A.J. Walker

writerer

Live Music

Sofar, the Heavy North and Frank Turner and open mics






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A Ten Mile Cycle

Watched the queen's procession before the funeral this morning from Westminster Hall to Westminster Cathedral. It looked very impressive. Once the funeral part began I thought I'd go out. Not done much exercise this week so decided to get out on the bike. Had no aim when I left, but took a rucksack in case any shops were open (there weren't).

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In the end I completed a ten mile trip along the Liverpool Loop Line. Was good to get out and it remained dry for the hour. The roads themselves were very quiet. I expect many were watching the funeral. Yup, even in the People's Republic of Liverpool. By the time of my return the roads were once again getting busier.

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Hadn't realised that I'd never done a ten mile trip on my bike until it showed up as such on Runkeeper. I generally do about 6 miles into work and that's that. Will have to do some more I think; keep the legs and heart going. Of course coming up with that idea as the nights begin to draw in is maybe not ideal Coincidentally it's almost exactly
a year ago since I first began cycling on my dad's old bike; ZevonOne. It's definitely a good form of exercise, wish I'd done that years earlier.
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Muppets Forever

The chest infection is lingering on but isn't as bad as it was. And I managed last week to cycle to work, to actually work – and to do two open mics again. I played at the open mic at the Dispensary on Monday night. It was a good crowd again playing. Andy they had more beer choices this week too, which was nice to see (after they only had two ales on last week). Later on in the week I played at the Belvedere for the first time in ages at John Witherspoon's night.

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Dispensary Open Mic

Played four songs on Monday and three on Thursday. Not bad eh? Trying not to start off automatically with 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and actually going for one of either 'Couldn't Get Arrested' 'Whiskey in my Whiskey' and 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn'.

On the Monday I met a local who'd returned to Liverpool after living in Aus and was just getting back into the place. It'll be like he's never been away in no time. He played his three songs and I chatted to him about other venues with open mics. I recommended the Belvedere on Thursday – and yes he did go and play there too. I'm an influencer!

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Barry, brilliant as ever

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Great to see John play again. It'd been a while.

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There were a few people in the small room. Cosy!

Lots of regulars there all on top form – and someone's grandmother (who'll remain nameless) was enjoying the evening with a great deal of toe-tapping and she even regaled us with a couple of songs
sans guitar.

Bit mad to hear a fair few people singing along with
Couldn't Get Arrested and Whiskey in my Whiskey in the Belvedere. It felt like I had a chorus being sung like the muppets on Fraggle Rock. But it was nice though.

Not sure whether I'll get to any open mics next week. If I do it'll probably just be the Dispensary one as I am going to a Sofar gig on Thursday (I do wish autocorrect would stop changing that to Solar gig). Of course that is assuming music is still on in the middle of this week of random mourning (you can play cricket or rugby, but not football?).

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Me, looking like an old overweight white bluesman. It's just the shirt I tell ya!

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John, the host with most.

Thank you everyone, including the muppets!


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Wheezy & Dizzy Again

Have had a wee chest infection for a few weeks. So much so that I even went to see the GP in case it was something more serious. Thankfully it seems like it is just that. Can't wait for it to clear up fully though. Its made singing some songs very difficult, indeed impossible, as I've not been able to fill my lungs enough with breath! Some songs though survived this breathless cull.

I've previously gone to watch some open mics recently without singing as I knew I would fail miserably. Collapsing in a heap in a high pitch wheeze is not a look I want to aim for. Yesterday though I managed to clear my lungs enough to sing any of my usual songs – and I did. I went along to the Dispensary again (think for the fifth time?) to play. It was run once more by Muzz and I was pleased to see Ollie and Guy there. They usually play at the Monday Night Club at the Cavern, but it was cancelled this week allowing them to come along for their first time.

In the end I think there were seven people who played. And most got up twice. I ended up playing two lots of three songs:

'Down By The Water' - Decemberists
'Oh My Sweet Carolina' -
Ryan Adams
'Whiskey In My Whiskey' -
Felice Brothers
'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' -
Chuck Prophet
'You Couldn't Get Arrested' -
Green on Red
'Somewhere Down the Road' -
Chuck Prophet

It being a Bank Holiday the event finished a bit earlier than usual (before 10). So after getting my free pint of White Rat for playing, I had one more then got of and had a final drink in the Sanctuary before heading home. I had an early start on Tuesday to look forward to for a real ale visit to Sheffield. More of that later…

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Still a bit chesty and I think I'll give the antibiotics a go (I was prescribed them by the GP in case it hung around for any longer). Of course it's as likely to be viral as biological but worth a spin of the wheel I suppose if it gets rid of my 'smoker's cough' for non-smokers.
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Little Changes

Done a few open mics at the Dispensary now, hosted by either of the Seafoam Green duo (Dave & Muzz). Last week it went pretty well and I felt I sounded better than usual - ie not forgetting too many words or messing up chord changes. But I am aware that I have kept doing the same three or four songs (last week's songs were: 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams, 'Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' - Chuck Prophet, 'Couldn't Get Arrested' - Green on Red, and 'Whisky In My Whiskey' - Felice Brothers). The next time I play I intend to not play any of these as I should try to mix it up and stretch myself a bit.

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Currently thinking next time I'll go for '
Down By the Water' - Decemberists, 'Somewhere Down The Road' - Chuck Prophet, 'Splendid Isolation' - Warren Zevon, and maybe 'One I Love' - REM. We shall see. I dare say that I'll end up playing one or two of the usual instead. I'll let you know!

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Ripping it up at the Dizz.- well maybe just playing a C.


And in the coming weeks I intend to learn some new songs and get them out there. Before maybe playing with my own words (alongside the usual C, G, Am and F chords no doubt). Again, watch this space.
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GarageBand Doodling

Still very much at the base of a big learning curve. Hoping that playing around on the computer with my guitars and the microphone may mean that I finally get around to putting some songs of my own together. That is the aim anyway. In the meantime I had a quick mess around with it today and used the same format as before ie drum track, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and vocals. Not great but every time I use it I should learn some more. That's what I hope at any rate.



'Oh My Sweet Carolina' by Ryan Adams - with my apologies to fans.
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Tuesdays Are the New Sundays at the Angus

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After a couple of weeks without going out, partly due to Covid, I was relieved to get out to this week's open mic at the Angus. After running it a couple of times on a Sunday it had been decided to move the 'mic to a Tuesday night. It was thought that there was a good chance there would be more people able to make it – a lot of the crew that regularly turn out for John Witherspoon's night attend the Jacaranda on a Sunday. The first Sunday event was run by Mike Blue as John was booked elsewhere, and there was only me to play, and on the second one there was just two of us in addition to John (me and Mark Lacey). Definitely a good move to change the day.

It was going to be interesting to see how many people turned up, and who from the usual Keystone/Belvedere regulars would turn up? The answer turned out to be: nearly everyone.

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Having a 'few' more there it meant I wasn't first or second up after John. Nope I was eighth up: and not even last. I guess that counts as a very successful night. There's a lot of familiar faces in the photos including Ollie, Guy, Liam, Bert and co. All top people and performers. Great to see the Angus open mic getting the number of people it deserves. Tuesdays are definitely better than Sundays (despite being a working day). The sound system in the Angus is fabulous for these events and it is a great place to play; oh and they have real ale on too (I was on the Beartown 'Bluebeary' for the evening).

It was another warm one so I was unusually without a jacket again and wearing my old Wilco T-shirt from the '
A Ghost is Born' tour (2004). I definitely make my T-shirts last (or to be fair I just flog them to death). Unfortunately I couldn't exactly channel Wilco with my playing. Everyone played three songs and so did I with two of my usuals 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' and 'You Couldn't Get Arrested' – and a new one for me, 'Please Stay' by Warren Zevon. Definitely need some more practice with that one, but it was great to give it a run out in the wild. Next time it'll be better. And it was nice to hear people singing along with You Couldn't Get Arrested.

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The T-shirt may be dying but it's okay because 'A Ghost is Born' - at the Angus 12.07.26


I hope to be there next time. It's fortnightly not weekly so thankfully we won't have to battle the heatwave this coming Tuesday. Small blessings, Tuesdays are the new Sundays: it's official. Oh, and this coming Tuesday what's on at the Angus and who will be facing the forecast mid-30C heat? Yep it's only John Witherspoon himself for a launch of his new single 'Shame' – Ollie Felton will be supporting him (not entirely sure whether that means playing some songs too or just spraying water at John at regular intervals).

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At the Bottom of a Learning Curve

This weekend I strung my Squier Telecaster for the first time in many years. I'd also bought a Focusrite Scarlett Solo so that I could connect my microphone and guitars to my Mac. I've never really used GarageBand not having the connection before. It's a bit daunting and will take a bit of hands-on playing around to learn about everything I'll need to jot some songs out. Hopefully it'll help me get around to writing some new songs. We shall see.


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Garageband interface

So yesterday I recorded a wee song, 'Please Stay' – a short and very poignant song from Warren Zevonesque. Haven't played along with a drum track since I played with some mates back in the early 1990s. It was nice to do.

Within a few hours of playing around I managed to record this with the drum track and playing my Takamine 363 and the Telecaster – will be nice to play around with the electric guitar again. I played the acoustic first (along with the drum track), then recorded the vocal track before finally playing the Tele. Wonder where it will get me in the end?

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The exercise bike was not used in the recording of the song.

PSMP3


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A Gig Missed and a Homage

Hardly left the house since I tested positive for Covid last Thursday and of course in that time, in fact since last Monday, I have not been out for a pint. That's fine – if unusual – but tomorrow I had a ticket for the Felice Brothers at Leaf on Bold Street. As I am unable to now have two successive negative tests before the gig I've had to pass on the ticket to another fan. Gutted. I'll have to find another gig another week to replace it. But it'll be hard to get one I'll look forward to as much – I've currently only got the Frank Turner gig in October booked. We'll see what I can do.

Still I've managed to finish a book I've been reading for a while – and one I've owned for years. It is a signed copy of '
Homage to Gaia' by the fascinating scientist, James Lovelock. It is a absorbing story of a brilliant guy. The vast majority of the book was quite a read and told with aplomb. It read like an Asimov version of a polymath scientist capable of developing insightful ideas and A-Team style devices out of whatever he could find in the kitchen, whilst mingling with the great and the good (and not so good) of science, politics, and business. I only felt a little non-plussed by the chapter towards the end about his love for (and sex) with his second wife – in his seventies. I've nothing against love or sex, but the chapter just didn't really sit well within the rest of the book. He's 102 now and still with us: as is his Gaia theory. The book was published in 2000 and I won it in a competition. Out of interest I had a quick look on Abebooks to see if there were any signed copies out there for sale. And flippin' heck there were two. It must be the most expensive book I've read…

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Flippin' heck.

Half way through the year and it was my fourteenth book. I'd only set myself the target of twenty for the year on Goodreads so I'm well on the way to that and beyond. I've had a great mix of reads; both fiction and non-fiction, with non-fiction from Alice Roberts, Richard Ovenden, and James Lovelock, and fiction from authors including Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, HG Wells, Gareth L Powell, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. That's not a bad list of authors. Now what will the second half of the year bring?
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That's A First; Could Be A Last

That's A First; Could Be The Last
– A Story with Two Sebastians –


The footy season is indeed over, but last week saw a full on fixture pile up of my own. In a stunningly unusual week of performances I ended up playing three open mics in a week. Three! One or fewer is the norm. Last week started with my first visit to the Dispensary on Renshaw Street on Monday for the mic. I'd never seen it so didn't know what to expect in terms of its set up or who usually attended it. It was advertised as starting at 7pm, which seems an hour or so early – but it is what it is. I ended up heading down for about 8:30, I'd been at work in the day but was off the next day so the finishing time was neither here nor there. The mic stand and speaker was up the steps at the rear of the pub. There was no-one there at the time, but there was a guitar in the window resting. There were a few people sat up top (and a couple more down the stairs) and it wasn't clear who was running the night. At 8:30 it seemed early, but to be fair whoever had been playing could have been playing for an hour and half by that time – so a fag break or a quick stroll around the park would not have been too outlandish. I thought perhaps a fag break. No one moved towards the mic until I'd almost finished my pint, when a woman who'd been sat with some friends at the back came across to pick up the guitar.

The hostess turned out to be the singer, Muireann, from the excellent local band, Seafoam Green. It transpired that she was filling in for the guitarist from Seafood. She played a few songs whilst calling out for anyone who fancied giving it a go. I volunteered and two students (well, just graduated) cheered me on despite my declaration I was not
all that. It seemed a change was as good as a rest to them. And so I went up and played. It was a long set for me - SIX songs. That just about depletes and stretches my memory to destruction.

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Sebastian Blake

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Sebastian, Muireann and a guest slot from the dancing student (Bez, eat your heart out)


I played everything surprisingly unstressed and without many errors – which for me is a rarity. It seemed to go down pretty well. By the time I came off the mic a songwriter & guitarist who was passing through Liverpool from Leeds had arrived on the scene. He was next up. And he was brilliant. His name was Sebastian Blake and you can find him easily on Instagram. He put on a great show with his songs and was a thoroughly nice guy. Muireann, Sebastian, the students/graduates and I had a nice chinwag until closing. Oh, and I got a free pint for playing. Unfortunately just one for the whole stay at the mic and not one per song. Okay, maybe that's fortunately.

All in all an enjoyable evening.

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Playing a C in the Belvedere

Next up I returned to the Belvedere for the open mic for the first time since the first day of John Witherspoon's open mic stint. The mic is in a small upstairs room and during that first week there was a power cut. We all played on and it was realised that there was no need for the mics and amps so all the subsequent mics have been sans mic. It's still called an open mic, because if was just called an open it may get inundated by golfers – and it is far too small a pub to take all the trolleys.

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John turning off the music before Ollie played some

John played first, quickly followed by the brilliant Dan Bradley. And then another brilliant guy. Then another. I should really turn up first to these events so I'm not preceded by all these top players. I ended up being about the fifth person up. I actually did okay – and remembered all the words (and generally played the correct chords – or at least didn't lose myself if I did strum a wrong un'. I was working the next day, Friday (which is unusual for me), so I had to leave after just a few more. But I saw the bulk of the guys and gals; and it was another top night.

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Full on troubadour stance from John Witherspoon in the Angus

Then came Sunday; the third appearance of the week. It was good to support John again at the Angus, on Dale Street. It was only the second of their Sunday open mics and it is competing with the relatively large one at the Jacaranda (which I've never been to) and the general lack of knowledge that it is on: it takes a while for the news of regular events to filter through.

John was there when I arrived and, unlike the Belvedere on Thursday, I was the first to arrive, which meant I'd be the first up – after John's excellent troubadouring. He indicated that I should play three songs, and that if it was quiet I could go up again. This is how it went. In the background on the TV in pictures and occasionally with sound was the BBC coverage of Glastonbury. So as well as coming on after John I also followed Lorde and Jarvis Cocker.

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Mark Lacey (or Mark Sebastian D'Lacey)

In between the excellent, funny and charismatic, Mark Sebastian D'Lacey had arrived on the scene. He was brilliant. I think three appearances in a week is a lot: he was on his third of the day! Mark is a good mate of John's and they both enjoyed each others music muchly. As did I. I ended up going up for a second time to get my six songs in. Didn't play or sing as well as I had on the previous two days. Partly I think because the guitar was too prominent for me (after all my singing is a bit better than my strumming at the moment). Still, I am glad I made the effort to support both John and the Angus with this new fortnightly set up.

Oh and as well as playing three 'mics in a week it was bookended by appearances from two Sebastian's, what's the chance of that!?

Onwards and Upwards –
probably with a C, G and an A Minor; with just an occasional F for good measure.

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