I live in interesting times, and it's good. Around June last year, I resolved to get engaged with live music around Berkshire and Bucks a bit more. I did the website thing, looked at Muso sites and had a couple of bites: but, as they say, there's no substitute for pressing the flesh.
Tony Tomlin is an excellent fellow; he runs phat tone studios (http://www.phattone.co.uk) and he an I have collaborated on stuff in the past, and gigged a fair amount. Via him, I found out about a songwriter/vocalist named Marisa Rodriguez: I checked her on SoundCloud and thought her stuff was excellent, and very different from what I'd played in the recent past to that point.
I found out she was running an open mic night at the Butler in Reading (https://www.facebook.com/Picnmix-Jam-Night-1625485404332208/), and thought I'd check it out. I hadn't done open mic nights in a long, long time. A lot of jam nights are worthy affairs - but tend to have somewhat restricted set lists - the kind of music which was popular in pubs 10-30 years ago: guitar-based Rock. Good crowd pleasing stuff, but if you do it week after week, it can get tiring.
The Pick n Mix was a revelation. As was Marisa. It turned out she was a hyperactive, ultra-friendly, musically-connected machine: the musicians who came to the jam night were about as eclectic as you could get. So many good drummers. Percussionists. Sax players. Guitarists. Songwriters who genuinely turn up to play their own material. And freestyle guys with genuinely professional flow: I got to back some serious rhyme, and I LOVED it.
Marisa pulled together some musicians for the Marvellous festival 2015 in August; and I was pretty stoked to be asked to join her. We rehearsed - a lot - and by the time the gig came around we sounded great. Huge band, huge sound.
After some rearrangements of lineup, Marisa had pulled together something a little more permanent, and I'm proud to be part of it. Last night we played what I think was our most intense gig: the beats laid down by Demetrius were stone for my low end to wrap around: James's guitar solos were beautiful: Marisa's voice transcended the venue: And David's keys gave us the extra dimension which pushes the music into the dense, layered and dynamic sound I am coming to love.
It's been a hell of a journey since last June. I've always held on to the idea that those who say that "the last year has just flown by" just aren't DOING enough. I always hope that I can look back on a year, and wonder how the hell there are so many memories in it.
This last year had been absolutely stuffed. It's full. It can't eat any more experiences or it's going to burst. No, seriously, it can't have a wafer-thin mint of gig.
And the ongoing musical interest that is Shaydes (www.shaydes.co.uk - still in progress! - and https://www.facebook.com/shaydesofficial/ - now heading for 500 likes since we put out our first single in December 2015) is an excellent antidote to wondering where the hell your year went.
When you know good people, and their energy and enthusiasm, their musical talent, prowess and sheer will to make great music, plus their empathy for the music's dynamics means that you just love the onstage feel - and the music is original material - this is something I've wanted for more than a decade (since Janeiro / Tempa Tempa in 2005!).
It's going to be a great 2016. If we have more gigs like last night's, it's going to be epic.