Acoustic Solid Air

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Charlie Hole @ Solid Air, 12 NovemberCharlie Hole appreciates an appreciative audience and says so when comparing us to the restaurant crowds he’s normally in front of nowadays. He’s the third artist in this special acoustic line started by Pete Read and Fran Milner – the front stage area of the Cellar Bar is filled with chairs, candle lights flicker in jars for an ambience reminiscent of Sirius evenings so many years ago.

Charlie has a great voice; the sound set up perfectly for his guitar style with rich tenor tones, and clear high notes. He has many standout songs, his take on Hey Yeah (Outkast) is something else, and a very short song, Birthday, has cut-to-the-heart lyrics that really make one ponder.

Douglas Firs @ Solid Air, 12 NovemberFor the first time in a long time (about 4 years by their reckoning) The Douglas Firs are gracing Solid Air. The intervening time has been filled with tours in Canada and the United States, where more writing has also been a feature. Much of that material is offered to us tonight, still enchanted, haunting, contemplative yet also poking fun at the falsities we construct around ourselves.

Pete Christie @ Solid Air, 12 NovemberOur masterclass in acoustic performance is granted tonight by Pete Christie, starting with the introduction to Ballad Of An Ordinary Man, where the chords are looped with a small amount of slide, to then allow chord picking over the top.

Pete Christie with Fran Milner @ Solid Air, 12 November

What I like is that the looping isn’t the main thing, its just a method to showcase Pete’s guitar skills, voice and clever lyrics within a bigger framework than the single guitar would normally allow.


Fran Milner
 provides keyboard and vocal harmony work for Normal Shade Of Blue just adding to the musical magic that tops off this great acoustic evening.

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Rare Poole Outing

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Pete Christie @ BricklayersThe Bricklayers Arms was one of the best live music venues a long time ago – Pete Christie says he is playing his first gig here for nearly 25 years, and this was also one of the first venues he played as he just started gigging as a youngster. Live music has returned here after a long absence in celebration of Harry the manager’s birthday; Pete Christie is the artist chosen to play for this auspicious occasion, and Conrad (Solid Air) has been spinning some discs beforehand.

There’s a lot of familiar faces here, brought out either for the delights of the music, or because of the celebration. Since its a new venue for me, I’m unsure who would be a regular here; there is a great atmosphere and makes a good venue – the music is in the long room at the back which used to be a skittle alley. One notable here is Neil King from Fatea, who’s filled me in on the musical history of the Bricklayers.

The music room used to be out beyond what is now the back garden, with outside toilets, long since turned into housing. The Central is opposite just down the street, and across the main road is the Britannia; all 3 pubs used to do music as the Ashley Cross tour, where people could wander around between the venues (and some bands tried to play all 3 in one night!). Each lost its entertainment license until only the Central was left, over 20 years ago, and that has now gone, too. Mr Kyps, the only regular venue here now behind the Central, is a relative newcomer, having converted from a pool hall perhaps some 8-10 years ago.

Pete’s playing is superb as usual – I’ve previously used just about every superlative I know to describe his prior performances. Tonight he exercises a brand new song, Ballad Of An Ordinary Man. This is one of those rare songs that, should winds blow the right way, would be a hit. Instantly familiar, yet totally original, and totally memorable for singalong purposes, hopefully he’ll keep it for future. Neil tells me it is in the forthcoming Fatea showcase (due out on February 1) so catch it there.

Milk Machine @ SloopOn to The Sloop, another first visit for me (watch for drink prices – £1.60 for a squash!), Hawkeye let me know that The Milk Machine were featuring here. As I walk in I’m pleased to see yet more familiar faces, Ski from KFC, Sofi Reed amongst others. The music is cracking, good stomp stuff with old time, bluegrass and hillbilly; loads of us are enjoying the hoedown. The tunes are great, mainly covers played totally originally in the way only The Milk Machine can. Since Hawkeye knows I played Welsh Block on last Wednesday’s show he dedicates it to me, as I’ve just walked in, which is always a way to get noticed! What a night 🙂

Mischa & Merry Men @ Cellar BarBack to more familiar territory and Mischa is with his Merry Men in the Cellar Bar (after an obligatory Night Owl burger). Roland is back, Mischa’s also grabbed bassist Tom and as I walk in Alex has joined them on cajon. Alex’s band Admiral Shiny Sides apparently smashed the place earlier in the evening, being mobbed and “forced” to play 2 encores. Mischa announces he has an EP launch next Friday in Smokin’ Aces – this should be good – I’ve been waiting for fuller recorded material for some time, having had to rely on some open mic sourced material for a while now… I’m only in for 3 or 4 songs and all are performed with Mischa’s usual gusto, the addition of the Merry Men provides for fantastic musical exchanges between them.

Two Sets of An Evening With…

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My Sunday night started with “An Evening With….Blowing Your Cover” at the church tonight, as we prepare for our launch of this popular church training & equipping course. Afterwards dash over to The Cellar Bar, where Pete Christie is performing. Pete is my favourite performer; I consider him to be one of the absolute best on this circuit. A music session is more like An Evening With…Pete Christie, since the constructed songs are interspersed with both inane banter and insights into Pete’s life.

This starts as I walk in with digs at myself and another notable punter from the scene, before regaling us with a slight on a certain capo from a certain internet supplier. The capo broke 11 months after purchase and he’s heard diddly-squat from the firm. He then splurges into Dancing Diamonds. The next story is 5 minutes about a gig in Swindon, the only kebab shop open there at midnight, and a stool that’s just the right height for him, before he plays a short song from his Skavengers era about trouble, making much use of harmonics on the guitar.

I’ve previously referred to Pete as Magic-Fingered; while there hasn’t been much evidence of this so far, his voice is in fantastic form, as demonstrated by his high wails in staple Lost, which also provides for his first flicker-fingered instrumental break of the night. He next plays his version of Beeswing, which I’ve missed pretty much every other time I’ve seen him play due to walking in late. Its everything I’ve come to expect of Pete’s entertainment, and more…

Along the way, many of his songs are changed and mucked about on the spot; lots of seeming improvisation and spontaneous invention. After one cover he segues into a little instrumental involving the same chord progression, yet thowing in some slide action, even slipping into lap steel mode with the slide for a moment. Good stuff.

Weds 24 Pete Christie

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Pete Christie @ Thomas Tripp 24 Aug - retelling a talePete Christie @ Thomas Tripp, Aug 24Its another Wednesday night, and this time I’ve crossed town straight from the show to catch the beginning of a Pete Christie set, rather than an end as I normally have to enjoy. Busy pub, many paying attention to the wizardly fingers as coupled to the feet to build up layer on layer of music. Clever what one man and a guitar can do with a foot-controlled loop pedal.

Christie Wednesday

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Had an eventful show tonight – it normally is with Radio Boscombe on board, just seemed more so than usual. They have another album out, with more all new material so we spent some time previewing some of that, plus the usual banter and a set of birthday dedications from various “notables” that they’d “acquired” – it was my birthday a week or so beforehand.

A brief stop off at O’Neill’s to see two songs from Roomful Of Mirrors before heading up to Chaplins for the open mic. Turns out a lot of my semi-pro muso friends had decided to hook up – Krista Green, Ant Lewis, Mischa, Kimari Raven, Sofi Reed.

Pete Christie Thomas TrippWhile it was enjouyable hanging out with them, I really had to leave early to catch the last 20 minutes of Pete Christie in the Thomas Tripp. And boy was it a good 20 minutes, even though I’d missed a lot of my favourites he plays. He covered Love Of The Common People, which was made famous by Paul Young, originally made known by Nicky Thomas – first time I’ve heard his take on it, impressive.

Not a waste at all, missing out on all those other mates, to be able to appreciate again the magic fingered performer that is Pete Christie.

Mr Christie wows the Tripp

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I was just going to say “Pete Christie performed at the Thomas Tripp – you should have been here for the experience” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The evening started with the monthly Solid Air outing on the show; all those artists Conrad had tried to tie in to the next Sonic Adventures were unable to make it. With no guest Connie & I ran a talk show based on the music scene instead.

One of the promoters included tonight was Jake Scott – he’s running a fundraising gig for Haiti in the Old Fire Station on Sunday night. Charities benefiting will be administered via DEC, meaning my charity of choice, Samaritan’s Purse, won’t get a look in.

DEC do not fund Samaritan’s Purse – despite their presence in nearly every hotspot in the world, the UK presence isn’t large enough to feature in DEC’s plans 😦 Click here if you want to donate directly

Any help for Haiti is welcome, so please get along to support the efforts and raise some much needed funds for the efforts

Pete Christie Tripp

After doing a bit of delivery running around, I land at the gig that I started with. Pete is on form mainly just playing his guitar unaccompanied by the normally ever-present loop pedal.

Even so he is entertaining not just with the songs, but the overall presence – looking around for people to pick on, yet always making himself the butt of the joke, throwing in stories and anecdotes to boot.

I won’t mention some of the outrageous items Pete’s done tonight – those that are also here will know what I’m referring to – however as ever he finishes with an increasingly extended Easy Come Easy Go, using the loop pedal to full multi-voice effect.

If one hasn’t had a chance to experience Mr Christie in one of these up close and personal gigs, please make a point of doing so real soon. He is playing at Mr Kyps soon, and is totally able to fill that stage with sound and quips, however it is with the close, visible audience that I enjoy Pete the most.

A Quiet Gig After A Quieter Show

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Unusually I was on my own in the studio tonight, just the listener keeping me company as I interspersed alternating Rock and non-rock tracks with phone-ins and chats with promoters. I cheated and left the show early in the hands of the computer playing Betika and Krista Green so I could dash across to Mr Kyps.

Hannah Robinson had texted me earlier letting me know she was playing support to Jackie Leven at Mr Kyps, and how many tickets would I like. This is both unexpected, kind and generous, plus gives me the chance to hear Hannah doing a solo set in an appreciative venue – I’ve seen her quite a lot as the front lady of the excellent Paint It Blue, and yet rarely get the opportunity to hear her solo (although Hannah did serenade me once as my guest on the radio show).

When I arrive she’s already into her set, I can tell by her distinctive voice overheard from the car park! Hannah is very soulful, and has a wonderful manner over the mic. No trace of nerves or collywobbles, each tune mesmerising with the simply played chords capturing the in-the-round mood effortlessly. Lovely!  Her last song in particular must become a showcase – whistling over the guitar, with some “la la la’s” – all very hard to do without a tremor, all achieved pretty much perfectly, to my ears.

There is one major disappointment for me – with doing the radio show (even letting the automation taking over) I’ve missed Pete Christie perform the opening set. “Doors at 8” must mean doors at 8, gig soon after nowadays, unlike other Mr Kyps gigs I’ve attended a while back, where  “Doors at 8” meant the first band of 3 wasn’t on until just before 9…my bad.

Jackie Leven is instantly charming and amusing, disarming a cold night with some warm Scottish Cheer, and dealing with my missing-Pete-Christie-induced disappointment in the way a muso only can, by throwing some amazing songs my way, mixed in with some great anecdotes and heart aching and warming stories.

Jackie has played and is playing with some greats – he tells us this is a penultimate gig of this current tour, before he hooks up with Ralph McTell for a gig, then Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Name drops over he enters a tone poem about his entry into the Johnny Cash fan club Jonny Come Lately division, while stuck in a Norwegian hotel room in Trondheim. Charming, engaging and captivating all at the same time as being a mournful dirge as good tone poems should be.

Jackie has an interesting style – he can generate deep guttaral vocals as if he has a digeridoo on hand. The way he plays guitar means the low E catches the frets in a way that should aggravate through fret buzz, yet it works well within the songs’ dynamics. As I said, interesting.

Something else I like is the way he tells his stories, while accompanying himself on the guitar, much as Pete Christie does if he’s holding a normal conversation with you. Perhaps they have the same affliction – can’t be away from a guitar for a couple of hours without getting some screaming heebies! Either way, it all adds to the engagement, even dispelling some of the vernacular language he uses overmuch for my tastes.

For a couple of photos of the night, check out Fiona Megapix‘ photos on facebook…

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