Audioboo from Greenbelt

Have finally started getting some AudioBoo stuff recorded at Greenbelt. (the embeds are looking a bit weird at the moment, but you can still play them by clicking the bit of the play button you can see at the far left hand side… will fix it ASAP)

First up, a few of the Greenbelt tweeters answering the question ‘what’s so amazing about Greenbelt?’


Then this morning, I had a chat with Jenny Brown, AKA @jennybee about social media and the online part of Greenbelt:


Last night I saw one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen at Greenbelt, by Calamateur (@calamateur on twitter), AKA Andrew Howie. So this morning I had a chat with him about it:


and finally, we tried a little creative experiment this morning, ‘One Word Greenbelt‘:


Gene Robinson at Greenbelt – live blog

I’m going to be live blogging Gene Robinson‘s interview at Greenbelt, which starts in a few minutes. (Live blogging a sermon is an odd experience, given the kind of language that’s used, but Gene’s a pretty unique dude, and a pivotal figure in so much of the dialogue around gay rights as well as more specifically he dialogue between the church and the gay community)

[1.29] Gene is Bishop of New Hampshire, and I’ve really enjoyed all the writing of his that I’ve read. I’m really pleased he’s here at the festival.

Intro by Martin Wroe: there’ll be loads of time for questions at the end. “Rumour has it that bits of the church are upset that a Bishop can be called Gene – some people don’t think Bishops should have girl’s names” (laughter, followed by massive applause for Gene.)

[1:32] Gene starts by praying – standard form for a Bishop 😉

“I’d rather you thought of this as a conversation, what I’m going to say is my own experience. Your’s will be different, and your own. All we have is our own story. We get in trouble when we tell people what their story should be.”

Gene’s Story – how to stay calm in the eye of the storm. The storm in question is when Gene was put forward for ordination, and a load of lies were written about him being involved in porn etc.

[1:39] Anyone attempting to live the Christian life, will get in trouble. The boxes we try to put God in are always too small. If you preach that, you’ll be in trouble.

The beatitudes are radical – all the blessed conditions in the Beatitudes – mourning, hunger, persecution – are things we really don’t want. Why are they blessed? because it’s when we’re stressed and troubled, we know our need of God. We lose our false sense of total control.

[1:43] For Jesus, that mistaken behaviour involved Justice. Good news for the poor, sight to the blind, Jubilee. In the same sermon, he says that God’s love is bigger than just for the people of Israel, he got in trouble – God was too loving, too compassionate, to merciful.

[1:46] Gene starts to describe growing up gay in conservative Kentucky. Homosexual was a word that was only whispered. No Will & Grace, no Ellen, no positive role models, definitely no-one who was Christian and gay. You were totally on your own. There was no way of talking to your parents about it – 2/3rds of the homeless kids in LA are there because they’ve been thrown out for being gay or lesbian.

Gene went through therapy (the ‘ex-gay’ movement), and even got married… stayed married for 13 years, then went back to church to end it, with a eucharist service, asked each other for forgiveness. They returned their wedding rings. A wonderful and healing experience.

If God intends anything for us it’s to live with integrity – for our inside to agree with our outside. If there’s a disconnect, we do God a disservice.

[1:52] It took Gene ages to discover that God’s love could include him, a gay man. God called him to be whole, to come out, to be whole. He ‘knew’ that in 1986 his ordained life in the church was over… until the late 90s, he felt called to put his name forward to become a bishop. He knew it would be difficult… just not this difficult (laughter). Had no idea it would last this long.

He was phoned up by arch-bishops telling him not to do this, but instead waited for God to tell him. He just walked forward, trusting God to lead.

“God calls us on a journey and we don’t have the luxury of seeing the other side (x-ref Moses and the parting of the red sea) – we need to trust”.

The call to become bishop was followed by death threats, which continue to today. When you see the note that has a picture of you and your partner, and they’re covered in letters cut out that spells out ‘I have a bullet for each of your heads when you least expect it” – at his consecration, he and his partner had to wear bullet-proof vests. It scared the crap out of his daughters. He had to tell them that not living your life was a worse thing than death. He didn’t want to die, but if it happened, he would be fine.

“when people ask if I regret what’s happening, I have to say no, not at all. Because when God feels that palpably close, how could you regret that? Learning to count on God was a good thing not bad.

When evil comes your way it’s so tempting to return evil for evil, that the only way to deal with that is to be silent. Rather than resort to that. The Psalms have a lot of this…

[1:10] “my spiritual director told me I talk to much in my prayers. Also made me aware of the possibility of impersonating God’s voice, to get the answers I want. I was encouraged to do nothing, but just imagine being a child of God, being loved, and feeling that love as warmth. Just allow yourself to be loved, let God do what God does best”.

God want to love. all of us. And wants us to love the rest of us. We live our lives with a line drawn around us, separating us from them. What God wants for us is to draw the line ever-further away, until there is no ‘them’ only us. The christian life calls us to treat our enemies like that. to never allow ourselves to treat them as a child of God, no matter how much I disagree with them.

“Our job is to be continually be reaching out to those who’ve been marginalised, disrespected, abused, disregarded, vilified. God is not there to make it easy, but will be with you. There’s no greater reward than that” (massive applause).


[Steve’s note] – Gene talks the language of a bishop, but he brings a message that has its roots as much in the experience and history of Ghandi, MLK, Wilberforce etc… The call within the God-stuff for respect to be extended to those we hate, for dialogue to continue, for acceptance, respect, grace, is SO vital, so important, for all of us, believers, or not, sceptics, doubters, atheists… He’s a pretty radical voice, but one with a soft tone, and an amazing gentle soul. It’s been a privilege to listen to him.

What’s So Amazing About Greenbelt?

This year is my 17th Greenbelt. At 4 days a year, that’s over 2 months of my life spent either in a field – or on Cheltenham Racecourse – listening to music (and most years playing it to), listening to talks, seminars and debates, hanging out with friends – and meeting loads of new ones – and failing to sleep uncomfortably in a tent.

As a 17 year old the importance of my first Greenbelt was almost entirely cultural – I saw 60 bands in 4 days in my first year here. The cultural importance was merely that they weren’t all shit, and some were even rather good. One or two were bands that my friends at school would’ve heard of. As a kid growing up with a huge social and cultural gulf between his school-life and his church-life in the late 80s, that was significant. It was the kind of place that I could’ve brought my friends, and not cringed at the supreme bogusness of everything that went on. It was also the kind of place where ‘bringing your friends’ wasn’t the aim. There was no clandestine intention to it, no need to proselytize, just ‘be’.

Over the next 10 years (’90-2000), Greenbelt, despite being one weekend a year, helped shape, inform and challenge my nascent political and spiritual development and exploration. The Evangelicalism of my youth was pulled apart and reconstructed without the mind-numbing anti-intellectualism and adolescent treatment of doubt and conformity. My innate discomfort with all kinds of fundamentalism – religious, anti-religious or that most vociferous of English fundamentalisms; football – was given a voice, a cogent argument and the reminder that the hatred of fundamentalists is its own kind of pernicious fundie-ism.

Everything was up for debate, but nothing was thrown away just because it wasn’t cool, or didn’t fit the latest intellectual fad. The debate was grown-up, the conclusions were almost always qualified with the terms of the ongoing debate, the route into a personal journey that could end anywhere, and the success or failure of that journey wasn’t defined by the desired outcome of any other ideological group.

The seminars I went to and the books I bought at Greenbelt were utterly pivotal to me ending up where I am now…

Where am I? That’s not really any of your business 😉 – it’s certainly not pivotal to whether or not Greenbelt’s role in my life has been overwhelmingly good. It has. And it has been in the lives of people whose conclusions about the questions they were encouraged to explore were completely different to mine.

It continues to occupy a place in my life that causes me to think, question, challenge and to lean ever more heavily on Grace, forgiveness and the ‘death of smug’.

A friend on twitter has the phrase on her avatar “Let’s Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow” – each of us is, as Wavy Gravy said, a temple of accumulated error, and Greenbelt is pretty much the only place I’ve able to consistently forgive my error-filled messed up self, and explore how to make better mistakes. Long may in continue.

Lloyd Davis. He’s Fabulous

Here’s a present from Lloyd for anyone who missed his set at Darbucka last night. Or indeed anyone who was there, and wanted to relive it (or send it to their friends to let them know not to miss him next time).

We love Lloyd – it’s always such a treat to have him come and play with us on gigs. Long may it continue.

We’re you at the gig? Did you enjoy it? Let us know your thoughts below 🙂

Imogen Heap’s album, Ellipse. Streaming Here.

Here, my friends, is Imogen Heap’s amazing new album, Ellipse. Embedded for your streaming pleasure.

Why? Because she asked us to. 🙂

(*spoiler-alert* – it’s effing amazing)

And now you can pre-order the CD or download here –

go buy her album, OK?
"go buy her album, OK?"

Getting That Gig

I don’t know about you but i’ve read countless articles on how to act/behave/play once you’ve got yourself a gig. That’s all very good and there’s some great advice amongst it but really, that’s the easy bit. Learning not to act like a tool shouldn’t be too difficult, the hard part is finding the gig in the first place!

I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I’ve recently landed myself a few european tours as a sideman with a blues-rock cover band; i’m getting my expenses covered and paid on top of that, not alot, but I won’t be out of pocket and i’ll be doing alot of playing.

This particular gig I managed to get from a posting on a music classified website (I think it was by complete chance, just googling to see what turns up. And most of the time, not alot does but as this demonstrates something good does appear once in a while ( As an aside most gig’s I get offered come from people I already know and work with anyway, so this is a bit different from all that).

What worked for me was having the confidence that I could do the gig, regardless of anything else. The ad stated they were after someone over 25 and in the Yorkshire area. I’m neither, but felt like I could do the gig  and was willing to do what it takes.

It helps to have a sample of your playing on hand, even if it’s pretty rough. I sent them a youtube video of my group playing Autumn Leaves, nothing over the top, but just to show I could function in a group setting. I don’t think 8 minutes of Billy Sheehan-esque shredding would’ve gotten me too far;  but I digress.

After sending them all this information along with a little history of my bassing thus far I got a reply. The VERY first thing that was commented on was my appearance, apparently I look like Berry Oakley. This, as it turns out, was one of the reason they gave me an audition!

All of the info thus far is stuff that gets reiterated thousands of times by pretty much every successful musician. And they were right, who knew?

That’s getting the audition. Now for actually doing it.

I try to be as flexible as I can with dates, I think there was only one date that I was definitely not able to do. Everything else could be shifted around with varying degrees of difficulty, as for the tunes themselves I had 16 songs to learn in 12 days, quite alot maybe, but not impossible.

I made the decision to really learn, memorise and internalise all of the tunes. It seems a much greater first impression if you play those tunes down cold as well as you would on a gig and also means you don’t have to be fumbling around with bits of paper with hastily scrawled notes written on them.

Fast forward a few days and i’m heading up to Hull for the audition. I live in Northants, so this is a £50+ train journey, I don’t really want to have that wasted, another incentive for getting everything down!

The audition itself was a 3 hour affair, longer than i’m used to but with 16 songs it makes sense. By this point all the groundwork should be done, it’ll be obvious whether you’ve done the work or not and there’s nothing that can be done by this point.

The songs were run through, I was given the full list of tunes (a good sign) and told they would be in touch. The next day I got an email saying the gig was mine if I wanted it! Very nice.

Most people know what they need to do to nail an audition, it’s obvious, you play the songs well with good feel and tone, make sure you act nice and that really does seem to be it, the appearance thing is helpful but I don’t consider it an essential, just an extra bonus.

As for finding the gig it’s a healthy mix up of searching everywhere you can think of and having a good group of friends who will hook you up because they know you can do the gig.

Those four criteria have worked for me, so that’s what i’m sticking with!

The Thinking Behind £1.40 Conference

I’ve long been baffled by the insane costs people will pay to go to business and technology conferences. For the same money that many of them cost you could hire a couple of leading experts in the field to come to your company and help you out with whatever it is that you’re working on. This seems to have passed a lot of people by.

The most recent offender in this field appears to be the 140 Conference – an event first organised in NYC, apparently held in a basement (so very little web access) with inadequate resources, high ticket prices, and most – if not all – the speakers not getting paid to be there.

The news that it was coming to London made me wonder out loud (probably at Tuttle) about the possibility of running a free conference on the same day – doing it Amplified-style where everyone gets to contribute, share their knowledge, people can suggest and lead sessions, and we all gain insight, friendship, support and fun without anyone building some freaky empire and charging £500 a head for the privilege.

At this point, the genius that is Toby Moores (AKA Sleepydog) suggested that it be called the £1.40 Conference – and we all started riffing on the idea of what that could mean –

  • charge £1.40,
  • pay speakers £1.40,
  • beer and sandwiches cost £1.40 (Toby again – he’s so good at this stuff!)…
  • Any profits would be donated to a charity.

The idea came together really quickly. A brief chat at that time on twitter suggested that a few more people were interested in the idea too.

Fast forward to yesterday and on a whim I checked to see if the date of the London 140Conference had been announced – it had, Nov 10/11th.

So to coincide with it, I threw out the idea of holding £1.40 conference on the 10th November. Little else is planned as yet, but as we’re not planning on spending a shitload of money, and we already have the Amplified team in place to make events like this work, it’s going to be pretty easy to put it together.

I put a page up about it on the Amp09 wiki, and the ball is rolling. People are signing up – most of the people I’d want to book to speak at a conference like this even if we were charging £500 a ticket are coming along – it’s going to be fab, it’s going to be exciting, and it’s going to be (nearly) free. (if you can’t afford the £1.40, let us know, someone will happily pay it for you, and no-one will ask for stock in your company in exchange.)

I’m sure there are situations where £500-worth of value can be squeezed out of a day-long conference. If such things were measurable, I’m sure I could show that I get that out of Tuttle most Friday mornings, and that’s always free and open to anyone.

I reckon you’ll get at least £450-worth out on Nov 10th, for just £1.40. 🙂

So, as of now, it has a wiki page where you can sign up, make suggestions, offer help, ask questions – it’s all happening over there. Head over there to join the £1.40 fun!

Free Albums – Screw The RIAA

Having just read the story of Joel Tenenbaum, who has just been fined over $600,000 dollars for downloading 30 songs, I’m incensed by the insanity of the RIAA – the Record Industry Association of America.

While it claims to be “the trade group that represents the U.S. recording industry. Its mission is to foster a business and legal climate that supports and promotes our members’ creative and financial vitality” the reality is – as is clear from its list of directors – that it represents the interests of a handful of millionaire corporate executives who are, frankly, shitting themselves at the collapse of the industry they’ve built around the distribution of physical music product.

So the RIAA – rather than looking at new models for distribution, or acknowledging the benefits of downloading for artists getting the word out – now prosecutes college kids to the tune of $22 THOUSAND… per track!

Since when was a single MP3 worth £22K? What percentage of single songs online have made $22K total, let alone can be proven to have LOST that much through downloading? Had Joel made anything from this? nope. Has anyone been damaged? Nope.

It’s pure greedy, nasty, anti-music legislative BS.

So, I’m making 3 of my albums available for free on I was going to make them all available over the weekend, but CDBaby administers a few of my albums on there, thanks to being one of their ‘digital partners’ – maybe I’ll find some other way of giving away more music.

Whatever, the RIAA are scum. Filth. Pondlife. If I was signed to record label that were represented by them, I’d be turning up at their offices with a NOT IN MY NAME banner.

The major labels are dying. They age of charging $15 for a CD, paying 50c of it to the musicians, and keeping them in debt are over. It’s the age of the indie. So fuck the RIAA. Give some music away this weekend.

Here’ s the links to the 3 albums:

Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1
Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 2
Lessons Learned From The Fairly Aged Felines.

Q: How nuts is that? $600,000 for downloading? Is there a single comparable area of legislation where the punishment is so insanely out of proportion to any impact the action may have had?

Could you Live Without Money?

Just found this article, via a music mailing list – basically about a dude who lives in a cave in Utah, with no money. He picks wild plants, occasionally eats insects, dumpster-dives in the nearest town… Fascinating story, with much food for thought….

I’m not sure the lesson is about living with nothing, as much as it is about the false correlation between money/wealth and health/happiness. His original motivation seems pretty hard to contest…

I’m definitely inspired to do more with less, rather than wait for ‘more’. One of my favourite book titles ever (which has inspired a number of blogposts over at ) is ‘Why Settle For More And Miss the Best’ by Tom Sine, exploring a similar point about what it is that we’re chasing. Bigger, Better, Faster, More sounds like hollow BS, even more transparently in the light of a global economic meltdown…

The article’s worth a read, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, especially your experiences of ‘downsizing’…

‘Green Shoots’ in the Music Industry, or Just Thriving Trees?

This article by Rory Cellan-Jones on the BBC site says that some new survey has told us that it’s not all bad for music…

I’m not sure it’s ever been ‘bad’ at all, to be honest… CD sales are declining, but digital music costs so much less to manufacture and distribute that the crossover point between lower sales but increased profits will hit eventually. Hard copies are still a desired way of ‘showing allegiance’ to a band, over just downloading. Merch is doing well, gigs are doing well, and the potential for new acts finding an audience without gambling a fortune is marvellous.

It also seems to me that the decline in bit torrent traffic for music may actually be that a lot of the early adoptors have filled in their catalogue with all the stuff they wanted to start with… Anyone wanting to ‘replace’ their vinyl collection may well have downloaded gigabytes if not terabytes of music to get all the Led Zep, Queen, MJ, Abba and Beatles they ever need – check out’s charts for more on how much music listening is ‘legacy’ based…

So, there are a whole range of ways that people find music, replace music, download music, pay for music things. They’re all happening, it’s mostly good news, and we can stop worrying, yes? 🙂