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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Saturday Night Gigs

Rob and I caught the 31 bus from Chalk Farm to Kilburn Park. April showers had begun to fall. We chatted about music and literature. After dropping off our gear at the venue, we went out for dinner at Woody's Grill. It was a hearty meal and cost less than a tenner per head.

Chris met us after dinner inside the venue. He had on him a lap steel and a couple of pedals. The night before, he and I had given the set a virgin run-through in my studio. Tonight would be the first time that Chris, Rob and I had ever played together. It was going to be fun!

The gig was attended by our friends and the other four bands. As Chris and Rob sat down on stage, I stepped up to play a couple of my own guitar pieces. We then launched into a set of new songs and two covers. I believe we worked well as a trio, and the audience response was complementary.

Rob's drums and Chris' lap steel got the public seal of approval. 

Picture taken by Maria at The Good Ship (02/04/16)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Dan's Annual Guitar Concert 2016

It was a sunny afternoon in Primrose Hill. I waited in the library office for the audience to arrive. The radio played rock music in the background. My equipment was set up ready for the concert to begin. All I had to do was walk out, plug in and roll. The rest would be the passing of thirty-seven minutes of time. Time enough to fill a room full of questions and answers.

Conversations begun to buzz from the room outside. A variety of people had come from a variety of places. Music had brought together people from different walks of life. There were the retired ladies from the local community, waiting patiently in the front row. At the back of the seating area, several of my friends looking towards the makeshift stage. And fanning out from the centre of the seating area, a wide range of listeners connected to my work as a guitar teacher.

I looked at the music on the stand. Opened up the first page. Closed my eyes.
Picture takene by Jolene at Dan's Annual Guitar Concert 2016 (07/02/16)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Eight Weeks at the Dublin Castle

The Dublin Castle has been a fantastic experience for me, especially improvising live with the gentleman from the house band. Indeed, almost every person I have been introduced to at the venue has been friendly and welcoming, helping to create a smooth and flowing night of live music entertainment.
Picture taken by Julian at the Dublin Castle.
Below is a list of dates and songs / pieces I performed live at the Dublin Castle over an eight week period. Where appropriate, I have added notes in square brackets to help define exactly what was played. Italics indicate that the song was performed as a cover version, the remainder are my own original songs / compositions / improvisations.
07/07/15 = The Merchant of Venice + Blues in A [improv.]
14/07/15 = Dad + Fat Bottomed Girls [by Queen]
21/07/15 = Andantino (by Ferdinando Carulli) + Big in Japan
28/07/15 = Study in C & G + Colours  [by Donovan]
04/08/15 = Study in D + Acoustic (I love it)
11/08/15 = Times Are Hard + The Misogyny Blues in Bb [improv.]
18/08/15 = Table Mountain + Jazzy Musings in C [improv.]
18/08/15 = Study in B + The Free Birds and the Men [improv.]
My thanks must go to the house band, the sound engineers, bar staff and everyone who has made Tuesday nights feel extraordinary over these past two months.

Will be back soon.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Why I Compose

Composing music is a good way to express one's self artistically and to communicate one's sentiments. For the past ten years, I have been creating earnest songs and forming instrumental guitar pieces; treading out into unknown territory, like a far less heroic Captain Scott.

Scott's party at the South Pole
By writing, performing, and recording, I have left a personal account for any subsequent explorer to discover. In some ways, my back catalogue is the story of my life; an ordinary and relatively uninteresting tale expressed with sound. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, but without his genius or luck. Still, having composed with integrity, when I am old, I will be able to look back with contentment.

James Joyce and his guitar
George Orwell stated four motives for writing in his essay Why I Write (1946): -

1. Sheer egotism
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm
3. Historical impulse
4. Political purpose

Of these reasons, I think my works mostly address the first two with a hint of the third. Firstly, there is sheer egotism in stressing that one's creations should be remembered into old age; my artistic deeds are no more important than the measurements of an accountant. Secondly, I do take great pleasure in the aesthetic arrangement of sounds and words when composing music. And thirdly, there is a need to find the historic truth, or as Orwell put it,- "[a] desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and to store them up for the use of posterity."

George Orwell typing up his work
Aside from egotistical, aesthetic and historic reasons, original music can be created to set the mood and tone of a nation. This motive, Orwell's forth, political purpose, is potentially a very powerful way to use music. In 1997, South Africa adopted a new national anthem, whose lyrics were composed of four stanzas and included five different languages. These hybrid fragments of old songs, combined in a new way, were designed to symbolically represent the Rainbow Nation ideal.

Here is the song, sung by the Soweto Gospel Choir.


To conclude, sometimes composing is a privately artistic activity, sometimes it is publicly political, and sometimes it strikes a balance between the two. There are so many public spaces - film, radio, television, weddings, concerts, restaurants, supermarkets - and I would like to start composing for them. So far, I haven't shown enough genius or had any luck, but what matters is that I do create, that I love to create, and that I keep on creating.

Or as Samuel Beckett once wrote.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Early Songs, Open Mics and Characters from 2006


Like many people before me I fell into writing songs by accident. It began with a love of guitar and was further supported by a love of poetry. One of my early songs Acoustic (I love it) talks directly about my love of guitar. Another early track Autumn combines my love of poetry, especially Keats, with my love of guitar playing. The idea of combining great enthusiasm for guitar music with great enthusiasm for poetic language is the idea that has defined my songs ever since.

Once I had put a few songs together it was time to find some people who would like to hear me play. I saw a poster in the window of a new venue in Camden Town called The Green Note. There I met Steve and Siobhan who ran the show with energy, enthusiasm and expertise. Caring, empathetic and well organised; the dynamic duo were there to ensure that things were organised and spirits were kept high.

There were fantastic regulars – Alan, Jerry and Jake – each with an individual style and appeal that enticed listeners to keep coming back. Alan always played the same plodding thumb tunes on the guitar and wrote a new song every week. Jerry would strangely dance his way through his own unique brand of country rock n, roll wearing Steven Tyler's old wardrobe. Jake would play Richard Thompson songs better than Thompson could play them himself and occasionally jam with others on guitar or fiddle. David had the folk guitar and Greg had the raspy voice.

What can be learnt from these regular musicians - each of different background, each of varying experience and musical knowledge - is simple and beautiful. The thing to be learnt is that when people get in a room once a week and speak the same language something magical happens. Laughter, tears, human beings being wonderful human beings. The language is music and the weekly room is the room advertised by the poster saying OPEN MIC.



Here's a picture of me playing at the Green Note in 2006. For the latest news on the London Open Mic circuit check out this excellent site or ask Alan who usually knows where's good.