So, long time no speak.

Things have been a bit quiet on the creative front this year. Having recorded 12 songs last year and written only slightly fewer Windbags I've taken it a bit easier this year. And once you stop it always seems a bit hard to get yourself motivated again.

Anyway last weekend was the annual Long Division festival in Wakefield. This has given me plenty of inspiration for my columns in the past and this year was no exception.

This year Long Division gave me the chance to live the rock and roll dream.

It turns out that last year's Long Division was nearly the last. There was a black hole in the financial plans for this year's festival. Dean Freeman, the festival head honcho, decided to dip his toe in the metaphorical water of crowd funding via the internet. This was remarkably successful and the required target was overhauled pretty quickly.

The way these things work is that there is a bog standard amount you can put in and in this case that got you a ticket to the festival (typically if it was a book or album you would get a copy of said work). Often though for bigger amounts of money you can get special items. In the past I have received a guitar lesson from Gary Stewart and attended a Travelling Band Rehearsal.

In this case I paid extra to play guitar live on stage with the Ainsley Band. This appealed to me for quite a few reasons
- I would be on stage at Unity where I saw my first gig and I'm a shareholder.
- As a late developing guitar player I'd realise my ambition to play live on stage with a rock and roll band
- I like the Ainsley Band and they are a friendly bunch

So last Saturday I was standing by the stage as the Ainsley Band set up with my guitar and amp already to go. By nature I'm a nervous person (I couldn't eat or sleep for a couple of days before my Wedding for example. And I get bad nerves before we do implementations at work.) But on this occasion I felt very calm. No sleepless nights and no feeling sick.

I think though that a bit of tension is usually good in these situations. As it turned out I think I was too calm to throw myself into the rock and roll maelstrom that is an Ainsley Band performance. But I would like to pass on three things I learned.

1) Don't rush to put your guitar on. Otherwise you might end up doing what I did and bash yourself on the nose! I came off the stage with a bloody nose.

2) The length of your guitar lead is quite important. When I bought my ten foot lead I thought I was being a bit extravagant. I was pretty sure it was seven foot more than I needed. In the end I was stuck there anchored to the back of the stage. As other more experienced guitarists roamed at will with their huge leads.

3) Yes playing the chords is useful (more so if your amp is mic'ed up) but I should have put some time in in front of the mirror as well perfecting my rock n roll poses and face pulling.

Finally I also learned that if you are a bit self concsious standing on a big stage with a big audience does tend to accentuate your feeling of self conciousness. Particularly if you are standing with the festival organiser and the local record company boss - both giving good rock n roll posing and attracting lots of photos and videoing. Ironically I'd picked to be on the left side (as you look at the stage) as I was slightly scared of ending up next to Greg and Harry on the other side.

Anyway it was an enjoyable experience and I would have kicked myself if I'd not taken the opportunity. Thanks very much to Dean, the Ainsley Band and Rob Dee for facilitating me living the rock n roll lifestyle for a few minutes.


I Can't sign off without mentioning this year's awesome live recording.

It has become a bit of a tradition to record a live album on the Sunday of the Long Division weekend.  It began as a one off recording of Mi Mye. Mi Mye is the brain child of Jamie Lockhart who is an amazing creative musical force in Wakefield. Jamie, Lee Smith and Rob Slater run Greenmount Studios which is currently based in Leeds.

For one Sunday Greenmount Studios was relocated to the old abandoned Wakefield Library. The band played straight into the mixing desk and the mixed music was commited both to tape (old school style) and computer. The mix itself was also transmitted into radio headphones worn by the audience.  With the stage set up centrally allowing the audience to walk all the way around. The set up was unusual but very compelling.

Subsequent years have seen different bands and different locations but the set up as described above has stayed the same.

There was serious pressure this year to top the jaw droppingly good Ainsley Band performance last year.

This year's location was the St Austins Theatre which couldn't be much better situated for me (unless they had recorded in our house). The band were Post War Glamour Girls. This being a bit of a coup since they are highly rated. There was a brilliant mix of oldies, newies and covers. Rob Slater and Morgan (of Buen Chico fame) were auxillary band members. And the set really bought out the melodic side of the music.

I always enjoy the atmosphere of these gigs. After the Saturday festival night proper - this tends to be the hardcore of the crowd. It has a real end of term feel about it a mixture of joyous abandon tinged with a slightly melancholic feeling of something coming to an end.

The artists are nervous (its a big thing to make a permanent record without any recourse to re-doing stuff) but also aware they are among friends.

The live recordings are always one of the highlights of Long Division. And this one was probably the best yet.

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