As all gigs have ground to a halt I found myself mid tour performing out in France. My concerts have been moved back and back again and so while I await them I’m staying and writing/recording with musicians I know in the area.
One of them is a wonderful 74 year old Saxophonist called Jean Marie Granier. We have collaborated over many of my record compositions and I have begun to learn more about the chords and changes used in Jazz. It has been a very pleasant exchange.
Recently I begun working on learning a composition by one of my favourite piano players ‘Toshiko Akiyoshi’ called ‘Phrygian Waterfall’. A piece I have loved for many years with an addictive repeating 5/4 (I think) bassline. Soon after starting work on it some words came and then I decided to bring it to Jean Marie who also brought some lyrics (but this time sung in French).
We have expanded this into a 5 mins song and here is a live video of us jamming our way through it.
Having only just left a week before I return to my home City to Play in West London in a Church no less.
Returning home after such a short stint on the road definitely has its benefits. 1st of all I realised quite quickly that I had forgotten a great number of things and as the tour rolled along it occurred to me what I needed. So playing so close to home enabled me to collect various bits and bobs.
Anyway back to the playing. My show was in possibly the most picturesque of all venues and the crew were wonderful that night. Also the show was a part of a bigger event called the Hanwell Hootie.
I was blown away by the number of amazing stages across this small part of West London. It proudly boasts to be the largest free one day fest London has to offer. Once my set was done I had a chance to catch many amazing bands.
Speaking of which I shared the billing with a great band called Chile who had elements of the Knife and the XX to their sound.
For my set it was a real rush on and off affair but with the help of the technicians I managed to go out with my full rig.
Please see below an audience recording of unreleased tune ‘Here is Where it is’.
There are also some shots of me performing taken by the lovely people at West London & Middlesex Twitter Page:
Many months of touring begins with a smattering of shows firstly around Essex before I head to London.
Southend kicks things off and despite competing with a boxing match in the pub I am happy to make much chaotic noise and just over joyed to be playing again.
Being the 1st show of the tour many of the tunes played are making their live debut and to be airing them at all is a joyful din.
Kudos to Iain for booking me and Davey Hal (the support act for the night).
Onwards I headed to Cosmic Puffin Fest:
Had to scale down the rig because it was quick change over so it was all pre 2013 material for that one and then the following night was an all out acoustic show in Billericay. Slowly I’m becoming more comfortable at the piano and a couple of piano only tunes made the set that night.
Following a couple of days parked in the pub car park I moved onto performing in Chelmsford. the Venue was called the Basement and the space was awesome as were the staff.
Some great sets from the supports groups and I braved debuting another newbie. One I’ve been piecing together for months. Work in progress title of ‘The Downfall’ please hear a clip of rehearsal of it from here:
Final show of the Essex run was in Basildon. It was a full rig mega session and I was overjoyed to play a stormer. The audience were really on board and following my departure from the stage I was met with many a friendly face.
This night was nearly the grand finale to being out here touring. The Korean adventure had educated me quickly on the nature of place so removed from the UK. I had only just begun to understand how things worked and I was due to fly home. My final night was back in Seoul and sharing the billing was Nick Aka GT Arp who had worked to make wonderful things happen to allow me to come and perform. I had played 8 shows in 8 days and this was the penultimate leg.
I was asked for an interview which I happily accepted. You can listen to it here:
Around about the middle of the set 2 drunk Korean businessman came into the venue and were loudly shouting at each other during a quiet song. I asked then to respect the atmosphere of the concert from the stage but out made little difference. Later the venue staff and the audience began to more bluntly demand that they shut up or leave. This caused nearly a physical fight as one audience member begun to usher them out the door. The older and drunker of the two men in suits began shouting abuse at the venue staff. Eventually they did depart but it caused 10 mins of the set to be put on hold until the situation was resolved. What really warmed my heart was how apologetic the Korean audience were and supportive they were to ensure the concert was not disturbed any further by these alcohol fuelled morons. I assured them the same thing happens in the UK from time to time and it is a world wide epidemic of cultural ignorance. Still to this day even at concerts of hugely popular bands such as Radiohead and Wilco I have seem the performers stop to request people not to talk over the more mellow or acoustic numbers. It amazes me how some folks cannot be aware of the situation.
Following my show in Jeonju the day before I slept in the venue saving me vital funds on accommodation.
We also stayed awake drinking and chilling. A great way to finish a night.
The following day was a traditional Korean Lunch. Being a vegetarian limited me a little. But I LOVE Kim Chi (Korean Pickles). So I consumed this en mass.
Getting to the Daejeon Cantina was a mission for sure as I took a national bus and then a (heavily crowded) local bus getting me to the closest stop. From there I had written directions which I followed to the venue. I arrived in good time and then had time to hang with the venue staff and the other bands. One of them was a great bunch of guys called The Primary. They had just finished their debut album and were working hard to get the music out there round Korea.
(click links below for studio versions of the songs)
Before Your Very Eyes (Atoms for Peace Cover Version)
The reaction from the Daejeon locals was encouraging and one of the audience members uploaded a couple of videos to youtube stating “This guy, Stuart O’Connor, was insane! Loved it!” – They are only recorded to a phone but you a feeling for the concert.
Only a couple of days into the tour and my fatigue was already beginning to show. I slept for an hour or so of my long bus ride to the most southern city of the tour. From there I was able to get a taxi and by showing him print outs of maps we made it to the location of the venue.
Radio Star was a wonderful live space run by Inyeol. A great drummer and passionate musician. Clearly into the music of the right reasons. I shared the billing with a host of Korean and International artists but felt very much like the special guest. It always make one feel like the hours of flying and driving are worth it when you arrive to a warm welcome.
The venue was a great space and the audience were there for the music. It was exactly the kind of show you hope to find when touring through.
(click links below for studio versions of the songs)
Following the show there were queues of people buying CD’s and even getting me to sign them. I was honoured to be in so far from home and so accepted for the songs that had been written in my London bedroom.
Following the show I went for food with some of the members of the other bands. A great feeling of camaraderie was in the air and I learnt how it was to be an English or American musician living in S.Korea. It was a chance to really get to understand the difference between Korean Culture (which I knew little) and Japanese Cunlture (which I feel I knew much better).
S.Korea is very much a Catholic country and age is a major part of social standing. If you have grey hair then you are very likely to be treated well. I would learn more of this as the tour would progress. My next show will be in a new city again and so I was lucky to have the venue offer to let me sleep inside. Cheap accommodation is a major part of the trip. 🙂
OK so I know these shows happened nearly a year ago. But I started writing blogs for them and just got distracted with life. So here I am recapping what was a very unique tour experience.
Gangneung was my furthest north into South Korea. Apparently I was not so far from the North Korea border and I met many who had travelled up just to see it. But time limited me so from the perspective of tourism. I was on a busy schedule that involved me playing 8 shows in 8 different cities over 8 days.
For my time tonight I was simply playing an acoustic set. The PA set up in the cafe was fairly limited so I was taking the chance to air strictly my acoustic side. I used to play a lot of shows this way in the early days. especially at student run events at universities where there not even be a microphone on occasion. This was such an occasion 🙂
Any way I was surprised to see so many English and American folks on my travels and this performance was more of an english audience than Korean. This was a rare chance to bust out some poetry. So for the first time in some time I recited words from ‘Misfit Theatre’ a poem that became the secret track to my 2nd album. (It remains the only secret track I have released).
So Zacs was run by a lovely couple getting ready to have their first child. They were most welcoming and picked me up from the bus station. My journey there had been from Seoul and I had many hours checking out the land scape. Many mountains and wonderful views.
I also decided to play a cover version as a part of my set. An obscure song by a band called Crashland. They released 1 album back in 2000 and I still recommend it to this day.
Following the concert I was taken to a Jimjilbang. A Korean bathhouse where you can wash and sleep at your leisure. I was personally exhausted and then when I found out I had to share the floor with many randoms I was a little phased. But eventually I fell asleep. I awoke many hours later to discover one of the staff had put extra covers on me to keep me warm. Very nice.
He reached out to me on Facebook nearly a year prior when I was on the road in Japan. He offered to help me get concerts around Korea and at the time I was unable due to European commitments already in place. But we stayed in touch and when I reached out to him he made it possible for things to work.All this and you must bear in mind we had never even met each other face to face.
So hear I am back in asai at the tail end of a year that start in New Zealand and is ending in Korea via, Japan, Italy, Netherlands (twice), Poland, Germany, France and the UK.
We arrived at tour venue and I chilled with the wonderful staff and the other musicians who were from Korea and the Netherlands themselves. A lot of experimental styles involved and some amazing beatboxing to boot.
I found when it came time to step up and play that I was getting an electric shock from the mic. So I chose to do something almost never done in my career. I wore shoes. This stopped the flow of the current and ensured I survived the concert.
My show was kind of a case of playing what I felt most comfortable to play. What was awesome was to meet an american called Frank who joined me on Alto Sax for 2 tunes.