July is probably my favourite month of the year, and this one has certainly been action-packed! I've had loads of great gigs, plus I've spent some time recording in the studio. But there's also been the small matter of my 24th birthday to contend with! And of course there's the Olympics too! But let's get straight into a round-up of the month's drumming-related activities, shall we? After all, that is why we're here!
My first gig of the month was with the NICK WARD BAND at the 'Music at the Crossroads' festival in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire. This was a great little festival nestled in a small Cotswolds village, which had a full day of live music spread across two separate stages. I was very excited to be playing there; another reason to love July is that the festival season is in full swing, and it's always great fun to play on big stages in front of big crowds. But of course there is one thing that goes hand in hand with the festival experience; mud. And there was plenty of it in Hook Norton! Thankfully I packed some wellies just in case, and I concentrated extra hard during setup in order to keep my drums dry (although the same can't be said for the cases!). The gig itself went very well, and even though we were on the slightly smaller (and muddier) of the two stages, we got a great reception from the crowd. The band spent the rest of the day enjoying the rest of the festival, and taking advantage of the generous hospitality by snacking on food and drinks from the band rider and having a free meal down the local pub! We saw many fantastic bands too, including 'The Mini Band'; a group of kids that play rock covers better than adults! We also stayed for the headline act 'The Kast Off Kinks'; a band made up of former members of The Kinks, and they provided an excellent end to a great day of music.
Me onstage with the Nick Ward Band
The following weekend I had two amazing gigs with 2 RUDE: A TRIBUTE TO SKA. The first was at the Big Splash festival which took place on the riverfront in Newport city centre. I wasn't sure what to expect from this gig, but let me tell you, as soon as I saw the stage I couldn't wait to get on it and play! It was one of the biggest stages 2 RUDE has ever played on, and it was certainly one of the nicest settings for it too. The sun was just starting to go down, and the close proximity to the city centre meant that the number of people in front of the stage was steadily growing as we approached our show time. And when the band did finally start playing, we put absolutely everything we had into our performance. We all had a lot of fun playing on that big stage and the fantastic reaction from the audience only spurred us on to play even better! The reaction was so great that we even got an encore! It was without a doubt the best gig of 2012 so far, and it will definitely be tough to beat!
A quick shot of the crowd from the stage at the Big Splash
However, the next day's show at Caldicot Labour Club came pretty close. Despite this being the first time we'd played there the show was sold out, much to our surprise. And just like at the Big Splash, the crowd response was amazing. I've said before that workingmen's club gigs always seem to be a story of two halves; in the first half everyone stays in their seats and listens, but in the second half everyone gets up and dances now they're a little more relaxed and a little drunker! But this wasn't the case in Caldicot; the audience was cheering and dancing along with us from start to finish, and that's great to see! I do hope 2 RUDE returns there soon, mainly because I know we'll have another brilliant gig, but also because they have a gorgeous barmaid there!
Anyway, the next weekend 2 RUDE had two more gigs, with the first being at a private house party in Cardiff. This was the first time we'd ever been asked to play in somebody's house, so we weren't entirely sure how the gig was going to play out. It was certainly very weird setting up the PA and all our gear in a kitchen, but our brass section had to play outside through the patio doors because there wasn't enough room for all of us inside! (Luckily it stayed dry throughout the night!) Obviously the band's volume was going to be lower than normal because we didn't want to anger the neighbours, so we just had to relax and take it easy when we played, and hopefully the people there would enjoy the happy, chilled-out vibe. I decided to use my Hot Rods to play the show, which helped keep the noise down but the playing intensity up. The music went down incredibly well with the party-goers, and we had them all dancing both in the kitchen and in the garden! I really enjoyed the gig, although my hot rods were completely destroyed by the end of it!
My setup at the house party gig
The next day we had a wedding gig at Wick Farm in Bath. The stage was inside a big converted barn now used as a wedding venue, and the place looked immaculate for this couple's big day. The band got setup and then relaxed outside in the glorious sunshine together with a few platefuls of food fresh off the barbeque and a few drinks too! When it came time to play, we managed to pull a lot of people out of the sunshine and back inside to watch us, but of course not everyone at these kind of events will be interested in our style of music, and so some people opted to stay away. Nevertheless, 2 RUDE gave a stellar performance as usual, and at least the bride and groom loved it!
I had two more gigs on the last weekend of the month, the first being with UNDERCOVER. This is a fantastic function band that I have depped with before, which also includes 2 RUDE's saxophone player Al Sloan. We were playing at a wedding in Daventry, but this was a very special wedding as it was one of the group's singers that was getting married! And so she had planned out a very unique set for the band to play. Instead of a first dance, she and her new husband got up on stage and sang a song with us, before several other members of the wedding party did the same. Overall I think we had the bride, groom, best man, bridesmaids, mother of the bride, father of the bride and various other family members come up on stage to sing with us, each doing a different song ranging from modern pop hits to old rock classics to Irish folk songs! It was certainly one of the most unique gigs I've ever played, but after seeing how happy the bride and groom were with how well the show went, it was without a doubt one of the most satisfying to play. Thanks Liz & Tom; I wish you both all the very best!
Me onstage with Josie, one of the bridesmaids, playing some Lonnie Donegan!
I arrived home from that gig at 3:30am, but I had to be back on the road in just a few hours time to go and do some recording with the NICK WARD BAND in Abertawe Road Studio, Swansea. We were there to lay down drum tracks for two of Nick's latest compositions, and I'm glad to say that everything went very well. It had been a while since my last session in a studio, but I always love the atmosphere you get there. Plus I always find the challenge of making sure that I nail the drum track and play every part just right incredibly invigorating. After listening back to the session, I feel very happy with my current drum sound, especially my Gretsch Full Range maple snare drum, which sounds brilliant! I hope we get to do more recording soon, and I also hope that you guys will like the tracks when you hear them! (I'll keep you posted!)
But there was still one more gig to be played that weekend, so as soon as I was done in the studio I headed home to quickly recharge with some food and watch the Hungarian Grand Prix, before loading up the car for the third time that weekend to go meet my 2 RUDE band mates Dan and Roddy and travel down to our gig at The Smuggler's Inn in Minehead. We were playing at a charity festival organised by 'Afghan Heroes' and we would be sharing the stage with many other great tribute bands. The AC/DC tribute band 'Hells Bells' were on stage when we arrived, and I've got to say that they were freakin' awesome! I'm a big fan of AC/DC and they've replicated their live show extremely well; their Angus Young was amazing! He played all the solos note for note and managed to do all the moves and jumps that Angus does! But just forget I said all that; 2 RUDE were the headline act on the night, and there's a reason for that! The stage was on a raised balcony at the side of the pub, so the guys out front had a great view looking down on the crowd while those of us at the back couldn't see a thing! By the time we went on it was getting pretty late and the audience size was slowly getting smaller, but everyone there seemed to love the music. The band had a lot of fun playing in Minehead and helping out this great charity, and we'll be doing it all over again at another one of their festivals in late August.
Driving along the Minehead coast...
As well as all these fantastic gigs, there's been a lot happening beyond the lighted stage. July 18th saw me turn 24 years old, and I had loads of great presents and cards from family and friends, including many birthday messages on Facebook. In the days leading up to it, my good friend Sam was visiting from London, and I had a great time hanging out and celebrating my birthday with him. But now that the school holidays have begun, my teaching work has gone a bit quiet as my students make the most of their precious free time. This is always to be expected during the summer months, but hopefully I will keep having one or two lessons in the next few weeks until everything goes back to normal in September. And hopefully my own practice regime will go back to normal soon because I've spent the last few weeks preparing for my many different gigs and refreshing my memory of all the different songs I needed to know!
The other big events of the month were sporting related of course; I watched Andy Murray play in the Wimbledon final and was absolutely gutted when he lost! I've still been following the F1 season and enjoying every single race, and I'm still keeping up with the NASCAR season too. But the highlight was the start of the London 2012 Olympics. My Mum and I watched the opening ceremony at home, and were completely blown away by it! I've never watched an opening ceremony all the way through before; I've never found them interesting. But this one was different. Maybe it was the Queen parachuting into the stadium with James Bond, maybe it was Mr. Bean playing synth on 'Chariots of Fire', maybe it was seeing Paul McCartney perform and hearing Pink Floyd playing over a spectacular fireworks display, but I absolutely loved it! I always enjoy watching the Olympic Games, but this one is surely going to be the best ever! Now I'm looking forward to actually going to see some of the events with my mother, and I'll be sure to tell you all about it in my next blog!
I hope you've enjoyed reading this one anyway! Until next time...