You may have heard this before, but one of the things we love about this feature is that musicians and creative artists generally will always put their own spin on it, as we quickly realized seven years ago when this feature started. Allan reviewed Kristina Stykos’s album “River of Light” in April this year and loved it. Kristina has a studio background, so we’d kind of expect some studio-related favourites from her. We weren’t disappointed with this insight in to the recording process she specializes in. And this one goes all the way to eleven (well six actually) – we did warn you about these creatives.

 

For the DIY musician who doubles as his or her own recording engineer, here are my five “must-have” items for the studio, plus a bonus.

 

HP Mixers

A frustrated band mate in headphones is your worst enemy. Don’t let anyone ever yell at you again that they need more … anything. With these five handy knobs, care of Furman, each musician can design their own custom headphone mix, and turn themselves up until it’s distorted, if that’s what they prefer. Set it up in advance in Pro Tools and, voila. You’ll save your hearing … and your sanity.

 

Clipboards

I can’t emphasize enough the usefulness of old fashioned clipboards to organize handwritten notes during sessions. Paper and pen are always the most reliable tools for jotting down quirky issues, superlative takes and guerrilla settings. Your computer doesn’t remember everything, nor should it have to. There is nothing worse than that feeling of “What the heck did we do?”, after the fact.

 

Guitar Picks

After years of recording guitars, you probably have collected a lot of guitar picks off the floor. This lovely origami-paper pick box never ceases to delight. When someone can’t find their own pick, the mood is one of serving hors d’oeuvres. And as you can see, a pick box also doubles as a receptacle for dice, dog licenses, and antique NYC subway tokens.

 

String Gauge Chart

I try to be helpful if someone has just broken a string. Time is of the essence in the studio, and when the mood is right, no one likes being the one holding things up. But for some reason, not all packaged strings tell you what note they are. If you want to be smarter than the average guitar player, this cheat sheet will help you avoid falling prey to unnecessary moments of awkward confusion.

 

Album Plaques

Discmakers used to offer these plaques free to studio partners, as a “thank-you” for doing business with their New Jersey manufacturing plant. Well, like everything else in life, once they’d hooked us on the idea, they started charging for them. Although it pisses me off, I always buy one, to visually commemorate the arduous journey that completing an album represents. Everyone who comes in the studio loves to look at them.

 

To-Do List (bonus) 

In case of boredom, or so that we don’t take ourselves too seriously as artists, we keep this to-do list in the tracking room. It reminds us of the many things yet to do, and look forward to, that have nothing to do with anything music related.

Our most regular contributor Steve Jenner, did a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage in late 2019 to get back to the roots of the music he loves, both as a listener and a radio presenter. Here’s his take on his favourite destinations on the tour taking in the rhythm ‘n’ blues and rock ‘n’ roll landmarks of America’s South.

 

 

STAX, Memphis

The heavyweight champion as far as I’m concerned. The range of exhibits is just breathtaking, the stunning range of photographs, the specific instruments which grace the museum, the fact that they’ve got a restored version of the jukebox I have in my house…and the fact that the building itself just reeks of the opportunity it represented as an oasis of creativity and inter-racial harmony, the unifying factor being music, makes this place a pilgrimage, an education and a re-affirmation of the love which brings you here in the first place. Flight cases stamped ‘Isaac Hayes Movement’. Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn’s bass, Steve Cropper’s Telecaster. The pride with which WattStax is celebrated tells you all you need to know. This is the label where uncompromising soul music finally ‘gotten over’. Sell your goods and chattels and GO. The facility continues to do sterling work in the community changing lives for the better; but get selfish here. You WILL enrich your own life.

 

Sun Studios, Memphis

It would be sooooeasy for this to disappoint….but it doesn’t. Still a working studio, it actually feels like it. Not sure why they feel the need to play a Van Halen track as you ascend the stairs to the studio and small exhibition but once you’re up there…oh man. Where else are you likely to be within touching distance of a white-label demo of the first rock ‘n’ roll 78 RPM record, ever (Jackie Brenston, “Rocket 88” and I’ll brook no argument on this one.) The kit, the instruments…the room itself…and THAT microphone. The one the originators lit the blue touch paper to the cultural revolution with. Go, wait until the guide leaves the room, grasp the mic that launched a million hits and sing, as badly as you will, at least one line of a lyric that was recorded there. For me it was the first line from Billy Lee Riley’s “Red Hot”. Choose your weapon. And you will never feel the same again. I feel like some gold dust came off that mic and it hasn’t worn off yet and I don’t think it ever will.

Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Memphis

It takes the breath away. The range and depth of artefacts alone would reduce a grown man to tears if they were piled up in the corner under an old tarpaulin but the presentation, sequencing and ‘staging’ of the exhibits means you can hardly tear your eyes away from anything, anywhere. From huge chunks of ancient radio station to detailed explanations of how key artists ‘became’, you just can’t afford to miss this one and it makes a Transatlantic trip worth the ticket price alone. And then you step outside and you’re a couple of hundred yards from Beale Street. And you are walking with your feet ten feet off.

Gracelands, Memphis

I expected this to be much, much more tacky and a lot less interesting but still felt I just had to go. ‘I have reason to believe we all will be received in Gracelands’, right? Well, yes but it just shows what I know. Gracelands, the house, was actually a monument to a remarkably ‘normal’ life and if we disregard the loads of cars and a couple of planes, otherwise what might seem a reasonable wish list of toys for a top-end lawyer. And it seems quite small, ridiculous although that statement may appear, but very homely in a ‘seventies’ sort of way. Absolutely fascinating; and the garden of rest, where his mother, father and other family members are committed along with Presley’s remains is a real place of peace and reflection. The museum needs more energy than you’ve got in the Memphis heat to get through it all; and the range of costumes, cars, toys and paraphernalia is mind-boggling. House might be relatively modest…but he liked his transportation toys, did Elvis. And the costumes tell the story of the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll icon…who eventually went more ‘showbiz’ than showbiz itself. The true price of fame on an unprecedented scale, displayed alongside the attendant rewards; a parable for our times which sadly, many STILL don’t seem to have understood.

RCA Studio B, Nashville

Despite not being the greatest devotee of Jim Reeves, it cannot be denied that RCA Studio ‘B’ in Nashville has seen the recording of more hits than most big labels see in a lifetime from all sources. Most of Elvis’s biggest sellers were recorded here. Dolly Parton, Bobby Goldsboro, Charley Pride…on and on it goes. And once again you can cut the ‘atmosphere’ with a knife. I DID hear, and sense, the ghost of Elvis here. It was a throwback to 4AM, April 4th, 1960 when Elvis was recording “Are You Lonesome Tonight” here…in the dark. Ask her nicely and the studio guide will throw the light switch off and play you the original reel-to-reel of the original recording. ‘Saw the ghost of Elvis…then I watched him walk right through…’

All photos courtesy of Sue Jenner.

This witness protection programme isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; we managed to find our arch-miserablist in a pub in Basildon this week just in time to get his opinions on the perfect storm of the end of a decade and a general election. We blew the whole years’ hospitality budget on Stella and rum and black, but we think it was worth it. Just a word of warning, there’s some fairly fruity adult language here. And it’s an opinion (or set of opinions) from one end of the political spectrum. If anyone wants to reply to this with opposing viewpoints, we’ll happily publish it. Let’s light the blue/red touchpaper and go.

Really; it’s been ten years of Tory misrule. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? And it looks like the narrative is ‘Everything’s screwed; vote for us to unscrew it’. But didn’t you just screw it up in the first place? ‘Get Brexit Done’ – because about 39% of the eligible electorate voted for Brexit. That’s not anything close to a majority. And how many of those were conned by the £350m a week back into the NHS – I’m calling BS here. Forget about the fact that benefits come back into the UK economy from the EU. The aim of the Tories always is and always has been to systematically unpick the welfare state in general and the NHS in particular. You were conned and now the extremists have been given the upper hand. What do I think of that?

And what about the head knob, the unelected Prime Minister who suspends Parliament when it suits his agenda, can’t remember how many kids he has, buys water cannons that are illegal in this country that have to be scrapped at a huge loss and approves grants for British businesses to his American ‘friend’. You’ve all been conned by a toff who takes nothing seriously and only ever does anything if it benefits Bojo the Clown. He doesn’t care about you, or your friends, or your family. All he wants is your vote. As John Cooper-Clarke said ‘They can’t find a good word for you. I can; twat.’
And the skulking coward refuses to do interviews with journalists who might give him a bad time. He even hides in a fridge to avoid an interview with the arch-Tory sympathiser, Piers Morgan. Just the kind of person that you want to have as Prime Minister, yeah?
Over to you, Brian, Freddie, John and Roger:

The Tory cabinet; yeah, we can all feel that we’re represented there, can’t we? What a bunch of Matt Gossers. I mean, it’s difficult to pick out a lead Jeremy Hunt here, but the front runner has to be the bad Dickens caricature, Jacob Rees-Mogg. Yeah, the one who has a little nap on the front bench during a crucial debate. You think he cares about someone on Universal Credit in Hartlepool? No, if you’ve read this far, you obviously don’t. Have you noticed that he’s been seriously inconspicuous during this election campaign. Why do you think that is? J R-M, this one’s for you:

Spin, fake news, alternative facts. It’s strange how these are mostly coming from the blue side of the electoral divide (88% apparently). Who’s funding it, who’s really spreading it? We’ll probably never know, but there was a bit of official reaction from Dominic Raab (resigner, not remoaner) when the Tories changed their Twitter account to make it look like an independent fact-checking site. He said “no one gives a toss about social media cut and thrust”. FYI Dom, I do give a toss; I think most of my friends do too. Graham Parker did as well, when he wrote this very prophetic song about four years ago:

What do all of these privileged muppets have in common? They have absolutely no understanding of the life that we all lead every day – zero, nada, zilch, sweet FA (and that’s not the Football Association or Fanny Adams). This is all a game where they make decisions and don’t have to live with the consequences. Real life isn’t about making a point with a soundbite in a debate and looking smug about it. Most of us don’t spend our lives in the Oxford Union and the decisions that are made by this privileged bunch affect all of us. Here’s their theme song:

Merry Christmas and it’s your round. Stella and rum and black’s fine, thinks.

Jess Klein’s album “Back to my Green” was released in February 2019, which seems like a really long time ago now. We loved it then and we love it still, which is why we were really pleased when Jess agreed to contribute to our 2019 High Fives feature. Here are some of Jess’s highpoints from 2019. Bit of a spoiler here, the last one might make you think you have something in your eye.

 

Touring Florida

In January, I went on tour in Florida. I hadn’t toured Florida in a couple years and never outside of Tampa. The venues were all new to me and I had no idea what to expect – would anyone show up? It turned out my friend, the songwriter Grant Peeples (who had also connected me with some of the venues) told a bunch of people to come see me play. John Fullbright, who was touring Florida the prior week, mentioned my name to his audience from the stage and told them that they should come see me. Thanks to one of the promoters, WMNF in Tampa invited me on air twice in one weekend. WSLR in Sarasota pushed my show there. Every show was packed. Those were just gifts my fellow songwriters, the promoters and radio DJ’s decided to give me. They didn’t have to. I came home feeling so blessed. Creative community is powerful.

 

David Byrne’s American Utopia tour

Seeing David Byrne’s American Utopia tour: a 12-piece band playing and dancing like one rhythmic body, led by lanky, quirky David Byrne. “Burning Down the House”, “Road to Nowhere”, “Once in a Lifetime”…They covered Janelle Monae’s tribute to black lives lost to police brutality, “Hell You Talmbout”.   Byrne and his incredible band created something even bigger than the sum of their parts. My brain was screaming, “Look what humans can do!!!” It felt like the roof was about to blow off.  

 

First Sunday Revue

My husband, Mike June and I launched the “First Sunday Revue” here in Hillsborough, North Carolina where we live. The first Sunday of each month, we get our band together and play a no-cover afternoon gig at our local, the Nash St. Tavern. Nash St. is on the divier side, the sound is weird, it is not fancy. But I have never felt so loved as I do when we play these shows. People come every month, they bring their friends, they dance (all folksingers know, getting an audience to dance is a rarity). They yelp and cheer for more and leave looking happier than when they came in. We do too.

 

Song Traveler’s Songwriting Retreat

In October, I taught at the Song Traveler’s Songwriting Retreat in Nashville. The twelve students and three teachers (Wyatt Easterling, Korby Lenker and I) all stayed in one big country house outside of town. It was 24-7 writers and writing. You literally could not avoid the creativity and inspiration with so much of it flying around. Wyatt, Korby and I co-wrote a song together and it’s pretty damn good. Getting paid to just talk about what I love to do, and to help other songwriters through their processes was like a dream come true for me. I could do that all day every day.

 

Mike June

A couple weeks ago, I came home after a long, exhausting day. It was part of a long, exhausting week. Mike June sat me down and said, “I wrote a song about you today”. He walked over to the piano and played something so beautiful and simple and loving, all the crap fell away. That’s love. He had also cooked my favorite dinner (roast chicken with potatoes and Brussel sprouts). I was a mushy mess, realizing I have this human being as my partner. Love is everything.

Well, we gave Allan a free pass with his photos this year and he’s split the black and whites into male and female artists. Here are the female artists:

Midori Jaeger

This was shot at Pizza Express in Holborn at a gig to launch Daisy Chute’s latest single “Give Thanks”. I’d shot Midori before (at another Daisy Chute gig) and I knew what I was trying to capture this time around. She did a solo mini-set where I got in close, but this shot was taken from further back and it works because I think it captures Midori’s look and something of her personality. I have to say at this point that some of the artists are connected in various ways. Here’s Midori.

 

Karen Grymm-Regester (Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band)

Heard of Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band? You should have; they’re one of my favourite bands. I love the songs, but I really love photographing the band because they’re always visually stunning. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the lighting is, at least one member of the band will create a really striking image. I wish I could say that I patiently waited for Karen to create the finger shadows, but it wouldn’t be true; I only saw the three stripes when I was editing, but I knew then that it was a special shot.

Hannah Wood (Sound of the Sirens)

What can I say about Hannah? She’s half of Sound of the Sirens, another one of my favourite bands. I love photographing the band; Hannah and her oppo Abbe Martin are equally photogenic and I always come away from one of their gigs with interesting shots. This one at Canary Wharf was a little bit special. The lighting helped because it was just at the point where there was some daylight and the stage lighting had just kicked in. It looks a bit like a really high shutter speed to freeze the action, but it was actually Hannah frozen in a moment that she had created. Just pleased I was ready for it.

Barbara (Basia) Bartz (Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band)

I know; another Stolen Band member. I love this band (see above) and I almost feel like a stalker now at their gigs. I probably like this one because most of my shots of Basia are action shots and this looks quite contemplative. And there’s a little connection here that I discovered earlier this year. Basia’s a good friend of Midori Jaeger (above), who I photographed for the first time earlier this year.

Natalie Shay

Natalie’s another artist that I’ve seen and photographed many times. I realised earlier this year that I didn’t have a good shot featuring her characteristic flick of her very, very long hair. So, on a Saturday evening in May this year I set out for the Leake Street vaults under Waterloo Station on a mission to get the hair flick shot (which has absolutely nothing to do with “Allo, Allo”). The lighting was minimal but just good enough, so I managed to get a result. A bit of a single-minded expedition maybe, but it’s a welcome addition to the portfolio.

Putting aside the fact that all of these five people are incredibly photogenic, they have something else in common; they’re all absolutely lovely people that I always look forward to meeting.

 

 

 

 

This started the way the best features do, as a conversation in the pub. We’ll let Allan take it from there.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the pop music book; if the song’s on its last legs and you still need another thirty seconds or so to get you up to the optimal time for radio play, then you deploy one the producer’s most potent tactical weapons – the trucker’s gear change. In its most basic form, the whole arrangement shifts up a tone or a semitone, to grab back your attention before the chorus repeats and fades. Usually, it just happens once, but that depends on how desperate you are (or how weak the song is). You might even get some clever stuff going on to get from one key to the next; when that happens, you get all classical and call it a modulation. What do they sound like? Let’s start with an absolute clunker.

“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston

Considering the quality of the musicians available to producer David Foster, this TGC is bone-jarringly unsubtle; there’s no attempt to pretty it up by repeating a riff in the new key or moving through a few passing chords. Oh no; old key/bang/new key – we’re done. As if that’s not enough, there’s a whole bar of almost complete silence before the melody crashes back in again, maybe David Foster thought that the average listener couldn’t remember which key the song was in after 4 beats. Who knows; anyway it’s a crash/bang/wallop of the highest order and you can hear the teeth grinding off the flywheel:

“Love on Top” – Beyonce

OK, we’re now well and truly in the era of digital recording and production and it’s much easier and quicker to manipulate sounds. You can do a TGC with a mouse-click. If it’s so easy to do, why not do loads of them – one is good, two must be better. Beyonce co-produced this with Shea Taylor, so she’s sharing the blame here. In the last ninety seconds of the radio edit there are four, yes four upward key shifts as the chorus is repeated. It makes you wonder what it would be like if the key shift just kept repeating. As it happens, someone thought of that. Here it is with fourteen upward shifts:

 

“The Snake” – Al Wilson

Ah, the old Northern Soul classic. Fans will remember that one of the UK pressings of this song had a cover of the John Fogerty classic “Lodi” on the b-side. That’s not relevant, just me showing off. Sometimes you can get away with a few stick shifts if you’re building up to the climax of the song and that’s what happens here. At the end of the second verse, there’s a bass riff which is then repeated a tone higher and you’re in a different key. It’s not just a chorus repeated in exactly the same way but higher, it’s part of the process of moving the story along. And the same device is repeated at the end of the third chorus into the final verse as the song reaches its dramatic finale. Maybe I’m biased, but I think this is part of the arrangement of the song and that keeps it out of Room 101:

“Heat Treatment” – Graham Parker & the Rumour

You might think that any key change part way through a song would be agreed with the writer; it ain’t necessarily so. This was the title song of GP and the Rumour’s second album “Heat Treatment”, released in 1976, the same year as his debut “Howlin’ Wind” (two albums in a year and incessant gigs; musicians grafted in those days). Partway through the song, there’s a modulation; it’s quite musical – a two-bar horn section phrase takes the song up a tone. It’s not lumpy but it does the job fairly quickly. The problem is that it’s not part of generating extra excitement, just the opposite. It takes the song into a bass riff breakdown and the groove has to be built up again from scratch. Graham Parker made his feelings about it known when the album was remastered for CD; his sleeve notes refer to it as ‘that abusive key change’. Fair enough.

“Up the Junction” – Squeeze

This was the title track from the second Squeeze album, with a tip of the hat to Nell Dunn who wrote the novella of the same name. Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were just beginning to realise their potential as songwriters and Jools Holland was still their keyboard player. This is a key change that is about as far from a trucker’s gear change as you can get. It’s a modulation that reflects a downbeat turn in the lyrics through a ten-bar bridge using minor chords before dropping a whole tone for a more upbeat verse and then, paradoxically, going back up by a whole tone for the downbeat final verse. Difford and Tilbrook characteristically messing with the conventions. Bits of “Up the Junction” trivia? There are no choruses and the title of the song doesn’t appear in the lyric until the last three words:

Another album that Allan loved this year was Bob Bradshaw’s “Queen of the West”. You can see just how much he loved it here . There’s just a chance that it might appear as one of his top five albums of 2019 – who knows? “Queen of the West” isn’t just a bunch of songs sequenced in some sort of order, it’s an album where the songs fit together to tell a story from different of points in time with serious and sometimes comic styles. It’s an album you really should check out; make sure you set aside an hour and listen to it from start to finish. So we were more than somewhat pleased when Bob replied to our contributions shout-out with five of his favourite Americana songs from 2019:

 

Tyler Childers – House Fire

 

So simple yet so right, with a mostly-acoustic production that starts off huge and keeps building.

 

Lillie Mae – You’ve Got Other Girls for That

 

 

Quirky, edgy, beautifully sung.

 

Tim Gearan – Future of the Past

 

 

Tim Gearan’s characteristic complex, wry wordplay in a wonderfully loose atmospheric production.

 

Kassi Ashton – Violins

 

 

Funny as hell, not a wasted word in a perfect verse/pre-chorus/chorus build-up -- great roots slide guitar.

 

Caroline Spence --  Who’s Gonna Make My Mistakes

 

 

I’m a sucker for playful mid-tempo songs as good as this one.

We reviewed the latest J.P. Soars “Southbound I-95” earlier this year and Allan loved it. J.P. is a guitarist and writer with talent and creativity to burn and “Southbound I-95” absolutely fizzed with invention and exuberance. We were totally chuffed when J.P. agreed to make a contribution to 2019’s High Fives. If you wanted to know what his five favourite albums are, you’re in luck:

 

 

Here’s my list of five fav albums:

 

Muddy Waters – “The Real Folk Blues”

I stumbled on this record when I was 20 years old and it blew my mind.

 

 

 

 

Metallica – “Master of Puppets”

Discovered this one when I was 16 and it blew my mind as well.

 

 

 

Django Reinhardt – “20th Century Collection”

Found this one while on tour in the north-east back in 2003. It’s got most of his greatest work. Life changing!

 

 

 

T-Bone Walker – “Imperial Recordings”

The quintessential T-Bone. Simply great stuff.

 

 

 

Miles Davis – “Kind of Blue”

My go to record when I’m feeling low down, stressed out and wanna really relax and free my mind. 

 

All these records have had a huge impact on me and still do. Love ‘em all.

We asked Allan to share his favourite five photographs of the year and got the response we expected. ‘How can you pick favourites? It’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is’, and lots more in that vein. We eventually got him to agree to split them into five favourite monochrome and five favourite colour photos. Too good to be true really; it was, because he selected ten nice monochromes for us and said he couldn’t break it down any further. But surely ten’s just two sets of five; could we split them up? Amazing; five are male performers, five are female so here we go with the male performers, in no particular order:

 

Steve Stott

First thing I’m saying about this is that I know Steve quite well. He’s part of a scene in Southend-on-Sea and is a very gifted fiddle and mandolin player; he’s also a really nice guy. I got to know Steve because he collaborates extensively with Phil Burdett (and you really should check him out). This shot was taken upstairs at The Railway Hotel in Southend at the launch of volumes of poetry by Phil Burdett and Ralph Dartford. Phil decided to intersperse readings of his poems with some of his songs, accompanied by Steve, meaning that Steve had some onstage downtime. And the point that I’m approaching tangentially here is that the interesting stuff doesn’t have to be front and centre; Phil is a riveting performer and I loved the expression as Steve watched him recite:

 

Sam Tanner

There’s a bit of a theme emerging here; Sam’s a lovely guy as well. He’s also a great keyboard player and has one of the most soulful voices I’ve ever heard. The first time I saw Sam, he was part of Mollie Marriott’s band as co-writer, keyboard player and backing vocalist. He’s also one of the members of the funk supergroup Brother Strut (check them out live and on record) and in 2019 he released his solo album. This shot was taken at the sold-out launch gig for the album at The Half Moon in Putney with an absolute all-star band and an audience packed with great musicians as well; Sam didn’t disappoint and I think this picture captured something of the essence of one of the UK’s finest soul singers:

Red Berryn (Dominic Cooper)

My first encounter with Dom was at Leek Blues & Americana Festival in October 2018. I grabbed an interesting shot during his set and we got acquainted online. What Dom does is a tribute to the godfather of rock ‘n’ roll, Chuck Berry. This isn’t just any old Chuck Berry tribute; Dom’s totally committed, knows the Berry family and was actually invited to Chuck’s funeral. This isn’t just any of Chuck’s children out there playing his licks. This shot was taken in October 2019 at the same festival when Dom’s band supported the wonderful Little Victor at The Foxlowe Theatre. As Dom went into his splits routine, I got in close just as he shot a laser-like stare directly at the camera:

Mikey Christer

Social media has its faults, but sometimes it works wonderfully well. I photographed Mikey for the first time in 2017 when he played in Penny Riviera’s band (check her out as well) at her EP launch at The Hard Rock Café. On the back of one shot from that gig, Mikey got in touch and we’ve discovered since that we have loads of favourite bands and guitar players in common. When I heard that Penny was doing a gig at Slim Jim’s in Islington this year with Mikey in the band, it was a no-brainer. It’s interesting lighting there, but it works well with monochrome. It was great to meet up with Mikey and chew the fat and this was my favourite shot from the night:

Connor Cockbain

I like to visit Brighton during The Great Escape for a day or so. The weather’s usually good and it’s nice to get away from The Smoke for a day. This year, the day was spent mostly in Caffe Nero watching some fabulous artists, but it’s always nice to pop over the road to The Mesmerist to catch some bands there. One of the bands I saw very briefly this year was The Post Romantics from Liverpool. I have some rules about gig photography and Rule One is that you don’t get the microphone directly in front of the singer’s mouth. Rule Two is that you can break the rules when you can justify it; the intensity of Connor’s stare in this shot is the justification. With minimal stage lighting and daylight through the windows, this was always a monochrome shot, which was a good thing because I had a chat with the band afterwards and they told me that Connor would convert it to black and white anyway:

Ethan Anderson is the singer and main songwriter with Massy Ferguson, whose album “Great Divides” we reviewed earlier this year and another band that we didn’t get a chance to check out live – next time guys. Despite us snubbing their gigs, Ethan Anderson kindly agreed to contribute to this year’s High Fives. We had Suzie Ungerleider’s cocktails yesterday and it’s Ethan’s favourite English pubs today:

 

TOP 5 “EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WANTED OUT OF AN ENGLISH PUB” PUBS

Since I’m American, I admit that I have certain expectations for my British pub, ranging from pragmatic ones to wildly stereotypical. These 5 pubs fit all those, and then some, though for a variety of reasons that might not seem as obvious.

Number 1(tie), The Three Horseshoes, Ecton

I have to go number one (tie) with the Three Horseshoes for so many reasons. The place reeks of history and carousing in the best possible way. I don’t know when carpet was invented but the carpet at the Three Horseshoes is from that era. The ceiling seems to be caving in and is inches shorter than me in many places. We’ve played a show there on every UK tour we’ve been on. The beer is great, the people are great, Paul Darwin, Adrian, Rob, Kay, Victoria and the rest of the crew will look after you, and best of all, no one in the UK has heard of the bar or possibly even the town (Ecton). It’s the best of village in England. Side note: They also have a bench seat that I accidentally broke while doing a flute solo during a gig that the whole band later signed hanging on the wall.

Number 1(tie), The Thomas Tripp, Christchurch

I have to give number one to the Thomas Tripp (tie) because it’s the first place we ever played in the UK. I wish every place we played subsequently was more like the Tripp: old English pub (1700s era) with a renovated outside area, killer fish and chips, almost it is always packed with people. Simon and Aly are amazing folks who gave our guitar player a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on his birthday. I watched England lose to Iceland in a World Cup game there in 2016 and there’s no better way to get a taste of English pub life after their beloved, or much maligned, team loses. I learned a lot of new and creative ways to use the f-word and c-word that day.

Number 3, The Duke of Albany, Weymouth

John and co do a great job — again, it’s all about the atmosphere. This place has some talkers, some characters and some self-proclaimed amateur comics.  Plus I’m a huge fan of rooms that are named after English royalty with sordid history. I never played a show there but they appear to have the best karaoke on the southern coast, at least that’s what they’ll tell you. They didn’t know me but John still made a point to drive me around for a tour of Durdle Door, which was quite a memory.

Number 4, The Jenny Lind, Hastings

Again, gotta love the people. We had a show there but there was no PA system. We asked around and the local friends of friends found us one at two hours’ notice. Great stage, better people and also a great little place to get a room and crash post gig. Plus you can walk up the hill and visit a 1000 year old fortress. Definitely can’t do THAT in the US.

Number 5, The Speaker, London, UK

It’s the first place I ever drank in the UK. A great memory. It was drizzling and foggy that day, fittingly. Musty, dingy, surly bartender who hates Adele (“A-dull” in his words), extra clean taps—the only clean thing in the place. It might be touristy because of the location but I don’t care, it was a great place to spend an hour out of the London weather.