5,7,5 – 365  27th November 2015 

5,7,5 – 365 27th November 2015

A haiku and a diary entry, every day for a year.  


Ah, back catalogues. Few things give me more pleasure then immersing myself in music that is at least new to me. This little lot will keep me happy and occupied for weeks to come. And then, there are all those Giant Sand albums to track down.


Now The Listener

Hears gems both rough and polished

Howe’s back catalogue 




5,7,5 – 365  16th November 2015

5,7,5 – 365 16th November 2015

A haiku and a diary entry, every day for a year. OK, not every day and certainly not in any particular order!


The very first post on this blog tells of a night out to see Giant Sand Presents – performances by members of Giant Sand, introduced by Howe Gelb. That gig was one of a chain of events that set this all in motion. Tonight I get to see Howe Gelb himself play a solo set as part of The End Festival at The Crypt Studio in Hoxton. It’s Monday night (I’ve posted this late) and Laila has university many miles away, Lynne is adventuring in Rome and so my friend Paul joins me. 
First up, a set by Nadine Khouri and her band. Nadine has a lovely voice and a slick band that really seem to be on the same wavelength as her. Sadly, just as they get warmed up and settled in, their set is over. She is one to watch.  

Next up, it’s the man himself, Howe Gelb. I have described Howe as being akin to what Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman would call an anthropomorphic personification, in this case the embodiment of the concept of music and cool. Everything he says and does is cool; his hat is cool, his boots are cool, he plays and sings in a profoundly cool and relaxed manner, he is cool. I’m also told by both Laila and Lynne that he is a very handsome man, in fact another friend, Denise, described him as the most attractive man she has ever seen – I don’t know about any of that so I’ll just stick with cool.


Previously, I’ve been to preview sets by stand up comedians, trying out new material or honing a routine before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe or taking the show on the road. I’ve also heard sets by bands experimenting with their music, trying their own songs in different styles – most notably, The Low Anthem, who never seem to play a song the same way twice, with often sublime results. Tonight’s set is something in between those two. Howe described it on his Instagram feed as, “Attempting a set of half baked songs on full baked jet lag“. He says he’s trying to write a standard, a song that will still be played in a hundred years. I can’t help thinking he has already done that several times over. The Giant Giant Sand album ‘Tuscon’ alone is crammed with standards, I would love to still be playing ‘Out of the Blue’ in a hundred years – that’s something worth aspiring to.  

John Parish joins on the drums and Howe, shuffles through his notes and plays half written, half learnt songs at the piano, songs that, “go something like this”. He also talks about his friend and musical co-conspirator, the late Rainer Ptacek, the early days of Giant Sand and how they broke out of Tuscon. I’m enjoying myself immensely. I’m getting a peek into the creative process, the early stages of something yet to come and hearing some of Howe’s back story. Paul, who has come into this blind, or perhaps deaf, is not so sure. He doesn’t really know what to make of it. Never mind, Laila and Lynne would certainly have got this. You can’t please everybody.


With notes and jet lag

He plays the still unresolved 

Searching for standards 


5,7,5 – 365 29th October 2015

5,7,5 – 365
29th October 2015

Having finally got to grips with most of WordPress; the tags, the categories, why it won’t put a space in when and where I want one and how to get a photo on to a post – I thought it might be a good idea to repost my first blog, which explains the whole thought process behind it. Plus I can stick a photo in this time round. I’m not just being lazy. Honest.


Originally posted 10th September 2015


A haiku or two and a diary entry, everyday for a year.

Where all this begins

Three grains of the Giant Sand

Gabriel’s challenge

Just over a week ago I’d not even heard of Giant Sand. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon at home and I had decided to re-wax an old Barbour jacket, an eBay bargain that needed a little tlc. Whilst covering the jacket and most of the floor in hot wax, we listened to this year’s newly arrived End of the Road CD from Rough Trade. We’d already checked out a few bands new to us in preparation for this year’s festival but thought we’d give it a play to see what else might take our fantasy. Laila had pen, paper and the CD case on standby to make notes. Just as I’d finished one sleeve and the back panel, Track 4 begins playing – it’s like The Handsome family meets Leonard Cohen, with Tom Waits in Rain Dogs mode. “Ooh, I like that. Who is that? Play it again”. Three replays later and the rewax is progressing but the CD is not. The last bit of the process involved blowing it all over with a hairdryer – the coat, not the CD. Whilst that takes place, listening goes out the window and we let the disc play on. The coat is a triumph and further investigation of Giant Sand can now commence.

We watch a session recorded for Seattle’s KEXP over and over, it’s outstanding. Spotify reveals a catalogue of albums dating back to the 1980s and a cocktail of musical styles, all of which sound great. There are all those things that I heard before with a splash of Dylan too. Wikipedia informs me that band’s name was shortened from the original Giant Sandworms, a reference to creatures in Frank Herbert’s Dune. Later that evening, in one of those instances that proves either the interconnectedness of all things or the interference of time travellers in our lives, whilst channel hopping on the Sky box, we happen across a very badly edited for TV version of David Lynch’s 1984 film of the book, and watch it through despite the dreadful cuts. Before going to bed I have already ordered two CDs, 1994’s ‘Glum’ and 2012’s ‘Tuscon’.

The following weekend Laila and I attend The End of the Road festival, which overall was just brilliant with some wonderful music, and Giant Sand get the Set of the Weekend award from both of us. Despite three exhausting days festivalling, the dreadful late night/early morning drive home and the prospect of another late night to go see a London gig after only three hours sleep the night before I go to see them play again on Monday evening at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. Laila can’t go, she has to attend a class at the University but luckily Lynne agrees to join me and together we see, “Giant Sand present (the solo work of band members) Gabriel Sullivan, Brian Lopez and Maggie Bjorklund”. We are treated to three fine sets, despite a rather ill amplifier. Lynne, who is already brilliant, adds another to the many reasons for her being our London gig buddy and engages the man himself, Howe Gelb, in conversation, initially about the workings of the pedal steel and then we get to chat about Giant Sand’s set at the festival, some of the other a acts performing there and music in general. I was already firmly of the opinion that Howe is what Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman would call an anthropomorphic personification, in this case embodying the concepts of music and cool – everything thing he says and does is coo. His hat is cool, his boots are cool, he plays and sings in a profoundly cool and relaxed manner. I’m told by Laila and Lynne that he’s also a very handsome man, in fact another friend described him as the most attractive man she has ever seen. I don’t know about any of that but I do know that he came across as a genuinely nice guy. After the gig he signed a copy of the bands latest album on vinyl for me too.


Back to the gig itself and what this is all supposed to be leading up to. As I’ve already said, we were treated to three fine sets, each very different. Working backwards, Brian Lopez has wonderful voice and his classical guitar training was plain to hear – I bought his latest CD. Maggie Bjorklund played solo numbers on the pedal steel that confirmed Howe’s statement that she had freed the instrument from the prison in Nashville where it’s been confined for decades. Using loop pedals she produced a sound like nothing I’ve heard before, it was intriguing and beautiful. Gabriel Sullivan sang a number of his own songs and performed a cover of Hank Williams’ ‘Rambling Man’ (always a good move, a Hank Williams cover). Gabriel Talked about his involvement in a project, ‘The Crucible’, that had him writing and recording a song everyday for a year, one of which he played for us. I was struck by that idea, it reminded me of a recent interview on Radio 4 Front Row, in which pianist James Rhodes talked about his belief that everyone can be creative and that we should all push ourselves to play an instrument or write something everyday – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b067wf2w . So I am setting myself some challenges; I am going to learn to play the guitar – and really do it this time, I am going get myself on a course in linocut printing, I’m going to learn how to use the camera properly and I am going to write a haiku/diary everyday for a year.

Here then is the first

Three hundred and sixty five

A year in haiku