Saturday, November 08, 2008 

Nelsonica 08 weekend, a tale of experimental time traveller's balls, gentlemen rocketeers and alternate timelines.

My 'Nelsonica' weekend, my trip down memory lane, my foray into Bill Nelson's musical multiverse almost didn't happen this year. Irrevocable life changes made me reassess my priorities, and quite frankly this year's Nelsonica wasn't really on my 'A list' of things to do, but I suddenly realised that JJ without some 'fun' in his life wasn't having a life at all. So that was that, as the bard would say. It was arranged. Well, sort of.

My first Nelsonica's; 03,(the one I'm probably most nostalgic about, because it was the first time I'd seen Bill Nelson Live in any form, or actually met real fellow Nelsonians) 04, and 05 were at 'the Duke', home ground for me, being only a few miles up the road from my garret in Hull. Mind you I could write a novella on the transport problems I still had getting home and to the event. It's a bugger when you don't have a 'ride'.

Anyway, this year's event 'The Experimental Time Traveller's Ball' was in York, as 06, and 07 had been. I can remember not being very happy about Bill moving the event to York, but with hindsight it made it a bit of a mini adventure, finding a place to stay, travel, that sort of thing.

In 06, and 07 I used the York Backpackers Hostel as my base of operations. I think it's quite amusing that an image of the hostel I took, and published on flickr was chosen to publicise the hostel on an online guide in February this year, especially as the place has shut down for major renovation since January. It was still heavily shrouded in scaffolding as I discovered in a saunter down Micklegate during my Nelsonic weekend.

Anyway, I'd grown tired of the place, cheap though it was, the thought of sharing a mixed dorm with 15 other individuals, snoring, farting etc had lost it's charm. I found myself a lovely B'n B. The Friars Rest was a joy, my own ensuite room, privacy, digital tv and all for £55 a night, fantastic and there's something very life affirming about a proper, full English breakfast in the morning. I think if I can, I'll be back next year. I hate overpriced, corporate hotels that are so impersonal. The friendly, homely ambience of a well run B'n B is the way to do it.

The weather in York, Friday and Saturday was really good. Bright sunshine, and if you got out of the wind, quite warm for the time of year, as I remember relating to my mum via my mobile phone as I sat sipping a pint of 'Best' (£1,50) outside the 'Kings Arms' on the Ouse, and almost within the shadow of the Park Inn, venue for this years Nelsonica. I was enjoying myself and the real fun hadn't even started.

About an hour previous I'd been tucking into the tastiest 'mucky haddock and chips' I'd had for several weeks, near 'The Shambles' when I bumped into Shaun and Julie, a lovely Welsh couple I'd last spoken to at N07. I make no apologies for the fact that my most memorable recollections of N08 are the human interactions, the 'shits and giggles' as a crazy acquaintance of mine once ascribed.

One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting up with Mark Henson (Mr Ilektric) and Jim McFarlane (Ruud Punter). It was 2 years since I'd last met 'em and had a few beers. Always good company, down to earth and in the case of Mark there's always a cd of his latest musical project. What more could I ask for? Incidently, many thanks to Mark for getting me a ticket to the Halloween gig at York's City Screen to see Honeytone Cody. Now that was a memorable show!!

Honeytone Cody, Halloween gig;

What can I say really, it was bloody good and I'm not just referring to HTC. The venue was incredibly small. 'Intimate' doesn't go half way to describe it, but it works, even down to being stamped on the back of ya hand. Can't remember a 'local gig' where I had so much fun. The two supports, I'll have to put names up when I edit this were excellent, at least as good as the Cody's live, but very different. You had to be there to enjoy it and if you weren't did you miss a good 'un.

Highlights for me were Elle Nelson, extraordinary vocals, Elliot Nelson's guitar and his own pre and apre gig personality. Both myself and Jimbo had a good chinwag with Elliot, dressed as a 'Droog' from Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange'. He struck me as being extremely normal, down to earth and undernourished. Emi, Bill you need to invite him over for Sunday lunch more often, feed the lad up.

The venue was full of lucky Nelsonians if I recall, making the most of the weekend. I was fortunate enough to speak to many of them, everyone was up for a chinwag and it was good to put a face and a voice to people on the Dreamsville Forum and the Electric Phoenix.

The main event; The Experimental Time Traveller's Ball;

I almost didn't think I'd make this, after nearly forgetting directions to my B'n B, but I found it, had a good nights sleep and after a hearty breakfast I was ready for the fun. On my way to N08 I stocked up on field rations in Budgens. It was going to be an arduous day ahead and I wanted to keep my strength up.

The entrance to the rip in the space - time continuum that led to the Nelsonic alternative universe / timeline was packed out. It took me a full 20 minutes to pass through it's event horizon. On the other side I quickly joined the long queue to purchase my Nelsonic merchandise and thus equip myself for the unfamiliar environmental conditions.

The event proper began with an audio - visual presentation '
The departure of the 20th century in a hail of memory". It had an impact visually, but the motifs, both musical and visual, began to repeat themselves. There was familiar use of samples and footage from old sci-fi movies as well as late forties British 'feel good' movies. It was enjoyable, but went on a bit.

After a short Q&A session with Bill (his entrance was greeted with much applause) there was the 'world premiere' of the 'American Stamps' documentary, for which Bill had been commissioned to write the soundtrack. It was clear from the response to this, that there were few American stamp collectors in the audience.

I took the opportunity of a lull in the proceedings, to find myself a seat next to my Electric Phoenix colleague 'HappyTronics' and a certain Mr Mayall. There was much chatting and a quothing of ale, eating of field rations which segued nicely into Bill's first live performance. A solo set comprising;
Blue Amorini : Beyond These Clouds The Sweetest Dream : If I Were The Pilot Of Your Perfect Cloud : Golden Dream Of Circus Horses : The Raindrop Collector : Night Song Of The Last Tram : The Girl On The Fairground Waltzer : Only A Dream But Nevertheless : Beatniks From Outer Space : A Dream For Ian : For Stuart.

I enjoyed the set, highlights for me being 'The Raindrop Collector', and the wonderful 'The Girl On The Fairground Waltzer' which literally brought a tear to my eyes. Fantastic stuff. It was clear, towards the end of the set that Bill was experiencing technical difficulties. That spoilt for me, the start of 'For Stuart'.

At the end of the set, Dave Sturt and Theo Travis appeared, to form 'Orchestra Futura'. They performed an improvised ambient piece, that though not really to my taste was okay, but a bit long. They seemed to gel as a trio, certainly better than when they played at N06. I was particularly impressed with Dave Sturt's bass playing. Unfortunately, the gremlins seemed to be having their way with Bill's equipment.

There was an intermission, during which I grabbed a bite to eat and got myself a pint from the bar and had a chinwag with other Nelsonsians. The queue at the bar was long (more bar staff please).

Bill entered the stage with the 'Gentlemen Rocketeers' comprising;

Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals : Dave Sturt
Drums : Dave Cook
Flute, Sax : Theo Travis
Keyboards : Jon Wallinger
Piano/Keyboards : Steve Cook
Rythym Guitar : Dave Standeven
Guitar/Vocals : Bill Nelson

Needless to say, this was to VERY loud applause. Something told me this was the real reason the event was packed out. Considering the limited practice time everyone did a bang up job. I was particularly impressed with both Dave Sturt and Theo Travis. The set list was ;
October Man : Night Creatures : God Man Slain : Do you Dream in Colour : Lovers are Mortal : Furniture Music : Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape : Big Yellow Moon : Contemplation : Ships in the Night : Panic in the World : Sleepwalk (encore).

The band gave a much appreciated performance if the volume of the applause was anything to go by. I know I thoroughly enjoyed 'Night Creatures' and 'Lovers are Mortal' sentimental old fool that I am. The gremlins struck again, Bill was having problems with his guitar lead, there were a couple of false starts. But you know, it didn't really matter. They just gave Bill the opportunity to do a bit of 'standup'. It was good to see Bill in fine form, confident and good humoured.

Theo Travis stood out in the band set. I was rather pleased he shared lead with Bill, during 'Adventures In a Yorkshire Landscape). It was good to hear a slightly different interpretation, which freshened up this classic tune nicely.

Shortly afterwards, the meet and greet began, tickets 1 - 100. My ticket was number 204. I wasn't going to wait around to see Bill. I did that in 2003 and that was good enough for. Besides, I was feeling rather fatigued and I knew I'd be heading back to my B'nB soon. I 'chilled', spoke to a few Nelsonians while various videos were projected (I particularly enjoyed the OGWT tapes of Be Bop Deluxe and Red Noise, IF ONLY they could be released on DVD). I left shortly after 'Eddie's Raffle'. I was tired and needed some sleep.

I enjoyed this year's convention. It wasn't the best one I've experienced, but nonetheless it was well worth attending for Bill's brand of nostalgia, and that's Bill's latest music which has his own unique 'Retro Futuristic' feel.There's no one else who has a knack of producing this kind of stuff, even though it can be a little difficult to get your noodle around.

I have many fond memories of N08. But it's the people I met (too many to name check) who made the event special for me. I could go on, speculate about next year's venue, does Bill need to rethink the whole Nelsonica concept? Without the fans, fellow Nelsonians, there wouldn't be a Nelsonica in my mind. I'm looking forwards to seeing what happens next year. This year's Nelsonica both tired me out, and energised me and boy did I need it after the rubbish I've experienced this year.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008 

Some local colour in York

Tuesday, November 04, 2008 

York Boer War memorial in HDR

It's my 3rd visit to York in successive years and I can't believe I've only just spotted this huge monument to York's fallen in the Boer War. It's in a tree covered garden, in the shadow of York Minster and is architecturally a world away from most of the much simpler memorials you see commemorating the dead of the 'Great War' onwards, in towns and cities of the UK.

The lighting was way too contrasty to capture using a single exposure, so I manipulated the RAW file, created 4 files with differing exposures and combined them using an HDR program. The resultant image is a little surreal, but you get to see the detail that you can't capture any other way.

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  • I'm JJ
  • From Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • I still haven't got the hang of Thursdays, nevermind life in general. Perhaps I should get out more?
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* The title of this blog inspired by a piece of music written by fellow Yorkshireman, and favourite musician / composer / guitarist, Bill Nelson.