Wednesday 2 June 2010

HI-ON NORWICH - 15 May 2010

The triumphant tribute to Iron Maiden return to Norwich after a 2 year absence. Our last gig in this neck of the woods was at the Waterfront in February 2008 - a memorable gig, which I believe was our second of that year. We were supported that night by the acoustic stylings of a fine young local lass, and the guitarist from this group had in the meantime formed another band who were supporting us this time. Norwich - it's a small world!

As I set about packing my things, I wondered what would go wrong this time. More often than not on the morning of a gig, I'll get a phonecall from Adrian "he's only there to fill in the gaps between my guitar mastery!" Swift, informing me of some problem or another. The time ticked away, heading relentlessly towards my departure time. I thought I'd gotten away with it.

"Er, chap - have you left home yet?"

Our stage left genius / plonker (delete as appropriate!) had managed to leave both our Rockbags(tm) at home, which meant no easy sound-switching. The horror! Thankfully I had a spare at home. Mr Swift, on the other hand, wasn't quite so lucky. He'd have to use the sounds in his head (the head of his amp, that is!). I shot out the door with my glorified MIDI switcher (in ridiculously heavy flight case) in one hand and my bag in the other and headed for Stratford where I picked up a train to Norwich.

The day was sweltering; a beautiful, sunny Norfolk day. Navigating to the venue from the railway station was a slightly tricky task, as Google's walking map left a little to be desired - in fact it left out several turnings! Consequently I arrived a little later than intended at around 5:30pm. The King Edward VII is a tidy little venue, set back from the road on the leafy outskirts of Norwich town centre. I arrived to find Swifty and Bruce "wobble, wobble" Dugginson had arrived and Swifty had started setting up his gear. In quick succession both Nicko "she looks like me mum" McBrain Jnr and Speed "proper gayface" Harris turned up, the latter with his taller offspring in tow.

Arrival I...




III: To the bar!


After setting up me gear and lamenting the state of my strings (ol' Swifty, who looks after the guitars at his castle in With'un'see, hadn't had the time to replace them as he'd hoped) I shimmied upstairs for a gander at the digs. I'd been told we were kipping at the venue, which can mean anything from "in sleeping bags onstage" to "in caravan out back" (both perfectly acceptable solutions). Not this time however - this time we were being put up in the B&B which had been handily dumped right above the venue! I took room 1, which was like having your own little dressing room. Feeling proper rockstar, I set about getting me gear ready to go onstage.

Wig, ready to pounce...


We ordered food, and Duggers and I plonked down for an Alan Partridge marathon. In no time at all, the support band hit the stage. As they'd borrowed some of our gear we couldn't get ready until they'd done. Once they had finished we set about getting our stuff ready then legged it upstairs to wig up. Doctor Doctor rolled, and the good ship Hi-On steamed onstage. The gig went well, despite my concerns - I didn't play particularly well at soundcheck, as I hadn't really prepared properly in the gap between gigs. No real problems were encountered, and the crowd (although a bit reserved at first) really got into it. All in all a successful performance, although it was a little weird to hear Mister Swift without his usual muscular tone.

After the show I retired upstairs with a pint of the black stuff to decompress. It was very nice to have a room to plonk down in after the gig - normally you're stood around for ages before a bed is anywhere near. i eventually wandered down for a chat with the punters (and another sneaky pint), and in no time at all it was the end of the night's serving. Bugger, thought I, but luckily the venue allowed us a last drink to take upstairs with us. I immediately ordered two and found a much better use for my in-room fridge than the milk and orange juice that previously occupied it!

What's in the fridge, Mister Hurry?..


...surprise, surprise!


The next morning we chucked all the gear in the van and headed off our separate ways. The Van of Quite-Alright-Really dropped me at Norwich station where I'd missed a train by a mere few minutes. This necessitated waiting around for a good hour and a half, which I decided to spend holed up in The Compleat Angler watching the grand prix. Oh, how terrible.

Until next time!

Dave "he's on his sixteenth Guinness by now" Hurry

Sunday 30 May 2010

HI-ON PLYMOUTH - March 26 2010

This one didn't start well.

I had totally failed to book the day off work to get down to Plymouth, and the powers that be had decided to send my entire office on a 'team building day' in the city. The upshot of this was that I wouldn't be able to get away until 4:00pm to get down to Plymouth. Which is a bit of a long way on the train. Time was against me, but not quite as much as it would be against Speed 'my entire life was in that car' Harris. More of that later.

These 'team-building' exercises were being carried out largely in a basement underneath the Slug & Lettuce on Wardour Street. When I surfaced at lunchtime my mobile phone revealed a worrying number of missed calls from Adrian 'bit of a problem' Swift. Knowing something must have gone wrong (it always does in this band, somehow!), I frantically tried to call him back to no avail. In lieu of Swifty, I called Bruce 'fancy learning the bass?' Dugginson who would be sat next to Swifty in the Van of Wonder and Safe Arrival in Plymouth. Duggers informed me that Mister Harris' motor had decided to throw a wobbler about 40 minutes from home, and that it was unlikely that he would be able to get to Plymouth in time for the gig.

All the equipment was in the van, so it was a matter of finding a bass player just in case. I ran through the songs in my mind to see if I could find any black holes where I didn't know what the bass line was. Having played the part of all three Maiden guitarists (and, on one faithful night, stood in for the singer!), it seemed only right and proper that I should have a go. Thankfully the news soon reached me that Speed was on a bus headed for Swansea, where he would join a train for Brizzle and then another for Plymouth. The sight of Speed Harris on public transport is a rare thing indeed, and the image gave me some giggles for the rest of the day.

I was released from our team-building event (after a bit of haggling with the boss) a little early and found myself on the 4:00pm train out of London Paddington to Plymouth. Four and a half hours, and a few phone calls later, I arrived. A short walk to the venue saw me arrive just as all the gear had been set up - splendid! Eddie 'I hear you're having trouble' the 'Ead was in fine form at the bar as I walked into the venue, which was going to be a rather intimate affair.

The stage is about the size of a postage stamp, surrounded on all sides by a banister-like contraption. Even with myself, the drumkit, Swifty and Duggers on the stage there was no more room. Most of the night would be spent rooted to the spot! Not that this bothers me as I'm not really one for legging it about the stage (unless in's just so freeing!).

After checking everything was working alright, we retired to the cellar which doubled as a dressing room. Nicko 'soul brother' McBrain Jnr entertained us with some rather amusing videos while we twiddled our thumbs and waited for the arrival of the bottom-end of the band (as it were!). During this time, Mr Dugginson and me went back upstairs to briefly entertain the crowd with our acoustic machinations. I had made the mistake of playing a Marillion riff in soundcheck, and one fellow prog fan in the audience was rather loudly requesting some more of this. Maybe next time!

Speed eventually arrived with the entire contents of his car in a rucksack. The poor bugger had been cooped up on a train like a battery hen, and didn't look too pleased. Unfortunately we didn't have time to lament, so we quickly wigged up and got ready to hit the stage. Against all odds we played brilliantly. Being restricted in movement has it's positives in terms of your actual musical performance, with no tripping over cables, or being thwacked in the face by errant bass guitar headstocks to worry about you become a little more focussed on the task at hand. The punters seemed to be having a whale of a time, though my thickening dark facial hair provided some amusement when framed by the light blonde wig!

After the show we ended up having a few beverages before packing down the gear and heading off to the Travelodge. Delighted to be back on the 'Manic Cushion', I had a splendid nights sleep. In the morning we were all dropped at the train station, with Mr Speed leaving first while Nicko and I waited patiently for our train back to London.

Thanks Plymouth! At time of writing we're going to be back visiting you for two nights in February 2011, and I for one can't wait. Thanks also to Eddie and Mrs Eddie, along with the friends they brought with them whose names have yet again escaped me!

Until next time...
Dave 'all the beer in the cellar....for me?' Hurry

HI-ON EUROPE - Eindhoven & Antwerp, 19/20 March 2010

So here we were again! Off to Europe in that wonderful Van Where Nothing Works Except The Engine!

As is usual on these Euro trips the band were converging on Manic Towers. The van rolled up as I was enjoying a splash of wine, and the Speedmobile rolled up a short time later with Eddie in tow. I had stocked up on beer and pizza (the fuel of every band worth their salt) and we dug in while Speed 'it’s all about the sphincter control' Harris entertained us with all the stuff he finds on the internet and Spinal Tap's mighty composition 'Saucy Jack', which was to become the theme tune of the weekend.

Despite needing to get away early in the morning, we still managed to sit up til silly o’clock. I remember Unencyclopedia causing a fair few fits of laughter as we went through the articles on our various locales before coming across the Iron Maiden article. "If the fucking roadies can’t give me a realistic 200-foot manger, then I can’t stand on stage and sing for a little while!" An instant classic, and a line worthy of our splendid frontman Bruce 'basting yourself in your own juice' Dugginson.

Departure from Manic Towers...


Breakfast P&O style...


Up and out in the morning, and fuelled by coffee, we rolled forward for a rare on-time arrival in the port of Dover. This leg of the last trip had featured some utterly appalling accidents in the botty department from one Speed Harris. The air turned brown, faces turned green and the dead of Kent turned in their graves. Thankfully all was quite from that thunderous anus, and for the first time in recent years we actually made it onto the ferry we’d booked. Reeling from the shock of this we joined the queue for P&O's huge, ludicrously expensive, full English breakfast. Adrian 'clotted cream disaster' Swift and I wandered off for a well deserved pint since Speed had agreed to do the driving on the other side of the channel. Top man!

Ten minutes later we arrived in Eindhoven.

The Rambler is a fine looking venue on the corner of the high street opposite Eindhoven railway station. Typical, I thought to myself – my journey to a gig often involves a long train ride and a long walk – this would have been a (very) long train ride but hardly any walk at all! While Nicko “Stumpy Joe” McBrain Jnr and Speed loitered at the front of the venue for a while, the rest of us sauntered over the road for a sneaky stein of ale. Yours truly is not a lager drinker, but on the continent somehow the beer tastes purer. It’s a good job too, as we were there for quite some time waiting for signs of life at the venue. We were three or four pints to the good by the time we saw movement over the road.

The "moody life on the road" shot


Arrival in Eindhoven I...


II: Post-arrival tab time...


III: Post-arrival beer time


After loading in and soundchecking, it appeared there were some problems with the power stage left. This could have made for an interesting night for Mr Swift, whose bells and whistles would reset every time the power fluctuated! Thankfully this was speedily resolved, although we were then informed of a 11:00pm curfew. 11:00pm! The support band didn’t finish soundchecking until 9:30pm, so this curfew was immediately discredited. Said support band, 'Bulldozer Breed', were quite something. Somewhere between Manowar and L. Ron Hubbard.

After the support band were done we came downstairs to find that a horde of friends from Nijmegen had made the journey to come and see us!!! We were all utterly over the moon to see all our pals from Rockcafé Backstage, and we instantly knew this show was going to be a killer.

Onstage at last, the tiredness got the better of me on a couple of occasions (fingers not responding to solo requests, feet not hitting the right pedals etc.) but by and large we played a blinder. The folks from Nijmegen got right up the front and really gave us some much needed energy, which was amazing – it simply wouldn't have been the same without them. Despite my best efforts at saving his life, Eddie 'sorry lads, I’ve got to do a runner' the 'Ead went after Sooty with his knife once again. Poor sod.

2 Minutes to Midnight - Live at The Rambler, Eindhoven

We were very kindly kept in booze by the venue for the evening, and it wasn't until 4:00am that the Jägermeister came out. Hic. There was some other concoction, the name of which has been stolen away from my memory, but whatever it was it wasn't good! We eventually set off for the hotel with our friend Melvin in hot pursuit. Melvin has a tendency to catch up with our Mr Swift on these European trips and causes all sorts of trouble. Thankfully he was left somewhere over the border and we arrived at the hotel intact. There was some argument over who got to sleep with the snorers (Eddie and myself), and I seem to recall there was already someone in one of the rooms we were allocated. Hilarious. I coughed up some funds which allowed us to stay in the hotel until much later than checkout time, which allowed us some precious hours of sleep not usually afforded to us on these trips.

The next morning/afternoon Eddie, Duggers and I went for a walk around to see what we could see. After enjoying a sophisticated luncheon of omelettes and wine it was time to ensure everyone else was fit and ready to naff off. Which of course they weren't! The rest of the lads grabbed a sophisticated luncheon of their own before we took the uneventful journey to Antwerp.

After lunch...


We arrived at De Rots Rock Concern just as a bit of a bar-room brawl was reaching it's conclusion. After humping in the gear (shuffling around the melee and avoiding errant trams as best we could), I buggered off with Swifty and Duggers to find somewhere to park the van. In a dazzling display of intelligence and orienteering, we got spectacularly lost on the way back. It should have been simple, as we only took about two turns out of the venue! On the plus side we did get to see a bit of Antwerp, which is a fine mixture of narrow cobbled streets, main roads and the odd square. The boys nearly lost me as I spied an Irish bar on the other side of one particular square, but I was reigned back in rather sharpish as time was not on our side. All roads lead to the gig, and around a few more corners we found ourselves back at the venue.

Eddie wants more metal...


A big church...


A big statue (thanks to Duggers for perspective...!)


After setting up our gear, we were informed that the curfew here was 10:00pm - a whole hour earlier than the poorly observed restrictions in Eindhoven. This curfew was set in stone, however, so as soon as a tasty dinner of Rice And Stuff had been consumed the support band, Pitched Black, blasted onstage at 7:30pm. Finishing up just after 8:00pm with a rendition of 'Anarchy in the U.K.' (especially for us!), the poor buggers were constantly heckled by one of the brawlers from earlier with shouts of "666!". He'd soon get his wish, and as soon as the stage was clear we wigged up and rolled the intro tape at 8:30pm. We kicked Belgian botty, let me tell you - the crowd really gave us a warm reception and we all played our socks off. Oftentimes on these Europe trips, we don't get a lot of sleep so even by the second gig we can be physically exhausted. Having had a fairly good night's sleep between gigs, this time we were rested up and firing on all cylinders. It rocked.

The venue had provided us with a number of drinks tokens, which were quickly decimated after the gig. We were sleeping upstairs in the hostel above the venue, so the gear got packed down but left onstage in favour of a spot of drinking. I started in on the rum and managed to clean the venue out of Havana Club. A heroic effort, I felt! By the time I moved on to the vodka, only Swifty and Eddie were left standing with me. There may have been some Jäger. There may have been some sausage. There was most definitely some more Sooty abuse. The poor thing is going to need counseling soon. I don't remember going to bed, but I certainly woke up in one.

Sooty goes in for "The Finisher"...


Hanibal Swift & Groucho the 'Ead


The next morning, I led a rather groggy Mr Swift out in search of the van. It's a good job he didn't venture out on his own, he would have gone completely the wrong way down the river! Either that or he would have disappeared into the Marmite Cafe, never to be seen again...

I rode shotgun all the way to Calais, earphones buried in my ears enjoying some Pink Floyd to accompany the rather boring visages of the motorway. Border control at Calais was a complete farce. Our passports were checked no less than four times by four different operatives. I don't know whose passport mugshot looks a bit shady. Messrs Harris and McBrain both look decidedly grumpy, while Duggers is grinning like a loon and the rest of us look decidedly normal. Who knows, but we were all decidedly hacked off by it all by the time we managed to get in the queue for our boat. In no time at all we rolled up outside Manic Towers, where it transpired that Nicko Jnr. had tried to have me sleeping bag away! Cheeky c*nt.

Swifty's new home


Almost home...


Here endeth another story. Thanks to both venues for their kind hospitality, we hope to see you again soon! Extra special amazing thanks to all the folk who made the trip from Nijmegen to see us - words can't express how much it meant to see you all there. I hope it didn't take too long for Carola to recover from filing her Chunder Report!

Until next time...
Dave 'leave Sooty alone!' Hurry

Thursday 18 March 2010

HI-ON RIFFS - 13 March 2010

The first Hi-On Maiden gig of 2010 was the rescheduled and long-awaited return to Riff's Bar in sunny Greatfield / Wooton Bassett / Swindon (one of those, I'm not sure which). The previous visit to this venue had featured one Simon "Sausage Monthly" Bradley in the place of your humble narrator, who was gigging elsewhere that fateful Thursday night prior to a trip to Nijmegen. By all accounts a splendid time was had, despite a late arrival by Ed Farce One. Hopefully everyone would be a bit more timely this week!

My journey to this gig was via another gig (with the superlative Lee Abraham Band), so no tales of road and rails to be had in this entry folks. I simply sat on the bench outside the venue, scoffed a sarnie and waited for Selectadrive's Selected Drive of the Week to arrive bearing a bandmate or two. I was not disappointed; not twenty minutes later came the familiar sight of orange text on grey van. Adrian "I'm glad I'm a bastard" Swift had been flying solo this week as the other half of Hi-On's Yorkshire contingent had been gigging 'dahn saaf' the night before. Thankfully cabin fever didn't appear to have troubled him too much. Mr Swift had spent the last ten weeks in the good ol US of A, and was looking half refreshed and half jet-lagged. We were let into the venue by the kind proprietor Andy and sat about waiting for the rest of the band. A short while later the cavalry arrived in the form of Bruce "waiter! There's a fly in me blancmange!" Dugginson, who had hitched a ride with young master McBrain and family. After fondly greeting each other, we unloaded the van.

Mister Swift on the pink piano:


Nicko "do you ever have to get your wang going before you have a pee?" McBrain Jnr started setting up his kit, while Duggers and I retired to the back room to run through our acoustic set. You may recall that in Nijmegen last year Mr Dugginson and I opened each night's entertainment with a short set of acoustic numbers featuring Maiden tracks and Bruce Dickinson solo tunes. In light of the coming trip to Eindhoven and Antwerp, Duggers thought it would be a jolly idea to resurrect this tradition and give it a bit of a trial run on the British crowd at the same time. This week's choices were Still Life, Tears of the Dragon, Journeyman and Children of the Damned (Bruce's Jerusalem was also rehearsed but dropped for time). While we were rehearsing, we heard the familiar voice of one Speed "half man, half biscuit" Harris who had just arrived with his lovely wife in tow. It's been four months since we all got together, and it really was like a family reunion. Well, a family reunion without all the drama of Aunt Betty snubbing Aunt Mavis in 1963. Something like that.

Swifty had very kindly done a bit of sound manipulation on my set up, and we had a further play about with lead delay while we soundchecked. Apart from an abortive attempt at Seventh Son (which fell apart when we got to the middle and Speed, Nicko and myself realised we couldn't remember how it went!), the soundcheck songs were tight as a button and put a huge grin on my face. Sometimes you have to be away from something musical for a long time before you remember just how much you love it. If we could gig every weekend, I'd be ever so happy. We could really do without another certain Iron Maiden tribute band (who shall remain nameless, in order that I may preserve the higher moral ground) nicking our gigs in places like Camberley, Wales, India....etc. Still, bygones are bygones, and contracts remain out. As far as I'm concerned (and as far as the fans I talk to are concerned) venues who get them instead of us are being cheated out of the better band. Fuck 'em.

My rig, I missed it:


After soundcheck I retired upstairs for a bit of a lie-down. An early morning and an afternoon gig (and a spot of afternoon drinkies, if truth be told) had left me in need of a bit of a recharge. In no time at all it was ready to go and rock, but first the acoustic set. This went down extremely well; if I'm honest, it went down a lot better than I expected. You really have to play the crowd by ear on things like this - if the venue had been full of bikers (as it so nearly was, given our proximity to Wooton Bassett and the ride taking place there the next day), it may not have gone down so well! However Duggers (being the masterful frontman that he is) had the punters singing along and engaged in the whole show. Feeling very accomplished we left the stage to wig up.

The intro tape rolled, and we were off. I had a bit of a mare with tuning as my new strings were not quite broken in, but by and large we all played a blinder. Speed in particular was very much on the ball this gig, going at the songs like a man possessed - he must have missed it as much as I did. A couple of potential trainwrecks went off with complete success - there's always the danger after a long break that something like Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Infinite Dreams with their slightly unusual structures might throw us off course. Both went smoothly and apart from a dodgy cable on stage left, the gig was unblemished. The punters had an absolute blast - you know it's a good one when the soundman leaves his desk to be at the front of the crowd!!! Highlights for me were Infinite Dreams (which I think we played better than we ever have before), and Hallowed Be Thy Name. It was simply magnificent to be harmonising with Swifty, playing the crowd with Speed and Duggers and locking in with young McBrain on the tubs once more. Absolutely fantastic to be back.

Duggers learns to spell...:


After the gig I packed me gear down and enjoyed a pint or two. Swifty, Duggers and myself had been umming and erring over whether we would take Riffs up on their kind offer of kipping in the caravan out back. Mr Dugginson as ever was keen to get home without losing too much of his Sunday, whereas Mr Swift was very keen on staying and getting absolutely blotto. Happily the lure of the ale got to Duggers and we ended up sat at the bar until at least 3 in the morning. Of particular enjoyment were the pork scratchings and the singing lessons which Duggers and Speed were giving out. Some very kind words were said by audience members as they departed, and we all had the strong sesne of a job well done. Eventually we crawled to our beds, awakening in the morning to an absolutely splendid and generous breakfast from the wonderful owners. Thank you kindly!

On to the next one!

Yours truly,
Dave "salad spew!" Hurry

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Lee Abraham and Band - Winter's End Progressive Rock Festival, Stroud - 13 March 2010

The big day for one Mr Lee Abraham had finally arrived. Since September there had been five rehearsals to cover all the material from Lee's third solo album "Black & White". Written and recorded at Lee's Hampshire home, the album had not really been intended for live performance. However, after some gentle arm-twisting from friends he put a little band together to see if it would work, and by golly-prog it did. The first rehearsal flew beautifully, and they just kept getting better. Two gigs went in the book, and by the penultimate rehearsal we had eschewed the backing track (which until then had provided some extra keys, rhythm guitars and sound effects). The final rehearsal saw a complete (and more-or-less seamless) run-through of the entire album. We were ready to remove the stabilisers and ride off into the heart of the sun.

My own journey into the annals of prog history began at 7am on Saturday 13 March 2010. I'd had a cup of coffee, a shower and a magnificent dump; the wonders of which I contemplated as I left the sleeping inhabitants of Manic Towers behind. The first train of the day, taking me from Dartford to London, was a quiet affair. The smell of stale lager was prevalent in the carriage and it's source - the quite possibly deceased hobo in the corner seat by the carzy - was no great surprise. I did so enjoy the fact that he was slumped under a Kent County Council tourism advertisement which read "BEER - it's inspired some of Kent's greatest architecture". Perfect.

Turning my thoughts to the best way to get to Paddington station, I got off at London Bridge and completely forgot about Jubilee line closures. Cocknobs, thought I. Still, onwards and upwards. Or downwards, as it was. Onto the Northern Line to Moorgate and then the pink one all the way to Paddington. Lines were closed, stations were closed, a fire alarm at Kings Cross had shut that down - I had an eerie sense of foreboding about the journey. However my fears were allayed as I emerged triumphant at Paddington and immediately went in search of breakfast, which was a quite frankly disappointing Upper Crust breakfast baguette type thing. I would have given my arm for a Subway at that point.

The journey to Swindon was fairly uneventful, apart from the fact that I had been booked into a 'Priority' seat. I am neither elderly or disabled (well, at least not physically) - perhaps they knew I was about to become prog rock's hottest guitar commodity. Perhaps they knew I was a fat bastard who needed the extra space. Who knows. At any rate, arrival into Swindon took place on time. I would be here again later in the day on the way to my second gig of the day (with Hi-On Maiden), and as I queued for the next cup of coffee I noticed that Swindon had an aroma all of it's own. This I eventually attributed to the old lady in the queue behind me - there was the distinct air of "Granny's perfume" about her.

Arrival in Stroud I...




Half an hour of steel rail away was the lovely town of Stroud. I have sped past this place many times on this line, and like so much of Gloucestershire it don't half look pretty on a sunny day. I ambled through the town towards the venue, where I found young master Abraham resolutely ensconced in his Nintendo thingamiwotsit. The lovely Mrs A soon appeared to inform me that the rest of the lads were having a spot of trouble finding parking spaces. Saturday morning in a small town! Once that mission had been accomplished and the band were all present and correct, it was time to get the backline onstage and soundcheck. Poor Rob had the worst job of this - there really is no mercy on keyboard players in prog, with so much to set up. In future we'll have to hatch a plan to make it a bit easier. Mine was very easy; plug in, turn up, play. To begin with I was way too quiet onstage. I dialled the Line 6 up a notch, and all of a sudden I was louder than the PA. Bostin'!

Setting up I: Rob & Lee...


II: Filkie...


III: Mully


After soundcheck we watched the opening band Eliza Tale check out their sound (which, inevitably, seemed to change ours quite a bit!). The festival was ready to open, and after a short intro from an impromptu compere the proceedings began. Eliza Tale opened with a set of prog-pop; a hint of Blue Öyster Cult and a dash of Star Trek (!) thrown in for good measure. After their set, it was time for the Lee Abraham Band to get ready. Outfits of black and white were donned, and Mully set up the festival kit as best he could to meet his requirements (used to his normal mammoth kit, the Professor would be altering fills on the fly to fit the house drum kit). Lee had brought the intro tape along, but it turned out the venue had no facility to play it. Bugger. Straight in on the big riff then! Rob and I did contemplate fiddling about with some atmospherics to open the show, but this would have sounded a bit unfocussed. As it turned out, punching the crowd in the face with a big fat B5 has quite an effect!

The view from the crowd:


We stormed the stage with opener "Face The Crowd" (or "Face The Stroud"....oh, how witty I am!). A few chords in, I suddenly realised my hands were shaking. This is a bit of a problem when you're playing, though I'm fairly sure it was just the adrenaline. The tune went off without a hitch to thunderous applause from a packed house. What a reception! On to "The Mirror", where I completely forgot the words to the final verse of the first section and mumbled my way through it. That must have sounded coherent! Still, the point got across and one of Lee's most atmospheric and heavy beasts roared towards it's conclusion with Rob chocking out his best solo yet and myself following it up with my own personal best solo attempt to date on that song. "Celebrity Status" went down a storm, and it was time to attack the epics. "Black" was once again a polished masterpiece, and that John Mitchell solo towards the end was a personal high for me with a rapturous reception from the crowd at it's conclusion. I was on cloud nine! "White" is the only real challenge remaining to us, with the "Choir of Thornes" section proving a little flat in a live setting. However I think we pulled it off (despite almost falling over at the start with that tricky rhythm). A great crowd and a fantastic performance. I'm so proud of Lee and the rest of the guys - all of whom are a joy to perform with. As I was packing the gear down after our set I noticed a crowd of folk around the table where Lee's albums were for sale, and felt a hint of pride that I had something to do with all this. Lee later told me that he'd been offered two more gigs as soon as he came off-stage, and I had some very nice comments myself from a warm and appreciative audience. I don't know how the rest of the boys felt about this, but I think we upped our game quite a bit onstage - we played better than ever. Needless to say as soon as I was able to I headed straight to the bar!

Rob had kindly offered me a lift back to Swindon, which I took him up on. After helping Mully and Rob down the stairs with their gear, I said my goodbyes and hopped in the motor. A road closure led to an amusing diversion up and down some rather steep hills, and also took us through Cirencester ("twinned with Itzahoe" !) but we prevailed and in no time at all I had arrived at my next gig.

Black & White was a total pleasure to rehearse and perform. The stuff is solid - in the car on the way back, Rob and I both agreed that this is one of the only musical projects either of us have been involved in where we're not bored of the material after listening to it over and over during the learning and rehearsal process. A fine bunch of musicians and an even finer bunch of people make the undertaking that much more pleasant, and I should take the time to mention them all in turn.

Sean Filkins (vocals, guitar) - a charismatic frontman with a classic prog voice and the sense of humour you can only ever find in vocalists! An absolute joy to share the stage with.

Rob Arnold (keyboards, vocals) - this guy just exudes musicianship. His great ear, smashing voice and some spectacular tinkling of the ivories really brought out the best in Lee's tunes. Special thanks should also go to Rob for keeping us all in Jelly Beans throughout the project.

Gerald "Mully" Mulligan (drums & percussion) - Professor Mullington! I can't really say enough good things about Mully's playing. Technically superb, I've never met a drummer who cares so much about the sound of each individual piece of his kit. You couldn't ask for a more solid backbone to the band. Losing the backing track (along with the click) two rehearsals before the gig and having to adapt his playing to fit the festival kit didn't seem to faze him at all. Easily one of the most gifted drummers I've ever had the pleasure of being in a group with.

Lee Abraham (bass, vocals) - the mastermind of the project, Lee was just as much a pleasure to jam with. I have known Lee for a number of years and from the first session in the studio just prior to the first rehearsal, I wondered "Why the hell haven't we done this before?!". Thanks go to Lee for the opportunity to play in his band.

In short, I absolutely loved the whole project and can't wait to gig it again!

Chrissy H