Carefully planned touring…

Dear all,

The UFQ tour is in full swing and we’re having a ball. After such a relentless solo tour, it’s great to be back with the band for a while. People often ask me which I enjoy more and it genuinely is impossible to answer, I’m not just being a politician. There’s a magic about being up there just on my own with total control over what happens both musically and in terms of the gig. Then there’s that brilliant feeling when 4 musicians are playing really well together and bouncing off each other. Both are priceless and both are currently going rather well!

So then to report on the latest…after my rather bizarre non-brush with the law, I had the rare experience of actually going to a gig on the night of my last blog and it was none other than my old chum Lucy Ward who played at the Gatehouse in Stafford. As ever, she gave a very entertaining show and showed her fine voice to typically compelling effect and even managed to overcome a rather strange pins and needles bout in the hand. Then after voting in the election…more on that shortly…UFQ were back in action with a trip to Southampton to play Hanger Farm Arts Centre which was, all in all, a very fine night indeed. It even got reviewed so do take a look at that if you have a spare moment:

After that it was to Grantham to play at Guildhall Arts Centre and that was good craic too. Then a day off before heading down to Buckinghamshire to play at Chesham Folk Club on a very small stage for four people! But the audience was anything but small both in size and enthusiasm and we had a lovely night. Then came the weekend just gone which really was three of the finest gigs I’ve been involved in and three of the best from my time in the band. It began in London at the Forge in Camden to a packed out crowd of very lively, dancing, whooping people who gave us a wonderful tonight that had us all buzzing. London can be a slightly unpredictable beast but this was just fantastic.

Then it was off to Maldon in Essex to play at the town hall. This is a truly lovely gig organised by lovely people and attended by lovely people. A long time favourite gig of the band, this one is a real treat. Then we went to Dartmouth. Dartmouth is quite far from Maldon. Many people take great pleasure in pointing out to me the lack of logic in tour routing that appears to manifest itself on my solo and band tours. Can I take this opportunity to point out that it ISN’T PLANNED!!! Sometimes that’s just the way the gigs fall – the idea of a tour is to do a lot of gigs so if you’re offered gigs and they’re only on particular days after gigs that are a bit far away, you take them! Anyway, it makes the whole palava of early starts and long journeys when you have gigs as lovely as Dart Music Festival. Bloody great stuff and thank you people of Dartmouth for such a wonderful hour!

So next up it’s Chester, Fishguard (assuming we get there…) and then various other places. Do come and see us! After that I’m off to Canada and Norway with National Forest Folk Festival in Leicestershire sandwiched in between. Nothing like taking it easy…Sorting American work visas continues to be about as pleasant as shoving a wet finger in a light socket but hopefully it will all work out…

That was quite a few dot dot dots there. Anyway, before ending with the usual silliness, I’ve just got a few things to say. Firstly, it was sad to hear of the passing of the legend BB King. I am a very big blues fan and he has always ranked high on my list of blues heroes, right up there with Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. He is one of those rare musicians with the ability to play one note in such a way as to make him utterly identifiable and so utterly expressive. In his own words, he ‘didn’t do chords’ but the feel in his lead playing and his soulful vocals rendered that utterly irrelevant. As with many musicians he played right to the end and sadly it began to show in the last couple of years. But, happily there are many great performances to watch and relatively recently he gave a fantastic performance at Glastonbury, a fitting way to end his UK touring career.

As a devoted Liverpool fan, I of course have to say some words about the departing legend Steven Gerrard. I struggle to think of one man who has defined a period of history in a football club quite as much as Stevie. I was 12 when he first appeared in the first team and he has been the one constant ever since. The best tribute I can pay to him is that I always felt when there was Stevie there was hope. There were so many classic moments of Gerrard pulling Liverpool through. Most famous were the Champions League and FA cup triumphs of 2005 and 2006 of course and the former particularly boggles the mind. the 2005 Liverpool team were quite possibly the weakest to have won the competition in recent years but Gerrard’s ability, passion and leadership won it virtually single handedly. It wasn’t just those games though – I remember two match winning screamers against Middlesbrough in successive seasons as well as a second half appearance against Napoli in the Europa League that transformed a dismal 0-1 deficit to a 3-1 win with an astonishing hattrick. That passion and inner confidence to take a game by the scruff of the neck then have the ability to produce the goods was what defined Gerrard’s colossal contribution to modern Liverpool. His long range screamers naturally take pride of place, but Gerrard was also a sensational passer which seemed to get better and better as his career went on. Last season’s costly slip against Chelsea sadly has come to define his contribution that season which is grossly unfair as he was actually outstanding that season in a new deeper role where his range of passing and tigerish tackling was showcased to great effect. This season showed the signs of decline and it is perhaps the right time for him to move on – Gerrard as a bit part player doesn’t quite work. But that is certainly not how us fans will remember him. Thanks Stevie for so many brilliant memories and your loyalty to your football club. You’ll forever be my favourite footballer.

So then, the election. Well that wasn’t the election result I wanted needless to say but of the people who voted the result was conclusive so fine. I’d like to look at another issue: over 30% of the electorate didn’t vote at all. You can split these broadly into two categories. The first is the group who consciously said ‘they’re all the same, there’s no differences so I won’t vote’. I’m going to be blunt – this to me just points to a stubborn and ignorant unwillingness to look at any facts. You can argue labour and the Tories are not different enough fine, but to claim Con, Lab, Lib, Green and UKIP are no different is not even a question of opinion, it is FACTUALLY just nonsense. Many labour supporters feel Blair’s government was not left enough but no one can seriously claim their policies were ‘the same’ as a Tory government or the coalition. People with this view are simply determined not to be convinced otherwise.

The other group are people to whom it never even registers they should vote. This points to something I’ve been banging on about for a long time which is education. People are not educated about politics or even in thinking about issues enough. That is why Westminster is dominated by public schoolboys – they are taught to get involved (plus of course they are rather well connected to start with). Maybe when the NHS is gone people will notice that voting matters. But it has got to be taught and people have got to be taught to think about issues and have opinions. We have an education system where people are taught to pass exams, not to think. It’s not a crime to have a discussion and I’m always dismayed how people fear discussions and avoid them in case people ‘fall out’. Why should have differing opinions lead to falling out?! Someone disagreeing with you shouldn’t be taken personally. I’m not very comfortable with the whole ‘if you voted Tory unfriend me now’ thing. I hate that as much as I hate the tory insistence that they ‘saved the economy Labour ruined’ which factually and statistically is nonsense. The same goes for the SNP voters who think independence is the answer to everything and won’t listen to a single alternative view. Engage, discuss, research and have opinions you can argue instead of either having none at all or refusing to listen to another one! That is the root of all this.

Finally then, it’s amusing story time. We had a great plan for Urban Folk Quartet’s gig in London. With Joe and Paloma having their adorable baby Sabela (and she really is) travel arrangements can be a little complex but Joe concocted a brilliant plan. Joe, Paloma, Sabela and a babysitter stayed in Watford with a good friend of theirs. They could then use that as a base for the gigs in London, Maldon and…er…Dartmouth. Anyway, the main upshot was Tom, myself and sound man Ben would travel together from Birmingham picking the rest up on the way and travelling to the London gig. A great plan. It just had one primary neccessity that was ommitted which was to remember it all. So when Tom and I got in the car and Tom said ‘Dan do you have the postcode for the venue handy so I can put it in the satnav’, I gave it to him and off we went. We rang when we arrived to see if the others were there too. Except of course they weren’t because we were supposed to pick them up…Anyway they made it!