Monday, June 20, 2005

Best birthday present my sister ever had…

Monday 20th June 2005

My niece rocks.
She’s tiny. She’s hooked up to all sorts of machines, but she’s there in the incubator with her tiny arms and legs kicking.
She’s a fighter.

Tune of the day

by Lauryn Hill


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Still an Aunty in active service...

Sunday 19th June 2005

Short sleep. Plane. Taxi – the boot of which breaks and won’t close as soon as we have our equipment in it. Taxi no.2 doesn’t get us to the bus station in time for the bus to Goteborg. Train – 4 and a half hours.
I get a call on the train to say that the health of my niece is not good.
Isolated, frustrated. Angry and very sad.

We are met by a very enthusiastic, high spirited young lady who is daunted by our brooding weary appearance and endeavours to cheer us up as we are rushed to the venue for the sound check.
It’s a Womad style event – electronic meets African kora and voices. Galliano plays before us – he looks remarkably like Napoleon Bonaparte.
The gig is warm, strong and uplifting.
I come off stage to 5 missed calls on my mobile – TOTAL panic. None of them are from my family – big big relief.

Tune of the day

Shout, Sister, Shout
by Sister Rosetta Tharpe


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Viva Norway…

Saturday 18th June 2005

We get one and a half hours sleep at the Oslo hotel before heading off to the airport to fly to Bergen where we are taken straight to the hotel for a much needed sleep.
It’s a beautiful place nestled in mountains by the side of a fjord.

Norway is proving to be quite wild.
Drunk like Finland (really really drunk), dressed in random style – not so much the case in Oslo, here in Bergen people really do just wear what they feel the vibe to wear regardless of “fashion” or musical preference.
Having dined deliciously at Viva las Vegis – Elvis tribute vegetarian café, and gone up the mountain on a little train AND found our way back down again through the woods, the scenes in the town are amazing.
On one huge stage is a massive orchestra going at it 10 to the dozen.
At the base of a statue designed by one of the members of A-ha is an old van with a drum kit on the roof and a picket fence down one side making a little garden area. In the garden is a woman with 3 old record players, playing 3 different pieces of vinyl at 3 different speeds creating a total cacophony.
Some blokes nearby (very near the passers by) are juggling fire.

The gig is a wild wild frenzy, and when we leave the venue at 3.30am it is already light and the streets are full of drunken revellers – it is the kind of crowd you’d expect to see shopping of a Saturday afternoon except all the shops are closed and half the people are staggering!

Tune of the day

In the Ghetto
by Elvis


Friday, June 17, 2005

I’m an Aunty!

Friday 17th June 2005

All other things are blown out of the water today.
I am an Aunty, right here right now, whatever happens.
It’s not straight forward. My niece was given 10% chance of survival and weighs 540g at birth. She and my sister are hooked up to various different machines/drips/monitors.

Oslo for the first time, Hausmania, rickshaw ride at speed through the city all great but come and go in a blur.
The Aunty business. Mega. Monumental. Emotional. Wow.

Tune of the day

Go Easy
by Forever Haqani


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Take the last train to Oslo…

Thursday 16th June 2005

Day off in Stockholm.
The hotel is a boat moving gently on the water – conducive to sleep, not so the clacking toilet door which is right next to my room, so from 6am onwards it’s none stop toilet door action.

The sun is shining hot like summer – shorts and sandals for the first time in 2005.
Wandered along one of the islands along the waterside.
Highlight of the day dinner; a picnic in the park (really nice food – cheers Oskar) with lots of other Swedes who have mini barbecues, major amounts of booze, mega picnics for 20+ - never before have I seen such gatherings. Several groups playing an apparently Viking game where you have to chuck chunks of wood at each other (the wood not the people).
Make hay while the sun shines mentality as they’ll all be suicidal come the winter?! Some folk even had a large wooden table (no sign of a vehicle so presumably they carried it from somewhere).

The lowlight of the day was the night train to Oslo – a 6 berth cabin containing 4 Zion Train, 2 strangers and too much luggage. Claustrophobic? I should coco.

Tune of the day

No Trophy
by The Bees


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Welcome to Sweden…

Wednesday 15th June 2005

I am usually very good at remembering certain things – phone numbers, places, birthdays. But there are areas where I simply cannot retain information for example birthdays at the beginning of September, April and May. One of my oldest school friends has a birthday at the beginning of September and after 30 years I can still never remember exactly what date. Scandinavia is a geographical black hole for me.
Today I am flying to Stockholm but to my shame can’t remember if it’s in Sweden or Norway. It doesn’t help that I’m flying Ryan Air. At Stansted Airport the destination is “Stockholm” – as soon as we are on the plane there’s no mention of Stockholm, but another place name (and when we land surprise surprise it’s over 100km from Stockholm!).
Further more me and Hakey are separated getting onto the plane and I can’t see him throughout the flight – I start to think that I’m on the wrong plane heading for a random destination. I am very relieved to see Hakey getting off the plane and he confirms that we are in Sweden – land of Ikea, Abba and Henrik Larson.
And it is very Ikea – neat, modern, efficient but with extremely friendly and courteous people – the ones who are dealing with us are anyway, the vibe on the street is a little more cool/reserved.
The venue, the Kulturhus, is like a Kafkaesque Ikea showroom – floors of theatre spaces, cafes, galleries and offices. We are playing on the roof terrace which is lovely and because it’s June in the north of the Northern hemisphere we are playing to a perpetual sunset.
Nice crowd. Mellow and positive vibes. Welcome to Sweden indeed.

Tune of the day

by Abba


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sublime to ridiculous…

Sunday 12th June 2005

June’s mega busy.
Back from Poland for 4 days with barely time to catch up before off to do a couple of UK gigs:
Shrewsbury – lovely venue, lovely crowd, lovely meal. Talked long into the night with the owner of The Buttermarket who is friends with Ian Rush (Liverpool F.C. hero).
The uptight idiot woman at one of our b&bs knows who she is! Enough said.

Lynton is an unmitigated disaster of a gig.
Initially it’s looking good – we go for a cream tea and wander round the town which is really beautiful.
The soundcheck is aborted due to terrible buzzing noise on the PA – nevermind.
We are then presented with an amazing array of food – sadly most of it involves meat (one dish looks like mashed up brains in jelly). We snack on what we can. It’s 6pm.
We are then lead to the place where we’re due to be sleeping – nice house on the hill looking out over the sea.
The festival eventually gets underway, by the time we are due to play it’s running an hour late. The band before us finish with a flurry and we set up.
Then the generator breaks.
They try to use a domestic supply from one of the pubs, this will only run a fraction of the sound system.
We eventually take to the stage 2 hours late playing music over a sound system which isn’t as loud as the hi fi in my living room and one white light pointing directly at us.
We haven’t eaten for 6 hours and there is no further prospect of food – we are assured of a hearty breakfast which, surprise surprise never materialises!
I didn’t wait around to find out but drove home and got into my own bed at 5am.
Respect and thanks to those who danced and got into it regardless;-)

Tune of the day

Golden Slumbers
by The Beatles


Monday, June 06, 2005

Jaaazz. Grrreat...

Monday 6th June 2005

Back at The Blue Note in Poznan last night.
It’s a jazz club.
Happily Lucas (promoter of legendary 1st ever Polish gig in Poznan and every other gig there since – such long term relationships are great) has hired in a sound system and is not using the in house PA. On all other previous occasions we’ve played in The Blue Note, the diminutive black leather jacketed, slick back haired jazz loving owner of the club has hovered at the side of the stage wringing his delicate white hands and gesturing at Perch to turn it down or preferably off, as Perch leaps around bouncing wild dub effects round the building at ear splitting volume.

I had a really great time before, during and after the show.
I have run out of superlatives for Poland!

Tune of the day

A Spoonful Blues
by Charley Patton


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Oh Poland!

Sunday 5th June 2005

You see the most stunning flora and fauna driving round Poland. Stunning irises of all colours are in flower at the moment and I’ve seen an eagle, storks as well as random animals – we’ve just driven past 4 gazelles in someone’s garden! And we saw ostriches yesterday.

On first impressions Katowice seems dirty in a faded grandeur sort of way.
The venue is a huge communist era rabbit warren with endless corridors, stairs, rooms.
We are treated really well food, drink, sound system and internet access wise. The dressing room is enormous and a game of cricket is only cut short due to a breakage (Perch again).

The gig itself is like one of the earliest ever ZT gigs in Poland – raw and full on, almost overwhelmingly so. They chant and sing along to tunes that they know and beg for those they want to hear. At one point they surge forward and only a fast moving sound man comes between Fitta and a falling light stand. There could have been a terrible Michael Jacksonesque accident.
Health and safety doesn’t really exist in Poland. Outside CDQ, the Warsaw venue there were free standing upright logs on fire. Mad.

Tune of the day

Your Love is My Love
by Whitney Houston


Saturday, June 04, 2005

Lucky end to an unlucky day...

Thursday 2nd June 2005

For an anal retentive who can only read magazines from cover to cover starting at the beginning (and I'm a slow reader so 1 magazine may take several days if not weeks), my diary is surprisingly all over the place at the minute.
I am simultaneously writing about Istanbul last August, have ramblings from April to may 2005 in my powerbook waiting to be posted and am writing this in a pad as we bump along Polish roads (typing what I wrote by hand into a computer at Jazz Club, Katowice!).

We are listening to the late Junior Delgado's album which he recorded just before he passed.
I am quite cynical about a lot of modern reggae, especially that which is made by established artists, complacency often sets in and you hear bland reggae tropes, shadows of the great work you origiinally associate them with.
The Delgado album is good - conscious lyrics, currently relevant well thought out lyrics, strong strident, political and free. Musically there are soul and big band influences as well as some heavy weight roots rhythms. Respect and thanks for the inspiration.

Yesterday was a fucker of a day.
Left home knackered (post weekend) at 5.30am and reached Stansted at 10am having been closer to falling asleep at the wheel than I ever have been.
Met up with Hakey - always nice, and flew to Berlin where we met the rest of the crew, picked up a van and drove 5 hours to get to Wroclaw, arriving in town 1hour before we were due on stage.
Hurriedly ate part of a hot meal at a restaurant (a meal 3 hours before we are due to play is the optimum), then got lost and when we did finally reach the venue there was a problem with the sound. We took to the stage over an hour late, my throat/voice was playing up due to a minor chest infection so I had difficulty controlling the pitch of my voice.
After only 1 hour the gig was stopped by police enforcing the strict curfew.
As the crowd shouted "Zion Train" over and over we stood frustrated at the back of the stage.
As always we linked up with Tom the Wroclaw fire chief...
just realised I'm due on stage here in 20 mins so I'm going to run and finish this letter (never before in the history of my blog have I done this!)
Now I'm finishing this post at Berlin Tegel airport - how cool is that?
Anyway Tom had brought me a top cd. The on body image was a photo of us together the last time we were in Wroclaw. I know from what he said that there is music on the cd by Bach, Chopin and Zion Train - can't wait to listen to his eclectic mix.

Fortunately back at the hotel I made the decision to have a bath before I went to bed. The water was sputtering and brown and turned out to be the last of the hot water in the hotel tank - when the lads went to wash the following morning there was no hot water.

Tune of the day

Fire Brigade
by The Move


Wodka, Poland and me...

Saturday 4th June 2005

It’s been a good couple of days.
The first ever Zion Train gig in Poland was in Poznan about 9 years ago. A coach load of people came from Bydgoszcz and Piwa, and after the gig by coincidence we had a legendary night of partying with them.
Thursdays gig in Bydgoszcz was always going to be an “away win”, but I hadn’t anticipated that it would be performed entirely in bright white lights (courtesy of the uptight bloke who filmed it) or that my clothes in there entirety – including skirt worn over top of trousers – would be dripping wet with sweat. Amazing vibes, wild dancing.
Before the show I’d had one of those bizarre go with the flow experiences which you sometimes get on tour but it seems more frequently in Poland. Before leaving home I’d had time to cut out but not sew 2 stage tops, and had brought a piece of gold lame (at his request) for Fitta Warri as a head tie.
I got Maken (music mad promoter, guru and sweetie) to phone ahead to see if we could borrow a sewing machine but this wasn’t possible.
I ended up being taken off by the local French teacher (which was great because we could communicate easily) to her mother’s house on the 9th floor of a block of flats to use her machine. Great.
Fitta gets stared at anyway as he wears lots of jewellery and his dreadlocks piled high on his head in a turban. With a gold lame turban, folk (there are a fair few in Poland who have never seen a black man) were practically walking into lamp posts.

I have been on a mission for some years now to persuade the Polish people as a whole that bison vodka – Zubrowka, is best drunk with blackcurrant juice and not the traditional apple juice. On this particular night I successfully persuaded everybody left in the venue (Mozg) bar.
I was planning to retire to the hotel but ended up drinking with my lovely friend Alicja who was one of the Bydgoszcz crew from the original gig in Poznan. We went to another club (via my hotel to drop off my bag and for me to quite spectacularly fall down a flight of stairs) then back to her flat to meet her rabbit.
A magnificent night. Got to sleep at 9.30am, 1 hour before we had to leave to drive to Warsawa. Dziekuje K. Dziękują za fantastyczny czas.

Warsaw as a result was lovely as always but a little blurred around the edges! In essence, caught up with some mates and had a full on exchange of energy and wild spirits with the Warsaw massive who never fail to be supportive, expressive and uplifting.
Moi przyjaciele wy wyrabiacie mnie szczęśliwy być żywy!

Tune of the day

If 6 was 9
by Jimi Hendrix