Some Sleep Till Wembley

…But not masses. I’ll keep up the China diary some more tomorrow (I’m dog-tired right now), but in the meantime I have a bunch of extra shows for the summer to tell you all about. I’ll list them out nicely below, and you can look at the whole lot by pointing yourself at the “Upcoming Gigs” tab above, but for the meantime…

The Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992 was a major musical milestone in my life. My older sister made me watch it with her, and we taped the whole thing over a number of VHS cassettes (swapping them over as fast as possible so as not to miss anything). I was 10 years old, I’d just started finding out about music, but seeing Metallica, Guns n Roses, Spinal Tap (!) and a host of others playing Queen tunes was a major eye-opener for me. We watched those tapes till they broke. So for that reason and a million others, I’m pretty blown away to say I’ll be opening for Green Day at Wembley Stadium (and Manchester Cricket Ground) in June. The world has gone mad.

New shows!

  • 16th June 2010 @ Manchester Cricket Ground, with Green Day (tickets)
  • 19th June 2010 @ Wembley Stadium, London, with Green Day (tickets)
  • 9th July 2010 @ Ruisrock Festival, Finland. I’m excited to be heading back out to Scandinavia with the band again, hope to see old friends and new there.
  • 14th July 2010 @ Komedia, Bath (tickets). This is a warm up for a weekend of festivals, but I haven’t played Bath for a while so it’s good to be going back, whatever the reason.
  • 31st July 2010 @ Lowertown Festival, St Paul, MN, USA.
  • 5th August 2010 @ The Stone Pony, Asbury, NJ, USA, opening for my old pals, The Gaslight Anthem (tickets).

Not bad for a day’s work. To sleep.

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Try This At Home

I’m pleased to announce two big, juicy bits of news today. First of all, we’re launching a competition to find two new bands / singers (one UK, one ex-UK) to provide the B-Sides for a firthcoming 7″ of Try This At Home, in keeping with the song’s ethos. Everyone is welcome to get involved, and there’s all the information you could ever need right here. Spread the word!

I’m also stoked to say that I have a run of US shows to announce. They look like this:

  • 1st August 2010 @ Osheaga Festival, Montreal, Canada (solo show)
  • 2nd August 2010 @ The Webster Underground, Hartford, CT, USA (solo, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 3rd August 2010 @ Lost Horizon, Syracuse, NY, USA (solo, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 4th August 2010 @ Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 6th August 2010 @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 7th August 2010 @ Magic Stick, Detroit, MI, USA (full band, with William Elliott Whitmore)
  • 8th August 2010 @ Lollapalooza Festival, Chicago, IL, USA (full band show)

Ticket links and all that jazz will be posted up here, on the gigs page and on my myspace as soon as I have them. See you all there!

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China Diary Part II

After meeting up with Ciga, we headed into Shenzen. It’s a startlingly new city – it was a fishing village 40 years ago, but for reasons I never quite got to the bottom of, Deng Xiaoping chose it as the first of his Special Economic Zones sometime in the 1980s, and since then it’s blossomed into a massive, pulsing city, a centre for international trade, a buzzing metropolis. We checked into our hotel and relaxed in the air-conditioning for a while – it’s even hotter in Shenzen than it was in Hong Kong, and I was doing a whole lot of sweating. Ciga is great – she speaks great English, wears awesome shoes and doesn’t trust her government. A woman after my own heart then.

The show in Shenzen was in a restaurant-cum-bar called i Du Tang, which was located in a weird little pedestrianized area of the city that was, apparently, the arts district. We headed over for a brief soundcheck (not all that successful, more on that in a moment) before grabbing some food. Ciga promised me we’d eat a whole lot of real Chinese food while I’m here – indeed, it’s hard to eat much else, and mentions were made of chicken’s feet, turkey neck and turtle. These have yet to materialize on my plate, and I have to say I have mixed feelings about the idea. We shall see. Sated, and newly familiar with Tsing Tao (Chinese beer, very nice), we went back to the venue for the show.

I have to say I had no idea what to expect from shows in China, so I was a little nervous to take the stage. There was a decent seated crowd in the room, many eating food, probably 100 people or more. There was a heavy smattering of ex-pats, but it was mostly a Chinese crowd. I played for around an hour, but I have to say it wasn’t one of my best shows. The sound was pretty mangled, both on stage and off, which certainly didn’t help; I was also feeling knackered from the last few days of travelling. But I think I also wasn’t sure how to approach the show. The crowd were very reserved in their own way, and the honest truth is that it’s been a while since I’ve played to a room with no one who knew the words. I guess I’ve been getting soft in my old age, and on first encountering a virgin crowd again, I basically floundered a little. Thinking back on it afterwards, I used to play shows like this reasonably often, 4 years ago, and it taught me skills that I suppose I have let gather dust. We hung around for a drink after the show and chatted to some cool American guys who were teaching English in China, but I was happy to get to the hotel and hit the sack hard.

The next morning we got up for a Chinese breakfast (much like all other Chinese meals, as far as I can tell) before getting the bullet train to Guangzhou. The train was very fast, efficient, and clean. We rolled through endless suburbs, never really breaking into open country, before arriving at our destination, a city known to the west as Canton. Our hotel for the show was immediately above the venue (always nice), which was an Irish bar called “Hooleys”, run by a Canadian, in China. Do keep up. The venue was nice and homely, the owner (Sean) was a great guy, and the show shaped up nicely. Hong Kong singer Kris Lao opened the show, and then I played a set for 50 or so people – more expats, proportionally, this time round. The show was much better from my point of view – as well as being better rested and in a more familiar environment, I’d done a lot of thinking about how to approach the show, mentally, and felt like I got the balance right.

After the show, we have two days off here in Guangzhou. It’s been an age since I spent 2 days in one place without travelling, and it always makes me feel a little bit surreal. Yesterday we did some pottering around Shamien Island, an enclave in the Pearl River which, for many years, was the only place Westerners were allowed to settle in China, meaning that the architecture is delightful. I’m kind of battling a cold at the moment, so we didn’t do too much with our day. I did manage to have an engaging conversation with Ciga about politics and China today. Interestingly, she said it was definitely a communist country, but couldn’t define that, and hadn’t heard of Marx or Marxism. Similarly, she knew about the Cultural Revolution and condemned it and Mao in strong terms, but knew of nothing happening in Tiananmen in 1989. I think it’s important to try and approach these situations and conversations without the arrogant assumption of cultural or factual superiority, so I was trying hard not to offend, but it was intriguing to see how Ciga saw her country. She also, incidentally, says she does not trust her government one bit. More as I find out about it.

Today I have been record shopping and am about to go hit the old town to see some pre-20th century Chinese streets and markets. Later on, I have a bunch of big announcements to make about US tour dates, competitions, 7″s and so on. But that can wait. Ni Hao, one and all.

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China Diary Part I

I have successfully arrived in Shenzen, China. As this is about the furthest afield I have come on my travels thusfar, both geographically and societally (along with, probably, Moscow), I’ve resolved to keep a proper tour diary here on this blog. I’m also unable to access Facebook and Twitter while I’m here, so if you’re looking for pithy updates on my progress, here’s your best bet. Anyways, to business.

I flew from Wellington, New Zealand, to Hong Kong on Thursday. It was another gruelling late-night travel turn-around – the show had finished at midnight, and my taxi for the airport arrived at 3am. While I always bear in mind how fortunate I am to do what I do and travel around the place, there’s no disguising the fact that those kind of schedules are no fun. 4 hours to Sydney, 3 hours hanging around (including being rockognized in a bookshop at the airport, which I couldn’t get my head around because I was so tired), then 8 hours to Hong Kong. Safe to say, I was feeling pretty knackered on my arrival.

Justin met me at the airport. He’s a HK national, but he spent time in the UK and is friends with Nigel, Ben and Tarrant, so he came well-recommended. He’s also leading a drive to bring more live music and touring acts to his city, and doing a great job of it too. We took the train from the airport, which is weirdly located on reclaimed land out in the bay, to the island itself. Hong Kong is, on the basis of 2 days’ experience, an awesome city. The colonial experience hangs heavy, alongside the dazzling steel, glass and concrete blooms of capitalism. The place has a great feel to it, it’s vibrant, electric even. HK Chinese locals are fiercely proud of their city, especially since 1997. There are many ex-pats, but they too have a lot of love for the place, and every one of them has a story to tell. I felt like I could spend a lot more time there.

The first evening, Justin and I headed out for some drinks. We ended up at a private party being thrown by hip-hop mogul Damon Dash – he’s currently mentoring singer-songwriter Mckenzie Eddy, who was booked to support at the show. The party was fun (helped immeasurably by the free booze), if a little industry heavy (no, I don’t have a card; why would I have a card? Jeez). By the end of the night the traveling, the lack of sleep and the booze conspired against me, and I ended up ordering room service in my pants and scaring the waitress. I think I wasn’t sufficiently “street” for Damon’s interest either. Oh well.

Show day began with a hangover. I went for a quick wander through Soho, a cool bohemian-ish area near my hotel, before heading over and checking out a new recording studio on the other side of the island, whose owner I’d met the night before. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that 70% of the area of the island is forrested hills. The stereotypical image of Hong Kong is urban over-crowding, and there is that, but the Chinese hills and the sweeping bays were refreshingly beautiful, and made me feel a whole lot better.

The show for the evening was in a bar called Rock School, which was in the red light district of the city (as many venues are… hm). The owner, Gregory, was an enthusiastic San Franciscan ex-pat on a mission to spread HK live music, and was very excited about the show, to the extent that he bought me a bottle of Jameson especially. Urgh… Soundcheck was fine, everything set up, I got some food and then waited for the show to start. I’m always nervous, playing a headline show the first time I come to a country (or, as in this case, continent). By rights, I don’t expect anyone to know about me or what I do. And like a nervous birthday party host convinced that his friends have deserted him, it’s easy to get a little edgy around the time of doors. In the end, we had an amazing crowd of about 250 people. There were lots of English ex-pats, as ever, but also fans from Singapore, American GIs and crazy punks from Taiwan, and lots of HK Chinese people as well. I was blown away by the turnout, and the show was a whole load of fun. The evening ended in hazy awesomeness.

This morning I got up, had lunch with Justin, and then boarded a suburban train towards the mainland and the Chinese border. Even though my visa was in order and I was well-rehearsed for the crossing, encounters with officialdom always make me feel a little nervous – I start thinking of all the possible things I might have done, or be doing, wrong. Insert nugget of wisdom about the corrosive nature of state power here. Anyways, after trundling through the suburbs as the only white person on the train, I made it to the border crossing sweating hard (although that’s also partly due to the intense humidity here, honest). In the end everything was seamless, and the bored young border guard waved me through (incidentally, I’m increasingly finding myself to be older than “authority” figures I encounter, which is always a little off-putting). On the other side I met Ciga, who is to be my tour manager for the next week or so, and she seems very nice and well-organized.

And there you have it. More to come soon. Incidentally, yup, an election in the UK. All three of the bastards lost, which was briefly heartening (though I didn’t see nearly enough Labour blood on the carpet for my liking). But in the end, who cares? Still no one is discussing the fucking behemoth in the room – national debt and impending economic collapse. Since you started reading this, around £2 million got added to our debt. Fucking hell. It’s nice to be far away from it all, sometimes.

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Further Afield

Auckland last night was a blast. I’m really into New Zealand generally, actually. Ah, I’m a sucker. Anyways, continuing my quest to play everywhere in the known universe, I am very pleased to announce that I am playing 2 shows in Israel this summer. June 4th I’ll be at Sublime in Tel Aviv, and June 5th I’ll be at Syncopa in Haifa. I’m excited and intrigued to see what’s going on out there. Now I just need to get my plans for Mexico and South America together, and I’ll be on top of my game, haha.

Apparently there’s an election on in the UK at the moment. Three equally dull big-state quasi-socialists arguing over how to prop up our monumentally fucked economy. Yawn. If you live in Cambridge, vote for Old Holborn!

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New Zealand Ho!

I just checked into my hotel in Auckland, New Zealand, which means that the Revival Australia tour is over. We finished up last night in style at The Arthouse in Melbourne. It’s a classic old-school underground venue, with 19 years of history behind it, that is set to close at the end of the year. So we were all pretty stoked that we got a chance to take the stage (or re-take it, in Chuck’s case). Songs were sung, whiskey was drunk and tears were shed. It was an absolute pleasure being on the road with Chuck, Ben, Tim, Todd, Jon and Jill again, lovely bunch of people, and the Revival ethic continues to be awesome. I have to say that Chuck’s repeated assertions that Australia was the promised land of touring (something he said many times over the last few years) are, well, true. It was an absolute blast, great shows, and humbling to be so far away from home and meet people who knew the words. I’m definitely coming back as soon as I can.

Fate, cruel mistress, gave me a 3.30am lobby call this morning. Actually it was Mel, our Australian tour manager, but she was merely being super-efficient, as ever. She deserves her own round of applause, incidentally. So I slept for all of an hour and then headed, yet again, to the airport, for the short flight here. The travelling and time-zone-hopping in this part of the world is giving me new insights into sleep deprivation; I feel like a new parent, or maybe Ed Norton in Fight Club (whichever is cooler). First impressions are that New Zealand is beautiful, kind of wild. I’m going to be doing some investigating in the next few days. I also just found out that my old friend Andrew O’Neill is doing a comedy show opposite my hotel. Syncronicity, it seems.  But now, for a nap!

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New Blog Dawn.. Part 2!

Just a quick update on my web-related tinkerings. After some very helpful comments and emails, I’ve decided to try diving into the whole WP set up a little deeper. All the old pages of the site have now been constituted as pages listed across the top – in fact I took the time to rationalize the hierarchical structure of them. The FAQ, Lyrics and Past Gigs are all now a little more prominent, which is no bad thing.

I’m now confirmed and announced to play Larmer Tree Festival in Dorset on July 15th. Hope to see you there, it’s not far off a home-town festival for me, so I’m excited. Full band show.

Finally, a friend of mine’s 12-yr-old son is putting us all to shame, fund raising for Cystic Fibrosis, a disease from which his cousin suffers. Check it out, maybe lend a hand, right here.

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New Blog Dawn

Morning all. A day off in Sydney today, blissful weather, the perfect day to be inside my hotel room dicking around with CSS code and URL redirects, eh? Ha. The last few days have all been stellar, many new friends made and much whiskey drunk (thank you Ben Nichols). We also played a quick game of 2-Ups, basically a confrontational version of head-or-tails that involves betting and shouting, which is illegal here apart from on Anzac Day. Madness. I think I’m just about on top of what time it is as well. Anyways. I’m making some internet changes round here, and thought I’d explain.

This is the vaguely technical paragraph. Feel free to skip it if you, sensibly, don’t give a toss. I used to publish this site using blogger.com’s FTP tool to publish to my own server. They announced a little while back that they’re not going to run that service any more after May 1st, so I’ve been checking through my options. In the end I went for migrating to a wordpress installation on my server. On the whole I’m very happy with it, although the migration process wasn’t 100% smooth (seriously, open source crusaders, help forums are no substitute for some old-school documentation). But we’re here now. Due to not being arsed to code a CSS theme from scratch, I’ve cannibalized a preset, but that necessarily means that things look a little different.

Back to the real world. So yeah, things look a touch different, but I kinda like it. All the old information can be found to your right, along with some other helpful links. I’m also very pleased that I now finally have a decent and easy to use RSS feed, located top right. Otherwise everything should be working, but if anyone has an issue, spots a broken link or has a suggestion, please do let me know.

In non-geek news, I’m happily confirmed for Osheaga Festival in Montreal, Canada on 1st August. See you there.

Finally, a treat, for me and you both. Ben Dawson, drummer from Million Dead / Kneejerk and old, old friend of mine, got in touch recently to say that he’d unearthed a bunch of footage of some of our old bands. Immediately after leaving school, I moved to London, and a whole group of us formed a melee of bands, none of which lasted very long but all of which were awesome (no really). Out of that melting pot came Million Dead and Palehorse, but prior to that were bands such as Sun Starved Day, Abjure, Kneejerk, Concealed Weapons Of Mass Destruction, and The Record Buying Public. This last featured me on drums, Tom Fowler (later in MD) on guitar, and John Atkins (Palehorse) on bass, playing some kind of instrumental jazz post rock type thing. I guarantee you that I’m more excited about this than anyone else, but this is, for me, a pretty fascinating blast from the past. You can check out videos of us playing The Swan in Tottenham, North London, in 2001 here, here and here. Check out my shit hair and kick-arse Metallica shirt while you’re there. There was a demo floating around of some of these songs, and these videos have prompted me to resume the search for them. Should I find them, I’ll post them here. Oldschool.

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Down Under

Greetings from Sydney, Australia. I still can’t quite believe I’m in this country – this is the furthest away from home I’ve ever been. I met up with the Revival crew (Chuck and his wife Jill, John Gaunt, Todd Beene, Ben Nichols, and Tim Barry) at LAX on Monday night, and we flew through the night to Brisbane, arriving on Wednesday morning, which was weird. Initial impressions are that the cliche is true – it’s kind of like a cross between Texas and Europe here. Austin and Nice, to be precise. Everyone is super friendly, the weather is blissful even at its worst (the rain on day 1 was strangely soothing). We’ve been to animal sanctuaries to feed kangaroos and hold koalas, been on boat trips in Sydney harbour, proper tourist stuff. The only drawback is the compound jetlag, combined with mad early morning flights to secure Chinese visas, means I have no idea if I’m coming or going most of the time. Small price to pay, I think.

Some show news. Firstly, we’ve added shows to this tour, in Sydney (tomorrow night, the 24th, at Hermann’s Bar) and Melbourne (May 2nd at The Arthouse). If you’re already coming to a show, I promise we’ll play different songs. If you missed a ticket, here’s your chance!

Secondly, European Festivals – I’m pleased to announce that me and the band will be appearing at Highfield Festival (August 20th) and Area 4 Festival (August 21st) in Germany, and the free Musikfestwoche Winterthur in Switzerland on August 22nd. A fun weekend on the continent, then.

Finally, I have big news coming soon about a competition and a new 7″ vinyl. Also, my good friend Simon made an album recently, and one of the tracks is a weird electro mix of a song of mine, “Hold Your Tongue”. You can download it for free from here. Enjoy.

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To The East

News is coming thick and fast these days, it seems. I’m now in Vancouver. The show in San Francisco was a blast, though we were all indescribably jetlagged by the end of it all. I think I’m just about tuned into the timezone here now, which is fine for the next few days, but then heading to Australia resets the clock all over again. Dagnammit.

I’m pleased to say that I will indeed be appearing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. I’m playing on the Queen’s Head stage on the Friday, and on the Leftfield with Billy Bragg on the Saturday (June 25th and 26th). Playing Glasto is always an event for the scrapbook, so I’m happy about that. To have been asked to make some music with Billy, a songwriter I absolutely love, is considerably more than icing on the cake – I’m really honoured and excited. It’s going to be quite a summer.

Prior to that, I’m also now able to announce those Chinese tour dates I’ve been prattling on about in full. I’ve never been to the PRC, it’s fresh territory and definitely a tour stop outside of my comfort zone. I’ll be keeping a diary. Here are the dates:

  • Chinese Tour May 2010! – All solo shows

    • 7th May @ Rockschool, Hong Kong, China
    • 8th May @ 1 Du Tang, Shenzen, China
    • 9th May @ Hooley’s, Guangzhou, China
    • 12th May @ Vox, Wuhan, China
    • 13th May @ Old Time Jazz Bar, Wuxi, China
    • 14th May @ Yuyintang, Shanghai, China
    • 15th May @ D-22, Beijing, China

    Time to practice my mandarin…

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