Glasgow Blues Dancers

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

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It was a dull and rainy Tuesday night and I had just landed in Glasgow after 2 very long days in London when my mobile data connection kicked in and…”Ping!”…Facebook notified me that someone had just left a message on the Glasgow Blues Players page.

I’d recently had an article published in “Blues In Britain” magazine, in which I had mentioned my plans for the future which were to include “a series of 1 day spontaneous interactions with the people of Glasgow”.  One of the projects that I had in mind was to collaborate with some dancers in one of Glasgow’s busiest streets on a Saturday afternoon when the city would be buzzing and photograph Glaswegians as they were spontaneously invited to dance to the music of accompanying Blues buskers.  I’d never managed to get any further with that idea but it was always in the back of my mind.

As I sat in the bus from the airport to the Long-Stay car park I read the message on my phone…

“Hi there, 
I’m one of the organisers of Glasgow Blues Dancing. We have weekly dance classes and dance socials in the city centre and are looking for new people who would be interested in joining us. Would you be interested in helping us promote our dancing? 🙂
A month later I found myself descending the stairs into a hot and steamy basement under Bacchus in the Merchant City where I discovered an underground dance club of very interesting individuals from all over the world, congregated together to study and share the joy of dancing to the music of The Blues.
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K: “What is Blues Dancing?” was the first obvious question that sprung to mind.

Oliver: From the Juke Joints of the early 1900’s Blues Dancing has evolved into various different style including Jive, Lindy Hop and many others.  We’ve been taught by many different people that have interpreted the different styles.

Kiri: Generally there are streams of Trad Blues which is what you would dance to much more traditional Blues Music and then there is also an off-shoot of that which is Fusion which uses a lot of moves and takes inspiration from traditional Blues dancing but is used across a much wider variety of music.

Kirk: I guess what you’re saying is that as the genre of “Blues” has diversified, grown and changed, the dancing that accompanies it has followed?

Ewa:  Yes, exactly.

Mike: Yes and very much like the music, which can be easily identified as Blues based, the dancing can also be identified in the same way.

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Kirk: So how long have you been together as a group here in Glasgow?

Ewa:  Mmm, about 3 and a half years I think.  The group has been growing over that time but we are still very interested in talking to people and letting them know that we are here.

Kirk:  How did the initial core of the group get started?  How and where did you meet?

Ewa:  (Laughs) Oh we meet up all over the world for meetings and workshops.  If you have the money and time you can travel and meet people all over the world who are doing the same things with dancing.  There was a large 3 day festival in Edinburgh at the start of this month called The Spoonful.  There were lots of international Blues Dance teachers who came over and did workshops.

Kiri: There’s an entire sub-culture associated with Lindy Hopping, Swing Dancing and Blues Dancing and other genres and if you don’t know anybody in it you wouldn’t even know it existed.  There are workshops and events most weekends all across the UK and Europe and some people travel to America, Australia etc for different events.

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Kirk: Dancing at blues gigs it’s something I’m seeing a little bit more but would like to see even more of it going forward. When I worked in the States the audiences were pretty uninhibited and the dancing really added to the atmosphere of the Gigs.

Kiri: The other thing is that dancing to the Blues is so much fun. The only thing you need to consider is whether there is space and you also need a half decent floor. Sometimes you get a real sticky rubbery floor and they can be quite hard to dance on.

Mike: Yeah it depends on how much space there is in front of the band as well.  Some venues can be quite tight and you don’t want to be bumping into the band as they play and you need to be careful about obscuring the audiences view.

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Kirk: I had spoken on the phone about an interaction with the Glasgow public involving dancing and one of the girls I spoke to earlier mentioned a possible spontaneous appearance at public events. How would you see that working?

Oliver: Blues Bomb!

Ewa:  Yes, basically like a Flash Mob.

Kirk: Cool we can work on something like that 🙂 So what are the plans going forward for this particular group?

Ewa: We will continue to publicise the group and try to get more people interested.  We’ll organise more events and parties and keep enjoying it. I’m also involved with the Glasgow Lindy Hoppers group and we organise regular social events with this group too.  We’ve recently had an event with an amazing Blues piano player called Joshua Fialkoff and the Glasgow Swing Dance Society, The Glasgow Lindy Hoppers and our group Thursday Night Blues were all involved at The Panoptican.

We are planning to have a monthly social dance but we need to find a bigger venue for that.  It’s difficult to get a venue at the weekend so we’d probably be looking for a church hall or something like that.

Kirk:  I’d heard you talking about another event earlier with people attending from all over the world.  Can you tell me a little more about that?

Kiri: Yeah, that is the Glasgow Getdown.  It’s a joint Lindy Hop and Blues event that has run for the last 2 years in Glasgow.  We get people from all over the UK and Europe and we had people from Australia, 4 or 5 people from New Zealand and we put on 2 days and 3 nights of parties, taster classes and people danced till 3am to live bands.

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Kirk: Where did that actually take place?

Kiri: We had St Lukes and The Corinthian on the Friday, The Glasgow University Union, The Record Factory on the Saturday and on Sunday we had the Lighthouse Gallery and Mono.

Kirk:  Wow!  That’s a serious event.  You’re right about the whole sub-culture thing you mentioned earlier.  I’d never heard of any of that.  Do you primarily market all of this through Facebook?

Kiri:  Yeah, most of it is through Facebook.  Dancers tend to travel a lot and Facebook is ideal to keep in touch with people you meet from all over the place…Utrecht, New York, Paris…

Ewa:  It’s a good community and we tend to meet up with people in different locations all over the world.

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Kirk:  I know a lot of Blues musicians and bands and I could talk to some of them about a collaboration.

Ewa:  Yeah!  That would be really cool.

Kirk:  I know that Cottiers Theatre has some big nights for live music and you could probably get in there as part of the gig evenings they hold.

Kiri:  That would be lush!  Fantastic.

Kirk:  I’ll ask around. So if people wanted to join the group how would they go about it.

Ewa:  Facebook is probably the best way. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/454243421291529/)

The events are set up in this group and for new joiners the 1st night is free.  Most Thursday nights are in Bachuss at the moment.

Kirk: Well thanks very much for inviting me this evening, it’s been fantastic!

Kiri: Thanks for coming along and for being interested! So when are you coming for a dance?

Kirk:  You know what?  I think my wife and I just might come along one night pretty soon!

Thanks to those members of “Thursday Night Blues” that contributed to the interview (Ewa Wanat, Michael Callan, Midge McKay, Kiri Goss, Anna Dallman, Oliver Gluyas) and to all of the other gorgeous guys and girls that were there on the night.

Everyone in the group is really welcoming and the teaching is very professional and there is obvious attention to making sure that everyone is safe, everyone gets a chance to contribute and everyone has fun.  What a fantastic scene to get involved in.  If you are into the Blues and you love to dance…join the group and get involved!

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Since writing the article about Glasgow Blues Players in the “Blues In Britain” magazine in May, there have been a number of artists that have been in touch.  The first of these is Federal Charm.  An awesome four piece from Manchester who have just released a new album called “Across The Divide” and are touring the UK at the moment to promote this.

On the Blues scale these guys are up close to the rockier end and they do it incredibly well.  I first started listening to the new album a couple of weeks ago and it’s a belter.

“Guess What” is an absolute classic and if I could put an influence on this it would lie somewhere between INXS and Allman Brothers but transported to a groove that is absolutely “now”.  They played this at the gig tonight and it was incredibly tight for the first gig of the UK tour.  The punters in N&S reacted in true Glasgow style and left the boys on stage in no doubt of their appreciation.  The whole album is very much Blues based but has an edge to it that I can see appealing to a wider market that Blues/Rock.

There’s loads of different feels throughout the tracks.  For example, “Give Me Something” is a pedal to the metal banjo, harmonica and guitar driven track that jumps nicely been cotton pickin, 4 to the floor Country to an almost “Free” feel.

I caught up with Nick Bowden before the gig and had a quick chat…

K:  Hi Nick and welcome back to Glasgow.

N: Thanks very much.  Good to be here.

K: So you’ve released the Across the Divide? Which divide are you referring to? I noticed that there is no track on the album with this name so am assuming that all of the tracks are based somehow on a theme of the album title?

N: The title ‘Across the Divide’ is a line from the song ‘Silhouette’. When we got to the stage of naming the album, we’d finished recording and mastering and everything so it was the last thing we had to do. The longer we thought about it, we knew it had to be a title that made a statement, just as (we think) the album itself does. I’m not sure if ‘profound’ is the right word, but we thought it sounded cool as well as being the last line in the song.

K: All of the songs on the album are original material written by yourselves and there is quite a varied feel across the tracks.  What is your song writing process?  Is it a group process or do individuals come up with ideas that are expanded by the rest?

N: Our songwriting process for our 2 releases has been reasonably straightforward. It usually starts with Paul and I jamming a round with a riff, a basic bass and drum pattern are established, then we’ll work out an arrangement. Once we’ve done that, Danny and LD will add their respective flavours. Then, once I’ve got a solid structure to work from, I’ll come up with the lyrics. We’ll rehearse it and even play it live 2 or 3 times to iron out the kinks and then commit it to tape once we’re happy with it. It doesn’t always happen like that but generally that’s the way we go forward.

K:  You are now on tour with the band. How do you guys define the concept of “A Band”.  What does being in a band actually mean to you?

N: The definition can take you in a few different directions, I guess. To me, it means a group of 3,4,5 (or 2 these days!) people who play their own songs on their own instruments, and who are able to transfer that onto a stage. Being in a band is akin to a family, especially once you start touring and spending a lot of time together. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a band but I think the main one is that you have to have fun!

K: What is your definition of success in this tour?

N: I suppose everyone has their own idea of success, possibly revolving around fame and money, and although it’s nice to make a few quid from doing what you love, my own definition would involve playing songs in front of an audience who came out of it feeling like they got their money’s worth, possibly a few of them singing along with the words too!

K: You are offering support roles for local bands wherever you play and at the same time you are playing support gigs for other acts. How does it feel to switch between those 2 roles regularly?

N: I feel like it’s a privileged position to be in. Certainly unique because we are able to stand on our own and play clubs knowing there will be a good turnout, but also we’re able to support the bigger acts and maybe make some new friends along the way! It’s a great place to be in at the moment because it means we are considered for all types of venues, and we never turn down a show.

K: I love the album cover for Across the Divide.  Can you tell me a little about the concept and the design?

N: The man most responsible for the cover is our art guy and good friend, Brian Cantwell. He’s been with us since day one and we’ve always completely trusted his way of thinking. When he originally came up with the concept for Across the Divide, we all fell in love with it instantly. The great thing about it is that you can look at the picture and come up with your own story as to how the ship got there, who the man is etc. which is just what we wanted.

K: What’s the Holy Grail of gigs for you? Do you have one venue or Festival that you would consider to be the Dogs Bollocks?

N: Being Manchester lads, I think our holy grail of shows would be to headline at the Manchester Apollo. The four of us have been to loads of gigs there over the years and it is by far the best venue in the city. It’s definitely a good sized venue, so one to aspire to!

K: You are touring the UK at the moment but if you had one city to play in the USA which one would it be?

N: I personally would love to play MSG in New York. Just to be affiliated with the legions of other great bands who’ve played there, not to mention the experience itself, would be amazing.

K: Nick, if you could own only one instrument and had the choice of one that had been owned by your musical hero or one that you had grown into and had a personal emotional attachment which would it be? E.g. A guitar you’ve used for 12 years that or one that Jimmy Paige owned? Tell me a bit about either choice and the reason behind it.

N: Speaking on behalf of the other members, I think we’d all love to own and use an instrument that was used by one of our heroes. Obviously you would have to be in love with the instrument yourself too, I don’t think would be able to play something I found difficult to connect with, just because, say, Paul Kossoff played it once. I wouldn’t turn down one of his guitars though!

K:  Thanks for your time Nick.  Before you go on stage I just want to check to see how much of the Glasgow patter you have picked up in your last visits to the city.  A wee test of you will.

N:  Ok, cool.  I’m up for that!

K: Can you please let me know your choice of definition of the following words…

Bawhair
a. A pubic hair
b. A unit of measurement
c. A posh sweater

N:  b… A unit of measurement

K: Correct!

Taps Aff
a. Scottish Tapas
b. Removal of one’s string vest due to inclemently warm weather
c. A hose pipe ban

N:  b… Removal of one’s string vest due to inclemently warm weather

K: Correct!

Aye right!
a. Agreement with a statement
b. Disagreement with a statement
c. Total and utter disagreement with a statement intoning sarcasm and ridicule

N: c… Total and utter disagreement with a statement intoning sarcasm and ridicule

K: Correct!

Ok last one.

That’ll be chocolate!
a. Identification of a cocoa based confection
b. Identification of a rather unsightly stain in the trouser department
c. Total and utter disagreement with a statement intoning sarcasm and ridicule

N: c… Total and utter disagreement with a statement intoning sarcasm and ridicule

K: Awesome:  4 out of 4.  You’re ready 🙂 Have a great gig!

N:  Thanks mate.  All the best.

23/02/2016

The 100 Club in London has a history going back to the early 1940’s and has been a mainstay in the London live music scene right up till the present day. Tuesday night is Blues night but you can pretty much catch something to suit any taste. It’s a fantastic venue.

Click on the image below to be taken to an experimental media that I am trying out and check out the second installment of “Chasing the London Blues”

Chasing the London Blues - Part II

Image  —  Posted: February 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

04/02/2016

I had chance to check out how the London Blues scene has changed since I lived there…a lifetime ago…literally. (We got back to Scotland 4 days before Emily was born, which, at the time of writing equates to 11 years 10 months and 30 days ago

I managed to get into the city twice this week and on Monday I headed over to “Ain’t Nothin But”, close to Oxford Circus. This is one of the most popular jam night gigs in town and although it is small it has a great atmosphere. Dark, dingy, sweaty, cramped and full of Blues fans. What else does one need of an evening?  And it is free!

Ain’t Nothin But (Kingly Road, Soho)

http://www.aintnothinbut.co.uk

The house band were slick and knew how to hold down a groove. Nothing too fancy but really nice. The crowd were with them all the way and looking around the place I could see the guitar cases gradually appearing. One of the things I liked about this place was that there were some really nice touches all round. For example, it was a small stage so they had guitar hooks on the wall that the house band hung their guitars on. No space on stage so hang them on the wall. Genius. Never seen that before.

The bar staff were quick and knew how to work a busy pub so no hanging about at the bar. Security at the door. After 8pm it was so busy that it was one out one in at the door which kept the atmosphere buzzing but not crushing.

To play on stage, you put your name on the list and you take your turn. Great standard of players and a really friendly vibe.

If you are looking for a decent jam session close to the underground this is a good choice but get there early and get your name on the list asap.

Nothing much in the way of food that I noticed. Bar snacks are available but if you’re hungry go somewhere else first.

Personal opinion: Too cramped, too busy.

Would I go back as a punter? Yes, if I was already in the vicinity.

Would I go back for a jam? Definitely.

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Ain’t Nothin But, London

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Blues Kitchen (Camden High Street)

www.theblueskitchen.com

©glasgowbluesplayers.com

The Blues Kitchen is another kettle of fish. This, for me, has it all. The location, the venue, the facilities, the stage, the clientele, the food, the drink, the atmosphere and the quality of players…I could stay here all night, every night. I hung on so late I caught the last train back just as the doors were closing. If you are in London…Go To This Joint!!

One word of warning..if want to eat here book well in advance. It was booked out completely when I arrived. Lesson learnt.

The venue is a great size. Not too big, not too small and you can see Camden Town Underground Station from the front door. The vibe is perfect outside and in. It’s authentic, but realistically and naturally so. Some places put a picture of Muddy Waters on the wall and think they have a Blues Club. Not this place, it’s very tastefully put together and its so dark up by the stage area that you can shake your wild thang to its full capacity…nobody will see you.

Every Wednesday there is a band called The Reputations on stage. (www.thereputations.co.uk.)

Members:

Keys : Joe Mac

Bass : Will Hughes

Drums : Adam Gammage

Sax : Peter Back

Vocals : Angéline

Keys player Joe Mac was taking the lead vocal on the night so they were stripped back to a 4 piece but what a show they put on. Phenomenal players, each one. Joe Mac had a style not dissimilar to Jon Cleary. Great chops and individual phrasing and style.  Really strong player.

Peter Back soared above everything and reminded me frequently of Dick Parry in his style. Extremely accomplished improviser with a frighteningly good mix of passion and control. I had a couple of words with Peter at the break and he was refreshingly humble and a really nice guy.

Will and Adam were rock solid and obviously loved every moment of it. Again, outstanding players playing together, filling the gaps but leaving space…if you know what I mean.

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The Reputations @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

Here is a small sample of the set   note-25704_960_720

Guest vocalist Izzy Warner was invited onto stage about 5 numbers in and that was it…the roof was blown off. What a presence! What a voice!  As you can from the photos, Izzy had a fantastic stage craft but you can also pick up the honesty and desire to involve the audience.  I introduced myself at the end and another contact was made. http://www.londonbluesplayers.com may yet be a reality!

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

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Izzy Warner @ The Blues Kitchen, Camden

I dragged myself away grudgingly but what a fantastic night.

Personal opinion: Pretty damn near perfect!

Would I go back? In a heartbeat…every night.

 

 

16/01/2016

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Charlotte Marshall & The 45s @ Cottiers, Glasgow

When Charlotte Marshall asked me if I would shoot the show at Cottiers on Saturday night there wasn’t any answer that entered my head but “Yes!”

“Charlotte Marshall and The 45s” is one of those bands that work…as a band.  To explain that last statement further. They fill every minute with shared, beautifully executed and tastefully considered, ego free glimpses of a small sample of what they are capable of.  The result is you are always left wanting more and this continues throughout the set.

I’ve already done portraits and interviews individually for Charlotte, Fraser and Tim (Clarke) for this site and over the course of the project hope to get all of the players on here as each one has a phenomenal talent and no doubt a story to tell.

There were 4 bands playing tonight. All good and all very different. Charlotte was headlining and, as is the case with most gigs of this nature, the first couple of bands played to a gradually increasing audience who took their time to warm up…literally. It had been snowing all day and looking at the turnout, I started wondering if the weather was going to have a serious impact on the gig.

As people came in I heard some muttering about the lack of seating and “Why is there that huge space in the middle? They could have put loads of seats there!”

I had a wee smile to myself. I’ve seen the band before and I know what happens when they get cookin’.

Photographically, Cottiers is a dream. Huge, ornate, dramatic. It’s an old church, originally decorated by Daniel Cottier and taken on by the Four Acres Charitable Trust back in the early 90s. Restoration has been ongoing since then and there is still some way to go. The obvious disrepair and grandeur adds an imposing and very “cool”, almost grungy element to the atmosphere. The clash of a modern LED lighting rig and hefty PA add to the incongruity of the venue. At this point it is worthy to note the huge efforts that are being put into to restore the site and it is heart-warming and exciting to know that we will have this venue for years to come and that it is being looked after.

As I stood at the front of the stage I turned around and behind and high above me against the faraway back wall, towered the pipes of the original church organ. Imposing and bathed in a dull purple LED glow. I couldn’t help wondering how the sound from those 150 year old pipes would have mixed in with a Nord Elektro.

A pulse of electricity went through the crowd, I turned round and Charlotte was on stage.

Opening track, boom! I had to work hard during the first track, there were solos going off like fireworks from one side of the stage to the other. Piano, then sax, then guitar and all the time Charlotte grinning, spinning and strutting all over the stage. There was no gradual build up here! These guys were “ON”. This was Audio Visual Central and the train had left the station!

Having played in bands for years, the standard of musicianship and professionalism is blindingly obvious to me but it is so slick that it looks effortless.

The horn section is just one of the things that sets the band apart.   Gordon Dickson(Saxophone) and Fenwick Lawson(Trombone) are amongst the tightest brass players you’ll find.  If you have horns in a band I always think it can be tricky to get the arrangement just right.  Too little and it looks a bit weird, too much and there’s no space for vocals and fills.  Some bands find it hard with 4 or 5 players but to have 7 takes a real talent and a lot of control but the 45s got the mix right all the way through the set.

Tim (Brough – Keys) and Fraser are equally as at home laying down the groove as they are blistering through their solos.  There’s no self-indulgence.  Get in…do what you need to do… and get back out.  Fantastic!

The guys holding it all down at the back are Tim (Clarke) on bass and Michael Harrison on drums.  Again, professional, understated and tight but with the ability to lift the roof and drive the groove to the limit when occasion calls for it.  Perfect!

Obvious also is the level of stage-craft that is demonstrated by Ms Marshall. From the outset she pulls the audience in closer, physically reaching out and breaking down barriers, removing inhibitions, encouraging engagement. She does this also with the musicians in the band, gesturing for them to push the boundaries. Always aware of everything around her, she tracks the players, the audience and even the photographer to make sure everyone gets what they need.

The set flew by far to quickly, incorporating mostly original material.  The one cover that did stand out was the opening number…”Soulful Dress” by Sugar Pie Desanto…what a track!!

I could go on and on but I’ll keep it short and just advise you to sign up to the band’s Facebook page below and get along to their next gig!

https://www.facebook.com/charlottemarshall45s

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Alan Anderson – Slouch

Posted: January 22, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Alan Anderson @ Slouch

Quite a few of the guys I’ve spoken to have mentioned Alan Anderson as a good guy and a great Blues man so when I got a Facebook invite to his solo gig at Slouch in Bath Street, Glasgow I decided to drop in and say hello…and I’m glad I did.

Alan is one of those unassuming individuals with a quiet confidence about him and as we talked it became clear that he’d paid his dues on various circuits.

His acoustic playing is superb and his laid back vocals and easy manner soon chill you right out and any stresses of the day fade away as he meanders his way through the set. The original material is quite moving at times as he openly shares the meaning behind certain lyrics.

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Alan Anderson @ Slouch

Alan is one of those players that like to connect with the audience and the eye contact plays a large part of this. Again, the experience shows through and there is a genuine warmth and quiet confidence from start to finish.

It’s one of those nights in Glasgow where hardly anyone is out so it’s quiet in Slouch tonight, it’s quiet everywhere tonight but the audience gradually builds and 2 things become obvious:

1. Everyone is a musician tonight
2. This is not the first time they’ve been here

Something else becomes obvious as each player goes up on stage:

They’re good…all of them…and when I say good, I mean…really good!

I’ll do a quick roll call

Eric Hathaway, Pete Parisetti (and his wife Angela), J B Taton and Martina Alberi

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Eric Hathaway @ Slouch

 

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JB Taton @ Slouch

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Martina Alberi @ Slouch

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Alan Anderson @ Slouch

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Pete Parisetti and Angela Higney

There was a great mix of styles thoughout the night. Jazz, Blues, Americana, Country, Cuban and many more.

I’d got there early and my phone died so I had no idea what time it was and to be honest I didn’t care. I knew Alan was on till half past midnight but I wasn’t going to stay till the end..I had a 6am start the next day.

The atmosphere was really relaxed and great fun and everyone was having a good time but I knew I should probably go so I said my goodbyes and got into the car. The clock on the dashboard said 00:25. Good job I never stayed till 00:30…I’d have been knackered in the morning!

Looking forward to catching up with Alan in the near future for more of a chat and a portrait.