It’s Pronounced “Moron”

So one sunny day in April sees me walking down Jetty Road carrying an Irish drum made by Waltons for which I paid $7o. Since then it has been introduced into our sound and look.

My knowledge of Gaelic orthographic rules tells me that Bodhran is actually pronounced “I Don’t Know”, but a funny old Irish man with a beard and a severe head cold recently told me that it is pronounced “moron.” (Actually I’m not sure exactly what he said but he definitely used that word several times.)

Anyway its sound has been variously described as “cool”, “annoying”,” like someone playing a water tank”,” a big boomy droning sound” etc. In recording we use it as a bass note by tuning it electronically to the pitch of the song. Live, we use it advisedly, or not at all. In Ireland where the air is always moist, this type of drum apparently makes a slack wet bopping sound unless heated by the fire, but here the reverse is true and when it is dry, you have to get water on the skin otherwise it sounds like a tin can.

The before shot is what mine looked like before Emma painted it. The after shot is, well, you guessed it.

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No, an Irish Banjo!

Me and Em did a gig at the Adelaide Central Market this weekend.

It was one of those morning shows where families of shoppers drift past and smile at you and then some of them give you two dollars.

Proceeds were immediately spent on coffee and buns.

A very drunk, angry-looking chap walked up to us at one point, and said “do you know blah blah blah (insert name of song)?”

No, we don’t.

“Well do you know blah blah blah (inset name of other song).”

No, we don’t.

“What’s fucking wrong with you then?”

(Storms off scowling as though we have totally ruined his day.)

Then, another chap from the UK was trying to talk to me about banjos.

Says he: “I’m thinking of getting an Irish banjo” (p.s. I have no social skills).

Oh, that’s interesting. Is that a five-string? (Here I am, showing my ignorance of Irish banjos).

“No, an Irish banjo” (p.s. I am borderline Asperger’s).

Oh. You mean a tenor banjo, then? (Once again with the ignorance).

“No, an Irish banjo.”

I later found that while nominally, there is such a thing as an Irish banjo, it is really more a style of tuning than a type of instrument. Basically any 4 string banjo could be an Irish banjo. So I suspect this is a little like saying you want a Russian piano to help you play Rachmaninov.

For the record, my own banjo is a bastardized affair, a 5-string with the drone taken off and the 4 remaining strings tuned like the first 4 strings of a guitar, with a capo on the second fret to keep the tension OK. It isn’t ideal but it sounds decent in most conditions. I am also learning 4 string tenor banjo, properly.

But I hope this guy got his “Irish” banjo, really.

Probably Ireland would be a good place to look.

The scene: A MUSIC STORE in IRELAND.

A young man enters abruptly from the street.

Young man: “Excuse me, do you have an Irish banjo.”

Attendant: “I’ll check, sir.”

The attendant looks at the back label of his only tenor banjo, which says “Made in Indonesia.” He looks again at the young man and quickly reaches a decision.

Attendant: “Why, yes sir, we do! This one is as Irish as a fat old cow! And a top of the morning to ye!”

Young Man: “Finally! A proper Irish banjo! I’ll take it!”

Attendant: “That will be nine hundred pounds sir.”

etc.

I Hope I Never

Our third ever gig was nearly our last. We played at the Gov front bar on a Thursday in late November and had more technical problems than you would think physically possible for an acoustic duo. Pick-ups, leads, strings, tuning, it all went to hell. For me anyway. (Emma was fine actually.)

Initially, we thought we were doing pretty well crowd wise, until all the diners left to go and see Tim Finn playing next door.

(Incidentally, I noted that the bar staff kept everyone in the mood for Tim by playing a lot of his brother’s music. I wonder how that feels.)

After they all left the crowd was thin and the music was quite good but the tech graemlins were having a field day. When I say it was the stuff of nightmares this is not poetic license because I actually have had several subsequent nightmares about that gig. The only good thing to come out of it was that I cracked down ruthlessly on future tech issues and have had none since.

After that, things went quiet on the Luker and Southern front for a while…

250th Anniversary of Getting Totally Shitfaced

Man, there were some drunk people at the Brecknock last night, and I really mean plastered. Dancing, whooping, walking headlong into doorways, fondling each other’s gonads and vomiting in the hall. These were people that weren’t going to be much use on grand final day. They had made their choice and Guinness was it.

For our debut show, me and Emma played two long sets and a reprise at the end, and filled about about 2 and a 1/2 hours worth with fun, listenable and sometimes danceable music, but in terms of crowd response, we really have to thank Mr and Mrs Guinness,  on that cold winter night in 1725. Without their canoodling, young Arthur would never have been born, and never have invented his dark gooey beverage in 1759, and all those people would have had no excuse for getting as drunk as they did last evening.

Or maybe they would have found another one.

Whatevs. We played pretty all right, and got good and paid. Fun show.

So, catch us next time at the Governor Hindmarsh on Thursday November 26 and please drink a lot. It’s a bar deal.

Now I’m off to spend my hard earned loot on wine in the Coonawarra,

GSS.

La Nuit de L’acoustique Toutes les Etoiles

We had out first ‘show’ last night at L’hôtel d’Exatorre on Rue de la Roundelle. We did a two-song intro at the end of La Nuit de L’acoustique Toutes les Etoiles, run by the ineffable Guillaume Vetu. We sounded quite good apparently.

It was an acoustic variety night so there was lots on offer. For me, the high point of the night was John Crouch’s frenetic guitar playing, although the memory is clouded by the performance of another fellow who decided that it was in everyone’s best interests if he play a ten minute didgeridoo solo, without having actually asked anyone if they agreed.

Then there was the obligatory table of “look at me” twenty-somethings who chose to sit right up the front in the music room, yelling at one another, even though they had the whole rest of the pub to themselves if they wanted a place to do that. Sound quality improved dramatically when Soursob Bob told them to – and I quote – “shut the fuck up”. I bought him a beer.

I wince with embarrassment when I recall that I used to do exactly the same thing in my early twenties and that I, also, might have had the delusion that being seen in the front bar of the Exeter on a Thursday night in winter was somehow the coolest thing ever.

Hey Mister Photographer Man

My gig at the wheaty last night was characterized by good sound quality, decent-sized audience, nervy performance, and…at least three photographers.

I reckon I must have been snapped about thirty times, in sound-check and playing.  In the nineties, when I played in front of bigger crowds and when I was more well known, I don’t think I ever got snapped once. I think maybe when I won a songwriting competition, someone took one shot for a magazine, but that’s about it.

Ready access to digital has probably changed the culture, but there was something else going on, too. Like, does everything get recorded for posterity now? Is taking photos the new dancing? The headline act got snapped to oblivion but only two people danced. And the guys doing it couldn’t have all been from the media…

So anyway, I guess there’s some guys out there now with all these fairly dark photos of me hunched over a guitar with a microphone obscuring most of my face. Uh, I hope you enjoy those. And, please email to me any shots that do not fit this description…

As for the gig itself…Fiddle chix were grand, especially that Irish one about the swashbuckling woman who saves her husband from the gallows in a last minute dash. My own show was somewhat hasty and mistakeful (?). Prolly sounded OK to people that knew the songs, but the main problem me is that those songs are all old ones, I don’t really write for guitar any more, I write for everything I can do in a studio, so it’s kind of hard to put new energy into it.

BTW I think got a gig coming up where I just play the banjo. So, I don’t have to worry about making old stuff sound good, I can just pluck away. Maybe that will be fun…

GSS.

First Show in Ten Years

I played live for the first time in about ten years on Wednesday night, at the Grace Emily hotel. Overall I’d say it was small, messy, high energy and fun. Bob and Emma came on afterwards and things swelled up quite a bit in terms of crowd size, including some (rather noticeable) members of The Beards, but generally it was fairly quiet and informal, which was probably a good thing for a starter show.

A few folks asked me when I was playing again, to which I had to reply that I did not know, having only just worked out that it’s something that I actually want to do regularly. So far I have some plans to support the Fiddle Chicks that have not yet been made official. Check back here in a while and look for the ‘Upcoming Shows’ page in the top bar – which I’ll make when I’ve got something to put in it.

In other news, I’ve had two recent recording sessions, and will be putting up some sample tracks of what my collaboration with Emma on violin sounds like, within the next week or so.

After that, I’m heading over to Germany for a month with the family, so this blog is going to be quiet for a while.

S.