Djai Skjellerup
 
Last night I played the gig I was looking forward to; supporting Savanna at The Olive Tree in Frome. Let me give you the whole story. 


When I arrived Savanna were already there and setting up their kit. I had already decided that the best policy for me would be to stay well out of the way and that proved wise as they had a mad amount of kit they were setting up. They were going to be performing as the full 8 piece so the little corner of the pub was going to be jammed. I listed the line up once before but now I have a few names. Ebu is the lead singer and master of chants assisted by Charlotte on backing vocals (who has been lined up to take over from Anna who is leaving, I guess to concentrate on her upcoming album with her band, Fabric). Alan and Si are on guitars with Alan's son on drums. I did not catch the name of the girl who plays keyboards but we chatted about the merits of our kit briefly with her considering a change to her trusty 15 year old Gem digital piano. Mike McElya was on percussion with another Mike on bass. Simon (who I think might have been Charlotte's Dad) was manning the desk with a man of the match performance as he was using a borrowed desk that he had seen for the first time that night. I was concerned when I saw him pawing over the manual with such studiousness during the set up that we were going to be for a rough time but I need not have worried. The sound management was handled seamlessly. There was one more Simon to meet as well, a promoter armed with flyers.


It was gone 8 o'clock by the time we did the soundchecks and everything was ready. I was just about to get started when I saw someone else step up with their guitar. Antigua Joe had arrived thinking there was an open mic on that night and so he did  a few of his reggae/calypso numbers. I then did about a 40 minutes set consisting of Binary Flag, Hidden Depths, Work It Out, The Longer I leave It, Get Back (Jack Kerouac), Smile and Suffer. Everything went great and I got a good reception with applause and the odd bit of whooping and hollering. I didn't have any friends there so it was an honest reaction from an audience of total strangers.


After a little break Savanna took to the stage and stormed through their hour long set with glee. Great pieces of music; dance-able, earthy, intricate, melodic anthems every one of them. Once they finished it was interesting to hear them all say that they had winged it on a couple of numbers as things had gone wrong but I nor anyone else in the audience had noticed. We were too busy enjoying ourselves.


After the show while packing up, thanking everyone and saying our goodbyes I had a chat with Si regarding another chance for gigs but that's something I will have to save for now until I have a little more to tell you.


 
 
 
So once again Jack Bird stepped up and played, including a Nirvana and a Clash cover in this his own material. I had a chance to chat with Jack at the end and ask him about where he gigs. He goes to Bath and Bristol mostly but as I suspected for original acts gigs where you even get paid your expenses are thin on the ground. Once you have travelled any distance which is a necessity when you live in the sticks then you are paying to play. That an experienced and established original act has that problem then that's what I'll be looking at. I have enjoyed gigging so far though so I have the appetite to do it for now.

For my send stint I played another new song, The Longer I Leave It, followed by Smile and Suffer. George finished up the night and after a some appreciative chats with the audience I was able to talk to Anna before I left. She's happy to allow me to play every few months and of course any of the open mics. Jack and Anna said they'd both let me know of any good venues they have played.

So now I have the Olive Tree gig to look forward to on Wednesday next week but there maybe a problem. I am coming down with a cold, can feel it getting a grip on me now, ahave broken out the emergency vitamin C. 
 
 
This time last night I was playing at the Piano Bar to what you might call an intimate audience. I think the numbers may have struggled into double figures at one point. It's a shame as all the musician's and organisers put a lot into the night and those that were there were hugely entertained. Nevertheless it is not my intention to use my news blog to pretend that everything is always peachy and so it's true that a few more through the door would have been nice.


I got there early partly because I have am still in the rush of eagerness regarding playing live but also because I wanted the chance to play the piano there. Last time I played the piano without every seeing it before and this time I wanted to get a chance to bed in a bit. It's a Yamaha electric baby grand and it must have cost the landlord Alan an arm and a leg. Last time I wasn't altogether happy with the tone but this time it sounded superb and after 20 mins or so of tinkering I was ready. Anna arrived and set up the PA and while enjoying a bite to eat courtesy of Alan so to arrived one of the other acts for the night, Jack Bird. By the time 8.30 came the 3rd of the trio of acts Lara and Harry had not arrived and Jack and I were just discussing dividing up the night between us when another guitarist arrived with his mates. George insisted he had been booked to play that night and whatever the circumstances it was a happy accident as Lara and Harry failed to show at all.


Jack Bird stepped up first with his dark, bluesy, country music. Bluegrass grunge with an aching heart doused in Jack Daniels sentiment. It's a rare form of southern states heartache that Jack puts across and I admire the way he has claimed a niche genre for himself. I later stated over the microphone that I had been aware of Jack from his myspace page and videos and I that I had been excited to be on the line-up with him. It's not easy being enthusiastic about the acts that you are playing with and not sound like it's made up for the moment or you are stalking them! I hope Jack realised my genuine feeling for his material and I wasn't disappointed when I heard him live.


I took to the piano after Jack and played Waiting For You, Binary Flag (a new song), Make Me Feeling I Belong and amazing. I didn't feel too nervous. The sparsity of the crowd gave the night a more homely feel anyway.


Once I was done George steeped up an amazed us all with his virtuosity on acoustic guitar. He could not have been older than about 19 and after playing for only 5 years his level of expertise was remarkable. He favours jazz of the Chet Atkins and Django Reinhardt style and celtic folk. He included a lot of percussive hammering of the guitar strings and it was amazing that he didn't break one after the beating he gave it. Unfortunately I know no more of George than this. I have no name and no idea if he has a web presence. He is already at a very high standard, if he improves even further he could turn out to be a pretty remarkable musician. A good example of viruosity was the way he retuned the guitar between tracks. This isn't a rare thing, I've seen it a few times before but couple this with the speed at which he was plucking, strumming and hammering and it displayed his prowess admirably.


I am a bit tired now. I'll call this article part 1 and come back to you with a follow up soon. 

 
 
It is funny how sometimes a happy coincidence can deliver what you are looking for.


On Saturday we had my daughter's birthday party at our local village hall. After a hectic 2 hours we were clearing up when the next folks who had the hall booked for the evening arrived so they could start getting it ready. It was a 100th birthday party; actually a son and mum's 40th and 60th respectively but you get the joke. When the fella carried in an acoustic guitar I asked him if he played for fun or whatever and after a chat learnt his name was Si and that he is a member of long term local band
Savanna. In their own words they are a world fusion music, blues, acoustic, finger picking, jazz, easy listening, classical, with a bit of reggae, salsa, samba and rag carefully thrown in for good measure. Not only do they gig regularly but also write commissioned music for various clients. I said that I was playing at The Piano Bar this week and by coincidence Anna Parry, who runs the open mic at the Piano Bar but I am yet to meet, is a singer in Savanna.

We exchanged numbers and Si mentioned that they were looking for acts to do support slots on their gigs. He also invited me to drop by the party that night where Savanna would be playing. 

Going to a party where you don't know anyone is a little unusual but Si and his Mum were so welcoming that what I thought I'd do was swing by the party for an hour or so when I was popping out to get takeaway food later that evening. When I arrived Si was outside having a chat with someone and said for me to go on in where they were doing a drum round. It was being run by another Savanna member Mike McElya who makes his living in this way through his Sunshine Drumming Company. With drums and shakers liberally distributed amoungst the party goers the rhythms were driving through the throng with some intensity. After a short break during which I whizzed off to collect my Chinese food Savanna took the stage in the form of an 8 piece. A young lad on drums, Mike on percussion, Si on guitar, a rhythm guitarist, a bass player, Anna and another backing singer and an imposing front man on singing, rapping, chanting duties.

It was an irresistible mix that galvanised people to dance, think, sing, meditate and generally lose themselves. I was really glad I dropped by.

Unfortunately I was unable to chat with Anna as I did not know who she was until she was on stage and I had to come away. I am looking forward to meeting her on Thursday. she seems to be involved in music in so many ways that I am sure I'll be writing a little more about her soon.

To finish off a happy coincidence I am pleased to say that today I was contacted by Si with the offer of a support slot at The Olive Tree on Wed 17th next week. Watch this space for more info.   



   
 
 
My search for good places to play turned to a monthly local band shindig named Acoustic Plus that is held in The Cheese and Grain in Frome. The "Plus" part of the name actually seems to stand for everything else other than acoustic and it was this that was in the ascendency last Friday night.


When I arrived I found they had curtained off half the hall which was a good idea. The C&G is actually pretty sizeable venue for a little market town and just using half helped to ensure a good atmosphere from an audience forced into some proximity with each other. I gleaned from the stage chatter that A+ has been running for around 8 years although further information on it's origins are hard to come by. This show, and I guess all the shows before it, have been organised by Nick Waterhouse and Caroline Radcliffe with the intention of giving a showcase to local artists performing original music 4 of whom we heard tonight. 


Roscoe was the first act with an intricate plucking classical/folk acoustic guitar accompaniment and voice reminiscent of Peter Gabriel. He was clearly a very accomplish musician and made a good mellow start to the evening. I am pretty sure Roscoe must have been around the local music scene for a while but other than the fact that he has one album (Princes Of The Hollow Tree) his website elicited very little information about him which is a shame as I would have liked to have found out more.


Attila and the Huns were up next, a definite move away from acoustic as they had electric lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drums and some kind of lap-based instrument. It wasn't slide guitar or pedal-steel though but what it actually was I do not know. Their sound immediately put me in mind of "Them" era Van Morrison with their "Baby Please Don't Go" style guitar sound. They false started on a couple of songs but I can forgive that as they seem like they are just starting out and the rest of the performance was pretty polished other than a bit of giggly between song chatter and daft jokes. Their songs were well orchestrated and they had clearly put alot into the arrangements. Unusually for a young band the singing was note perfect, nothing out of tune at all. A bit of tuneful divergence can usually be forgiven under the mantel of style but there was no need here. One area that they have let themselves down though is in information. A quick search of the web only found their FaceBook page with nothing on it of note except their appalling spelling. Although many of the online music networks are just a sea of musicians all listening to each other it is still important to have some kind of web prescence that can be looked at after a gig. I am sure the boys will get this sorted soon. Come to think of it...I think this may have been their debut gig...in which case I take it all back! When they do get it sorted then a change of name might be required as there seems to be another US Attilla and the Huns well established on myspace.


Three Corners took the stage next. 3C's is actually Nick and Caroline's band and are clearly a well rehearsed outfit. I was pretty astonished to see them perform as an 8 piece. Singer, guitar, bass, 2 percussionists, trumpet, saxophone and bass saxophone! My boggles just at the logistics of getting 8 people al together for rehearsals let alone a gig. But rehearse they must have as they sounded pretty note perfect, or at least well practised enough to cover the mistakes! Caroline's voice has certain Annie Lennox quality with the sound behind it being full and expansive. The songs were pop fayre but with some quirky rhythmic and melodic motifs. They look relaxed and enjoying it, like being on stage was where they were most comfortable. Good stuff.


Finally, Burley Chassis got the assorted beautiful people of Frome up and dancing. They absolutely rocked with their acid influenced funk breakbeats. Part Ozric Tentacles/Eat Static, part Prodigy, part Odyssey they featured a live drum of epic ability and banter, bass, guitar and at the front a couple of analog synth wielding geeks. I say geek in the sure knowledge that I cannot offend as I am one also. Or maybe a nerd. Their bass player was sumptuously talented as well the famous bassline mashup tune that was played for the encore ably demonstrated. Sadly there is also a little name confusion when you try to find them online as there is a metal band of the same name gigging up around Manchester. There are a lot of words in the dictionary, it shouldn't be too difficult punnerise some others to find a unique name. Their myspace page say they are vgoing to make you shit your pantaloons. I'll be sending them my dry cleaning bill :)


Oh...and yeah yeah yeah the whole point of me going there was to check it out. I spoke to Nick at the end of the night and he advised I put my name on a list. While this was an underwhelming end to the evening I will nonetheless persist and as well as signing (nay starting) his list I will be messaging him this week via his myspace page with a pointer to where he can hear me. In the meantime I'll be brushing up my online tunes with a few new live tracks lifted from recent shows...watch this space...        
 
 
This is the blog post I was going to write before I started on about Electric Arms (a reference to a memorable party in my murky past). What I was going to write about was a simple little technical aside regarding a gadget I purchased recently. Wireless broadband has also been a bit hit and miss for me and 90% of the sentient population of the planet so invested is a pair of adapters that send your broadband as a carrier signal over the electrical wiring in your home. Here are the set I bought although there are others http://www.faculty-x.net/homeplug%20tl-pa201.htm 


They work really well. Didn't bother reading the instructions either, I just plugged them in (one at the modem and another wherever you are working) and it worked first time.


It would also solve my Songs From The Shed issue which was discussed here  here http://slmc.myfastforum.org/ftopic2464-20-0-asc-.php only the shed is out of action due to a planning dispute...sigh...
 
 
Electric Arm is a partially written song I have been playing with for a while but I fear it may be too weird when stood up against my other material. The tune has been going round in my head for a couple of months now but it is a departure into more avant garde material that is best keep until the time is right. 


I have been finding with my writing that I am more and more inclined to write something leftfield but it's always been there in a way without most people noticing. It's easy to dismiss melodic music as lightweight but for me therein lies the challenge. Most of my songs have two or more levels. It might be that there is something catchy or heartfelt up front that draws in a listener but it's in the depth of lyric and the story of the song takes it beyond just doo doo doo.
 
 
For some time now I have had songs hosted on the web at a once cool website called http://www.thesixtyone.com/ and in fact my contributions could be accessed directly at http://www.thesixtyone.com/djaiskjellerup/


Unfortunately, this website has long had an evolving tinkering ethos to its construction and the latest set of changes have rendered useless for acts. It's enough of a change to make it a completely new concept but unfortunately takes away one of the most fun things about music on the web; discovering something new that you like. The search tools have been dismantled and instead you are channelled sheep-like through a narrow corridor of acts. Branching out from this is awkward and counter-intuitive. The guys that provide this site have long been belligerent in the face of feedback from users and once again they are deflecting all criticism in order to forge their own path. It's their website so it's their prerogative but I am certainly going to cease using it as a place to host my songs. The material will be briefly available in it's old form at http://old.thesixtyone.com/  but the egg timer is running on that one so I will either remove my songs or allow them to expire. (stop press: songs now removed!). 


I'll be choosing a new host for my songs that will also hopefully include a widget player so that you will also be able to listen to them from my own site. It's most likely to be http://www.reverbnation.com/ although I read that there is a buzz around http://uvumi.com/ as well.
 
 
Anna the usual organiser at The Piano Bar dropped me a message to offer me a return spot and so I am booked to play as part of a 3 act line up on Thursday March 11th. I am really looking forward to this. They do 2 lots of 15 mins so about 8 songs in total. It's a few weeks away so it gives me time to check out some other places too.


I am also having a prolific time writing at the moment. It always goes like that, don't write anything for ages and then 3 or 4 songs in the space of a fortnight. Better go and get written down what is in my head now.....
 
 
So I hinted in my last blog that something good had happened so I will fill you in. I rushed home from work having been in touch with a few friends and agreed that we were going to check out The Piano Bar in The Old Bath Arms in Frome to see how their Thursday night music night worked. As is often the case with busy lives my pals one by one were not able to come for various reasons and so by the time it came to put on my coat it was just me who would be heading out. 


Set a dozen footsteps off the main road was the entrance the The Old Bath Arms. I had only been at the bar for a second when the guy who was running the show came to the bar to tell the landlord that one the acts hadn't showed up. I blurted out that I could fill in and they looked at each and then me in a kind of scared "who is this nutter" kind of way. We had a little chat and I left it up to them. After listening to the first act Rich Maya, John the sound guy came down to ask if I'd like to give it a go. I played 3 songs; Wildfire, Hidden Depths and Make Me Feel I Belong and got a good reception from the cosy audience. Staying to listen to covers band Chill I ended the night with a good feeling that I had another gig under my belt. I left my details and hopefully will be making a more organised appearance in the next few weeks.