Show dates

Spellcheck

20 May 2014 smallerUm, so…at the Live Acoustic Special in just over a week’s time, we’ll be joining:

(Not too bad there with the monikers, Jon.)

For the Priory, we’ll be going as a four-piece of Styx, Thure, Jon, and me.  We had a brief run-through last night, and the pastry brushes sounded rather brilliant – they don’t call us “tasteful” for nothing.  It will be the first time we’ve gone (semi) acoustic in a long time, so please come down and join us – and don’t forget, the night runs to a tight timetable so make sure you’re early.  The £3 entry fee goes to Oxfam.

But before that, we’ll be making our debut outing as a full band with Thure at the Musician, supporting Jersey Budd et al:

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Speaking of debuts, we’ll be airing a total of three new songs within these two gigs.  In fact, if you decide to come to both shows, your total Bluebird individual song value for money would be something like £1.63.  And if you mention that sum and this blog post to me at one or the other, I’ll happily contribute the same towards the drink of your choice.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Bluebell Parade

 

bluebellsThis is a photo taken from the BBC website, ©Scott Hughes.  It could just as well be Jon looking through the wrong end of his new varifocals.  Spring is upon us, and change – not just of the eye-wear variety, not just of the aging variety – is in the air.  The blog has been quiet, shall we say dormant, patiently waiting through the wind and the rain and the shifting seasons.  Do other people find something melancholy about the woodland sentinels of shaded blue, their ephemeral parade?

But the moodiness of sunshine and shadow is perfect for recording for Specialized 3, especially since our Madness assignment is One Better Day, a song about homelessness that includes the line “the feeling of arriving when you’ve nothing left to lose”.  It is a lovely song: hats off from a band of Specials snobs (well, one of us in particular is, anyway) to a band whose discography of poppy hit singles belies their lyrical and musical sophistication.  “Mad Not Cancer”, the Belmont Stakes of the Specialized Triple Crown, has a wealth of material to draw upon, and we’re very excited to be a part of, and hear, the next offering from Paul Willo and crew for Teenage Cancer Trust.  Please show your support via www.specializedproject.co.uk

So, “the feeling of arriving”?  It resonates.  I alluded a while back on Facebook to a change in our lineup: after much soul-searching – and he has much soul to search – Mark has left the Bluebird flock.  His increasingly frequent antics with Two Gentlemen Play the Pops, and his family life, meant that he could no longer commit to our admittedly infrequent gatherings of the gig and rehearsal nature.  It is with great fondness and love that we thank him, wish him well, and look forward to ongoing musical collaboration of some form or another with him in the future.  He is an exceptional person and an exceptional talent.

Fortunately, the panic of being guitarist-less was short-lived; with gentle and persistent wooing, we invited Thure Gade Johansen back into the fold.  “Back” because, if you remember, Thure depped when Mark was unavailable for the Camden Specialized (1) gig in July 2012.  And, like Tom Archer before he got cold feet and left Kirsty at the alter, Thure said “yes”.  Unlike Tom, Thure is a man of profound thoughtfulness and integrity, and brother can he play the guitar.  If you don’t believe me, wait until you hear the tracks he’s just laid down tonight for the Madness cover.  Less of an axe-man, more of a sculptor on this one.  An “arriving”, yes.  Beautiful.

IMG_9418And since Thure has joined us, as though he is blessed with the Midas touch, we have booked a veritable handful of gigs throughout the rest of the year.  We aspire to one a month; this month, we have three.  First up is another support slot with Jersey Budd (hard to believe our last live set was also supporting Jersey and his band, at the 02 half a year ago ) at the beloved Musician in Leicester on Friday, May 16th.   Though the varifocal theme may have you rubbing your eyes, no, you won’t be seeing double – that will be our own Will posing as Jersey’s bassist.  (Evidently the rider is better.  And if you haven’t seen Will lately – check out a certain flower shop on Loseby Lane in town near Grey Friars.  There’s a life-size cardboard cut-out of him* holding a bouquet and wearing nothing but a come-hither grin and a pair of khakis.)

A few days after that, on Tuesday, May 20th, at least two-thirds of us will be at one of Howard Coleman’s Live Acoustic Special nights at the Priory in Nanpantan.  This promises to be a good night; yes, it is special when an audience is so clearly there to listen to music, rather than just have a few drinks and a chat over background tunes.  The other acts that night are Jaine Bow, Anna Perver, and Paul MacClure.  I have no idea if those are the correct spellings of their names, as Jon was the one who wrote them down, and spelling is not his strong suit.  I haven’t heard any of these artists perform before, and I’ll try to get some more info on them closer to the time, but judging from last time around, Howard is a music lover of “sound” taste.  Ahem.

I’ll also write more about our other upcoming gigs closer to their respective times, but before I go there’s another good piece of news to share.  We’re writing, and preparing to record, another album.  It started in Anglesey, in the depths of February on a spectacular piece of coastline that cried out to be immortalised in song.  The project was going to be a modest EP, but it’s too late for that…and life, as the bluebells know, is too short; so why settle for five songs when we’re feeling this inspired?

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*Or someone who looks a lot like him.

September Song

A Sunday in September: time to crawl out from under the shadows of summer, rub the crust of nostalgia from our eyes, and face the internet again.  Firstly, in solidarity:

Need I offer any more comment on the current craziness of the world?  As an antidote to misogyny, to chemical weapons and governmental hypocrisy, to Florida’s absolution of George Zimmerman (yes, I know that was a while ago; I’ve already implied that I’m a bit behind), to the start of the school year, let’s look at what’s coming up for Bluebird Parade.On Saturday, October 5th, we’ll be playing at Olive’s Bar on Queens Road in Leicester.  Admission is free.  We showed up at Olive’s a few months ago to do a semi-acoustic set with new toy/keyboard on a Sunday afternoon; the audience was small and mostly accidental, but we managed to celebrate two birthdays, and all involved enjoyed themselves so much that we’ve been invited back for the pre-hangover slot this time.  Please join us to blow the cobwebs out of the upstairs room – to paraphrase Richard Hawley’s inimitable invitation, “Let’s ballad”: “Let’s eclectic!” (I’m sorry, but there is no verb.  And incidentally, since we pilfer from so many different influences and genres, should we have called ourselves Magpie Parade?).Join us a week and a day later on Sunday, October 13th, for our default Sunday position at the Donkey in Leicester.  This gig isn’t free, but it’s part of the Specialized 2 charity project, so the £8 or £10 admission all goes to Teenage Cancer Trust, and you get five bands/artists for your money.

This should be a amazing event for, at the risk of repeating myself, a great cause.  I’ve now added our version of Best Friend to the homepage sidebar, but for full sonic and feel-good effect, please purchase the outstanding Specialized 2 charity album at www.specializedproject.co.uk.  You can also catch up with Paul Willo and Specialized 2 – Beat Teenage Cancer on Facebook, and check out this interview with the Beat’s Dave Wakeling right here: http://kdhx.org/music/news/the-english-beats-dave-wakeling-on-uk-social-history-west-indian-cricket-and-teenage-cancer-trust
Onto November: we’ll be supporting Jersey Budd at the O2 Academy in Leicester on Saturday, November 16th.  Yeah, I know, Jersey Budd!  Yeah, I know, the O2!  Jon has done some recording with Jersey, so there is maybe some nepotism involved, but (and?) we’re thrilled.  (Jon and I were just at the O2 on Friday watching the unexpectedly hilarious Eels perform their Action-Men-with-guitars schtick – loved it, but not going to pilfer their beards, tracksuits ,and aviator shades theme….)  For those Leicester music-anoraks among you, here’s an interesting Six Degrees of Separation fact: Jersey Budd supported Kasabian earlier this year at the concert at Royal Albert Hall in aid of…Teenage Cancer Trust.Here’s his video for single One More Time:

And in the midst of all this looking forward, allow me a bit of reflection – because we had two lovely gigs in early July; the first a retirement party at the legendary Boat Club in Nottingham for one of our most loyal friends and followers, and the second a slot at local festival GlastonBlaby.  We were supposed to play at FleckneyFest as well, but Styx got stricken with the noro-virus and, well – ’nuff said.  Anyway, thanks to Jill for the honour of celebrating her next stage of life with her, to Cisca for depping on trombone at GlastonBlaby, to the festival organisers for putting on a great day, and to our friends and family for continuing to love and support us and take photos – which I’ll upload into the Gallery soon.

And that’s the round-up – as the days grow short, and the leaves turn to flame…I haven’t got time for this “waiting game”.  Until October –

See you at GlastonBlaby…

Last weekend’s Glastonbury highlights of the Rolling Stones and the xx already passé? Come join us for two good causes and a great day of music on Saturday, July 6th. We’re on first at 12:00, fresh from a private party the night before at the Boat Club in Nottingham; dividing amoeba-like afterwards to disparate locations as our Other Band alter-egos. We missed out on last weekend’s festivities due to illness, so we’re chomping at the bit for this one. And who would want to be inside for what is promised to be the UK’s fifth day of sunshine in 2013?

The Bluebird Migration Project, Year 1 1/2

Over a year since its inception, the Bluebird Migration Project is still going, er…strong.  That is to say, we still have faith in it, even though we have no clue whether the majority of our “dropped” CDs are being picked up, listened to, incinerated, or taken into the local police station under the Terrorism Act.  As I write, Jon is poised for flight, and three weeks in the States with the Specials, so fellow Americans be forewarned: we’re counting on your natural curiosity and Anglophilia to make this trip worthwhile.  Keep your eyes peeled for the CD with the funny tree and the little label instructing you what to do with it.  You just might find yourself the proud recipient of an unexpected gift from us, and if so we would love to hear about it.

(Typewriting) Machines of Loving Grace

We had a gig and EP pseudo-launch on Sunday, February 10th.  Thank you to those who attended and joined us in celebration of:

1. The Year of the Snake, my maternal grandmother’s birth year.

2. Cameron going against type with the Equal Marriage Bill.

3. Individually hand-made CD labels.  Will, 0ur bass player, was not the only one to ask how I managed to fit the CDs into my typewriter without breaking them.  Here is an artfully arranged photo of the EPs we gave away for free, plus a copy of sound engineer/producer Dave Tidmarsh’s business card, which you can print and cut out for your wallet if you didn’t manage to pick one up at the gig.

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4. Mark’s new guitar and matching purple strap.

5. Strong, intelligent, and creative women making great music.  This time, it was Siobhan Mazzei and Meri Everitt – we don’t necessarily try to get female artists to play with us, but isn’t it nice when it works out that way?

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6. Sunday afternoons and free entry for under-16s.  We are shameless in our attempts to win over the younger generation to Bluebird Parade.  If you don’t believe us, check out Pearl (this shot was taken before her attempt at stage-diving):

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7. Specialized 2.

8. Familiar and unfamiliar faces in the audience.

9. Talented, clandestine, and generous photographers who like to add to their portfolios by going to local gigs and then posting the resulting photos on Facebook.  A big thank you goes out this time to Philip J Vernon – visit him at www.philipjvernon.co.uk .  I’ve added his photos to the website Home, Gallery, and Band pages, but here are a few more examples (he also took the ones above of Siobhan and Meri and co.  Unfortunately, there are no individual shots of Styx, and the full band photos have his head obscured by a crash cymbal – such is the plight of the drummer):

PhilipJVernon - Russ vox - 10.02PhilipJVernon - Jon flugel - 10.02

PhilipJVernon - Mark laugh - 10.02PhilipJVernon - Will profile - 10.02

PhilipJVernon - Ming deep - 10.02

 

 

10. Malc (as always).

If you were there and have anything to add to the list of celebratory items, please post a comment below.  If you were not there, even better!  And in the current absence of gig alerts,  please listen to the new recordings on the sidebar and let us know what you think (as of February 18th, I don’t think I have added the new songs correctly, but if you click with enough enthusiasm, you should get there eventually.  I do prefer the typewriter).

Why do today…

…what you can put off until tomorrow?  Procrastination runs in my genes, which may explain why it’s taken until February 2013 for me to acknowledge the New Year and proffer even the most cursory blog update.  We saw our 2012 gigging extravaganza out in style with a giddily grand time supporting The Men They Couldn’t Hang at the Musician.  Only the first part of that sentence was ironic – what a great band, and what gorgeous people (why all the g’s?  I don’t know).  If you aren’t familiar already with TMTCH, I urge you to catch them live when they tour again this year, for the sheer joy of their onstage banter and rapport alone.  The musicianship and sweaty folk-punk enthusiasm, and the impromptu raffling of paraphernalia, are a bonus.  May I add that I won the raffle prize, a slightly battered and out-of-tune, but nonetheless authentically signed mandolin?  I can’t remember the last time I actually won anything, let alone something so…useful.

So, it’s mandolins ahoy for our first gig of 2013 (yes, we are all getting older; sometimes we need a big rest in between our moments of genuine excitement), which will also be at the Musician on this Sunday, February 10th.  We decided we like the afternoon slot; it gives off an air of sophistication and maturity, despite the fact that it means all ages can attend (take note: we will accept only well-behaved children accompanied by suitable guardians).  And there is incentive to get there early, because the first 20 guests will receive a free, exclusive CD copy of our new recordings.  The EP features re-recordings of In Case You Fail and Cynical Boy, as well as “covers” of two that we did as Summerhouse back in the day – Cynical Boy and Seven Horses – which will be new to many of you, and which in any case have been reworked to reflect our current mood and line-up (think poppy yet contemplative; and stadium-rock-lighters-aloft-lump-in-your-throat: we’re that good).

A big special thanks goes out to the wonderful Dave Tidmarsh, a.k.a. Integral Elements Studios, who has done a fantastic job of recording and producing us.  Dave – thank you for all your skill, hard work, and patience.  Everyone else – visit him at www.facebook.com/I.E.Studios .

Before we thank Dave in person at the Musician on Sunday, things will kick off shortly after 2 pm with Siobhan Mazzei, who has been described by Trevor Locke and John Wray (Arts in Leicester) as “sensational….Here is an artist with a great voice which she wields with jaw-dropping agility, a voice, that has character and a personality behind it….It is easy to see why she is celebrated as one of Leicester’s top singer songwriters“:

Siobhan just featured in the obsUnplugged Finale 1 at the Musician last Saturday.  From all accounts, she went down a storm (unfortunately, three of us were gigging in a medium-secure psychiatric hospital at the time and couldn’t make it!) and we wish her all the best in that competition.

As if that were not enough, on Sunday we’ll also be graced with the presence of another local singer-songwriter talent, Meri Everitt.  Meri is “one of those performers who seems like she was born playing the guitar….a songwriter who has real edge in her work….[and] delivers a performance that has real intensity” (Steve Simpson, Myvillage). Here she is with her band, Flying Kangaroo Alliance, who were in the finals of 2012’s obsUnplugged and also featured in Alternative Female Voices Magazine last winter:

I’m not entirely sure yet whether she will be playing solo on the 10th or with any of her bandmates, but either way, it should be a great afternoon.

We really are honored to have Meri and Siobhan both join us – it is one of the finest pleasures of playing live to be share in other artists’ music as well.  But it’s also a pleasure to steal other artists’ music and record it, which is what we’ll be doing over the next few months when we prepare our contribution to Specialized 2 – Beat Teenage Cancer.  The first Specialized project was so successful, raising over £25,000 for Teenage Cancer Trust, that it took only the briefest of breaths following The Big One for Paul Willo to conceive of and commit to a follow-up.  This time, it’s the songs of The Beat (or The English Beat, as I knew them – I’m sorry, but I did grow up in the States) that will be dusted off and gussied-up and generally re-vamped for music-lovers’ consumption.  Bluebird Parade are overjoyed to be a part of it again, and this is our assignment:

We’ve started work on it, and I have to confess have been referring back to this clip time after time; the structure is a lot more complex than you might think for a three-minute pop song! (If you think the yellow polo shirt is a classic fashion statement, have a look on YouTube; the posted comments drooling over Dave Wakeling are really very sweet.)

We’ll keep you updated on Specialized 2 through the blog and Facebook, and advise you strongly to reserve the weekend of November 8th, 9th, and 10th for your caravan at the Big One 2 in Dorset.  See www.specializedproject.co.uk for further details in the meantime…

…and join us on Sunday if you can.  Happy New Year!

December Already!

As Sandy Denny mused nearly four decades ago, “Who knows where the time goes?”  I’m going to do some more lazy blogging, simply because I’m fast running out of that precious commodity before our next gig.  So – I’ll set the scene: Saturday December 8th, the Musician Pub, us supporting British folk-punk legends who still haven’t found enough rope – and let the following YouTube clip speak for itself.

America the Beautiful

“I have never been more hopeful for the future.”

Unsettled

Two days post-autumnal equinox: an old hurricane drifting in the Atlantic has bequeathed torrential rain and gale force winds upon the United Kingdom, Beth Orton whispers across the radio wires and Richard Hawley answers back, the stray cat pads a melancholy and discordant tune in the dust on the piano.  The house feels unsettled.  I’m trawling eBay for bluebird hair combs, Shure microphones, magpies, old friends – anything to combat the gently persistent inertia and monochrome damp of the change of seasons.

Had I written this post a week ago, I would have no doubt been more cheerful and less contemplative.  We had a great gig at the Donkey on the 15th – the best performance we’ve put on to date, in my opinion.  Leah and Jenny, and Martha Bean plus strings, were the perfect hors d’oeuvres to an evening that implicitly celebrated women in music and that also saw (heard) the gig debut of Mark’s new amplifier.  Thank you to Gaz and Waz, and to all who turned up on a beautiful late summer’s night and were so supportive.  Sadly, we have no photos from the event – so if anyone reading took some, please get in touch.

The week before that, Styx and Jon and I had a great time hanging out with DJ Jonny Bance at Radio Fox in the Leicester Royal Infirmary.  Jonny presented with verve and enthusiasm and was playing some top-notch music.  We were honored to be a part of his breakfast show.  He plugged our gig and put At Last We Understand Each Other, (Dawning of a) New Era, and Motorway out on the hospital and internet airways.  We even got to share a couple of our Desert Island Discs: Jimmy Cliff, You Can Get it if You Really Want (Jon) and Raissa, Walk Right Through (Ming).  Styx chose the Police, King of Pain, but mercifully we ran out of time so pre-empted the cries of “inappropriate” that would have been no doubt forwarded to the studio via the “grey button at your bedside table”.  Unfortunately, Jonny opted for tickets to Mamma Mia over Bluebird Parade on the 15th (I know, can you believe it?), but he was suitably apologetic, so we forgive him, and hope to spend some quality airtime with him again in the future.

Speaking of looking forwards…it is with no small amount of disappointment that I have to announce the postponement of our October 11th Camden gig, sacrificed as it has been for the greater good of The Big One in Dorset (October 19th – 21st).  We’ll arrange an alternative date at the Blues Kitchen at some point in 2013, when the weather has calmed itself and we’re all feeling a little less unsettled.  In the meantime, a meandering two hours after I started this post, I’ll sign off to the power chords of Bob Mould.  I remember watching him in awe and photographing him in the days before digital at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, circa 1993.  It’s good to hear him sounding so strong nearly 20 years on, and still welcoming in the rains.