Soft Cellar (Cardigan)

'Soft Cellar' part 9 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Brian & Rob onstage

After the wild revelry of Trehale, another great venue: The Cellar in Cardigan. And a chance to catch up with our dear friend Jess…

Worth The Wait

We’d been promised breakfast this morning since Adam was cooking for a rugby team that was staying at the Trehale Farm campsite. (They were also in attendance last night and Rose, a gynaecology nurse we’d met earlier, took delight in setting them straight on some of their youthful boasts!) Breakfast took a while, as Adam had to wait for fuel for the stove to be delivered. But it was well worth the wait.   

Menacing Geese

Thus steeled, we set off back across the edge of the Preseli hills for Cardigan. The route today was really enjoyable. Generally, the hills were broad. So, the climbs – though tough at times – were rewarding rather than niggly.

Just before the longest of these, we passed some geese in an entrance way. Rob may have upset them as, by the time I passed, they were looking menacing. I moved to the far side of the road but had to accelerate as they started hissing and running towards me.

Quirky Venue

At one point, we both slowed on spotting beer benches in a courtyard. Outside, was a sign saying ‘Sheepskins’. But, on closer inspection, we discovered this was a small brewery, with an outdoor bar and a stage.

'Soft Cellar' part 9 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Bluestone brewery

It turned out to be the Bluestone brewery (whose produce we’d sampled the night before at Trehale). They were open, so we stopped for (soft) drinks. This quirky venue has regular music events and we enquired about bookings. It seems this could be an ideal stop for a future tour.

Luxury

Our route seemed to take the most sensible way through the hills, aften along small, wooded valleys. And once we’d completed the big climb before Cardigan, we decided it would be an idea to stop for a late lunch. This was a good decision. We managed to get a really wholesome quiche and salad in a lovely café that had officially stopped serving food. The Coach House, as it’s called, is in a lovely spot next to the abbey ruins at St Dogmaels, just outside Cardigan. Thoroughly recommended.

'Soft Cellar' part 9 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Brian onstage

From here it was ten minutes into town. Steve, our host at The Cellar, greeted us with characteristic charm and bonhomie. His Green Room this year afforded us a fold-up bed each, a functioning shower, tea and coffee and a fridge full of booze. Luxury! All we needed now was an audience for tonight, though early signs weren’t too promising. What is going on?  

Good Spirits

As expected, the gig was sparsely populated but very well received. A chap called John took photos, which he promised to send on (he did). Despite the low numbers, we managed to get a fair few dancing by the end and all sang along when prompted. Pros ‘til the last…

It was wonderful to catch up with Jess, former landlady of the Pembroke Yeoman in Haverfordwest. I’ve written before about what an amazing community hub she’d created there, as well as supporting musicians. We were pleased to find Jess in good spirits, despite having had to let the Yeoman go. She now hopes to find work with dogs and we wish her every success with that.

'Soft Cellar' part 9 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Rob onstage

A Place of Community

Like Jess, Steve provides more than just a café and music venue at The Cellar. His is a place of community, and refuge to those that might otherwise be isolated or lonely. It also provides employment for people who may be overlooked by more mainstream enterprises.

And it really is a cracking venue, with a great vibe, amazing, eclectic décor and a terrific selection of vinyl on sale.

Gig for Gaza

'Gig for Gaza' - part 8 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Trehale crowds

After our R & R in Little Haven, it was a short hop to the wilds of Trehale Farm to play a ‘Gig for Gaza’, together with The Undercover Hippy…

Monster Fox Gloves

Our ride today from Little Haven was short but hilly, beginning with the steep climb over the headland to Broadhaven. From there, we followed the coast northwards, over a succession of peaks and dips, past Druidstone. Then we headed inland, across the hills to Mathry. The weather was beautiful and clear to begin, giving us lovely views across the bay. And the monster fox gloves here were even bigger.

Junk Yard Caravan

Shortly before arriving at Trehale Farm, we stopped off at a lovely farm shop/café. This was run by a very enterprising couple, who make jams, chutneys and welcome packs for local B&Bs, as well as selling farm produce in their little store. Our hopes of reliving last year’s luxury at Trehale had been dashed this morning. Adam, who runs the events, had messaged to say we would – this time – be housed in a caravan. Which let us know not to expect tea and treats on arrival. So, we enjoyed these at the farm shop instead.

'Gig for Gaza' - part 8 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - junk yard caravan

Adam filmed our arrival to share on social media, then showed us to our caravan. This was located in what he affectionately called the ‘junk yard’. And was, indeed, a junk yard. It had certainly seen better days and Rob was a little alarmed. However, the beds were actually quite comfortable and the makeshift-looking shower, in a shed next door, did the job just fine.

Take Note

'Gig for Gaza' - part 8 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Rob's stage set up

We waited patiently as The Undercover Hippy sound-checked and got chatting to the keyboard player Andreas, who’s a lovely bloke. They were all really friendly and helpful and Billy (the undercover hippy) was happy to move his gear to accommodate our set-up afterwards. During this, we were treated to some lovely, wholesome food, including a delicious home-made apple crumble for pudding. These are the things that can make or break a gig – so take note, venue managers!

The event was a sell out and, although people were still arriving as we went on, we had a great reception. Among the more enthusiastic in the audience were two youngsters Onyx and Jess, with whom we got chatting afterwards. Onyx seemed to pick up every lyric before even I knew what I was about to sing and Jess danced throughout. These are the things that can make or break a gig – so take note, audience members!

Local Talent

Undercover Hippy were – of course – fantastic. They had a new drummer from when I’d seen them, two years ago at Shindig, who is epic and has great stage presence. They also had a dep (deputising) bass player: a local, who’d apparently only had a couple of days in which to prepare. He nailed everything. Chatting afterwards, he said he plays a lot of cruise ships, so is used to learning a lot of material at very short notice. Respect.

It was wonderful to catch up with local songwriter Abbie Jebbers, with whom we’d shared the night at Trehale a year before. She’s a true free spirit and we had a lovely time dancing to Undercover Hippy and – afterwards – DJ Timbale with her and her mates. This was made all the more pleasurable by a few pints of the local Bluestone beer, which we gratefully accepted as part-payment for our efforts.

Urgent Help

The night was a fundraiser for the people of Gaza. This I don’t see as a political statement, rather a response to people in dire need of urgent help. Organisers from the charities being supported spoke eloquently about their endeavours and the plight of the people they are working to help.

All in all a worthwhile and enjoyable night all round. Well done to Adam and his team for putting this together. Keep up the good work!

Safe Haven

'Safe Haven' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Little Haven

We may not have needed a rest day, from a gigging point of view. But the miles had taken their toll and Little Haven provided the perfect spot for some R & R…

A Bit of Everything

Not surprisingly, this morning’s breakfast was very much old-skool, the veggie option being the full English without the meaty bits. Thus fortified, we set off for Little Haven. Today’s ride had a bit of everything. This included a stretch alongside the busy main road, during which Rob narrowly escaped becoming part of the tarmac.

There was a protracted climb up onto the hills beyond St Clears; beautiful views down to the coast around Pendine Sands; a cracking (and unexpected) café stop by the A40; steep and energy-sapping climbs along the coast towards Tenby and a lovely, leafy stretch on a disused railway line, next to the river after Pembroke Dock.

'Safe Haven' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Pembroke Dock

The Joys of Spring

Along the way, we encountered the now familiar mix of roadside wild flowers. These were dominated by fox gloves, cow parsley and a pink daisy-like flower that grows on small bushes. No idea what that is but it was everywhere. The fox gloves were an iridescent purple and absolutely enormous.

'Safe Haven' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - fox gloves

The red kites that dominated the skies along the Usk valley were no longer to be seen. But there were buzzards aplenty, sometimes at remarkably close range (like, right in front of our faces). Goldfinches were also in abundance, so too skylarks, which had also been something of a constant companion. Ah, the joys if spring.

Relaxing & Restful

At Little Haven, we enjoyed a couple of nights’ respite. Although we’d missed two of our planned gigs, we’d covered a lot of miles and scaled an absurd quantity of hills. So, a full day’s rest was in order.

We both know this little coastal village very well and have enjoyed the generous hospitality of our hosts, Stephen and Jude Dalley Smith, many times before. So, this made for a relaxing and restful pause in our itinerary. For one of us, at least. No prizes for guessing which one.

'Safe Haven' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Rob: Little Haven

I spent the day strolling on the beach, enjoying a lengthy soak in the bath, reading and generally recuperating. Rob, on the other hand, couldn’t resist a quick cycle ride into Haverfordwest to pick up something or other for his bike. The man is irrepressible.

Thoroughly Abstemious

'Safe Haven' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Little Haven at dusk

Our evenings were spent between the Castle and The Swann Inn. Where we were thoroughly abstemious. Or at least didn’t get completely shitfaced. Well, not quite.

Thus refreshed, we were ready for the next leg of our adventure, which would take us a short way to Trehale for our big fundraiser with Undercover Hippy. To which we were looking forward very much.

Only Here for The Cwrw

'Only here for the cwrw' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Brian & Rob

Finally… another gig in a ‘proper’ venue: Cwrw, Carmarthen – terrific vibe, lovely beer, great reception… and they want us back…

Huge Improvement

After yesterday’s grind, we took some time to re-plot our route for today, mostly along B roads. This was a huge improvement. Whilst there were still some hefty climbs, these were generally steady and rewarded us with some stretches of higher ground. Here, we could stretch out and eat up the miles.

'Only here for the cwrw' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Rob's steed

We did have to join the busy main road for a while but there was a well-marked cycleway alongside the dual-carriageway, separated from the traffic. And soon we were in Carmarthen. Our digs were in an old-fashioned but clean and tidy guest house, which – in my book – is preferably to a fancy yet badly maintained one.

Great Venue

'Only here for the cwrw' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Rob, Michael & Brian

Tonight’s gig was at Cwrw, a great little venue, run by a very cool Liverpudlian named Michael. When we arrived, several games of chess were in progress and the clientele all appeared to be in their 20s to 30s. Which was a first. On setting up, there were a few issues initially. However, these appeared to be due to our acoustic instruments resonating through the hollow stage and were quickly resolved.

We enquired after a meal but were told the venue really only offers ‘basket food’ (fried stuff). After a little suggestion-searching, we decided that the local ‘Spoons would be the quickest and cheapest option (as is often the case). This was undoubtable true but the food was dry, uninspiring and low on nutritional value. Well, we knew the risks.

Beautiful People

Returning to Cwrw, we found a sparse yet colourful audience. This included my dear friend and former Rivers of England bandmate Annie, on her second attempt to see us. She was in Carmarthen for an upholstery course and was joined by a fellow attendee. The gig was well-received and we, once again, connected well with our audience, which grew steadily as the evening progressed.

'Only here for the cwrw' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Brian

A highlight was one young couple (Layla and Jude) dancing to ‘Beautiful People’. The former essayed a kind of double-tempo tap dance, which was enjoyed by all. Also among the more attentive was a young woman who told Rob she knows a local DJ and Shindig co-founder who lives in Cardigan. She promised to encourage him to come to our ‘Cellar’ gig there on Sunday.

'Only here for the cwrw' - part 6 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - Brian, Michaels, Rob & locals

We enjoyed several post-gig beers, chatting to various audience members and signing Michael’s ‘wall of fame’ that provides a colourful backdrop to the stage. Once again, we’d shown that – given an audience – we are more than capable of winning them over. And Michael said he’d certainly have us back – ideally on a busier night.

Job done.

Friends Reunited

'Friends Reunited' - part 5 of the a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog

Today we had no gig planned. But the ride was gruelling in the extreme. Thank goodness for our friends’ hospitality and generosity…

Oh Little Town

Following a hearty breakfast, we climbed steeply south of Llandovery, making our way along the line of hills, through Bethlehem (not so much a little town as a hamlet) and beyond. After that, we descended to a quiet road that follows the wide valley to Carmarthen. This afforded us views of old castle ruins, perched on promontories, as we sped along the gently undulating valley side.

In Carmarthen, we found a lovely café with seating outside and an extensive menu. This happened to be on the same street as ‘Cwrw’, our venue for tomorrow night. A local informed as that comedian, and Carmarthen native, Rhod Gilbert had previously had shares in the venue. Not sure what to do with that information but there it is.

Rob hit on the idea of leaving our instruments, since we had no gig planned for this evening, Rather, we were heading to our friends’ place in the Preselis. However, we were unable to reach anyone at Cwrw to arrange this.

Madness

So, still fully laden, we set about the hills to the west of the town. And these were ridiculous. We began with a climb up a road so steep that a lady witing in her SUV for us to pass shook her head and mouthed ‘madness’ at us. This ‘road’ then continued to climb. And climb. And climb.

Just as it seemed we’d reached the top, we were plunged back down into a steep-sided valley, only to have to climb an even steeper ascent the other side. And this was repeated, over and over, with nowhere to stop for any kind of refreshment. Much of the time, we followed the Sustrans route No. 47. I can only say that whoever chose this route is a sadistic b*stard (a bit like a great bustard but more vicious).  

Higher Gear

Typically, the part of the ride we might have expected to be tougher – climbing up into the Preselis – was not so hard at all. Granted, we still needed to engage our lower gears for lengthy sections. But the gradients were steady and consistent.

We did notice, however, that following the near-unrideable ascents and protracted climbs, we now seemed to be barely out of breath. It was as though we’d engaged a new mental and/or physical gear in defeating those hills. Having said that, we resolved afterwards to find a less arduous route for our return to Carmarthen tomorrow.

Sensible For Once

There followed a lovely evening with our friends Pat & Verity, complete with good veggie food, beer and a little wine. Conversation flowed and we were sensible enough – for once – to call a halt before it got too late.

Llandovery Hope & Glory

'Llandovery, Hope & Glory', part 3 of a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog

We may have been backed into a corner (and apparently supporting Darts) but our night at The Whitehall was full of Llandovery hope and glory…

Short but Stunning

Today’s ride, after yesterday’s excesses, was mercifully short. But it was stunning. Seriously, one of the most beautiful rides I can remember. Whereas previously I’ve battled with traffic on the main road along this stretch, our route this time took us up into the hills of the Brecons. Which, of course, took some climbing. But it was well worth the effort for the panoramic views and minimal number of passing vehicles.

At the top of one long ascent, we stopped to take in the scenery. Here, we got talking to a park volunteer, Paul. Who liked to chat. He really liked to chat. He began by telling us about the 75% decline in curlew population over the past 30 years. Then he veered-off into an unfinished story about a wardrobe he’d bought. Which was interrupted by tales of seeing ‘Yes’ in concert; seeing Bruce Springsteen perform; extreme running/walking; a discussion of what bike might be best to take him between these events… and a host of other hanging threads that he never quite managed to tie up.

But he was a lovely bloke. He said he’d come and see us in Llandovery that evening. We’d see.

Confrontation Averted

Descending from the chain of hills, we came across a wonderful café with a lovely garden, popular with cyclists, of which we’d seen many. This was called The International Welsh Rarebit Centre, so it would have been rude not to try some. Delicious. And the friendly staff offered to fill our water bottles without us having to ask.

The atmosphere was convivial and we quickly got talking to a couple at the next table. The lady was an ex-nurse. And she also liked to chat. Fortunately, some cyclists diverted Rob’s attention as she started to say how she thought the NHS should be privatised. Confrontation averted!

Mostly Well Behaved

Refreshed and rested, we assumed we’d now be following the main road along the valley to Llandovery. But no. We crossed this and scaled more, steeper hills the other side. One of which forced us to dismount and push (oh the shame!). The views were, however, still magnificent and it was good to be keeping away from traffic.

Then we did join the main road for a short stretch. Our planned route was to take us up more climbs but we declined. This section was mostly downhill, with lovely sweeping curves. One notable exception aside, the Sunday drivers were mostly well behaved and we enjoyed being able to cover the remaining miles at a good pace.

Welcoming Host

Arriving at The Whitehall, our host – Anne – was very welcoming, offering drinks before showing us to our room and helping us to safely stow the bikes. She also cooked us a hearty dinner, despite the kitchen not being officially open. We offered to go and find something elsewhere but she was insistent.

Magical Moment

And the gig was a triumph. The response was amazing, with a standing ovation at the end and 100% audience participation. And our friend from the Brecons, Paul, did turn up!

One magical moment came when, having introduced ‘Beautiful People’ with tales of the wonderful characters we’d met on our travels, the side door opened and in came Lola (see previous post)! Lola had been on her way to the ‘Fire in The Mountain’ festival near Aberystwyth, following a day’s walking in the Brecons. She’d spotted the chip shop opposite the pub and pulled in to get something to eat. She’d then heard the music and looked in, completely unaware it was us!

Intriguing Characters

We also met the wonderful DJ Brian and his wife Trish, who were particularly taken with our performance. Brian plans to run events in the village and hopes to get us back before long. And both were keen to help promote our upcoming gig in nearby Llangadog.

At the bar, my dear friend and part-time local John got talking to ‘dodgy’ Dave, an intriguing character who claimed he was interested in buying some land from John’s farm up the road. Apparently, this would be to house his aging Mum’s caravan. We’ll see how that pans out.

Vindication of Our Efforts

Anyway, we’d finally got back in front of an audience and the results had been great: uplifting, gratifying and vindication of all our efforts.

Long may it so continue.

Brecon Bad

The climb out of the Severn valley, first thing, was fairly brutal. This was followed by several more ascents as we made our way up through the Forest of Dean and out onto the hills towards Abergavenny…

Heart-in Mouth Moments

The terrain then became more friendly, with beautiful, rolling hills and quiet roads. Some stretches of main road did, however, give us flashbacks to yesterdays heart-in-mouth moments, as drivers thought it OK to speed past on blind corners. But the views were lovely: initially back over the Severn estuary and later out towards the Brecons.

After passing through Monmouth and across its historic bridge, we found ourselves passing Rockfield studios. I had the pleasure, not too long ago, of recording there (on drums) with ‘I Smell Burning’, so called in to see if the engineer, Jack, was around. However, there was nobody in the gift shop and we didn’t want to intrude unannounced into the studio itself.

Quirky, Tumble-Down Rooms

The descent into Abergavenny was dramatic and steep. Having only shortly before refuelled, we pushed on through the town. From here to Brecon, the landscape remained pretty and enjoyable: with (mostly) gently rolling hills and pleasant wooded valleys.

Arriving in the town, our digs appeared to be in a disused antiques shop. However, we were shown by our hosts up some stairs to a quirky, half-finished set of tumble-down rooms, perched on a steep incline behind the old shop building. Above these was an overgrown, terraced garden, which gave amazing views over the rooftops to the hills beyond.

'Brecon Bad' - a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 3

For the second night running, our gig had been inexplicably cancelled. This was made all the more galling by the fact that people in the Brecon Tap, where we drowned our frustrations, knew about us. They said, they’d normally direct diners over there, once they’d finished their meals. And we were later joined by a young woman, who’d come especially to see us, then ended up at the pub after finding the venue shut.

'Brecon Bad' - a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 3

Her name was Lola and she was quite a character. She was travelling around in a live-in vehicle, finding places to walk, skateboard and attend festivals. We had a lovely chat with her and some of the locals. Together, they reconfirmed our impressions that this is a particularly hospitable and friendly part of the world.

Take a Chance on Something New

So, what is going on? My feeling is that ticketed events are problematic. Venues that see few advanced sales then get twitchy and worry about covering their costs. What they are overlooking, however, is that we also have costs to meet and an income to earn. Not to mention the sheer effort we have spent in getting to their location, as well as the months of planning that have preceded all of this.

And I don’t think these venues are doing themselves any favours either. If they have faith in their own programming, they should ensure everything goes ahead, regardless of attendance. There will inevitably be quiet nights. But it’s important that local people know there’s a regular supply of top-quality entertainment. Then, they will be more inclined to take a chance on something new.

Determined

In any case, after this second night’s disappointment, I was determined not to let it happen again. Although, as previously mentioned, there was a dent to our morale, we knew full-well that what we have to offer is substantial and would be well received.

Just give us a bloody audience!

Beyond The Fringe

Another hit show at Bath Fringe. But – beyond the Fringe – some devastating news…

Well-Received

Rob joined me in Bath for a couple of days’ preparation before our Fringe show at Burdall’s Yard. This was well-attended and well-received, with good audience participation and lovely feedback from the venue. Unfortunately, as we were about to set-off for the get-in, I had a call from The George in Newnham. They reported that, due to poor advance ticket sales, they would be cancelling. The day before!

I was too furious to speak but also my mind was on the Fringe show, which needed some preparation, being a more complex affair than the standard gigs. Months of planning had gone into the tour and to be confronted with this at the eleventh hour was soul destroying. And unacceptable.

Reflecting Awhile

With less time pressure the following morning, we set off a little later than planned. Cycling along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, I was reminded of the same journey last year, when I received news that my beloved mother-in-law had died. So, we made a stop at the tea room in Bitten to reflect awhile. Some other cyclists, with whom Rob got chatting, scoffed at the fact we were resting after only 9 miles’ ride. F*ck ‘em.

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2

I’ve made the journey through/around North Bristol numerous times and the route this time was like a ‘greatest hits’ of previous trips. We avoided the tedious grind alongside the dual-carriageway bypass, which was a relief. But we did then seem to veer unnecessarily far west before heading up along the coast to the Severn bridge.

Great Views

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - great views

The crossing was windy but with great views over the estuary, towards the newer bridge, at high tide. There are some well thought-out cycleways to negotiate all this safely. And, after a stretch of main-road shadowing, our route found some nifty backways around the fringes of Chepstow.

In need of refreshment, we made an ill-advised stop at a well-known chain ‘pub’. Here, bored teenagers processed us. Nonetheless, we valued the shade, liquid and opportunity to sit in relative comfort.

We then had little option but to follow the main road all the way to Newnham. This was not a pleasant experience, mainly due to kamikaze drivers. These maniacs would rather risk full-frontal collision than ease their foot a little off the right-hand pedal (let alone try the middle one). After some lengthy climbs along this busy stretch, we reached our destination, an unassuming terraced cottage on the outskirts of the village.

Convivial, Flowing and Compelling

Once inside, this turned out to be a remarkable, beautiful home, full of musical instruments and family history. Our hosts – Ian and Siobhan – could not have been more hospitable and were as baffled as we were by the cancellation. They offered us tea, a hot shower, dinner, wine and companionship. We did say we’d be prepared to honour our gig commitment for a reduced fee if that would help. But were told by a venue representative that this was ‘not possible’. My arse.

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - wonderful hosts

Instead, we offered to play for Ian, Siobhan and friends in their living room. They also invited Annie, my old Rivers of England bandmate, to join us. After a convivial dinner, flowing wine and compelling conversation, all thoughts of performing were forgotten. Which seemed to suit everyone fine. To be honest, our bubble had been somewhat burst.

Generating Local Interest

My mistake – of course – had been to not issue a formal contract. However, this was a longstanding arrangement and to cancel at the last minute was just not on. We’d have been happy to play to a smaller audience. However, we were also aware that there would have been little pressure to book in advance, since we are not known in the area. So, who knows how many may have turned up? And we’ll remain unknown here unless we get to play and generate local interest.

As a footnote, I must mention that the venue organisers later realised this had – indeed – been a mistake.  And they agreed to settle the fee in full. Nonetheless, the impact of the cancellation went beyond financial concerns. It had a detrimental impact on our morale and self-belief.

Logistics & Planning

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - planning & logistics

No matter what the level, it takes a certain amount of inner fortitude to stand up and perform in front of strangers. Not to mention all the preparation, not only in terms of writing, rehearsing and finessing the music. There’s also all the logistics, marketing, cajoling, confirming and reconfirming. And the cycle-planning: finding concurrent gigs at appropriate distances, plotting routes, arranging accommodation, training, etc. etc.

Please. Do. Not. Cancel.

Last But Not Least

Sadly, Rob was unable to accompany me on the first part of this year’s tour. So I set off alone to play Shindig’s last but not least great festival…

Relaxed Pace

The ride to Shindig is now familiar but with subtle variations each time. The first part follows the well-ridden path to Glastonbury: climbing steeply out of Bath, then following the old railway line, through the Two Tunnels, to Wellow. From here, there are some nasty sharp climbs but the scenery is beautiful and traffic minimal.

Traveling solo, I could set a relaxed pace and take my time. Paradoxically, that always seems to get me where I’m going more quickly.  Which is appropriate to one of the themes of the tour: that we all need to slow down and do less.

Hills Aplenty

Re-joining the disused railway, the way through Radstock and on to Midsomer-Norton is mostly flat and – again – traffic free. Here, I deviate from my Glastonbury route, heading further West to cross the Mendips. There’s no easy way to scale those hills but this one’s not too bad – even with tent, clothing and guitar on board.

It always feels as though the hard part of the journey is behind you once you leave Glastonbury behind. However, it’s actually only about half way. And there are more hills to cross. Thankfully, this time I avoided the aptly-named High Ham. And though there were hills aplenty, nothing was too much of a struggle.

What Next?

Arriving early evening at the Shindig site, I was directed to the artists’ check-in. This entailed a lengthy walk past the crew camping, to which I then had to return once wrist-banded. Oh well, it was dry and everyone was in good spirits.

The festival was billed as the ‘last ever’ Shindig. We’ll see about that. It seems the venue – which is superb – is going through some changes, so perhaps that has prompted a hiatus while the organisers decide what to do next.

Dance, Drink and…

In any event, it was – once again – joyous. The small size, beautiful location and mix of live music, comedy and DJs make for a great party. Everyone lets go and gets swept along in a colourful feel-good weekend of dance, drink and dr… other stuff.

Apparently, one night there was some unrest over people making too much noise in the crew camp site (?!). I was out for the count and slept through the whole thing. So, as far as I was concerned, all was thoroughly amicable.

Funky Grooves

For two days, the sun shone and everyone languished on the lush grass. Then on Sunday the heavens opened and it rained. And rained. There was even a violent thunderstorm around midday, which caused the power to be temporarily off. It also meant the PA at the Hobo stage, where I was to perform, had to be taken down.

So, my gig was cancelled. Not a terribly auspicious start to the tour. But at least Rob hadn’t made the journey in vain. Having said that, I had enjoyed a great set on Friday, playing drums for The Berry Collective’s funky grooves, spontaneously augmented by the wonderful Marick Baxter on flute. So, all was not lost.

Welcome Rest

The ride home, as ever, was a little more arduous – following four nights with minimal sleep, maximal dancing and a modicum of intoxication. I was treated to a restful and very welcome lunch, half way, at my brother’s new home in West Pennard. Before once again tackling the dreaded Mendips.

This time, there was some rain. Which was heavy at times. But with a warm bath and hearty dinner waiting at home that wasn’t much of an inconvenience.

Onwards & Upwards

It was nice to think I’d played the first and last Shindig festivals (the first on drums with Plucky Purcell and percussion with Thompson’s Lovechild) but perhaps a little disappointing not to have performed as a Band named Brian. Now I was ready to greet Rob and prepare for our Fringe appearance and the rest of the tour.

Onwards and – quite literally – upwards!

Happy Ending

Happy Ending - a Band named Brian's 'Just Songs' tour blog

We’ve done it! – cycled from Bath across Wales to the Pembrokeshire coast and back, gigging as we went. Now there’s just one official date left to play…

Another Cracking Independent Boozer    

The final official date of our ‘Just Songs’ tour is this Sunday – June 16th – at The Grapes in Bath and we’re looking forward to a happy ending! This is another cracking independent boozer. Which – rather than relying on churning out fancy food – serves the local community with decent beer, good vibes and great locally-sourced music.

Last year, we had a great response at The Grapes and hope you’ll come and join us there this time. It’s a regular spot for live music on Sunday afternoon from 4-6pm. And it dovetails rather nicely with live music at another legendary music pub The Bell, which will be hosting our friends Hodmadoddery from 1-3pm that same day. So why not make an afternoon of it?

Not Yet Heard Us?

Well, that’s understandable: we’re not bloody Coldplay are we? But fear not – if you want to have a taster before you come along, you can download our new EP. This is being made available on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis. So, if you’re feeling flush, you can pay as much as you like! Get the download now by clicking below:

Read All About It

I’ll shortly be writing up the diary from our cycling adventures. I don’t tend to post about things as I’m doing them, as I’d rather be experiencing what I’m doing than shouting about it. But, in all honesty, it makes no difference. Most people assume we’re on tour all over again – or that we’re still on tour. Because they don’t actually pay attention to what they’re reading.

But I know you’re not like that. So, I trust you can wait and give it your full attention when it’s all published. And I’d love to hear from you when you do.

In The Meantime

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about us, our tour and other shows from Think of a Song Productions (yes – it’s basically me with a fancy title), then please feel free to peruse the other blog posts listed here. Or take a look through the various pages that describe the shows and the people behind them.

Believe it or not, a lot of work goes into all of this. And it takes enormous commitment, not only from me (Brian) and my fellow performers. There are a whole host of other people providing support, encouragement, counselling, therapy and more besides. I won’t embarrass you here but you know who you are and that I’m eternally grateful.

Back To Bath

In a nutshell, the ‘Just Songs’ tour has taken a Band named Brian to: Shindig festival; back to Bath for a special Fringe show; across Wales, playing various venues; to the Pembrokeshire coast; and back again to Bath. The fantastic fiddler, bassist and vocalist Rob Whale has accompanied me for most of this journey. He’ll sign off from the tour at The Grapes, so do come and catch him while you can .

Free Entry

Entry to The Grapes is free. All you need do is drink plenty of ale to make it worth their while. And we know we can count on you for that! So, come along, spread the word, bring a crowd and have a drink.

I don’t think that’s too onerous, do you? See you there!

The Grapes – Google Maps