A.J. Walker

writerer

A Staccato Song

A Staccato Song - 25 Years Between Playing

This week I attended two open mics. The one I most commonly go to currently: the Monday night at the Dispensary hosted by Dave O'Grady (I struggle to maintain a day without an O'Grady or two), and the inaugural open mic at Metrocola (formerly Hannah's Bar on Leech Street) hosted by Ali Horn. I had intended on going to the fortnightly open mic at the Angus on the Tuesday, hosted by John Witherspoon, but it was called off quite late in the day - I don't know when it will return. So Metrocola it was.

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Me and Kevin popping up alongside the Hooleys (downstairs in the Slaughterhouse). You can date it by long hair (for me) as 1995.

On Monday night it started a little slowly, as it often does, but in the end eight or nine people ended up playing. Largely regulars, but there were a couple of newbies to the group too. Most played three songs but it ended with the inimitable Liz Owen playing a full gig for us; which was excellent as always. She certainly enjoyed playing Danny Bradley's guitar and sounded brilliant. Danny was his usual compelling self earlier in the evening. Beautiful. First up on the stool (currently sans mic
à la the Belvedere) to play some of his great self penned songs was Ben Whitley (I thoroughly recommend looking him up on Spotify) with his guitar and harmonica.

He asked me after he played if I was playing '
Oh My Sweet Carolina' (Ryan Adams). And if so could he play harmonica with it? I'd penciled in a three or four song set and had it as a possible if I decided against doing one of them (or my mood on the evening took me). How could I not say yes though? Then again it made be a bit nervous. I'd never played along with anyone since the 1990s. And this time it would be without practice. It went well – I think.

One Tuesday I went to Metrocola to support the inaugural night. It is always a toss up when it is the first night – loads because the host has keenly cajoled all their mates and acquaintances to support them, or not many because not enough had heard about it. And on Tuesday this was compounded by awful weather. In the end though it was a grand success. It was slated to start at 7-10 but went beyond ten due to their being so many performers there. Again everyone stuck to three songs and there were… 14 acts. You could see Ali was made up and the staff at Metrocola looked like they enjoyed it too.

There were many familiar faces amongst the Liverpool open mic community and plenty of new ones for me too. Most of the other singers knew each other from various venues, but I've never made it to the Jacaranda or the Cavern Monday Night Club and I guess the ones I hadn't seen before were 'graduates' from these nights. Again Ben was there and played early on; and again he asked if he could play harmonica: this time if I was doing '
Whiskey in my Whiskey' (Felice Brothers). And so we did. This time we had to negotiate playing with a microphone though. Once more I think it went okay. But I suppose the guys & gals sitting there would be better judges than me.

Not long after I played I bumped into Aidan from the Sway, which was good. He always seems just so into music. He told me about his week ahead, with gigs in Liverpool and Leeds – including a great day for the band supporting Jamie Webster at the Echo Arena on Saturday.

All in all it was a great night. And if it continues with anything like this support then it will prove to be a great addition to the local scene. Fingers crossed for both Metrocola and Ali (not that I expect they will need much luck).

I very much enjoyed playing with Ben on his harp. Hope to do so again at some point. Whilst it made me smile it also made me think a bit about my on-off-on relationship with the guitar. Here's a potted history.

The No Guitar Years
Born, Played in the street, Went to School and University
– didn't play any musical instruments

The Guitar(ish) Years
Post university

– got a cheap electric guitar (Strat copy) and played at home a bit
– no lessons

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Smithdown playing at Kitty O'Sheas on Fleet Street (now Motel). Mark (guitar), Helen (fiddle), me (cheap strat copy), Kevin (banjo).

The Smithdown Years
1990-1993
– Early work years in Liverpool
– a few of us at a work's post-Christmas party played two or three songs during a band's break after practicing at Kev's house for a few fun weekends
– three of us from the work band said we'd carry on playing a bit (Mark, Kevin and your's truly)
– drafted in my cousin (a classically trained violinist) to play fiddle (Helen)
– played our first 'gig' at an interesting house birthday/coming out party, above Kelly's Wines on Smithdown Road
– had a debate about a band name in the Royal Hotel on Smithdown. Everyone's second or third choice won the day: Smithdown (proportional representation doesn't work people).
– in the early events (I'm not sure about calling them gigs) Kev generally played banjo, me and Mark guitar, me 'singing' and Helen played fiddle and sang.
– Kevin was THE musician in the band, he was a great drummer. He also played guitar, was learning the banjo, could play keyboards. He could play anything. I'm not jealous of the bastard at all. Yeah, okay I am. In the end he made the move on to drums to try and hold me and Mark into something like a rhythm. That was always gonna be a battle. Helen was a brilliant violinist. Mark was very energetic and damn enthusiastic. And I just enjoyed the craic.
– Played some midweek nights at: Kitty O'Sheas (now Motel), Slaughterhouse and a few others.
– organised our own bigger events at the Royal British Legion in Wavertree and the Irish Centre (sadly it is no more and is decaying away unused. I don't think our event can be wholly to blame though). In the latter we had the Hooleys playing and we supported them with a few songs.

The Days The Music Died
1993-1995

– the band died when Kevin moved to Reading and Mark to Scotland.
– I never played with anyone again. As far as I was concerned we were just three co-workers and my cousin having a good time. I couldn't see anyone else wanting to play with me. I wasn't good enough.
– the Hooleys once asked me to play with them and become their bass player. I didn't play bass, but they said I fitted in with them (enjoying myself and forgetting lyrics I guess) and anyway bass has only two thirds of the strings of the guitar and I'd – probably – pick it up.I thought about it and declined. They went on to play a hotel residency in the Middle East later that year I think.
– I'm not sure how many times Smithdown played, but it was probably around the low teens. I remember it all fondly.

Mexico 1996
– the last time I played along with anyone was a spooky reunion we had when I was working in Mexico. Mark and I were there for five and half months (in a supposed 'five week') project. Kevin came over for about a week. The hotel had a different resident band each month we were there. One night at an about 12:30 or 1am during the band's break the three of us got up and played a few songs with the bands instruments (we asked first!).

The Guitars In The Wilderness Years
1996-2018
– Guitars sat unused in the corners of various rooms
– Started strumming a bit at home in more recent years. Always the same old songs.
– Gave myself a target of 'one day playing in front of someone again.'

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Sanctuary (in a rare downstairs appearance)

Seeking Sanctuary Years
2018-2020

– Sat in the Sanctuary on Lime Street drinking a pint and reading a book. Someone walked passed with a guitar and went upstairs. I asked the barman if there was an open mic on, and there was. Perhaps this would be my day of 'playing in front of someone again.' And it was.
– I'd been nervous as fuck and played far too fast as if I wanted to get it over with and get out of there. I did to be fair. I didn't know a single person there. Afterwards I was made up that I had done in. Two weeks later I was back doing it again.
– Went to the open mic regularly as long as it was on up until the Sanctuary closed in June 2020. The hosts were a fun twosome comprising John and Bobo.
– continued doing some open mics during the pandemic on Zoom. They were always good craic (usually ably supported by a 5-litre keg of Abyss or Mosaic from Neptune).

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Keystone

The Keystone Years – And Beyond
2021-2022

– Hadn't been to any open mics other than the Sanctuary and nervous about playing in front of anyone 'new' again. Hey, I'm a nervous chap. But I was lucky to get in early doors at the Keystone open mic, hosted by John Witherspoon. Ever since getting on okay with that I have been happy to give it a go elsewhere, which has been great; especially as the Keystone is no more.

So far I've played multiple open mics at:

  • The Sanctuary
  • Keystone
  • Angus
  • Head of Steam
  • Belvedere
  • Dispensary, and now
  • Metrocola (the one time it's been on so far)

I've now played more open mics on my tod than I ever played with 'Smithdown' and I'd never have thought that would happen back in 2018.

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Angus

BelveX
Belvedere

DizzyX
Dispensary

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Dispensary

Really I had two or three years playing with some mates at the start of the 1990s and then have just got back into playing around 25 years later after going up once at the Sanctuary open mic in 2018 – and since then pushing myself to do it more. After saying to myself I wanted to play in front of someone again once then I've not really looked back much. The next aim though is to write some of my own songs. I'm a bit gutted that I didn't carry on playing from the 1990s. I mean I could have had 25 years of damn practice. Ho hum. But we are where are – or, I am where I am.


The Songs (currently)
I currently end up playing songs from a pretty small song book. I'm usually covering one or two of these:

'Oh My Sweet Carolina' - Ryan Adams
'
Whiskey in my Whiskey' - Felice Brothers
'
Couldn't Get Arrested' - Green on Red
'
Shed A Tear (For the Lonesome)' - Green on Red
'
Splendid Isolation' - Warren Zevon
'
Please Stay' - Warren Zevon
'
Van Diemen's Land' - U2 (trad.)
'
One I Love' - REM
'
Heart Breaks Like the Dawn' - Chuck Prophet
'
110 in the Shade' - Chuck Prophet
'
Somewhere Down the Road' - Chuck Prophet
'
Mostly Water' - Bap Kennedy
'
Down By The Water' - Decemberists

As you can see it's got a very much Green on Red/Chuck Prophet thing going on (and very much Americana). I definitely need to add some more songs to that list (there's 13 there, so I guess getting it up to 20 would be a good initial aim). But I also need to get on and write some of my own songs. The vast majority of songs sung by all the open mic glitterati are self penned, and it would be nice to do at least a couple of my own one day. And, who knows, then get to the Monday Night Club or Jacaranda… We shall see.


The Guitars
I have two semi acoustic guitars (a Takamine 363 and a Tanglewood TW145SS) and a beautiful dark green Fender Squier Telecaster. I currently only pick up the acoustics for a strum. Plugging them in (or the Telecaster) is a rare event. Maybe once I'm writing some songs and messing about with GarageBand some.

Onwards and Upwards (
probably in C Major).

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Spotify Links to the Liverpool Open Mic-ers

Links to some of the great & lovely of the open mic peeps. There's some brilliant local talent around at the moment (not least of course Dave O'Grady & Muzz (Seafoam Green), John Witherspoon, and Ali Horn (all on Spotify - and maybe playing at a venue near you (or not). Check them out:

John Witherspoon
Seafoam Green
Ali Horn
Ben Whitley
Liam Sweeney
Liz Owen
Danny Bradley
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A Word

I didn't get to read a poem for #ReadMeSpeakMe this weekend, but that was because it was a poem of mine which was chosen for the weekly read (Week #184). So I'll be reading it later in the week after others have put their twists on it. I'll have to have a wee think about how I will do that. There may, or may not, be tankards involved. And hopefully no crying and hopefully not too sulky a face.

If you want to give it a go then please do. Just follow the standard instructions of #ReadMeSpeakMe (see below) and post it up in your preferred app (many use Soundcloud or YouTube, or some even put it straight into a tweet). I've been enjoying people's takes on it so far. And some lovely voices; both familiar and new to me this week too.

A Word

RMSM How To

Thanks to @megwaf for hosting (and picking & presenting the poems). Doing a weekly event like this in your own time is sometimes a bit a thankless task (I know from doing the weekly 'Seedling Challenge' a few years ago - even when it's not that much time it IS time and the clock is always ticking and tapping you on your shoulder). Everyone who gets involved with RMSM loves the little escape it gives us for a while each week. So, thank you.

If you're on Twitter why not follow:

@ReadMeSpeakMe and
@megwaf

And give a go. We'd all love to hear you. Maybe next week, when it's someone else's words though - bloody unrequited.
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Twitter Engineering

I've loved Twitter for the many years I've been on it. I joined as Zevonesque in February 2009 and then created RealeLiverpool in December 2013. Incredibly both accounts have somehow accrued over three thousand followers each. Like I say, incredible.

It was through Twitter that I found the various writing challenges that have sprouted up over the years and through these that been involved in things like the Flash Dogs. People who don't use Twitter only hear about it in terms of the poorly curated news (and in the case of our local paper that means using it for all their news rather than having journalists (sadly)). But hearing about stars or politicians who've sent out a Tweet about something in the news is not really what it is about. It is so much more than a news app – or news creator.

And now we are in this strained situation thanks to the strange and rich ego of Musk. I absolutely love the Space-X stuff. Don't care much either way about Tesla. But what is he doing with Twitter as a play thing? Can't he stick to real engineering challenges rather than social engineering?

The $8/month that Musk has expressed as a cost to keep the blue ticks is not relevant to me at the moment. But it is unclear what it will mean in the longer term in relation to what effect it will have in the algorithms: and therefore what will show in my timeline. I want to really just want to see the people I follow (and by extension what they think is worth seeing) rather than adverts and 'news' that Musk and Twitter make me see.

I'm hoping this turbulent few weeks on Twitter proves to be nothing more than a horrible aberration. I can but hope.

Masto11 Masto1

Not sure, of course, yet about the open source app
Mastodon, but have created an account in case it becomes the new place to be. If it becomes so much bigger (and it looks like it will) then it may well become a boss place to hang out. We shall see. If you are over there too you can find me on:

@Zevonesque@mastodonapp.uk

To top off my I.T. day I've also installed 'Ventura' on to the laptop. Go me!

Ventura1
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Live Music

Been a very good month for live music for me. Lucky enough to see Heavy North at the Arts Club (the former Masque) and then there was Frank Turner at the Carling Academy, swiftly followed by Thea Gilmore at the Music Room at the Philharmonic Hall. All great artists - and hopefully I'll see then all again. In fact I have already booked to see Frank again in January. Was looking up hotels and trains to go up to Lancaster to see him, but unfortunately the tickets for that gig went in a day. Ended up deciding to get tickets for the Wolverhampton gig. Both gigs are on Saturdays and made them attractive for that reason as much as the venue. York and Leicester would have been good but didn't fall on weekends, so Wolverhampton it was. Will be a good way to start of my gig year. Can never not love his gigs.

Do

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Heavy North at the Arts Club, Liverpool

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Frank Turner at the Liverpool Carling Academy

On top of that I went to the Sofar Sounds gig on 15 September which was at the Carnival Brewery. That featured Conleth McGeary, George Fell, and Wild Love.And I've caught the Loose Moose String Band and John Witherspoon playing at pubs including the Caledonia, Dispensary, and the Angus. Like I say a good month. Rock on.

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Conleth McGeary at the Sofar gig at Carnival Brewery

I've also played at four or so open mics in that month at the Dispensary with the host of either Dave or Muzzy from Seafoam Green. All the nights have been most enjoyable. Keen to play more new stuff and hopefully write some songs of my own. We shall see.
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Open Mic at the Dispensary, Liverpool
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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!

JohnW1
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).

Shame1

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