The Oxjam Cambridge 2016 gig happened on Saturday. A mass takeover of 10 Cambridge venues, to raise money for Oxfam.
I played two sets – one at 2468 and other other at The Snug Bar in Cambridge. The former I’d last been into when it was the vaults, the latter I’d not been into since trying to catch up with Paul Richards after a CB2 gig. Though pre-gig I was trying to reminisce with Aidy about the dimensions of when the venue was the old Boat Race. I must have been playing on where the old stage was – it was by the entrance to the toilets! – but I couldn’t quite place the location of the door and the sound desk. And then when I put the bar in place it mentally seemed smaller than it used to be, though maybe it was larger in my memory than in reality.
I did get soaked going between the two venues – a rain storm just fell between the two sets. When I checked the weather in the morning I had been promised dryness. I left the Portland (where I went after performing) early because of this and had a migraine the next day. But nothing compared to what the people for whom these funds were intended go through. Still, got to see The Abstracts perform a really cool set, and bumped into the checkout lady at Waitrose who’d recognised me as Karmadillo the day before when shopping. Fame!
Lots of acts contributed, but special mention must go to the organising crew – especially Sandy Mills – and the sound people for the efforts they put in to making this happen.
The song I was most nervous about showing my fellow band members was Rent Boy, a song about house prices in the UK. It has a lot of changing sections, and the outro was a parody of a song I first heard performed in the early 80s by a chap called Shakin’ Stevens. He was served up as a 60s rocker (I believe the phrase was Teddy Boy) and the song – This Ole House – it turns out was a cover version.
The song being a cover version is something I’d been aware of for a while. What I hadn’t been aware of, until reading this interview on the BBC website, was that this song was actually a clever metaphor for death, and inspired by the songwriter (“singing cowboy” Stuart Hamblen) finding a dead body lying in a deserted shack! The lyrics play with the gospel concept of the mortal body being a “house” for your soul, that gets left behind when you go to “meet the saints”. Not something I’d ever appreciated before.
Ironically I am writing this at 5.30am as the house I am currently renting is next to the A14 and I find myself being awoken by passing heavy goods traffic going along at 60mph every day. Come on guys – if only 300,000 of you purchase Karmadillo albums I’ll be able to buy a decent place of my own!
It’s just as well that Otway is so good because support act Karmadillo was a hard one to follow. He plays a charango, which is a small guitar originally designed to be made out of an armadillo, although his one is made out of mere wood: ‘Anything hairier than my legs shouldn’t be a musical instrument’. He performs witty, often tender songs, of a kind that would go down well as an interlude in a Radio 4 chat show.
Also deserving of a mention is support act Rishi, aka Karmadillo who performed songs on topics ranging from zombies to ageing porn stars on a mini guitar called a charango traditionally made from an armadillo shell. His gentile eccentricity and sense of humour made him the perfect warmup for Otway’s comedy rock and roll show.
You can watch the video for the Karmadillo contribution. The compilation has a foreword from Peter Tatchell, artwork by Luis Drayton and features music from: Ste McCabe, Ten Tigers, The Lovely Eggs, The Get, Das Wanderlust (last ever recording), Bearsuit, Tumbledryer Babies, Death of the Elephant, Dragchrist, Salty Lips, Pocket Gods, Mary Cigarettes, Karmadillo, Art Gruppe, Stella Zine, Zorras, Lost Harbours and my favourite named artist of the bunch, Toska Wilde.
‘Don’t Listen To The Douchebags (Listen To George Takei)’ is a properly recorded version of a Youtube thing I did. That acoustic-recorded-on-the-webcam song was inspired by George Takei’s response to a school board member in the US who went on a Facebook rant saying he wished all the gay kids were dead. The board member later ended up resigning live on TV. Shortly after that I had the opportunity to contribute to a compilation CD highlighting gay and transgender bullying issues, so recorded the song properly, and made a video. Which cheekily features it’s inspiration 😉 Here it is:
This version of the song was recorded two years ago, and the incident that inspired the George Takei response was before that, but amidst the fuss over legalising gay marriage (in the UK) has also brought out the stories of violence and harassment of gay and trans-gendered people.
This song is being released on the Any Love Is Good Love compilation CD, which aims to raise awareness as well as fundraise. You can purchase the album from the Any Love Is Good Love page on Bandcamp. Much respect is due to from Ten Tigers/Lost Harbours and Ste McCabe who put it together. Funds from this are going to LGBT Youth North West (formerly Lesbian and Gay Youth Manchester).
Catch the latest video from Professor Karmadillo – a song about the rovers crawling around the surface of Mars.
You can read the lyrics about Curiosity et al roaming around Mars whilst watching the video at the Professor Karmadillo website – or just watch it and pay attention to the David Bowie influenced lyrics here!
I’ll be coming out of sabbatical with a gig tonight at Cambridge’s Bright Club Re:generation event during the Cambridge Science Festival. I’ll be unveiling two new Professor Karmadillo songs to the public – one on the Mars Curiosity Rover, and t’other on one of the freakiest looking creatures that also aids cancer research – the naked mole rat.
It also looks like some bits need tweaking with the website and I’ll be changing mailing list provider, so I’ll soon be back to updating you regularly with Karmadillo and Professor Karmadillo shenanigans!
Where the offbeat South American Charango meets offbeat English songwriting