Saturday, 21 December 2013

Girl Jokes about Boy Parts released TODAY! Jokes about Boy Parts is released TODAY and not only that but this is also my 100th blog post. What a celebration!  Tonight Tom and I will be playing a few songs at our label's Christmas party at the Wheatsheaf.  Performing will be some great bands from Big Red Sky Records including Samuel Zasada, a personal favourite.

We have a limited number of CD copies of the album available and they also come with a rather cool lyric book. These will be ready in February but you can pre-order them here.  Merry Christmas and I hope you enjoy the album!

Monday, 16 December 2013

All Tamara's Parties #12 at Somerville College Chapel

Caroline Bird
Friday the 13th finally came around and if you missed All Tamara’s Parties then boy did you miss out!  We covered the venue in clementines, candles, holly and chocolates for that Christmassy feel and it looked beautiful.  The smell of orange and chocolate filled the chapel as members of the audience arrived and began unwrapping sweets and peeling orange skin in anticipation of the first act…which was George Chopping with some hilarious poems to warm everyone up.  To follow was me, Caroline Bird, Ben Walker -who had everyone singing along to his Oxford song, Count Drachma and Candy Says with a stunning acoustic set to round off the night.  Garrett Coakley took these lovely pictures of the night and I’m so glad he was there to capture the magical atmosphere.  It looks like Somerville will be happy to invite us back for another show so stay tuned for more from ATP in the New Year.
Candy Says
Ben Walker
Count Drachma

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

I'm on the cover of Nightshift!

I did an interview for Nightshift Magazine and you can read it here on page 3.  We had a lot of fun at the photo shoot as you can tell. Our album is due out in just over a week and we are mega excited. More news to come soon!

Photo by Bruce Markos

Monday, 25 November 2013

Live Friday at The Ashmolean Museum

Songwriters Circle
The lovely Ashmolean audience
Friday night was Live Friday at the Ashmolean and I had been asked to play the Songwriter’s Circle in the hall of statues.  The place soon filled up and was one of the busiest Live Friday events I’ve attended due to the overspill from the Christmas light celebrations in St Giles.  Despite the crowds we had an attentive audience in the hall and it was such a pleasure to sing in a room with some great natural acoustics.  My fellow performers and I took it in turns to talk about and then play a song, which is the format of the songwriters circle usually hosted in the Port Mahon.  I had the opportunity of taking part in one earlier this year and wrote about it here.  One of my very favourite bands, The Black Feathers, were playing and as we went round in turn it became a running joke that the songs were growing sadder as the night progressed.  By round two the challenge was to play something cheerful and we all rose to this challenge until Steve Adams exclaimed, “Right, I’m going to bring it back down again” (video below).  Despite the dropping temperature in the room and the relentless lament of each performer, the atmosphere was charged, and the audience stuck with us until the bitter end.  Probably my favourite gig of the year so far.  Thanks to the Ashmolean, the Songwriters Circle and all who watched and enjoyed.

Steve Adams at the Ashmolean Museum from Tamara Parsons-Baker on Vimeo.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Noel Tamara's Parties #12

All Tamara's Parties #12 is set to be a unique night of music and poetry in the beautiful surroundings of Somerville College Chapel featuring:

Candy Says
Count Drachma
Ben Walker
Caroline Bird
George Chopping

Somerville College have very kindly invited me to host an ATP Christmas gig in their stunning Chapel. This event is open to all and a great opportunity to see one of the most beautiful Colleges in Oxford and enjoy a great...
night of local music. The College’s Terrace bar will be open from 6.00pm for anyone who wants to arrive early for a tipple or two. Mince pies and mulled wine will be available as well as a range of other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including tea and coffee.

The audience are asked to arrive through Somerville's Porters Lodge on the Woodstock Road and meet in the Terrace Bar. At 7.30pm you will be greeted and taken over to the Chapel. Children are welcome at this event but must be accompanied by an adult. 

For more information and to purchase tickets go here.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Truck Festival 2013: Review

Shoe Cups
There was far too much to write about so here I have included a few of my favourite moments and acts of the weekend. Enjoy!
We arrived on a very hot Friday afternoon stocked up with beers, ice and all the water we could fit in to Tommy’s van.  As we queued for our passes at the box office I could hear Candy Says beginning their set.  I was gutted to be missing it but the queue was long. Luckily we could hear them loud and clear from our slow moving line.  I whistled along to Melt into the Sun as I started to melt in the sun...

Happy Truckers
Once we were in we grabbed a beer.  I decided to try the strawberry cider which was initially refreshing but then left a strange aftertaste in my mouth.  It was easily fixed though by the famous Rotary Club Donuts.  I’ve missed these guys! It was great to see more foodie choice in the form of The Food Hall. Pizzas and smoothies, noodles and ice cream. And “SUSHI”, which was hard to forget as it was shouted at you each time you walked past.  I decided the only sensible thing to do was to shout “Sushi”  back and punch the air in a kind of raw-fish appreciation cheer. 

We (temporarily) escaped the sushi obsessives and headed to The Saloon Bar to watch Empty White Circles.  The Saloon Bar was incredibly authentic and immediately became my favourite stage.   Small glass chandeliers swung from the corrugated roof and the bar stools were made up of blocks of wood topped off with a horse saddle seat to rest your weary butt in. Amazing!  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Empty White Circles and I have to agree that they are a great band.  They totally rocked the small stage in The Saloon and although the heat was rising that didn’t put them off.  I feared for the Spasm band in the evening, how would they cope in their suits and fine headwear?

Then I had to take a nap.  I’m a little gutted to admit it but it was just too hot to carry on and the novelty cider had sought it’s revenge on my pounding brain.  I overslept but managed to race to the Virgin and Veterans tent just in time to catch the end of Ags Connolly.  As I listened to his sweet country songs I felt somewhat soothed; I should have chosen to nap in here instead.
Huck & the Xander Band

There was nothing much left to report on the Friday apart from a great bit of nosh at the ‘Appealing Food’ stall run by the lovely Rotary Club staff.  The ‘Trucker’s Meal’ of lentil dahl, flatbread, bahjis and never-ending supply of sauces and chutneys is Truck tradition!  Easy on the lime pickle though, folks.  After a couple of beers and little bit of Spiritualized we had built up enough stamina to enter The Saloon Bar which was heaving with people enjoying The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band.  There are a few new additions to the band since I last saw them including a sax player who looks like he was on loan from the mafia.  Everyone was gyrating to the beat and the mix of music and heat must’ve been taking affect as one woman was wildly dancing wrapped up in a full fur coat. Sweaty.  The floor was vibrating, the floorboards creaking, and I wasn’t sure if the Saloon Bar would withstand the entire set as more people piled in through the swinging doors, but who cares if the floor falls in when the music is this good.

Salvation Bill
Hello Saturday and no hangover. All that hydration did the trick and by 11.00am I had the energy of a young kitten chasing its tail (well, almost).  We headed to The V and V tent for The Holy Orders who were a great start to the day and then headed towards the main stage for iced coffee, more donuts and The Arrows of Love.  These guys were incredibly captivating and are currently 'making waves' in London. They were great on this stage but I imagine a more enclosed venue would really show off the full intensity of their set.  Someone book them for Oxford please!  Next we quick-marched to the Barn Stage for Salvation Bill.  Already a big fan of Ute and Old Grinding Young I was excited to see Ollie’s new 5 piece band.  I didn’t expect to be so blown away as I was by it though and their set became one of my favourite of the entire festival.  The 5 part harmonies are dramatic and the songs are clever, witty and loud.  This is definitely the best line-up Ollie’s had and I hope this composition is around for the long run.  I also enjoyed the taxidermy crow sitting on Ollie’s shoulder that appeared to head band as Ollie and the rest of the band rocked out. Crawk!

The Epstein
Next was an incredible set from Swindlestock who got the room dancing and proved that you can fit more than 8 people on the Saloon stage.  They were followed by Huck and the Xander Band. You already know how much I like them and it was great to see them get a spot at Truck in a venue that seemed incredibly fitting to Huck’s songs about a young boy’s move from Texas to NOLA.  After a mostly overcast day the sun finally came out and the audience stood to attention and stomped their feet (mostly) in time to songs of forbidden love in an evangelical State.  Afterwards we basked in the evening sun and watched Co-Pilgrim in the V and V tent which fitted our mellow and chilled-out mood perfectly.  They were shortly followed by Thomas Truax, a true Truck veteran, and he told us tales of why dogs howl at the moon and kidnapped butterflys with the aide of The Hornicator.  The guy in front of me seemed a little put off by Truax’s comment “have you ever shaken hands with an unborn child?” but then he also seemed put off when Truax sang about the time he took his dog out for a picnic and the ants came and made mustaches on their faces.  The rest of the audience loved it though and by the end we were all howling at the moon with Truax and the primitive beats of Mother Superior.

The Epstein
We mingled around catching bits from each stage in anticipation of the The Epstein who were the final act in The Saloon.  You’ll notice from this blog post that The Saloon bar was my favourite stage but that’s is also because it showcased some of the best and local bands of the weekend.  That is mainly down to some great bookings by PinDrop who co-curated the stage on the Saturday.  The Saloon was now more packed than the previous night and the sweat factor was high.  As the band fought through the crowds to get their kit on stage a masked couple poured each other gin martinis with a cocktail shaker and olives for garnish.  Very impressive and a sign of the madness to come.  The Epstein have already had a great year with a number of tours in the Netherlands and recently signing with Zawinul Records.  The crowd was with them for the entire set singing along to such favourites as Calling Out Your Name and  I Held You Once; the atmosphere was euphoric.  They played songs from their new album ‘Murmrations’ and it was an incredibly tight set.  Not only that but you could see how much the band enjoyed playing together.  At the end Olly unplugged to sing Leave Your Light On and the audience gave him their full attention, eager to sing along with him and share this moment in what had been an incredible performance.  I caught the end on camera and have posted it here. So that was it.  We drank the bar dry of whisky and doesy-doed our partners until we spun out into the night.  Another great Truck Festival bites the dust.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Reviews of the Tamara and the Martyrs' single: Get Him Out

Since its release on the 26th June, the first single from our album has received a couple of great reviews.  Thanks to Nightshift and Olly Arditi for their words.  For the full articles go here for Nightshift and here for Olly Arditi.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Single Launch & All Tamara's Parties

Last month my band released the first single from our album and the wonderful Sam King made filmed the entire event so we could bring you this video. Enjoy!
Single Launch & All Tamara's Parties #7 from Tamara Parsons-Baker on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Church Appeal

Tuesday night 28th May saw us all stuffed into Tommy’s new van (OK, OK, it’s actually incredibly spacious) and race over to London to play a gig at The Buffalo Bar in Islington.  It reminded me of a smaller version of The Cellar with incredibly steep stairs leading down to the darkness below… We were greeted by a very friendly soundman and started unloading the van for sound check.  Huck and the Xander Band, Tom and I, Billy T’rivers and the Wild West Retirement Home and a chap called Sweet Bread, the only London based artist on the bill (who it turns out went to school with my brother; there's no escaping Oxford!)."

Tonight was a PinDrop night and Seb was a very charming and witty host. We had a great turn out for a chilly Tuesday night.  Tom and I opened but due to a rather razorblade throat (actual medical term) I could only pipe out about 3 songs before my vocal chords gave up.  The audience were very forgiving and remained attentive throughout my raspy songs and the barman kept filling up my glass with hot water and lemon. Sweet Bread played an interesting set of what I can only describe as medieval folk.  Funnily enough, when I think about his set I can't help picturing him in a knight's robe...  too much information.   Billy T’rivers. Well what can I say?  I was mega excited to finally see them live as I had booked them for an ATP the following night after seeing one of their videos. A wonderfully thick country/American style with 3 part harmonies to match.  Their songs were warming and upbeat and made me want to jig around the room.  Billy, the front man, busted out a few very heartfelt solo numbers in the middle of the set which had impact on the silent room. They are an incredibly talented and tight band who are soon to release their debut album so make sure you check them out in Oxford soon.

Huck and the Xander band took to the stage to headline and you may think I’m biased but it was a truly magnificent set.  I’ve seen Huck build these songs from acoustic fledgling works-in-progress on his guitar into powerful stories with a full band behind him and not to mention some brilliant song writing.  Jamie’s riffling guitar lines get stuck in your head and I haven’t stopped humming the melody to a Sufi from Dixie.  Huck gets into character for each song, snarling at the audience and hollering his lines. At times he is almost operatic and if you caught him at the Candy Says single launch gig at St Barnabas a few weeks ago you would have been mesmerised by his surprising church appeal.  Despite the different setting the same qualities come through, clear crisp lyrics and some unsettling but strangely pleasing tones.  Sometimes having musician friends can be annoying. They can often be late, overly self-critical and arrogant, wear ridiculous trousers and insist on getting you drunk when you have to get up very early in the morning.  But the wonderful thing about knowing them is that you are incredibly privileged; you get to see them develop into something and someone else (which is hopefully a great musician). For some people it’s a long process, and for others it just gets better and better. This gig blew me away and as I sat there sipping my hot water and lemon I really felt like the audience were blown away too.  Huck started to blast out Xander the Great and as the crowd hollered in glee the barman waved his kettle at me (not a euphemism):“one for the road?“ he grinned. 
Our next gig can be found here.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Tamara and the Martyrs Single Launch: 26 June at The Library Pub

We are releasing our single 'Get Him Out' from our debut album 'Girl Jokes about Boy Parts' which is due out later this year. Not only that but it is a triple celebration: It's an All Tamara's Parties night, my birthday AND our single launch.  Could you be anymore excited? We will have some great guests supporting us in the form of witty singer songwriter and 1/4 of Candy Says, Ben Walker, award winning poet, playwright and author, Caroline Bird, and the quirky and foot-stompingly good, Reichenbach Falls.  Not to mention our lovely in-house compere and poet, George Chopping.DETAILS: Wednesday 26 June, at the Library from 7.30pm.  Entry is £3 which includes a free download of the single. Cake will be everywhere! FB GROUP.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

If only I could create an album with some PVA glue and a toilet roll tube...

I knew recording an album would take a lot of time but who would have thought that a year later the thing still isn’t finished. Holy facking crop circles!. In April 2012 I stepped into the studio to record an album with my band ( The Martyrs). I was on a strict timetable, intent on releasing it before my departure to Australia in October for a well-earned break.  I was dreaming up the single launch for July and the album launch to follow in September. Now we’re in May 2013 and we’ve finally said “Yes, master the damn thing!”.  This week we invited a photographer to take some pictures of us to adorn the album sleeve and next week we hope to shoot the album cover--a picture that mainly contains ketchup so it shouldn’t be too hard to organise, right? RIGHT?  Maybe now I can go back to my dreams of organising the single launch. Are these really my dreams? Disturbing.   

When do I get to do the fun stuff again? Like play gigs and drink beers. Soon, soon. We’ve just got to listen to the CD to see if the order works (will anyone even listen to it in this order in the end? Will anyone even listen to it?), decide on how many folds we’d like in our digipacks, get the artwork and content typed up and ready (what should I say? "Thanks mum" and all that, or just keep it aloof? Get the album printed and make sure everyone’s name and instruments are spelt right (Amanda Lynn), pay people (£££) and put on a show.  D.I.Y bands eh, such fun!

Speaking of the single launch; a date will be announced soon...stay tuned!

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Oxford Country Folk Songwriters Circle

What do you get when you ask a bunch of musicians to sit in a semicircle on stage, play songs in turn and talk about their music to the audience? Not only a great night of music, but the Songwriters Circle-a unique night of unplugged music hosted by Dava of Swindlestock and Olly Wills of The Epstein
I’d been to their previous night in April when Dava mentioned he would like to invite me to play one of them.  At first I couldn't think of anything more horrifying. Sitting with other musicians talking about the meaning of our songs and why we wrote them; awkward.  I was worried it would look too staged or resemble a chat show and be a bit cringey for the audience. How wrong I was.  Watching the musicians play a song each, and hearing the other guestsquestions about their songs and style was interesting. After all, this wasn't musicians being interviewed by fans or uninspiring reviewers. This was musicians being asked questions by other musicians.  And this is the genius of the night.  Where musicians can sometimes be insecure, arrogant or competitive, in this setting they are quite the opposite. 
Photo by Pier Corona
And watching them listen to each other so intently seems to hold the audience captive--when else do you see some of your favourite musicians sitting on stage listening to some of their favourite musicians? And for me, it was a great pleasure to be sat right next to Huck, Matt Sage, Dava and Olly and hear their songs.  It is rare and intense to be sat so close to someone as they sing their heart out. Olly sang a song about his Grandmother’s funeral that brought me close to tears and Matt Sage told us a story of young love with an academic which brought us close to tears of laughter as he sang out ‘I trained a spy’.  Huck and I met up a few hours before the gig and had a nostalgic afternoon playing through Huck and the Handsome Fee songs. We decided to perform The Fall and Staggerlee. It was great to have the opportunity to sing together and a reinvention of the Fee is in discussion (although it would have to be an acoustic version named the Handsome Two, of course).

So, if you get a chance to make it to the next Songwriters' Circle then I highly recommend it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Melbourne Free

There is rather an impressive young man in front of me in the check-in queue.  He is fully kitted out with an enormous backpack, a golden tan and an air of arrogance about him that says, "I'm incredibly well travelled, don'cha know?"  So, I couldn't help but snigger to myself when the lady at the desk informed him that he'd come to the airport a day early; his flight was in fact tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly a golden tan turns to a blushing rouge.

JB: not looking his best
Everyone in balmy Sydney told me Melbourne would be cold.  I wish I'd listened.  Despite the sunshine Melbourne was definitely a place that required socks and a warm vest in November. After my smooth hour-long flight I caught a long bus into the city to meet my friend John-Boy.  I lived with JB in Oxford when he was a student studying the Oxford BPhil, which is quite possibly the hardest degree known to man.  But despite having some of the biggest brains on campus he also has the sense of humour of a buffoon which is why we got on so well. After a hard day reading Wittgenstein he would join me on the sofa to watch a Come Dine With Me marathon or sing along to America's Next Top Model ("You wanna be on top?!"). He once made me a stir fry that contained so much fresh ginger I couldn't taste anything else for a whole week.

We ride the tram back to his home in Brunswick. This part of Melbourne's not like anywhere I've been before; lots of cool little shops and eateries but all in a very 70s style (I didn't know wallpaper was back in?). But what Brunswick lacks in interior design it makes up for in great pubs.  And I mean pubs. Proper pubs that feel like the pubs back home. And they sell pints! I order one excitedly and feel the effects immediately; after 2 months drinking schooners this pint is like being kicked in the clackers by a kangaroo. In a good way.

Takoyaki being made at the night market
The next day we head into the city centre.  We have coffee in a rather trendy street where all the cafes are like little tiny huts squished next to each other and the chairs spill out onto the street. Centre Place; the place to be.  Melbourne feels very multicultural, European and a little edgier than Sydney (Apologies to my Sydney-sider friends but it's true).  There is some very ornate Victorian architecture here and with the trams running up and down the city it makes you feel like you've travelled back in time. I like it!
Are you game?

We head to a few galleries in the NGV and then JB suggests we go and see some 'bush paintings'.  Having never heard of a bush painting before my mind conjured up all sorts of meanings but I was relieved to find some beautiful depictions of some of the first settlers arriving in Australia.  Little did I know how much of an expert JB turned out to be in regards to his heritage. As we strolled around the paintings he told me stories of famous explorers and prison escapees.  It is really unbelievable that these first settlers could survive such a country with its harsh terrain and lack of amenities (not to mention the bloodthirsty kangaroos).  They're a tough sort these Aussies.

We finished off the day with a visit to one of the regular night markets.  With rows and rows of food stalls including every national dish under the sun we really did work up an appetite trying to decide what to eat.  And then you have to stay for ice cream as they have every flavour imaginable.  A few post dinner beers later and we end up in a nice pub called "the Oxford Pub" typical. The streets all begin to look the same and the trams are all heading in the wrong direction. We flag a taxi home and try to sneak in so we don't wake JB's housemate.  The chook in the garden has other ideas though and makes a terrible racket. I'm beginning to feel at home in Melbourne.

Next time: I play a gig in Melbourne and witness a horny Koala bear courting a tree at the Healesville Animal Sanctuary (rated PG).

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Don't Take That Attitude to Your Gravy

Melbourne Cup
Once a year you can walk around the streets of Sydney and see some of the most glamourous and bizarre outfits all at once.  Women dressed as if they were heading to Ascot with bright hats and facinators and men looking as though they are out for a stag do with pink tights and very stretchy neon leotards.  It is of course the day of the Melbourne Cup; Australia's major thoroughbred horse race.  Melbourne gets the day off as a holiday but the rest of Australia has to either sneak off of work or take an extended lunch break from which they are unlikely to return.  There is a real buzz as I walk through the city to meet Jen and her friends at a nice Italian cafe where we have great seats in front of the cafe's TV.  There are lots of races throughout the day but there is only one that everyone seems to care about.  As we tuck into some deliciously juicy mozzarella,  Italian waiters come round to top up our wine glasses.  Two o'clock hits and everyone is gathered round the TV, even people come in from the street to watch the race.  Suddenly everyone is screaming and shouting at their horse and I holler out my horses name even though I have no idea which one he is or how well he's doing.  The race is over in minutes and the crowds either commiserate or celebrate their bets with more wine as the main course is brought round. As I tuck into my zuccini salad images of Camilla and Charles pop up on the screen. Oh, Blighty!

Ben Harper does the robot
Ben Harper is a man who doesn't need a support act, especially because he decides to play for nearly 4 hours with no interval (and no water I observe, is he even human?!).  Not that I'm complaining;  this gig turns out to be one of the best I've ever been to.  'An acoustic evening with Ben Harper at the Sydney Opera House' suggested something  a bit special and when we arrived and saw 13 stringed instruments lined up on stage we knew we were in for a treat.  The instruments ranged from acoustic and electric guitars to lap steel, ukeleles, and a strange cello-type instrument  that Harper had created and is yet to name.  This is his first ever acoustic headline tour and in between songs he entertains us with anecdotes of his childhood working in a meat shop and hanging out with Jeff Buckley at festivals.  Despite his long career, two broken marriages and many celebrity friends he doesn't seem at all jaded and remains a very humble and affable character throughout the night.  I feel his personality really comes through in this intimate setting, and yes, I might have a slight crush. When members of the audience shout out songs they want to hear he happily obliges.  I managed to pipe up at the end of the night and ask for Waiting on an Angel and he finishes his set with it.  I had a little moment but it was ok, because everyone else was having a little moment too.
Great views
The only way to finish off a week like that is to walk 10km from The Spit to Manly and ruminate on music and nature and then celebrate with some tasty beers.  There are lots of great views along this walk which takes your through the bush, up cliffs and across beaches.  Make sure you get there early when the tide isn't on it's way in or else you get soggy knees.  We finished off the day with mussels in a rather strange sauce that was a cross between tomato and gravy, home brewed beer at the 4 Pines and a lazy ferry ride back into Sydney. Bliss!

Next time: my trip to Melbourne and a gig!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year, New Song, New Video

Here is a video my friend and I made on her very awesome rooftop in Sydney of my new song 'My Time'. Happy New Year everyone.