Firstly a huge thanks to everyone who came to see us on the “Loving The Skin You’re In” Spring Tour, especially those who travelled from far flung places to get to a show. We really enjoyed the gigs, meeting all sorts of new people and playing new venues in the deep south. A marvellous, if slightly tiring, time was had by all but there was barely time to reflect on the tour before the the Festival season was upon us. The tour began with our first Nottingham show at The Maze. Next up was Stocksbridge where we had much to thank our hostess, Andrea Beevers, for. Not only did we get the most fantastic rider but Virginia was even allocated her very own dressing room - promoters take note! There was then a welcome return to Rhyl Folk Club for what was the sole acoustic set of the tour. Nuneaton saw a capacity crowd squeeze into 'The Crew' for a louder than usual rocking set, with a Guns 'N' Roses tribute band playing upstairs in the same venue we had to be loud!
Then it was off on the southern leg. First up was our London debut at The Miller (with a serving MP in the audience) which went really well and the pizzas we had, cooked by the resident Italian chef, were quality. Travelling to the south coast immediately after the gig afforded us a rare afternoon off the following day. Most of us chose to sample the delights of Brighton, even if that meant taking on all comers in a seedy back street snooker club in Lee's case! That night we played to a packed Duke of Wellington in Shoreham on Sea and the following evening in a barn on the rural slopes of an orchard in front of what must be our youngest ever audience in Winchcombe. (A nice bonfire there as well)
Next it was back north for a most enjoyable evening in Oswestry at the Hermon Chapel Arts Centre. Originally a Nonconformist Chapel it has been transformed into a thriving venue by owner, Duncan, yet still retains a lot of the original character and features. The pews are still in place for the audience as well as a small balcony providing a bird's eye view for those who weren’t busy dancing around the stage area. We finally arrived back on home turf on Sunday 4th May for a tremendous, if slightly overheated, sold out gig at The Honeysuckle in Wigan. Tansads' watchers will be interested to hear that Ed Jones was persuaded to close his solo support set with "Ship of Fools" and John trotted out a well received "Horses" during the encore. The tour was the first chance for many to witness the new arrangement of "Bury Me Naked" and there was a welcome return to the set for "Dreaming of The Time". Most of the venues mentioned above can be seen in a short tour montage I put together also featuring clips from some of the first festivals of the Summer......Big Whistle Festival (Bury), Bearded Theory and Wychwood - Loving The Skin You're In Tour & More
The festival season is already underway
are we appearing at a festival near you?
Last time we mentioned an exciting new project masterminded by Damian and details have now emerged. Merry Hell are proud to have enlisted in “The Armistice Pals”. This is a fabulous community of Folk musicians who are coming together to mark the 100th Anniversary of World War 1. We will be releasing a 'Perfect Day' style version of Pete Seeger's anti-war classic, 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone?', on Sunday 9th November - the week of The Armistice. The song will be available as a download, CD single and a limited edition vinyl 7". Andrew and Virginia will feature alongside some of the UK Folk world's most distinctive voices and alongside a number of international allies. The musical backing for the track will be supplied by the band. Please visit the Armistice Pals Facebook and 'like' it to make sure that you are kept up with developments - and have a look at the website at www.armisticepals.co.uk or the facebook page to see the incredible line up that we will be part of. If the Armistice Pals were a festival, it would be the best line up of the year! The project is not a celebration of war; it is a marking of the start of what was supposed to be 'the war to end all wars' and the senseless slaughter that followed, with its devastating affect on both the loved ones and communities which the soldiers left behind, all too often not to return. As this is is a community project, there will be Armistice Pals events across the country in the week of the release of the song and we invite people to look for ways to get involved. Please have a look, please 'like' the facebook page and, above all, please get involved. Thanks as ever to Julian (http://www.joolzdesign.com/) for another splendid design job on both sites.
Having settled in and with his first tour under his belt we find out a little more about new Merry Hell bass player, Nick Davies. Damian sets the questions...
How did you come to join Merry Hell?
Two of my bands, Jesus in India and Sound Marshals had both recorded at Jaraf House, I got a marvelously rambling voice mail message out of the blue from John in January inviting me to come and play. I accepted of course, despite knowing nothing of the band or the music. Very happy with how it turned out, despite his producer rep as the Grimefather.
What's been surprising about being in Merry Hell?
That it's a family affair, and even though some of the band aren’t blood related, we’re made to feel like we are. Tis a lovely thing.
What's the best thing about being in Merry Hell?
The untold joy to be gleaned from sound engineers who know nothing about engineering, or sound. Seriously, the wonderful enjoyment had by playing great songs with great musicians, and the laughter we share along the way. There is a copious amount of wit in the band. Wit, I said!!
What are you particularly looking forward to about being in the band?
Bigger and better gigs, releasing a new album, playing to and meeting new people along the way, and being surrounded by better musicians than me, forces me to better myself.
How different is this to the last band you were in?
Ha ha. Both totally, and not at all. Merry Hell have achieved more high profile gigs than my previous bands, and it has already allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing festival stages, something I feared would never happen. However, the banter, the laughter, the fun and games when playing live, are just the same!
What would be your perfect rider?
Victoria Pendleton (rider, geddit?!). I’d probably say I’m particular to a frosty lager, 999 Brown M and Ms in a brandy glass, and a Jack and coke for post gig.
Do you have a favourite Merry Hell moment that you would like to share?
So many already. Playing Wychwood Festival with an Ampeg 8x10 bass stack behind me felt spectacular I have to say. The best I’ve ever sounded (despite the bum notes).
Another was late night on the tour, we sat around chatting, drinking and playing our favourite songs to each other, simply magical.
Thanks to Nick, We will get Neil's responses next time.
Time for a review and this time we have a proper wordsmith, Merry Hell's favourite poet, Laura Taylor, enthuses about the band's early festival appearances, 'exhibits' courtesy of Damian
Wow, what a weekend! The mighty Merry Hell played two main stage festival gigs over the bank holiday weekend and it was my pleasure and delight to be present for both of them.
After a storming gig at Bury Met on the Friday night, the band travelled to Derbyshire to appear at the Bearded Theory Festival in the grounds of Catton Hall. The day started well, with me managing to find Bob when he got on site to give him his all-important wellies! Yes indeed, it was welly-weather. Torrential downpours had turned the site into a gloopy sodden mire, with seemingly no end to it in sight. No mind, ponchos were donned and spirits were high. Though as the start time for the gig drew closer, spirits became a little dampened at the distinct lack of audience out front. See Exhibit 1 – a lone figure in a sea of mud. Turns out it was Degsy, trying out his new wellies. Were the magical Merry Hell going to play main stage at this fabulous festival with no audience?!
Fear not – never underestimate the determination of Merry Hellions to have a good time, come what may. With just a few tense minutes to go before the gig, the sea of mud suddenly became densely populated by a poncho-covered tribe of punters (see Exhibit 2), smiles plastered on their faces along with the rain and mud, and the band launched into a blistering set.
Now, I’ve seen Merry Hell scores of times and they always turn in a great gig but this one astonished even me. I actually took a step back (in the mud – did I mention the mud?) as the sheer ferocity of their performance ripped through me. They took us soaring right up to that damp Derbyshire sky with an absolutely electric set. It certainly lent a ring of gleeful authenticity to Drunken Serenade in the Rain as we all danced, clapped and sang with our hands held high. Mud? What mud? Pah – we laugh at your rain!
The gig was over way too soon – time flies, as they say. Within minutes of the final song, the sea of mud emptied again. It wasn’t left completely void however – Merry Hell left a tangible energy behind them, one that we all held inside of us for the rest of the weekend, glowing.
From main stage in a soggy rural field to one in a sunny urban town centre, the band travelled on to play at Darwen Live Festival on Bank Holiday Monday – back by demand.
I raced from my own gig at the excellent Café Hub to catch the band play yet another storming set. A huge audience of all ages greeted them, and yet again the crowd bopped along to a majestic performance. We danced this time not in a sea of mud, but on hot concrete, nary a welly in sight. What a contrast! But though the weather may have changed, the multitude of happy faces remained the same. There may be a better way to spend a weekend, but I very much doubt it. (Laura)
Would you like to review a >Merry Hell< gig that you have attended? E-mail your reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will feature some of the best ones in forthcoming newsletters.
We come to you in the midst of a 3 week break from gigging but we are not resting on our laurels. Those of you on facebook might have spotted a post from the studio where work continues on the 3rd album. We are still hopeful of a September release but just as a final selection seems to be taking shape another new song will come along and force it's way into the reckoning! Still, no harm in having an embarrassment of riches in the song department!
Forward planning is very much the order of the day and I really wish we could tell you about a very exciting event taking place early next year. At the moment it is only at the planning stage so we can't announce anything but just to be on the safe side keep every Saturday free for a month or two!
What we can reveal is that we will be returning to the capital for another show. Our London gig was such an enjoyable experience that we've decided to do it all over again and will be returning to The Miller on Thursday October 23rd, teaming up with Folkstock Records, three of whose artists will be supporting us on the night. You can check out some of the label's rising stars - Zoe Wren, Kaity Rae and Kelly Oliver who will each perform their own short sets (http://www.folkstockartsfoundation.com/)
Tickets for the event will be £7.00 and are available via the web shop. Doors will open at 7.30pm with the first act appearing at 8.00pm. We are hoping that there will be no tube strike this time!
Details of the venue are at http://www.themiller.co.uk/ and if you are coming after work then we can certainly recommend both the beer and the food at the pub downstairs before the gig.
Jonah, Laura & Damian
(For Merry Hell)