Saturday, 16 May 2015

Small World

I was contacted the other day by someone who has commented on my blogs in the past.  They sent an email having read my post about the Rochester Sweeps Festival.They said something along the lines of "Hi.  We saw the same band in the same pub".  Now this person is just a wanderer in the blogsphere who was looking for people to talk about sobriety with.  They found my other blog then came over to here and found that post then emailed me...   what are the odds?  How many billion people are on the internet at any time?  How many blogs could they have found to read etc? 

The email exchange got more bizarre when we realised that we'd actually swapped seats at one point in the event and remember each others party!  Cue that music from the twilight zone.  There's a gag in here about "in all the bars in all the world..." etc.  or should that be "in all the blogs in all the internet..." 

Whole thing made me feel really connected with the whole world so much more as well.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Rochester Sweeps Festival

Mrs F and yours truly had the chance to wander along to the Rochester Sweeps Festival on Bank Holiday Monday.  The Sweeps actually spans the entire three days of the May Day bank holiday and has to be one of the best festivals in the South East - if not all England!

The history is that historically the sweeps - the young boys who climbed the Victorian chimneys to clean them out - were given May Day off as a holiday.  They combined this with an old tradition of the Jack o' the Green procession and Maypole dancing and used to parade through Rochester.  Not surprisingly it died out as the use of boys was outlawed.  But some 30 years ago a local guy decided to revive it and it's grown to be a huge gathering of Morris dancers who walk up and down the High Street picking pitches to dance in.  There is a huge amount of music about at outdoor stages and the pubs in and around the city centre.

We could only get down for Monday and were planning on seeing my good friends The Wax Collector brightening up the lunchtime at The Eagle.  Sadly though they'd had to cancel at the last minute due to illness in the band - Get well soon Nick!   Mrs F and I wandered along the High Street in glorious sunshine watching a few Morris dances and into the Castle Gardens where we had a picnic listening to the Folk Rock of Bounty Hounds and thoroughly enjoyed them.

A wander back through the high street led us to The Man of Kent to see Rosie Eade and her band play.  Rosie is one of my favourite regulars at the Sweeps having discovered her on a stage in a car park a few years back.  Steve Matthews who plays mandolin on many of the songs is simply one of the best mandolin players around in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Ain't technology smart

I got on the train to work this morning as normal.  I then fished into my backpack for the my Kindle to carry on reading my book and ... darn!  I'd left it at home.  However I have the Kindle reader on my phone so I fished it out and selected the book I'm reading.  Now the Kindle I have only has wi-fi not a phone service enabled one.  But I'd last used it at home with the wi-fi connected so not only did my phone download the book but open it at the right page for me to continue reading!   How flipping smart is that!

I still prefer reading the Kindle itself just from size of screen etc. but it was just such a cool thing that got me out of a jam.  

I had another one on Friday - I'd turned up to a meeting where I was chairman.  I had printed out previous minutes, agenda but there was a slot for "chairman's report" which I'd written earlier in the week and sent to the secretary.  I'd forgotten to bring it.  No problem, find the email to the secretary, open the attachment... damn it couldn't as my phone won't read rich text files (I send it like that to him as he is a mac user and it is easier for him to use).   Hmm... I then remembered that I have enable Office 365 to open docs in my dropbox on the web.  So...  upload the file to dropbox and open it via the Dropbox app.  Viola I could read it.  You'd think as ostensibly someone who is a well qualified IT professional this stuff shouldn't make gaze in wonder at it as it works it magic and I should just nod wisely about it all but... frankly I'm still bloody impressed and at times even amazed! 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Gig Review - System of a Down at Wembley Arena

Last Friday I went with my son and his girlfriend to see System of a Down at Wembley Arena.  SOAD were my son's angry teenage band - he listened to Toxicity a lot at one point I remember.  Through him liking them and me liking tracks like Aerials and Chop Suey in particular I really got into them when they produced the Mezmerize and Hypnotize albums.  Those I really liked.

Anyway so SOAD were on our "list of bands to see" when my son and I regularly trooped off to gigs and the odd festival day or two.  However I didn't want to do Download when they played there and then they'd broken up.  So when my son heard that they were coming to London on the Wake Up The Souls tour he was straight on the case to get tickets.

They took to the stage about 7:45pm and left just before 11pm.  Yep - just over two hours, non-stop pretty much, no 20 min intermission for a cup of tea.  That is impressive by any standards but given the complex nature of their music and the energy needed to perform it even more so.  Anyone who knows their music will know that it goes from quiet melodic folk music influenced to screaming heavy/trash metal in a heartbeat.  I can only imagine that for the band the two hours is the equivalent of a half marathon workout!

They were on top form.  Sound quality was very good if a little bass heavy but that seems to be how all bands have their live sound these days but for me I'd just notch the bass back a couple of points - but that is personal taste.  Each instrument and voice was clear and held it's own in the mix, important for some of the vocal harmonies they employ which for many loud bands would have been lost easily in a muddy mix.  Daron Malakian had a really terrific guitar sound, trebley and clean but at times harsh and dirty but listening throughout the sharpness of the clean tone rang out even when in the heavier bits.  I was a loooong way back from the stage but he use Gibson SGs throughout.  They handled his downtune low end well too.  Shavo Odadjian used a Gibson Thunderbird throughout which was suitably thumpy for their sound.

At the climax they finished off the last of the at least 30 song set and left the stage - no encore etc.  They do do it differently from many others but there is nothing wrong in that.

The only interruptions were three short animated films shown on three large screens.  There was one before they hit the stage and two more interspersed in the show.  The Wake Up The Souls tour is all about raising awareness about the Armenian Genocide which began 100 years ago this month.  This was the extermination of over 1 million Aremians by the Ottoman Government.  All this is part of a campaign to get modern day Turkey to acknowledge this atrocity and try to raise awareness.  The band play in Armenia - their ancestral homeland - for the first time ever on 23 April the day before the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide.  Those films and the short speeches by the band meant you could attend the show and not be involved in the politics but at the same time have caused me to go off and research more on the subject which no doubt is partly what they wanted.

So therefore now... System of  Down seen live and enjoyed!  Top tracks for me were Aerials, Chop Suey and Lost in Hollywood.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Fan Fret Acoustics - Getting closer to the masses

You've seen people like Andy McKee and Gordon Giltrap using Fan Fret guitars but they've been one offs from boutique makers like Greenfield and Fylde.  Slowly though this idea is getting closer to the masses.

Here are two guitars in the Avian line that are available in the UK at about £1,200 which whilst not cheap is closer to reality and about £300 uplift from the standard model... so really to my mind... bit of a deal.

Here's a quick video demo from the UK supplier.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Animals As Leaders 8 String models

Two guitars from Animals As Leaders - both show off their latest signature 8 strings... nice guitars great playing

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

2 million dollar guitar

Gibson made this announcement a few days back...

Now... if I had $2,000,000 - which sadly I've not - I've just checked with my bank.   They're still laughing btw....  and I could spend in on guitar(s) ... I don't think I'd be buying that.

So here's a game what would you buy instead?

Me... hmmm....    Probably some silly PRS Private Stock 513 to start.   An old Strat, early 60s rosewood board, an ES-175 with PAFs, 335?... more likely knowing me a 355 again early 60s preferably or a good modern one....   A Les Paul - a real late 50s?  Don't know possibly one or more from the great current custom range a "Gabby" or a "Dutchburst" of the ones I've seen recently....    Maybe that original prototype Custom that sold for $300K recently - that was one of Les's own guitars and whilst not what was claimed a really important piece of history.  Or could I get hold of Rory Gallagher's beaten to death Strat?  I doubt his brother would sell it but I'd rather spend $2,000,000 on that, rust, worn wood etc. than the jewel encrusted bauble above.

Recently British guitar maker Gordon Smith was up for sale as I recently talked about.  If I did have $2,000,000 in the bank (they're still laughing btw) I'd have invested in that as a going concern.

Part of me feels if you want a guitar buy a guitar. If you want diamonds - buy diamonds... just saying...