Bloomin' heck, it's finished.
Home now and tired. Travelling (lots of) and gigging is great to do - and the last clutch of gigs was splendid - but it's tiring (and not just physically, but emotionally, too) so here's a truncated report on the final phase of summer '12.
We left cousin Ian's behind (see below) on Saturday and drove to Lauder (a pretty Borders town) our base for a couple of days while we played...
Wee Folk Club
It's the smallest folk club with the biggest heart. Paddy (Eberhart) Bort, a displaced German with fine folk instincts, creates a feeling in the room that makes paying there a pleasure. (He's also my gateway into Germany, having booked the Trio into the Phoenix Folk Club in Lauffen, near Stuttgart and subsequently into their festival.) Acoustic, lovely.
Brecon Folk Club
How a club in Houghton-le-Spring in the north-east of England came to be called The Brecon Folk Club, I dont know, but it has some of the finest floor singers. Garth, the booker, is a fine musician himself. They appreciate good songwriting there, too, which is good for a songwriter.
A long drive home after this gig (and a longer one for Andee!) means, however, that we're no longer on the road - although there are three dates still to do. Nice to sleep in my own bed. Being away, being 'the musician' has its joys, but eventually there's no substitute for your own bed and bath.
White Horse Folk Club
We had the Brecon FC in the north-east, now we have the White Horse FC in the Fox Inn. Another acoustic gig, this time with a different Simon Hopper Duo - with Leigh rather than Andee. No double-bass, but a guitar - and a different harmony, sometimes on different lines of the same song. But, more significantly, a different set of songs. It's interesting playing with a shifting array of accompanists. The playing is fresh and it keeps me on my toes.
A small room with a big crowd made us feel welcome and responded well to our songs, joining in where appropriate. And they were patient with what seemed afterwards to be a more than usually garrulous performer. I'm sure the intros were longer than the songs sometimes. That side of the performance - if it isn't to be stilted and flat - seems to have a life of its own. Thanks for your patience, Derrick and all.
Brunel Museum Shaft
Our most unusual venue with its own series of acoustic challenges. We had a lovely evening here after Andee had exercised her sound-engineer's skills to make us work sonically in an interesting space. Yet one more different - less folk-oriented - set was a further refresher and we played well. The audience gave off a special energy here. Thanks to Judith, Joe and Angelika for their crowd-boosting activities - you made the evening. And thanks to Eleanor and Robert at the Museum for the opportunity to play in their shaft
The Song Loft
So to our final gig of the summer. Fitting that it was in Trio form. The traffic was dreadful on the way up to Stoney Stratford from London and I was aware that Andee had an hour or more further to travel than I but still had to negotiate the same stretch of M1. We decided to play acoustically to save setting up time and it turned out to be a great idea.
I've played at the Loft four times now and never managed to pull a big crowd for them - I guess people turn out for artists they know well. But it's always a good gig. Matt Armour, the club's founder and inspiration, died three years ago, but his spirit lives on in the club, fostered by his widow, the splendid Jane, and a bevvy of helpers including Maurice and Colin. And they appreciate contemporary writing.
We were all tired. The emotional 'let down' reflex resulting from this being our last gig of the tour/summer contributed to a feeling of uncertainty about how the gig would go. In the event I think we played our best concert of the year - perhaps ever. Andee and Leigh were on great form and I felt the vibe and seemed to float throgh the concert buoyed by their energy. I sang well, made Trowbridge giggle so much that he had to sit down for a moment, and we had a great gig. Andee's soloing during the coda to Two Virgins was sublime.
No more touring for the moment. Watch this space, though - there are ideas brewing and at least one new CD in the offing. Thanks for reading.
(I want to say thank you to Pete & Mary Smith and Ian & Fiora MacFarlane, friends who accommodated us on our travels. The practical assistance is one thing, but it's heartening to know that there are those who will contribute to the quixotic enterprise which is my music. Ta all.)