Happy Ending

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. 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 to onerous, do you? See you there!

The Grapes – Google Maps

Supporting Independent Venues

With just a day to go until our Bath Fringe show – followed by some epic cycling to small, independent venues around Wales – I’d like today to make a plea from the heart.

Seriously In Danger      

Your small, independent music and arts venues need you. In a nutshell, we need to use them or we will lose them. These places, often run by volunteers, work tirelessly to bring you original, non-mainstream music, theatre, dance and other artforms. And they are all seriously in danger right now.

But don’t just support them because you feel sorry for them or like the idea of them. Support them because what they have to offer is really good. OK, sometimes you may go to something that doesn’t quite work for you. But without taking that risk, you won’t find the stuff that does light you up. And the venues won’t be able to take a chance on lesser-known and/or experimental art.

Try Stuff Out

That means those artists won’t have anywhere in which to present their work. So, they won’t survive either. Which will just leave us with ‘art’ that is driven by commercial imperatives and bland certainty.

So, please, do the right thing. Get out there and try stuff out. It will probably cost you less than a round of drinks. And it may well be the thing you enthuse about over your next several rounds.

Why You Should Book Ahead

Obviously, I have a vested interest. I’m a small-scale, lesser-known artist who is relying on such venues for somewhere to find an audience. But I can report with certainty that when I do, they are pleased I did (see previous post).

And if I’m prepared to cycle 554 to reach these venues, I’d hope you’ll be prepared to walk ten minutes down the road to your local one. Rob and I have been putting the finishing touches to our sets and are very excited to share these with you. But what the venues need is assurance we’ll get a decent audience.

Save Your Venue & Get a Free Download

Why does that matter? It matters because those venues have costs to cover (as do we) and need to know they will be met. By booking tickets online before the shows, you send a signal to those venues that they are going to have a successful event. It may not seem like a big deal to you but it makes a huge difference to them.

Which is why we are offering a free EP download to anyone who books ahead for any of our tour dates. We’re working with the venues to facilitate this but you can also claim yours direct by emailing your booking confirmation to info@madmusik.co.uk.

Commitment to Support

So, please, get online, get booking and make a commitment to support your local venue. I know what it’s like: it’s all too easy to say “I won’t book now – I’ll decide on the night”. Then – come the night – you get home from work and think “naah – I’ll chill out in front of [insert favourite streaming provider here]”.

By booking ahead, you make a commitment to support live music and an independent venue. If you don’t, the next time you think to yourself “I wonder what’s on at ‘x’?”, you may just find that ‘x’ is now a betting shop. And I think we can agree we have more than enough of those already.

See You There

So, we’re looking forward to receiving your email, sending you your EP, then rewarding your efforts with a joyous gig. It really won’t be complete without you.

See you there!

May 23-26Shindig Festival – TicketsIlminster
May 30Burdall’s Yard – TicketsBath
May 31The George Arts Centre – TicketsNewnham on Severn
June 01The Muse – TicketsBrecon
June 02The Whitehall – FREELlandovery
June 04Cwrw – TicketsCarmarthen
June 07Trehale Farm (Gig for Gaza) – TicketsPemrokeshire
June 08The Cellar – TicketsCardigan
June 09Community Centre – TicketsLlangadog
June 10Melville Centre for the Arts – TicketsAbergavenny
June 16The Grapes – FREEBath

500 Miles

a Band named Brian 'Just Songs' tour blog post: 500 Miles

Comparisons have been made in the past between ‘a Band named Brian’ and The Proclaimers (they of 500 Miles). I don’t mind that…

Power, Passion & Energy

Whilst some may see them as something of a novelty act, those of us that actually listened to the Proclaimers’ albums and saw them live in their heyday will know this was a duo of rare power, passion and energy.

Aside from any musical or temperamental similarities, we also have in common the lengths we’ll go to for a good cause. In fact, I can say that this summer we’ll be going that little bit further. Whereas the Reid brothers promised to walk 500 miles, Rob and I will be cycling a little over 550 miles to come to a venue near you (if you happen to be in the vicinity one of our tour venues).

Come and Join Us

I’ve just finished mapping the route and it clocks in at 554 miles. Inevitably, we’ll end up doing a little more than that, what with missed turnings, GPS failure, map-reading errors and necessary detours to refuelling points. So, if you are near one of our gigging stops, we trust you’ll reward our efforts by turning out to see us.

And, whilst I’m not going to ram this down your throats, there is a serious point to our efforts. We want to demonstrate what is possible without burning unnecessary fossil fuel. Plus, we want you to know how much fun can be had in so doing. In fact, if you do happen to reside somewhere along our route, why not come and join us for some of the ride?

A full list of venues can be found here and I can send the relevant part of our tour map (and GPX files if you use them/know what they are!), should you wish to join on the ride.

Had a Blast

By the time you read this, all being well, we’ll already have been to Shindig and back: so that’s 108 miles notched off already! Just another 446 to go. Plus 10 more shows. It will no doubt be a challenge but certainly also rewarding.

We had a blast last year and have put together a little video featuring some footage and stills from that. You can see that– accompanied by the new tour/EP title track ‘Just Songs’ –here. The EP will be available at gigs and to anyone who books advance tickets, which you can do via the venues (or below – for the special Bath Fringe show).

Lo-Tech

One of the things I espouse – both in my shows and in life in general – is appropriate use of technology. I hear some of you tittering at the back but hear me out on this. Whereas, I do not own a smartphone, I do run web sites for specific purposes and use social media to let you know what I’m up to. I also – like most contemporary musicians – compose, record and produce music on a PC.

However, when I’m away, I like to be away. I want to immerse myself in what is happening, rather than break the moment in order to broadcast this to the wider world. So, you may find there’s little communication form me whilst I’m on the tour.

Read All About It

But, I will be keeping a diary and noting highlights and the end of each day. Which I also did last year. If you’re interested, you can read last year’s journal in episodes beginning here.

Curtailed… But We’re Back!

Sadly, last year’s tour had to be curtailed, due to a bereavement. This meant we had to drop a number of gigs. Among them were the award-winning Cwrw in Carmarthen and the fabulous boozer The Whitehouse in Llandovery.

I’m very happy to say, we will be visiting both on this year’s tour and hoping for a really good turnout in each. So, again, if you happen to be in the vicinity, do come along. And bring a friend. Or several. And a bike!

Joy & Freedom

You may not want to cycle all 554 miles with us. But do feel free to get in touch if you would like to come and say hi and perhaps put in a few miles yourself. If it’s something you already do regularly, you’ll know the joy and freedom of setting off on two wheels. And if you don’t, you might just find this is for you.

In any case, do come to one of the shows, we guarantee it’ll be a fun ride!

Bath Fringe Tickets

Book now

Tour Dates

(Not) Blowing My Own Trumpet

Blowing My Own Trumpet - 'Just Songs' blog from Think of a Song Productions

Whilst I’m not averse to banging drums, strumming guitars, bashing keys or tooting a flute; believe it or not, I don’t enjoy blowing my own trumpet. So, it’s fortunate I have others to do that for me…

Keen to Share

What I really love is: writing songs, composing music, improvising with other musicians, collaborating with artists in different mediums and developing ideas for challenging new shows. What I don’t particularly relish – and this may come as a surprise – is having to shout about it all.

Yet, shout I must. Otherwise, you won’t know I’ve done any of the other stuff and it will remain my own little secret. And I really am keen to share what I’ve created with you. Especially since others seem to have enjoyed it so much.

Take a Look

I was recently asked to create a press release. This was sent out to local media outlets, who – with one notable exception (thank you VisitBath) – largely ignored it.  But the exercise wasn’t a waste of time. It made me go back and look up all the nice things people have said about my past shows.

Here’s a selection for you:

Think of a Song

“Refreshingly original… this is real theatre”

“Another level… really brave work”

“An exhilarating change”

Clever and thought provoking”

“Truly fabulous. Very moving”

“A very engaging show”

Think of a Sequel

“The most fun I’ve had at anything in a long time”

“I was genuinely blown away by every aspect of your show””

“An amazing human being… an artist in every sense of the word “

“Utterly bonkers in a very sweet and endearing way “

“I was in awe of the whole-hearted way you showed up, bared all and gave us all of you”

“Gobsmacked! Absolutely gobsmacked!!! What an inspiring evening”

Think of a Conclusion

“A brilliant show! It was so well structured, paced, honest, amusing, charming and emotional”

“So touching and powerful to celebrate the cyclical nature of life and death”

“A bloody triumph. Hugely impressive. Incredible achievement”

“Great show. And the uplifting end better than any counselling!”

“A great deal in which to rejoice”

“Loved it! very heartfelt moving show absolutely brilliant!”

Bike To the Future

“The sustainability theme is so good, and important…you deliver it with a really great energy!”

“Thought provoking… really enjoyed it”

“What a great night… got me well and truly out of my comfort zone”

“Loved your tunes and the chat – just enough”

“Good to have a little boogie on a Wednesday evening”

2020 Vision

“Full of integrity and aliveness”

“Pure fun and inspiration, and full of positive energies!”

“I have the 2020 list of questions pinned up in the kitchen. Food for thought!”

“I’d never been to anything like it before”

“I’m glad we chose to sit in the middle. What a mix of emotions”

“I felt curious, uncomfortable, lost in admiration for the performers”

Have Your Say

So what will you have to say about Just Songs? Well, nothing if you don’t come. So, I really hope you will. After all, this show is all about everyone having a voice. And I’d really like to hear yours.

Bath Fringe Tickets

Book now

Tour Dates

Just Cause

On this year’s tour, we’ll once again be visiting the unique and wonderful Trehale Farm (June 7th). There’s been a slight change of plan… still Just Songs – but for a just cause.

Listen to One Another

It’s funny how things turn out. This year, I decided to name our Band named Brian song/cycle tour ‘Just Songs’. I explained the thinking behind this in an earlier post. But the essence is: everyone has a voice and it’s important we all listen to one another.

So, how appropriate that the organiser of one of our favourite tour venues – Trehale Farm – called to say there’s been a change of plan. ‘Ooh – er…’ I thought. But there was no cause for concern. What he proposed was we turn our evening there into an awareness/fund-raising event for the people of Palestine – ‘Gig for Gaza’.

Strong Opinions

Now, before you get excited about antisemitism – or make any hasty judgements, this is not a political event. Rather, it’s about helping people in immediate, dire need. Who is and isn’t at fault is irrelevant. What matters is that other humans, who are suffering right now, get essential food, shelter and medical aid. And we’d hope nobody can object to that.

If you do have strong opinions on this – or any other topics our songs raise – we’d love to hear them. But after you’ve listened. We will then extend the curtesy of listening to you. That’s how it works. And that’s how we can all move forward together.

An Honour to Share

Somebody who will certainly be making their voice heard at Trehale Farm is Undercover Hippy. It so happens that my first ‘Bike to The Future’ gig, which kick-started the whole cycle-touring malarky, was at Shindig Festival two years ago. Undercover Hippy was on the bill there and blew me away. So, it’s a real honour to be sharing the stage with them at Trehale.

So, if you’re in the area (Trehale Farm is in Mathry, Pembrokeshire) or near any of our other tour venues. Come along and make your voice heard. And if you’re in or near Bath, there’s a special Fringe show on May 30th at Burdall’s Yard. At which, you will be able to have your say within the show itself. What do I mean by that? Come along and find out!

Open & Honest

Wherever you are, please do take the time to share your thoughts. And please listen to one another’s points of view. You may not always agree. You may find some of what others have to say distasteful. But it’s important we have open and honest dialogue. Otherwise, distrust, misunderstanding and conflict will prevail. Which none of us wants.

We all have stories to tell. We each have songs to sing. And to each of us, these aren’t just songs, they are JUST songs.

See You Soon!

We look forward to seeing you at one of our shows very soon…

Tour Dates

Bath Fringe Tickets

Book now

A Rob Whale of a Time Making Music

A Rob Whale of a time making Music - Think of a Song Productions blog for 'Just Songs'

I know I’ve bigged him up within these pages before but I’d like to once again pay tribute to my partner in music Rob Whale.

Rob has a rare combination of talents, without which it would be hard to imagine the Band named Brian cycle tours and related Fringe shows going ahead.

Committed Cyclist

First and foremost, he’s a top bloke. Anyone who’s done touring of any kind will know that compatibility is key to a harmonious and successful journey. And – in our particular case – having such a reliably committed cyclist on board is a real bonus.

Rob lives in the Peak District, near Huddersfield. There he subjects himself to some truly gut-wrenching hill climbs on a regular basis. Some of you may remember the Tour-de-France coming to the UK in 2014 – starting in Leeds, then making its way across the Peaks. Probably the most notable climb of that stage of the race was Holme Moss. This is on Rob’s doorstep – and he just can’t help himself from cycling up there. I’ve ridden over it myself and can report that there’s really no need. But each to their own.

Manic Energy

That aside – and arguably more important where you’re concerned – Rob is a talented creative musician. We met as music students in London, way back in the late 80s. There, I played drums for his funk/soul combo ‘Rob Whale & The Marleys’, which has to be one of the finest band names I’ve yet to encounter.

Rob wrote many of the songs and created blistering arrangements for vocals, rhythm section and horns. Among the Marleys ranks were the (then) young jazz-virtuoso Jason Yarde; Charlie Round-Turner (later Midge Ure’s keyboard player) and fledgling Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra regular Lisa Walsingham. But the driving force was always Rob and his manic stage energy.

Music Teacher of The Year 1999

Rob later turned his talents (and manic energy) to education. And, as head of music at a school near Sheffield, won the inaugural Classic FM / Times Education Supplement Music Teacher of The Year Award in 1999. He continued that work until recently but can now more often be found on a windy moor, volunteering for the National Trust, or leading music workshops for people with autism. He’s also a luminary of the Sheffield folk group Jake’s Rake.

The Point of Collaborating

So, I’ve been honoured and privileged to be able to harness Rob’s many qualities for a Band named Brian. It’s a wonder to – from a distance – be able to contact him and say “I’ve got a new song – do you think you can do something with it?”. Invariably, I’ll get a demo recording within a few days, complete with bass, violin and backing vocals. And often this will take the song in a whole new and unexpected direction. Which is – after all – the whole point of collaborating.

When it comes to preparing for the tours and shows, once we get together in the same room, things fall quickly into place. And there’s no mistaking that, where Rob and I are concerned, the whole is greater than the sum of the two parts (or was it the hypotenuse?!).

At a Venue Near You

So, cheers Rob and thanks for all the music. Do come along and say hi to him (and me) at one of our shows: we’d love to meet you. We look forward to entertaining you once again, very soon, at a venue near you .


On Tour

Just Songs will be presented as a one-off Bath Fringe show on May 30th at Burdall’s Yard, Bath and on tour from May 23rd to June 16th. (See Just Songs page for tour listing)

Bath Fringe Tickets

Book now

Just Songs at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Why ‘Just Songs’?

Why 'Just Songs'? - Think of a Song Productions blog April 2024

When we dress things up, it can sometimes hide their inner truth. So let’s tell our stories as they are. These aren’t just songs: they are Just songs…

Exposed For All To Hear

For a long time, I’ve been meaning to record a collection of songs that are paired-down and unadorned. This would be just the songs, with no dressing: the words, melodies and structures would be exposed for all to hear. So, they would succeed or fail on their own merits, rather than relying on bells and whistles to bolster them.

In the past, I’ve used pianos, synths, loops and beats in an attempt to create something ‘produced’ and polished when recording my songs. However, in trying to disguise perceived failings in my guitar playing and vocal performance, I’ve removed the human blemishes that provide both character and truth. Not only that but the more refined something is, the more those little iniquities stand out and seem misplaced.

All About The Stories

Performing live, I relish the in-the-moment-ness of everything and find that little mishaps tend to relax both myself and my audience (they’re bound to happen, sooner or later!). So why not embrace that and get back to the DIY punk ethic with which it all started ? After all, the songwriters I most admire deliver their own stories with untrained and unrestrained voices (Billy Bragg, Johnny Cash, Tom Robinson, Leonard Cohen, Jon Otway spring readily to mind).

And – for me – it is all about the stories. About delivering those in as truthful and honest a way as possible. So, whilst these may be ‘just’ songs, in that they are un-accessorized, they are also ‘just’ in the sense of being right and true in my eyes. And – hopefully – that truth resonates with the audience.

Work and Play Together

Talking of whom, everyone has a story to tell: a song to sing. And, for each of us, this is our own, personal truth. Whilst we may not always agree with one another, it’s important we do listen and try to understand. Otherwise, hurt, mistrust and conflict prevail.

Right now, this is more important than ever. Facing the challenges we do, we need to feel understood and supported. Let’s share our stories, our songs, our thoughts and our ideas. Let’s really listen to one another. And let’s try to get along.

Just Songs

We all need to be open to one another’s stories and appreciate that, for each of us, our songs aren’t just songs: they are Just songs!

On Tour

Just Songs will be presented as a one-off Bath Fringe show on May 30th at Burdall’s Yard, Bath and on tour from May 23rd to June 16th. (See Just Songs page for tour listing)

Bath Fringe Tickets

Book now

Just Songs at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Food, Fun & Friendship

Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 10

a Band named Brian - Bike to The Future tour '23 - Glastonbury

So now we’d come full circle. Once again, Rob and I set off, heading South from Bath via the Two Tunnels. As before, we navigated the niggly hills and lanes of WeIIow and Shoscombe, then followed the disused railway path to Radstock.

Over-Indulged

But, this time, we stayed East of the main road towards Shepton. This is a route I only discovered after several trips battling it out with heavy traffic and HGVs. A steep climb out of Radstock rewards you with a lovely stretch up among the hills. There are wide, open views, quiet lanes and one particularly well-placed food opportunity, just before the Mendips properly kick In.

Rob and I grabbed this chance and rather over-indulged in a carb-heavy lunch. Thus refueled, we made our way up and over. There’s then a welcome long descent back down towards Shepton. Then a few short hills, before joining the carefully-controlled queue of traffic heading for the festival.

Familiar Buzz

Being performers, we have the luxury of getting on site before the hordes. Nonetheless, the line of stationary vehicles stretched for a good mile or so. With oncoming traffic also intermittently halted, we relished the opportunity to coast the long downhill approach on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.

Traffic queuing for Glastonbury Festival

This – coupled with the familiar buzz of catching glimpses of the site for the first time – made for an exhilarating final stretch. Marred only slightly by the fact we were unsighted by a waiting truck, just before the traffic lights at Red Gate. As cyclists who are routinely appalled by others that wantonly ignore red lights, we were horrified to realize we’d inadvertently done just that.

In!… Except We Weren’t

So, with our metaphorical tails between our legs (and the traffic Marshall’s yells ringing in our ears), we pedaled on towards the cycle compound at Bronze Gate. Here, we were met with the most helpful and welcoming reception you could imagine. And we were in! Except we weren’t.

There’s a bit of a hike between the cycle park and the gate to actually penetrate Fortress Glastonbury. To go through which – of course – you need a ticket. Which – of course – we had. Or rather I had. Or didn’t.

Expertly Packed

I’d expertly packed to facilitate a quick transition from cycling to walking. And I’d been especially careful to stow the tickets in a safe place. But – no matter how many times I looked – they weren’t there. Impossible.

Fortunately, our guitarist, Stephen, had yet to leave Bath for the festival. So I called to ask him to pop round to mine to look for the missing documents. Having dispatched Stephen on this mission, I immediately remembered moving the tickets to a hidden pocket. And there they were. Sorry Stephen. Stand easy.

En-Suite Reggae

Obviously, what happens at Glastonbury stays at Glastonbury. So, there’s a limit to how much I can report. Suffice to say, we found ourselves a great spot to pitch our tents, among other musicians and crew from The Bandstand, on which we were booked to perform.

a Band named Brian - Bandstand, Glastonbury 2023

It transpired we also had an en-suite reggae band, led by the charismatic ‘king’ Dave. They were together for the first time, so we were treated to lengthy dub jams. Later, we were also joined by a lively bunch from Nottingham. They were performing in various configurations, making up 2 ½  bands between them. And engaged us on their arrival in an energetic (if potentially ill-judged) game of frisbee among the tents.

Reunion

Wise Wound - Glastonbury 1995

Rob and I’d originally been booked to appear as part of Wise Wound. This was the band with which I made my first Glastonbury appearance, back in 1993. The visionary behind Wise Wound was Sue Chewter. Her pixie-like appearance and punkish performance energy – coupled with the all-acoustic, multi-layered instrumentation – transfixed many an audience, both at festivals and all over London, where we were based.

Sad to say, Sue now has a serious illness. But she’s not beaten. Oh no. In defiance, we’d arranged to have a Wise Wound reunion at Glastonbury – the band’s spiritual home. Unfortunately, Sue’s energy took a downturn during the run-up, which meant she wasn’t able to see it through.

Wall of Emotion

Instead, Rob and I – accompanied by the irrepressible Stephen on guitar – stepped in. We worked out a version of one of Sue’s songs, Blue Room, which has particular resonance for me. Rob and I had made this part of our regular set throughout the tour. So we were well-prepared by the time we got to Glastonbury.

a Band named Brian - Bandstand - Glastonbury 2023

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the wall of emotion that hit me as I introduced the song. My plan was to ask people in the audience to film this and share it via social media. In the event, I messed up explaining who to tag. Fortunately, however, a member of the crew – who has since been away (on a cycle tour!) – has promised to send me his footage. We’ll see, in due course, whether it’s worth sharing.

Highlights

a Band named Brian - Glastonbury 2023

Apart from that, we settled into the slow, mellow vibe of this year’s festival. Highlights for me were: ADG7 from South Korea (who describe themselves as Korean shamanic folk-pop); Ezra Collective (mercury-nominated London jazz geezers); and The Master Musicians of Joujouka (who play multiple drums and reed instruments in trance-inducing shifting layers). And then, on Sunday afternoon, Usef/Cat Stephens had the whole Pyramid Stage audience in tears when he finished his beautiful ‘Legends’ set with Father & Son. Hugs all round.

Oh – and a bloke called Elton played his last ever UK gig to quite a large gathering on Sunday night. Rob and I foolishly arranged to meet Stephen ‘by the tree’ (if you know Glastonbury, you’ll know the one). Us and about 2,000 others. Needless to say, we never found him.

If I’ve learned one thing over the many years I’ve attended this event, it’s that you should never waste your time trying to meet a specific person in a specific place at a specific time. If you’re meant to find someone, you will. Just not when or where you expected.

So, That’s It

So, that’s it really. We also played a backstage gig in the much-coveted Theatre & Circus green room (now inexplicably renamed ‘Sunny’s Bar’ – yuck!). This was well-received and we acquitted ourselves pretty well for early on the fifth day of the festival.

Monday morning, Rob packed his tent and delivered his gear to the cyclists’ luggage collection point. I’ve failed multiple times to meet that deadline. So, I opted for a more leisurely morning. But would consequently need to carry everything on my bike back to Bath.

I did – of course – get up to see Rob off. He was cycling up to Bristol, to take a train from there to Sheffield, from where he’d cycle to his home in the Peaks. I’m never great with goodbyes. And after such an epic journey, things tend to feel a little anticlimactic.

Much To Celebrate

But there was much to celebrate. Despite interruption and bereavement, we’d proved to ourselves that this thing works. And works well. And we’ve no doubt we’ll do it again before long.

We’ve met some amazing people along the way. Made new friends. Forged new connections. And all this under our own steam. Fueled – quite simply – by food, fun and friendship.

Until next time…

Sunday Service

Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 9

Bike to The Future tour diary - part 9 'Sunday Service'

Had the tour not been cut short, we’d have cycled from Cardigan down to Carmarthen. Here, we were due to play Cwrw. This looks like a terrific venue and the promoter, Michael, had been really helpful during the planning stages. No doubt we’ll return to the area before long to honour that commitment. Naturally, they’d been thoroughly understanding when I’d been in touch to tell them about my bereavement.

Extremely Accommodating

So too the wonderful Annie, at the Whitehall in Llandovery. Annie had been extremely accommodating, finding a date for us at short notice after our itinerary changed. She’d also organised overnight digs and sourced a PA. The Whitehall is a great locals’ hangout that has occasional music and other events. I’d encountered this terrific pub on a cycle tour with my son last year. On that trip, we hadn’t been playing music but did have a great night.

The tour would have then carried on via The forest of Dean and back to Bath. And here we resumed, joined – once again – by guitarist Stephen Dalley Smith. The venue was another great watering hole (what are the chances?), The Grapes.

Well Connected

Bike to The Future tour diary - part 9: The Grapes, Bath

Right in the city centre, this used to be quite a dive, with sIot machines and sports continuously ignored on wall-mounted TV Screens. After a refit, a few years ago, it has been transformed. Now a modern, characterful bar, The Grapes caters to a broad age range, attracting locals and tourists alike.

Ellie, the manager, has been part of the local music scene for many years. She’s well connected, well respected and able to attract the cream of local talent. The music here tends to be informal, with both jazz and folk sessions a regular feature. On Sunday afternoons, Ellie puts on booked acts. And this was the slot we took for our tour date.

Reciprocal Arrangement

A side room, downstairs in the beer cellar, has become something of a repository for local musicians’ equipment. Which is a great reciprocal arrangement. They get somewhere to store gear between gigs and visiting acts get to use this when they play.

Setting up at the front of the bar, I had no idea what to expect. Whereas I’d been to The Grapes many times, I’d not witnessed a Sunday afternoon gig here. I’d imagined either an empty bar or one full of people with no interest in listening to unfamiliar, original songs.

Attentive Throughout

But these fears were unfounded. Just as Ellie had promised, the bar filled nicely with people who’d come for the music. And the makeshift PA worked just fine. Rob joined me, direct off the train from Sheffield, in time for a quick soundcheck. Stephen would come for the second set, having spent the night at Glastonbury (where he’d worked a gate shift during the festival build).

Bike to The Future tour diary - part 9 'Sunday Service'

The gig went well. We had a great crowd, who remained attentive throughout. During the sing-along ‘Calling From The Future’, I was able to make eye contact with those right at the far end of the bar (and it is a long one), who enthusiastically joined in. Especially with the out-of-tune harmonies!

Regroup, Repack & Rehearse

Now there was time to regroup, repack and rehearse before the final leg of the tour. Which would involve retracing our steps South. This time, we’d be stopping at the Somerset village of Pilton…

Over The Hill

Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 8

This morning, we were up at 8 am, ready for early breakfast and a quick get away. Although we were able to order coffee before the cafe’s official opening time, there were unencouraging sounds emanating from the kitchen. Evidently, one of the hobs had packed up. Disaster. Would we have to set off on empty stomachs?

Community Hub

Of course not. The heroic staff managed to feed us with minimum fuss. And, although the place wasn’t yet actually open, there was already quite a gathering inside. You see, The Cellar is more than simply a cafe and music venue.

Like the Yeoman, The Cellar functions as something of a community hub. And many of those it serves aren’t properly catered for by the local or national administrations. Both the Pembroke Yeoman and The Cellar stand as examples of why we should all celebrate and support independent ‘businesses’. I put that last word in parentheses because, although they obviously need to turn a profit, this is clearly not the driving motive in either case.

Differences in Temperament

So now, grateful for our full bellies, we said farewell to Steve and his team. And set forth for Haverfordwest. This meant – as previously mentioned – crossing the Preselis. Our original plan had been to visit Pat and his wife Verity at their home in the area. But that would have to wait for another time. Now we had a train to catch. And hills to cross.

Not surprisingly. this was a serious climb. It was, however, steady. So, whilst a challenge, the ride was both enjoyable and rewarding. Rob and I have differing approaches to tackling hills, largely due to the differences between our bikes (but partly down to temperament). Rob likes to attack and go at them hard. Whereas, I’m more inclined to pace myself.

Quite Something

This meant that, with the hill rising continuously over a couple of miles, Rob disappeared into the distance, while I plodded along – getting steadily further behind. Which was fine. I knew Rob would wait at the top. So, I took the opportunity, part way up, to stop for a banana and to take in the magnificent views.

At the top, there was a parking area, where Rob was waiting. From here you could see for miles around, with views to the coast, both to the North and South of the headland. A couple came over to commend us on our efforts. We told them about our tour and they pointed out the spot from which – recent research has ascertained – the sarsen stones of Stonehenge were transported. Quite something when you think about it.

Quiet Journey To Bristol

There followed a lovely, long, downhill stretch. After which, there wasn’t far to go until we reached Haverfordwest. Here, we killed some time with coffee and cake at the lovely library cafe by the river, before making our way to the station. This time, mercifully, the train wasn’t overcrowded and we were able to stow our bikes in the allotted space. We settled into our seats and prepared for a quiet journey to Bristol.

Until – that is – a couple of stops later, we were joined by a convivial, very camp and slightly tipsy gentleman. Who was clearly intent on conversation. Up until his arrival, Rob and I had been happy to sit in companionable silence. Which was practically a first for the trip. Rob had taken the opportunity to switch off a little, now that we were no longer under the pressures of touring.

Unwitting Counselor

Our new friend took this to be grumpiness on Rob’s part. So, he probed and provoked until Rob, too, joined our chat. He was actually a sweetheart but going through difficult times. And, although neither Rob nor I really wanted another drink at this stage, we graciously accepted his rather persistent offer to join him in a can of lager.

Hopefully, our counselling was of some help. Our friend was clearly in need of a sympathetic ear. And, although he was facing something of a dilemma in both his professional and private lives, it sounded as though he knew – really – the way forward. As we got off to change trains at Cardiff, we saw – looking back through the window of the carriage – that a new, unwitting counselor had been quickly recruited. Good luck to them both.

A Triumph

At Bristol, a train for Bath was imminent. So we decided to forego the cycle back from there. We both had quite a bit to organise before our respective onward journeys. And there was little to prove in cycling the remaining 18 miles or so back.

So that was that, for the time being. As a first run, cycling and performing together as a duo, it had been a triumph. Musically, socially and logistically, we’d established that we make an excellent team. Though interrupted, this was not the end of the tour. And, once it does end, there will certainly be more to follow.