Full Time Phoenix

As a matter of interest I feel compelled to mention that the Phoenix Cultural Centre has its own pseudo house band. That is, the same people who started up the centre are also in a band together and, for reasons unbeknownst to me, decided to use the word phoenix in both of these endeavours. Anyway, over the past few weeks I have been enlisted as a temporary guitarist. This is because the original guitarist is part of various other musical outlets and can’t make certain rehearsals or gigs with the band. However, with me stepping in when needs be, the band is able to perform more regularly and get more of a consistent schedule up and running.

Oh yes, I should probably mention the band’s called Phoenix Chroi (Chroi not pronounced anything like you want or expect).

Anyway, for further reasons unbeknownst to me, Elaine (singer) and Joe (Bassist) decided they would like to recruit me as a full time member of the band. They also suggested that I play keyboard as well as/instead of guitar, as they felt this would add an extra dimension to their sound.

I’ve never played keyboard in front of people before but am looking forward to get the chance to be out and about and gigging regularly again. Phoenix Chroi has a website here and a Facebook here, so if you’d like to keep up with gig dates, news and other general band related things go check them out.

Meditation Recordings

A few posts back I mentioned a friendly couple (Jarek and Beata) who ran a healing bowls and gongs class, as well as partaking in all things spiritual and such. Well, a couple weeks back I was contacted by them in the hopes that it would be possible for me to help them record some meditation sessions – “of course!”, say I.

Now, I am not an afficionado when it comes to spiritualism, so my natural assumption when asked to record a meditation session was, “There’s going to be a lot of unusual instruments. I wonder how many mics I’ll need?”, fully expecting a session to be much like the event I attended a few months prior. It was only after meeting with Jarek that it was clarified to me that meditation only needed a voiceover to some backing music. Much simpler!

Since then Jarek has turned up for a couple of recording sessions and as such, 6 meditations, in total lasting approximately 3 and a half hours have been completed. In time these recordings will find their way onto Jarek’s site here where you’ll be able to preview them and even buy a session or two!

Woking Big Gig (And Other Festivals)

It would appear that every which way you look there are local festivals happening left right and centre: Guilfest, West Byfleet LI:VE, The Sound Lounge Festival, The Westival and Phoenix’s very own Woking Big Gig. Or at least, these are the festivals I am in someway affiliated with. But that’s still quite a few.

First, it would make sense to point out that most of these festivals are over now, and I am well aware of the fact that I really should have been advertising them long before they were due to start. But alas, busy, or some other excuse of that nature…

Let me continue by thanking the, surprisingly few, people involved with getting Woking’s Big Gig off the ground. The day was all put together by the guys at the Phoenix Cultural Centre, of which there was only really 5 of us. So we were all rushed off our feet for the weeks leading up to the event and even more so as it was happening. But the day went smoothly and we were all pretty chuffed that we had managed to put on 7 hours of continual music, without any major faults, to a turnout of a couple hundred people and for many to provide such positive feedback. Not bad for a first time affair!

Then 2 days ago I took up the mantle of honorary guitarist for the band Phoenix Chroi (not a resident Phoenix Cultural Centre band, just got Elaine and Joe from Phoenix in it) as I performed with them for the first time at West Byfleet LI:VE (their regular guitarist is in many other bands and often can’t make shows, hence my addition). I was slightly worried about the whole prospect as the idea was thrown at me quite last minute. This meant I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would have liked to learn 14+ songs after only 1 band practice. Luckily the tracks aren’t particularly challenging to play (no offense guys!) so it all turned out alright. It was also originally planned that the centre would help run the stage but as events unfolded it transpired we weren’t needed. Though, despite not getting paid, this probably was better for us, or for me at least, as we had more time to focus on setting up and working out what we’re doing.

Coming up in the near future is The Sound Lounge Festival, which I don’t know anything about other than it’s in London and Phoenix Chroi is playing there.

Finally, The Westival takes place from Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd August and is an indoor festival at the West End Centre in Aldershot. Red Kites are playing there. And Guilfest is a festival I was due to go to but couldn’t because busy. I think that covers everything mentioned in the intro…

Cheltenham – The Land of Acoustic Videos

So the long Easter weekend for me was spent in Cheltenham, or more specifically – Winchcombe, with a bunch of musicians, or more specifically – Red Kites, to record many acoustic videos, or more specifically – few. It often seems to be the case when, without the ominous presence of a looming deadline, a group of people with perfectly admirable intentions of being productive and focused suffer from a bit of the “eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach” syndrome and overestimate just how much they’re going to get done.

Not that we we’re being unrealistic mind you. The end goal was to record 4 videos, and over the same number of days that target seems more than achievable. I was thinking that after the initial setup was done we could rattle off 2 – 3 tracks a day but inevitably distractions and fatigue reared their all too familiar heads and what could have been a glorious production schedule was thrown off course. Oh well!

We still managed to get 3 recordings down but after a quick glance at the footage, on a personal level, I’m only happy with 2… The style for one of the videos was to use a single shot throughout the entire track, but unfortunately it was this recording that I made a bit of a mess of the white balancing and my camera work is pretty shonky. Though I’ll cut myself some slack in so much as it was the first time I’ve ever used the camera to record video. Hopefully I can work some post-production magic to salvage it.

Keep an eye on Red Kites’ YouTube channel over the coming months to see the final versions.

The Bid for a Building

As part of the whole “we need to get a live music venue in Woking” thing, Elaine (the progenitor, visionary and all round head honcho of the Phoenix Cultural Centre) has recently given a presentation to various companies in hopes of securing some support and funding for the project. Or at least I think that was what the presentation was for… being the “techie” I’m not really that up to speed with all the business end paper pushing and council pleasing that is involved with a venture of this nature.

Regardless, I was still in charge of creating a small leaflet to be handed out that would give that various potential stakeholders a quick insight to what Phoenix is all about. In addition, and much more within my comfort zone, I provided a 30 second “promotional” video to further enforce this point.

The feedback I got from the few volunteers at Phoenix seemed positive and (now the presentation has already happened), from what I’ve been told, the companies seemed to respond positively as well. Hopefully this is all shaping up nicely into what will eventually become Woking’s first proper live music venue. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the petition with the council goes down well.

At the moment the only place to see the video is on Phoenix’s FaceBook page (you may have to scroll down a little bit). However, eventually I’ll be getting round to making a YouTube account for the centre and will upload it there, meaning I can then stick in on this site as well.

Gongs and Bowls and Health and Well-Being

This week has been very busy for me. I think I may have collectively spent significantly more time out of the house than in, and I’m including my time asleep with that. For the most part I’ve been at the Phoenix Cultural Centre putting my new found interest in photography to use.

On Wednesday there was a spiritual healing, Tibetan Bowls and Gongs event at the centre. The event was run by a very friendly couple who specialise in clairvoyance, tarot reading and other spiritual feel good things. After the performance they were interested in getting their hands on the pictures I had taken and, after looking through a few photos on the camera’s display, offered me an opportunity of paid work at more events they are taking part in. How could I say no!?

As the week progressed Friday continued in a similar vein with a tai-chi/chi-jung class. The event organiser was similarly interested in seeing how the pictures had turned out and I have sent them on to see what he thinks.

Saturday was rather uneventful. The centre was open for busking and creative work, for people to come in and find out what it’s all about and the couple from Wednesday also returned to promote themselves. Unfortunately only one member of the public entered, or at least for the few hours I was there, so not the most successful of days.

Sunday boasted an open-mic event, similar to the regular fortnightly open-mic nights on Mondays, but geared more towards families with younger children. The afternoon was enjoyable and despite my willingness not to, I was coerced into playing a couple of songs.

My attempts have updating the Phoenix website haven’t been entirely productive but I’ve managed to update a few things and generally make it tidier (see link above). Hopefully before long I’ll get the pictures I’ve been taking over this last week uploaded to both that site and a select few for my own.

Volunteering

Within the last couple of weeks I’ve started volunteering at a place called the Phoenix Cultural Centre in Woking. The main goal of the centre is to provide a building in town that can be used as a live music venue, as well as a place for the community to go to experience arts, comedy and cultural things generally.

My role within the centre is essentially that of “technical person”, so I’m looking after all things audio and video related, as well as updating the website (despite my lack of any coding skills). As such, I have purchased a camera (the Canon 600D for those who are interested) and, as of yesterday, will start arriving at as many events being held as I can manage to take pictures. Eventually these pictures should find their way onto the website and start to give people a better idea of what kind of thing the Phoenix Cultural Centre does. My long term goal is to build up enough material of events happening at the centre, as well as interviews with the founders, event organisers and participants, to create a couple of promotional videos. These videos will then hopefully provide more awareness and bring in more people.

I’m must admit I’m pretty excited about all this. Not only do I get an opportunity to do something I enjoy but there’s potentially a chance for this to turn into a full time job if the centre gets the building it’s after. But even before then, I’ll be slowly building up a list of contacts of people who might be interested in freelance audiovisual work, as well as meeting people already in the field.

The coming weeks are going to be interesting!

Phoenix Cultural Centre