Smart Crooked Book

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The Crooked Book

Here’s an unusual arts venue, The Crooked Book. Its been open on Boscombe main road for about 6 months now. I’ve been introduced to this cornucopia of a book-come-coffee shop by Tim Smart who’s brought the Smart Family Band here tonight, as the shop are exhibiting some of his drawings. Tim gives us a brief introduction, then renders the story behind some of the artwork (involving an nineteenth century failed entrepreneur and the object of his demise, a beached whale)

Smart Family Band @ Crooked BookThe band are broadly acoustic again as per last night, and are making some intimate music for this very much in-the-round performance in the middle of the shop. There’s a great little buzz about the place, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee is irresistible. Its also good to be able to browse for books while everything is going on ūüôā

Thanks to byanushka for permission to reuse their photo of The Crooked Book

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Solid Air Experiments & Accomplishments

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Field of Ponies start tonight’s Forbidden Planet. Luke, Andy & Josh are on guitars playing light hearted tunes, all instrumental and short, with Tim accompanying them on drums. While it comes across as a jam session, there has clearly been lots of thought and preparation going into the performance, Josh & Andy are watching each other intently for changes; its all very melodic, and they’re just playing around with ideas as they call it, a sketchbook of partial songs before they’re fully formed. For other 80’s music freaks think The Cure meets New Order just after Joy Division. I’m enjoying the mood, right up to where Josh needs to restring his guitar. If they find the right female vocalist they’re looking for, this could well be something….

Tim Smart does a solo set; he doesn’t know in advance what he’s going to do, so he plays a song then announces that this was his warm up, and we shouldn’t have listened to that! He proceeds to do single versions of duo songs (getting us to do the duet part) and then goes on to show off his highest pitch wails. He plays the accordion¬†for one song, composited by stringing random French phrases together. I’m unsure what’s the funnier of the franglais phrases, the faces he’s pulling, that he’s having to stop every so often to pull the words from the book balanced on a cymbal, or that everyone else is killing themselves laughing ūüėČ

Ali Bangay is our last performer up for the night, with Ben accompanying on drums. She has a small high voice when speaking, more than made up for when singing. She’s very active on the keyboard, making the most of the proper piano-like capabilities with full on chords and tune from either hand. She loses the words for a song, yet it doesn’t matter as the music is so good, its only her body language, face and apology afterwards that gives it away. Britney Spears’ Toxic is given a good treatment, not perhaps as twisted as Sarah Griffin’s cover, staying within the sweet voice theme, however the chords during the verse really give a strong undercurrent fitting with the lyrics. This 5-song set is a real delight to witness and listen to, so much so I was still raving about her performance the next day, which is very rare. At risk of annoying a lot of good keyboard players, I think this is¬†the best ever pure piano work I’ve encountered on the local scene in memory. Amazing.

1 Sep Smart Mutant Emeralds

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Tim Smart has made a surprise appearance tonight so he’s on stage when I arrive – see the youtube video of his take on I Know An Old Lady for interest. As ever one of the best entertainers around, even when says he doesn’t know beforehand what he’s going to do!

The Emerald Guard @ Cellar Bar 1 SepThe Emerald Guard are on next.¬†Two guitars and bass, accompanying some clever key/synth work. The phrase “wall of sound” is used a lot in radio talk – these guys deliver that in droves. There are some good riffs and hooks here, almost danceable rhythms, and the lyrics are neat enough for the music style.

Mutant Vinyl do Jazz @ Cellar Bar 1 SepMutant Vinyl are playing their last gig for a while, Ed starts with a jazz sax solo (Brecker Bros – Funky Sea Funky Dew) “as he’s never had the bottle before”. Note the music stand – stand-in of Tim Smart in the photo. Despite Mutant Vinyl @ Cellar Bar 1 Sepbeing their last gig for a while, this is very cut back at the outset, just Ed with dad Jim on drums. I don’t know what it is, I’m not normally a fan of a wailing vocal, however with Mutant Vinyl it just fits and works. Pinks Dagga is on youtube.

A Creative Evening

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Antonia Edgeley-Long Chaplins

Antonia Edgeley-Long starts up, her initial choice of song allows her to use a wide range of her voice – deep verses and high choruses.

This set is all new material, yet this fact isn’t really noticeable, save for the guitar work being under-developed; strummed chords for the most part. The chord progressions are fun, some switches from minor to major, and some modal work as well by the sound of it.

In her last song there is evidence of the future development, as gently picked arpeggios form an underlay for Antonia’s voice to soar over.

Jules Pitcher Chaplins

Next up Jules Pitcher. Straight off into gentle chord picking; she has a mellow rounded voice, this is music with gaps in.

Jules is also kicking in with the new material, her second number¬†having been written the week before. It’s dedicated to her sister, who is pointed out to the crowd.

Tim Smart is taking the graveyard shift. He’s decided to play an accordian for the first part of hist set. As I walked in he commented he was “off to rehearse” – turns out he’s never played an accordian before so needs to learn the basics! Tim Smart all over.

Tim Smart Chaplins

By the time he gets up, he’s more or less got the chords covered, any way up he’s amusing and looks to be enjoying it as hopefully captured in the shot.

Halfway through the set¬†he picks up the guiar and invites sister Claire to join him. Sandboy is dedicated to an anonymous person in he bar who lives near Tim, and who the song was written about. We don’t know who it is, and Tim’s not letting on, all adding to the mystique.¬†

Tim & Claire Smart Chaplins

Fed up with the guitar, he chooses to sing I know an old lady who swallowed a fly a capella, with Claire harmonising at certain points, before finishing with favourite Bearded Lady.  As an encore he gets us all to join in with harmonies on a short round song, all uber-creative, totally enjoyable, and uniquely Tim Smart.

Smart people do it with coloured pencils

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Lucy Davies opening up – good to hear her on at the start of a night rather than a nightwatchman, which has been her normal slot on these sort of evenings, more’s the pity. Lucy has some amazingly positive songs, even about not necessarily positive situations.
Quirky songs also feature in the set Рcreating an overall wholesome sound filling the Cellar Bar with her vocals. 

When I hook up with her to chat later, I find out I’ve missed some good nights and parties, simply through feeling being a little run down and hence taking things a little easier on the gig front these past couple of weeks.

Lucy is followed on to the now seemingly oversmall stage by the 8 piece choir that are the Smart Family Band.
Tim Smart is one of life’s experimental creative types, endlessly trying new things at gigs. His sense of adventure sometimes writes cheques the performance cannot deliver, much to the amusing entertainment of those witnessing the wonderful chaos.
Not so tonight. The band are well rehearsed and in good voice, having spent the weekend recording a 6 track EP. Indeed, this EP is the focus of the gig, with the usual Smart twist.

The EP is blank, the sleeve decorated in a bare and sparse manner. It includes 6 inch-square boxes ready for us to draw an impression of each track as they are called out from the platform – colouring pencils provided!

Smart Family Band EP final decorated fullThis creates a buzz and laughs almost overshadowing the performance itself, especially as the first song (track 1-my representative picture is of the twitter bird & 8 heads with open mouths) is purely choral. Short on the CD, this is especially lengthened for this debut performance. Then comes the command – “Change Pencils!” We are expected to switch colours with others in the crowd to draw the next song title on our cover.

The next song is wrong for me – I have a peach coloured lemon, replacing my correctly coloured plums (Lemons Not Plums is the title). Here’s my finished work, for you to laugh at!

As I’m showing here, this active audience participation almost outweighs the engaging and spirited performance, not a distraction but an engaging and lively difference, meaning this gig will no doubt remain in my mind as much as when Quinn’s Quinney had us playing musical chairs!

Finally Si Crockett takes to a late stage, and recognises this by only performing four of his numbers; these (as ever) go down well with the remaining crowd – although personally and quietly I’m rather pleased he calls in an early end to his slot – I’m bushed by this time…