Ephemera

As autumn descends around us, and in this age of instant and repeat gratification, it is both fitting and somehow pleasingly rebellious to have had a weekend of singular experiences that are not for re-play.  Saturday morning: Styx and I represented Bluebird Parade on 103 the Eye, the non-profit community radio station serving Melton Mowbray and the wider Vale of Belvoir.  Our thanks for this go to Styx’s long-time friend Duncan Cronin.  Although Dunc admitted to being a little the worse for wear, he entertained us with his companionable patter and championed our music by playing At Last We Understand Each Other, Bittersweet, and In Case You Fail from The Wednesday Night Island.  He explained the graded swearing fines (“cupcake” being the most costly word; another reason to use it sparingly if at all) and local radio’s 40:60 talk/music ratio.  He asked us about our songs and guided us neatly into repeated plugs for the November 6th gig at the Musician.  He played us a gleeful mash-up of Ray Parker Jr and AC/DC.  Off-air, he justified his costume choice of The Crow at that evening’s annual Enchanted Faery Ball (“I’m single – it’s obvious when you think about it”).  Thus prepped, heads filled with images of goth white face-paint and a rustling leather greatcoat, we joined the ranks of the Eye’s ghostly guests: blink and you’ve missed us.  We didn’t record this, and you won’t find it on Listen Again.  Our conversation, like most exchanges not scripted by post-post-modern “reality” TV, slipped instantaneously into the ether.  My cousins Dave and Emily, visiting from the States and fresh from the cosmopolitan sidewalks of London and Amsterdam, were the only two to bear respectfully silent witness to this event, Meltonian by definition.  I was glad they were able to stay in the studio and share it with us.  Who knows how many radios were tuned in to us at 10:00 a.m.?  And does it matter?  We echo the Disasters Emergency Committee, the Co-ordinators of the Bingham Parish Church Christmas Tree Festival, the Melton Police Special Constables, the Leicestershire Master Composter (especially him!), and countless other locals in saying to 103 the Eye, “Many thanks for your help”.

Sunday evening: Mark, Jon, and I played at Natterjacks, the pub.  We literally played to Natterjacks, the pub, as well, the bartop and chiefly empty wooden stools absorbing our songs as the chords faded into the night.  Again, oddly, it didn’t seem to matter.  In fact, the select size of the audience, which latterly included dear Russ, served to fuel the hearts-on-sleeves poignancy of the solo artists who were performing: Calder McLaughlin, Sam Hutchinson, and our own Mark Price.  All three have beautifully expressive voices and an intimate urgency to their songs.  It was a treat to listen to them, and to watch Mark go all goose-pimply when Jon painted a sound-poem by flugel on The Day After the Night Before.  I think we all went goose-pimply then.  It would be nice to return to Natterjacks when there’s a bigger audience; after a brief hiatus Calder is trying to build the Sunday Acoustic Sessions back up so we wish him every success, but again there was something selfishly and paradoxically pleasurable about the ephemeral nature of human connection, of performance; something sad and joyous about letting loose in the quiet.  As we mused over late-night nan bread on Narborough Road – once we had finished giggling over Jon’s story about finding a mouse in his trousers -, “So there was no money in it.  So hardly anybody heard us.  We’re lucky to be able to do this and to share it with each other.”  We fell silent for a moment and then carried on eating.  Outside, the darkness bade farewell to British Summer Time, and another radiant autumn leaf fluttered unseen to the ground.

And on a Lighter (Blue) Note

…BBC 6Music have been playing session tracks tonight from the divine and much-missed Blueboy.  Keith Girdler, rest in peace.

Bluebird’s Chamber

This may well be the blog equivalent of an awkward pause followed by a quick glance at the watch and a proffered, “Mmm, waiting for a friend…wonder what’s keeping them this time?”  In short, there isn’t much to feed back on this week, and I feel a bit embarrassed that you’ve caught me hanging around.  But don’t go just yet – by the same token, the absence of true Bluebird Parade news has led me, like a fairytale ingènue, to flirt dangerously with thoughts of opening the forbidden door previously barricaded by my own self-imposed impulse to compartmentalize: You can write about anything on the website, as long as it has to do with self-promotion.

You see, we are not, by and large, a “political” band, although some of us would like to feel that we “live” politically – even if just by virtue of being female, for instance.  Nonetheless, my thoughts aren’t with the band right now.  Of course we have things coming up: our interview on 103 the Eye is confirmed for between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 29th, so tune in to hear Styx and me wax poetic and definitely NOT let loose ignorant, “lighten up, you PC brigade”-style insults à la a certain “comedian” who has been in the news lately.  Mark, Jon, Laura, and I are at Natterjacks the following day for the Acoustic Sessions, and then we will all be gearing up for the evening of gentle musical mayhem at the Musician on November 6th.  The support for that night is also now confirmed – we’ll have Leah and Jenny on first to give us a taste of their spine-tinglingly complementary harmonies (afraid they don’t have any links I can give you; according to Leah they’re “rather rubbish like that”, so you’ll just have to take my word for it), and then Calder McLaughlin will play.  Calder is also the organizer of the Natterjacks session and is a fierce singer-songwriter in his own right.  He expects to have his new acoustic album, “Chapters and Phases”, completed before the 6th, so we’re very much looking forward to that.  You can listen to him on MySpace or Bandcamp; I’ll put him on our Links page in a minute.

No, what I’m really thinking of today are the connective patterns of sadness and outrage that weave themselves through the newsprint and airwaves, as I catch up on the Sunday papers and contemplate that thin edge between justice and vengeance, moral blinkers and moral blindness, hatred and – well, hatred.  Whether the discovery today of the brutally beaten and burned body of a young man in Cumnock signifies a homophobic attack (and I have to admit that was my first dread-laden thought, even before hearing reports of his sexuality) or not, what it does echo and presage are prolific and seemingly relentless daily attacks on humanity, both here and abroad, both blatant and more subtle (cuts, anyone?).  For example, and for those who believe the death of two-year-old Yueyue in China could never happen here, I refer you back to the Observer Magazine article from last weekend on human trafficking and missing and exploited children in the UK: truly chilling. The word shaoguanxianshi – don’t get involved if it’s not your business – may refer to a particularly Chinese state of mind, but it translates elsewhere.  (Or, conversely: do get involved, and get so involved that you mirror the hatred prejudice and you intend to extinguish, and sow the seeds for further trauma and atrocity.)

A particular something else in the news has been troubling me for some weeks now.  Genuinely, to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, I say “Well done” – as if they’re reading! -, but at the same time a nagging and embittered voice within me wonders whether giving a triumvirate Peace Prize for the non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work means that that’s the distaff population taken care of for the next decade or two.  Out of 101 individual winners since the Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901, only 15 have been women.  Would three men be lumped together so casually, and asked to divide the prize money among them?  The only other treble winners were Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994; and they were linked for obvious reasons not simply to do with gender.  It’s times like these that make me wonder how much more we will need to progress before my cynicism is allayed.  Not that I wish to take anything away from the winners.  As one of the first posted “greetings” to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman on nobelprize.org reads, apparently without irony, “God Bless you brother!”.

Okay, enough rummaging in the Chamber for now, and back to the original remit.  Let me wipe the inexorable blood from my hands and just remind you: 103 the Eye; Natterjacks; the Musician.

As I say, Bluebird Parade is not a “political” band.  But sometimes I wonder if we should be.

Sundries

It’s a Saturday, but it feels like a Sunday, or even a Sundry, which means it’s as good a time as any to catch up on events.  There’s nothing like making a list and then crossing off each item in turn to cut through the gloom of monochrome England, as long as you keep your list written in indelible ink and well out of the wind and rain.  The sorrow of a blurred and illegible list is not ours to bear today.  The coal fire is toasting off the damp; the cat is hypnotized into lazy dreams of stoats and field voles.  Now then:

1. A Gig Alert has slipped through the net, but the keener observers among you will have already noticed that we have scheduled an acoustic slot in the Unplugged sessions at Natterjacks Bar in Leicester on October 30th.  That’s another Sunday, or should I say a real Sunday; thanks to Calder McLaughlin for organizing this one.  Mark will also be doing a solo slot, with or without Jon accompanying on flugel, and I should add here that you can now listen to some of Mark’s own tunes on Soundcloud.  (I’ll put the link on – where else? – the Links page.)

2. This feels slightly disingenuous, as I haven’t actually heard us myself, but word has it that Bluebird Parade has been getting some local airplay on 103 the Eye.  Thanks go out to DJ Duncan Cronin for this one, who is also trying to set up an on-air interview for us within the next few weeks.  We’ll keep you posted on this – but in the meantime, Melton, “It’s All About You.”

3. While we’re on the subject of interviews, look out for another one with our own JPR at some point after October 21st in the Leicester Mercury.  The plan is for Jon to have a backstage chat before going onstage to perform in front of a 6,500 strong crowd at Nottingham Arena.  How about that!  Regardless of whether the interview goes to press or not, he’s very much looking forward to giving “the hand” to any of the original band members who may stumble upon the tete-a-tete thinking it’s about them.  It’s not!  (Bluebird Parade: “It’s All About Us.”)

4. At this point, a gentle reminder is in order.  WE’RE PLAYING AT THE MUSICIAN ON NOVEMBER 6TH, SO COME AND SEE US, OR ELSE SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.

5. I got so emotional in that last one, and spent so much time wondering what the consequences would actually be, that I forgot to add that we will be having support on the night.  It hasn’t all been fully confirmed, but we’ve asked superlicious harmonizing duo Leah and Jenny to join us, and Darren is arranging another act as well.  We promise we’ll squeeze it all in before Sunday night bedtime, and at £5 a ticket you can’t go wrong.  No, you really can’t.

6. Finally, I guess you deserve an update on the Bluebird Migration Project.  Sadly, there is not much to tell, other than to say our hand-picked secret agents have been working tirelessly, both here and abroad.  Although we’ve had some great feedback in general, the strangers linked to the Project are keeping disappointingly mum.  Yet we who have evolved to endure English weather do not daunt easily.  Jon will continue his trail of two-tone tinged deposits over the next month as the Specials conquer the UK, so if you’re based here, keep an eye out (how much of a coincidence would that be? – someone who already reads the website finds a CD??).  We’re still trusting that those who stumble upon the music by accident and read the label will think the Migration Project is as lovely an idea as we do, and that some of them will take the time to get in touch.

7. Update Bluebird blog.

That’s it for now.  Back to the fire, and warm twitching paws –

Vivit post funera virtus

Think Nottingham.  Think Nottingham Castle, Sherwood Forest, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, St Ann’s, the Gunn family.  Think panic as the city centre roads slyly make you double back on yourself, or head unexpectedly to Mansfield, or pass the same implacable pub over and over like a nightmarish re-working of an MC Escher lithograph.  Working in Nottingham was the impetus for me to get a sat nav five years ago, and though – because? – I am no longer employed in the home of the Goose Fair and City of Caves, I still need re-orienting when I’m there.  I recognize landmarks, vaguely anticipate the one-way system, recall snippets of routes to clients’ homes, but at the same time it’s all slightly rearranged and unfamiliar, like a road atlas where you have to skip forward five pages to find yourself again.  So it was with some satisfaction and pride that I made my way relatively unscathed to the Rescue Rooms on Monday night; Mark and Jon drove together and were not so lucky, but that’s their tale to tell.

Once reunited and soothed with shandy and hummous, we three performed a half-hour set as part of the Acoustic Rooms series in the refurbished main bar area: atmospheric lighting, Chesterfield-style leather sofas, supportive and comely friends in attendance (although – Dave, “I live five minutes away so don’t really have any excuses” is not exactly a ringing endorsement; do you think you could sharpen up your promotional patter for next time?), the glory of youth.  It was pure poetry, despite the lingering question that nagged at my brain as I forgot the last verse to “Make it Better” – three falafel balls on the “sharing platter” for two – why?  What cruel puppeteer pulls the strings in their kitchen?  We looked to the flugel a bit more often this time, its copper bell glinting in the manufactured gloaming.  We duly plugged the website and the Facebook page.  We bumped elbows a bit (Mark and I) and blew kisses to teenagers at the bar (not really).  We were so inspiring that Laura was moved to join us for future acoustic gigs; there will be six of us up front again before you know it.  And we were followed by the main act, Brothers of Brazil, an anarchic duo performing “punkanova” in velvet lapels (singer/guitarist) and a patchwork gladiatorial skirt (drummer) who are, in fact, brothers; and are also – in fact – from Brazil.  Check them out when you get a chance; they were musically tight and lyrically goofy and had Mark grinning from ear to proverbial ear.

So never mind that there was no hot water for my Sleepytime tea.  Never mind Alice’s story about erstwhile carpet theft and the technicolor drama unfolding in the women’s toilets.  It was Nottingham, virtuous Nottingham, and we were delighted to be there on a Monday night.  It was almost like coming home, except we had to go home afterwards, and I missed a turn and started heading towards Mansfield.  But still – put your heads together, Executive Councillors – it’s a grim motto for a city once-dubbed the “gun-crime capital of the UK”, no?