New Directions for my Harmonica

So after ten years of being in the same band I was astonished to be asked to join a new one. It’s true to say that I was incredibly humbled and flattered to be asked, especially being that the new band is well established and has a fantastic bunch of experienced musicians in it. Unfortunately this new venture caused much eye rolling from my wife due to the fact that I would be absent from the house for ANOTHER night of the week, but she knows who she married…

Anyway, the band I have enjoyed the company of these last ten years is The Harpoon Blues Band. Whilst I continue to enjoy their company alongside this new venture, I thought it was interesting how very different beasts they are. I also thought it definitely worth a write about, as some of you out there may have had the same experience.

Lets start with a bit of background about The Harpoons:
The 9 years previous to this year we were not very serious at all, well, we took our music very seriously indeed and we didn’t muck about at rehearsals and have fun times at gigs, but we never really put too much time and effort into promoting the band and getting gigs. Until this year. At the start of January 2017 we no gigs at all, nada, zip, butkiss, nothing. So I got on the campaign trail and managed to rustle us up LOADS of gigs! I went mental bugging every venue I possibly could and we have had a gig or two nearly every weekend throughout summer 2017. My hard work paid off. I say it paid off but really just by booking the gigs my hard work had really just started. Before I say anything else I want to make it clear that I love the band and I get on really well with the guys in it. What my aim is here is to get across what a logistical nightmare organising 4 blokes with family, wives, kids, businesses, jobs and houses into twenty dates at twenty different venues in twenty different locations. My head has literally been thumping over the organisation of these gigs before I even got to any of them and played a chuffing note.

The Harpoon Blues Band is a lively band that I front, sing and play harmonica for. Our music is upbeat Rhythm and Blues and people dance for most of our two hour set. My harmonica playing is never held back and is a bit ‘balls-out’ to put it bluntly. I play my face off and trade riff with the guitarist until we are dizzy. I talk to the audience, get them going and encourage those to dance that aren’t. For my part I try to involve the audience in what we are doing; I talk them through the song history, share onstage jokes that are happening between band members and so on and so forth. It really can be hard work and most gigs I come off stage feeling very tired, dehydrated and mostly hoarse in the voice as I’ve been giving it too much beans on the vocals. I’m also pretty deaf by this point too. We play a little game on stage that goes a little something like ‘let’s each get slightly louder in turn until no one can hear anything but a wall of noise and we are all deaf’. It’s odd because during soundcheck my harmonica can be heard finem, then by the start of the second set it comes about that I can’t be heard at all. Thanks. Have I been blowing my head off for the first set and not being heard at all, or is everyone else just getting louder? The drummer wears earplugs as he’s worried about his hearing. I think he has the right idea, I’m seriously getting worried about mine.

So now on to my new venture: The Jamos and Sir Mathew Band.

I play the harmonica.

That’s it, in a nutshell. I turn up, plug my amp in then help with the rest of the PA etc. It’s mostly acoustic guitars, bass guitar, a cajon and some growling grungy vocals from the band’s front man, Jamos. In this band I just stand at the back and blow my harp. For my presence in the musical spectrum I am the string section, the horn section, the twin guitar line, the backing vocal, mandolin, violin or even the keyboard. I get to express all these things with my harmonica and I have to say that it can really be quite challenging. The sound I have on the harmonica doesn’t have to be so ‘in-your-face’ and for the better part of the band’s sound as a whole I can be ‘felt’ instead of being really ‘heard’. I’m also an extra, so there is no pressure at all on my shoulders to engage the audience: we already have a front man, his name is Jamos and he’s great at it. Another point is that my ears don’t ring after a gig as we really aren’t a loud band.

As a covers band the song choices are mostly from the nineties, as that is our age group and era. Nothing is very obscure and people know what the song is that they are listening to. Some modern classics make it into the set too and I also feel that I am part of something very contemporary. The drummer in The Jamos and Sir Mathew Band arranges most of the gigs and manages the band’s Facebook page etc so I don’t have to. I help out where I can; sharing posts, using my graphic design skills to create posters, T Shirts etc for the band. But mostly I just play the harmonica. I don’t even have to sing.

All in all, TJASMB can at times seems like a bit of a holiday compared to the effort required to be in the Harpoons. But both have seperate and equal merit and I love both and now I’ve had both I’m not sure I could be without either. Greedy, I know but I don’t care. I’ve not had any gig clashes so far so I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. One last thing to mention is that in both bands I am considered a musician of equal standing. This is something I have not always been used to as a harmonica player. In both bands I am considered a full-time, permanant member and never as an add-on or an afterthought. It’s a wonderful feeling.

How many bands do you dep/frequent with? What are your experiences?

New Directions for my Harmonica

One thought on “New Directions for my Harmonica

  1. Hi Paul, I was interested to discover your blog. My experience is similar, having played in a rhythm & blues band now for the last 6 years as the lead instrument alongside guitar. Although I don’t sing, I do pretty much everything else (although our guitarist does arrange some of the gigs). It can be pretty exhausting. Trying to keep us at a reasonable volume level where I can still be heard and hear myself is also a constant challenge. I’m just starting a side project as part of an acoustic trio and it’s like a breath of fresh air. I love both bands but being able to play acoustically and hear and be heard with ease is a joy.

    Liked by 2 people

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