of the band shouted encouragement from behind the column where they’d conveniently hidden.

Lovely.

We had the support of the crowd, many of whom assured us that they weren’t particularly interested in the Scottish culture she was promoting, though they themselves were Scottish. We did give her 5 minutes of respite and then continued playing. We later learned that her name is “Mad Heather,” and that she has a reputation for such shenanigans.

We played a fun and rowdy late night set on Saturday with the Black Diamond Express, the band of our pal Toby – a 9 piece blues-y rock outfit. Very fun indeed. After determining the level of consumption both in the crowd and on the stage, we decided the best route would be as hillbilly as possible – fast and loose! It was the proper gamble, and we had the nocturnal Scots hooting and whooping.

Not much more to report, except that, as usual, we want to thank all of the folks whose generosity and support make these tours a blast. Clare and crew, Bill and Sue, JaneAnn and Douglas (and Colin the wonderpup), Loudon and Brenda, Gerry and Elaine, Leonie, and all the friends and fans who came out to the shows!

We’re off for a week, and then we hop in our van for a few days out in Indiana and Chicago. Hey midwest, remember us?

Finally, a list of exciting foods we’ve eaten on this tour:

Cullen Skink
Stornaway Black Pudding
Doners of all shapes and sizes!
Chips with Cheese (but never after midnight)
Pizza Crunch (yes, deep fried pizza)
Scallops with Coral
Heaps of great Indian food from Mother India (so good!)

Language Lessons

July 31st, 2013

Dateline, Glasgow!

 

Hello all you faithful followers of my ionic missives! PF Hot Seats, reporting in. Here I sit in a local barber shop, just waiting to get my beard trimmed a bit. As you know, we in the Hot Seats take our appearance VERY seriously. Admittedly, we’re not as dapper or as sock-gartered up as our pals The Two Man Gentlemen Band or those fine fellows in Pokey LaFarge, but we do have rules for on-stage attire:

 

1. No open toed shoes

2. No shorts unless they are REALLY short, short enough that we can count the change in your pockets, which are hanging out the bottom of your shorts. I’m talking serious Magnum PI action here. Can you guess which one of us wants to wear shorts on stage? Maybe the one who wears shorts well into wintertime?

3. Uhh . . . did I say no open toes shoes?

 

OK, so not that many rules. The upshot of this is you can look at a Hot Seats show and see a veritable cavalcade of wardrobe choices (well, some of them may not really be choices as much as inevitable wardrobe occurrences) – perhaps a vest or tie, a couple of plaid dandies, maybe a Melvins t-shirt, the occasional orange jumpsuit or grass skirt . . . who knows?

 

We’ve been having a typically good time, as hopefully some of you are aware. We are winding down with 5 more shows, starting today in Kilbarchan, then New Galloway, Biggar, and 2 shows in Edinburgh at (NAME REDACTED)’s flat (we’ll get back to that at a later date, if you want info on these shows, check out the gig page). Have you been out to see us yet? There’s still time!

 

As anyone who is a reader of this nonsense may know, we live or die on the kindness of strangers. We have a number of “patrons” that we have met over the years who have gone above and beyond to take care of us while on the road. I’ve read that puppies and kittens and all babies are basically cute to ensure that their parents or caretakers will be compelled to feed and clothe them, rather than eat them. It’s the same with us – our big eyes, our roly-poly antics, our soft mewling – it’s all calculated to convince unknowing and unsuspecting well-meaning citizens to cook us dinner and allow us to do laundry at their house.  Well, last night it happened again (thanks Charles Darwin)!

 

We were treated to some great Glaswegian hospitality by Clare and Geoff and their sons, who saw us play in Harris and thought to themselves “hey, let’s invite these reprobates into our home for some food and drink!” Without going into great detail, we had a great dinner, some fun tunes, and a few lessons on how to sound Glaswegian. Here’s a snippet:

 

THEM: Ye-ur maw!

US: Your maah!

THEM: No! (pronounced, “NOH”) YER MAH!

US: Yer MAW!

THEM: NOH! YE-UR MAW

US: Ye-ur maw

THEM: Good!

 

We also learned that there’s a big difference on being called a c*nt (insult) versus being called a “mad c*nt” or a “sound c*nt” (both compliments).

 

And so on . . .

 

So thanks to Clare, Geoff, James, Harry, and everyone for falling prey to our charms and wiles! Now you’ll have dinner guests at least once a year! Heck, next year we might just sleep over!

 

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow breakdown of gigs here, only will just say thanks to everyone who has come out to see us thus far – every gig has been super fun and we have been compelled to work up new material that we hope will keep all you slavering masses sated in these times of relative Hot Seats paucity. In fact, we’ve even convinced Edward to start singing his ode to his favorite living room furniture – The Couch Song – possibly the prettiest thing we’ve (he’s) ever written or performed.  Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to hear it! If not, it’s the hidden track on our Leftovers album.

 

In lieu of describing the gigs, let’s look at the day-to-day habits of he Hot Seats . . .

 

1. The Getting-Boys: Graham and Jake are consummate shoppers. It used to be that Jake was the king of browsing – up and down each aisle, Jake would leave no deal uninspected, no price tag unchecked, no product unobserved. However, since Graham “I’ll buy that” DeZarn joined the band, the two of them have developed a serious co-dependent case of purchasing syndrome. This usually takes the form of food and whiskey, and, to be fair, it’s not actually that either of them are especially wild for buying, but that the rest of us are just born skinflints/too busy buying tobacco. Anyway, the DeZarn/Sellers shopping spree has involved some very peat-y bottle of whiskey, ice cream, postcards, and the most recent obsession, Mother India. Hey Glasgow, way to go on having amazing Indian food!

 

2. The Shutterbugs: In this category, it’s probably easier to just say that Ben doesn’t have a camera phone or a camera, so he is thereby not a part of it. The rest of us, according to Ben, are too busy snapping shots of things to actually see anything. Well, he’s a little right and a little wrong, but we can let him have his luddite opinions, not all of us can draw pretty pictures. Leading the click-snapper brigade is probably Jake, followed closely by Graham, Ed, and myself. Food, road shots, flowers, buildings, funny signs, nothing escapes our digital apertures! Like the stereotypical tourist, we can often be found blocking the sidewalk and scaring the locals, undoubtedly sure that we’re stealing their souls. Interestingly, this is our first tour since Gerald has gotten a smartphone. Turns out he’s quite the Ansel Adams himself!

 

3. Doner Slayer/Soda Rennaissance: Nothing new here. Ed loves doner kabobs. Like, really. He’s also been branching out away from his beloved Mountain Dew. His two go-to drinks at the moment are Rubicon and Lucozade, both of which sound way cooler than Mountain Dew, though still contain the glucose punch in the nuts that Ed requires to keep him upright and full of fire, ready to tackle another massive piece of naan bread, filled to the brim with shaved beef/lamb/chicken/best not to ask.

 

4. The Worst of American Television: Not that we don’t deserve it, but damn, we denizens of the You Ess of M.F’ing Eigh are not well represented on British TV. Have you seen Millionaire Matchmaker?? Why do I have to travel across an ocean to learn just how mentally vacant and morally derelict are the role models of today? That woman and her pals deserve to be put in stocks and pelted with raw beef. What does it say about us as a people that these types of people are our cultural ambassadors? Might as well just film and air rats feeding on a garbage pile.  Also, Ben and I watched Deep Blue Sea one night. Awful. So bad that it’s even lacking in camp value. Our favorite past time is to scan the dials for the four juggernauts of action pleasure – Arnold, Sylvester, Jean-Claude, and Steven (Seagall, of course). Usually one of them is available, and it’s always excellent!

 

5. Run!!: The exercise regimens fall to the two TBs. It’s a great way to see an area, especially if you have limited time to do so. I’m training currently for the Richmond Marathon, after which I plan on adopting a fully masochistic lifestyle. Glasgow and Edinburgh both have great things to look at while running. The other day I ran around Robert the Bruce’s Castle and passed the William Wallace Memorial in the distance. For a citizen of a basically a country that’s fresh from the box, it’s kind of crazy to think of the huge river of human history that exists in some of these places. And here we are, gracelessly galumphing down the trail, red-faced and sweaty, short shorts a poppin!

 

6. Busking: I’ve already written about busking at length, but I thought it’d be worth passing on a few tips we’ve figured out, for anyone interested in such things.

 

a. Safety in Numbers: Fiddle – no money, Fiddle/Banjo – some money,

Fiddle/Banjo/Mandolin – yet more. You throw in a washboard, now you’re talking!

 

b. Daddy Likes Bass: It’s a pain to lug around, but having a bass seems to make a huge

difference. People love those low frequencies – really gets the booties shaking and the

pounds a flyin’!

 

c. Eye Contact: Make it, a lot of it. While it’s not a performance, people do like to be  engaged by you. Also, it’s hard to just walk past once you’ve been locked into the tractor

beam of Eddie’s Baby Blues.

 

d. Carnival Barker: If you have a crowd that forms, talk to them in between songs. It

gives your own pals a chance to smoke cigarettes/tune/rest, and, again, people like to

feel engaged.

 

e. Don’t Suck: This is the hard one. There are some just atrocious musicians out on the

street, trying to make money. Use those hours spent on the sidewalk to practice, eh?

 

OK, this blog has now officially been 24 hours in the writing. Time to send it out! We’re currently barreling down the road to a sold out show in New Galloway at the CatStrand Theatre. Admittedly a small theatre, but, as I’ve said before, we don’t get the opportunity to say “sold out” that often, so why not take it?

 

 

Grabbing success by the horns,

PF Hot Seats et al.

Dispatches from the Tropics . . . er . . . Scotland

July 22nd, 2013

 (Stornaway harbor in the evening . . .)

Hello heat wavers!

 

PF Hot Seats here, languishing on the bed in my 4-star hotel room, next to our Benny boy (jealous, ladies?). Yes, thanks to the wonder of internet deals, we have been admitted into the world of fancy lads and lasses. Yes, it’s all petticoats, monocles, opera hats, tiny dogs, elective surgery, and cigars lit with ten pound notes for us now, we’re living in high cotton. Well, deeply discounted high cotton anyway, more of a 50/50 blend. Non-shrink, if you please.

 

This just in . . . Ben and I are currently watching competitive darts on Sky Sports. Wow . . . this exists. Two “athletes” at the top of their game, both knocking out double 20s like the green box was a train tunnel for them to toss their metaphorical golf pencils, if you know what I mean. Actually, there’s nothing terribly upsetting about competition darts, it’s the stadium PACKED with viewers that is kind of disturbing. Hope I’m not upsetting anyone . . .

 

It’s been a whirlwind number of days since last I shot an electronic missive into the world. After landing and getting situated in Glasgow, we strolled the streets like sleep-deprived zombies – slack-jawed and shuffling. There’s nothing like 40+ hours of waking life to really get the old lucidity pump primed. We found ourselves having a very difficult time making simple decisions at stores or when contemplating food. Eventually we grabbed some instruments and made for one of Glasgow’s walking malls to busk.

 

We love to busk, you know? Can’t remember if I’ve waxed on this topic before, but I think it ranks up there with things this band likes best. Well . . . all of us but Eddie, who kindly tolerates the rest of our desire to make spectacles of ourselves in public places. Anyway, it’s a great way to get the flavor for a certain neighborhood and/or city. Both times we’ve busked, we get people of all ages doing impromptu dance routines, smiling, nodding, and telling us how we brightened their day (imagine just how bad it must have been going!). Children are especially valuable for us; there’s something intriguing about dropping money into a banjo case, it would seem, as every toddler who passes is intent on doing so. But, like us, they don’t have any money, and that’s where mom and dad come in. If the choice is a tantrum versus a pound in the banjo case, it’s a pretty easy choice. So, thanks kids! Keep up the demanding and leeching.

 

Let’s see, a brief recap of gigs:

 

Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, July 17/18/19: Started our morning in Glasgow and were picked up early-ish by Gerald, who had his lovely and hilarious wife Elaine and son Adam in tow. We drove to Ullapool to catch the ferry for Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis. A typically lovely drive through western Scotland on some curvy and narrow roads, followed by a ferry ride out to the island. We’ve been to Stornaway before, though never in July and never during the Hebridean Celtic Festival. The town was definitely jumping, though we took it pretty easy on the first night, owing to our extreme jetlag.

 

The Hebridean Celtic Festival takes place in the town of Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis, but there are some off site gigs, like the Shetland Festival. We were lucky enough to get to play one of these down on the very southern part of the Isle of Harris. Side note: as near as I can tell, they are not actually separate islands. However, every time I mentioned this to any Scottish person, s/he would furtively glance around and shush me. Apparently, it’s not spoken of, like the illuminati control of world politics, the ingredients of hot dogs, or the giant gerbil in the core of the Earth that keeps us rotating. Anyway . . . the upside of this is that we were driven basically the length of both islands, which are just amazing. Huge hills and rocky scarps, brilliantly blue bays, and sheep aplenty. It was a fun gig in a tiny genealogical center called Seallam (pronounced “shalom,” for all my Jews out there). The crowd was jammed into a small room and we rocked their faces pretty well.

 

The next day we played the main stage of the festival, along with some bands with whom we’ve shared bills before, including Lau and The Chair – both great, um, electro-celt(?) bands. The best part of this was that our pal Tim Mathews was doing sound for both of these bands (see previous entries for more on him), and though we only saw him briefly, it was a glorious moment in all its brevity. His band, Mystery Juice, had just been on tour in Scotland, and though we didn’t get to see them play, it’s good to know that there’s still an audience for music that fucking rocks!

 

Other chance encounters: our pal Andy (AKA DJ Dolphin Boy) who lives with Douglas Robertson in Edinburgh was out in Stornaway doing post-festival DJ sets at a local pub. AND, we got to spend some time with our super friends Leonie and Louise, from Edinburgh, who let us sleep in yurts and basically saved our asses some years back at the Fringe.

 

So . . . good times.

 

Saturday/Sunday, July 20/21: Nothing too tremendously exciting to report here. We played a nice gig in the town of Portsoy (sweet ocean vistas, dolphins, anemones, kelp forests, Cullen Skink, and a sweet little venue called the Salmon Bothy – housed in a building that was formerly used by fishermen to mend nets and stage themselves during peak season). Thanks very much to Helen and John Munro for their extreme and only slightly aggressive hospitality (our favorite kind, as we are often too demure to ask for things).

 

Last night we were in Inverness at the Eden Court Theater, which is a very professionally run space. It remains somewhat novel for us to get to play places that take such care with all the details of a gig – sound, lights, photographs, etc – and we are always appreciative of professional and competent people. A fun gig, though since it’s a proper theater we were staring into a dark void, wondering to whom we were playing. Only the hoots, chuckles, and claps let us know that there was a crowd.

 

And now we are in Glasgow, relaxing for a night. Tomorrow we’re off to Mull, Campbeltown, Portree, and other places. If you are out there in Scotland, come see us!

 

Finally, a few other observations:

 

It is a heat wave in the UK right now, which means it’s in the low 30s (we’re talking Celsius, people, it’s the 21st century for god’s sake) in the south of the country and maybe in the high 20s here. All our American pals (not to mention Australian, African, South American, or basically anywhere in the world where it actually gets hot) will scoff at this being called a heat wave, but you have to understand something: the Scots and British people in general have no mechanism for dealing with prolonged exposure to the sun. Truly, we are seeing legs, shoulders, and midriffs that have not been exposed to direct sunlight in many moons (kilt-wearers aside). It can be blinding to look directly at a Scotsman’s legs. You have to use a cardboard box with a pinhole and mirror to keep your eyes and sanity intact. Needless to say, it feels great to we Richmonder’s, where, apparently, it’s 91 degrees Farenheit at 10pm.

 

Highlights of the plate:

 

- We had dinner at a great Indian restaurant in Glasgow called Charcoal. Eddie got a dish so hot that he was almost yelping with every bite.

 

- On Stornaway, we had dinner one night at a place called the Rodel Hotel, with a picturesque view of the sea. Many of us had scallops with Stornaway black pudding. Yum! They serve scallops there with the coral still attached. I was pleased to learn that my supposition was correct – it’s basically a sex organ. But a delicious sex organ!

 

- In Portsoy, Graham had himself a big old bowl of Cullen Skink, which is a local deliciacy – smoked haddock soup. Double yum!

 

 

OK, that’s got be enough, right?

 

More to come!

PF et al.

Back Across the Deep!

July 16th, 2013

 

Dear people of the inter-world,

 

(Currently listening to A Touch of Schmilsson in the Night)

 

PF Hot Seats here, typing furtively in my window seat, elbows pressed close to my side (is it surprising to you that we Hot Seats, world travelers and renaissance men of palate and attire, would deign to fly coach? Alas, it is so. Though we did arrive at the airport in a brand spanking new rental car (more on that to come)) as I engage in one of man’s oldest newest struggles: the fight for the armrest. In the era of unending T.Rex memes, I am feeling much like that long-gone feathered villain king of Prehistory.  Luckily, I can bone up on the pros and cons of certain golf grips simply by peering to my right (see some old posts as to my thoughts on golf . . . Winston Churchill was too kind).

 

So it’s happening again, we are headed back across the ever-widening Atlantic Ocean to play tunes for the fine descendants of a people so hearty and stubborn that even the mighty Romans finally gave up trying to get them to fall in line, their feathered helmets hanging low, erecting a wall to ensure they’d stay put.  Who else but the Scots? We are suffering some serious Scottish slang withdrawal right now, and can’t wait to bask in the liquid sunshine and verbal wit that is borne from so much cloudy beauty.

 

We are, as usual, super excited for our upcoming gigs – starting with the Hebridean Celtic Festival where we plan to jam, schmooze, and booze with some old pals and also make new ones (hey Van Morrison . . . we hear yer looking to make an oldtime/ragtime/crazytime album.  Well, you’re in luck!). Words cannot adequately describe the impending happiness we will feel when we can be embraced by the loving abuse of our very own Gerry Roche – road manager el supremo numero uno A+ very good! Mere hours before we hear the “phrase that pays” AKA “get in the fucking van!”

 

Before we can begin this adventure, let’s recap the last couple of days, shall we?

 

Why we flew from Boston when we live in Richmond: $$$ Talks and Hot Seats Dummies Drive

 

Yes, it’s true, we decided that, in the name of saving some cash monies, we would fly from Boston to Glasgow on this go-round. The specifics of the kind of econom wherein it’s cheaper to fly Boston-Philly-Glasgow instead of simply booking the flight directly from Philly-Glasgow completely eludes us. However, as we’ve said before, we are single minded in our goal of hastening global climate change (we were promised an Antarctic oil lease in exchange for keeping certain state secrets quiet), so why not burn a little more jet fuel, eh?

 

In order to justify this drive up the east coast and also to have a few more gigs under our belt, we booked a show at Jalopy in New York and, with the help of our good pal, fab bassist, and daddy-to-be, Matt Downing, we also booked a last minute gig in Great Barrington, Mass.

 

We set off from Virginia on Saturday, leaving Richmond with Edward, Jakey, and yours truly and picked up Grammer and Bennie in Winchester. As dedicated highway isolationists, we opted to avoid route 95, in favor of a route that takes us through central Pennsylvania – home to hilarious and horrifying roadside religion and unfortunate town names aplenty – Dillsburg, Frackville, Kutztown, Krumsville, and our personal favorite . . . Shartlesville.  There’s something very 1970′s horror movie set about some of these towns, no offense to our Pennsylvania pals.  On one memorable drive through the heart of the state on blue roads, I can recall seeing an effigy hung high in a tree on a grey day. Enough to chill the heart of even Ben “Gross-Out” Belcher, who loves him some gore!

 

Anyway, we made it to Red Hook (or is it Carroll Gardens? I’m no Brooklyn expert) and the fabulous Jalopy Theater. I know I’ve gushed about these folks before, but I’ll just say that we are thrilled with all of the great things that Geoff, Lynette, and the rest of the Jalopy crew are doing on that little mini-block of Columbia Street in view of the Battery Tunnel.  Not only do they run an eclectic and excellent venue that really values the efforts of the musicians, but they also offer classes in many traditional instruments, operate a great tavern next door to the theater, and also are putting out bona fide records on their own music label! Hell yes!

 

It was a packed in show for us (well, they were all there; whether it was expressly for us, I can’t say for certain). The crowd was way into the music and the banter, we even had some hoots and hollers for solos – always appreciated. After we finished . . .

 

Oh, hold on, it’s dinnertime on US Airways #768. What’s that? I would like a complementary wine! Red please? Oooh, and it’s ice old! Classy!

 

 

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, a fellow in the audience offered us a compliment for the ages, comparing us to the Red Clay Ramblers in their heyday.  We take the sunshine where we can, ya know? After us was Doug Skinner and friends – ukulele, guitar, and tuba accompanying some wonderfully acerbic and funny songs.  All in all, a great night in Brooklyn, and thanks to all who showed up.

 

The next day we dawdled around Brooklyn for the morning, and geared up to head north to Great Barrington, stopping briefly to pick up Brian Kantor – the sometimes third member of the Two Man Gentlemen Band and an all around good guy and great musician. No need to go into great detail about this evening except to say that Great Barrington and the surrounding areas do seem to ave something going on in terms of music (our beloved pals The Hunger Mountain Boys originated out there) and also in the worlds of general sustainability and progressive thought.  It was a great time and thanks much to the the folks at the Gypsy Joynt who opened their stage and venue to us on short notice.

 

The real excitement begins this morning. Last night, our van (Van #2) was doing some funny things. Lierally, it was kind of comedic: an almost sensual pulsing and chugging. Alas, sensuality turns out NOT to be a trait one wants in a vehicle. After sitting all night, the van simply wouldn’t turn over this morning.

 

So, to sum up the situation: Broke-down van, small town with no rental agencies and limited mechanics, 3:30pm flight from Boston (2.5 hrs away), and a plan to save money by traveling ~10 hrs from home to catch a flight. What can our heroes do??

 

Well, it’s not exciting, just irritating. We rode to Pittsfield Massachusetts (described by an anonymous person the previous night as “a town with a higher percentage of retarded people than anywhere I’ve ever been before, for no discernible reason”) to pick up a rental car, jammed everything important into it, and hoofed it down the highway. We made it to Logan on time, and here we are, in mid-air.

 

The thing that I can’t exactly fathom is how this kind of occurrence is so very common for bands. It makes sense, I suppose – bands drive farther distances for less money than just about anyone else, necessitating extreme acts from vehicles that are generally less than pristine. Nonetheless, it has been a day of “what if’s” that range from “What if we made a less silly decision and just paid $200 more per ticket to fly from Richmond?” to “What if I had chosen the carnita taco instead of the black bean last night at the tacqueria?”

 

Yes, it’s a real Schrodinger’s quandary.

 

Perhaps the only especially “hmm-worthy” thing about the whole predicament is this: the band from whom we bought our current van, Carbon Leaf, has also been traveling north of the Mason-Dixon this week, and broke down in New Jersey two days ago. Could it be that our van feels some psychic connection to them? Could they have left some personal essence buried deep in the seat cushions? Is this simply a case of sympathetic van resonance? Damn you Carbon Leaf!!!! Damn you to Hell!!!! Also, thanks for the van.

 

OK, that’s enough ramblings for now. There’ll be more to come, and I need to get back to surreptitiously reading all about judging lies and chip wedges and other such atrocities.

 

Talk to you sooooooon!!

PF Et. Al.

 

You Survived Xmas and the Mayan Apocalypse, So Here’s Some Hot Seats!

December 26th, 2012

And Lo!  The Hot Seats did appear!
Hello Lovelies,

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 (thehotseats@gmail.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.

2) GIGS!

  • 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!
  • 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.

Music on the Internet? Oh yes indeedy!

July 11th, 2012

Hey Folks,

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.

Rocking!
PF et al.

A short trip to Appalachian Eden. . .

July 5th, 2012

What’s the definition of concentration?  Two words.  Jake. Sellers.

 

Hey Internet,

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!

 

 

  • Sunday, July 15th
    • Bluemont Concert Series - Courthouse Steps – Leesburg, VA
    • $5 suggested donation
    • 7pm
    • 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.

Return from Northern Fantasies!

May 10th, 2012

Final Fling!

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:

 

  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • 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!

 

 

 

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