Songs from Below: Rob DesRoches, Daniel Versus the World, Barbora and Janine Booth – Monday 28th September

Monday 28th November // Doors 7.30pm // Fiddler’s Elbow – Camden // Entry £4

danielversustheworldSongs from Below is back on 28th September at The Fiddler’s Elbow, with some really wonderful songwriters and musicians. Do join us for what we are sure will be a very special night.

Really really pleased to be welcoming back Daniel Versus the World, who quite simply write some of the most moving songs you will ever hear, backed by piano. Have a listen…

Also massively massively leased to be welcoming, for the first time, the amazing Barbora. She’s a stupendously good guitarist. Expect something heavy. an act very much not to miss.

Janine Booth is an amazing punk poet who’s toured with the best. Hard hitting, funny, uncomrpising in equal measure. Done lots of shows with her before, and really pleased to have her at Songs from Below for the first time.

And we also very very pleased to be welcoming back another fantastic pianist and songwriter, Rob DesRoches Channelling a bit of Tori Amos and his own unique brilliance.

Entry just £4 and all profits are shared between the performers.

Songs From Below: Nia Wyn + Tom Poslett + The Porcupine Dilemma + Harriet Boulding

Songs From Below // Tuesday 25th August // Fiddler’s Elbow Camden // Doors 7.30pm // Featuring Nia + Tom Poslett + The Porcupine Dilemma + Harriet Boulding

So pretty soon we’re back at the Fiddler’s with some of the best songcrafters and acoustic musicians around.

We’re very very pleased to have The Porcupine Dilemma – AKA Christopher Hicks and Vivian Li playing. Fantastic harmonies backed by a guitar and a Mandolin, and some expert songwriting.

We’re also really pleased to be welcoming back Nia. A very very talented blues singer and finger picker with a steel resonator.

And Harriet Boulding, playing on her own for the first time, backing her vocals with a piano. A wonderful and unusual voice. Expect some Tori Amos.

And finally we are really pleased to be welcoming back Tom Poslett, a very clever, funny and moving songwriter and rather excellent finger picker.

Entry just £4 with all profits going to the artists. Looking forward to the night!

30th December: Hot Teeth, Owen Collins, Claire Birkett and Rob Winterbourne

Tuesday 30th December – Fiddler’s Elbow Camden – Doors 7.30pm – Entry £4
Christmas is coming, but more important than that is the last Songs from Below of the year. Let us gather joyously in the company of fantastic songcrafters wordsmiths and musicians. Do expect hear Fairytale of New York, not less than once, and not more than thrice. Entry just £4, all profits going to the musicians.

We are very lucky to have Hot Teeth playing a full band set. If you haven’t heard them yet, check them out

In a change to the usual order of things we are also very pleased to be welcoming the fantastic radical performance poet Owen Collins. He is awesome and win.

Last time Rob Winterbourne came and performed the crowd loved his folk punk. Really a great songwriter. I first heard him play in a park in Kingston after a gig, and absolutely insisted that he came and played at Songs from Below. Check him out here

And some of you will remember the Somthing Sisters. Great vocalists. Well one oft them Clare Birkett will be coming back, An unusually good vocalist. A good night it will be.

Songs from Below: Grant Sharkey + Ollie and Talissa + Melodi Habede

Fiddller’s Elbow // Camden // 7.30pm – Tuesday 25th November // Entry £4

ollietalissaJoin us at The Fiddler’s for an evening with some of London’s best Songcrafters and acoustic musicians – specifically Melodi Hadebe, Grant Sharkey and Ollie Jones.

A lot of good luck has helped get a fantastic line up this month. We’re really pleased to be hosting the sardonic singing double bassist Grant Sharkey – basically one of the cleverest, funniest and most unusual acts around. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC3w-zYdqzI

At the last Songs from Below we convinced Melodi to take our one-song open-mic slot despite a hand injury. Her voice is amazing, and the crowd sort of went wild, especially when we agreed that she would come back for a full set this time around.

And we are also really pleased to be welcoming back Ollie and Talisa. He’s an incredible careful, subtle songcrafter and acoustic guitarist. She’s a fantastic singer. You will most certainly enjoy their words and voices.

Some awesome upcoming things: Ladyfest Leeds, Daniel Versus The World’s UK Tour, and Big Boys Camp

As a promoter it’s sort of my job to shout loudly and annoyingly about all the things I’m involved in. But believe it or not, some seriously good stuff happens, even when it is not blessed by my dubious midas touch. In fact there are a few rather wonderful and unusual things you should know about in London, Leeds and Beyond.

LADYFEST LEEDS

The TutsLadyfest is a great, genuinely grassroots thing. Since the first ever Ladyfest in 2000 in Washington, people have been getting together in cities across the world to organise community based festivals that celebrate women and particularly feminist artists. Ladyfest Leeds looks particularly good. For one thing THEY’VE GOT THE TUTS – a West London punk band who totally stormed Glastonbury before swiftly  taking to facebook to say “more needs to be done about SEXIST FESTIVAL LINEUPS!!!”  Demitaves will also be playing and there will be a session on Gender and Mental Health, a Zine Making session, a panel discussion and more. Find out more here .

Daniel Versus The World’s UK Tour

danielversustheworldDaniel is basically completely different from anything you will ever see. I like to put things in my own words, but his own tag line describing his Queer Pianarcho Peace Punk basically puts it better than I could. I was lucky enough to have him play at my night and the whole crowd was massively grateful that they’d had a chance to experience him. Anyway he’s doing a little UK tour with dates in London, Leeds, York, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Newcastle and beyond. Find out more here.

Big Boys Camp

A completely new thing featuring the wonderful acoustic geordie Stew Simspon. and many other wierd and wonderful and wierdly talented people. Their first show is on October 11th.

First ever outing for steampunk/cabaret/electronica Man band Big Boys Camp expect a wild gig, with naughty projections, rude words and lots of giggles.On Stage at 7.20pm

£5 on the door

All info here.

bigboyscamp

Below the big garish radar there is some pretty brilliant stuff going on. Do get to some of it. And since NME isn’t spreading the word  so lets make sure we do so ourselves.

How promoters and musicians can be friends – a 10 point guide

1601193_10153740409400076_992826165_n53a4a6aadd06f.jpgMost unsigned artists will know what it’s like to be “Montoed”. You’re sitting there, happily enjoying your day, and then a message pops up. A promoter’s stumbled across your bandcamp page and really loves your sound. He’d like you to play at his fantastic venue which once hosted Oasis and Elton John, not to mention Her Majesty’s coronation. You say yes, and then a couple of days later they start getting heavy about how you absolutely must sell 50+ tickets, which incidentally cost about a tenner, for what turns out to be rubbish night involving seven unrelated acts.

I’ve also experienced things from the other side. As a promoter I’ve generally had an amazing time working with amazing people. Though I suspect that every promoter has come across at least one person who makes them want to scream “BELLEND!”. Most of us though are all on the same side, even if we sometimes piss each other off. So here’s a ten point guide, to help us all get along.

1. Should you be in this game?

90% of people deserve to answer this with a resounding yes. It doesn’t matter if you can’t hit every note, or sometimes play the wrong chord. However…

Promoters: If you’re planning to make a very quick buck, don’t get involved.The only way you’re likely to achieve this is by screwing people. And soon you’ll struggle to book anyone who’s not a newbie. As Robin Grey said to me when I was getting started “Musicians talk, and they talk much more efficiently than people realise”.

Artists: If you love making music but your not really in to the whole marketing thing, or you’re too modest to tell people about your gigs, then, unless you can get yourself a manager,  this thing probably isn’t for you.

2. ARTISTS: Don’t ever say “It’s the promoter’s job to promote”.

Don’t get me wrong: It IS the promoter’s job to promote, and this should mean more than setting up a facebook event and telling the bands to invite all their mates. But a successful event requires the co-operation of everybody. Back in the day music was performed in Music Halls, with big regular crowds who were too pissed or horny to actually know who was on the bill. Bands, for their part, didn’t have Facebook pages or email lists. Yada yada you get the picture. The roles of the promoter and the musician have changed.

3. It IS the promoter’s job to make people shut the fuck up.

Artists shouldn’t have to beg or bludgeon the crowd into not jabbering away over their music. It’s the promoter or compere’s job to make the audience members feel like they are there for the whole show and not just to see their mate, and to occasionally show a bit of aggression to that bastard who’s being persistently noisy.

4. Judge intentions not outcomes.

This looks like it’s the wrong way round, but it’s not. Music events are unpredictable. Sometime’s you’ll get a massive crowd. Sometimes, despite everyone doing the right things, there’ll just be a trickle. Artists and promoters need to at least share the emotional risk, by not turning on each other if the night turns out to be a quiet one. What matters is that both parties made the effort.

5. It’s the night as a whole that matters.

There’s nothing more depressing than watching different groups of people filing in and out to see the particular band they came for. A good compere/promoter can actually do a lot to make crowd members feel that night as a whole is bigger than the sum of its parts, and that everybody is gathered together for a purpose. Artists for their part should be aware that if they sit outside smoking while everybody else is on stage, their fans/mates will probably follow them.

6. Split revenue fairly, whatever that means.

Believe it or not, revenue splits are not the be all and end all, when it comes to sorting the goodies from the baddies. However, they do matter. Most musicians aren’t expecting to get rich. They’re just expecting not to be fleeced. What amounts to a fair revenue split is not set in stone. Personally I pay the sound person, and I pay the door person (above the living wage) and then I split up the rest equally between the musicians. Deals that involve keeping door tallies and paying musicians who’ve brought X number of people are not always exploitative. Basically two rules of thumb apply:

It should be reasonably likely that everybody comes away with something

Usually the promoter should not be making more than the musicians.

7. If you don’t like the deal don’t take the gig.

There are many possible reasons why artists don’t come away with very much. It might be that the promoter is greedy. Equally it might be that the venue is expensive or the crowd is small. The promoter should explain the deal to artists without needing to be prompted. If as an artist you  say yes, and get paid according to the terms of the deal, don’t start complaining at the end of the night that it’s not enough.

8. Don’t hog the sound check.

It’s not going to sound exactly like it did in your bedroom, however many instructions you deliver to the increasingly irate engineer. What’s more there’s another three acts who’ve got to have a go in that small window between artists getting over from their day jobs and the show starting. Meanwhile, the sound check is not your chance to have a last minute rehearsal.

9. One room pubs

Do not put acoustic singer-songwriters on in a one room pub, in which gig goers are intermingled with regular noisy drinkers UNLESS you are paying them a substantial upfront fee in return for the usually grim experience of being background music. If you break this rule, you are worse than jazz music.

10. Have a fucking good time.

Honestly, what in our night life compares to a live music night? What else is so exciting, enveloping, so once-only, and so at odds with our cookie-cutter consumer culture. Theatre comes close, but without the interaction and fellow feeling amongst the crowd. The people who make this happen, whether they are artists, promoters, sound people or whatever, deserve to enjoy it.

Cat Bear Tree, Robin Grey, Jordan Le Fay and Roger Askew – Tuesday 30th SeptemberWell

Well friends, after a massively enjoyable august show, we  have some more fantastic musicians and songcrafters coming to perform for us this month at Songs From Below.

Cat Bear Tree are a band that I’ve been trying to book for months, after seeing them at She Growls. They’re very much in demand at the moment, which is not surprising because they’re a bloody brilliant all female, three piece band. Have a listen


Also incredibly pleased to be welcoming Robin Grey back after more than a year. If Leonard Cohen was British, and had a talent for hitting the right pitch, then he might be a bit like Robin Grey. Definitely one of the best songwriters on the London acoustic scene.

Roger Askew plays bluesy folk and he does it very well. His songs were massively appreciated last time he came to Songs from Below, so we are very pleased to have him back. He also wrote perhaps the best song I’ve heard about the Iraq war – a song that manages to be pretty fucking stirring without resorting to  mawkishness or confected rage. Sadly I can’t find it on Youtube so check out his song

And finally we are really really pleased to be welcoming Jordan Le Fay and her acoustic guitar back to the stage. She has an awesome, unusual voice, which she enrapture the crowd with personal stories and to land stinging blows against the patriarchy.

A good night it will be.

Robb Johnson, Albino, Maya Levy and ELSA

Songs From Below – 7.30pm Tuesday 29th July   

The Fiddlers Elbow – Camden

So have some more fantastic musicians and songcrafters, and indeed a veritable giant of radical folk-punk. This Songs from Below is not one to miss.

We’re incredibly pleased to be welcoming Robb Johnson to the stage. Deservedly well renowned for his funny, empowering and usually optimistic songs that soundtrack our struggle for a better world.

We’re also very pleased to be welcoming Albino, “Whisky-fuelled misdemeanour in musical form.”. A truly exciting full band – morrisey mixed with America.

And a moving and rather brilliant songcrafter and guitarist named ELSA

And another brilliant pianist songwriter and story teller Maya Levy

Why I’m Supporting an Independent Scotland (and a Little England)

More than anyone, it was Barack Obama who articulated the reasons why every radical Englishman should be hoping for a yes vote in September’s referendum. “We have”, he said, “a strong interest in making sure that one of the closest allies remains a strong, robust and effective partner”. And he’s kind of on the money here. Britain’s status as a greatish power on the world stage would undoubtedly take a hammering if Scotland were to secede. Keeping the nukes would be a logistical nightmare, 20,000 soldiers would find themselves in a foreign country, and $220 billion would be slashed from the GDP of the future Anglo-Welsh federation.

The decline of Britain as a world power is something that should excite us – not simply because we are haunted by the memory of 500,000 dead Iraqis, but also because of the future we want for ourselves. Britain’s world power status has always served our governing classes at the expense of the people. It was not the English peasant who had a dynastic quarrel to resolve at Agincourt but our Norman masters, just as it was not the English worker who was desperate to prise open the world to British exports and British finance – with gun boats if necessary – but the industrialist and financier. Our world power status serves a foreign policy elite that likes to shape affairs across the globe, and to have budgets and embassies to match its great calling, and it swells our national security establishment (which is not unrelated to the ease with which politicians were recently brought into line over the snooping bill). And it comforts those mawkish liberal imperialists who believe that Britain is imbued with a special moral capacity to set right the worlds wrongs.

The amalgamation of England into Britain serves to direct patriotism outwards instead of inwards. National glory is to be found not in improving the condition of the people at home, but in the projection of power abroad. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to live in a world with no nations, let alone “national glory”. But for now I’d be a hell of a lot happier living in a small country off the North West coast of Europpe than in an all-too-slowly-declining great power. And yes I would like to see what England looks like once it is no longer placed in the armour plating that is Great Britain and told to stand tall. I dare say that, beneath the plate mail, we might discover some things we quite like in the land that produced John Ball, William Blake and Roy Bailey, not to mention Europe’s first great act of regicide.

So here’s to an independent Scotland and a little England. Admittedly there are some parts of these Isles that I have left out of the equation. When it comes to the North of Ireland, I simply do not believe that the union would be sustainable in the long term once the Scots have gone. The average Londoner simply does not feel a great deal of kinship with the Apprentice Boys of Derry, and unlike our friends to the north of Hadrian’s Wall, we’re not in the habit of constructing Orange lodges.

Thus we are left only with the problem that has troubled mankind since the dawn of time: namely, what do we do with the Welsh? Personally I’d quite like to see Plaid Cymru sweep to power, and I’m sure that scottish independence would shake things up west of the Severn. Yet in the abscence of a nationalist surge, I’m sure that a future Anglo-Welsh federation could be mutually agreeable to all involved.

So good luck to my friends struggling for Independence up north, and I look forward to sharing the Island of Albion with you once that strange caste known as the “British” have departed.