travels with a double bass

this is a bunch of notes i made a few months back about the fun to be had when carrying an instrument bigger than you around london...

Within ten minutes of buying my first double bass, a London Underground employee who saw me carrying it informed me that I may have trouble trying to get it under my chin.

There is a crack in one of the illuminated signs at Liverpool Street station that was caused by a collision with my new bass’s headstock around 30 seconds after that. Carrying a double bass is not easy at first.

I have never attempted to get on a bus with my instrument. However I once sold a double bass to someone who intended to take his new purchase home by bus. I would liked to have seen that.

It is possible to get a double bass, a cello and three humans in the back of a cab.

Carrying a double bass on the tube makes you very aware of the different layouts and heights of train carriages on different lines. I don’t like the Piccadilly line very much. The Victoria Line is good.

Escalators are evil. I narrowly avoided a very nasty situation on a crowded up escalator at Oxford Street when the little rubber thing that protects the spikey bit on the bottom of the bass came off. As a result the metal pin (and the bass it was attached to) got stuck in the grating. I couldn’t shift it, imagining an extremely unpleasant meeting of plywood, metal and humans when we hit the top. Quick thinking is not generally what bass players do too well so I relied on brute force which seemed to do the trick.

I once travelled with my bass down an escalator at Seven Sisters as a very attractive woman with a double bass came up on the other side. Whenever I think of that day it feels like the opening shot to a whimsical French comedy by the bloke who did Amelie, but what actually happened was that we ignored each other.

It is quite unlikely that you will be able to make a journey without someone commenting on your a) very large violin b) very large machine gun or suggesting that you have a body in your bag, or c) you should have taken up the harmonica. There are variations on these themes, all of which are hilarious. My solution is to get in there first if i can, thereby disarming my adversary.

In my experience Taxi drivers are very fond of the ‘big violin’ theme, but my view of this is coloured by the fact that I have by chance ended up with the same cab driver on at least three occasions and been treated to the same joke each time. I once met a very nice (and extremely good) Norwegian bass player whose fibreglass bass case was about the size of a small speedboat. He told me that he had continually encountered the ‘bet you wish you’d taken up the harmonica’ gag. He tod me that he’d come up with the perfect retort, which was ‘bet you wish you were driving a bus’. I have thought about this a lot, and concluded that it probably loses something in translation as it's something most london cabbies would be unlikely to wish for. Suggestions for a better one are always welcome.

gigs of the year pt 2

i've played a lot with lucy jane this year; originally (and still maybe at some point, i'll venture) a band, but at present just me and lucy. i think we've built up a good rapport and the songs seem to be gettng more stretchy every time we play them. even though the conditions we've played in haven't always been the most ideal the music's been mostly good and sometimes really lovely. here's a wee snatchette of us at the bedford in october 2008. it was a nice gig.

gigs of the year pt1

...well, the ones i dd anyway. these are unlikely to be written about anywhere else so i'm doing everyone a public service by bringing them to your attention.

well, that's my excuse.

anyway, one of my faves of 2008 was the set with the treecreepers at club moist in june. playng wth pete flood (of the fashionable folk types bellowhead) and me old mucker ian is always a joy. pete did ridiculously brilliant things involving a bunch of old keys, a plank of wood, a cutlery strainer thing from ikea, a toy megaphone, a vacuum powered melodica and various drums of all provenances. he has to be one of the best drummers n the country (really) - daring, sensitive, stupidly proficient, imaginative, assure and (to coin a phrase) funky as fuck. i'm sounding like some awful press release hack here all of a sudden, but honest, he's good.

though the treecreepers stuff is all improvised, there's pulse and melody as well as funny noises.
sometimes this kind of thing can upset people. when pete, ian and i played at free improv night back in your town as part of a larger group a couple of years back, some bloke (now i'm assuming gender here but it's a pretty safe bet) complained on a forum that we were playng "pop music". he also referred to pete's playng as 'ham-fisted'. this is the kind of thing that can keep me awake at night.

whoops...i may be about to start a rant about the unwritten but apparently inviolable laws of free improvisation but that would be off topic. ahem. ian features in two of me other favourites, so i won't bang on about him just yet. but this gig felt to me like one of those nights where all the usual crap about playing an instrument in front of people (some of whom may even have paid to get in) sort of falls away and finally some actual music happens. i remember that though we all seemed to enjoy ourselves (and the audience were unusually positive) i was scared to tell the others just how much i loved it just in case they weren't qute as enthusiastic. maybe they thought it was ham-fsted pop music. so i still haven't.

back on the blog

i closed down my last blog about 18 months ago but i've sort of missed it lately. maybe i'm a bit happier these days. who cares. so this is the place to find some random musings and potentially the occasional rant about music. listening to it, playing it, and maybe other stuff as well. doesn't matter. it'll only be me reading it..