The Big Brando Summer Extravaganza

The big Brando summer was the best time of my life. Back from the Ventura and ready to go it was nice to play with them again. I like playing with different bands as you get to taste different interpretations of songs and it can get ideas flowing.

I even gained inspiration to write my first ever pop song. This in turn has inspired me to write a whole album to help me fill time when we go back to Disney.

What did we have in store? Well it was the usual mix of pubs, clubs weddings and all that but this summer was going to be special. Since releasing the album last year the band has settled on a more permanent line up.

We now have a proper horn section and I even managed to get hold of a new keyboard for myself, a Nord Electro 3 which was all very exciting. I’ll talk about that in another blog.

Having this more permanent line up meant that we could all develop and grow as a band, we were already playing great music and sounding brilliant but tightening up the band made all the difference. We blew away every crowd we played to.

Where did we go? The answer is everywhere. Well in the UK anyway. Many weekends we were travelling all over the place playing three or four gigs, getting knackered, partying hard, getting on with it and having a great time.

        Here, There and Everywhere

So after gigs in Trafalgar Square, Haselmere, Midhurst, Fulham, Guildford etc etc we were ready for some of the biggest ones of the year. All of the gigs we have played this summer were memorable for one reason or the other.

Our night at Jo Clark’s in Guildford was great as the Olympic torch passed through the town that day and really helped to create that excitement for the Olympic Games and that came across when we played.

The people of Guildford were getting excited for the summer of sport. We got the chance to play at the Weymouth Bayside Festival as part of the Olympic entertainment. It was a great day, we headlined the acoustic stage playing some of our tracks from the album “The Masterplan”.

What was even better was that we were sharing our green room with the one and only Chesney Hawkes who was headlining the mainstage. We got to share a beer with him at the after party.

What a genuinely nice guy and a great musician. We got to see the last part of his set from the side of the stage and we partied hard into the night.

Everything continued to get better as we were heading into Cowes week. Probably the most fun week of the year. We had the full band down on the Thursday night, even Wayne was over from Cyprus to play Keyboard, it really was the dream team back together again.

This time we also had the four piece horn section squeezed in and we even had a guest appearance from Griff on harmonica.

        Hired Out

Whilst on the island I managed to sneak off one night and go and play with another band although the Brando boys made me wear a Brando T-Shirt as punishment.

The Fandango’s, I’d never played with them before, never heard their stuff, which included lots of originals but did it anyway. Hill billy barn dancing nonsense with a pick up  full of fun is the best way of describing them.

Brilliant stuff, they covered songs in new ways and made the whole night a complete laugh. They even covered for me when Kev, the front man (and incidentally bass player for Super Fi) shouted out the next song “Tequila”.

It started and I came in with that classic Tequila riff on trumpet only to be looked at in horror as Kev said “not that Tequila….OUR Tequila!” it was a completely different tune.

However, the guys picked up on it straight away and the crowd didn’t know. They even apologised afterwards for not telling me properly. Great guys, great band.

        Lovely Barmaids

Later in the week we had a night off from our residency at the Duke of York pub in Cowes so we went to sample the many bands on the island. There are too many to mention but they all sounded superb, it seems the Isle of Wight is a hot bed of musical talent in the UK.

Having brought the house down in Cowes I suddenly realised that our epic Brando summer of fun was drawing to a close.

Yes we had a few more gigs, a great one at the Drussilla Inn at the New Forest playing alongside our trombone players other band The Watling Street Band (highly recommended) was particularly memorable.

It was great turning up there and finding that it was the end of a festival and loads of old steam engines were on display there and a huge crowd of people were around.

One of the supporting bands even managed to get so drunk they all passed out. The land lord soon put them to work in the morning washing dishes as punishment for their misdemeanour’s the previous evening.

It was all good fun and I can’t hope to express exactly how many laughs and funny moments happened over this summer.

       It Oughta’ Be Illegal

We found a new favourite song. Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb singing “Guilty” has stayed with us this summer, perhaps it sums up how much fun we’ve had.

Our gig in Inverness was absolutely amazing, we had the best client that weekend.

He flew us up there with all our gear and then put us up in a beautiful cottage on the river Spey just so we could play to a small group of about 30 friends.

Admittedly they were party maniacs but it was such a wonderful weekend. Great food, great people and even an after party at a 17th century manor house playing snooker in the “billiards” room.

That game went a bit awry eventually but we had even more excitement when we entered the grandest room in the house.

Possibly the drawing room, who knows?! It was stacked with books from the floor to the ceiling which was at least 20 feet high. On one shelf of the bookcase, the entire length of the room were at least fifty different types of whiskey.

The butler, yes there was a butler, told us to help ourselves which we duly did. I never knew there were so many different flavours to whiskey.

Some were quite peaty and earthy whereas others were sharper and others even slightly fruity and mild. Not being an expert on these things i’m not sure it’s good for me to explain them but I think you get the idea.

        Yah!

Eventually it was time to leave this wonderful manor house and go back to the cottage. Our host said “don’t worry, the butler will drive you home”. We had no idea where we were so it was a more than welcome lift, it was pretty cold too.

Our butler went and got the land rover, parked it outside the front porch, opened the doors for us and we piled into it. He got in the car, drove all of ten metres and said “here you are gentlemen, you’re home”. We were staying next door and we hadn’t even realised.

What a true gent our butler was. We could barely stand from laughing so much although that paled in comparison to the laughing that ensued after my trumpet had got stuck in the luggage conveyor belt back at Gatwick. This poor instrument had had a sorry weekend.

        Insurance

Dropped by everyone at every opportunity all by mistake. When we had arrived at Inverness it was the first thing to come onto the luggage conveyor and as it went round the first corner £3000 worth of trumpet fell off and onto the floor.

Not to mention at least another two occasions where Ron our driver managed to drop it whilst opening the boot of the car. All this was extremely funny to the rest of the band. By the end of the weekend I couldn’t help but laugh. It had got ridiculous.

So after too many gigs to mention individually we reached the end of the Brando summer with a nice little gig in Newport on the Isle of Wight, a home gig for us if you will. Another classic night of laughs and a sort of goodbye evening for me.

        Up The Legacy

All was not done however, I still had one more gig to do. It was with another band I play with, Legacy, they’d been quiet over the summer but ironically had been busy whilst I was away.

This last gig at a pub in Richmond was celebrating our sax player, Irv’s, 30th birthday. Excellent, needless to say much of the night is a bit of a blur. It was nice to see the guys after so long and was a fitting way to finish my gigging in the UK for the year.

        Packing Hell

After rehearsals with Super Fi interspersed between various gigs with Brando and Legacy it’s now nearly time to leave the UK again for the USA and the Disney Wonder. I’m excited about visiting many new places this contract.

Hawaii, Panama and the Caribbean to name but a few. It’s also sad as we’ll be away from family for Christmas but I’m sure the powers that be will look after us on board. Once this contract is done 2013 promises to be really exciting with Brando and others and the future is looking good. In the meantime the Disney Wonder beckons, now, where’s my passport?…

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