Orkney Blues Festival
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
So this gig was an interesting one. I get a message from a good friend that I'm about to be contacted by a bassist in Orkney saying that they needed a drummer for a leg of a tour that comprised of him and a guitarist by the name of Gregg Wright. Michael Jackson's guitarist.
Cool, so I ask, what's the story, where's the gig? What's the music?
It's a weekend music festival up in the Scottish town Stromness, on the island of Orkney. The music is a bunch of blues covers and Gregg's originals. Fun gig. No rehearsal, meet Gregg on the train up to Orkney.
As much as I loved chatting to Gregg on the ride up, there were times where I was able to sneak my headphones on and play his albums on repeat. I had to learn his music as quickly as I could because this gig was squashed between to more gigs and another festival back home. So not much prep time. The stories from Gregg, however, were fascinating. It's funny how the music industry is not romantic at all. It's just a bunch of guys running from trains, to cabs, to planes to play gigs for about £100 then off to the catch the next train out of town. No matter what level or status you're at, there's a familiar feeling I get when Gregg tells me about his annoying troubles with carrying instruments on planes, fighting at the check-out desks at hotels for deposits and never being home. Makes you think.
The gigs themselves were great! He was the headline act at the festival. Lots of people showed up. So I had to look like I knew what I was doing. The learning and last minute cramming paid off. The one thing he kept glaring at me about was tempo. He is OBSESSED about tempo. And that's the first time I truly appreciated it. Tempo is crucial for any professional drummer to grasp. It sets the tone for the whole tune, mutates the lyrical delivery by the vocalist, changes the groove, affects the solo duration, duration of the song and so much more. He said "Just give me good tempo, and we'll be good..." This was not a gig to flash chops or take solos. Just shuffle at 90bpm at a steady pace. Don't get in the way and keep that snare and kick solid.
At the end of it all he was happy with the work I delivered and hopefully I'll get to play with him again. The organisers at the festival and the ring leader, Marcus Cordock, did a marvellous job with the hotels, the festival organisation and the overall vibe. I got to see an interesting part of the world where I never would expect an appreciation for Blues Music.
BE AS PREPARED AS POSSIBLE. LEARN THE MUSIC. Everything from the drum grooves, stabs, bass lines, lyrical content ... EVERYTHING. The more you know.... the better you'll sound. That saved me on this gig. Listen to the songs again and again and again. And you might get booked for the next one! ;)