I’m a Sensitive Soul…

Ho hum… Nothing like striking when the iron is, er, hot…

This has taken me far too long and I feel like I owe the fine members of Laish a bit of an apology – they played a terrific set at Calmer, nearly two weeks ago and somehow still the recordings are yet to appear.

Let’s sort this out.


Laish and Tristram seem to be inextricably linked as they gig regularly together, share a drummer and at least two other members of Tristram play in the Laish set. Hard to tell at times where one ends and the other begins.

Liash do have a sound that is clearly distinguishable from Tristram, however, and this is because of the rich thoughtful songs that leader Dan produces.  Modern folk songs I thought of them as, handsomely accompanied by banjo, guitar, the occasional horn and soft harmonies.  They also played with a certain style and conviction that I felt Tristram didn’t quite match. I love it when people do their thing and just don’t give a damn what people say…

Here’s some video shot at Slak, but from last year. Beards and banjos, (but not bearded banjo players…)

Here are the recordings I made (apologies for the drunken ramblings you can hear in the foreground, some of them mine…):

Song on a Transition

A Happy Accident


Warmth and Humility

(Decemberists tonight…)

Tristram at Calmer

In an effort to shrug off the popular perception that this Blog is all about beards, banjos and beer, I broke with tradition somewhat when I went along to Calmer* in Cheltenham last Friday. Yes there were beards and, yes there were banjos, but for the evening I stuck resolutely to cider, and was able to kid myself that I was viewing events in an entirely different light.

Maybe not.

I haven’t been to a Calmer evening for quite a long time now, and it was very pleasant to get back into the  terrifically cool surroundings of the Slak Bar once again. And although, it’s been my feeling that the evenings have been in a bit of a decline of recent years, Friday’s fare went someway to restoring my faith in an event that used to be keenly anticipated over here.


First up was a young guitarist sporting a Byrds hair cut and skinny jeans, and leading a band that included a cellist, bassist and a busy drummer. To be honest he reminded me a bit of Fionn Regan at times, and had a number of really charming, slightly melancholic songs in his satchel. They were all arranged pretty well, and the effect of some of the cello work in particular was to leave a rather haunting feel to the set. I believe there are a couple of EPs to be had and the prospect of an album on the way too. Keep an eye on his MySpace

Anyway, have a watch… (not one of mine, but actually recorded the day after in Cardiff)

Made a few recordings, though, and they’re OK, really…


Dust Disturbed

Rhyme or Reason

Actually, they were only lined up to be the support band, but I would have been happy at that. It was a fine set. I’ll post about the second band of the night, tomorrow, I think, and leave Tristram to bask in the PP spotlight for an evening at least…

I wanted another life, from a spark you came.

[J’avais envie d’une autre vie, d’une étincelle tu es venu.]

Got along to Calmer yesterday evening at Cheltenham’s Slak Bar. Before reappearing last Autumn, Calmer had had a long hiatus for most of the year, and I’ve somehow not really caught back up with it. So I was glad to be able to get over this time and see Bristol’s Safetyword and French duo Vialka.

Safetyword announced themselves as being from Bristol but a read through the info on their website tells you they’re actually all from the Isle of Man. They played a fast tight set which was all rhythm changes and sharp electric guitars. I enjoyed them but their set seemed to swing from excitement to confusion a little too often. I must be getting old (well…). Thankfully the sun broke through the clouds pretty regularly and there were some great Beefheart-ish, Battles-y tracks coupled with some endearingly eccentric vocals.

Their site is worth a visit, not least because they’ve been more than a little generous with the downloads they’ve made available there – two whole EPs as far as I can tell. They’re well worth a listen, I’d say, as will be there album “Man’s Name is Legion”. I’ll put a couple up here, and the rest are available here.

Foot Oven

Daily Bread


There were a few of the same elements in the Vialka set – the frenetic guitar work, the bewildering rhythm changes, the different song phases. But they were, in all honesty, far more exciting and altogether more of a spectacle. Guitarist Eric Boros skipped up and down this fret board energetically and showed a fondness for British post-punk and Zimbabwean jit, in equal measures. The real star, though, was percussionist Marylisse Frechville, who battered away deftly on her kit and on a child’s xylophone, whilst singing (well, yodelling) in French. And as if that wasn’t enough, at certain points she came out from behind her kit and danced or sang unaccompanied in front of the tables of the Slak audience.

She was wild. And not a little disturbing, an impression not entirely dispelled by her dress, her mannerisms or by the swimming cap she was wearing to which she’d taped her mic.

It was clear to me that Vialka are using a tradition of European music that I just don’t know enough about to be able to write about without making myself look foolish. But it was all refreshingly different and terrific entertainment. They went down really well with the rest of the Calmer audience and deserved the calls for more that I could still hear as I nipped off to catch my bus.

Vialka are in the middle of a bit of a monster tour, playing in Bristol in a couple of days, amongst other places, before doing what seems like a load of dates in China and then Australia. The world is clearly a small place to Vialka.

The Vialka site also makes available a lavish collection of tracks for you to download, and I’ll put a couple of my favourites here. But inevitably they don’t really do justice to the live performance. I’m afraid I can’t even find a particularly good YouTube clip to attach.

But you’ve still got time to catch them in Bristol…

Village Mentality Part Two

Trop Tard

I dream of landscapes, I dream of pancakes, I dream of dreamy sequences where I fall in love

I refuse to reveal whether this lengthy absence is down to extensive flooding in Gloucester or bone idolness. You guess…

Cheese on Bread

Anyway, another great evening last week at the Slak Bar, which is fast becoming one of my favourite places these days. It’s just got such a great atmosphere, and I really love being so close to the performers, most of whom I simply could not imagine seeing anywhere else. This time, I went over to see American band, Cheese on Bread bring some camp good humour to the week.

First on, however, was Men Diamler, whom I saw last time I was at Slak, and wrote about here. Last time was apparently an experimental affair, he told us, and this time would be his more regular set. Well, I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or what, but “regular” is not the first word I’d’ve used to describe his collection of quirky, determinedly bizarre songs. Although at least his guitar did have all six strings (which is three more than last time). He started off sounding almost folky but, with his really very powerful voice cranking it up somewhat, he veered off the more well-worn singer-songwriter paths, pretty quickly. He really shreds his voice to the point of exhaustion and clearly makes a point of going further than you would expect him to, to the point of being a pretty hard listen at times.

At one point, worn out and obviously drained, he asked plaintively,
“How long have I got left?”
“About six months…” someone called from the back tables.

Again, by the end of the set, after he’d thrown his guitar down and climbed onto the backs of people chairs to deliver his finale, I found myself thinking, where did all that come from? He seemed such a gentle chap.

Some of the performance has been captured on video and posted on YouTube, and it’s a pretty good video, capturing as it does, Men in all his cracked, slightly demented glory. (The part where he wanders off stage is the point at which he started clamber on tables etc.) Here it is… (Credit to Likal)

There were a couple of other sets after his, one by a slightly nervous trio calling themselves the Limechalks who gave away free CDs, one of which was hand-made and was probably one of the nicest put-together freebies I think I’ve ever had. (Predictably, I managed to lose the actual CD between the Slak Bar and home, but trust me the packaging was lovely…)

We were also treated to a set of fairly dubious hip hop from Puppy Bucket and Donny Choonara, who introduced themselves with “This is a song about wanking!” – I’m struggling to think of a less promising start to a set. And sure enough they were pretty poor, seeming inordinately pleased with themselves to be so. I’m not a great fan of hip hop, but they do have a track up on their Myspace page which raised a smile, and is worth sharing here. Unfortunately, they didn’t play it, but then again I wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyway…

Deli Life – Puppybucket & Donny Choonara

Cheese on Bread are a five-piece from New York, and are nearing the end of a series of European dates, but still looked pretty fresh and full of themselves when they came on. They were a pretty distinctive-looking bunch, doggedly going for a geeky kitsch look that made me think of Emo Phillips. I have to say though, that I have enormous admiration for anyone who is not only completely unfussed about what people think of them but who can carry it off with sheer wit.

Lead by Sara FitzSimmons and Dan Fishback, and named after “the West’s most dependable dish”, their songs were catchy indie numbers with great dollops of trashy cultural references and were played with great gusto. The band has a Myspace page, as do Sara and Dan each, which are all worth a visit.

I know that for some the unrelenting tweeness began to grate by the end of the evening, but I have to say I was not one of them. I found them a lot of fun and I enjoyed their enthusiastic mix of indie-pop and quirky humour immensely.

Again, some of the performance was captured by Likal for YouTube, and I think this is the best one, “A Piece of Ass”:

There are quite a few MP3s and Youtube clips around on their website, on the Likal YouTube page and their Myspace pages, so I suggest you snag the couple I’m offering here and then hoover up any of the other songs around. And then really, you gotta go and see them…


Where the Fuck Are They?

It’s Music, Jim…

I went to the second of a new series of evenings at Cheltenham’s Slak Bar, called Chapter 24, having missed the first one last week with a bad back. (Digging, before you ask, “Oh, not hang gliding or anything glamorous like that then”, as one wag put it…) Not too sure of the flavour of the first evening but last night’s roster was just about as left-field as it gets.

Arrington de Dionyso

Arrington de Dionyso plays with a bunch of Beefhart devotees called Old Time Relijun, who make a pretty good racket, but do actually play… y’know … songs. Playing solo gigs, however, he shakes off all conventional tools such as… y’know… songs, and really lets himself go. To be honest I’m struggling to describe what he does, but this excerpt from his Myspace page probably tells you what you need to know:

Arrington de Dionyso uses performance as a vehicle for driving through the nameless territories held between surrealist automatism, shamanic seance, and the folk imagery of rock and roll. Pushing the envelope between musicality and pure energy, between shamanic ecstacy and lunacy, he enwraps rooms with resonant sound.

Got it?

Well, last night he played bass clarinet, jews harp, nose flute and some sort of tiny squeeze box that he held to his face. He’s also apparently a bit of an authority on Tuvan throat singing, which is commendably well explained here, but is a hard listen. Well, if you’ve been reading this Blog for long you’ll know that I’m a bit of a sucker for the weird and the original, I like all that. He started off playing quite a listenable Coltranish piece on sax, but pretty soon after that he disappeared off into those nameless territories, and to say I was lost would be understating the case pretty spectacularly. Let’s just say it got a bit difficult…

There were a couple of other pretty weird performances, including a really intense and incredibly distorted acoustic blues set from a Belgium feller called Ignatz, who worked through a series of feedback drenched bluesy drones which grew on me as the set went on.

The best set of the evening, however, was by a guy called Richard Davies, who organised the evening and performed under the name of Men Diamler. Richard has left a few comments on this site in the past and seems like an all round nice guy; and being as he was the one that put the bill together, and I’d certainly like to be invited to other gigs he arranges, it’s hard not to rave about the guy without looking like some sort of hopeless sycophant and ligger. But in truth his set really was the best and the only fault was that I could have done with it being longer. He played one long folky sort of song on a three stringed guitar and was backed by a couple of other guitars, loop pedals and various rather deft percussive effects.

It was heavily improvisational, involved stones rattling around in his guitar and throwing himself of a bar stool in a highly emotional state. Considering the does of the nerves he appeared to suffering when he met us as we came in, it was done with some confidence and self belief, and I really enjoyed it. As more than one of our group said at the time, “he seemed such a gentle bloke…”

Men Diamler does have a Myspace page but there is no music on it, which when he told me about it before the gig, I was surprised about but having heard the set, I can see why now. I have no idea how he could make a decent recording of that seventeen-minute epic, which is a shame, but just means your going to have to get out and see him yourself, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem, he gigs a lot (indeed he supported Rasha Shaheen last week in Bristol).

I have managed to find a few tracks to post, although none from Men Diamler, unfortunately (I’ll keep on at him about that…). The first two are by Arrington de Dionyso’s band Old Time Relijun and are worth a listen. The last one is the only track I could find from Ignatz, but again it’s a good piece.. You can buy his two albums from Emusic however.

Chemical Factory – Old Time Relijun
Earthquake – Old Time Relijun
Rebound from the Cliff – Ignatz

All in all the weirdest evening I’ve been to for a long time. Top class entertainment!

Cornbread and butter beans, and you across the table

My transition into Old-Fartdom is, I’m afraid, almost complete. Last week, it was George Formby, this week it’s Jugband music and Vaudeville…

On Sunday night, I went to the Slak Bar in Cheltenham mainly to see Philip Roebuck spank his banjo (so to speak), and he was great, benefiting greatly from the cosier surroundings of the pub (and apparently discovering the pleasures of West Country cider – well Strongbow at any rate…). If you’re wondering, the banjo got through the evening unscathed, but there was a tambourine fatality…

The Wiyos

I hadn’t really been too fussed about the main band of the evening, the Wiyos – as I say, I was going mainly to see the King of the Buskers – but to be honest they absolutely stole the evening, with a mixture of all sorts of desperately un-cool sounds. I do try not to define bands by who they sound like (it’s a bit lazy), but really the Wiyos aren’t doing anything new, in fact everything they do is old, old, old – they do a kind of Louis Jordon / Texas Playboys, Jugband / Western Swing sort of thing.

Now, some of you may actually need to be persuaded that this is indeed a good thing, and really all I can say is, go see them. The whole act is just so infectious and such a laugh, that I swear even the most hard-bitten, cynical indie-kid would not be able to stop himself grinning aimlessly and slapping his knee, like some sort of dumb Oaky by the end of the set.

At first glance, a guitar, stand-up bass, vocalist trio, one of the things that makes the Wiyos so much fun is the performance of Michael Farcas, who not only sings, plays harmonica, kazoo and washboard, but also injects a real sense of humour into the set with his mannerisms and Harpo-style parodies. The other thing that made their performance so enjoyable was the way the three of them are clearly connoisseurs of old time music and managed to keep a good time feel about it, without it all getting too cheesy.

The Wiyos site gives away a number of mp3s, one of which I’ll put up here, but none of them quite do them justice. There are also some videos which are worth watching as do a better job of capturing some of the fun of seeing them live. The one I’m posting here, Cornbread & Butter Beans is about the best and features the washboard, (though unfortunately not one of Farcas’ Woody Allen-style washboard solos – I can’t help thinking there may still be a place for the bike horn in popular music…)

You’re Gonna be Sorry

video of Cornbread & Butter Beans (17Mb)

Ever wondered if those bones leave their graves and go on holiday? Well… yes they do!

Went on an end of term jolly with Martin, last night, to a less-than full Slak Bar. I was kind of surprised that the turn out wasn’t better and I could tell that Emma and Edd were disappointed and more than a little puzzled as well; some of the other Calmer events have been pretty well attended.

Two bands were on show, Misterlee and Flipron, both of whom were unknown to me and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from them, as their Myspace pages didn’t really do it for me. I don’t know what it is, though, but seeing a band doing their thing live still fills me with an almost childish pleasure. Both bands were great fun to watch.

Misterlee are what you’d call an experimental two (sometimes three) piece, made up of a guitarist and another feller who sang and shouted furiously into a collection of mikes, whilst coaxing all sorts of dub-ish sounds from what looked like a very old amp with a bewildering amount of knobs and dials. With his third hand he played a single drum. Like I say, it was … (how can I put it?) … a challenging listen, not exactly foot-tapping stuff, but top quality entertainment nonetheless. I really enjoyed it. Misterlee have a website and a Myspace page too with a number of downloadable selections there, which I won’t post (you’d think I was taking the piss) but take it from me, they’re worth seeing live.


Second up was Flipron who were also great fun to watch and actually a fair bit more listenable. Backed by drums, bass and organ, singer Jesse played a number of very English-sounding pop songs (in a Ray Davies / Steve Marriott sort of way) which seemed to be mainly about skeletons and old people, with a manic country cum Hawaian feel to them. He also worked his way through a selection of guitars, a lap steel, an accordion, a harmonica and even a mandolin during the course of the evening. Being a non-musician, I love this sort of thing and still find myself inordinately impressed with this easy familiarity with different instruments. It all made for an entertaining and humorous set, which although full of vaguely gothic songs never got too po-faced.

There are a number of downloads available on their website, as well as on their Myspace page, so here’s a couple which are pretty good. You can also buy their album on Emusic, (which I have now done) but I have to say that live Flipron were better than the record. See them if you get the chance.

Skeletons On Holiday

Raindrops Keep Falling on the Dead

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