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15 June: A Mysteeeeerious Disappearance
15 June, 2012, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Misc

Flashes of energy, many gigs, lotsa publicity, travel, and excitement.

That was April and May for me. Or – let’s be honest – most of the last 10 months. It seems that at the end of May, my body finally crumpled into itself. You haven’t heard much from me in the last few weeks; it seems that what goes up must come down, and so my sprained ankle, a bump to the head that sent me to A & E, my car breaking down and off the road, and other less-reportable injuries or illnesses have caused my general activity to slow down. This isn’t a post of complaint, though; this is more about how funny it is that life sends you peaks and immediately thereafter troughs, like the waves of those oceans that dominate our planet. At a point where I was ready to push straight through the fatigue with equal amounts of enthusiasm and dynamism to have the Austin In Austin material ready BOOM! my body pulled back.

I’m happy to report that in the last 24 hours, nothing painful has happened to my body. Grrr-ah! Take that, natural scheme of things! I’m also happy to say that I’m writing new material and looking forward to coming back with an equal amount of excitement once I heal up. 🙂 Meanwhile, here’s to health, and let’s hope the weather folks are wrong about the coming days of rain!

Love and hope,

Rx



Free Download: Live from CQAF at the Merchant Hotel

Grab your free download of the Live Recording from the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival here:

http://rachelaustin.bandcamp.com/album/rachel-austin-live-at-the-merchant-hotel-belfast-06-05-12

With many thanks to Martin Byrne, Declan Legge & Tim McCullough for generating the final touches for the release.

Rx



17 May: to Paris and back (or, How to Put Off Your Pile of Work)

I awoke with my alarm today and rose from my bed to eat breakfast, listen to the day’s news, and read my book. I got a song stuck in my head, a song I started on 11th March 2009 and decided to sit down and finish it. Now I’m at my computer, reviewing mixes from recordings and looking at photos from recent gigs and events. This may be the first time in weeks I feel like I’m sitting still, though – in reality – my pile of things to do is taller than my shoulders.

Start of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, just before doing a session with U105 Live

Where do I begin? I left Belfast last Friday in the middle of a terrific string of gigs and jaunts with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. It was a great experience and I made a number of new friends. “I think this may be one of the only times I will regret leaving for Paris,” I said to my drummer as we boarded the bus for the airport. “I don’t want to miss out on a thing with the festival.” I was riding a wave of interesting gigs, playing for anything from 15 to 400 people whilst supporting travelling artists or headlining my own gigs. I was also fascinated by the adrenaline day to day running of such a well-respected festival, excited by the team’s coherency and variety.

So as I left Belfast, it was with a little bit of sadness. But Paris has not been known to disappoint, so we headed over to play a couple of gigs. We arrived and rushed across the city to the venue where the organisers were getting things set up for the event, a celebration of female fronted rock. We took a quick look around then headed out for some coffee. Hours later, we set up to play and headed into our set. In the middle of the second song, Fate took a swing at an air conditioning unit located over the mixing desk.

A sad goodbye: leaving Belfast, this is what I saw from the bus as we passed the Assembly Rooms

The electricity on the stage suddenly went out and the machine started dripping excess water, something it took a while to locate. I turned to my drummer and said: “Keep playing.” We finished playing Close, which is pretty rhythm and vocal driven. After a few minutes of silence, we hopped out into the crowd, armed with a plastic beer cup as a megaphone, a drumstick, a table, and a piece of paper. We played a live version of one of my loop songs, with Conor playing the role of the loop. We asked the crowd to gather in closer and started up. The MC (aka Gyraf) ran to his car to grab a Roland Cube amp, and in so doing saved our set. The crowd gathered in as we sweated through improvised versions of the tunes, including a loop version of No Surprises, our minor key Wonderful World, and new material off of Age of Reason.

Someone said to us later: “It was amazing what you did. You saved the night.” I put it back to them point blank: “We came all this way to play and I’ll be damned if we didn’t.” We had a great time and – in retrospect – learned a lot about playing with wild abandon. Not only that, but the rest of the night was a blast – including lots of whiskey (maybe too much?), long conversations heading towards the meaning of the universe, and many forgotten drunken promises!

Gyraf Stoots, MC and street performer, electrifies the crowd

 I took a couple of days to relax in the sunshine and warmth before our next gig, which was a recording for the legendary Radio Libertaire, the Parisian anarchist radio station. Thanks to the guys from So Was the Sun and Tarah Who?, especially Palem, Pilal, and Tarah for organising this!

I needed a change of scenery to assist in transitioning into the next bout of busyness, in the midst of which I currently sit. Which reminds me – I must begin to tackle my responsibilities. Thanks to everyone who made the last few weeks so memorable! It wasn’t without its losses (mostly due malfunctioning and misplaced or stolen gear!), but it was an amazing time fueled by the enthusiasm and support of friends, both new and old. A HUGE thanks to all of you who suggested me as an act for CQAF, and a massive thanks to the guys who book gigs for me in Paris. I hope to return there in the autumn.

Shot by Claudia Lopez Lucia

An up and coming photographer, Claudia Lopez Lucia, was at Mood’s on Friday night. She took some great shots at the gig of all the acts, including this one, which I leave you with and bid you adieu.

With love & warmth,

Rx



CQAF Day 7

The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is in full swing and I’m thoroughly enjoying its vibe this year. From comedy in a fairy lit marquee to street performances in an entryway, to an improvised gig in the Open Source space, the festival seems to have it all this year. Tonight, I’m heading down to the Black Box at 6:30 to watch a couple of films documenting varying aspects of 2 riots in urban history: Riot From Wrong (London Riots 2011) and Uprising – Hip Hop & the LA Riots. After that, I’ll run over to the next room to open for the ever-talented musician and actress, Hazel O’Connor. Then I shall be partying it up.

This is my LAST GIG! for the festival this year as I jet off to play a couple of shows in Paris on Friday. SO! Do join us tonight right at 8pm as we play a short set before Hazel graces the stage.

Me & festival photographer Chris Flack backstage after Ardal O’Hanlon last night at the Festival Marquee, as shot by Bernie McAllister

Sunday night was a blast in more ways than one because I earnestly wanted to produce a piece of work during the festival. Recording a gig with musicians you’ve never played with can be stimulating at the best of times but, on Sunday, we also arrived at the Merchant’s own club, Ollie’s, just in time to set up a PA, our gear, and the recording gear. Talk about playing on edge! Thanks to everyone that came down and for your support. You can read a review of the gig by the gentlemanly Mr Stuart Bailie on his blog on the BBC website. We also let him play one of the tunes on Monday night on his show. If you wanna listen back, head over here. You’ll hear more of this material soon.

Thanks to Barry Cullen and Michael Barkley for guesting that night. Also to Korny Devenney and Conor Barry for holding down the rhythm section. A BIG thanks to Martin Byrne and Declan Legge for recording and managing the sound. Also to the staff at the Merchant Hotel and Ollie’s for your hospitality, and to Eamon Quinn and Amanda Agnew and Carla for giving us a hand before the show.

In the meanwhile, please get out and enjoy the festival – whether near or far.

Best, Rachel

PS I leave you with a shot from Sunday night by terrific photographer & designer Tim McCullough.

Live from Ollie’s at the Merchant Hotel



CQAF: Day 1

3rd May: Cakes by James, Queens Street. High ceiling. Worn pine floors. The smell of fine food and the buzz of good company. Surrounded by the essence that makes a gracious cake.

A Sold Out Show.



April 12th: Cathedral Quarter Arts Fest — GO!

Helloes!

This day last week, the band and I launched the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival at the Dark Horse in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. The festival is in its 13th year and is respected around Ireland for the quality of acts and entertainment it attracts.

I’m excited about being the artist in residence this year. What does that mean? Well, basically I’ll be playing a number of shows during CQAF supporting various artists.

I’m also doing a live recording for your viewing pleasure especially for the festival with Barry Cullen, electronic noisemaker, and Michael Barkley, trumpet player extraordinaire! The gig is at Ollie’s Club on Sunday 6th May at 8pm. Tickets are limited to 75, so scoop them up here: https://cqaf.ticketsolve.com/shows/126524796/events. I’m excited about the risk of getting some great recordings mixed with maybe some botchy moments. Hope you can make it!

Check out the full schedule for this year’s festival at www.cqaf.com, featuring a terrific lineup, including John Cale, The Undertones, Ardal O’Hanlon, and – one of my favourite events in the Belfast calendar – The Festival of Fools, street theatre throughout the Quarter for a good chunk of the festival.

Rx



29th March: On the Recordings, Take 2

The sun is streaming through my window and I’m beginning to notice small winged creatures floating in the atmosphere outside my house. This morning as I was pouring my morning cup of tea, I detected a bouncing static filling my right ear. In the living room, I saw it: the first housefly of the season stuck in between blinds and window, unsuccessfully stabbing like a Pong ball at the outside world. I welcomed him and opened the window; he floated his way to freedom. Welcome to Spring, world!

Welcoming Spring Tuesdayat Chalco's, my favourite Mexican restaurant, with my dearest buddy Martin Byrne.

The emergence of both the sun and the insects from their respective dark holes has me looking forward to what this season holds. We’ve finished mixing Age of Reason, to which I let out an ecstatic exhale and a HUUUURRRRAAAAHHH!!!!! At this very moment, I am listening to the final mixes in prep for sending them off to the miraculous mastering engineer in Boston. (Rachel: Austin to Belfast to Boston?)

I have to say that with each step of the process the songs become more and more alive. In the mixing stage, levels are balanced, including things like making sure the bass sticks out in the mix above other instruments occupying similar frequencies. Some small amount of effects are added to present a full picture to the ear. Some editing is done. Lots of beeps are added to get rid of all the swearing. Then it goes to the mastering engineer, who basically adds body to the mix and boosts the levels so that when you load it onto your computer or put it in your CD player it’s at an even volume. And that’s all we’ve got left to do as far as audio production on this baby!

Next up, I’m getting ready for the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. You may remember that I was invited to be the Artist in Residence for the festival this May. I’m excited about launching the Festival next Thursday at 1pm at the Dark Horse in the Cathedral Quarter. I spent a good portion of the weekend looking for a venue for a live recording we’re doing just for the festival! I’m excited to announce that this exciting evening will be on Sunday 6th May at 8pm at the wondrously sound tight Ollie’s Club at the Merchant Hotel. Tickets are £5 each, and that gets you a digital download of the recording. I’ll be joined by the wonderful electronic artist & clarinet improviser Barry Cullen and a few other musicians, who I shall confirm/announce soon. I’m so excited about this gig and hope you can all join in what I think is going to be a really unique performance.

I also wanna say a huge thanks to Eamon Quinn for helping me get a venue for the recording, the terrific Petra Wolsey at the Merchant Hotel for finding a space for it, and to Sean Kelly of CQAF for his patience in supporting the whole endeavour. Next! I’m off to Paris at the tail end of CQAF to play a few gigs with my buddies there from Tarah Who? and So Was the Sun. I’m also looking to play house shows in the areas around Paris and Dijon, so if you’d like to host one, drop me a line.

There’s more that has happened, like filming the 2nd video for Age of Reason with Bandwidth Will McConnell. Thanks to everyone who came down or was involved in the hilarious filming: Will, Alexandra Moore, Conor Barry, Korny Devenney, Lisa Keogh, Caroline Pugh, Lindsey Mitchell, and James McAnespy. I can’t wait for you guys to see it! Also, I went with an entourage of singers to Big Space Studios to record the English version of a groundbreaking Icelandic rock opera called Elbowville. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to hearing/seeing the finished product. With all of that in mind, I must go enjoy the day – or at least work hard enough so I can go enjoy it soon.

With a reasonable amount of love,

Rachel




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