Hey, we LOVE your music!

Never trust people who are too effusive about your talent. They’re probably preparing to shaft you. I’d hesitantly accepted a gig offer from a man I met in a bar while doing another gig  (that’s life at the top for you. ) He was “Something-To-Do-With-Art” – big on dramatic gestures and statements, small on details. Naturally he LOVED my music. I was to play for a soiree at the obscure art gallery where he reigned supreme as creator, director, coordinator and all round bigmouth.   Eccentric patrons are par for the course in Berlin, and it should have been good fun – but this guy gave me the creeps.

Relax!…. Before I could even open my guitar case, I was ordered to ‘RELAX!” In a room with no chairs, with him leering at me.  He meant “Start drinking”. I didn’t get drunk. Only bored. Fast forward 60 minutes – I just – as ever – want to play a good show. People are there. People are interested. But he was hellbent on wrong footing me…….

There was the drawn-out “testing, testing” soundcheck routine – in  a room not much bigger than my living room -which could have been done on arrival. (see  My Thoughts About Soundchecks)  Then, the interruption of the first set, mid-song, with a blast of Hawkwind.  Artistic statement? Next, the “veggie meal part of the deal” …. While the visitors were happily tucking into to generous portions of Chile con Carne, inconvenient non-meat eater here gets a last-minute unbuttered bread roll with soggy tomato slices.

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Guten Appetit

But head and shoulders over these minor woes…..NO!  NO! NO! You DON’T have to embrace the performer and give her a sloppy kiss at five minute intervals because people are clapping. Throughout the entire evening he was drunk, overly gushing, and all over me. As a feminist I wanted to kick him in the nuts. As a performer I wanted to do my job. Couldn’t find a way to do both. Cue BURNING SHAME AND INNER CONFLICT….a real fun night out.

Adding insult to injury… Later,  preparing my exit, I get hauled into a toe-curlingly embarrassing public debate about what I should be paid and whose pocket it should come out of. The resulting underpayment was buried so deep in bullshit that I only realised on the way home. But hey – we LOVE your music…..

PS: The whole sorry experience was worth it because it inspired me to write this song, which features the amazing Chris O, queen of the Australian blues scene, playing some devilishly good slide guitar.

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Testing testing one two one two..zzzz

I’ve always hated soundchecking after the audience has arrived. My first Real Band, The Accelerators, was always late for the soundcheck.  Not my decision…as I was probably the one who’d hustled for the gig and vainly promised the promoter we’d be there at five for a show at nine. But an unmanageable cocktail of unready band members, traffic jams, overlong service stops, frequent van breakdowns and anything else under the sun invariably put paid to that.

Do we look like the kind of people who arrive on time?

Do we look like the kind of people who arrive on time?

I got that we needed to test sound levels and see if everything worked, but part of me would rather have been boiled alive than stand there in front of PEOPLE  going “one two one two” and giving limp renditions – sometimes one instrument at a time – of parts of songs. Songs we might playing for real within ten minutes. Now, decades later, I see why it distressed me, hard-nosed little punkette though I was. I couldn’t have articulated it back then, but now I know:

Actors don’t go out on stage before the curtain rises to test their lines. Playing half-arsed snatches of songs at volume 11 to the audience-to-be just didn’t cut it for me.

The others, as befitted the mood of that era, honestly didn’t care if people were listening to the soundcheck or not. But at that tender point in my development, punk or no punk, a show meant A SHOW – i.e. the ultimate reason for practicing downstrokes and Chuck Berry riffs in our garage till my hands were dropping off, or minutely perfecting my panda make-up with eyes sore from hard contact lenses.  I wanted to confront the audience with a proper surprise attack, not give half my powers away before even starting.

I wanted to confront

I wanted to confront the audience

Today the still-dreaded late soundcheck sometimes doesn’t even take place. Or I get away with two chords and a quick “Guten Abend”  But if I do have to take it further, there’ll be no half-arsed spoilers from the set and definitely no one two one two.

Check out Kathy Freeman’s songs on BANDCAMP and check out everything else at the WEBSITE

Denmark Street, Corporate Barbarians, and Shiny Black Guitars

The accelerating destruction of one of my favourite parts of London is well documented elsewhere. I won’t even attempt the whole story, but here’s my synopsis: Denmark Street, a.k.a London’s Tin Pan Alley, and other parts of Soho, London are being “regenerated” (read: legally vandalised, offered to the highest bidder and/or destroyed ) and regurgitated as some brave new vision of fuck-knows-what. With profits going fuck-knows-where.

Me and Denmark Street, we go back a long way

I’m not about to go all sentimental here. Most of the guitars were overpriced and I never did meet any rock legends there. But Denmark Street was  simply a small yet important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I liked the vibes. It was always My World and nothing to do with boring day jobs, or family problems, or anything in my life that was giving me grief.  I could just mooch around at my own speed, checking out the goodies and occasionally buying more than strings and picks. Back in the seventies – then based in Liverpool – I’d gone down for a weekend and returned with a shiny black Ibanez acoustic with a Fender-style headstock from Andy’s. Purchased from Andy himself.  Super cool when everyone else in the Pool had hideous generic jumbos that looked like they’d been made from a front room sideboard.

In 2000,  I bought my lovely  SG -I Gibson in a shop that to date is Macari’s, but was then seemingly owned by Rokas, later known as Rockers. Let’s  hope it won’t shortly be owned by 02.

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An uncharacteristically good deal for a West End guitar!

A wake-up call I ignored

I haven’t lived in London for over 14 years and for most of them Denmark street and the surrounding area was my default place to revisit. In my head – and only in my head –  it was still the same street I’d hung out in for three decades on and off,  before moving to Berlin. The demolition of the nearby Astoria, where I’d seen a pre-mega Nirvana and danced to the Reverend Horton Heat was a wake-up call that I ignored. I didn’t like the ever-increasing number of hoardings around the Crossrail project at Tottenham Court Road every time I visited,  but tried not to think about it.

Then petitions were appearing on Facebook and I realised just how bad things really were in my old stomping ground.When public opinion and petitions were totally and cynically ignored, and the eviction order served on the  legendary 12 Bar Club, with neighbouring shops and businesses under a similar threat, I was moved to write this song:

(words and lyrics copyright Kathy Freeman 2015 )

to finish off….. a photo from a show I did at the 12 Bar.  By the way I’m playing my Other Lovely SG. It lives in London to save the hassle of transporting guitars on planes. But that’s another story….

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I never played at the 12 Bar when I lived in the UK, but had a great time playing there in 2013

Kathy Freeman Songs: BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

Eight Lanes of Incomprehensible Internet traffic

For updates on shows and projects: join the mailing list at my website   For songs: Bandcamp

From a Facebook mail I sent,  which somehow survived deletion (Hi there N S A!)

“Hey XXXXX – thanks for your Fandalism invite ….I have to admit to being somewhat burned out with online networking/sharing activities – just counted at least SEVEN sites where my online musician persona is partying, singing and dancing and promoting its little self 24/7. But maybe number eight is my magic number? Or just more hours with a hunched back….I really don’t know – what do you reckon?”

What you see on this blog is the tip of a technological iceberg. Steep, steep learning curves got me here and most other Net places.  As an “I- don’t-read- the- manual” diehard, I just try things out, lose drafts, misunderstand instructions and occasionally burst into tears. Eventually its all fine and dandy – apart from the feeling I just lost a few hours of my life.

When my first significant band, The Accelerators came together you couldn’t be in eight places at once.

In fact the process of  getting people to know who we were was pretty damn simple.

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Promoters
You phoned promoters. You generally found they weren’t there or were “in a meeting” but got some clues as to when they would be, noted time in diary and tried again. Ad infinitum

Journalists

See “promoters”

Fans

They came to your shows. If they liked you, they’d come again.

Promotion

Photocopied flyers and posters plus the odd Band Photo for sending to Journalists/Promoters I’d actually managed to contact

Early Accelerators Poster

Early Accelerators Poster

Networking

I didn’t “get” networking, beyond saying hello to people at Erics.  Playing shows was the be-all and end-all of my existence.

It wasn’t ideal, but now I miss that safe and guiding wall of limited options that could never have allowed me to go running haplessly into eight lanes of incomprehensible Internet traffic.

I was not being relentlessly urged to connect with more people than I could handle if I had several lifetimes to do it in.. I did simple stuff like visiting musician friends without even phoning first. To talk about all kinds of things in real time over a brew and a spliff.

Enough!! – I hear the warning siren of a nostalgia alert.

See you

PS Talking of incomprehensible Internet traffic…..between you and me, I don’t actually understand how I manage to do this blog. It’s all trial and error. And the FAQ section is not for the fainthearted.

But I’ll be back in a month.