Scrapping Again….

Not sure why but I always seem to have a rush of creativity at this time of year. Maybe as the nights get lighter and the days get longer I want to do more than just curl up and watch tv.

So I’ve been scrapbooking like a demon for the last few weeks. It’s been nice going through my stash and finding things I’d forgotten I had.

I’ve also indulged in a few new bits – mostly from Shimelle’s American Craft ranges. I also found a box full of Basic Grey – I must have sorted them all into one pile last year when I had my big craft room make over.

Lots of music layouts have emerged over the last few months too…. music and photography and scrapbooking – my holy trinity!

So on to the layouts…

Let’s start with the music ones. I’ve been to some great gigs this year. I think I’ve a couple of layouts from gigs I went to last year too that I just got round to scrapping.

The first two layouts are from a gig at the Cavern in Liverpool a few weeks ago – it was part of the Under The Apple Tree tour put together by Radio Two’s Bob Harris. Robert Vincent is a major talent I’m proud to call a friend and it’s so gratifying to see him getting the recognition he so richly deserves and it was a thrill to see him again at the Cavern with his own band and also supporting Nashville legend Kimmie Rhodes.

First up on the bill with Rob was our very own songbird Eleanor Nelly. She is such a wonderful singer and I love taking pictures of her. She’s off to Nashville this weekend – I know she’s going to be a major star in the not too distant future.

Music Layouts - 15

Next up was Catherine McGrath, an Irish singer who is certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with. Her easy, country inspired songs are infectious and have you tapping your feet every time you hear them. My personal favourite is Hell Would Have To Freeze Over. How I wish I’d had this song in my teenage break up arsenal 😉

Music Layouts - 14

This layout features photos from last summer, before Daniel and members of the band headed off on an adventure around the Far East. He’s back in the UK now and I can’t wait to hear some new material from him. I think the next time we see him will almost be a year to the day since these photos were taken at one of my favourite venues – Thornton Hough.

Music Layouts - 13

What can I say about Frank? His music has become the soundtrack to part two of my life. I rebooted my entire existence in 2012 and discovered his music that same year. We saw him at the Palm House in Liverpool’s Sefton Park last year. It was a thrill to see him at such a small venue – he was awesome and despite standing at the back and not seeing much it was one of the best gigs of last year. Paul Dunbar supported Frank and as he’s one of the rising stars in Liverpool it was a perfect night.

Music Layouts - 12

Another layout of Eleanor. These photos were taken the same night as the Rosenblume photos above. Eleanor was the support act and she blew the roof off the place – first time I’ve seen a support act do an encore.

Music Layouts - 11

Mr Mike Peters. The title of the layout says it all really. Another amazing Gathering this year – it’s an annual pilgrimage we make to Llandudno, made even better this year by the inclusion of Ian McNabb as the support act on the Saturday night. I’ve cited that combination as my “dream” line up for many years and this year I finally got to see it. Perfection.

Hero - MP - 1

So onto the non music layouts.

Over Easter we went to Gauntlet Bird of Prey centre in Cheshire. We had a brilliant afternoon, despite the rain. Pete had an up close and personal encounter with a Harris Hawk that seems to have taken exception to his Pink Floyd t-shirt LOL. The flying display was stunning – so many birds circling and just enjoying themselves. The sight of a group of red kites playing in the thermals is one of life’s great joys.

Final layout is from a trip to Martin Mere a few weeks ago – we were lucky to go on a beautiful bright day as the daffodils were in full bloom. There have been lots of changes over the winter – MM is one of our favourite places, even just for an hour it’s always worth the trip.

Bear Hunt - 1

That’s enough for now. More to come in the following weeks I think.

Black and White Photo

I love gig photography – it’s a massive passion of mine – I’m rarely happier than listening to one of my favourite musicians and snapping away while they perform.

One of my major gripes is the lighting at gigs – whoever told venue owners that rotating red, blue and green lights is in any way complimentary never took a photo. My solution to this issue is to shoot in black and white. I often don’t even take a colour photo at a gig.

This set of photographs was taken under the other gig conditions that are troublesome for photographers – low light with no way of adding your own light to the scenario. Again shooting in black and white comes to the rescue.

The subject of the photos is a singer called Thom Morecroft, originally from Shropshire, he currently lives in Liverpool and is a stalwart of the local music scene, as a performer and also running a very popular open mic night. Thom is a great guy – kind and generous and a very talented singer and musician.

The EP that was launched the night these photos were taken can be bought here.

ThomMorecroft - 1

Sunday Challenge One – Frames

I love the inspiration for this challenge. I take a lot of photos but I very rarely put them on the walls. This challenge was inspired by a wall of photos in frames and I love it. I really must try harder to put my favourite photos up on the walls around my home.

So here is my frame inspired layout. I used my Cricut to cut the frames and the letters and the brads are My Mind’s Eye. Still loving discovering things in my stash I’d completely forgotten about. I may never go out again 😉

Elizabeth is a wonderful singer/musician that I have become friends with here in Liverpool. Her husband, Gary, is also a very talented musician. I will be taking photos for Elizabeth at her monthly folk music night in Formby – Bow’s Folk.

ShimelleWeekend - 1 (4)

Challenge Three – Colour Blocking

So I wasn’t really sure what this was but I think this layout meets the brief. It feels like a lot of my layouts – maybe I’ve been channeling early Creative Memories techniques without realising it!

The photos are of three of my favourite Liverpool based singers. Paul Dunbar, Robert Vincent and Gary Edward Jones. All three are amazingly talented and you can’t go wrong seeing any of them perform. Check them out if you’re in Liverpool. ShimelleWeekend - 1 (2)

Shimelle’s challenge is here.

Sound City, Liverpool 2014 – Saturday Review

Quick run through of the bands we saw on Saturday. We didn’t see the Tenements as a Bluesy type girl vocalist went on in their place while we were there but it was all running late so we didn’t stay.

We then went to the Bluecoat Chambers garden, where we had a really nice lunch, and a bottle of wine. All very civilised. Got a great table right at the front with a good view.

Dominic Dunn was amazing as always – this was the first time we’d seen him with his band – absolutely superb, three amazing backing singers that really enhances his sound.

Gentlemen Rogues up next and there was just one member of an Austin punk/rock band, they didn’t know it was supposed to be an acoustic set so they just let the singer perform. He was great but clearly didn’t realise that the Bluecoat Chambers gardens is a bit more refined than other venues and his language was a bit colourful for 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when there were old ladies and kids there.. but he was good fun (and a bit drunk). And he gave us codes to download his music and a badge!!! I’ve been listening to it all week and I love it!! I hope they come back the UK soon!

We took a brief trip away from Bluecoat to go to the Cavern to see City Walls – local 4 piece – standard rock stuff – good sound.

Back to Bluecoat for the Hummingbirds who packed the place out as they always do. They were all kinds of superb – but I’m biased, I love them to pieces. I could watch them all day!

We then got a full Silent Sleep set. Great band – really love their stuff – nice and melodic, and a bit chilled out.

After them came the highlight of the afternoon as it turned out – The Splintered Ukes. A ukele band who do cover versions!! They had the crowd up and dancing almost straight away and were brilliant. We had some Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl), Jessie J (Price tag), Kings of Leon (The Bucket), Radiohead (Creep), The Hummingbirds (Back in Liverpool – which we were hearing for the second time that day!!), The Coral (Dreaming of You), Mumford & Sons (Little Lion Man), The Smiths (This Charming Man)… and a bunch of other stuff too! They finished with Come On Eileen and had the whole crowd on its feet!

From here we went to the Duke Street Garage to see Embers. They were brilliant – really loud and raucous, and great guitar playing going on. They did about half an hour, then threw their guitars down and left. Loved the attitude of the whole set – pretty much “listen, don’t listen, we don’t care”…. only spoilt a little bit by the singer sneaking back on to pick up his guitar and check it was ok as we were all leaving, 

We then went up to Studio 2 and unfortunately caught the end of a god awful heavy metal band. Then Famy came on. Wish they hadn’t – they were dreadful, self-indulgent art school nonsense that wasn’t even in tune most of the time.

The evening was saved by our second time seeing Dominic Dunn. Full band again, with drums this time. He did 3 or 4 songs different from the afternoon set, and they sounded even better inside. This young man is destined for greatness.

We headed back down to Duke Street but couldn’t get in to see the Kooks – the security guards were stopping people getting down into the area so that was about 4 venues we couldn’t access. Not sure if they were being over vigilant but I have read reports elsewhere that it was indeed very busy inside the cordon, so will have to give them the benefit of the doubt!

The Gathering 2014

There is a particular weekend that happens every January by which I measure my life now.  The Gathering is a coming together of fans of the band The Alarm in North Wales. I first attended The Gathering in January 2012.  This was Gathering 20 so you can see I was fairly late to the party.  I didn’t know another Alarm fan at that point, and for many years didn’t even know that The Gathering existed.

At some point in the late 2000’s I met my friend JK.  At the beginning I didn’t know he loved The Alarm as much as I did. When we discovered this shared love we hatched a plot to attend the very next Gathering together. Fast forward to January 2012 and having recently moved back to my home town of Liverpool, John and I headed off to Pontins in Prestatyn. An amazing, joyful weekend followed – more music and camaraderie than I would have thought possible and my heart was stolen. I was a Gatherer.

The following year I was by then married to Pete.  Pete is a massive Alarm fan too.  So naturally we went to The Gathering together.  We had a brilliant time, despite the cold chalets, and the dreadful food – it was our first Gathering together so it was special.

This year there was a major change –  The Gathering moved house. To Llandudno.  The difference with Llandudno is that we don’t all stay at the same place – you could pick your own accommodation. Pete and I stayed at the Imperial Hotel – a lovely old hotel on the promenade, just a few blocks from the Venue Cymru where The Gathering was taking place.

The format was very similar to previous Gatherings I’d attended – Friday night is an acoustic set, in the round. A cut back, stripped down version of The Alarm, and yet it is still one of the most powerful, noisy gigs ever.  Part of that is because the crowd lifts the roof with almost every song, the other part is that Mike Peters and the other guys in the band don’t do anything by halves – acoustic means mandolins, violins, drums, guitars and a 3 and a half hour set list which just blew us all away.

We managed to get ourselves a great seat on the edge of the unoccupied main stage directly behind the “round” stage in the middle of the venue. We had a clear view of the stage and I took some (if I do say so myself) pretty amazing photos. I had my 300mm zoom on and a steady seat to reduce camera shake.  I knew from looking around the venue that Saturday night’s gig was going to be manic and we weren’t going to get a seat at any point so I decided to concentrate on taking photos on Friday night because I was almost sure I wouldn’t be taking my camera on Saturday night.

One of the highlights of the gig for me was when Mike invited Dr David Edwards on to the stage to present him with a cheque for £40,000 from the Love Hope Strength Foundation. Dr Edwards has cared for Mike for 18 years and to see him on stage, and playing guitar, was brilliant.  As fans we’ve been allowed to share Mike’s journey battling cancer and read about the ups and downs and it was lovely to be able to add our voices to Mike’s thanks to this man who obviously means so much to the Peters family.

The gig was superb with some of my favourite songs being played and one noticeable exception meaning the anticipation was there for it to be played on Saturday night. We had a late night, following a brisk walk back to the hotel, we ordered room service and browsed through my photographs, putting the best of them up on Facebook straight away.

Saturday morning was a leisurely breakfast in the beautiful conservatory at the hotel and then a quick walk due to the rain and hail back to the venue for the all important Guitar Masterclass.  This is a favourite part of the Gathering for me. I don’t play guitar but I love watching the faces of the fans that get to play along with their hero right there in the same room as him.  This year’s song was Marching On and in true Gathering style everyone gathered round Mike while he went through the chords and gave advice about how to play the song. There was a little bit of banter about round back guitars (the work of the devil) and some reminiscing about how the guitars raised to the microphone stance, that is a given with this song, began.

We had a quick mooch around Llandudno (not being geeky enough to stay for the quiz – I love the music but I sure as hell don’t know enough to answer Mastermind level questions!) then back for Mike’s Q&A. Very interesting session, and two every important pieces of news came out of this session.  The Love, Hope and Strength Foundation which we all support so keenly were informed that there has been a match from our bone marrow donor drives at gigs in the last 12 months. A life saving transplant was taking place as we sat there.  It was inspirational and more than a couple of tears were shed.

Less life changing, but equally important is the news of all the new songs that are being written, and the prospect of Dead Men Walking being reincarnated later this year.  Very exciting news for those of us that never got to see that particular MP offshoot.

Another break for some food, a quick rest and then back into the fray for Saturday night’s gig. Now we knew this was going to be a long one – it’s always that way at The Gathering but this was truly amazing. We got into the venue at about 7:30 and stood near the back. Being not of the tall variety of human there is no point in me standing near the middle because all I’ll see is the back of the people standing in front of me. And even at 7:30 we were still too late to be on the front row.  I’m also quite claustrophobic so the front isn’t my favourite place at an Alarm gig. I know what will be happening later on and I’m not strong or brave enough to be in the middle of it!!

Just after 8pm the countdown began, we get a five-minute warning and the anticipation starts to build. Then there they are, on stage kicking off with what is arguably one of their most best-loved songs. Not a lot of bands do that – they usually save the best till last but there we were dancing and jumping around to 68 Guns right off the bat.

To be honest there is a massive gap in my Alarm musical catalogue so a lot of the first part of the set was new to me, and I don’t mind that. I love the Alarm and even if I’ve never heard something before I know I’m going to enjoy it.  It started to get really busy at the back so we decided to try to move off to the side…. Pete went to do a recce and came back with the news that it really wasn’t that crowded at the front so we headed down and stood off to one side of the stage and got an amazing view.  There were some odd people down there so after about half an hour we moved to the other side which was much better.  The songs just kept coming, and only because I’ve seen the set list (courtesy of LHS man Rob) do I know exactly what was played. It felt like someone had stopped time and we were going to keep going all night.

Towards the end of the night you know all you’re going to get is the good stuff – from Where Were You Hiding, to Strength (an amazing cut down version), to Rain In The Summertime, to 45 RPM, to our very own wedding song Walk Forever By My Side.  This is “our song”. Always has been. We have hand written lyrics from Mike of the song, to celebrate our wedding. I’m happy to share the song though because you know that there are hundreds of other people around you feeling the same way you do right at that moment because of the words of that song.

Then we got One Guitar with children from the local school, including Mike and Jools own two boys Evan and Dylan, up on stage. A lovely touching moment – definitely the next generation right up there.

I forget how many encores there were – three, maybe four. But finally we got there… Blaze Of Glory. The only way to end an Alarm show. And one that has us all there – “our hands are raised up high”…… it’s an amazing moment of unity – you can look around and you know everyone else is standing there, arms above their heads, singing their hearts out for all their worth.  It is our song. It is what the Gathering means to me.

A few hardy souls stayed for the dancing at the after show but we headed back to our hotel knowing there was till more to come tomorrow.  Up bright and early the next day and the wind and rain that had plagued the previous two days were gone, to be replaced by glorious sunshine. Perfect conditions for our walk to the end of Llandudno Pier.  En masse we set off with our flags and our LHS collecting buckets and made our way to the end of the Pier for a sing-song and a bit of a communal hug to remind ourselves how special this temporary family is to us all.

Back at the venue and Mike begins what I think is the most amazing part of the weekend. He stands and has his photo taken with everyone that wants it. And signs things. And has a little word with everyone. It’s amazing and something he doesn’t have to do. God knows he must be shattered after the previous two nights but he’s there. Saying hello, saying thank you, making sure anyone that wants to, gets the chance to shake his hand and have a few minutes with him.  This is why we love him, and why year after year people go to the Gathering, to Snowdon Rocks, to Ben Nevis Rocks, and now this year to Holy Land Rocks.  To walk with Mike, to raise funds, to raise awareness, to give something back.

The song goes “Walk Forever By My Side”… we do Mike. Every step of the way.

A footnote – for anyone wondering (yes JK, I mean you) – during Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke it is customary for everyone to throw a pack of playing cards into the air at a certain point in the song (“All cards are marked, And all fates will collide….”).  Because of where I was sitting on Friday night I managed to throw my cards straight into the head of someone standing in front of me, and on Saturday night I realised I’d forgotten to put the cards into my handbag.  Epic fail on both counts.  I can only promise to redeem myself at the gig on February 14 in Liverpool 🙂

Thomas McConnell’s SoundCloud Set

  1. Stop in the Shade
  2. So Long Souvenirs
  3. Penelope Definitely
  4. Lonely Mr Bigshot
  5. It’s Johnny’s Birthday
  6. Got No Feet, No Wheat, No Eggs
  7. Chocolate Window

There are two things you should know before you read this review. Number one, I’m a huge fan of Mr McConnell, so this review will be unashamedly biassed. The other thing is that Tom is a huge Beatles/McCartney devotee and that influence is so clear that I’m not going to keep referring to it. Just to say that you could do worse than be influenced by giants of the music world such as Lennon and McCartney.

This 7 song SoundCloud set is a perfect introduction to Tom’s music. From the upbeat Penelope Definitely through to the melancholy of So Long Souvenirs to the craziness of Got No Feet, No Wheat, No Eggs you get a great idea of the range of this hugely talented singer songwriter from Liverpool.

I hate reviews where someone gives you a blow-by-blow account of the lyrics. I’d rather not try to interpret someone’s words and meanings because lyrics are so personal.  I will tell you that So Long Souvenirs is a beautifully melancholy piece, which gets inside your head and you find yourself humming it during quiet moments in the day.  Penelope Definitely is my favourite track of the seven, Tom’s slightly drawling, self-assured delivery belies the vulnerability in the lyric and this is the song I find myself replaying over and over.

Lonely Mr Bigshot demonstrates very strong story telling skills and paints a very whimsical image of the song’s protagonist. It’s Johnny’s Birthday is perhaps the weakest song in the set for me, a little too ponderous for my taste.

Stop In The Shade is a fabulous toe tapping experience. It’s the one I love to see live because Tom always looks like he really enjoys playing this song. This is a very obvious song for radio consumption – if I had to pick a single from this set, it would be this one.  Oh and the guitar riff in the middle of this song never fails to make me smile. Chocolate Window is more of the same with a slightly psychedelic back beat running through it.

Got No Feet, No Wheat, No Eggs – I have to confess this song is a crazy mystery to me. Its raucous anarchy is an obvious nod to the prog rock behemoths that Tom is too young to have experienced first hand but any meaning in the lyrics is lost on me in the joyous cacophony of sound that the song turns into. But anyone that uses a theremin in a song is ok with me – Sheldon would be proud.

Tom plays all the instruments and wrote all the songs in this set, his prodigious talent is evident. A very accomplished guitar player who is also a gifted keyboard player. At 19 years old and based in the music capital of the world, he can only have a huge future ahead of him.

Have a listen to the SoundCloud set here.  You can also follow Tom and find out where you can see him live via his Facebook page.

Chief Seattle – my newest favourite band

One of the things I love most about living in Liverpool is the abundance of live music in this city.  The sheer volume of gigs going on at any one time is amazing, and I defy anyone not to be able to find at least one gig a month to go to. Obviously having the musical heritage that we do, it’s inevitable that we have a plethora of tribute acts and you can always find someone singing “Please Please Me” somewhere (usually The Cavern Club on a Saturday afternoon). But it’s the new bands and singers that are the life blood of the city.

We have something in Liverpool called Monday Club – it’s run by Amsterdam front man Ian Prowse and it’s a haven for original music and creativity in the Cavern Pub (not the Club – easy mistake to make!!).  The rules of Monday Club are simple – 3 songs, no covers. Every week we are treated to 3 hours of amazing original songs by a huge variety of artists – we’ve had everything – punk, folk music, europop and good old rock and roll! We’ve also had poetry and comedians (they get 15 minutes!).

A few months ago I heard Alister from the band Chief Seattle singing at Monday Club. What struck me most was Alister’s voice – soaring vocals and intense lyrics. This was the first time I heard Butterfly.  It stuck in my head and just sat quietly in the corner, singing to itself.  Then a month or so ago I had the chance to see the full incarnation of Chief Seattle. I went along to the Ship and Mitre on Dale Street and was completely blown away.  Butterfly is now singing very loudly in my head, at every opportunity!

Then Chief Seattle started hosting an open mic night at the Liffey bar, on Wednesdays (so glad it doesn’t clash with Monday Club!).  Wednesdays in the Liffey are a joy – the rules aren’t as strict as Monday Club so we get to hear covers, but we also get some great original music. Zinney from Sonnenberg this week was wonderful, one of my favourite singer songwriters Thomas McConnell was there last week and is also a stalwart of Monday Club. On top of all that we get two sets by Chief Seattle – you can’t really argue with that.

So to the reason for my post (you knew I’d get there eventually!) – this week saw the launch of the video for Butterfly and I want you to see it. I want you to sit in a dark room and absorb it. It’s truly beautiful and everyone should have Butterfly in their head. Here’s the link to the video on YouTube. Watch it. Now!

Butterfly by Chief Seattle

“Let’s celebrate the sound and the rhythm……”