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I flew out on Thursday to Toronto for FilKONtario, the annual Toronto Filk convention. (For those reading via Facebook, I'll point you to a definition or two of filk courtesy of FilKONntario and [livejournal.com profile] madfilkentist respectively).

What I did this (long) weekend... )
[Mostly typed on the plane home]
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Having caught clips from this album on the Mike Harding show on Radio 2 (third song in on this week's show, which will expire off iPlayer by Wednesday), and knowing (and performing) Lily of Barbary off it, I finally yielded to temptation and bought it.


This is probably one of the best folk-rock albums I own - I so want to BE this band! The line up is electric guitar, bass, drums, fiddle and melodeon: the production is crisp and tight, the arrangements and harmonies are great, and by contrast with several Fairport albums, the words are audible.

Highspots? Pretty much all of it, but the title track, Lily of Barbary and Ginger Billy stand out as brilliant, as does the obligatory tunes set, a cracking rocked-up cover of Show of Hands' Cutthroats, Crooks and Conmen, and the very Imagined Village-esque Garland Gay. It's a very English album - almost all the tracks tell stories of England, one way or another.

Little Johnny England. I commend them to you - I shall definitely be catching them when they pass by hereabouts.
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Tune to follow - I have most of it, but the new MacBook to record it isn't arriving till mid-week.


There's a silence 'cross the barren land
No wind to stir the dust
And metal tools left lying
With no rain to make them rust.
A single footprint marks the place
Where once two heroes toiled.
A flag, forgotten, fallen lies
Amid the dusty soil.
And that one giant leap
Grows further now each day.
To the empty desolation
That's forty years away.
But one small step
Can start us off once more
On that longest march in history
To Tranquility's far shore.
Elsewhere on that landscape
A picture's left behind:
A simple family photo
For some traveller to find.
The one who left it's long years gone -
Safe now, no more to roam.
A reminder of a journey made
So many miles from home.
And that one giant leap....
Far and wide the débris
Of a dozen's labours lie:
Scattered remnants of a time
When mankind dared to fly.
The whole world watched in wonder,
Prayed that they'd be safe home soon.
Old men now, who still recall
Their steps upon the moon.
And that one giant leap...

And that one giant leap
Grows closer now, we pray.
Apollo's distant triumph
We will dare again some day.
Just one small step
Will start us off once more
On that longest march in history
To Tranquility's far shore.


Oct. 27th, 2008 08:45 am
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Busy and largely musical weekend.

Friday: discovered Rich-the-faithful-sound-engineer is in the US, and therefore unlikely to make it back to take up his ticket to see the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band with me and Mal-the-bassist. Phoned [livejournal.com profile] bardling with an offer of spare ticket :)

Cracking gig - Rick Vito (ex-Tango-in-the-Night era Mac/Stevie Nicks band/John Mayall's Bluesbreakers is an /awesome/ guitarist. It appears I have to practice, though - despite my protestations to the contrary, it most definitely IS possible to play Albatross on one guitar!

I can now say I've met two members of Fleetwood Mac, too.

Saturday: into church at 9am to set up new USB recorder (for later webcast of sermons) and piano mic (nice AKG phantom-powered condenser mic), and then do sound for wedding at 11am. Out again at 12, via Jon Haire to fail to drop off Mal's bass and my LAG for repairs (he would appear to be on vacation), to pick up [livejournal.com profile] bardling and head for the SWiGGLe.

More musical fun - nice to see loads of folks there. Got to jam with [livejournal.com profile] tattercoats, [livejournal.com profile] vaurien and [livejournal.com profile] callylevy, play old Before The Dawn songs with [livejournal.com profile] demoneyes, hug what's left of [livejournal.com profile] telynor, and generally hang out and chat. Oh, and play folks [livejournal.com profile] micktim and [livejournal.com profile] stevieannie's album.

Home in time to kidnap[livejournal.com profile] bardling for watching of Heroes and Strictly.... and then watch Anne bribe her with pancakes to stay over.

Sunday: Pancakes, off to run sound at church, while Anne took [livejournal.com profile] bardling home and then James to his Nana's. Due to lack of a rehearsal with [livejournal.com profile] nw1, went to PC World to buy large numbers of 1G USB keys (for church to record on to) and 2G ones (for me to build several flavours of bootable rescue images), thence to [livejournal.com profile] bardling's for some practice for our acoustic stuff. Worked up a version of [livejournal.com profile] micktim and [livejournal.com profile] stevieannie's Ernest's Face for guitar and mandocello (and proved I can play the Last Post on mandocello harmonics alone), and also succeeded in finally managing to come up with a... medley doesn't really do it justice - more an intertwingling... of Fairport/Ralph McTell's Hiring Fair and Sting's Fields of Gold which we're really rather smug about.

Anne got back around 8, so we kidnapped [livejournal.com profile] bardling again (bad us!) for more Strictly... and Merlin.

And so to bed.
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I went out for a walk from work at lunchtime. There's a very.. London, very English thing that happens on the corner of Shaftesbury Ave and Charing Cross Road just about all day every day - someone is handing out free phonecards for some company or other.

And they're almost never English.

I was reminded of a Radio 5 feature on Polish students doing work on farms in England - someone asked the local unemployed teenagers if they'd do the jobs, and the answer was 'no way'.

I'm not xenophobic, or racist. This song is more me wondering aloud.
And it's bloody hard to remember chunks of lyrics when you're driving! :)

Lyrics behind the cut )
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This one is for [livejournal.com profile] bardling. who asked if I'd thought about writing it after she read the words to the first Dr. Who inspired song I wrote today.

I hadn't.


More spoilers for 'Journey's End' )
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After I wrote my post on songwriting, I thought I might try and chronicle the creation of a song at some point.

I wasn't expecting Waiting In The Deep quite so soon, but since it's fresh in my mind, I'll see what I can do. Basically, I'm reconstructing this from memory and the crossings out in my Moleskine!

So here goes... ).
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Moleskine + transport = win, be it plane (This Is My Land), train (The Miller's Tale) or car* Waiting In The Deep )

[*] Relax, [livejournal.com profile] bardling was driving!
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I woke up this morning with a song in my head.
Not someone else's song, nor even one I'd written.
But.. most of a brand new song.
Tune and all.
On a subject I'd not even been considering writing about.

Grabbed the notebook, headed for the train, and finished it on the train.
Still boggled.

The Miller's Tale )
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A couple of decades ago, when Anne and I were first starting to work up a shared repertoire of music, I bought her a book by Michael Raven with settings of various folk tunes for recorder. One of them was a lovely, simple modal Welsh melody called Lisa Lân, which I really wished had words, and rather stuck in my brain - it's something I often noodle on in dropped-D kind of tunings on guitar.

Today, having spent a good half hour fiddling with it in "cheater's DADGAD", on a whim I Googled for it, and found both the original Welsh words and a translation, and a very nice live version by Cerys Matthews (ex- of Catatonia). Sadly, the translation was very literal, and unsingable...

So I set to work.

Lisa Lân )

Guitar notes - not for the faint of heart... )
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Since several folks asked, I will be putting up an MP3 of Three Days Away from my Duckon set (recorded by [livejournal.com profile] phillip2637, to whom many thanks) just as SOON as I can get it off the MacBook!

[Edit] ... or from Philip. Here you go.
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Following on from parts 1 & 2...

Contata )

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] redaxe, [livejournal.com profile] dvtune and [livejournal.com profile] gorgeousgary for loan of guitars, and to [livejournal.com profile] ladymondegreen for letting me have a concert set! I had a BALL!

Next time, though? Bringing my own guitar!
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So, Yahoo! UK kindly agreed to let me go attend YAPC::NA, a Perl conference at IIT in Chicago.

A quick peek at the US SF convention calendar revealed Duckon in Chicago the weekend before, and Contata the weekend after, and a little negotiation with my boss got me the vacation to do it, so....

Without further ado, and with the unwitting (at least in part) sponsorship of Yahoo! UK Ltd, here is... Mike's US Tour 2008 )
Duckon in summary? Had a ball. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] janmagic for letting me have a set, and everyone (including the folks I forgot to namecheck) for making me feel welcome.
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I have up until now never broken a string in public.

I've broken one in a dress rehearsal (twice) and I've broken one in an orchestra pit while hidden from the public and with a second guitarist to cover.

At yesterday's Fleetfoot Mike gig I broke the G on my white Les Paul as we were checking levels 2 mins before we started the set. Rich (sound engineer) grabbed the guitar to change it, while I played the first song on my spare Les Paul. I got the white one back for Dreams, got as far as the high G->A bend on the top E before the last chorus, and... plink.

First time for everything.