Pirate Jenny’s

January 1st 1970,

Pirate Jenny’s

Pirate Jenny’s is a club dedicated to “chanson and badly-behaved music” that has run at the Vortex for several years. It is run by Des de Moor, singer and songwriter, among many other roles. Des booked me to play after seeing me support Katrina Rublowska a few months ago (as well as knowing me as Phil Jeays‘ guitarist).

It was actually quite a thrill for me to play the Vortex (particularly the funky old Vortex, which will be closing soon for the venue to move to newer, better appointed,premises) – the Katrina gig was here as well, and I’ve played here a few times with Phil, but when I arrived, and my name was chalked on the door, that was the particular thrill.

Bit sad, that. Maybe. Bit easily starstruck.

I was feeling a bit underpowered, though – I’d been ill throughout Sunday, lying semiconscous for most of the day, rallying (a bit) for the Jonathan Meades programme on BBC2 (a coincidence – I attribute no curative properties to Mr Meades), and then sleeping until 2:00pm on Monday. So, I was left a bit… yes, underpowered, and unfocused. And it was cold,too. Which is a shame.

Moan, moan. Grumble, grumble.

My set was in the first half – Des, himself kicked off both halves with four-song sets, so it was’t completely cold. However, it took a couple of songs to get going. I stumbled into gear with WDIAGR? and Little Games. There was a couple to my left conversing throughout. My underpowered lack of focus (have I mentioned that?) left me a bit oversensitive to this, sadly, and I was very distracted. I hope I played well enough. I know I could have played a lot better. I felt a certain reticence. Not badly behaved enough.

I managed to retrieve some of the energy later, I think, particularly commencing Obvious. There’s a lesson here, I think. I tend to fall into a pattern for opening sets – for a long time it was The Things You Get, and then Little Games for a while too, and now “WDIAGR?”. They are all good, but I do need to address this issue of grabbing the energy, of some opener that makes people pay attention. Obvious works because it is a drama, and a ritual of a sort (Iodine, which is much shorter, works the same way.) But neither is an opener – they work much better towards the end of the set. Obvious certainly caught the attention tonight. Songs with spoken introductions also worked. I do need to get more of a repertoire of intros that I can reel off without having to rely on native wit (which is a scarce commodity when one is freaked, I can tell you).

Ooomph! needed. Apply within.

And the headliners were Babysnakes, who play reels, jigs, tangos and such musics from all over the world. Very fine, the cold didn’t get to them, not underpowered at all, check ’em out. I’m not sure that they realise they are named after a Frank Zappa track, but I may be wrong. I certainly didn’t ask.

Warp Experience

January 1st 1970,

Warp Experience

An odd but not unenjoyable gig to start 2001. A “Real Millennium” celebration at a squat in Islington (or at least right at the Holloway Road end of Liverpool Road). That road block on Liverpool Road is becoming quite irksome indeed, considering. Joe Quillin called me on Saturday and asked if I was already occupied on New Year’s Eve, and if not, could he pass my number on to somebody who was organising a little shindig. He would be going off to Crouch Hill for their party. I was expecting a Quiet Night In, but that does not, somehow, count as something to do. Person in question (Dom Spiral) duly called. Yes, I said, I’d be keen to play a set.

On Sunday I called Mr Spiral back to ask for the address, which he told me, adding (before dashing off to organise something, and there was a considerable amount to organise, I must say) that it would start “Nine to Ten. Twenty-four hours”.

This gave me some peturbation, not liking the idea that I could be sitting around waiting to play for a whole day. Still, I went over to Laura’s for a bath and a shave (I appear not to have any hot water at the moment – not quite as disabling as one might think, but I have to go to other places to bathe and shave), and we finally set off at about half past ten.

It took a couple of passes to find Liverpool Road (I don’t know why), but the specific thumping warehouse was considerably easier to identify. Mr Spiral was at the door, and suggested we go upstairs to find the Music and Poetry Room, opposite the Mushroom Room.

The M&P room appeared to be the one with the makeshift stage, behind which was a couple playing CDs on one of those CD DJ decks. They explained that live music would be starting at about 3:00 am.

“!!!”, I thought.

Although people were exhorting me to stash it somewhere, I hung onto my guitar for a while (a bit obsessive I admit, but I wanted to get more of a feel for the place before putting it down). Went downstairs to the Main Hall where there was a sort of New Years Eve celebration. The Real Millennium was announced, as though 2000 had been some sort of establishment conspiracy (who knows, perhaps it was).

There was then an amount of jungle (old style messed-up beats jungle, or possibly some modern psychedelic spin-off) and trancy techno. I stashed the guitar behind the speakers and we danced for a while (quite a while by my standards, perhaps an hour). Then we went back upstairs and sat, watching the passers-by, and drinking the very fine chai tea.

Joe turned up, fresh from the “loosely organised” Crouch Hill do, and somewhat loosely organised himself. I got to go on first.

So it was about 3:30 that I set off. The mix was very close to chaos – there was the constant threat of tuned feedback, whenever I held down a string, it would feedback and sustain. This is a groovy effect, but somewhat inimical to the classical guitar. I started with Where Did It All Go Right?, which proved to be ironic, since not only was it palpably not going right, but not one could make out the words anyway. Joe suggested something with a beat, so I did Little Games. That seemed to work better. I then launched into all the louder, faster ones I could think of. Tried throwing in Iodine, when someone commented favourably on my “cheesiness” (I take apparant compliments as I find them), but it fell flat. I did the instrumental that I wrote at Laura’s flat last new year, because I was interested to see whether it would work or not, and it did. Leapt straight into Comforting Lie, and then a girl asked if I could play Summertime for her to sing to, and I said I could as long as it was in A minor. Then she asked if I knew Ain’t No Sunshine (she started off a capella and then I guessed, more or less correctly, at the chords), and then some kind of blues. Then she was gone, and I did My Funny Valentine (with requisite feedback) and finished.

I must have played for just over half an hour, we left after my set, and before Joe went on (which was a bit rotten on him but Laura and I were definitely flagging), so we got home at about five.

Curious gig, since there were people passing by all the time, so it felt like playing in a corridor in a way. I felt quite relaxed – my the time of the Inpromptu Jazz Set, I was dropping in all sorts of solos and noodling and so forth, and that was quite fun and possibly a New Direction. I did enjoy it, I suppose, although about four people were paying attention to what I was doing and I think three of those may not have been enjoying it. Still, a gigging start to the New Year.