5,7,5 – 365  26th November 2015 

5,7,5 – 365 26th November 2015


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


Today an easy haiku is literally handed to me on a plate, along with some very fine music.


We’ve made many great friends through music, both fans and artists. Fran however stands out as a musical friend and guide. She has recommended and steered us towards so much good music, probably accounting for as much as half the live music we have seen this last three years. Despite not yet having met Fran in the flesh, we have chatted and exchanged music online, borrowed her CD’s and have kept a stream of gig posters going back and forth between us. Well, she has only gone and done it again and this time with the gift of this signed CD.



It’s very nice indeed, like Dylan meets George Harrison and much more besides. I highly recommend it. Tony Villiers has gone on to our must see watch list for gig tickets.


Thanks Fran. x




Songs of Love and Fate

Villiers and the Villains

The gift of music

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 8th November 2015

5,7,5 – 365
8th November 2015

A haiku and a diary entry, every day for a year.
It’s Sunday and we have a gig tonight that Laila has been waiting for for ages. There are two telltale signs that reveal to me that Laila has been driving the car; the first is that the seat is too high and too far forward (I get my legs wedged under the steering wheel), the second is that Richard Hawley will be playing on the stereo when I put the key in (not so bad that one, I also like Richard Hawley). Today we get to see him play live for the first time, down at The Roundhouse, Camden.

After reviewing the train timetables, we decide the only way to realistically get there and back on a Sunday is by car. It’s easily a 2 hour and 15 minute drive each way and we are both working tomorrow morning, so it’s set to be a short sleep and a grim awakening on Monday morning.

Never mind that now though – it’s a gig, so we set off happy and head down with Giant Sand playing on the stereo – I’m driving and I get to pick the music. We arrive ten minutes before the doors open and join the queue. Ahead of us, right at the front of the line, is our friend Denise with two of her friends. We first met Denise at The End of the Road festival this year, whilst waiting for The Delines to come on stage. On that occasion we saved her spot while she went off to grab a CD. It turned out that Denise had seen every musician we’ve ever been to at least twice and then some. When it comes to music, she knows her stuff. Tonight Denise returns the favour by keeping a spot for us, so Laila ends up dead centre at the front by the stage. Being a giant, I stand behind her so as not to spoil the view for anyone. Actually, I realise that wherever I stand I will be blocking someone’s view but it’s the thought that counts.

We are treated to two brilliant support acts. A stomping set from Dancing Years and an eclectic performance from Meilyr Jones. Halfway through the first set we are joined by Alan, another musical friend, with whom we have also been to see The Delines. Unfortunately, Lynne, who seen The Delines with us too (twice actually), could not make it tonight, otherwise it would have been an even more brilliant bit of synchronicity and an even more lovely evening.


Eventually Richard Hawley mounts the stage with his band. Throughout the show he is handed guitar after guitar by roadie and guitar technician Gordon White, each one presented like a readied weapon to a tournament knight. There are, amongst others, beautiful hollow bodied Gretsch guitars, one old and very much played, and loved, others are like new. Similarly, we are treated to songs both old and new, the lovely ballads and the psychedelic anthems – it’s outstanding. I had challenged Laila to keep count of the guitars, but she is lost in the music and gives up quite early on. She is singing and smiling and wiggling around (much as I love Laila, she is no dancer, for every beat she manages to find a second, sometimes even a third) – afterwards she tells me that she felt as if he had been performing just for her.

At the end of a smashing gig we part company with Alan and Denise and walk back to car. The drive home gives us time to listen to some John Grant – this coming Thursday’s gig night.

Monday morning’s alarm is much, much worse than anything we could have imagined but it was worth it.



Standing at the sky’s edge

Guitars tuned and made ready

Playing for Laila 

5,7,5 – 365  6th November 2015 (3)

5,7,5 – 365

6th November 2015 (3)

Some haiku and the odd diary entry or three, every day for a year.

Laila and I first heard the Young’uns play at The Cambridge Folk Festival back in 2014. They were a lovely surprise to us then and we were greatly impressed, not only with their music but also with David Eagle’s frequent and hilarious interruptions. Eagle, described as being a man capable of heckling himself, not only segways into his band mate’s introductions but frequently into the songs themselves, he always has the audience in stitches. Tonight was the third time we have seen them play, we also have tickets to see them again up in Barton upon Humber in December. Tonight’s gig is made even more special because all three of us Musical Musketeers are together again – Lynne and I meet up at my office and then we both go to find Laila at Kings Cross Station. Once we are all joined up, it’s off to Kerbisher’s for the requisite fish & chips. In a vain attempt to appear ladylike in front of Lynne, Laila says she isn’t sure she can eat all of hers. Ordinarily, she would have finished hers first before attacking mine but tonight she leaves a few on her plate. I’m impressed, this is a level of restraint, the like of which I have never witnessed in her before.
We leave Kerbisher’s, with Laila trying very hard not to look back at her plate, and walk up to The Slaughtered Lamb, where we descend into the basement, to get our hands stamped and take our seats. We have attended midweek and Saturday gigs here before but Friday night sees the place packed, with people crowding the pavements outside too. Getting drinks upstairs at the bar requires great patience and a lot of repeated shouting – although I’m not always patient, I can shout, though apparently not nearly loud enough. I arrive back in the basement with the wrong drinks to find the bar down there is now open and without a queue. I also have a text from Laila on my phone to that effect. Still, what does this matter? I’m out with my two favourite ladies, having a great time and the drinks are easily rectified. I like The Slaughtered Lamb and have enjoyed many a gig here. Artists by the likes of Futur Primitif (Dan Lefkowitz), Israel Nash and Amanda Shires & Jason Isbell. The venue also allows me to crack a favourite post modern gag, “I used to be a werewolf”, the line is left hanging there whilst Laila groans.
Support was provided by Maz O’Connor who played on through the repeated bleeping of a carbon dioxide alarm with a charming smile and confidence that was clearly borne out of her love of what she was doing. This was one of those wonderful introductions to an artist that we haven’t heard before that leaves us wanting to hear much more – check her out here.
And here is one of the beautiful songs she performed for us.

The Young’uns took to the stage, also having to play through the Jean-Michel Jarre style bleeping, this is all getting post, post modern. As expected David Eagle has everyone laughing and the band have us all singing along. Eagle tells us that if we all hold our breath, the alarm will stop. Laila is having a brilliant time, this is the loudest I’ve heard her sing outside of a Felice Brothers gig, where she can literally drown out the band. Lynne is clearly taken with the Young’uns too. It’s a smashing gig night.

Afterwards we walk down to Farringdon Station, Laila and I say goodnight to Lynne at Kings Cross and take the train back up to Lincolnshire. Later, at the car, the secret of Laila’s earlier self control is revealed, a third of a packet of wine gums. I’m just surprised she left that many!


Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep

I used to be a werewolf 

Hark, the slaughtered lamb




At The Slaughtered Lamb 

The lycanthrope joke aside

We had a great night 

Continue reading “5,7,5 – 365  6th November 2015 (3)”

5,7,5 – 365 6th November 2015 (2)

5,7,5 – 365
6th November 2015 (2)

Some haiku and diary entries, everyday for a year.

Friday night is gig night. Laila, Lynne and are set to see The Young’uns play at The Slaughtered Lamb this evening. There will be fish and chips, Guinness and Laila will sing – she will sing quite a lot.

The week’s end draws near

An end to duty and chore

Live music tonight  

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

5,7,5 – 365  20th October 2015 

5,7,5 – 365

20th October 2015
A haiku and a diary entry, everyday for a year.  
Tuesday evening and it’s midweek London gig night. Lynne and I meet up at The Angel and walk to Kerbisher’s in Farringdon for some pre gig fish and chips. We have haddock in matzo meal, as it is meant to be done, washed down with a bottle of ginger beer – perfect. Afterwards we wander over to The Lexington Public House to see Simone Felice, supported by Anna Mitchell.
I’ve been to The Lexington for a few gigs now, Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Delines, Futur Primitif and others. It’s a busy pub downstairs with regular DJ guest spots on the ground floor and nightly live music upstairs. I’m told it’s open till 4.00 in the morning but that’s way past my bedtime. As an aside, whilst not having the worst toilets I have used at music venue (so far, that honour goes to The Garage in Islington, where locks, soap, paper and towels are all seen as unecessary frippery), The Lexington’s unique take on the toilet roll holder acts as a symbol, though perhaps not a beacon, for music venues everywhere. Come on venue owner’s, how hard can it be to make your toilets a little less horrible? There should perhaps be some sort of official bog standard (I just added that because I wanted to write, ‘bog standard’).


Returning to the music. Laila and I went to see Anna and Simone play at The Ent Shed less than two weeks ago. That had been a lovely evening with brilliant heartfelt performances, so this was always going to be good but tonight, right from the beginning, it is as if everything has been turned up a notch. Anna sings on stage, sounding more confident and even more lovely than in Bedford. Simone too seems to have been energised by the touring. Performing with them, on lap steel guitar, is M G Boulter, adding new layers to the music.
At Bedford Laila had been singing along right from the start and is smiling throughout. I’ve said before that I love to see Laila sing at a gig, sharing the whole experience is what makes it special. Although Lynne had joined me to see Anna Mitchell play before at The Green Note in Camden, she hasn’t seen Simone play before. Before tonight’s gig I had sent Lynne a playlist of Simone’s work but as usual, like a naughty schoolgirl, Lynne has not done her homework. Sadly it looks like there’ll be no singing along tonight. But wait, what’s this? At the end of the evening Simone is performing his cover of ‘Wish You Were Here’ and I can clearly hear Lynne joining in – it’s one of Lynne’s favourites, it’s a special night.


Anna and Simone

Their Autumn road gifts something

Even more special