August 6th, 2014

 

Benny and PF play some notes . . .

Westward Ho!

PF here, back on what might very be the exact same Air Canada flight that we took 3 weeks ago. The flight crew are so polite and apologetic! I have been reading the Canadian National Post, offered free on the flight, trying to catch up on the news of the world. Hey, what’s this? Breaking news! “Bear Tackles Hunter, Hunter Kills Bear.” (real headline, I swear. Yes, it’s below the fold, but it is on the front page). Man, we have missed a lot.

But then, so have you! Since my last post, we had three great gigs in Ireland. Well, one in the Republic of Ireland, and two in Northern Ireland. It’s easy to tell the difference, because the road signs are in mileage in Northern Ireland, and in some totally silly base-10 system in the Republic of Ireland. I mean, come on: 1000 meters to a kilometer, 1000 millimeters to a meter, and so on? How does this make more sense than 12 inches to a foot and 5280 feet to a mile? It doesn’t, and you know it!

It’s actually a great mixture in the UK. It’s all miles for length, but then Celsius for temperature, and kilograms at the grocery store, but then folks talk about their weights in stones! Stones! I’m not sure about my math, but I think I weigh 100 stone. Does that sound right?

Uh oh, the flight attendant just brought me coffee. I asked for sugar, and she brought me something called “Sucre.” Is that some kind of Canadian poison? And one more thing about this National Post newspaper, almost every article that concerns international news has at least one paragraph that is essentially “would Canadians act this way?” I love it, they definitely are concerned with how they are perceived in relation to, in this case, Australians, Israelis, and, of course, ‘Muricans! Oh little Canucks, yous guys are so earnest.

OK, back to business. All three of our Irish gigs were fabulous. It was too short a time, and we do hope we will get back there sooner than later, and spend more than 48 hours there. Special thanks to Shane at the Seamus Ennis Centre – Seamus Ennis, as near as I can tell (having done exactly zero hours of research), was kind of an Irish Alan Lomax who would travel around the countryside, sometimes on bike, to make wire recordings of old timers, collecting stories, tunes, and other cultural artifacts. Very cool. Our gig there was packed out, and it was absolutely pouring down rain – like, hurricane level rain, coming down at a 70 degrees angle.

Our gig in Bangor the following day was similarly wet, but do Irish folk let a little (lot) rain keep them from getting down during the daytime in an outdoor setting? Hell no! In the States, people would be running for the malls for fear that they might melt (oh what a world!). These folks just whipped out umbrellas (from where, who knows?), poured another round, and whooped it up! We got to see our pal Una, musician and sound engineer supreme, and collected some nice rocks from the shore.

We ended our Irish time with a gig at the Red Room in Cookstown, an experience that I cannot recommend high enough to musicians and fans alike. Arnie and Sharon live in a lovely house (that Arnie built himself) and have been putting on house shows for years. They gained such renowned that Arnie had to build a little barn next to the house. It’s about as great a venue that a band such as ourselves could ever hope for. Lots of our pals have played there throughout the years, and it is yet another great combination of top notch hospitality and a high quality artistic experience.

We were warned that the crowd might be taken aback by our more . . . unique materials. However, we charmed them with some bluegrass and old time and then slowly started slipping in some left of center (excuse me, centre) pieces like Reminiscing, Hammer Time (working title for one of our new songs), and others.

After the gig, we hung out with most of the crowd, having snacks and drinking Arnie’s homemade potìn. What’s potìn, you ask? Well, for any of our pals who have ever drunk clear liquid from a Mason Jar, potìn should seem pretty familiar. It’s basically Irish Moonshine (although the folks at the Red Room assert that Moonshine is just American Potìn). Arnie makes it in sloe, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, and probably others. It is high test and excellent, and just perfect for bands who need to catch a ferry that’s 90 minutes away at 10:30am the next day.

We made that ferry, you’ll be happy to know, met our new pal Colin in Belfast, and took the boat back to Stranraer. On the way we saw some porpoises, gannets, and totally picturesque views of Ireland, Scotland, Aran, and Ailsa Craig – the “volcanic plug” where all the curling stones are harvested. Curling! For our thoughts on this excellent sport, see the blog entry from archives, wherein we are traveling during the Winter Olympics and learn the value of women’s curling from some fine gentlemen in Eureka Springs, AR.

We ended up playing two more gigs that day – a little impromptu set at the Grapes in Stranraer – thanks again to Billy for hosting us – and then that night back in Edinburgh at our pal Naomi’s Fringe Speakeasy Venue. People have remarked to us recently that we workee sooo hard, to which we reply, hell yes! Sometimes we get tired of being around one another, of course, just like any polyamorous married band; but one thing we never tire of is playing music with one another. If we have an opportunity – busking, last minute sessions, late night showcases – we are in!

Oh, we also never say no to a nice meal.

And now we are descending into Toronto, where we will, no doubt, be greeted with maple sugar garlands and poutin by the bowlful! We are well seasoned and ready for our August and September shows. Thanks to everyone who came and saw us over the last three weeks, and a special thanks to Bill, Sue, Leonie, Douglas, Jane-Ann, Nicholas, Sharon, Arnie, Rahel, Jonny, Kym, and all of our new pals. And, of course, Loudon, Brenda, and Gerry!

OOH! I almost forgot. While in Stranraer, our very own Graham “Chips ‘n’ Cheese” DeZarn was playing squeezebox in a park (not a euphimism) saw a car pulling a trailer with a fellow that was covered in black goo on the back. We asked Colin, our Stranraer emissary, about this, and he replied, as nonchalantly as if he was talking about a seagull or kilt wearing piper, “oh, you probably saw a blackening.”

A .

Turns out that it’s a Scottish tradition to pull a potential bride or groom through the town, covered in fake tar and feathers, thereby preparing him or her for the horrors of marital bliss. Oh Scotland, just when we think we know everything, you go and show us something totally absurd!

Feeling all kinds of squishy nostalgic . . .

PF Et Al.

 

In Which We Discuss Gerry Roche . . .

August 2nd, 2014

 

The Two Man Gentlemen Band Trio and us at Carnegie Hall. What a serious group!

August 2nd, 2014

Avast ye! The Hot Seats are a’boardin!

Ahoy there, internet mateys! It’s Olde Commodore PF, sitting in the plush environs of the Stenaline from Cairnryan to Belfast for our final two days of gigs. Yes, international travelers that we are, I’m currently engaged in some serious talk with, who else, Jake “The Consultant” Sellers about US foreign policy, the future of oil, ice cream flavors. You know . . . the heavy stuff.

In an older era, we would be sipping brandy from snifters, cigars burning on crystal ashtrays, and moving figures around a light table with the maps of foreign lands projected from below. Later we’d retire to the drawing room for a game of whist whilst our doting wives prepared canapés and kept our martini glasses brimming with brine and vodka.

As it is, we’re drinking weak coffee and eating carrots, talking too loudly about inappropriate things while women everywhere regard us with mild to spicy disdain. Oh modern times, how you vex us!

We have been steady playing since last I wrote, with fun house concerts in Edinburgh, a nice trip to Peebles and the Eastgate Theatre, and a monumental show with the Two Man Gentlemen Band Trio at, where else, Carnegie Hall!!*** Last night we played in Stranraer for a nice, tightly packed crowd at a pub called the Grapes. It was a hot one, for sure, and made us long for the languid dampness of Virginia in the summertime. The pub owner, Billy, and promoter, Colin, put on a great show there. As always, the spectrum of hospitality in our world is astonishing – you’ll get some spots who are making money on drinks hand over fist and yet feel the need to nickel and dime (pound and pence) the band over every drink or hamburger (CLUB OWNERS TAKE NOTE: Half off domestic beers and food is basically like extending your middle finger only halfway up. It’s still a fuck you, just more wishy-washy). On the other end of the spectrum is The Grapes, where we get paid a fair wage, get put up in a nice (not fncy, but nice) hotel, are fed dinner and breakfast, and have to literally put up two hands and scream “No More!” to keep the drinks from flowing.

As a result of all this hospitable-ness, we had a great time, as did the crowd who drank plenty and will certainly come back for more. It’s amazing (it’s actually not amazing) how that works – band is happy, crowd is happy, club is happy. And now we sail . . .

We have been driving ourselves around for the last few days, which is totally exciting. Did you know that a US drivers license doesn’t allow you to drive on the right side over here? Well, apparently that’s the case. So much for global superpower (thanks a LOT, Herr Obama (actually, on the topic of US politics, I had another typical conversation last night with a fan where I tried to explain the US health system to someone who has lived her whole life with nationalized health care. It goes like this:

She: So wait, what happens if you get hurt?
Me: Well, if you have insurance, then you probably only have to pay for some of it, depending on your deductible.
She: What if you don’t have insurance?
Me: Well, then you’ll be on the hook for thousands of dollars.
She: Well, what if you can’t pay it?
Me: . . . Freedom, goddamnit! (Middle finger to the sky, wave American flag, make an eagle call, drop the mic and walk out before anymore questions).

Or something like that . . . oh wait, I’m deep inside a parenthetical within a parenthetical, aren’t I?)). Oh yeah, driving. Driving is fun, and relatively easy. Turns out, when you sit on the wrong side of the car, it’s easy to drive on the wrong side of the road. There’s all kinds of fun signs, our favorite being “Changed Priorities Ahead”; we haven’t the faintest idea what that actually means, but we know it fits our van quite well, as one second we’re all about rocking out, and the next it’s political talk time, followed by a rousing chorus of “I have to pee/I want coffee and chips” and then back to rock.

One thing that all this driving brings about, however, is thoughts of our beloved Gerald “Wrong Turn” Roche, who is currently out with Pokey LaFarge (remember him? He used to ride around with us. Don’t worry though, he’s doing OK). Just last night, we were wondering, “what’s Gerry up to right now?” Which we answered with a few possibilities: (A) saying lewd things sotto voce to some poor innocent from Pokey’s band; (B) smoking cigarettes and waxing poetic on the nature of Scottish politics, art, society; (C) telling road stories or pulling from his inexhaustible library of jokes and music stories; and finally (D) threatening the band members with bodily harm if they don’t get into/out of the van.

Gerry is really an integral part of our UK experience. He is our translator, cultural guide, mother hen, navigator of social morés, and harasser. I know that many of you might only know of Gerry from my various references to his anger (feigned or otherwise) and lewdness, which is really my fault. He is a multi-faceted person.

Never before has there been a man of the people who hated other people more, but who, at the same time, displays such high levels of generosity and geniality – he has, on many occasions, gone way beyond the call of duty for us and asked nothing in return. Gerry is staunchly blue collar, hailing from the mean streets of Paisley, but he is highly learned on a wide variety of subjects – literature, music, art, architecture, sport, politics, cars, food, etc. A man who’s opinions are set in stone that is then covered in industrial epoxy – hates cheese and pasta, loves meat and Budvar – he is also open to all new experiences (though feels free to comment widely and hilariously nastily while engaging in said experiences).

Gerry has, possibly, the quickest and sharpest wit that any of us have ever encountered (and hey, we’re pretty sharp ourselves, sometimes). I say “wit” because it is often highly witty, but, like Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, or Don Rickles, that wit is usually at the expense of someone else.

Come with me now to Newcastle. It’s pissing rain, and we have finished playing our afternoon gig. The van is packed and we are hoofing it north for an evening gig, 4 hours away. In the haste to get out of town, Gerry comes to a quick stop at a red light, rolling halfway into the pedestrian walkway. A somewhat rotund man standing on the sidewalk just stares at us, apparently waiting for us to back up:

Gerry, with the appropriate amount of sarcasm: Feel free to traverse in front of the van.
Rotundo: Twat!
Gerry (so fast that it was clear he had already been thinking this, like before the final “T”
or “Twat” had even left this dude’s lips): Fat prick!

This was followed by an expletive stream so virulent and yet Shakespearean in its meter and content that I must have entered into a fugue-like state, as I don’t recall the specifics.

Counter that with Gerry, around 4am into our night with the Hardy’s in Glenbuchat, discussing exactly why he works in the music industry. While I don’t have the exact quote, the gist is that he believes that any gig that results in people smiling at the end of it is a gig worth playing, regardless of the money made. Counter that with Gerry, singing John Martin songs so sappy I am pretty sure I got cavities from just hearing them. Counter that with Gerry, on our last night together, while dropping us off, in the most tender voice, “OK boys, get the fuck out of the van.”

I could go on, but this is already over long. Let’s just leave it there, Gerry Roche – international man of mystery and hysteria.

Three gigs to go!
PF Et al.

 

Journey to the Center (Centre) of the Jake!

July 28th, 2014

 

We bring the noise and the rain to the Summertyne Festival!

July 27, 2104

We are fresh off the heels of three great gigs!

1. Universal Hall – Findhorn: This is a really cool space, almost like a giant wooden yurt with a big opening in the ceiling to allow for maximum airflow. Findhorn itself is two parts – the town, and the spiritual community that has been existence there since the 1960′s. It is reminiscent of Twin Oaks in Virginia, the home of our longtime pals The Vulgar Bulgars and also the makers of the firmest tofu you’ll ever have. Anyway, it was a great show – we were fueled by a very healthy vegetarian meal, and were all aglow with the stamina and vigor that comes from food that isn’t fried (imagine that!) and vegetables besides potatoes.

2. Glenbuchat Hall – Strathdon: We had heard great things about this venue, and were not disappointed. Strathdon and the surrounding areas are, first of all, stunningly beautiful and also quite remote, or seemingly so. The hall is like many we have played, in terms of layout, and there was a fiesty crowd who hooted and hollered and got us up for double encores!

As if the show wasn’t sufficient, our hosts for the night, Kym and Jonny Hardie, live waaaaaaaaaay out in a house that was built in 1604 by Jonny’s ancestors. It’s called the House of Newe (no, the castle is gone, we stayed in the awesome smaller house), which is, somehow, pronounced, House of “Nee-ow,” like a cat with a speech impediment. Oh Scotland, you love to keep us guessing! Turns out that Jonny (of the great band Old Blind Dogs) comes from a landed family and that house was originally just an outbuilding for the larger CASTLE that the family used to live in until the 1920′s (something happened to global economies then, can’t remember what). The house itself is clearly full of all kinds of stories, and has old pictures, shields and swords, and other interesting miscellany strewn throughout (anaconda lamp!). It’s definitely the kind of house in which you just KNOW that people have died. I found myself blindly walking down a dark corridor at one point, just certain that it was only a matter of time before some kind of apparition manifested, demanding that I right some ancient wrong.

After the show we, along with about 20 folks from the show, headed back to the digs for some more festivities. We ended up jamming with Jonny late into the night/early into the morning, depending on how you look at it. We played some old timey and bluegrass tunes, some scottish/irish tunes, and sang some silly and sweet songs. Jonny treated us (he has a great voice) to a song called Terror Time, I believe, that is bout the most bleak thing we’ve ever heard, all about Scottish winter: Heather will fade and bracken will die, the small birds will be going, for it’s then you will be knowing, that the Terror Time is here. Or something similarly cheery.

We had a nice leisurely morning with them, bacon and sausages and egg and all (helpful grease sponges for the alcohol from the night before), more tunes in the sunlight in the front garden, and lots of mutual host/band love.

3. The Salmon Bothy – Portsoy: Portsoy is a sweet little town on the Northeast Coast. We played the Salmon Bothy last year and had a great, if sparsely attended show, and were expecting much the same. Instead, the small venue was so packed that it turned into a bit of a sauna by the end of the night. The crowd was enthusiastic and even had some requests, which is always a nice treat for us. A highlight moment was that Big Jim Paterson, of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, was in the crowd, and was highly complimentary of the show. We retired to the local pub after the show, apparently not learning any lessons from the previous night, and hung out with many of the show attendees and also Portsoy locals.

Allow me to say a few words on the English language. I realize that, as an American – home to such terrible and obnoxious expressions as the use of “summer” as a verb, “frenemy”, or  “croissandwich” – I may not be in the best position to make light of certain words or usages that exist here in the origin of the language. Yet here we are.

There are some linguistic habits over here that I/we find to be notable. First on this list is “wee” for “small” or “little.” Now, the middle schoolers that reside in each of us find it funny on the most visceral and toilet level, but there’s more. It seems like a word that would be used by a pan-flute playing half-goat as he describes the king of the fairies to a bemused traveler. It’s a dainty word. It is, to us, disconcerting to hear grown men, sometimes quite large and imposing men, use “wee” to describe just about anything.

Then there’s seemingly made up words. I took a trip to ASDA the other day with Gerald so we could get cheap gas, beers, and other necessities (hey USA big boxes, you really need to step your games up. ASDAs and Sainsburies make the average Walmart or Target seem like a corner bodega. They are, at their best, like crazy commerce amusement parks.). Anyway, there in the store was a big old display, advertising a brand of “Jubbly Ice Lollies.” Now, “jubbly” isn’t a brand name, it’s a descriptor, same as “lollie”. Jubbly. Lollie. Say them to yourself. They flow off the tongue well, indeed, but at what cost? How much personal dignity does one sacrifice when he/she says “I’d very much like an jubbly ice lollie right now.” A lot.

I’ll just quickly say that we are, as usual, having a great time playing tunes with one another. We are working up some new material that we hope to work out over the next few days. As you know, we don’t play with the frequency with which we used to, so these times are even more important to us, artistically, and to strengthen the bonds of smells and sounds that bind us together, like so many natto soybeans or coital slugs.

I will now pass the blog baton to Jake Sellers, who has been keeping his own daily journal. Please appreciate the raw efficiency that Jake uses with the English language. It should provide a great contrast to my own keyboard wordiness (note: some of the content has been redacted for the sake of mothers and other sensitive parties):

7/15, 16 up around 9:30, laid in bed for fifteen some minutes, did dishes, final preps, Sean green showed up at 10:38, got to josh’s at 11:15, stopped by Carytown for rollies, I grabbed the last Live! sleeves, drank a beer, on the road to Dulles,  made it to gate with five minutes till door closed, Ed and graham made it at final minute, flight overbooked, josh and I got on Ed graham did not (rerouted to Frankfurt), had to retrieve stow away bag to get graham Ed their work visas, talked to 53 yr old linea Grey teacher at duke Ellington school of performing arts (Dc) from take off to landing in Toronto, facebook messaged girls for fifteen minutes before boarding (mom was one), fairly empty flight adds to comfort, slept little, 500 mile club, got to Edinburgh around 6am, customs, realized they lost our bags, dealt w that, took new tram to bill & sues, caught up, tea, took a long nap, walked w josh to return his t-mart “lost bag need underwears” purchase (he realized that Ed had his bag), in came the rain, walked to Douglas’, not home, walked for about forty in rain seeking coffee, internetted in cafe, met up w Ben Graham Ed, fake hugged force kissed Ben on the mouth, we all had dinner at Mother India Cafe, mutton curry & ginger spinach chicken& butter chicken & rice & poppadom w chutneys, walked to Leonie’s, recalled last year’s ed sleeping in bushes coke can for a pillow, met bfriend keekay, yurt set up, cold & wet so I stood in doorway till all came inside, chatting, radio 6, met new roommate Rosella, kicking the ball around out back w Graham Ben Josh before g&j left, had a beer, flirted w Rosella, charmed, left, b&e&me st Royal Oak pub, 3 quid Bowmore Islay single, fella playing guitar, left just as cajon player arrived, stopped by The Newsroom pub, briefly chatted to hot pants Scottish lass, b&e&me all had one small and one big Three Hoppeds (Edinburgh ale), challenged ed’s “restaurant food should cost what the food costs” view, had a good time.

7/17 up at 8, hi gerald!, in van around 8:45, got out of Edinburgh headed toward borders (about hour and half), listened to Jane Doe & dipaolo, nooner BBC radio spot, host Gordon very good, played jawbone and darlin, drove about hour to Brampton, walked about for two hours, got two postcards from antique shop, £1.10 for a carrot and a lb of strawbs, short drive to castle carrack, Worked on drum set up, soundcheck at 5, short rehearsal, worked up Hammer (debuted that night), dinner at 6 (chicken korma), went for solo hour walk, back music on the marr festival, hit stage near 9:30, had one beer before playing and one while playing, flub city never felt so good, more beer, Ben and I went to our accommodations, rest to theirs, hosts tommy and Tricia hung for about twenty before retiring were very nice, Ben and I stayed up a couple of hours drinking and talking, was great, slept around four or so

7/18 up at 10:30, quick cereal and toast w marmalade bfast, 90 some minute walk w Ben, missed intended path but was good, met boys by the van, listened to Nilsson and Slayer en route to Hawick, walked around with graham after popping in Morrison’s, stopped by middle eastern ish coffee shop, I had a slice of cherry plum cake and a hot chocolate, realized coffee date hot chocolate potential, met up at Border Club, saw loudon and davie briefly quick soundcheck, walked, josh and I walked up The Mote talked band business, back to club, 8:15 45 set killed, aggressive merch push, second set killed, great crowd, loudon happy, hurried to break down, fun band photo chick ankle bite, asked the club president for beers, he gave us ten, great time drinking & talking on the ride back to Edinburgh, funny times, all back at bill & Sue’s, graham Ben and I hung and drank on front steps (tB Eb to bed) for hour plus, mostly discussed hipster ramifications, bed around 4

7/19 up at 9:30, hour run to back of crags, listened to seasons of the abyss, in the van shortly after noon, two and a half hour ride to Gatehead (Newcastle), got there at ish two forty, listened to wolf, 3pm set time, very rushed, started close to three, fun set, outdoor stage, rain hit right before we started, lots of umbrellas, good set, back line kit had floor tom peaches big hits, broke down, short merch push, met new rope string daughter, split a hog roast w graham (no oink), hurried off to coldingham (about an hour and forty away), soundcheck, take away fish & chips, hurried to eat before we played, fun set not big crowd, chris (Glasgow big nice guy chickpeas) and fam came out, gave Dave (venue host) the flask i was to throw away (he wanted), 2nd set good and crowd liked it but ya know, played encore (dim lights, Roanoke) on theater steps, gushing with happiness, pushed merch, Gerry broke down my shit while I merch pushed, woman said I was a bridge and I made people want to be a part of us and I create landscapes but we had to go, I asked if she had a card, she didn’t so I was like “well (shoulder shrug)”, back in the van to Edinburgh, we all listened to queen (most of sheer heart attack) some e Costello and harry Nilsson’s vine st. in van, hung for five at bill & Sue’s, all went to pub, had two lager IPA fusion beers, hit up chip shop, I got mixed pakora, we all sat on church steps and ate our foods, back to b&S’s, little facebook and sleep

7/20 up at noon, out of bed at 1:30, ran to Portebellas seaside boardwalk (hadn’t been), walked boardwalk a little, ran back, looked into amazon flask purchase, got take away kabab curry from previous night place, hour some ride to Biggar, had Guinness w Ben, alright set, small crowd, rode back to Edinburgh, fun time scatting popular riffs, went out w Ben Ed, political military whistle blower sex change guy debate, good time, back at chippy I got nothing, Ed said he was in bad mood as he got large Donner but didn’t remember saying it caused slight weirdness when addressed, crisis avoided, back at b&S’s, sleep

7/21 up around noon, we all lugged our gear to go busking on the royal mile, ed having ed moments while waiting for coffee, busking went well till asked to stop, walked to oink for grunters, ate at grass market, popped by Armstrong’s, nothing there for me, got flask at antique shop down the way, continued busking on mile, bill came ’round, got shirts from shirt dude, Rva shirt photo op w Ben, dropped off gear and slammed some Stella at b&S’s, caught up w Ed and bill at theatre royal for a pint, walked to mother India, lamb dish saag paneer garlic naan poppadom, , Graham Ben I off to yurt, we chatted w Rosella for about thirty, went out for pints (early morning for R so she stayed), Blind Poet acoustic night, whiski there for fifteen min), the royal mile pub (rockaoke band Mintz chat), fairly sauced, graham cheese chipped, walk back to yurt, sleep around three(?)

7/22 up around eleven, busked on mile from 12 till 2, walked back for 3pm pick up, slept, stopped by paisly to kill time, got candy (toffee crisps/crunchies, drifter bar, something else) from Morrison’s, josh and Gerry off asda, Ben graham Ed kicked ball w Adam, I went to Alamo bar, chatted with chaddy (good man), had a Budweiser and a lone star, had a nice twenty some min conversation with elderly woman, “enough with the Beatles,” she used to be an opera singer, paisly born and bred, nice lady, headed to kilbarchan for gig, set up, Indian take away, short nap on grass, hot room, hot set, back to Edinburgh, we all harry nilssoned in van, went to newsroom pub TB g & b, fun convo, b&g off to yurt, TB&me back to bill Sue’s, little snack and bed around 2:30(?), first night of solid sleep in a while

7/24 alarm woke me around 6am, couldn’t get back to sleep, snooze alarm every ten minutes or so, bought four pears, back at b&S’s, ran five or so miles by swan lake and around Arthur’s seat, listened to slayer, showered, picked up at 11:30, about a four hour drive to portsoy, rode through Cairngorm’s park, aberdeenshire, fochabers, beautiful ride, lots of harsh fast turns and mountains, stopped by portsoy accommodations, headed to Findhorn, commune type village reminded me of The Beach, vegetarian dinner after soundcheck, post dinner solo walk through dunes to seaside, got back later than intended, I did not have a good first set, merch push mostly chatting but sold to all I chatted with, second set redemption set, really tired, rode back to portsoy, stayed w Gerry Ed, watched TV briefly, traded songs, drank four or five stellas, fishbone stories, adolescent Gerry discovers punk music stories, Gerry first concert (alex Harvey 1975ish) story, Ed to bed, I hung w Gerry for another beer, bed around 3:30

7/25 out of bed around eleven, walked w Ed to coast, took a dip, cold water didn’t take long to acclimate to, Ed walked back, i got postcards at marble shop, watched young cliff divers, walked back, Stella in the shower, picked up bearman, got a flat tire, put on spare, mint magnum bar while waiting for tyre repair, walked w Ben josh to get coffee, ice cream round two (toffee swirl), was asked to not take picture of ice cream, talked dead sister cassidy cat w josh on walk back to van

Being between great Benjo Gerry court and Ed land, Gerry talking about his passion of work, whether its 30 or 3000 people leaving happy makes work worthwhile, rare vulnerability, nature of the gig, go for money, be happy you get gas station sandwiches, all the miles hardships gas station sandwiches

——————————————————————————————————————————

Well now, how about THAT action, right there? It’s like we got to live in Jake’s brain for a while. Hope you enjoyed that. Upcoming blog topics: New songs, gardens, the Gerry Exposé!

Until we meet again!

PF, Jake, Et. Al.

 

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.

Upcoming shows
  • 10/18/14 The Hot Seats in Roanoke Rapids, NC at Private Wedding
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