In about three weeks time (at the time of writing) I will be heading back (for the first time in 9 months) to London.
However that does not mean my first show back will be in England.
I will be immediatly embarking on a 5 date tour of the sunny island of Jersey. This wonderful tour has come about through the sharings of some billings in New Zealand with another touring troubadour in the name of Jersey Bob.
Jersey Bob has many records under his belt and after we had an awesome time playing shows together in NZ he has invited me to his fair island to make some noise there for a week.
My thanks go out to Bob and i very much look forward to checking out his homeland.
My time in back in Bangkok was brief. I decided if I was unable to play because of my accident and damage to my right hand (please see Chaing Mai blog); Then there was no point in staying in a city where I had already spent a fair amount of time.
During my New Zealand tour I had 4 days free where I managed to use the time wisely enough to take and pass my basic open water diving course. This enabled me the chance to go fun diving if I was ever in a good place for it. So I booked myself on the first bus and boat I could which took me to the small island of Kho Tao. I had just endured 12 hours on a bus but somehow felt 12 more plus a few hours on a boat would be ok. I cannot pretend it was but I will still justify it to be worth the trek.
Koh Tao was not a very clean place and the locals were just as determined to sell you things as they were in bangkok. However Once I found the right accommodation in a secluded spot by the beach; and once I was out in the warm crystal clear waters in one of the finest spots South East asia had to offer for snorkeling. I knew it was worth it.
Scuba diving ensued the following day and I had the joy and pleasure of seeing some wonderful underwater life including a large Turtle that was munching on some coral. Another guy who was with us doing a dive had a camera and he was able to capture the moment. I will try to upload it but if for any reason it`s not here (you know what technology is like – or me with technology) just try to imagine yourself 21 metres under the sea watching a massive turtle eating coral less than a metre away from you.
Anyway with a few days of chilling and swimming under my belt I was feeling both refreshed and ready to return to Bangkok to play another residency totaling 10 shows in 6 days. The fact that I hand`t yet picked up a guitar to see if my hand was able to work was a bit of a worry. But I`d have to let that one ride itself out.
OK, Firstly apologies for the Dramatic title of this blog. But things did get kinda crazy during the next chapter of my musical travels.
The departure bus leaving Bangkok was alarmingly empty when we set off on the 12 hour drive North to Chaing Mai. I felt nervous during the load on as the dodgy looking men assisting took my guitar and suitcase (containing effects pedals and clothes) and put them to one side assuring me they would be loaded safely on to the bus. In my head I was convinced they were being shifted else where to be sold at some dodgy market of former tourist gear. My paranoia turned out to be just that, as I checked at the first rest stop and saw it was safely tucked into a corner in the luggage section.
I`m always unable to get a good sleep on buses and trains and so I entertained myself for the trip by reading listening and watching the following.
Reading: The Autobiography of Frances Farmer
I picked it up in New Zealand. Frances Farmer was a famous Hollywood actress during the golden age of Theatre in the 40`s. She was also a rebel and was locked up in a mental asylum (despite being sane) for 11 years by her mother. A more recent Cultural reference of her can be found in the Nirvana song `Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle` taken from my personal favorite record `In Utero`
Listening: The Wilco back catalogue
Jeff Tweedy and co are an alt country bunch who have put out 6 records. I find his delivery and lyrics wonderful and like any minor band obsession i go through. I get geeky over progression and line up changes. There`s heaps of both here.
Watching: (Music Doco film) The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Again with a Nirvana link. Daniel Johnston found fame first for his music and second for his art. Kurt Cobain took to wearing one of his T-shirts for photo shoots. He`s a real interesting character with a unique voice and a brutally touching songwriting style. A very very compelling movie.
Thanks must go out to Greg from Napier for making me a copy of that film.
So anyway very early the next morning the bus arrives in Chaing Mai. From there I am shipped onto another bus and driven 45 mins to a hotel. It`s pissing with rain but I`m pleased to be out of the smog of Bangkok. I decide (almost out of spite) not to stay at the hotel I`ve been dropped at and attempt to find something cheaper. Eventually I succeed. The following first days in town are spent trying to figure where to play. A few nice folks in Bangkok point me out some good spots but they all seem to be booked out way in advance. Eventually I find one place that lines me up with an audition the next day. So the following day I turn up Play for an hour and then get told I have two more shows in place before I leave town. They also say they will put me onto other spots and maybe there is the chance of me doing different venues in the same night.
The next day I take a break from the working route and decide to be a tourist for the day. I wander the town and somewhere along the line i get talked into renting a motor bike. Now I knew I was not comfortable with this idea but everyone around me seemed to assure me with such confidence of it`s ease I guess I let my weakness of persuasion win. Lesson 1: Never do that.
The roads in Thailand are madness and there are no concessions for nervous tourists. I guess I must have been going only about 20 when I felt someone close behind me and I lost focus of the road for only that short moment. But my Bike spun and I went over the handle bars and felt my limbs grind against the tarmac. Fortunately for me the traffic behind me stopped in time and I was able to pull myself to my feet and get myself and my bike off the road. Those few seconds became a horrible series of flashes that cycled round my brain for the next 48 hours. My body had a few bumps and bruises but it was the injury to my right hand that bothered me most. I had landed on it funny and I was unable to even hold a guitar in place let alone play it. These were worrying times. I cancelled the two shows I had scheduled to play and booked my return ticket to Bangkok that night. The bike company fined me for damages (They had possession of my passport) but they did give me some useful advice on taking care of my hand. I was feeling a little down trodden but very lucky to be in one piece. I set off on the 12 hour trip back to Bangkok and reassures some nervous english tourists that there bags are probably fine and not being lined up for Ebay. Then I settled into another session with Frances and Wilco.
The Flight touches down in Bangkok and it feels like we`ve been in the sky for weeks. The bus takes me to Khao San Road where there is no accommodation booked but hopes are high. It`s the late evening and no matter what day of the week it is on Khao San Road – It`s Party night!!!!
The place is crazy and busseling. I have a massive amount of gear to lug but eventually I manage to check into a place to stay for 350 baht (about 7 pounds) and get only a couple of hours sleep before checking out and looking for another place. One that doesn`t stink of piss being my main aim. I find another place on the same stretch that is cheaper and nicer and I pay a little extra to keep my valuables locked away in the cupboard behind reception. Word is stronger than rumor that in Bangkok your belongings are not safe in your room. At first I feel very nervous as you simply do not know who to trust and everyone is trying to sell you something.
The next day it is my first show of the Thailand stint (and at this point my only booking). I play support to a nice band called the Standards. I know one member from gigs ten years back in the UK. He was in a band back then called Igloo who were something very special and experimental. The Standards are a very different animal mixing traditional UK Indie with a bit more grit and modern keys and synth. They played a blinder of a set. Unfortunately my gig felt a little like it fell by the wayside. Just simply one of those shows I`d rather forget. However is did open up a couple of doors. The VJ for the evening (a lovely French guy called Gabriel) introduced me to another venue who agreed to have me play in exchange for housing me. The place was an ultra cool art gallery called Chez Lodin + Toot Yung Gallery. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125187560852695&ref=ts
It had live music at the weekends and agreed to put on a folk night. Then I serched around for a bunch of other places to check out. I found myself getting 3 auditions lined up for one night. They went as such:
Audition 1 – I play one song (Time & Places) then get stopped.
Venue Owner: I`m sorry you have to play covers only.
Myself: OK in which case I`m finished. I only play my own material.
Venue Owner: Ok, Then I`d like to hear more.
Myself: It`d be a pleasure
So I proceed to play a couple more tunes. (Initiate and Map of Shibuya). He then comes up and offers me a daily spot of playing for 1 and a half hours for a guaranteed fee. Suddenly I had gone from having no work and no money to having a place to stay and guaranteed pay for the next week and a half. Over the following 9 days in Bangkok I played 14 times. It was mental!!!
Anyway the following 2 auditions turned out to be a joke as one place told me I could only play if I sung all my songs in Thai (for real). And the other place wanted me only if I could play the days I was already booked for. so that was that. No worries.
All the regular residency shows went off without hiccup. The place is a bussling crazy vibe and I was playing on the street. Which when you close your eyes is like a soundtrack to madness (Or maybe that`s just the sound inside my brain). The shows at the gallery were a complete pleasure with the support groups being lovely and the stage being shared with an awesome multi instrumentalist called JD. A honest and true musician who is both respectful and inventive.
My final show before departing from Bangkok was a epic show at a nightclub called Bed. The stage was shared with many awesome and free thinking musicians and poets with instruments ranging from traditional Thai acoustic instruments to modern electronic machines what I have never seen the like of before. What a crazy way to end my stint in a city.
A true pleasure!!!
Next stop is Chiang Mai. Now I am not a fan of cliff hangers. But things get kinda messed up there. Watch this space for the next exciting installment