Sunday, April 26, 2009

P and H Cafe - Memphis, TN

Hi All,

I'm still wrestling with the lung issue and the cough, but it is much better now. I'm Finally able to sing a whole show again.

Last night I was in Memphis,TN at a funky place on the East side, called the "P&H Cafe". It was a short 3 hour trip over to Memphis. I had made that trip hundreds of times when I was playing with the old "Culley & Elliott"duo (we were constantly headed to Texas to play), but it has been awhile since I have been in Memphis. I forgot how pretty the drive was, especially the first half with dozens of state parks and reserves. Being a big outdoor guy I'm always wide eyed for any wilderness area.

The P&H starts music real late - 10pm. Their regulars come in about 7 or 8 and leave and then return around 10pm - kinda' weird, but so goes different joints. It's a funky little place, half artsy coffeehouse and half old burger and beer joint. The front of the room has a lot of posters, pictures and art on the walls. The ceiling was made up of big 4x8 painted portraits - caricatures of people - one unique ceiling! The back of the place started with a long bar and darts and pool tables - the dividing line between coffeehouse and beer joint.

On a side note, across the street there was a large tour bus (made my Matrix "tour bus" seem ever smaller) pulled up to a big performance hall. I later found out that it was the Indigo Girls. I had hoped they would end before me and that I might pick up some of their audience, but it wasn't to be!

I was suppossed to share the night with a local singer named Jo Jo Jeffries, but somehow wires got crossed and she never showed. I waited around until about 10:45pm. and then decided to go ahead with my set.

I began the set by promptly launching a big glass of water off the stool as I stepped up to the mic with my guitar (a trick I would repeat one more time toward the end of the set with a whole new glass of water). Sometimes things happen early on at a gig, that you are sure are harbingers of things to come. Luckily, these were just random events of a cluts and nothing more.

The set went great. I met some folks there who were really into the music and sold enough CD's to calm both the financial and the fragile ego needs of a singer-songwriter. It was enjoyable as ever to make new friends and fans with my music and then hit the road late (midnight) for a 3 hour trip back to Nashville. All and all - a nice trip!

Thanks so much for following along with the UK blog and now my efforts back home - much appreciated!


Mark Elliott

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday - in Newark, NJ!

Well, I'm officially back in the states (Newark, NJ - is in the states right?)! I left Basingstoke early this am for Heathrow. The check-in and security was actually pretty fast, so it was a hurry up and wait situation. Oddly enough at Heathrow, you have to take off your belt for screening but not your shoes. Now wasn't Heathrow the origin of the "shoe-bomber"? I'm just saying - weird!

The flight over was non-eventful. Continiental has these personal flight entertainment systems where you can pick from dozens of movies, tv shows, music and games right in your own seat monitor. That made the time "fly by" (no pun intended). It's also much easier on the body coming westbound - I feel pretty good. I practiced controlling my cough the whole way over so as to avoid any, "you're too sick to enter the contry" spiel!

I did however, get held up in customs once in NJ. It was partially over having commercial CD's on me (my own) and a nice big bottle of scotch. It all worked out in the end though and now i'm sitting waiting on an 8:30pm flight to Nashville.

I know it will take me a few days to digest the trip, but I will post my final thoughts about the UK adventure in a few days. I may also try to ammend some of the posts with some relevant pictures.

All in all, I met and played for incrdibley gracious and musically passionate people, got to see some beautiful countryside (wish I had more time in Scotland) and enjoyed travelling with Robert and Briana.

More later.




Saturday Night - Last Gig - The Acoustic Routes - Cambridge

Tonight was our last night of the tour at a venue called the Acoustic Routes in Cambridge. Cambridge lies about 2.5 hrs down the road from our home base in Basingtoke – in the border between East and West Anglia.

We left early so we could go by Windsor Castle. Robert dropped me at the base of the castle and he and Briana met me there and hour later. I walked all around the Castle – it’s pretty damn huge! He told me that the “Royals” split their time between Buckingham Palace and the Windsor Castle.

I began my walk on a pedestrian only street that funneled over a stone bridge, across the River Thames. It then wound its way up hill and around small cobblestone streets to the base of the castle. It as an interesting confluence of modern western society outside of the walls and what looked to be still quite medieval in appearance (except the guards with ear pieces and machine guns) inside the walls. The streets were filled with tourists, quaint shops and McDonalds – a far cry from what it must have looked outside that castle “back in the day”. We also got to see the very exclusive boarding school called the “Eton School”. Evidently the princes attended along with other VIPS – looked like “Dead Poet’s Society” vibe to me.

We arrived at the venue and were able to sound check early. The Acoustic Routes was located in the basement of a Bistro – really reminded me of all the church basement folk clubs I’ve played with its big walls and assorted chairs and pews for seating.

After sound check Briana and Rob settled in for tea upstairs and I headed out to see the town center of Cambridge and to see if I could find the little river I went “punting on” (pole and boat - not football) some 25 years ago. I walked along some quaint side streets and across some beautiful gardens and playing fields to the town center. I never found the damn river but was told later that I was close, just at the point where I turned back for the venue.

The manager of the venue (The Acoustic Routes) name is Bernard Hoskins and was a really nice guy. These types of long running venues always require at least 1 (and most often more than 1) passionate music person to keep them going – and Bernard fits that bill. He is a good singer-songwriter in his own right and opened the night with 3 of his original songs. We also had another opening act named Rebecca (I’ll remember her last name) and she was also very good.

The night was sold out and included some standing room only. This was every passionate, listening folk audience I’ve eve played for and was a perfect way to end the tour. Although I’m feeling a little better, the cough and the throat kept me from singing as much as I wanted to. I was able to sing a few more tonight and beg for their help in singing along. It was a thrill to hear English accents singing back the chorus of “Stars In Their Eyes” to me. As my voiced waned on the song – they took over and it was pretty cool.

Briana remained in great voice for the whole tour and continued that tonight. We got an encore and a great reception afterward – had the best CD’s sales of the tour - again, a nice way to go out.

We got back to our Basingstoke base late tonight, about 3am and have an 8am call for Heathrow in the morning. I will write again from Newark, NJ.

Thanks again for following along.



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday Night - The Pelham Arms - Lewes

We played in Lewes tonight. It’s just inland of the coastal town of Brighton. We left early enough to tour around Brighton some. The day was overcast and somewhat cold. You could feel the ocean air chilling things down a bit. I got to see an old castle from the mid- 18th century. I don’t remember which king lived there for awhile, but one did.

What makes this castle unique is that it doesn’t really look like a castle. It’s called the Royal Pavilion and it is an odd configuration of eastern and middle- eastern architecture. It looked a bit out of place, like it belonged more in old Siam or something. Evidently this particular king loved the eastern and middle- eastern cultures and had this built to those specs. That’s what I was told in the bar tonight anyway, so take it as you will.

After touring around a little we headed just out of town to a sleepier berg named Lewes and the hotel-pub, the Pelham Arms. We had a full house tonight – a little loud like a bar crowd, but into it. We sold a handful of CD’s. I am still struggling greatly to sing without coughing up a lung, but the crowd appreciated me doing a few songs for them and then backing Briana’s album set. I have had several discussions (as you can imagine) about lung infections in the UK and evidently this is a virulent one going around that antibiotics don’t help much. Most people I’ve talked with that have had the similar run as me; have had to wait it out a month or more to kick it …. that’s lovely!

I did have a few folks come up to me that were familiar with my MySpace page and some of the songs – that was a nice little extra. We also had friend (Terry) come out to see us again. He was at the 2nd gig back in Maidstone.

We have found in general that venues here do a much better job of getting the word out than do venues in the states. Also, crowds seem to educate themselves on the artist, at least by visiting websites ahead of time. We did 2-45min sets with a break in the middle and then headed back two hours or so to our Basingstoke hub.

We head out to Cambridge tomorrow afternoon for the last stop on the tour – a venue called Acoustic Routes. We have been looking forward to this one as it is a high profile folk room. I don’t know what I’ll have in terms of a voice tomorrow (well I kind of do), but the plan will be to “leave it all on the field” as they say!

Thanks or your continued interest in my travels and music.



Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday Night-The Prom- Bristol

We played in the cool university town of Bristol tonight. We arrived in the late afternoon to do the drive time BBC network show. We did a 10min interview or so and then played the song, “People like Me” live. We were laughing afterward about being asked if any of our songs had offensive language in them or not (I guess the show was live and not bleeper friendly). We of course said “no” and then totally forgot about the prominent “hell” in every chorus of our song. To me cuss words had to have at least two syllables in them don’t they? - Unless of course, they have a “u” in them. Well, we didn’t fall through any trap doors and no one said anything about it so I guess it was ok!

We headed down to the venue for some early dinner and waited on sound check. The venue has been around, hosting music since 1980 and has a great reputation. It’s more of a bar/restaurant than a pub (more fitting of the downtown, urban environment it was in). It was two stories, with TV monitors all over the place that broadcast the performance – pretty cool. We sound checked around 7:30 or so with Martin Moss. He turned out to be a very good mixer. In fact, most of the sound people on this tour have been excellent. That has been one of the nice surprises of the trip. Martin is a musician himself (loves Bluegrass in particular) which made him better with the sound I think. Martin gave me a copy of his CD, “Hometown” – I look forward to hearing it once I’m back in my

In typical fashion, the crowd didn’t really materialize until about show time. We had a good crowd however, 45 or so. They were enthusiastic but very much a listening audience (about what you want in an audience). We had a good show – did 2- 45 min sets. My voice seemed in the same shape as the previous few days, but I was able to eek out a few tunes of my own – enough to sell a handful of CD’s. We got several encores, (which was nice) but had they asked for 1 more it surely would have looked like a scene from the TB Sanitarium night club show. The later the night got tonight, the harder it was to control my cough.

We had a two hour drive back to Basingstoke tonight – getting in about 1:30am our time.
Tomorrow we head to Lewes (I think) to play a venue called “The Pelham Arms”.
I believe it is an old hotel.

Thanks for staying interested in the saga.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wednesday Night - The Cellars in Portsmouth

Tonight we were in the Southsea town of Portsmouth – on the South Coast of England. It is on the English Channel and directly across the channel would be Brittany, France. We got there a few hours early so I had some time to walk around a bit. The water reminds me of the Atlantic, but the beaches are mainly shell and stone.

Portsmouth is a big port town and was a significant player during WWII, due to it being a major naval base. Robert told us that it was almost constantly being bombed. You could see the remaining breastwork defense mounds just up from the beach as well as the many naval buildings now converted to condos (flats). The streets are narrow and the buildings old – very reminiscent of Annapolis, MD and the Naval Academy there.

We played a great pub called the Cellars. I am finding pub gigs to be my absolute favorite type venue so far (more on that later). The owner (Steve) was originally worried about turnout; given this was World Cup Soccer qualifying day (Robert was excited that England won). However, we ended up with a great crowd and they were very enthusiastic. It’s funny, the crowds here tend to show up just at show time and not much before, so they always leave you wondering.

We were headlining tonight and the opening acts (called support over here) were quite good and enthusiastic themselves. Got a few CD’s to listen to down the road. They were a mix of folk, acoustic and blues – which worked well in front of us.

We took the stage at around 10:15pm – a little later than normal around here. My voice is still non-existent and my cough still teetering on Bubonic Plague. However, the night felt great – all the guitar moves were working well and Briana was singing well. The audience gave so much back to us that I decided at the end of the night to go for it and sung, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”. It was a little on the rough and growly side, but went over well – sold a handful of CD’s off the one song.

I needed a good night, even if only being able to sing one song, the audience lifted my spirits and sent us down the road with a good $ take (or should I say £ take)! We had a short hour or so drive back to Basingstoke. It’s now 2am over here (8pm for all back home – central time anyway).

We head to Bristol tomorrow (I think) playing a place called the Prom. The time I was at the Prom I had fun. Of course I was 18 and it was 198…….yeah!

Here’s one last note about the pub culture here as well as in Scotland. What great rooms they are! Each very unique but all with the same familiar laid back, comfortable, living room atmosphere. Most of the pubs have the main bar area and then around a corner or off to one side the room lengthens with nook and cranny seating on small 2 foot stools. Usually at the end of this room lies the stage – mostly well adorn, lit and with good sound systems.

There are plenty of pubs up and down random streets and easy to stagger between. Although for me, settling into a favorite warm, rich corner and staying there all night is the way o do it. Most pubs are rich in both community congregation and of course music. The crowds are generally fairly quite if you’re have a half-way decent performer (unlike the bar scene back home). I can’t help thinking that a pub culture would go over so well in America (and does probably in parts of Boston and the like) but they are very differently paced than bars. The only thing missing I think for an American audience is availability of food. In most pubs it’s hard to get any food to speak of. There may be a rack of crisps (our chips) or possibly and handful of meat pies – but that seems about it in most pubs. People are there to drink, congregate, drink, listen to music and well, drink! I do love the rooms though – most of them are really grand old rooms!

Although I was temporarily emboldened by managing to finally get a song out, I am struggling greatly with the cough and will undoubtedly continue to for the rest of the tour. I believe we’re hitting the roads earlier tomorrow playing a BBC radio show in Bristol. If I can get the web address for the show I’ll pass it along.

Thanks again for following along.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tuesday Night - The Halo - London

We played the Acoustic Showcase at the Halo Bar in London tonight. I think I might be feeling a hair better today but the cough is still the same and gets triggered by nothing at all – so still no singing (pisses me off)!

Ironically I ran into an old Nashville friend named Mark Aaron James. He left Nashville for NYC some ten yeas or so ago and a year ago landed in London to try his luck on the English scene. He actually hosts this multi-artist showcase night at the Halo.

Tonight was mostly singer-songwriters, with one acoustic instrumentalist in the mix. Because he got there as early as we did, I ended up talking with (and coughing at) him for good while. He’s from the area we are headed to tomorrow called Portsmith. He has an interesting story. I guess a little over a decade ago he was hurt severely in an accident when a big metal cage fell of the back of a truck and struck him in the head. He said he basically had to relearn everything and music took him a good ten years to return to. It has been yet another perspective giver out here in the real world of travelling and making music.

The night was odd, but fun. We all rotated in 2 song mini-sets all night long. If you’re asking why they do it that way instead of in rounds, don’t bother. I’ve asked that question tonight more than once to no avail. Although, the bar tender did state, “I really hate musicians” – yeah, I know!

Well, the part that was fun was a good response. Even though I am not able to sing at all we are still getting great reviews as a “duet” over here. Maybe they are used to the second part being dramatically mute – I don’t know.

After the show we headed into the Parliament District for a quick night tour (since my original London Day had to be scrapped for hospital day). I got to see the Parliament buildings, Westminster Abby, Big Ben and The Royal Albert Music Hall (which I requested Robert book us in next time). It was a fairly quick hour and a half back to Basingstoke, where now I plan to cough my fool head off and sleep in.

Thanks for the support.