Dear friends! A very happy Autumn to you! And what incredible changes have befallen all of us since last I wrote. I played in Canada! Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party! My house was burgled causing a prolonged laptop shortage that resulted in a very long silence! On and also: I played in bloody CANADA!
When last I left you I was bound for Stansted airport and the biggest adventure music had ever taken me on. I could write you a book about the time Caitlin and I had exploring only a tiny bit of such a majestic country and meeting such wonderful people, but only Caitlin and I would find that interesting, because it would be full of things like, “remember that beer we had in the Ship and Anchor in Calgary?!” and “remember the lake we swam in at Kelowna?!” and “remember the aggressive old lady heckling us as we played pool at the gay bar in Vancouver who yelled ‘these bitches couldn’t hit a barn with a tractor’ when in fact we were playing perfectly adequately?!”
What I will tell you about, though, is our gigs. Upon landing in Calgary (during a cowboy festival called Stampede that we did not know was happening but fortunately we were both dressed in check shirts anyway, natch, so we fitted right in) we had the huge honour of visiting and playing for Camp Fyrefly, an LGBTQI youth summer camp that’s run in the woods near Calgary. We met some incredible teenagers who schooled us on Canadian politics and taught us all about how they were going to grow up to fight Conservatives and make political art of their own and it was brilliantly soul-nourishing for two embittered, recently electorally-defeated lefties like me and Caitlin. Then we drove through the Rocky Mountains and there’s really no point in me trying to describe that in plain old words. When we came out the other side in British Columbia, we were hosted by the wonderful Bob and Heather, who not only put us up in their lovely holiday cabin and fed and watered us for days, but also managed to get a crowd of their friends from the Kelowna Folk Club to come and see us play at their beautiful farm. It was like the best holiday ever and we almost forgot to get nervous for what was hands-down the biggest gig of our lives, the Vancouver Folk Festival. I don’t even know where to begin to talk about that one. Six gigs over three days, a sold out CD-signing session, and some wonderful friends. For the whole incredible adventure, I owe so many thankyous to so many amazing, good-hearted people, but the biggest one of all of them goes to Linda, director of VFMF, who took a punt on me and gave us the gig. It was the best one of my life. My heartfelt congratulations, too, to the Canadian people who have ousted Harper's Conservative government in recent weeks. I don't know that much about Stephen Harper, but from what I have read, and judging from the welcoming, helpful and deeply compassionate people I met while I was there, he doesn't sound that Canadian to me.
Here we are playing Tonne of Bricks at VFMF and having the time of our bloody lives.
Due to falling head over heels in love with Vancouver and staying too long, we ran out of time to explore the west coast of the States in any great detail, but we did get to support the amazing Darren Hanlon, whose music I have adored since I first heard it at End of the Road 2011, in Seattle on my birthday; and play a show with the lovely and wonderful David Rovics in Portland the next day. So turning 28 was pretty good, all in. When the time came to board our plane (which we IN NO WAY nearly missed because we got completely hammered the night before in San Francisco) it was with heavy heart – but then we arrived in a different land than that we’d left behind, for it was one gripped by CORBYNMANIA! Apparently the secret to the UK forming re-balanced political spectrum with actual leftwing Labour opposition is me leaving the country. I duly signed up to support Corbs for £3 and they duly sent me an email that said something like,
“LEAVE AND NEVER COME BACK HERE, WE DON’T WANT THE GOOD GUYS TO WIN OR LIFE TO IMPROVE FOR ANYONE.
LOVE, TRISTRAM HUNT xoxo”
…so you can imagine how red his face was when a) Corbyn won by landslide and b) I played at his victory party in London, which was the most wonderful evening frequented by the most wonderful people. Particular highlights for me were Chess Martinez, Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel but it was all like some kind of amazing leftie fever dream. FAO: everyone who wants say we have no chance with Corbyn – I’m ready to play at his victory party in 2020, too.
OTHER STUFF THAT WAS AMAZING
In no particular order: Towersey and Sidmouth folk festivals which both surprised me with huge audiences when I was fairly confident no one was coming; Greenbelt (above), which was maybe the most fun gig the full Benefits Culture band has ever, ever had, made so much better by hanging out with the utterly lovely Rev Kate Bottley and her whole family (regrettably, sans Buster) and her littlest telling me as he left “good luck with your sad songs and life”, which was both great and apposite; the return of Josie Long’s ARTour which saw me piling into a minibus with a load of pinkos and going about the country singing songs in the open air like some kind of evangelical hippie band; We Shall Overcome, Cambridge; Walthamstow Folk Club who were from start to finish bloody lovely; and most recently, a TREMENDOUS gig at Birmingham’s Wagon and Horses on Friday where once again our lovely and talented Reuben managed to russle up an audience where I was sure none would be forthcoming. He is truly a wizard.
LOADS OF GIGS (AND A BIT OF RADIO)
I have lots of things on in November. Here’s some gigs:
9th LEICESTER – the Musician, supporting my great friends and incredible fiddlers the Rheingans Sisters
14th LEEDS – Live at All Hallows’ Church with the Benefits Culture (plus brilliant Jasmine Kennedy)
22nd NORTHAMPTON – NN Café for the November instalment of Robin Ince, Alan Moore and my regular podcast recording, Blooming Buzzing Confusion
27th LONDON – Bread & Roses, supporting the album launch of the wonderful Wimmins Institute
29th SHEFFIELD – The Greystones, once again joined in support by wonderful Jasmine Kennedy
Tickets for all of those things are available over on the Gigs page here. In amongst all of that I will be appearing on the NOW SHOW airing on Radio 4 on Friday 13th (shutupshutupshutup I’m sure that everything will be fine and the date is a coincidence). Do tune into that to hear me doing something totally new and probably concurrent with my usual commie bleeding-heart liberal nonsense.
TIS (ALMOST) THE SEASON…
Christmas is not far away now and I’m extremely excited to announce that on December 13th we will be doing a very special festive London headliner in King’s Cross! The Benefits Culture and I (as well as some truly special guests) will be in the mood to celebrate mistletoe and wine and children singing Corbynite rhyme at the Star of Kings in central London. This has only been on sale for a few hours and already tickets are walking; it is a small venue too so I *strongly* recommend you pick up tickets swiftly which you can do here.
Before I go, if anyone's made it this far, in the recent weeks a couple of brilliant folks who have been very supportive to me over the years left early. In the great scheme of things, I haven’t been playing very long and it’s the first time I’ve knowingly lost friends of this unique kind in this way. It is such a strange thing to be a small and distant part of people’s lives through seeing them intermittently at gigs, which can be incredibly intimate things. It occurs to me that I don’t make it clear enough, often enough that I am grateful to and for every single person who has ever taken something from a thing that I’ve self-indulgently written and shared. To have your song appreciated, to have it properly heard by someone who finds something in it that makes them feel anything at all is the most that any musician can ever hope for. That there are people who find enough in mine to come back to gigs again and again is something that I feel indescribably lucky about. To Sonja Pedersen and Leon Webster, I would like to say thanks; my thoughts are with everyone missing them still here.
Solidarity and love