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  12th September 2015 (b)

5,7,5 – 365

12th September 2015 (b)

Saturday and it’s gig night again. After last weekend at The End of the Road, instead of resting we push on a three gig marathon. This time it’s Andrew Combs, playing at The Fox and Newt in the centre of Leeds. We’ve not been here before, in fact we haven’t done Leeds at all. The pub itself turned out to be a great place; with a micro-brewery in the basement, good and very reasonable food from the bar – we enjoyed ravioli and a salad – and a live music/comedy venue on the first floor. Sound upstairs was very nice, not overblown or messy and we were able to appreciate the whole band tonight.

We had seen Andrew Combs play two sets at The End of The Road, the first on the large Woods Stage, the second a more relaxed, alcohol mellowed, acoustic affair in the woods on the Comedy Stage. Tonight we got to see the band up close and personal and had an opportunity to appreciate some really lovely vocal melodies, as well as just how much fun the band were having. Several members of the audience, including Laila, were singing along, which brought a big grin to Andrew’s face. At only 29, with just two albums and an EP behind him, Combs’ songwriting is outrageously good – there are many standout songs on both albums but absolutely no filler. And there is more to come, we heard lovely new songs tonight too.


The End of the Road

Takes us both North to hear

Songs from Tennessee