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January 19, 2009

Art, The Frozen North And Gest Appearances...

...and no, that's not a typo!

This weekend saw us packing our thermal undies and heading off into the frozen wasteland commonly termed 'Up North'... Manchester ho!

Now, before anyone cries out 'Why? Why? For Christ's sake, why?'... a) we did have an ulterior motive, b) 9 times out of 10 a weekend in Manchester is good therapy for what ails us in The Big Smoke and c) people really are friendlier up there.

I am, of course, taking the piss slightly about The North. It gets a bad rap from 'us southerners'. It's nowhere near as 'grim up North' as they would have you believe...

...particularly when the hotel you're staying in gives you a free upgrade to a suite.

At this point I'll just throw the 'Gest appearance' section in. It turned out that David Gest (former wif... HUSBAND of Lisa Minelli) was staying a couple of doors down from us in the old wing of the hotel. We had the privilege of sharing the lift with him as he was making a transgalactic phone call on his 'cell'... on speaker-phone, of course... something about getting 'movie stars' in for a 'tribute to Jane Russell' show. He made a point to say hello to us a several times on the short trip to the lobby. Not at all sure what that was about but you can add Mr G to the ever growing list of C-listers who have crossed our path recently. All very strange. Next time we saw him he was signing an autograph for a couple at reception.

I'm sure he's a lovely man, but he was playing the 'loud, annoying American' card at a time when my hangover from the night before was still in the ascendency.

So, our ulterior motive?

Well, through random chance a piece o' art came to our attention a while back by the sculptress (is that a word... is it sexist? Who the crap cares, really!) Eve Shepherd.

“Eve Shepherd will be one of the greatest sculptresses of our time” Professor Anthony Stones former president of the Society of Portrait Sculptors. She is compared by some to the great Rodin.

Her work, be it a monument, portrait bust, or her gallery exhibited sculptures; all breathe with a powerful life and spirit, which has been known to affect on deeply emotional and physiological planes.


Anywho, pretentious waffle to one side, we'd seen a really cool piece of hers for sale at a gallery in Hebden Bridge, near Manchester. I'd never even heard of Hebden Bridge before, let alone considererd visiting a small village out in the stix, but it turned out to be a really cool little artsy community. No sign of werewolves or pubs that go silent when you walk through the door. We did not risk staying after dark, though. You simply never know, do you?

So, the thing is that we don't buy art as an investment but if there's something we see that we really like it's not unusual for us to try and find some way to procure it. This piece definitely caught our eye. Thank you to the 'Own Art' scheme by the Arts Council for making it possible. We will be forever in your debt (or at least in your debt for the 10 months of interest free credit you gave us). Fortunately, most of the stuff we own was relatively inexpensive at the time but has appreciated nicely. Must be doing something right, eh? Having said that, it only means anything if you decide to sell up, doesn't it?

I'm not going to dwell on some of the stuff that came up on Tim's radar that he wanted to get, keep for a year then flip, but that I rationalised him into not investing in. Damien Hirst, anyone?!

For the 2 hour trainride up to The Big M, I grabbed myself a copy of the latest "Total Guitar" magazine. Not a bad rag. I've read it before but I usually buy stuff like this based on content that I'm actually interested in. I actually chose this one primarily because it had articles as opposed to reams upon reams of guitar tab and adverts.

One of the gear reviews jumped out at me. Now, lately I've been considering my options for replacing my Marshall Valvestate VS100 combo. Whilst Mr I-Really-Want-To-Get-Something-Special has been rearing his ugly (expensive) head, Mr I-Should-Be-Practical has been providing balance. A while back, Mr Furtheron of the 'Guitars & Life' blog had suggested that I take a look at the Blackstar HT-5.



It's an all-valve 5W jobbie from some rather clever ex-Marshall engineers. It's cheap as chips (around £250-£300) but has been extremely well received by the guitar tech community. The TG mag had its own review and yep, they really rated it. Lately, despite having swapped out the pre-amp tube, my Marshall's not been behaving well. It keeps dropping out on the volume. Not fun. I think there's a short somewhere... could even be a health risk! Zzzzap!

Realistically, I'm not going to be gigging with my home amp if it's a gigantic piece of kit, so recording and practice are where it's at. For small gigs (like, I'm going to be playing a stadium!) the HT-5 could be amped through the PA, I guess. I'm a novice at that stuff, so don't laugh at my ignorance!

From the sounds of it, the little Blackstar might be the right tool for the job. Of course, a Mesa Boogie Lone Star Special would also work, but that little puppy is 6 times as expensive, at least.

Needs a test run, so I would need to find a local stockist.

Okay, so I don't think I had time to blog about Rockschool last week. Mostly we spent some time going through the course guides and talking about strategies for getting up to speed in time for the exams. We need to start learning the set pieces. I'm supposed to be having a crack at the Grade 5 piece, "All Funked Up" by Thursday. Having been away all weekend then busy tomorrow evening that doesn't leave much time to get it down.

And I'm also supposed to be thinking about new songs for the band. Hopefully we'll be back to rehearsals next weekend.

Finally, congrats to Mr Obama today. Here's hoping he does a better job than the last bloke. What was his name again???

10 comments:

Col said...

Nice. I've been to Hebden Bridge, but only on business. I did stay overnight in a quaint old pub though and got thoughouly pissed. The landlady was uttlerly charming. Re Blackstar. It sounds liek it's great, but if you simply want some sweet sounding 5w Class A action at home, buy an Epi Blues Junior. Awesome. When you start gigging, do as I did and step up to its big bruvver, the Blues Custom. Prices are increasing for these amps since I discovered them. You will have to pay at least £100 more for a Blues Custom now. They are now about £450!

Istvanski said...

I had the misfortune of going up to Brum last Friday and it is certainly grim oop norf. On leaving Brum city itself, it took me a whole hour to find a sign to London, driving around aimlessly until I gave up and followed signs to "Brum International Airport". Meh, Birmingham always gets me like that - easy to get into, tricky to come out from and that's why I hate it. Having a drink in one pub in Smethwick was bad enough, the locals were boasting of how they 'done over' the local hi-fi shop recently...
I had a Marshall Valvestate V100 head, Christ knows why I sold it, sounded great though. I think I'll plump for a JVH 4 channel job this time (or even a secondhand Mode 4) as I've yet to hear these new fangled Blackstar amps.
Good luck with the grade 5 stuff. That picture of Bush reminds me of a well known saying...what was it now?
Ah yes, "Nero fiddles while Rome burns".

Kenski said...

What is it with frikkin' prices going up, eh?

I was looking at the 'aspirational' side of amps I'd consider and they're all 10% more than they were a month ago. Grrrr...

Yep, looked at your Epi BJ and it's gone up, too. £75 was a damn fine price!

Need to shop around when I get the chance...

Furtheron said...

I had the privilege to test drive the PRS I bought last week through the HT-5 combo. Very very very impressive. I'm now trying to figure out the excuse for getting one :-)

Actually I nearly asked to play through the stack version - which really does look like a mini Marshall but decided not to as I think I might have had to buy it. If you can travel with the speakers I'd go for that - it'll look more the business on gigs and the extra speaker will just "fill it out" more. My main giggin rig is a small 80w PA that I run a POD through. That has two 1x12 speakers and that gives me plenty of punch and I've made it into a mini stack myself in the past....

Oh that's the answer - sell the PA and buy the stack.... No No - stop it...

Furtheron said...

Falling pound my friend that is reason for import gear rising in price.

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