11 March 2018 Taverne Zum Vollmond, 24 June 2017
I thought the hard part was done – London to Freiburg – over the chalky cliffs of Dover, scooting in and out of France, crossing into Belgium and briefly dipping a toe in Luxembourg before arriving in Germany on a balmy June evening. In a quaint suburb on the outskirts of Freiburg near Vauban – a flourishing, sustainable, district on the site of old army barracks.
But here, idling, at the intersection of ‘f@ck knows where?’ on the Swiss border with bumper to bumper traffic, trams both sides and no option to turn left or right, I thought, maybe, we were lost. “We” being me and cohort Daniela.
It was just under a day since we pootled into Freiburg, unloading ourselves into the home and good graces of friend Jörg Später, that we were now sprinting into Switzerland, navigating desperately to avoid the seriously expensive € autobahn charges. And stuck in a traffic jam on a bustling roundabout, at a very large intersection losing our well mapped way. Only forty minutes from our final destination Arlesheim, and the welcoming invite of hosts Tatyana and Thomas.
[crossing into Switzerland from Germany – before getting lost at the intersection of “f@ck knows where!?”]
Was it the blue road or the green road we weren’t meant to be on? Confused, I tried to rationalise “in Germany the autobahn is marked blue and the main roads marked green, in Switzerland the autobahn is marked green and the main roads marked blue…. Or is it the other around?” “The roads marked blue in Germany and….”. After a couple of expletives, some hand wringing, and a few twists and turns, we land in their drive.
Behold. Tatyana’s lush, flower and herb garden. A blooming spectrum of roses, foxglove, lavender, nasturtian, and a delectable array of pungent herbs like rosemary, oregano, chives, sage in a little corner oasis. I love fecund, wild, gardens.
Daniela, aka tour manager (one of her many hats), arranged the gig at Taverne Zum Vollmond, 24 June 2017 – a sofa concert, run by Thomas and Tatyana. A couple of talented and respectively tech savvy and artistically inclined individuals who invited us into their home of orchards, windows of light, high ceilings, checked tiles and wood floors. Treating circa thirty of us (plus newly roped in roadie, Jörg) to a Swiss apero of delicious home-made hors d’oeuvres, cheese, charcuterie and booze – unexpectedly amazeballs – as the dial kept rising on this surprisingly sultry summer’s eve.
[Chives or was it Rosemary from Tatyana’s garden, warm up, apero and set up]
I warmed up with a few songs. It was hot! I mean wet, humid, muggy hot! This good natured bunch were sweating sitting down while my fingers slid off strings. We took a break outside in the garden.
Different walks and ages, the crowd were a relaxed and personable bunch. I kicked a football in the garden with one, he was very cool – and liked my songs, evidenced by foot clapping while rolling on his back, he was four? Always plenty of talent in the audience and one, Marcus, treated us to a couple of songs after my set.
Gig pics here
With passions revealed in food, tech, friends and atmosphere Tatyana and Thomas are warm and very generous, hosts – with an ethos that springs from valuing real connection, and community, and sharing what you have with others. This regular music event was inspired by a local woman they knew who opened her home to anyone who couldn’t sleep, or maybe just wanted a chat or company, on the full moon.
If you hadn’t guessed Taverne Zum Vollmond translates into Full Moon Taverna.
[Abut to start, Cooling off outside between sets, jamming with a couple of the guys after the gig, a well deserved cheeky one after a long day/drive]
Both a counsellor and artist Tatyana shared a fine catalogue of bold, surreal, dream inspired paintings, I’ll link to her website when it’s up. And Thomas the tech whizz was building a photography portfolio. Inviting me and Daniela to a local village festival the following day (after making us breakfast!) we caught a 10 piece jazz band before going off to Basel.
A mental kick for missing the opportunity to float down the aqua currents of The Rhine, in perfect weather! What a gorgeous way to spend an hour. But zapped from the heat and unwilling to trudge back to the car for our togs, we walked and watched people glide by.
But hey, we made it to Arlesheim, Switzerland and Taverne Zum Vollmond.
Again, pics of the gig
[Le Rheine – we didn’t float down – et le Festival]
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01 February 2017 Remembrance for Lost Species and Nothing is Nothing (To Love and Be Loved as Wild as The Sea)
Drawing into the depths of winter, November 24th to be exact, I wrote a wee blog about a little ‘artivity’ (yes, I made it up: activity involving art) Remembrance for Lost Species due to take place Sunday, 27th.
This was, like many other actions and activities held during November, in support of and similar in name to Remembrance Day for Lost Species, 30th November. Where anyone, everyone, is encouraged to hold events throughout the month of November culminating on the 30th. It can be any kind of memorial to lost species or places. an action or activity like an art project, a procession, lighting a candle, planting a tree, and so on which gets posted on the https://www.lostspeciesday.org/ page, and as they say:
“Remembrance Day for Lost Species is driven by a growing coalition of artists, educators, museum curators, scientists and writers. It is also supported by the MEMO project and Extinction Symbol. In 2014, WWF-UK reported in its Living Planet report that Earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years. However, worse is to come as climate change and habitat loss are leading us into the Sixth Mass Extinction.Now is the time to create new rituals for remembering and mourning those we have lost, and for celebrating and making commitments to those remaining.”
So on that note me and cohort Daniela Othieno did stuff, totally last minute. Holding our own Remembrance for Lost Species down by the Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. Inviting anyone who wanted to join, we shared images and info about the Golden Toad, Bordered Gothic Moth, Pyrenean Ibex, Spix’s Macaw and the Tecopa Pupfish (from a previous installation by Daniela and husband Vincent Oyenga: Lost/Missing) and the extinction of these lovely wee creatures.
We chatted with various passerby peeps and their kids about ‘extinction’ asking their thoughts. It’s a curious way of engaging with people who are sometimes wary at first, and then mostly fascinated, who can be thoughtful and have much to say when given the opportunity but who can also be in denial, like the comedy moment when someone (seriously) says: “it’s not really my thing”.
Candles were lit, missing posters hung and there was a reading of a list of extinct and missing creatures (I’ll have to dig that out). I sang, while dogs barked and frolicked, jet engines crossed the sky, people laughed and life happened, about not valuing beautiful and precious things, and the possibility of losing them.
[Below is the rough and ready unplugged, acoustic, version of me with stinky head cold/throat virus thing (that a few whiskey macs later soothed) and Tasmanian Tiger stripes – in honour of the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of the Thylacine – performing Nothing is Nothing (Wild As the Sea)].
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24 November 2016 Remembrance for Lost Species, London, Sunday, 27 November 2016
Remembrance for Lost Species – Sunday, 27 November 2016
Sometimes I get involved in provocative, evocative, mischievous and random activities that gently disrupt, hopefully expand, and always have the potential to implode.
This week it’s ‘Remembrance for Lost Species’ Sunday, 27th November at the dinosaur garden in Crystal Palace Park.
I was stricken recently reading an article in The Independent stating that the world is facing its first mass extinction since dinosaurs, and that wildlife populations have plunged by 67 percent in 50 years.
THIS REALLY, really, bothers me. It’s always bothered me. And it should. Frankly it should bother us all. But often it doesn’t. At least not enough or enough of us, enough of the time. Living detached from that reality, far away, in cities, in houses in suburbs, small villages and towns with tidy gardens and parks, surrounded by small tracts of forest and farmed land. In places we never see extinction , much less the cause.
Orangutan filled forests destroyed for palm oil, pretty much found in any cosmetic, detergent, shampoo, soap, chocolate, margarine, ice cream and biscuit product. So eager are some countries to deliver this demand that they’re willing to sacrifice their forests, creatures, futures.
It’s not that this type of activity is new and hasn’t already occurred in our own, and so many other countries, for so many of the same and other reasons. It’s that it just continues and continues. Countries blighted by man-made poverty, yet to gorge on the excess of consumption, racing to catch up economically, at their own peril and more poignantly that of the species dwelling within. Often ‘we’ in the UK, US, Australia, Europe own or drive those plantations. It’s an ugly cycle.
Sometimes I feel the horror of the machine, that endlessly turning wheel of growth, industry, economy, progress, consumption dispassionately crushing everything of true value and beauty underneath. No-one at the helm, no way to stop it.
I DO NOT want to live in a world where elephants no longer roam. Yet it’s a real possibility. One that brings deep dread to think about. These beautiful, intelligent creatures, with their majesty and matriarchy, sentient, gentle yet fierce, that will visit a departed loved one to hum, low guttural, murmurs over the decaying carcass. That return to the home of a man, who gave them refuge, upon his passing. And pass down memories of grazing pastures and migration routes, through generations. No. I don’t want that. What is the point of this world without that?
So in the year of the 80th Anniversary of the disappearance of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), and in a week where Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day compete, I agreed to create an event with my very good mate Daniela. We call it ‘Remembrance for Lost Species’. To be confused with and as part of: ‘Remembrance Day for Lost Species’ 30th November 2016. Drawing upon a previous installation Lost/Missing by Daniela and husband Vincent Oyenga for the E17 Arts Trail, we decided to hold a remembrance down by the dinosaurs at the lower end of Crystal Palace park, London, creating flyers with images of the paintings (below) by Vince. Speaking with passersby about extinction, their views, sharing information about current extinction rates, causes and possible actions to mitigate it. And finally taking a moment to read out a list of 125 extinct species.
As another mate Joe Duggan said: “Makes me think of Phillip K Dick who wrote Blade Runner or “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”. In the novel there is loads about robotic pets, where people all pretend they are real. But no one can afford real pets anymore because they are so rare “
Often I feel powerless to do anything about it. I try to think about what I can do to change that. Then I put my energy where I can. We all can.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Artwork by: www.vincentoyenga.com
Note: Throughout the month of November, each year, anyone can create an event or activity and inform www.lostspeciesday.org/ to add to their calendar, culminating on 30th November.
Our event was borne out of the mischief and machinations of Mearcstapa and the Gipsy Hill Arts Collective.
Follow: @lostspeciesday @lostspeciesday @extinctionsymbol
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20 April 2016 Allie K Stewart ‘Songstress EP’ Launch + Special Guests
Hola Dear Friends, Supporters, Artists, Interlopers and all those who came along, and all those who couldn’t, to the Allie K Stewart Songstress EP launch with Special Guests,
WE made it happen. Songstress EP launch – tick. In raw, bare bones, style me and The Band (Danilo Rodrigues and Yuri Betancourt) – they were ssshmokin’, and drew admirers to their bemusement – fired off with Breathe, a hyperbolic, satirical, commentary on the machinations of war, then diving into Desert Flower, an ode to lost and unrequited love, moved into the intimate entreaty that is, Evelyn. Nothing could stop us, not even a hand cramp or wayward capo on the wrong fret. The rocking, enthusiastic crowd, soaked us up, gave it back, and got it! – YES Revolution IS the one where YOU join in! – Hand-clapping, foot-stamping, hoots, whoops and hollers – sharing the love.
Thank YOU for coming, sharing in the evening, showing your love, and buying the Songstress EP. And for those who donated in ‘pay what you want’ style. Like I forgot to say on the night – with the hosting, much to do, say, and think about, brain melt – It’s people like YOU that make independent artists flourish. We need you. There are many ways to show support and it isn’t always monetary either. So yes, buy music or go to shows but also share, tell family, friends and colleagues about music or art that inspires you. About artists who rocked you, blogs you’ve devoured, and shows you love. Tell friends, keep coming to shows, tell more friends, tell them to tell their friends and ….you’ve got it.
On that note, anyone who’s curious or wants to share a link to the digital version can go to Songstress EP – limited edition copies are also available for £5.00 (plus p&p) just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, it was an unexpected treat finding the multi-percussive Danilo, who turned up a month before to add cajon and percussion to the mix. And it’s always great to have the multi-wayward-instrumentalist Yuri Betancourt burning up the bass frets. As ever with gigs – life, rehearsals, musicians, schedules, hectic, mishaps and illness – getting together for just one, let alone, a few rehearsals was a challenge. And despite violin, cello, cajon, musicians initially coming and going, we pulled it off. The Songstress EP was launched! Bam!
We even had a little coverage prior to the event with an article in the Croydon Guardian.
This evening was also about supporting talented, independent, artists – the special guests I was fortunate to have on the evening presented by the Gipsy Hill Sessions:
Michelle Jane Wormleighton opening the night delighted us with her intricate and comedic storytelling as George the spider, Joe Duggan moved us with his poetic observations and insights and Winston Skerritt soothed and wooed with his dulcet tones and soulful tunes.
I’m thrilled it came together so well – who knew? And that’s the thing. You never know what’s going to happen (especially when you beg for and borrow everything) putting on an event. Will people come? Will they like it? Will the performers show up? (yes), will the electrics fail? (no joke! ;-), will the lighting work? (still no joke), the sound desk break? (a definite possibility!), the host have a fit? (not likely) or the PA blow up!? (it didn’t).
As it happens the ‘Songstress EP Launch’ was a magical affair imbued with love and passion. It’s wonderful to put on a night that lights a fire in people, to watch them unfurl, open to creativity and their own inspiration.
See photos below and click video to see footage of the evening thanks to Alex Hitchcock, and Jani Jylha.
Lastly, and most valuably, with thanks and love to all those who made it happen on the night Daniela Othieno, Vincent Oyenga, Sarah Murphy, Jani Jylha, Stephen Hutchings, Keith Waller, Carl Chamberlain, Jon Dickinson and Antenna Studios.
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05 February 2016 Influences; Inspirators
As an artist, musician, performer, songstress I’m often asked “who are your influences?”
It’s tricky in a soundbite obsessed era to wrap these into a quick, neat, little package.
Every single piece of music I’ve ever heard and loved, each artist I’ve watched, whose music or songs or lyrics spoke to me, evoked feelings, memories, vivid landscapes, opened, devoured or moved me, in some way, ARE my influences.
I’ve a long list of artists, songs, music, soundscapes, riffs, production, art, writers, bands, musicians, singers, songwriters that have inspired me. None of these and some of these may channel through when creating, singing, playing, writing songs and music.
My ‘sound’ is betwixt Alternative, Indie, Grit-balladry, Electro Acoustic, Electronic, folk-punk, Garage, Blues, Rock.
Now I’ve cleared THAT up. The unwieldy, wordy, by no means exhaustive, version changeable on a day, in a month or year, without notice is as follows.
Inspirations, influences or affinities…
Old blues of any kind. FEELING. The heart-rending, origins and authenticity of the blues and early artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Bessie Smith, Huddie Ledbetter, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Nina Simone, Son House, and so on. Any song with raw, emotional, impact and honest punch.
The 60’s, the 70’s. Swing, traditional jazz my dad’s collection from Art Blakey to early Elton John, Joe Cocker and ELO, the well-crafted tuneful songs of the Eagles, the gritty Animals, Credence Clearwater Revival, Cleo Laine, Crosby Stills Nash, Don McClean, Neil Diamond. To classical Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky etc. My sister’s record collection, Deep Purple, Cream, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills Nash and Captain Beefheart.
Generally, dirty guitar riffs, good hooks and catchy tunes with substance.
Earliest guitar riff memory, ‘Cocaine’ by JJ Cale.
The Cure – ‘Head on The Door’ delicately dark, beautifully evocative and playful. The bare, intensity of the Violent Femmes. The dispossession of grunge. Growing up with AC/DC, the garage rock, politics and frenetic energy of early Midnight Oil – Head Injuries to 10-1. The searing rage & skilful musicianship of Rage AgainstThe Machine. Nirvana. The Screaming Headless Torsos.
The Avant-garde of early INXS. The quirky individuality of Kate Bush, Bowie, Prince and Iggy. The rich perfection of Rachelle Ferrell’s vocal dexterity. Dave Grohl’s monster drumming. Carole King emoting the melody, Tapestry. Cat Steven’s soulful depth and observations, painting the story with sound, Tea for the Tillerman. Nick Drake’s River Man. Tim Buckley. The quirky, comedic funk of Eskimo Disco. Ry Cooder, Boards of Canada. The mad genius of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jeff Buckley’s bittersweet songs, Bjork’s fierce, immense, heart-full ones and production capturing the wild landscape of her homeland. Sound portraits. Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, Magical Mystery tour, Abbey Road, a vintage circus of sound.
Ida Kelarova’s heart-wrench, Janis Joplin’s gut wrench, the electrifying voodoo magic of Jimi Hendrix. Early blues infused Rolling Stones.
Sarah McLaughlin’s piano, pristine musicianship and songwriting. Grand Pianos, Hammond organs and vintage sound-gear. Jolie Holland. The Police. The musical brilliance of Sting’s Bring on the Night. The wild, experimental wall of sound that is the Dirty Three – Warren Ellis’s beard and leg kicking violin extravaganzas, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey’s 16 track demos, Is this Desire, Stories/City/Sea. Morphine – stripped, sexy, atmospheric. Lamb, Portishead, Massive Attack, Goldfrapp’s Felt Mountain beautifully crafted songs fusing classical, electronica, jazz and vintage fx. Joan as a Policewoman beautifully melodic and captivating, Joni Mitchell’s insight, observations & beauty of Blue. M Ward. C W Stoneking. Tom Waits. Old trad jazz and Miles Davis to New Orleans funereal, muted trumpets, brass, trombones. Upbeat party music to laments. Radiohead’s musical genius, textured, ethereal & haunting vocals and lyrics, Patti Smith’s poetic rock and fierce reverence of authenticity, creative expression and beauty, and her invocation to rise out of bland-dom to be all that it means to be alive..
Ben Harper’s rockin’ soulfulness …, Neil Young’s soundtrack to Dead Man. Amanda Fucking Palmer’s multi-faceted creativity, nerve and self-belief. The untamed, eclectic style of gipsy, Celtic, folk from the North to Eastern Europe, the Middle East to Spain. The sultry Kim Lone, the raw darkness of Diamanda Galas. The eclectic. Django Rheinhardt, French jazz & chanson. Fela Kuti. Seun Kuti, The silky, dulcet tones and word play of Jill Scott. The Once Upon a Time in the West soundtrack. Ennio Moriconne’s spaghetti western soundscapes. Tremolo, slide guitar.
World music. The Instanbul Oriental Orchestra, Tuareg desert blues, Geoffrey Oryema. Feist. Sia Suhler’s songwriting. Claire and The Reasons. Lamb. Blondie & Bat for Lashes – Glass-like lyrical, melodic. En Vogue’s sassy songs & harmony. 4-Hero’s electronica & strings. The phat blues funk of Z-Star. Zero 7’s crafted blend of acoustic, electric, electronic. Air. Doves, Turin Breaks, Gomez, Eels, Elbow. Eminem. Grooves & production on Hot in Here. Can’t Get You Out of My Head. Missy Elliot’s ‘Get your Freak on’ and ‘Les Djinns’ by Djuma Soundsystem. Dance music from 70’s soul Earth Wind and Fire and the Jacksons, to 90’s New York Garage and beyond. The hi-fi, the lo-fi, the ambient, Americana/ Australiana.
I don’t emulate but I’m fine if they move through me and I express elements.
What speaks to you, moves through you, devours or cracks you open?