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I love Dave McKean's Art, and have had the pleasure of seeing him speak and perform on a number of occasions, so when I saw that he would be appearing at Tate Britain, on Remembrance Sunday to give a performance related to his new graphic novel, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash I immediately booked a ticket.

I have to admit that I know very little about Paul Nash, and though I have seen some of his paintings, I would not claim to be familiar with his art. But I read a little about him before going - he was born in 1889 and having originally worked primarily as a landscape artist, he then became a War Artist as a result of his service in WW1.

The Menin Road - Paul Nash (Imperial War Museum collection)

The performance on Sunday was a film of Dave McKean's new book, with live music from Dave himself (keyboard), Clare Haythornthwaite (violin) and Matthew Sharp (Cello and voice) plus spoken word narration and dialogue.

It was beautiful and haunting, exploring Nash's experiences and his response to them, his struggles with depression and with the impact on Nash's art of his experiences.

As far as I know, there are no further performances planned, but the book is available from all good bookshops. It's beautiful.

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As you'll have seen from the last 2 posts, I had a lot of fun on Friday in London, but the actual reason for which I went was to meet up with Nathalie and Alex, and to see Neil Gaiman reading 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains', accompanied by live music from the FourPlay string Quartet and illustrations from Eddie Campbell.


Nathalie had succeeded in getting front row tickets, so we had an excellent view. The show was sold out, (although I noticed that the seats behind us remained empty all evening, which made me sad, as I'm sure there were people who'd have loved them, and didn't get tickets)

Fourplay came on (bringing with them 2 violas, one violin and a cello) and started the evening with their version of the Doctor Who theme, (which, frankly, I think the BBC should pick up on and use for the new season)


They then played two other pieces, (I was enjoying myself too much to make notes of the titles, but I've bought a couple of their CDs so I should be able to hear them again!)

And then they introduced Neil, who was wearing a beautiful deep red waistcoat as well as his usual black. Very fetching!

He read us 'The Day Saucers Came' and a story called 'Adventures', and also sang 'I Google You' (with additional lines about Vine!)

During the interval, was able to buy a copy of 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains' , signed by both Neil and Eddie, and met another friend, Maggie.

In the second half of the evening, Neil read 'The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains' while Eddie Campbell's illustrations were projected behind him, and Fourplay provided musical accompaniment. Of course, this is not the first time that I have had the luck of seeing Neil read with music and other participation (that honour goes to the Fortunately, the Milk event, last October.) This was very different, except that both show how much fun having Neil read to you can be, and how much other artists and performers can add to the experience!

The story originally appeared in the anthology Stories, by the way (if you don't have a copy, go get one. Lots of great stories by lots of different writers. And get a copy of the new, illustrated version of the story, too ).

Hayley and Eddie Campbell

And it is tragic and chilling and oh so very, very good. Particularly with Art, and a String Quartet.

Once the story was over, both Hayley and Eddie Campbell joined Neil on stage, and threatened strange and terrible revenge for the killing of a number of Campbell's in the story. (I do hope Neil makes it through the Scottish performance. I find it a little ominous that it's billed as the very last. . . . .)

And then, as he was concerned that the tale might have left us a little down, and that it was a little lacking in feelings of warm fuzziness, hugs and bunnies, he decided to sing us a cheering and uplifting song, so that we could all leave light-heartedly.

It is possible that they may be better songs to achieve this aim, than Psycho. (which, I have to say, is scarier when sung with the backing of a string quartet, than with a ukulele. Or it is if you are in the front row)

It's just as well that my walk back to the hotel was only a few minutes long. And well lit.

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Did I mention that I really love Dave McKean's work? I really love Dave McKean's work. So going to London to see a live event, with him playing and singing his own music at the British Library was too good to resist.
Dave McKean
Having spent the afternoon at the Foundling Museum, I got to the Library in plenty of time, and was able to have a cup of coffee and admire the Steven Appleby art on the walls (there was an event relating to his book, 'The Good Inn' after the Dave McKean event, and the library appeared to have focussed on that)  before going in to the Auditorium to see and hear Dave McKean.
He was accompanied by a quartet of other musicians, and performed a total of 9 pieces, each accompanied by one of Dave's own short films, all different, and all amazing!
The 9 songs were:
Tempest - a melancholy song of rain, and rising floodwater.
Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree
His Story - a haunting story from McKean's book 'Pictures That Tick' - the film was a animated version of the art which appears in the book, and left me thinking about the connection between parenthood and childhood, and memory.
Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree - this was one of the songs which McKean performed at the 'Late at the Library event a couple of weeks ago - I think it would be fair to describe it as weird, but in a good, entertaining, way...
Neon - a strange, ghost story of a song, set in Venice (or a Venice-like city.
Mixed Metaphors - this was an absolutely beautiful piece of animation, the title sequence from 'Luna', (with no titles on it, as yet) beautiful images of paper birds, and flight. It made me  long to see the full film.
Words - another segment from 'Luna'.
The Coast Road - The coast road started life as an art exhibition (which I sadly missed) and became a book (which I happily have). Dave read the full story, with the artwork creating the film, and with the other musicians providing the music. It's a poignant, but ultimately optimistic story, about despair, hope and art.
June - another of the songs which McKean  performed at 'late at the library'.This was apparently written in response to a challenge from his pub music group (and I do wish I lived near a pub where people wrote new songs every month!), and involves a mince pie, and cleavage, and is is solemn and sober as that suggests!
finally, The Cathedral of Trees, a haunting finale to the evening. Dave explained that this was written as part of a collaboration he is working on with a theatre company called 'Wildwalks' (I think) for an immersive production called 'Callisto and the Wolves'  It was strange, haunting, and beautiful (also, the earlier part of the piece, which was filmed inside what I assume is McKean's home, gave me bookshelf envy!)
It was a fantastic evening, and I was very happy to be able to speak briefly to Dave after the event, to get  book signed and to give him some chocolate! Because of the Steve Abbleby event (I assume) the library had not made any specific arrangements for Dave to sign, and they didn't have any of his books for sake, which was a shame.
I would like to be able to mention the other musicians by name, as they were excellent, but unfortunately I was too busy listening to the music and watching the films when they were introduced, to make notes, so I can't provide their names. They were excellent, though.
To my frustration, I got to Paddington about 90 seconds too late to catch the train I had been planning on, so I had to wait an hour for the next one, and finally reached home just before midnight, but it was worth it. I'm glad I went.
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It's been a while since I posted, but there hasn't, until now, been much going on. I've been looking at houses, and not liking any of them very much, and I've been having a nasty cold, and not enjoying it very much, and none of that would be interesting to read about in any detail.

However, on Wednesday evening, Thea Gilmore was playing in Bath, and I had a ticket.

I went straight into Bath from work, and spent some time looking around the Christmas Market (not too crowded at that time) and had a quick pub supper, (well, as it turned out, a very slow pub supper - I think they forgot my order half way through. But it was tasty)

I met up with friends, who (as we worked out, eventually) I haven't seen since I bumped into them at the last Thea Gilmore gig we went to, which is about four years ago. It was good to catch up, and as the show started a bit later than advertised, we had time to chat!
The show was opened by  Nigel Stonier, who is Thea's husband and a talented songwriter in his own right, and who played us several of his own songs, then, after the interval, returned in his capacity of Thea's guitarist/keyboard player.

Thea was also accompanied by a wonderful cellist, and a violinist, and in two songs, by a 2nd violinist, her 7 year old son, Egan.

It was a fun evening. as it's now December, THea sang some of her Christmas song, although we were a little disappointed that we didn't get to hear Sol Invictus. But even without that it was wonderful!

The only down side was that when I got to the car park to drive home I found I had to scrape ice off the windscreen before I could drive home. I don't approve. It's one thing on the  morning, but when going home it seems unreasonable!
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I was delighted when I found out that Bath would be one of the calling points on the European leg of Marian Call's 'Postcard' Tour - I love her music, and had a fantastic time when she played at my house last year.

The show was on Wednesday evening - it was a long day, but fun!

The show was at the Friends Meeting House in Bath, which I don't think I've ever been in before, despite having lived here so long. We were down in the half-basement, which quickly filled up. It was good to see Marian and Scott again, and to see Tamzin (who came to the house concert) and one or two other familiar faces.

You won't be surprised to learn that I had a thoroughly enjoyable time - Marian played lots of old favourites, including 'Good Morning, Moon', 'Dear Mr Darcy' and 'The Avocado Song', and also sang songs from her new album, 'Sketchbook'. I particularly liked 'Elementary' (Which is about St George, and the dragon, with a soupcon of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock) and 'Paper and Pen' , a love-song to real, non-e-mail.

Scott played some of his songs, and, of course, there was audience participation with 'It's good to have Jayne on your side'

So much fun. (and Marian's was *not* the only Jayne hat in the hall, I noticed..) As this was part of the Post card tour, we all also got a lucky-dip postcard from Marian's mail bag (mine was written in Germany) and wrote and decorated cards to put back in the bag, for other fans to draw, or have posted to them.

After the show, a bunch of us helped to pick up in the hall, then headed out to look for food, for hungry musicians. Bath let us down rather - the pub we started with had stopped serving (which was a shame, as it looked really nice). So we went to an Indian Restaurant where, after ordering drinks, we found that they would not allow us to order light snacks - it was full meals or nothing, and as not everyone wanted to eat, we left.. (seems shortsighted of the restaurant - they weren't busy, and factoring in the drinks being bought they'd have been up on the deal even if not all of us had full meals..)

So, out into the dark Bath streets once again, on an increasingly desperate quest for food, which ended in a kebab shop, followed (after some sneaky, very quiet eating in the reception of Scott and Marian's hotel) by cocktails and conversation at Circo, where the conversation was wide-ranging (who knew how much entertainment could be had from a recitation of English place names?)

It was very late when I got back home, but I would not have missed it for anything, and do hope that we can continue to lure arian and Scott over here on a regular basis.
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I have written before about seeing Bitter Ruin - the first time when they supported Amanda Palmer at one of her London gigs, and several times since then, as support act and in their own right.
Georgia and Ben (AKA Bitter Ruin)

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be at a house-concert-party hosted by Mike and Sue (who also hosted the party with Mitch Benn, which I went to last month).

There were lots of lovely people there, and Sue had cooked up a storm, and there was lots of time for mingling and conversation before the music started.

Despite threatened rain, the weather remained good enough to allow them to play outside, under the bunting, which was lovely.

Ben and Georgia had asked in advance for requests, but rather than prepare a detailed set list, they instead let us chose the order in which they played, via a game of 'pin the tail on the set-list' which worked remarkably well!

As the evening wore on, and it got darker and cooler, the party moved indoors and acquired more hats, with regular hat-swaps between songs. It all made perfect sense at the time.

Bitter Ruin played us lots of old favourites, as well as songs from the new album (produced via Kickstarter funding).

It was a great show, and lovely to have the opportunity to chat with Ben and Georgia, too.

After the concert finished, the party continued - with ukulele music, and a game of twister, and more hats.

A good time was, as they say, had by all. (and thanks again to Mike and Sue for their hospitality!)
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Regular readers (if any of you are regular) will remember that I have several times been to see Mitch Benn, and as he's now touring, I got the chance to see him again, at the Rondo Theatre in Bath.

I like the Rondo - it's tiny (I think it seats about 80), so no matter where you sit, you're close to the stage, and it's run mainly by volunteers.

I like Mitch Benn, too. This gig was part of his 'Reduced Circumstances' tour - just Mitch and a small guitar, no band, and with slightly more in the way of stand-up and slightly fewer songs than previous gigs I've seen. He talked about his very dramatic weight loss,  about food as an addiction (and the difficulties of going 'cold turkey'!) and also talked about believers and atheism, and performed a series of new and older songs. (I have now heard Bouncy Druids song live, which was fun, and comes with commentary about the Olympics)

As those who've ever been to pone of Mitch's live gigs will know, he will take suggestions from the audience, just before the interval, about local or national news events, and write a brand new song during the interval, based on those suggestions.

This week, of course, there is only one News story, and there was a pause before anyone mentioned it... (Mitch commented that waiting to hear Jeremy Hardy on the new quiz, on the subject of Thatcher finally having died, would be worth hearing...) as was Mitch's song, which managed to include references to slasher movies, bedroom tax and Korea as well as the Iron Lady's final departure.(assuming of course that someone remembered the stake, and she is in fact gone for good)

It was a Good Gig. And it's near the start of the tour, so lots more chances for you to see it! Go. book here.


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