Ah! Once upon a time there was a big shinny yellow thing… it used to come out and hide behind big fluffy puffy things in the sky… I think he was shy because he kept peeping through little gaps …but also he was sad and he made the fluffy spongy things melt all over the earth… Then one day he got stronger …and braver …and got up real early …and came out to play before the fluffy things could fill the sky… and everything got warmer from his sola smile… and the people of the earth said… ‘Hey, let’s all go home and watch the world cup on the tele…!’ …If only the hosts knew then what we know now…!
Not all roads this stuttering summer led to Rio… in fact none of the ones we took did…! We did get to a few exotic places …though not always intentionally. One or two probably best not mentioned… so, a tap on the nose, a cheeky wink, and a mason’s dodgy handshake …and now you’re sworn to secrecy.
The day after our album launch at the Fat Cat Brewery Tap in Norwich we sauntered south to rural Suffolk somewhere between Bury St Edmonds and Cambridge for our debut gig at The Globe, in Clare. We didn’t have Matt with us for this one, but Jamie Roe stood in admirably for him and it was nice to play a gig with Jamie again, especially after his brief teaser the previous evening at the ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album launch. What a great bunch of friendly, nutty people in Clare. Another really sweaty gig and another excellent night. The drive back home was a long and tiring one, especially with the prospect of an early start to look forward to! But the roads were pretty clear, progress was swift and soon we were back… and mostly unable to sleep with the congealed collective adrenalin of the weekend thus far having its own version of the Monza GP around the groove tubes and conduits of my inner being!
I think I may have explained before, and by now you should be thoroughly on board with the concept of the acute way that time is refracted upon contact within the prism of the musician’s universe… a further factor that we may or may not have touched on yet is the so called ‘Sunday morning’ factor… a recent secret poll, conducted covertly over a series of Sunday mornings for a ‘reputable tabloid toilet roll manufacturer, concluded that most musicians dispute the validity of the purported concept of lazy Sunday mornings… the quick one-handed prayer, ‘walkies’ for the pooch, and a visually impaling copy of the weekly gossip gazette ‘The Pseudo-Intellectual Poser’ … while of those resolute others, many would even deny their very existence (Sundays)… claiming it to be merely a Kafkaesque distortion of perceived reality, a by-product of the snooze cruise to republic of somnolent riotous delusion. It does, however, become a tad more bearable with the second ingestion of caffeine enriched black, bitter, unsweetened coffee… of the day!
No rest for the blistered fingers, horsey voices, scrambled heads and achy bones ‘wicked’ that go to make up the gnarly creature known only as ‘Banjaxeld’…
On paper Magstock could easily masquerade as a logistical challenge… in actuality it was quite a relaxed and chilled day, and a rewarding way to give a working day to helping a local community raise funds for Magdalen Gates Primary School. This is the second year we’ve provided the P.A. and organised the live music, and Jeff’s been doing this for a couple of years previous, so the only real concern for the day was the weather. This year we were right to be concerned as the day started a bit wet and miserable… but that’s what you get for dragging musicians out of their Sunday bolt-holes too early…! However, just in the nick of time the big yellow thing got a little curious and started peeping through the blanket of clouds, and things generally picked up quite nicely for opening time, and the rest of the day.
Of course we only constitute one part of Magstock, many other people give their time, energy, expertise, and sheer enthusiasm, and this year they also had a Licensed Bar, a BBQ (…absolutely of no interest to Sack!), Water Zorbs (…for human aquatic hamsters!), Bouncy Castle (…look like a ten year old and bounce those wrinkles away in the anti-aging bladder of bouncy fun!), a Raffle (…it was fixed I tell yer…!!!), refreshments (…including nourishing coffee!), and a host of various Stalls.
Jeff once again kindly (…reluctant + polite) agreed to be the big bad, good bad, kid’s talent competition Judge and executioner…! You’ve got to admire his stamina, not everyone’s interpretation of the term ‘talent’ is relevant in the context of ‘this planet!’ However there was enough serious competition to provide a close finish, but at least this time we didn’t have to provide Jeff with body armour and a riot shield. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!
We set the music stage up indoors this year, and BINGO… as providence would have it… right opposite a coffee hatch…! Other, less interesting substances were also available, I am reliably informed, but the major vehicles of stimulation were mostly musical… starting with a solo act well known to ourselves, Norwich’s very own Matt Watson, who brought his energy and passion to complement a great performance to open the afternoon.
A relaxed four piece folk band Rum Kelter lived up to their reputation and produced a mesmerising set of enchanting traditional folk tunes, much to the delight of the mostly adult audience, and the band certainly seemed to enjoy themselves as well. After a short brake we were treated to another captivating solo performance from Starbuck Friend who delivered some superb covers, and self-penned originals with only her acoustic guitar to accompany her fantastic voice, which exploited the resonance of the hall to produce an ethereal quality.
Last year we played acoustic as a three piece, but this year we decided to treat the lovely people of Magstock to a full strength Banjaxeld…! We had a great time, and the weather held off right up until the end as we were packing all the gear away… providence anyone? Reports after the day announced that they had managed to raise a fantastic £2,700 for Magdalen Gates Primary School. A fantastic result and one we’re proud to have been a part of.
Whilst the cat’s away the mice will play… click, click, click… 200 points!
After a few hazy recovery days (…I’m sure it did say ‘Relax’ in my diary!)… July began quite stressfully…! The second of our Album Launch / Party gigs at Club Uniquity came together nicely (…see blog post: Album Launch)… followed by a fairly relaxing trip down to Felixstowe Radio to chat and do a couple of tracks for Bryan Halsey’s show ‘The Band’.
I think by the end of the first week of July, but definitely by the journey back from Felixstowe, we were all pretty ‘Banjazombified’ and in need of hitting the ‘naff off switch’. Luckily for us drummer Vinny had decided to book himself a week off to recuperate in remotest Spain. So we thought we’ll just keep that week gig free, and veg-out ourselves.
The three ‘less affluent’ home-locked members of the band did manage to squeeze in a visit to Matt’s folks, both of whom are established folk musicians, for a relaxing social evening of food, chat and folky jammin’. It’s been a while now, but we’ve all fingered the folky pie at some point in our pasts, and as a Roots based band we like to dip back into the bowl of humble fare from time to time, if only to stare into the vast unexplored regions of our inner being.
We all managed to have a bloody good evening… even if it did cause Jeff to start fantasising about folk symphonies, with a pixy orchestra playing zithercal instruments magically crafted from the flotsam of the forest floor, and a chorus of rock based Russian sirens, beckoning to your ears with a sweet exotic elixir of harmonic goo, sending the frozen dew-laden cobwebs already shimmering with the first rays of sunlight, tsunamic waves of choral magnificence to melt their crystal cargo, and in their shedding the sound of a thousand pin-like chimes shall rise resonating with the sounds of nature. (…I might have paraphrased that a bit… maybe even used a pinch of artistic licence… but that’s how I remember it…!).
I’m singing in the rain, while connected to the mains, what a glorious feeling… I’m conductive again….!
We knew that the next weekend would begin with a Private party in Belton, Norfolk, and that we wouldn’t have Vinny back in time for that gig. We managed to draught in session man, and currently Jamie Roe’s keyboard player, Kit Marsden to stand in (…or should that more accurately be ‘sit in’?) on drums, with just one evening’s rehearsal a couple of days beforehand, and copious set notes at his disposal.
We turned up to the private house for the gig, a garden party type affair, in confident mood despite the fact that we were also now a Matt down at the last minute due to his back giving out, however by a serendipitous manipulation of time and reality we once again managed to get Jamie Roe to stand in for Matt at the last minute, so we were in effect half Jamie Roe band and half Banjaxeld! The Ban-Jam-axeld-Roe band perhaps…?
Actually it gelled quite nicely… until the night sky began to show signs of a dramatic change. In the space of about half an hour the weather from a clement warm, but cooling evening to heavy rain and serious bolts of lightning! It didn’t actually reach us until the last but one number of our set, but when it did… wow, it poured rain and the gazebo stage didn’t have the sides or back on. The rain was getting steadily heavier and beginning to encroach on the cables and hastily covered power lines.
We decided to do the final number anyway, ‘No Fear’, but I think Kit was a little worried about the lightning because he drove it at about twice the usual speed to get it finished as quickly as possible, so we could pull the somewhat vulnerable power supply! What we didn’t realise at the time was that Kit’s drum seat was so far back that his back was almost out of the back of the covered area while we were playing, and getting steadily moister..! Needless to say we declined to do an encore… leaving it to nature to provide the after-party ‘light-entertainment’.
We all got a little bit soaked packing the gear away, as it continued to hammer it down, showing no signs of abating, but at least we didn’t get electrocuted or hit by an earth seeking charge of pure energy from the rapidly colliding currents of warm and cool air up in the skies (…and definitely not generated by some imaginary un-pleased thunder-fairy in the insecurity of thought-controlling folklore!). Indeed it was a fantastic and impressive show driving back through rural Norfolk, our vista sporadically and dramatically illuminated by the power of those natural forces in conflict. A little bit scary though. And it certainly gives the adrenalin a slightly different flavour!
Sunday morning and nothing is wrong…
After the deluge of the storms from the evening before, we were a little worried that the planned Music Day in the garden of The Green Gate, Caister, might have to happen inside, as there had been a lot of heavy rain leading to reports of localised flooding. The morning was warm and sunny however, and by the time we got to the Green Gate around 12.30pm, the garden was pretty dry and the forecast was looking good until the early evening. So… big early mid-day sighs of relief …and set up to plan.
We did subsequently find out from Darren, the Green Gate landlord, that a couple of hours before we arrived the whole garden area was completely submerged under a couple of inches of water, and they’d somehow managed to manually clear it, and the ground had just dried out really quickly. They’d done a great job and they got their rewards as the break in the weather brought out the people and hey presto… we got a family Music Day in Caister with six superb acts!
The Anyones got us underway, well two of them playing acoustically, with a lively set of pop covers, and that youthful ‘don’t care if it is real early’ attitude. We would have had them on a little further up the billing except they had another gig to rush off to do. Nice start.
Gail Spencer did a solo spot next. She usually has her guitarist Matt with her, but for today she just sat and sang with a soulful voice and simple accompaniment to great effect, and appreciation from the steadily growing audience. Followed by another solo artist Starbuck Friend, unperturbed by her last outing with us at Magstock, came along again to bask in the warm afternoon sun shine, and do another excellent set, which was also warmly received.
Then the tempo, energy levels and attitude took a big step up a couple of levels as 3 piece good-time band One Too Many explosively introduced themselves to the Caister crowd. The afternoon was now in full swing with singalongable fun and cheeky chatter, their enjoyment and enthusiasm overtly obvious and powerfully infectious. A great set that undoubtedly endeared them to the audience and definitely enhanced their reputation.
And we had to follow that! Well, Jeff and Sack to be precise, otherwise known as ‘Banjaxeld Acoustic’. We still didn’t have Matt or Vinny, so we had planned to do the two acoustic guitars thing, but in the end Sack took his Bass and banged a tambourine with his foot. It was back to stripped down songs, with no harmonies, but Jeff coped admirably and almost remembered the words! It’s a shame Sack refuses to sing, but probably for the best harmonically! Towards the end of our little set we were joined / stage-jacked by Hank B Marvin for an ‘off the wall’ rendition of Hoochie Coochie Man, he did ok, but I think we’ll be persevering with Matt for now!
Our headline act for the day was The Jump Starts, Formally known as Jinxy Love. We’ve had the pleasure of playing with these 3 guys before, and they never fail to deliver an energetic, entertaining set, with more than a touch of the ‘tongue-in-cheek’, larger-than-life, rock ’n’ roll persona thing to dress up a great set of ‘foot-tappin’, good-rockin’ numbers. It was a shame that the weather decided to turn again about 10 minutes before the end of their set. The band to their credit kept going like old pros, and finished with aplomb, but a lot of the audience decided to relocate to the inside of the pub to listen to them as the first smatterings of those highly dangerous water droplets drifted from out their fluffy sky vehicles and threaten to cause a mass melting. Rather un-dramatically, it turned out to just be a light shower, but it didn’t manage to dampen a successful family music day, and as far as I’m aware, all the artists that played today got bookings to gig here at the Green Gate in their own right, so good news all round.
I’m Gonna Be (…mostly travelling 500 Miles this weekend)
It seemed that Matt’s back problem was worse than initial indications suggested, and we might have to cope without him for a couple of weeks! With a couple of days to go until our gig at The Murderers in Norwich for their 30th anniversary, we found out that Vinny wouldn’t make it back in time either, so, after a short period of panic and intense frustration, we decided to ask Will Philips and Az Wright from Cielo to stand in with the promise of a more blues driven set as a ‘danglin’ carrot’… and they fell for it…! But it worked quite well, admittedly we jammed it around our set, and maybe took it a few places that hadn’t seen us before, but we went with the flow and the feel and made a good noise, and a ‘good time’ of the evening for all was mutually and heartily endorsed.
Was it only a month since we were at the Wash & Tope in Hunstanton? …Well yes..! But we love coming over here to the unique west coast of Norfolk. Once again we didn’t have Matt but Vinny was finally back, and we also had the familiar services of Jamie Roe back at our disposal.
Once again we were treated to the delights of the sun setting over the western bit of Norfolk… no, the novelty still hasn’t worn off for us east coasters. Sitting on the Green on Cliff Parade with a bag of chips, watching the sun glisten off the gently rippling waters of the Wash, in the venerable company of band mates Jamie and Vinny is a most enjoyably inspirational way to prepare for a gig, even if there were still loads of people about…!
We had another great evening, although not as many people came out as we usually get there, but those that did, stayed and had a worthy time. We didn’t really have time to soak in the sense of satisfaction at achieving another respectable performance, we still had another tiring 2 hour trip home to navigate, and a precious few hours to rest and recover before hauling ourselves back out to head off in the opposite direction, down to ol‘ Smoky Town.
All the symptoms off a hangover… but none of the usual causes, is not a healthy feeling, especially early on a Sunday afternoon. Nevertheless, oft we once again popped, heading for South London’s former Tooting Tram Station, and a little semi-acoustic 3 piece gig in a ‘Wonder Hill Summer Festival Markets’ event in the now converted Tooting Tram and Social building tucked away off the main drag.
We left intending to get down there a good hour before our slot, which also allowed for any hold-ups or diversions. Actually we made good time, cruising down the A12, traffic was reasonably busy but steady, and we got to the M25 crossing bang on time with an extra two bob in our pockets and twenty percent more spring in our steps! And indeed all was well until we turned off the A12 at Camden, what should have been a twenty minute journey then accumulated another frustrating hour and a half as every vehicle in central London turned into metro-molluscs determined to thwart our every effort to cross the murky river into the murkier waters of Tooting Broadway! Power to the people… with legs…!
We did in fact arrive only about 10 minutes late for our slot, not that we needed to rush really as the place had been fairly quiet for some time before our due slot. Unperturbed, we slung our kit on the stage and with the help of the soundman we were ready to start in about 5 minutes! We had a bit of fun, played a completely relaxed set, had a bit of banter with the brave people we did manage to entice in off the streets, and they stayed in the bar to the end and seemed to enjoy what we were doing. There was also generous applause from the gallery above us where the stalls and tea parlour were situated.
About an hour and a half after arriving, we were packing the gear back in the car and heading back to clean fresh Suffolk air.
Getting out of London was easier than getting in, not surprisingly, and although we still had the 130 mile journey home, there was a palpable sentiment of achievement, liberally seasoned with freshly ground relief. It had been a tough, demanding weekend. Jeff had to peel his eyes off the windscreen when we got back, nevertheless a good bit of acclimatisation for the month to come, and it shows why it’s important for us to manage our health to be ‘gig-fit’ to take on the next six full weekends, travelling, humping gear, gigging, and just trying to survive creatively!
The calm before the journey to the ‘nut-house’…!
We finished off the month with a rare but welcome mid-week day time gig at St George’s Theatre Cafe Annex, in Great Yarmouth. We’d been invited by the very wise Chris Moore, a man obviously with impeccable musical taste, as a part of their cafe promotional event.
All seemed to be going well when we arrived, families were being happily entertained by singer Kalvin Kayle, and suitably refreshed by the local fare on offer. As well as the café facilities there were also alternative food stalls, live Salsa lessons, and of course, live music.
A lovely sun baked afternoon (…with just a daring hint of cloud), outside in a corner the cafe patio, Jeff, Vinny and Sack did a tidy little semi-acoustic set …with the aid of some very strong coffee, and a big fan. The lovely people in the audience certainly expressed their appreciation, and we even sold a couple of our ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ CDs. We also had an enquiry, that lead to a private party booking for later in the year, so not a bad little excursion at all!
We unfortunately needed to head off not long after we finished, just as the live Salsa lessons were getting going, and before getting a chance to see The Old Stuff, the final band of the afternoon, but I’m informed that it was a great success for St George’s Theatre, and there are plans afoot to put on regular events in the café and patio in the future.
And the moral of the story is…. A form of propaganda used for social control. So we won’t bother with any of that guff! However there is a natural pause for breath as the spectre of the big month of the year rolls ever closer to town. We’ve booked our places on that roller coaster… now just time for a final visit to the loo before the action kicks our asses into our brains.
We couldn’t do this without leaving you with a little bit of our music to peruse… so here’s a tiny little something from our ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album that Sack‘s alter-ego ‘Mystik MIM‘ mysticated during this period… Free your minds people…
Peace and Meringue people
Our new album ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ is now available to make you feel good… why not make us feel good and get yourself a copy…. they’re available either at our gigs (…don’t be shy!)… or you can order from: www.banjaxeld.co.uk
Gary Frost (MDM Recording / Icecube Records Ltd): www.Icecuberecords.com
Broken Seven Events: www.facebook.com/pally69
Jamie Roe Band: www.jamieroeband.co.uk/
Matt Watson: www.soundcloud.com/mattwatsonnorwich
Starbuck Friend: www.facebook.com/starbuck.friend
Rum Kelta: www.rumkelter.co.uk
Felixstowe Radio: www.felixstoweradio.org.uk
Kit Marsden: www.manek.org.uk
The Anyones: www.reverbnation.com/theanyonesuk
One Too Many: www.facebook.com/OneTooManyOfficial
The Jump Starts: www.facebook.com/TheJinxyLove
Wonder Hill Summer Festival Markets: www.wonderhillmarket.co.uk
St George’s Theatre: www.stgeorgestheatre.com
The Old Stuff: www.facebook.com/theoldstuffcovers