After years of doing bands that are really performance art troupes and wrestling classes that are really theatre shows and music videos that are really short films about mortality, I’ve kind of forgotten how to do things with some ordeal-based high concept-y structure. How to do this just cause. So now have a band that’s just a band again, and it’s very slow going to get it all off the ground properly, because I’m still remembering that you can just book gigs to book gigs and play songs just to play songs. This isn’t self-deprecation though, the new band rules.
I’d always wanted to play at the National Folk Festival (after seeing so many of my friends play really special sets there) but I’d never had a band that was in the right genre pocket. So I applied with the country-fied recordings I did for the second of my EP-In-A-Days and lied that I had a band to play them with, Once they’d accepted me I had proper artist fees to offer I was able to ask my dream line-up of musicians to join me there for the weekend.
The nucleus of the line-up was Jacq Bradley and Matt Nightingale, a multi-instrumentalist couple who normally play in about six different bands across that festival. Jacq and Matt both embody the stereotype of the calm collected accompanist-who-is-really-the-stealth-bandleader. They have acres of song sense, tons of good humour and throats full of aching beauty. Perfect foils for my melodramatic, fidgety, over-syllable’d, hammy energy. Completing the line-up was the rhythm section from PROM, Sam McNair and Matt Lustri- I was only able to let that band finish up because I already had plans to rope them into this. It was great to let Matt play his actual main instrument of guitar again after nudging him into that two-year side session as a bass player.
I treated the National as Glam Country fantasy camp. We worked up a set of any and all of my songs that could even half-work as country, which included some songs of mine I’ve always really dug and never really got to play live. We played three sets across the weekend and it was everything I had hoped for. I wasn’t planning to push my luck more than that, but to my delight the others all expressed that we should play more gigs.
My delight and my terror, as my gig-booking fitness has atrophied and the realities of juggling schedules with a bunch of other 30-somethings are stark. But also I’ve been writing Americana-ish ballads and stompers for as long as I’ve been writing and it’s such an indulgent joy to finally get to play them live as one set (turns out I have more upbeat songs about death than even I thought I had). Crowd response has been really good and playing with humans like these is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I’ll probably deal with my angst around it all by writing a four-chord song about it, one ready-made for sick harmonies.
Photos by Adam Thomas