Grant Sharkey – Trollbadour in the North

I first became aware of Grant Sharkey when Simon and I were booked to support him earlier this year in the 147 club in Llandudno as part of his Radical You tour. It was a good gig and Grant was engaging, thought provoking and funny. I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to support him on the Trollbadour tour in the North Inn  in Rhyl.

On the night, we duly packed the complete Mudshark Incident, Me, Simon and Duncan, into my van, along with Terri, our roadie/cover artist/biggest fan and headed for the Wild West. (Yes, I know that Rhyl is East of Bangor, but it has always made me think of the Wild West, and probably always will.)

The North is an interesting venue with it’s chlorine stinking toilets and a smoker’s path to the beer garden that runs through the middle of the stage. Presiding is Steve, endlessly energetic and enthusiastic promoter. His first question is where we’d like to be in the running order, and we opt to go first (get set up, get on, do the business, get off and relax). The Mudshark Incident is fun to do. One member of the audience, who saw the gig in 147, suggested that we’ve taken my folk tinged songs and turned them into art rock. I’ll take that. We enjoy ourselves and the audience seem to like it too.

The Colossous set sees the first significant appearance of Captain Marching Habit (of whom more anon) who offers Rich a banana (we’re in Rhyl remember, things like this happen all the time) Rich’s reply, “Do I look like I eat fucking fruit?” does the trick. Colossous move smoothly through songs like Vanarchy in the UK, Freeway in Texas and Mischief on the Holyhead Road, showcasing Rich’s huge and beautiful voice and joyous songwriting to a rapturous reception.

Which brings us to the main man. Grant Sharkey has swapped his normal upright bass for an acoustic bass guitar for this album and tour. Something to do with singing true songs in hostile pubs and being able to run away when the locals decide that they are offended.

Grant takes us through his observations on Wetherspoons, protest singers, steam punks, robots taking our jobs while we complain about immigrants, the tories, the wonders of genitalia (and Donald Trump’s fear of transgender), the population explosion, the evils of cocaine and the cowardice and inconsistency of most racist Daily Mail readers.

That he does all of this, in the face of repeated heckling from Cpt MH, with enormous good humour is very impressive. We even get to the stage of “I love you, but I’m trying to do a show, so I need you to get off the fucking stage.” It could have been an awkward, annoying, bad tempered affair, which would have ruined the gig. Instead it turns into a triumph as Grant runs rings round the Captain, keeping everyone laughing.

Mr Sharkey finishes off with a couple of songs on the ukulele, delivered, unamplified, from the middle of the audience, continuing to spar with Captain MH all the while. At the end of the set, Steve, the promoter, plays Eric Clapton’s Cocaine over the PA and goes round with Grant’s hat.

We fill it with money.

On the way home, the A55 is closed at Llandulais and we are diverted through Old Colwyn. Somehow that feels appropriate.

Footnote – That was last night, Tuesday 7th November 2017. Tomorrow night I will be exchanging my performer’s hat for my promoter’s as Grant is coming to Bangor to play the Skerries. If he’s half as good as he was last night, it’ll be a night to remember.


Curiad Bangor Pulse – the work behind the scenes

Regular readers will be aware from my elderly parent post that things weren’t going my way earlier this year. I couldn’t do as much in the run up to Curiad Bangor Pulse as I did last year, so I asked people to take on the individual events .  All I did was book the venues and set up the organising meetings. The result has been a better festival. With only one event to run (or in one case, two) people were able to give things their undivided attention. I did sound three times, for the spoken word and the comedy, which were dead easy, and for the Saturday marathon in the Skerries. I didn’t have to do any act booking* or stage managing at all.

Our venues were outstanding, making every effort to make us welcome and being as helpful as they could, in some cases going far beyond the call of duty. Thank you Mudshark Records, Rascals Bar, The Tap and Spile, The Crosville Club, Mudshark (again), The Skerries, The Belle Vue, The Skerries (again) and the Belle Vue (again).

I would also like to thank Paul, Roger, Peter, Andy, Paul (again) Karl, Will, Dave, Dave, Cecelia and Steve, who ran the individual events, booked the bands, singers, poets and comics, wrangled them and made my life so much easier.

We are blessed at Curiad Bangor Pulse by our volunteer crew, the people I’ve mentioned above, plus Viv, Jayke and Yannick. A number of them double up their roles, dealing with advertising, photography, social media etc.  They are outstanding. Two members of the crew, Jayke and Paul, who hump gear, set up, take down and generally get the acts onto and off the stage with the minimum of fuss, were at every event this year (and last year). Theirs is the work on which the entire festival is built.

Thank you all for making this the biggest best and, for me, least stressful Curiad Bangor Pulse so far. If I’ve missed anyone, I can only apologise. It was not intentional.

Curiad Bangor Pulse should be back in October with Curiad Bach Mini Pulse. Hopefully it will run smoothly and will look effortless as this festival has. If it does, it will be down to the hard work and commitment of the people running it. You won’t see the work that they do, but you’d sure as hell notice if they didn’t do it.

*This is not strictly true, I did book the magician, by asking him over a coffee if he’d perform. He said yes. There was little or no effort involved on my part.



Music Mondays #3 – Flaming June

I love Flaming June. Louise’s honest lyrics and her voice and energy are inspiring and the punky folk sound is right up my street. For me the stand out songs are Nerves of Steel and Rumplestiltskin, but it’s very subjective and will probably be different for everyone.
Phil’s blog, Musoholic, in which he is choosing to highlight and support an independent independent, unsigned musical artist is a wonderful idea and deserves to be a big success. In my experience, music is much more satisfying when it is based on mutual support. Please check out the other posts and think about following the blog.


Blogging??? It must be MONDAY! Alright, it’s technically going to be Tuesday before this is up but I haven’t been to bed yet and it’s my blog so I make the rules… Which is actually why we’re running late…

This week I decided I was going to write about Megan Henwood as I only first heard (and met) her recently, but it turns out that she’s won a bunch of awards and has the support of a label, so I had to rule her out. Sorry Megan, independent artists only (she’s still really good though). So, here’s a (literal) eleventh hour replacement blog.

You can see the thought process behind all of this here, but every Monday I’m going to highlight an independent artist who I think deserves a bit of promotion and some of your valuable time. Hopefully I’ll make them sound interesting enough that you’ll click the link and…

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Elderly parent

Most of us have to deal with this at some point in our lives. My mother died instantly more than fifteen years ago, what a way to go, no slow decline, just an instantaneous loss of consciousness and almost immediate death. She was driving and out and about visiting friends the day before and she would have known nothing about it.

My Dad is a different matter. He is in hospital having suffered from pneumonia, fast atrial fibrillation and heart failure. His GP was about to write it off as a virus when I asked him to listen to my Dad’s lungs again. I’m not a fan of his GP by the way. All charm and no fucking action. Oh, and yes, I am going to swear in this blog post. I don’t normally, but tonight I really fucking feel like it

Dad has been in hospital for three weeks now. The hospital is 320 miles from where I live. There is a social services care package in place and he’s supposedly due to go home tomorrow. Unfortunately though, he fell out of bed , head first, on Wednesday morning and split his head open. I saw him that afternoon and he had a 2 1/2″ gash in his forehead with a large haematoma. He had also lost what was left of his fragile confidence. Will he come out of hospital tomorrow? I will only find out when I ring the ward. If I were a betting man I wouldn’t put anything on it though.

The only problem is, the longer he stays in hospital, the more depressed he becomes.

It is a strange feeling when one of your parents tells you that sometimes they think it would be better if they went to sleep and never woke up and you can see their point.

I’m almost ashamed to talk about the impact on me. I’m not the one who has limited quality of life, but it has affected me. For one thing I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. One of the things I will be saying is that I have been drinking far too much over the last fortnight. I know I shouldn’t, but sometimes that knowledge isn’t enough. I have to tell them, because they have to know. Again I’m rather ashamed of it, but at the same time I’m not fucking surprised it’s happened.

Ah well. Let’s hope it all turns out well in the end. After all, why not end this post on a fucking platitude?

By the way, I’m not going to edit this post, because it is straight from the heart. If there are any typos or grammatical errors, I don’t fucking care. If you know what I’m like as a writer, you will know how out of character that is.

I’m not looking for sympathy by the way, it’s just that bottling all this up feels so fucking self destructive that I had to write this and publish it or end up with another panic attack, going for a walk at 3am because I can’t breathe if I stay still.

If anyone reading this is going through similar, I hope it helps to know that you’re not alone.

Coping strategies

We all have ways of dealing with the things that life throws at us and we all do it in ways that suit us personally.

One of my coping strategies, as I’ve mentioned before, is to assign my brain a persona of it’s own, so that I can argue with it and swear at it when it’s being a dick. I can’t recommend it for everyone, but it works pretty well for me.

Another of my tactics is to worry about one thing at a time. It’s easier said than done, but it’s quite effective when it does work. If you allow all of the things that cause you worry, stress, anxiety, self-loathing and doubt to run riot at the same time, the chances are that they will overwhelm you. One at a time it’s possible that they can be kicked in the balls and told to do one.

This morning I went for a routine check up. I’ve put on a bit of weight and my blood pressure has gone up commensurately. I have been pretty busy and I know I haven’t been looking after myself as well as I should have been, so it’s not a huge surprise. Unfortunately I was asked if anything was causing me worry or stress, so I listed them, one after another.

That was this morning.

This afternoon I need a blanket fort and reinforcement from the 7th cavalry (after all, it worked for John Wayne).

It turns out that listing all my worries in one go was a Pandora moment and now I’m clinging to the one remaining denizen of the box.

So there you are. Coping strategies are great, and we all use them, but we need to be prepared for circumstances that circumvent them (don’t worry, I’m not going to cram in any more “circum” words. We must be circumspect* about these things).

*Well alright then, but only one. It’s stayed because it made me smile and a smile on a day like today is like hope left in the bottom of Pandora’s box.

No rhyme or reason

I have spent the last two months feeling increasingly negative, talentless and even worthless.

It’s a horrible feeling, but it’s also one that most creative people will have felt at some point

Today it stopped. I feel like I can write, I can perform I am a decent musician.

So what has changed?

Well, Neil Crud played two of my songs last night, but then he played me last week too and I still felt like a fraud then, so, logically it shouldn’t be that.

The real answer is that I haven’t a clue. I’ve asked my brain, but it hasn’t got a clue either. Whatever it is, I wish I could bottle it.

My confidence has come back so much that I even proposed a collaboration with a musician that I have a great deal of respect for. If we can gel, it should happen.

“Excited? I am, but you can’t see what I’m doing!”

If you  didn’t get that quotation, may I recommend Rory McGrath’s finest piece of comic writing It features the vocal talents of Gryf Rhys Jones, Mel Smith and Andrew Sachs.

While you’re checking that one out, be reassured that I feel fantastic or the first time in months.



Thank you Neil

Regular readers will know that I assign my brain its own identity. This is a coping strategy for when it’s being a dick. It gives me something to shout at, swear at, argue with, anything that keeps it in check and allows me to keep my life on an even keel.

Most of the time it works. Most of the time. Half way through November it stopped working. My last blog post referred to hitting a brick wall in the middle of NaNoWriMo and my plan to get back on track. I wrote another 1200 tortuous words and then…

My brain got the better of me.The feelings of worthlessness and lack of talent will be familiar to most creative people. I kept getting out of bed and I kept getting mundane things done (this is not a given by any stretch of the imagination)

As I write this,.my brain is picking away at my use of words and cliches and is trying to tell me it’s not worth writing, let alone hitting the publish button.

The thing that’s giving me the ability to kick my brain in the balls, is that Neil Crud is going to play one of my songs on his radio show tonight. That is enough. Someone likes something I’ve produced enough to play it on the radio and I get the ammunition to tell my brain to sod off. It may be just for tonight, or it may get me back on top of my brain for longer. I hope it’s the latter.

Thank you Neil.

I don’t know which song he’s going to play, but I hope it’s Give Me Wings, a song about hidden depression, the way some people hide that they’re struggling with their mental health. It’s insidious and it’s dangerous.

If you want to listen to Neil’s show, he’s on every Monday 10pm – midnight and, tonight, so am I.

Hitting a brick wall.

We all do it. In the middle of something, usually something creative (but not always), something happens that stops you from carrying on. It can be a delay or it can be a complete derailment, but I always try to make it the former rather than the latter.

November for me means NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Regular readers will know that that is a commitment to write 50,000 words of first draft in 30 days. I had a great start this year. I got a long way ahead of schedule early on, my detailed planning was paying off, as was the space I’d left for improvisation, and the story was working well. I was 5,000 words ahead when I went to visit my Dad. It’s a long trip, well over 300 miles and I knew I wouldn’t get much done while I was there. As it happened, I didn’t write a word.

So how was my Dad? Well, he was better than I’d feared and worse than I’d hoped. He’s old and getting older with all the problems associated with that. Real life and all that and facing mortality (he’s not that bad, but at the same time you do have to face facts and he’s not going to live forever).

I came home, having written nothing  and I continued to write nothing. From a position of being 5,000 words ahead, I’m now 5,000 words behind. It would be easy to sit and write rubbish, to simply splurge words and get my count back up without any thought. This would not help my story. It would be very easy to say that real life has got in the way and I’m going to use that as an excuse to give up. That wouldn’t do my story any good either.

What I have done instead is plan the next two scenes, so that I’m ready to put in a good shift when I get a chance tomorrow. That way I can get plenty done and keep my story’s structure intact at the same time.

The other thing I’ve done is write this post. It should not be taken for granted how much sitting at your keyboard and writing gets you into the mood for more writing.

Here’s to keeping going and making sure the story continues to work. If you come across a brick wall, you’re otten better off finding a ladder, walking round the end or locating a door than you are trying to run through it and that’s what I’ve tried to do.

Tell them not to worry.

Fifteen years ago, my Dad rang me to tell me that my Mother was in hospital after a suspected heart attack, but that the last thing she’d said to him before he went home was “Tell them not to worry.” Typical of her, both to dismiss her own infirmities and to be concerned that other people shouldn’t be concerned on her behalf.

My Dad rang me again the next morning to say that she’d died. “Tell them not to worry.” were the last words she ever spoke to him.

They say that time is a healer and in my case it is true. I have written songs and stories that address my Mother’s death, some more obliquely than others, but the one that stays with me is the one written for something my Dad said to me.

When he got home from the hospital, he sat down and he thought to himself “I can sit here and feel sorry for myself and ask ‘why her?’, but that will achieve nothing, or I can think to myself how lucky I was to have forty years with her.

From that moment on I have felt that we should celebrate the life and give thanks for being part of it rather than mourning the death.

The song can be heard for free (for the first three plays) here