Strawbs Live

Oliver Wakeman & Gordon Giltrap
Ravens & Lullabies UK tour Spring 2013


Time for my usual write up following a tour. This time it's the turn of the second leg of the Ravens & Lullabies tour with Gordon Giltrap.

The tour started 4 days before the album launch with a show in Chelmsford in |ate February. My Yes days keyboard tech Mike came along and we arrived in plenty of time and spent a bit of time trying to find the venue. Once we'd located the stage door and all the equipment was set up we went to find the dressing rooms to find Gordon and his wife Hilary. We then went through a couple of songs in the sound check to make sure we hadn't forgotten everything since our rehearsal a week earlier!

Mike & I then went off to the local pub for great meal and a good old reminisce. After feeling completely full up we headed back for the concert. Two hours later and a really good show now behind us, we did some CD signing and then we packed up the car and started the long drive back to my house. Poor Mike then had another hours drive after that!

One week later the show in Margate had arrived. The show was held in a beautiful theater and after struggling to work out where I was allowed to park, l loaded in with Mike who had come along to this show as well. Sucker for punishment!

The show was really enjoyable and we only had one minor technical problem when a keyboard pedal broke - but Mike, ever the pro, was on hand with a spare one. After that issue, everything else went without a problem. But then there was another 3 1/2 hour drive home which was a bit tiring. It's easy to forget when you're not involved with touring just how much travelling is required at times.

Another week later and we performed in a beautiful church in Farnham. The show was really well organised and special thanks to Julian the promoter who went out of his way to make us feel comfortable. I do remember that Gordon wasn't feeling very well but we still played a very enjoyable show. But to try and dampen our spirits the weather decided to pelt it down with rain as we loaded up the cars at the end of the night. It didn't work!

Mike had driven to this show to help out again and when the cars were all sorted we headed off to Beaconsfield services for a much needed cup of coffee and late night snack to help with the rest of the journey.

The following week Gordon and I were due to head up to Cumbria for a couple of shows for our friend Peter Sorton who organised 3 lovely shows for us last year. However on the morning of the concert, as I was doing the school run with my son Arthur, I received an urgent message from Peter informing me that the motorways were closed due to very heavy snow and that the shows would have to be postponed. This was a real shame as I had a great time last time we performed there. We are hoping to have new dates for these shows very soon.

After a couple of weeks gap, Gordon and I made a return visit to our rehearsal venue, St Michael's Church in Bishops Itchington for a full show at the invite of Martin Green the vicar. I knew that Paul Manzi's mum lived quite close and asked if he fancied coming up to sing a few songs at the show which he was happy to do.

Paul, in case you aren't aware of him, is the singer on the new album and has worked with me for many years.

We arrived, setup the equipment and had a quick hours rehearsal of the songs we were going to perform that evening. Then we had a long interview with Stephen Lambe from the Classic Rock Society about the new album which was good fun and we could've chatted for hours I think had we not a show to do!

It's also worth mentioning that this was the first time Gordon and Paul had met.

Anyway, the show went very well and Paul joined us in the first half for a version of my song 'Picture of a Lady' from the 'Hound of the Baskervilles' album, he also joined us in the second set for 'Maybe Tomorrow' from the new Ravens & Lullabies album. We then decided to perform 'Ravens Will Fly Away', also from the new album, for the encore. This was the first time these Ravens songs had been performed live and the response was really lovely. A nice after show meal provided by Martin's wife Louise for Mike, Paul and I was gratefully received and then I had the luxury of a relatively short drive home and was in bed not too late for once.

A quick bit of reloading the car to change a keyboard round (Triton for the M3 for the technical types amongst you) the following morning took place. This was in preparation for our Channel Islands section of the tour.

Sunday afternoon involved another long drive to stay with Gordon's friend, the artist Sue Martin. This was a great help as our ferry was due to leave at 9am and it would have been a ridiculously early morning start from my home otherwise. We arrived in plenty of time for the ferry and once on board with the cars and music equipment safely stowed, Gordon and I made our way to the restaurant area. I decided to have a plain bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee. Gordon on the other hand decided to go for the full double English breakfast. In retrospect, I'm sure he'll agree that it wasn't one of his finest decisions in life and I saw him again about 2 hours later looking very unwell indeed. I will elaborate no further but leave it to your imagination...

After a very long 7 hour ferry ride, we arrived in Guemsey and were met at the Port by a lady called Kirstin who was to be our contact on the islands for the duration of the tour. She did a great job in looking alter us and ensuring that we ended up at the right places at the right time.

Firstly we went to have a look at the venue and I was delighted to find a lovely Steinway grand piano in the comer. I asked tentatively as to whether I could use it, fully expecting a negative, and I was pleasantly surprised to get a resounding 'yes'. It was a beautiful piano and after a quick play, we loaded in the gear. Gordon and I were then checked into our hotel and after a quick hour to get settled in we met up for a nice meal at the restaurant. Then early nights were had to prepare for the following days show.

We met up with Kirstin the following morning to go to BBC radio Guernsey for an hour long interview with Jenny. lt was great to talk to an interviewer who knew her stuff and a lot about the genre of music that we are involved in. We could have carried on for far more that the hour we were allotted as we were having too much fun. After lunch and sound check, we started to prepare ourselves for the evenings performance. This involved Gordon searching for a new pair of shoes which he eventually found. Rock and Roll at it's wildest...

During the sound check I filmed my fingers playing a couple of pieces which you can see on my YouTube Channel. I found it really interesting as I never see my fingers from that angle!. We had a fantastic show to well over 200 people in St James Hall and an awful lot of people bought copies of the album which was very rewarding but we found ourselves very low on stock for our next three shows and so an urgent call to Vicky at the record company to ship some more over was made...

The following morning we met up with Kirstin to organise our ferry trip to the Island of Sark. After a one hour ferry ride we arrived 'back in time' at this amazing place. No cars, a few tractors, lots of bicycles and a taxi rank of horses!

We had a wonderful walk through the center of town as wade our way up to the Village hall which was to be our concert venue for the evening. A quick set up and some lunch and we were introduced to our hosts Peter and Rosie (a wonderful local artist). Peter very kindly lent me his bike to have a cycle round the island and I headed down to a landmark 'La Coupe' which is a natural land bridge separating the main island from 'Little Sark'. A few photos later and after dropping my camera phone, I headed back to Peter and Rosie's for a meal before we made our way to the venue for the concert.

The stage was set up for the children's upcoming play and so we played in front of a wooden Castle mock up with small arch way which looked great until 10 minutes before the show I smacked my head on a jutting piece of wood. A cold compress for 10 minutes and then it was onto the stage for the show. In the break I had another ice pack to bring the swelling down and after feeling my eye pop as something moved back into place I went back on stage for the second half.

After the show we saw lots of lovely people and then had a walk home in the pitch dark. No street lighting on Sark - just the stars!

The following morning it was up early for the cargo ferry trip so we could get to the airport on Guernsey in time for our flight to Alderney, the destination of our next show. The journey was very rough and I'm sure everyone was pleased when we finally arrived on dry land. There was one particularly dodgy moment when we seemed to just drop and a kettle of boiling water went flying, luckily missing everyone. Kirstin was waiting for us at Guernsey and organised our travel to the airport. Our Van driver regaled us all with stories or the island and his family's history in the US during our journey and then it was check in time at the airport.

Now here is where I got annoyed with myself. When l consider how many flights I've taken in my life during my touring experiences, I am still amazed (and angry at myself) that I forgot to remove all the water bottles and sprays from my bag and promptly watched the security lady remove them and throw them all away. My own fault and I'll try not to forget again.

After a fun landing, coming in sideways to account for the cross winds, we were met by Ralph and Bill who were looking after us for our stay. We made our way to the venue which was a beautiful church (dubbed the Cathedral of the Channel Islands) fitted out with a great sound system. Following unloading and a lovely lunch, Ralph very kindly took us on a tour of the Island to show us the forts and explain a lot of the history about Alderney and its role as a German occupied labour camp during WW2. Very interesting and chilling at the same time. It's very strange to walk around a beautiful island in the sunshine and see an aggressive and scary machine gun turret looking completely out of place...

We headed back to the venue and spent some time working with David, our sound man for the evening, sound checking. Following a quick trip back to Bills for a change of clothes we headed back to the Church for the evenings show. It was another great experience and a very enthusiastic crowd were happy to chat to us afterwards. One other thing was that we'd now sold out of CD's and so I was hoping that our consignment of CD's would be awaiting us in Jersey when we arrived there the next day...

The next morning, following a great breakfast, we headed back to the airport for the short 20 minute flight back to Guernsey and the connecting flight to Jersey. Remembering to pack all bottles and sprays this time! Upon arriving in Jersey we were met at the airport by a very helpful cab driver who helped load the gear into his van and after unloading at the venue we headed down to the docks to pick up our cars which had been transported from Guernsey the day before.

After a while searching for the hotel car park we unloaded our luggage and Gordon and I headed back to the airport to pick up a music stand we'd left behind. Upon returning I then went for a wander for a look round the town and made my way to the venue to see if the discs had arrived - still no sign. After a few frantic phone calls it turned out that the courier had not shipped them in time and so they wouldn't be there for the show - a nightmare. We decided to explain this to the audience during the show and said that we would post copies out to people if they wanted a copy and wanted to pay on the night and (to our amazement and delight) a fair few decided to take us up on the offer. Hopefully by now everyone will have received their copies.

Following an after show spent chatting to lots of people we made our way back to the hotel via the chip shop. The following morning after breakfast we were back at the docks to get the ferry. The fast one this time thank goodness. A one hour crossing to Guernsey and then 3 hours later we were arriving in Poole and starting the drive home. Arriving back home was a lovely feeling and seeing how happy my family were to see me was nice.

I then had a few days before I headed to a church in Lowdham for our next show. A wonderful location and the spread of food they had put together for us was great and much appreciated. We had a lovely show and then I had a three hour drive home. It should have been two but the motorway had been closed and so a big annoying diversion was put in place with the first sign which should show the way was missing... After 4 circular motions around the roundabout I took a guess at the junction to leave by and a mile up the road was rewarded for my intuition with a sign telling me I was on the right route. Maybe the workmen were just trying to spice up the frustration of the road being closed by turning it into a guessing game to help weary travellers.

After breakfast with the family the following morning I began the drive to the next show which was in my old stomping ground of North Devon. I was particularly looking forward to this one as my Mum lives 5 miles from Torrington where we were playing. Strangely enough, I performed as a member of countless bands when I lived in North Devon and the Plough was almost the only venue l'd never played. We had a great time and the performance we put on was one of our best. It was great to see my my and her husband John as well as catching up with some old friends. After some sleep I spent the morning with my mum before heading back home and another busy week in my studio.

We only have one more show on this leg of the tour which is in Derby on the 25th May and then we are back on tour in October and November where well no doubt insert a few new pieces into the set. There will be a very special concert on the 5th October when the full band will perform the album in its entirety as the headline artists at the Summer's End festival.

Before then we have our BBC Bob Harris session to look forward to in June and I have a performance with my Dad, brother and sister which will be great fun I'm sure.

In the meantime the album continues to be extremely well received and thanks to everyone who has bought the album or has come to see us at a show. Your support really is greatly appreciated!

Oliver Wakeman
May 2013